Review: For the Wolf

When your destiny is already chosen for you, by an action done hundreds of years before you were born, where do you draw the line between giving in – and fighting back? In this twist on the classic Red Riding Hood/Beauty and the Beast tales, nothing is as it seems and the consequences of your actions may just kill you.

This was a book that REALLY IRRITATED ME – because I didn’t know going in that it was only the first one. And now I have to *wait* for the next one. And I *will* be anxiously waiting, because I truly LOVED this book. So you’ve been warned.

Red is the second daughter of the Queen. As such, it is her destiny to be given to the Wolf to – hopefully – release the long-awaited kings and keep back the monsters. Her twin sister, older by just minutes, is destined to rule. But things go awry when both women decide that they should have a say in their own fates.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is that both main characters are strong women in their own right. Essentially neglected by their mother, they’ve leaned on each other for love and support, knowing from the time they were little what path their lives would take. When Red is banished to face the Wolf, both women have to face life without their twin – and their refusal to just go along sets them up for some choices that will have life-altering consequences, for them and for those around them.

The writing kept me engrossed – I essentially read this in a day. The worldbuilding is fantastic, particularly when getting into this entire other world that they only *think* they understand. The characters were sympathetic – even those who were doing “bad” things were trying to do them for what they saw as noble reasons. Because isn’t that most of us? We generally don’t start OUT bad – but we make a series of choices that are grey, and then it just gets easier and easier to make more choices that lean more towards wrong than right, with the justifications that we tell ourselves to make it ok.

Even though this is marketed as an adult novel, it truly feels more YA or NA to me. Both girls are only 20, so maybe that’s why? But had I not already known, I would have guessed YA. Honestly, more mature 7th or 8th-graders could read this and love it.

I know some people complained about the characters feeling “flat”, or that they couldn’t get into the story – but I feel so much of that was because this book was compared to The Bear and The Nightingale, so expectations were super high. There are few things – if any – that can truly be compared to that book or its trilogy, so if that’s what people were looking for? I can see why they would find this lacking. I had, quite honestly, forgotten about that comparison when I read this. And I think *because* I had forgotten it? I had no expectations going in. I was able to enjoy the story on its own merits instead.

If I still worked at Powell’s, this would go on a list of my Top 10 Novels thus far for the year, and I would be doing a shelf-talker and sharing with ALL THE PEOPLE. Unfortunately, I don’t – so I’m telling y’all. RUN, do not walk, to get this book. Unless you don’t like waiting for follow-ups. Then, maybe, do it anyway. 😉

Review: Prom House

How well do you know the people around you? As well as you think you do? Might one of them…be a killer? Take a dive into Prom House, by Chelsea Mueller!

Prom Night. You’ve rented a house, with several other of your friends. It’s got a pool, and *you’ve* got a teeny new bikini and a brand-new boyfriend. Nice and secluded so the neighbors can’t complain about the music – or anything else. It ALSO means – they can’t hear you scream.

When people begin disappearing – and then turning up dead – it becomes a race against time and the elements to stay alive. If you’re locked in a house with your best friends and a killer? The question becomes whether your friends are who you’ve always thought they were.

It’s not horribly gory – more suspense than blood, which is personally how I prefer things. My 14 year old does as well, so I’m looking forward to her reading this and letting me know if she guesses who the killer is. 😉

With some definite “Scream” vibes coming off the pages, this was a fun, quick read *perfect* for the pool or the beach. While it’s YA, it wouldn’t be amiss to think of more advanced 7-8 grade kids reading it either.

TW: There is some discussion of teen partner, alcohol, and drug abuse. It’s definitely *not* out of the bounds of reality, and it’s perfectly accurate for a YA title, but just a head’s up for those who may struggle with those topics.

Review: Separated – Inside an American Tragedy

By now, we’re all familiar with kids in cages, yes? In fact, it’s been part of our national consciousness for quite some time now – long enough for it to have faded from mind with all the other things happening in the world. But for those families, and for those children – it will never fade from mind. Jacob Soboroff is one of the excellent reporters who helped to make sure the public knew what was happening. His book will, hopefully, help to bring this tragedy back around to our collective consciousness so that it actually STOPS happening – and never happens again.

