Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder – Caroline Fraser

Prairie FiresEveryone knows about the early life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. After all, the books she wrote were mostly autobiographical, weren’t they? Well, it seems that they were mostly fiction, polished and edited. Her childhood was darker than portrayed in the books, filled with abject poverty, hunger, cold, one disaster after another. And her early adulthood was not much better.

This is a detailed record of Laura Wilder’s life. The author used unpublished letters, diaries, manuscripts, land records, and deeds to shine a light on her story, and it is not always a flattering light. Historical accounts from newspapers set the scene, giving the reader a knowledge of what was happening in America. The woman who emerges is strong, resourceful, resilient, able to face anything. But she was not the woman I was expecting. This was a rather long book, but it was easy to read and hard to put down. The hardships of Wilder’s early life were common to the homesteaders and even those who haven’t read the Little House books will find it interesting.

eGalley review                                             Publication date 11.21.17

Posted in adult, biography, Uncategorized | Tagged

Future Home of the Living God – Louise Erdrich

Future Home of the Living GodsThe world is coming to an end, or maybe not. It is certainly changing. Evolution seems to have reversed itself. Plants and animals seem to be reverting to earlier incarnations, maybe not reverting, maybe going sideways. Who knows? Cedar Hawk Songmaker is an adopted child of Ojibwe parents. When she learns her real name is Mary Potts, and she is not unique, not an Indian princess as she fantasized as a child, she is a bit disappointed. But with the realization that she is pregnant, she decides to visit the Potts, to find out more about them, and to see if there are any genetic problems or talents she should know about. But soon she is struggling to save her baby and herself from an all-seeing government that seeks total control. This is not the usual Louise Erdrich. It is a dystopian novel set in the near future. The book written in first person by Cedar, is a diary to her unborn child. It begins slowly, in a fairly optimistic mood, but gradually becomes dark and disturbing. Soon it was compelling and I couldn’t put it down. I finished it days ago, and it still haunts me.

eGalley review                                          Publication date 11.14.17

Posted in adult, dystopian, highly recommend, Uncategorized

The Emerald Circus – Jane Yolen (Intro by Holly Black)

The Emerald CircusOh Boy!  I did love this book, in spite of the fact that only one of the stories , The Bird, is new. I just can’t get enough of Jane Yolen. Her stories are unique, from her quirky retelling of children’s stories and myths, to imagining the inner workings of famous people. This collection spans decades, from 1985 to the present. The novella, Lost Girls, a feminists’ Peter Pan, is one of my favorites, as is Sister Emily’s Lightship.  But the very best is the final chapter which contains the story notes and poems. If you have never read Jane Yolen, this is a great place to start. And if you have read a great deal of her writing, the story notes and poems will make you happy.

eGalley review                                   Publication date 11.14.17

Posted in adult, fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged

The House of Unexpected Sisters: No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

House of Unexpected SistersMr. Polopetsi, part time chemistry teacher and occasional detective, has asked Mma Ramotswe to investigate a wrong he feels has occurred. The sister of a fellow teacher has been fired for rudeness to a customer. This lady, Charity Mompoloki, is sure she has done nothing wrong and needs this job to support herself and her children. Naturally, Mma Ramotswe agrees to look into the matter. But her investigations lead to a discovery that will change her life forever. I just love these books. You’d think after 18 of them they would get old, boring. Not so. There is so much more than a mystery to be solved. The descriptions of Botswana take the reader to that hot, dry place. The conversations of the many quirky characters go off in all directions. They are such a pleasure to read. They always leave me smiling. Although this is book 18, it can be read as a standalone, but be forewarned that after reading one, you will want to go back and read the others.

eGalley review                                              Publication date 11.7.17

Posted in adult, mystery, Uncategorized | Tagged

The Empress (The Diabolic #2) – S. J. Kincaid

The EmpressFrom the publisher: It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.

But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.

Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it? 

The Empress is the second book in a planned trilogy and it definitely has that middle book feel.  It is imperative that The Diabolic be read first.  The series follows the typical pattern: describing the corrupt government, overthrowing the government, grasping the newly found power.  It is not so easy to wield power and avoid corruption.  The plot twists and turns with misplaced trust and betrayal.  Despite traversing the universe and a plethora of violence, the story felt plodding to me.  There were times when events happened suddenly and I had to flip back, thinking I missed something.  The first half of the book bogged down with too much of Pasus and the political infrastructure of the Empire.  We do learn why the Domitrians hold power and that is key to understanding so much of this world.  Neveni’s character is my favorite as I grew a bit tired of Nemesis and Tyrus.  I am not sure what I want from the third book.  Do I want Tyrus and/or Nemesis to succeed or does every hint of past power need to be shucked to start anew?

eGalley review                                             Publication date 10.31.17

Posted in adventure, science fiction, Uncategorized

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow – Jessica Townsend

nevermoorFrom the publisher:  Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.  

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.  

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests–or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate. 

The witty banter, fast pace, and intriguing characters make this one of the most fun books I have read this year.  Morrigan rolls her eyes at her being blamed for every citizen’s problems and finds it rather curious that her family isn’t overly saddened that she is slated to die quite soon.  Hooray for Jupiter whisking her away.  Morrigan’s worry that she has no special talent is relatable.  I was perturbed with Jupiter for keeping vital information from her but maybe that was part of her personal challenge.  Good thing she found a fantastic best friend to support her.  Fun, charming, clever and deserving of all the accolades, this book is a winner!   I look forward to reading more from this author. Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                             Publication date 10.31.17

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend, Uncategorized

The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli

last namsaraFrom the publisher:  In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Asha has been told by her father, the king, that she is the Iskari and must atone for her past actions by killing all dragons. She is fierce and highly skilled at killing but she allows cruel Jarek, the commandant, to threaten her and her cousin, Safire.  Why didn’t she kill him in self-defense?  This is a weakness in her character that makes her relatable and not the perfect, all-knowing heroine.  The reader discovers many truths alongside Asha.  Torwin appears incredibly knowledgeable for a slave.  He knows more about dragons and dragon riding than Asha.  Perhaps the sequel will include his back story.  The writing is polished and infused with past folklore.  The plot moves quickly with plenty of action but not too overlong  and clearly drawn characters, each with a back story begging to be told.  I look forward to reading more from this debut author.  Highly recommend!

eGalley review                                              Publication date 10.3.17

Posted in fantasy, highly recommend, Uncategorized | Tagged ,