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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes By Suzanne Collins
This prequel to the Hunger Games Trilogy, Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows eighteen year old Coriolanus Snow in the dystopian world of Panam during the time of the 10th Hunger Games.
This book, unlike the trilogy, is not action driven but rather a philosophical look at the choices of morality, politics, and power the main characters make in regards to their world. While I can see why many thought it was a slow read, I very much enjoyed learning the history which created the Panam and President Snow I am familiar with as a fan of the Hunger Games books. Collins did a wonderful job of showing readers how society and the choices we are forced to make can ultimately shape who we can become as an individual.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, a young woman, Julie Stender, is murdered in her apartment by a killer who drew intricate patterns on her face.The crime is eerily similar to a scene in the manuscript written by the victim’s landlady, who is trying to publish her first book. Detectives Korner and Werner are unsure if Ester de Laurenti is a suspect in this murder investigation, or a pawn in a larger game of revenge the police have yet to fully understand. The detectives must act quickly to solve the case before another person is harmed. The Tenant started off a little slow, but gradually picked up as the story went on. I liked the changing plot twists as the author kept readers guessing about who the killer was and where the story would lead.
We are the Streets by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a well written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel featuring Marvel’s Black Panther as well as a host of other prominent Marvel characters, all who are persons of color. The narrative of the story mostly follows Misty Knight with T’Challa (Black Panther) as more of a supporting role despite the title and this particular perspective is where the book really shines, featuring a black female police detective with no real super powers of her own other than a few high tech gadgets and her own wits and skills dealing with a crisis in New York City and the resulting fallout, which is very reminiscent of current social and political affairs. An entertaining read with a strong social message.
No Longer Human adapted to manga format by Junji Ito is a cathartic story of the spiraling downward of a man’s life in early 1900s Japan. This book is not for the faint of heart as it deals with some very heavy subject matter, often with the use of some very grotesque and morbid imagery. A great find for anyone into body horror or gothic horror, as well as anyone who likes a good story that goes into the fractured mind of a broken soul.