Soboroff makes very clear that he was chasing another, completely different border story when the Trump administration began to seriously consider taking kids from their parents as a deterrent policy. He *also* makes very clear that, while President Obama’s administration considered the same policy? They decided NOT to go ahead with it. But by late 2016, as election season was ramping up, the Border Patrol began doing it anyway. Then came Trump.

He weaves the timeline through the beginning of the murmurs about separation, before he even knew about it, all the way through to now – when so many of the cast of characters are still involved in the Trump administration – and are botching the COVID crisis, just as they did the migrant one. He makes it clear as well – there is plenty of blame to go around. The Obama administration, in attempting to handle the crisis, opened the door to this – and Trump walked right on through.

This is a story that haunts those who reported it, who dealt with it, and who lived it. It’s ALSO a story that should haunt the rest of us, because this IS STILL HAPPENING. As he says in his author’s note: “Since the summer of 2017, the Trump administration has taken at least 5,556 kids from their parents. But still today, nobody knows for sure exactly how many families have been separated.[emphasis mine]”. The Border Patrol didn’t even bother to keep accurate records – and there are some children who are now orphans, when they should not be, because their parents were sent back without them.

Ultimately, this is a story of an administration willing to do anything – regardless of the morality, the ethics, or the damage – to make good on an impossible campaign promise. Anything, that is, except to do what actually worked – while the separations were at their peak, this administration was also canceling the aid to Central America that was funding programs that worked to help fix the migration crisis.

This is *also* a story of those rare folks who saw what was happening and tried to prevent it. When it became clear prevention was not possible, they did everything they could to try and ameliorate the damage. Unfortunately, the odds were stacked against them, and so we learn about Juan and his son Jose – two migrants who were running to escape with their lives from a drug cartel, and ended up in the United States just as the separation policy really took hold. Their stories are threaded throughout the book, as we see the system that failed them in all its ugliness. A system that continues to this day – one that we must NOT forget, and must hold accountable for the torture of so many people.

Review: The Great Influenza

“In ten days – ten days! – the epidemic had exploded from a few hundred civilian cases and one or two deaths a day to hundreds of thousands ill and hundreds of deaths a day.
Federal, municipal, and state courts closed…Physicians were themselves dying, three one day, two another, four the next. The newspapers reported those deaths – on inside pages with other obituaries – even while continuing to minimize the epidemic. Health and city workers wore masks constantly…
And city authorities and newspapers continued to minimize the danger.”

Reading those words above, it feels *easily* like something you might read in a newspaper or see on television right now, doesn’t it? There are states in our current pandemic that have continued to downplay COVID-19, saying, “It’s just the flu.”. But those words are related to history, and unfortunately, history is something easily dismissed or…altered…for those who prefer not to be *inconvenienced* by the lessons to be learned. Those words come from the book, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry.

I’ll be honest – I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for a while now. I tend to be an emotional reader, one who has traveled with not only 3 or 4 books – but a Kindle as well, JUST. IN. CASE. But once we really started seeing not only COVID’s effects, but the absolute *refusal* of many to understand how much damage it can do, I was curious to read about the *other* pandemic – the one so many people are comparing *this* one to.

“It takes special trains to carry away the dead. For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up after something fierce….It beats any sight they ever had in France after a battle. An extra long barracks has been vacated for the use of the Morgue, and it would make any man sit up and take notice to walk down the long lines of dead soldiers all dressed and laid out in double rows…”

The interesting thing about this book is that Barry doesn’t just discuss the pandemic itself. He *also* talks about the scientists working feverishly on a vaccine, ANY vaccine, that might help somehow. He talks about the mindset of our country at the time – in a war, with a President who had no qualms about bending the laws to make sure every single citizen supported his goals. He gives a history of the science at the time, demonstrating both *how* and *why* the pandemic became as bad as it was. This isn’t to say that the book is boring – far from it. Barry does a good job tying all of this threads together in a seamless way, and it doesn’t drag along or get overly complicated.

