The German House – Maddy – Staff Review

The German House by Annette Hess

Eva Bruhns doesn’t really remember WWII as it ended when she was a small child and no one in her family likes to discuss what happened in great detail. Her father served in the war, but now and her mom run a successful restaurant. Eva works as a translator and is hired to translate for the 1963 Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, which are war crime trials in which former Nazi officers are being tried for their crimes. As Eva becomes more involved in the trials, she begins to question her family’s silence about the war and her father’s service. She also tries to come to terms with what she learns at the trials and what she has learned/ heard in the past.

Though the German House is a work of fiction, it is based on real events and the real trial of Nazi officers. Annette Hess does a wonderful job of capturing the mood during this time and bringing in different perspectives. For anyone looking for a good historical fiction, I recommend this book. It also counts towards the Fall reading challenge (West or East Europe categories)

4 stars

Tales from the Ant World – Terry – Staff Review

Tales from the Ant World by Edward O. Wilson

Tales from the Ant World by Edward O. Wilson is an engaging and entertaining read on the world of ants and ecology. The writing is scientific and educated, however with use of everyday language and explanation that talks to the reader in a tone that is as much for an expert as for someone new to the field of entomology. Included are a number of scientific drawings to illustrate a few of the species, as well as a glimpse into fieldwork in the world of ant scientists.

5 stars

The Guest List – Haley – Staff Review

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The novel takes place during a wedding weekend on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. Friends of the famous couple join together for what is to be a lavish event. Between the past experiences of the wedding party, the alcohol and the ominous storm setting in, the wedding becomes anything but festive. After a body is found dead, the wedding turns into a nightmare.

I was not a fan of the book at all. I found the characters of the wedding party to be dislikeable and was not vested in their story. A few of the weaves of the tangled storyline web were too far fetched to make the overall novel realistic. While I have enjoyed other novels by Lucy Foley, this one is better left on the shelf.

2 stars

The Book of Longings- Haley – Staff Review

The Book of Longings by by Sue Monk Kidd

The Book of Longings follows the life of Ana, the fictional wife of Jesus, as she matures from a young girl living in her father’s home, into womanhood.

Ana, longing for a life worth meaning, is something I think everyone can relate to. Her journey introduces the reader to many endearing characters such as her brother Judas, her Aunt Yaltha, and best friend Tabitha. Ana yearns a life filled with more than just the role required of woman during that time. Her desire to make an impact, in her own way, is parallel to the desire of her husband, Jesus, and his passion to spread the love of God. In this novel Jesus is written as just a man, a carpenter by trade and a follower of John the Baptist.

This book is a breathing taking work of fiction and I relished getting to know the author’s interpretation of these biblical characters. Do not read if you are looking for accuracy with the historical or theological details.

5 stars

How to Die in Space – Staff Review – Terry

How to Die in Space: A Journey Through Dangerous Astrophysical Phenomena by Paul Sutter.

How to Die in Space is a fun, somewhat morbid, educational review of astrophysical phenomena written within a framework that is both a “traveler’s guide” and astrophysics lecture. The book is written in an engaging tone, with use of everyday language backed by scientific explanation. The chapters of the book are loosely related, each being a self contained lesson or lecture in itself which makes for easy reading.

4 Stars.

The Lost Girls of Paris – Staff Review – Maddy

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

In Manhattan 1946, Grace Healy finds an abandoned suitcase tucked under a bench at Grand Central Station on her way to work. Curious, she opens it to find a handful of photographs of different women hidden inside. The suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Tripp who helped lead a network of female secret agents that were sent to infiltrate occupied Europe during World War Two but never made it home.

Switching between the narratives of Grace, Eleanor and Marie Jenoff reveals a story of espionage, mystery, comradery and deceit.

I really enjoyed the way the author wove the three womens’ narratives together to reveal a larger story. For readers who enjoy WWII era historical fiction, I would recommend the Lost Girls of Paris.

4 Stars

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees – Staff Review – Terry

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson

Buzz is a book for the nature minded and science minded alike.  It is an informative and humorous foray into the world of bees as well as their close cousins and look alikes.  The language and writing that Hanson uses is scientific but with a naturalist outlook, making for an enjoyable and personable read.  Hanson clearly has a love for the subject as well as knowledge and is also willing to share some personal experiences in both the scientific field of entomology as well as his own personal nature experiences with his own family exploring nature trails.  Overall a great read.  

