Month: May 2016

The Position, by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m not sure what led me to this novel, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea. This is the story of a husband and wife who write a sex manual (with drawings of themselves demonstrating) and their four children who find the book and look through it when they are ages 15 through 6, and what happens in their lives almost 30 years later.

I almost didn’t finish the book due to the bleakness and nihilism in many of the lives we follow, but several of the characters find their way to a semblance of peace by the end, and that helped. Wolitzer writes her characters clearly, and sketches their damage well. For 18 and up.

Kiss of Death, by Rachel Caine

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Another strong episode in the Morganville Vampires series, the book focuses on a road trip among our lead characters. Despite their passes to escape Morganville, it seems they can’t get far from violence and blood. These are characters you want to continue to spend time with, despite the darkness of their setting, since they hold on to hope throughout. Another older YA read – 16 and up.

Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

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Sensational fantasy novel that invariably zags when you expect it to zig. It’s not a princess in a tower book, or an evil magician book, or a fish out of water book, or a heroic battle book, though it flirts with all of those. The very title itself changes meaning as the book progresses.

Instead, this is an adventure, a strong heroine book about a girl who has to change quickly as her life circumstances shift, but who manages throughout to find creative ways to be who she is and to problem-solve. I loved this book, loved that it pulled me along even when I had no clue where it was going. I loved our heroine, who has a Polish name pronounced “ag-NYESH-ka,” and her top skill at the start of the book is getting spectacularly dirty no matter what she’s wearing . This skews older teen, 17 and up, due to vicious violence, sexual content, and deeply disturbing fantasy imagery.

Fool Me Twice, by Meredith Duran

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Another fantastic bodice-ripper from Duran. When Olivia takes a role in the household of the Duke of Marbury under false pretenses, she is stunned to find that the Duke has sunk into grief and rage after the betrayal of his late wife, and he hasn’t left his room in months. Since Olivia’s goal is to search his room, she has an incentive to try and get him out of it. There are great characterizations here, and Olivia’s interactions with the other staff members are often hilarious. Another steamy winner – for 18 and up.

Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott

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A terrific YA adventure story focusing on Jes, our heroine, who was born to a Patron man and a commoner woman, a fact which keeps her from doing the one thing she loves most, running the Fives. This game of skill requires strength, balance, agility, and strategy, which Jes has, but her military hero father would never allow her to run. The story of how Jes uses her strengths in Fives as her world is turned upside down makes for a compelling read with unique but identifiable characters: the young noble who’s not interested in political games, the young girl who wants to make a good marriage, the sisters who care deeply about each other despite having different interests, and the powerful man who pulls everyone’s strings, whether they want him to or not. Elliott does not go out of her way to make things easy on her characters and the results feel fresh and new in a recognizable genre. The suspense is nerve-wracking and the stakes extremely high. A great read for 16 and up due to some horrifying imagery.

Lady be Good, by Meredith Duran

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Another terrific bodice-ripper from Duran, who writes smart women in wonderful romances. In this Regency setting, Lily is a thief from the wrong side of London, very skilled, but very reformed and “passing” as a lady, until that “one last job” brings her to the attention of Viscount Palmer, a man with secrets of his own. This creates a combustible romance, peppered with adventure, and a wonderful friendship between smart women. If you’re a fan of the new steamy romance novel, this one is indispensable. For 18 and up.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

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I read this book due to my obsession with Broadway’s Hamilton, and it has more than rewarded the three weeks it took me to finish it. Through this sensational, eye-opening view of our founding fathers, the brilliant, verbose, and fatally flawed Alexander Hamilton stands out for his prescience, his passion for his adopted nation, and his work ethic. At the end of the book, I actually wept over his loss to our country. A triumph for Chernow, this book showed me history in a light in which I’d never considered it, filled with flawed men, gutter politics, and a genuine amazement that we had the gifts of these people at this time in our national life. Highly recommended.

The Immortal Heights, by Sherry Thomas

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It was a treat to finally finish this wonderful young adult fantasy trilogy. Despite the prophecies foretelling his death, the 17-year-old Master of the Domain and his beloved, the elemental mage Iolanthe, have continued their efforts to overthrow the Bane, an evil mage and tyrant. But though they have made progress, the worst is yet to come, and they never know who they can trust.

This fitting end to an epic, globe-spanning saga features romance, extraordinary feats of magic, and heart-stopping suspense. Recommended for 14 and up due to all of the above, and a wonderful, down-to-earth heroine. SMALL SPOILER: There is discreet, off-stage intimacy between our leads, which didn’t bother me since it wasn’t the focus of the story and because it wasn’t portrayed as any sort of obvious culmination of teen true love, as so many books do.