“The disease has about reached its crest. We believe the situation is well in hand. From now on the disease will decrease.”

If you get a copy of this book to read, PLEASE do yourself a favor and get the updated version with the new afterword. It’s haunting to read about all the things that were put in place by our government and others after the H5N1 virus emerged, and to know that literally *none* of it was used during this current pandemic. It was also fascinating – and infuriating – to learn that even as China lied to the world about COVID, they had done the same thing with SARS.

“On September 28, marchers in the greatest parade in the city’s history proudly stepped forward. The paraders stretched at least two miles, two miles of bands, flags, Boy Scouts, women’s auxiliaries, marines, sailors, and soldiers. Several hundred thousand people jammed the parade route, crushing against one another to get a better look…It was a grand sight indeed…
The incubation period of influenza is twenty-four to seventy-two hours. Two days after the parade, Krusen issued a somber statement: ‘The epidemic is now present in the civilian population…'”.

It’s interesting as well that Barry discusses those in authority and the truth, particularly considering the current environment, where even simply wearing a mask has been politicized. One of the biggest faults found, looking back, on the governmental response to the 1918 epidemic was the way Wilson had co-opted messaging to the entire country, and how it did not allow for the truth to be shared. Rather, newspapers and governors all over the country (with the notable exception of San Francisco) kept to the party line – which only *increased* the fear felt by so many.

Society is, ultimately, based on trust; as trust broke down, people became alienated not only from those in authority, but from each other…

Those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best.”

Overall, COVID or not, this is a book worth reading if you have any interest in the politics of healthcare, history, bacteriology, science, or influenza specifically. So many disparate pieces that make up the whole, and it truly does give a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of science, which seems to be similar to the pieces of a puzzle – only by turning those pieces just the right way, and just in conjunction with the pieces around it, will it snap into place and be what is needed at that moment.

“This was influenza, only influenza.”

Review: Deal with the Devil

So…I haven’t been much in the blogging mood. I know I’m not the only one that this quarantine is sitting heavily on. I haven’t been doing a ton of reading, either, for the same reason. BUT – I did reach for a book yesterday, one of the many in my stacks, hoping to find something I could enjoy for a little while. What I got instead was a book that kept me up until a little after 1am.

So, straight up – Kit Rocha’s books are not something in my typical reading list. I am NOT a romance fan. Period. The last romance I read, under duress from a co-worker, was one of the Honey Badger Shifter books by Shelly Laurenston. I will admit to highly enjoying that series, because there was very little actual canoodling and more snark and humor. But I couldn’t turn this one down – MERCENARY LIBRARIANS, PEOPLE.

This is definitely a dystopian read. It takes place in 2086, when everything has changed. There were the Flares, which did damage – severe, but recoverable. However, immediately following those came another threat – and the infrastructure of the U.S. was so weak, that much of civilization as we know it just…collapsed. This particular story takes place around the area of what used to be known as Atlanta, GA – a place where biotech and medical companies took over and basically own all essential services. Food, water, safety – they control it all, and they use hacked soldiers to do it.

Nina is an information broker – she steals the information, and gets paid for doing so. She’s also what passes for a librarian during a time when books have essentially all been destroyed. An ignorant populace is a controllable populace, and so every effort has been made to ferret out and get rid of anything related to books. She does her best, along with her team, to help those around her with the knowledge that she gains – even knowing she risks all their lives doing so. When she’s presented an opportunity to track down one of the fabled Rogue Libraries of Congress – a treasure trove of documents and books, hidden since the Flares – she’s thrown in with a group of AWOL “supersoldiers” with a hidden agenda. Let the games begin.

This is a fast-moving book. Once things kick in – and it doesn’t take long – it just *hauls*. There were a few times I looked up at the clock and thought, “Hm. I should go to bed.”. But I just couldn’t drag myself away from the book. At one point, it was about 11:15pm – the next time I looked up, as I was turning the last page, it was almost 1:30am. Which honestly was great for me, because again – having a hard time finding something that really captured my attention and let me think about something else for a while.

