Month: June 2015

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, by Brigid Schulte

An exceptional work of nonfiction that documents our descent into the hamster-wheel of busyness that has swept up so many in American┬ásociety. Focusing on the three main areas of her title, Schulte tracks the rise of the Ideal Worker (who has no personal life), and the Ideal Mother (who devotes herself, to her own detriment, to her child), and the decline of Play, particularly for women, who, too often, don’t allow themselves to do anything that’s not on their To-Do lists. More importantly, she finds bright spots, where people are breaking out of the mold to work more flexibly, to parent collaboratively, and to find time, even as adults, to play. Mandatory reading.

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Nefertiti, by Michelle Moran

Riveting historical fiction takes us back 3,000 years to ancient Egypt and a passionate, headstrong, 15-year-old queen. Told from the perspective of Nefertiti’s quieter sister, Mutnodjmet, this is a compelling page-turner, sweeping you into the politics and the shifting alliances of a court run by a selfish teen. Recommended.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo

This tiny book has been revolutionary in many lives through its idea of only keeping in your home what sparks joy for you. If you ever feel weighed down by all your stuff, I recommend to you. I’m part way through Kondo’s process of “tidying up one time and never again”, and it has already made a difference in the way I look at the things around me. The book is an easy read, and if you are interested in stories of how people are making it work in their lives, I recommend the FB group Konmari Adventures to you as well.

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson, by Patricia Briggs

This collection of short stories, set in the universe of Briggs heroine Mercy Thompson, provides a series of tasty snacks for those, like me, who love the Mercyverse. While some stories have been previously published, four are brand-new and well worth the time for fans, as they tie up loose ends from several of the stories. Briggs’ fantasy world is rich, sophisticated, and not for kids, and if you are interested in picking up a great urban fantasy series, I recommend you start with Mercy’s first book, Moon Calls, rather than with this one.

Dead Set, by Richard Kadrey

An interesting, if bleak, story about a 16-year-old girl in a new town, who falls under the sway of mysterious record store owner Emmett, who promises her that she can talk to her late father. Exceptional world-building here, as Zoe journeys to an extraordinary afterlife, a holding pen for souls, run by an evil queen. The dread and suspense are high, and that, along with a fair bit of gore, and disturbing ideas about the afterlife, have me recommend it for 16 and up.

Curtsies and Conspiracies, by Gail Carriger

This remains one of my favorite series for YA age 13 and up. Carriger’s work always combines Jane Austen’s tone with humor and supernatural critters, making it a Victorian-era steampunk. Sentences such as “She regularly wore the confused expression of a damp cat” bring me joy. Our heroine, Sephronia, is a member of a spy school disguised as a finishing school for young ladies, which is secretly located in an enormous, multi-level dirigible. Enormous fun.

Legacies, by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

High-schooler Spirit is sent to a high-end prep school for kids with magic, and slowly, inexorably, kids at the school start disappearing. It’s up to Spirit and her new gang of friends to puzzle out the mystery. There are enough loose ends here that a sequel is inevitable. No graphic violence, but loss of loved ones and a pervasive sense of fear and oppression place this one at 15 and up.

Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray

When high school senior and witch Nadia and her family move into a new town, Nadia encounters truly dark magic for the first time, but fortunately, she makes a couple friends who help her fight off the villain. An interesting story, with twists that keep you guessing, and the author creates a mood of dread crossed with a small-town high school very well. Some violence and a good bit of gore, so this kick-off to a new series is for older teens.

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

Thought this is not considered to by a YA book, it feels like part of the flock of YA dystopian novels. However, The Bone Season stands out. Interesting, twisty, with a driven 19-year-old heroine, the story pulls you and carries you along through the final page. Shannon deserves her accolades for her phenomenal world-building, which she bases in Victorian London, despite the novel’s setting in 2059. Her world of clairvoyants, prison cities, and Victorian street slang requires a glossary in the back of the book, but most words are discernible by context. Adding the slang to a 480-page novel requires an unusual amount of commitment from the reader, but, as reader, you are richly rewarded. Despite the usual tropes of a novel like this, there is no teen sex, but there is violence, and the sequel has much more. Recommended for dystopia fans 17 and up, who are willing to commit.

Not in the Script, by Amy Finnegan

This teen romance, filled with cute guys and kissing, features 18-year-old movie star Emma, who’s about to make a TV series with not one but two cute guys, but since her last break-up she’s sworn off dating guys she works with. Emma is actually a nice, down-to-earth character, and star-struck readers will enjoy the behind the scenes action of shooting a TV series. For 13 and up, as long as they remember that cutie-pie Jake is fictional.