5 Stars

The Second Home – Staff Review – Haley

The Second Home by Christina Clancy

The Second Home is the debut novel for author Christina Clancy. The story of the Gordon family jumps between the time periods of 1999 to 2015, as well as switching from their home in Wisconsin to their summer house on Cape Cod. The majority of the novel follows the three Gordon siblings Ann, Poppy, and Michael, told during their teenage years and in their thirties.

While initially this may be considered a beach read given the setting in Wellfleet, MA and the focus on the house itself, as you delve deeper into the book it reveals itself to be a dark family saga. The plot line was good, however the characters reactions to the events seemed unrealistic and left me not connecting to the story or invested in the characters. The most enjoyment from the book was its imagery of Wellfleet and the Cape.

3 stars

Midnight Sun – Staff Review – Haley

Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Midnight Sun is the companion novel to the book Twilight told through the perspective of Edward Cullen, the protagonist vampire.

Fifteen years ago, as a young woman in my mid twenties, I first read Twilight and was hooked from the first page. Twilight was the first pop culture novel of vampire/human romance that most people had ever read, myself included. In 2008, chapters of Midnight Sun were leaked on the internet, much to the satisfaction of fans, who devoured the love story told by Edward. After 12 years, the Midnight Sun novel was released this month in it’s entirety. Having been a fan back in the mid 2000’s I was keen to rejoin these characters and their world.

Well, a lot can change in 15 years and I was bored from the get go. Even knowing the story-line would be much the same as Twilight, it was just too similar. I felt the author did not include enough unique perspective as Edward to keep the reader entertained. More than halfway through the 658 pages I kept wondering, “When is this going to get good?” Perhaps it is because Meyers pioneered the way for what is now an over saturated market, there isn’t any fresh appeal to include in the novel. Or perhaps, as a woman now starting my forties, it just no longer interests me. I am sure there are many fans of the series who would disagree, but I had hoped for more.

2 stars

The Vanishing Half – Staff Pick – Cherise

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I wasn’t a big fan of it the first couple of chapters, but I think I just wasn’t in the right headspace for this story. It didn’t take long for that opinion to change. I quickly became wrapped into this story and characters, needing to know more about the mystery of Stella. I tend to struggle with books that are family sagas like this one was, but this story somehow did it in a way that wasn’t hard to follow and left you wanting more. The story revolves around Desiree and Stella, twin sisters who live in the town of Mallard in the deep south. The “town” (as we find out later it’s not a real town according to the government, but it’s clear this is simply because of who lives there) is populated by light skin African Americans. At 16 the twins run to New Orleans, escaping the town they grew up, that their own family founded. But not long after Stella disappears, leaving Desiree alone. The story revolves on Stella’s disappearance and the aftermath, as life goes on. Desiree comes back to Mallard years later with a daughter, Jude, who is dark skinned and is ridiculed by the kids at school. We meet Early, a boy that Desiree had fallen for as a teenager and is given a second chance with, who had been hunting down Desiree and Jude (he’s a bounty hunter who was paid to try to find them) only to volunteer to look for Stella while keeping their secret. I picked up this book because it had LGBTQA+ representation and we find that representation when  Jude when she moves to California for college. She meets Reese, a sweet man that is hard not to love instantly. We learn Reese is a trans man and he has gay friends who are drag queens. The whole group of characters are simply really well done and hard not to love. We learn Stella is living a double life, one in which she hides that she’s African American from her husband and daughter, this all in the time of racial discrimination. It leaves the reader wondering, if you had a chance like Stella, would you take it? Would you kill the person you were after all the hate you saw growing up? Or would you be like Desiree who refuses to kill that part of her, even working for the FBI in a time when there was questions of if the FBI had any link to the death of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, only to return to Mallard, the home she was so desperate to escape. Both twins live completely different lives and have daughters that remind them more of their sister than themselves.  I highly recommend this book. It’s a really interesting story that might take you out of your comfort zone. It makes you look at race relations in this country in a different life and forces you to ask what would you do in this situation, knowing the hardships and abuses these women faced and the lives of their daughters.

4 stars

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