The setting, as I mentioned, the good USofA – though in a vastly different time and with very different circumstances. Having said that – there were times when I read something and recognized it as a possible future from where we are now. Frightening and instructive, all in one. Rocha did a great job really allowing the reader to get a feel for both the changes and the similarities, both in the city and out of it, which truly helped to feel more immersed when dealing with a time so far ahead of our own.

However, in all of that speed, Rocha did not neglect the characters. Nina and Knox – the leaders of their teams. One honest and idealistic, one convinced there’s nothing good left. These are our main characters, both struggling with demons they try to hide from their teams – and from each other. Both are fleshed out more and more as the book goes on, as well as the people around them. I was thankful by the end that this is a series, as I’m anxious to learn more about them all, and while Knox and Nina were central here, it didn’t feel like any of them got shortchanged.

Ok, so the story. Yep – there’s romancey bits. Yes, there’s sex. But honestly (and thankfully for me), none of it felt gratuitous or over the top. I wasn’t reading pages upon pages upon pages of mooning or innuendo or descriptions of body bits doing things with other body bits. Remember – I’m *not* a romance reader. In fact, when I mentioned to a co-worker that I had gotten this arc, I thought she was going to die laughing – she IS a romance reader and knows my tendency to shy away. I think to some degree, the action and adventure toned down the romance some? And the focus wasn’t the romance itself, but the story in which there happened to *be* some romance. If that makes sense? Anyway, there were unexpected twists, there is *definitely* more past to be revealed, and I’m pretty sure there’s a secret person doing hidden deeds in the background and possibly coordinating from a bigger picture than anyone knows? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! Short version? The sequel will be an insta-buy next year when it’s released.

I’m really glad I focused on the “mercenary librarians” part and NOT the “romance”, because this was a fun, quick, entertaining read that really let me step out of my own brain for a while and enjoy someone else’s. And really – isn’t that what reading is all about? Living – and learning – vicariously, as we journey with someone else?

One last thing – I’m just going to throw this here as a small…clue…to the story. No spoilers, but it’ll make sense after you read the book. Which, by the way, is due out July 28th of this year – so add it to your TBR lists, peeps!

Thank you to Tor for the arc. And if you click on the link under the cover at the top to pre-order, it will take you to – a great way to support indie bookstores everywhere!

Review: Sixteenth Watch

Coast Guard in space. That’s *literally* all it took to get me excited about reading this. Full disclosure? I spent seven years in the Coast Guard, most of them as…well, first I was a Radioman, then they changed it to Telecommunications Specialist, and they were in the process of changing it yet AGAIN when I left. Basically? I was the one that was on the other end of the radio, answering mayday calls, and keeping comms with the small boats, the helos, and whoever else happened to be out there. I was that voice that let everyone know they’d be ok, and made sure my crews had what they needed. But, it didn’t end there – when I got out, I got married to a Boatswain’s Mate, who eventually retired as a Chief. So…what I’m saying is…I have a perspective on the Coast Guard that many of the novel’s readers may not. Most people are labeling Sixteenth Watch as military sci-fi. And, well – they’re not wrong. But for me, while reading it, it was simply exactly what got me hooked – Coast Guard in space.

Sixteenth Watch is also, at its heart, what the Coast Guard is – about its people. The stories, the people, the adrenaline, and the job. Here, we have Capt. Jane Oliver, who suffered a horrific tragedy and is just biding her time until retirement. However, in the age of space, the Coast Guard’s natural mission is being taken over by the Navy, with disastrous results. Jane ends up heading a team destined to try and win the latest and greatest reality show, Boarding Action, in the hopes that their position will be reevaluated. Jane is flawed, but absolutely human. She is that rarest of CO’s – one who trusts in, and believes in, her people. She’s also still haunted by her tragedy, and that comes into play as well.

But it’s not just about Jane – Myke Cole does an *exemplary* job conveying the TEAM that is at the heart of the Coast Guard. Jane’s XO, and the sailors she is training, are more than just words on a page. They are as human as any characters I’ve read, and as the reader goes through the book, the highs will have them cheering and the lows will have them gasping.

Having said all of that – what really had me going in this story is that, as a former Coastie whose life was tied to the Guard in one way or another for almost 20 years? I *felt* that action. I lived it along with the characters on the page. Sure, they’re in space, so some details are necessarily different. But the overall pieces? The search-and-rescue, and the boarding teams? The communication and the nitty gritty? IT’S THE SAME. I did some boardings before I went to school while stationed in Florida – and that tense build-up, waiting to see if the ship you were hailing is going to follow instructions? Nailed it. And even *after* I went to school, I promise you this – the one on the radio is just as tense in the station as those on the boat. Because if shit goes sideways, it’ll be the radioman calling for more units to assist – or ambulances to meet at the dock. Cole really took his Coast Guard experience and was able to capture the feels, and the emotions, and the teamwork that ENCAPSULATES the Guard and its mission to the core.

Not only that, but to be honest? Cole captures the competition between the services as well. It’s no secret among the military that Navy and Coast Guard compete. Generally the Marines like the Coasties – but much of the Navy has little use for us, and vice versa. There’s A LOT I could go into on *that* subject, but…suffice to say that there is no shortage of inter-agency rivalry going on here. Definitely ratchets up the investment in the action.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly, though I hoped it would just be a good read. It was far better than I hoped, and now my hope is that it will give others who read it a better idea (or even *some* idea) of what the Coast Guard is about. Far too many people are unaware of just how broad their mission is, and this seems like an excellent way to help bring awareness in a fun and engrossing way. It’s a fast-paced read, and anyone simply looking for basic military sci-fi will certainly get that here. But anyone who has any background in the Guard will feel right at home – even on the moon.

Review: A Deadly Education

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been having a very difficult time reading lately. I mean, it’s almost like it’s hard to concentrate when the world is burning around me? As I was discussing this with a friend and former co-worker of mine (also laid off at Powell’s), we decided to do our own mini book club. The hard part was finding a book we both wanted to read and had amongst our STACKS of titles. And, because that’s how we roll, we ended up agreeing on an e-arc instead.

That e-arc was A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik. I am a huge fan of her novels Uprooted and Spinning Silver (my favorite of the two), and when I read the synopsis of this one, I was pretty much ALL. IN. So, we agreed to read 2 chapters a day. Something easily attainable as we tried to get our reading groove back. Reader, we did NOT read 2 chapters a day. Or, I should say – we did for 2 days. AND THEN WE RACED TO THE END BECAUSE IT WAS JUST THAT GOOD.

So – A Deadly Education. You’ve got a school for magic kids that sort of…runs itself? It’s absolutely deadly, between the monsters – *and the other students*. Competition is a given, and both your fellow students and the school itself will punish you in a variety of ways should you not be up to the task. Best part? Make it through alive, try to form an alliance, and on graduation you might STILL die because there are beasts waiting below to eat the slowest, weakest, least cunning, and alliance-less. It’s like a magical hunger games on drugs.

Hunger Games Katniss GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But there’s no Katniss Everdeen here. Instead, we have El – an antisocial “loser” who has no enclave backing her up, little chance for an alliance…and hidden power. She bitchy, cranky, stubborn, and tough – and I LOVE HER. She is the anti-hero we all need right now.

The book balances El’s story and that of the school and students very nicely, and there really is a feel of high school/early college years. All the insecurity, power games, frantic studies…and even a hint of romance…all rolled up into emotional chaos. It’s great! I mean, from a distance. Like, through the pages. You couldn’t PAY me to go back to that messy time of my life

The characters are the focus here, as is often the case with Novik’s writing. And here, even the school is as much a character as it is the setting of the book. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I don’t care how good the story idea itself is if I can’t deal with the characters. El has a GIGANTIC chip on her shoulder, the school is…well…one of those people you see from across the room and know *instinctively* that you really do NOT want to get to know any better – and the cast of supporting characters is just as good. Honestly, El may be the “main” character here, but all those surrounding her are just as well-written and *human* as she is. They feel true to life, like I could pass them on the street and know them for who they are.

Having said that, however, the story was GREAT. I was hooked by the second chapter, by the 4th chapter I didn’t want to put the book down, and by the 6th chapter…I just…didn’t put it down. I kept on reading until the end. And THEN I told my reading buddy that I had finished. Thankfully, she had done the same thing (great minds), because neither one of us wanted to stop. Oh, and that 6th chapter I mentioned? HOLY HELL IT’S A DOOZY. Just sayin’. Anyway, I finished the book, thinking that it was a stand-alone, as were Uprooted and Spinning Silver. I mean, totally doable as a stand-alone, though the ending was like

BUT READERS – IT IS *NOT* A STAND-ALONE. My book partner informed me that Goodreads has it listed as Scholomance #1, and I AM SO VERY HAPPY ABOUT THIS. Not because I feel that there had to be more with this book, but because I WANT more. I want to spend more time in this insane asylum of a school, with these characters I’ve enjoyed (mostly) getting to know. I want to find out more about the school itself, and maybe learn more about El *and her grandmother’s warning*. Yep. There’s some maybe bad mojo coming her way. Or is *she* the bad mojo? I’ll never tell…

Suffice to say that this book has me excited about reading again. I had a great time with it, and now I would like to ask WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE?! Downside to reading an e-arc, of course. Finding a really great one and knowing it’s THAT MUCH LONGER before there’s another book in the series. *sigh* But, it was worth it. I’m seriously thinking about re-reading this, because I’m guessing there may be *clues* that I missed. Signals. Signs. Anyway, Naomi Novik has done it again – crafted a superb book with awesome characters. And if I was working (I miss you, Powell’s!), I would 100% be making sure that this book was on the buy list. Which is, frankly, what YOU should be doing too.

So: here’s a link to indiebound so you can support struggling indie bookstores! It’s open for pre-order, and YOU WANT THIS TO SHOW UP IMMEDIATELY.

Trust me on this one.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Del Rey for the arc!

Review: Science Comics Crows – Genius Birds

I have been a HUGE Science Comics fan since I laid my hands on my first one – which happened to be a hardcover of the Bat version. I loved it so much, I recommended it to the buyer at Powell’s PDX to help bulk up the nonfiction section in the kid’s room – which was SORELY lacking. We ended up getting new ones as they came out, and these fun and fascinating titles became one of the kid’s room top sellers – from the time we got our first copies, until the day the store closed due to COVID-19. I was particularly excited about the Crows edition coming out, because I think crows are pretty much just amazing. This book absolutely reinforces my excitement, both about the series, *and* about crows.

In this one, a crow releases a friendly, neighborhood dog from his yard and they go looking for delicious treats. Along the way, the crow explains: crow brains, food, tools, families, and more. Even for someone who knows a decent amount about crows, there was new information and neat facts about how crows learn, different tests they’ve taken part in, and their problem-solving skills.

It’s a fascinating look at these fascinating creatures that far too many see simply as pests. Crows, and other corvids, are truly unique in the bird world – and are much more like us than many understand. This book is a great way for humans of ALL ages to learn about them, and come to understand them just a little bit more.

The Science Comics as a whole are generally very well done, with a great balance between text and pictures. I’ve recommended them to people of all ages, FOR all ages – they’re excellent for beginning readers who can use the pictures to start understanding the words being read to them, all the way up to adults. Just about every employee at the store had their favorite one, and we’ve had adult customers purchase them for themselves based on their fields of study. I cannot recommend them enough, and the cool thing is that they tend to release about three a year, keeping readers excited for more. All libraries – school and city – should have copies of these excellent titles, and it’s a great way to get kids interested in nonfiction and leave them wanting to learn more!

Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

In a time when magical children exist, they are put into “orphanages” to “protect” them from the populace. Those orphanages are overseen by a governmental entity (natch), and Linus is a caseworker within that system who gets sent to those orphanages to make sure they are following all the rules. After 17 years, he is sent to one that has six “problematic” magical children, a top secret journey that he is ENTIRELY unprepared for.

I read a fair amount – not as much as some, but typically in the close-to-200-books-a-year range. I can generally find *something* about most books to speak positively about (and I do my best not to be overly negative or cruel anyway). But every once in a while, I get my hands on a book that just blows me away. It’s one that I tell all my friends about, that I would have chosen as a Staff Pick as a bookseller, and one that I find myself thinking about long after I’ve actually finished it. Those are rare, but they do happen. THIS is one of those books.

Now, if you’re one of those readers looking for a pandemic “they survived and so will I” sort of title – read no further. This *definitely* isn’t it. What this IS, however, is a book that is sweet, sweet comfort. It’s about finding family where you least expect it, and maybe even redefining WHAT family is. It’s about “us vs. them”, and what happens when people fail to question. It’s about realizing that sometimes – too often, in fact – the “dangerous” ones are those in charge. And, ultimately – it’s about love. Love for self, for others, for friends, and for partners…whoever they may be.

I started this book in the late afternoon, figuring I’d read a little bit and see what I thought. Thankfully, my daughter was making dinner, because I just…never stopped reading. I simply did not want to put the book down, and so I finished a little after 1am. I laughed, and I cried, and I just did not want it to end. When it did, I felt like I’d been wrapped in a cozy quilt made by my favorite person. I also felt very tired, because it was WAY past my bedtime – but I can say with all honesty, I would have done it even if I had a job to wake up for this morning. It would have been *absolutely* worth it. But, don’t just listen to me…here are a few notable mentions:

An Indie Next Pick!
One of Publishers Weekly‘s “Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020”
One of Book Riot’s “20 Must-Read Feel-Good Fantasies”

I’m going to say that this book will end up being a Top 10 – and possibly even a Top 5 – title for me this year. I really *is* just that good. So, if this is intriguing to you, even just the smallest bit, The House in the Cerulean Sea is available now for ordering! Again, if you can – please support indie bookstores, because they’ve been hit pretty hard during this pandemic. As a bookseller who was laid off from one, I can vouch for that. If you don’t have a local indie, here’s the link to Indiebound, since many of them will ship!

Review: Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know

One of the most impactful books I read last year was Internment, by Samira Ahmed. It was so timely, a near-future dystopian that seemed so possible (still does at times) it was frightening. I’ve recommended that book to so many people, and even included it on the “What I’m Giving” holiday display at the bookstore this last winter. So, when I was able to get my hands on a copy of her upcoming novel, you know I grabbed it and ran. I mean, not literally, but still…

In Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Ahmed gives us two different viewpoints to consider – that of a young woman in present-day France, and of a young woman of approximately the same age 200 years prior. Both are struggling to find their own voices, and feeling trapped by their circumstances. As their lives end up intertwining, one woman’s past ends up powerfully affecting another woman’s present.

Mixing history and #herstory, Ahmed lets the reader see how – even with the progress in 200 years – so little has changed when it comes to women. While more freedoms exist now than in many times and places in the past, it’s still difficult for a woman to claim her own voice and story. Look at the term “mansplaining” – a thing every single female has experienced at some point in her life (if one says she hasn’t, then she’s not being honest – either to you, or to herself). That one word, that self-defining action, should be enough to demonstrate how hard women have to work to be able to claim their own individualities, feelings, and wishes.

I enjoyed this book, and boy did I remember some of that angsty feeling of being 17 again. Ahmed hits the nail on the head, both with the emotional roller coaster that the age entails, *and* with the fact that so many young women these days are being raised to not tolerate anyone trying to co-opt what they have to say. Between the slight romance, the art history (which was far more interesting than I anticipated), and the hint of Nancy Drew-esque investigation going on, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know proved to be a fun and slightly escapist read that still managed to convey a timely message.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know comes out April 7th, and it’s yet another title that has been hit hard with the cancellation of events and closures of bookstores. So if this sounds like something you’d be interested in, click the link below to find an indie bookstore to order from!

AND, there’s even a cool pre-order gift if you choose to go that route!

I kinda love this notebook…!