Who Rules The World? Girls!: Books With Women Who Kick Ass (Part 2)

Two years ago, we here at the Library Ladies were left despondent and angry at the way that the Presidential Election turned out. Two years later, most of our fears have been confirmed, and American politics has been a shit show. But this year, it was a Midterm Election, and things went a bit better this time around. One of the reasons for that is more that 100 women were elected into governing positions across the nation, breaking the all time record of women in such roles!! So in honor of that, we’re bringing back our Women Who Kick Ass Book List, and this time it’s based in hope!!

13642929Book: “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor

Publishing Info: Knopf, January 2013

The first Latinx justice and the third woman on the bench, Sonia Sotomayor is a really awesome lady in many, many ways. Her memoir is the story of her life, from her childhood living in a Bronx based housing project to her time as a Judge on the Supreme Court of the United States. She is very open about the struggles that she had to overcome in her life, from a broken marriage to living with diabetes since childhood and an unstable home life, but always emphasizes the determined spirit that she had to get through. Sotomayor’s voice always shines through in relatable and honest ways, and her story shows the power of believing in oneself, and how far it can take you.

10846336Book: “Salvage the Bones” by Jesmyn Ward

Publishing Info: Bloomsbury, August 2011

Jesmyn Ward has always been known for writing emotional and evocative books, from “Men We Reaped” to “Sing, Unburied, Sing”, but the novel that first won her a National Book Award was “Salvage the Bones”. It’s the story of Esch, a black teenage girl living in a coastal Mississippi town as Hurricane Katrina is heading towards shore, and the ways that she tries to keep her family together as the inevitable lurches towards them. Esch is a determined and driven character, who is dealing with her own personal turmoil outside of the impending hurricane (poverty, an unwanted pregnancy, a rough home life), but she is always there for her siblings and always trying her best to make things safe for them as the storm looms. This is a tough read, but it’s beautifully written and the characters, especially Esch, will stay with you.

32025298Book: “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America’s Enemies” by Jason Fagone

Publishing Info: Dey Street Books, September 2017

Similar to our recommendation of “Hidden Figures” in our last list of this kind, “The Woman Who Smashed Codes” is another incredible true story of women operating behind the scenes throughout history, getting stuff done, but going largely unnoticed. Together with her husband, Elizabeth Smith could be considered the starting point for the NSA (for better or worse these days). But in her time, she was able to put her incredible code-breaking stills to work on secretive missions to gain important intel during WWII. But the story explores much more than just that, diving also into her work exposing gangsters during Prohibition and her husband’s experiences breaking the Japanese version of Enigma.

3236307Book: “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

Publishing Info: Harcourt, October 2008

Another fiction choice, “Graceling’s” main character, Katsa essentially has the skill of “being badass.” You think I’m exaggerating, but that’s pretty much it. In a world that is made up of certain individuals with seemingly random abilities, Katsa’s is by far the most awe-inspiring. But as fans of Spiderman know so well, this type of gift doesn’t come with out strings and difficult choices attached. What makes Katsa stand apart is the way she never backs down from confronting these challenges herself. She doesn’t wait for others, she doesn’t question her own abilities. She just sees a wrong or a need, and she acts. Definitely a go-to for fantasy fans, Katsa fully earns her place on this list.

28503941Book: “Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors and Trailblaizers Who Changed History” by Sam Maggs

Publishing Info: Quirk Books, October 16

Of course, there are simply too many amazing women throughout history to list an entire book for each of them. So instead, here’s a lovely compilation of twenty-five of them for you to enjoy in small snippets. What makes this collection all the more enjoyable is the fact that many of these women may be ones you were unfamiliar with prior to picking up this book! There are also interviews with women currently in STEM-related fields and other resources for women looking to make their way into the sciences.

What are some of your favorite books about powerful women? Let us know in the comments!

Not Just Books: October 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

dragon_age_iii-2514302

Video Game: Dragon Age: Inquisition

I love Skyrim. It’s probably my favorite video game up to this point. But, sadly, I’m starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel as far as how much is left of that game (I’ve been drawing it out foreeevver at this point). So, I started looking around to find something similar, and this game popped up. I haven’t played either of the two to come before it, but I thought, why the heck not, and jumped in on this, the third. For one the word “dragon” was in the title. And for two, the graphics and general fantasy setting seemed very similar to Skyrim. But, of course, they are very different games. This is the first game of this sort that I’ve played where part of the game is learning the tactical and strategic management of a party of characters other than your main story character. It’s taken some getting used to and patience, but I think I’m finally getting there. There’s also an overwhelming amount of quests and things to do, but that’s probably for the best. I need something to tide me over for the likely YEARS remaining before the next Elder Scrolls releases anyways.

mv5bmjaynzkxotu5mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtk1otyznjm-_v1_sy1000_sx800_al_TV Show: “Supernatural”

What would fall be without a return to the world of “Supernatural?” Honestly, with the start of season 14, I really don’t know! I’ve been watching this show since college and that’s way longer ago than I would like to think about. But, of course, we’re back and with Dean now possessed by the archangel Michael, the question remains: will this last for 2 episodes or will they stretch it out to a full 3?? After 14 seasons, fans of the show know one solid truth: the heart of this series is Dean and Sam together. Any fiddling with that recipe has lead to disaster, so it’s not a matter of if Dean will be rescued; it’s not even a question of when. Instead, it’s just how quickly will the show manage to resolve this current hiccup before returning us to our usual, brotherly love programming?

mv5bmje2mdiwmdu5ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtkxntgznjm-_v1_Movie: “Free Solo”

A few years ago, my husband and I struck on a bizarre movie fixation that we shared: fascinating/horrifying documentaries about mountaineering/climbing. There’s some hard-to-pin down thrill about the combination of wonder at the gorgeous cinematography, terror of heights, and shared judgement over the sanity of the individuals involved that makes for a great movie-going experience. So for our anniversary this year (yes, this is how much we enjoy these types of films), we decided to check out “Free Solo,” the documentary following the build-up to and experience of Alex Honnold becoming the first man to climb the El Capitan Wall without ropes. It’s terrifying, people! During several portions of the movie you could look around the theater and literally see the entire crowd squirming in their seats (and this was a sold out theater, so that should also speak to the quality of the film.) Knowing the end result does practically nothing to diminish this discomfort. Honnold was also a surprisingly charming and witty individual. Though, yes, we still left the theater questioning his sanity.

Kate’s Picks

mv5bmtu4nza4mdewnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtqxodyznjm-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Netflix Show: “The Haunting of Hill House”

As a big fan of Shirley Jackson’s original novel, and the fabulous 1963 film adaptation (we are NOT going to talk about the 1999 abomination), I was a little skeptical when I saw the trailer for “The Haunting of Hill House”. Who were all these people, and what did ANY of them have to do with a paranormal investigation into an old haunted mansion? And while “The Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix is a very loose adaptation of the book it comes from, I really, REALLY enjoyed what was done with it. Instead of trying to recreate the entire story from the book, the show creates a new set of characters who take traits from the original ones. This time it’s a family that has been haunted by a traumatic living experience in this house, and how they have all fallen apart because of it. It’s not only pretty dang scary, it’s also one of the most emotional shows that I’ve seen in a long time.

220px-halloween_28201829_posterFilm: “Halloween” (2018)

I first saw the original John Carpenter “Halloween” during my freshman year in high school. While the people I was watching with weren’t as affected as I was, I was completely taken in by the tension and dread surrounding the story. Michael Myers was sufficiently terrifying and Jamie Lee Curtis was the perfect heroine as Laurie Strode. The rest of the series (outside of “Halloween H20”) didn’t really do much for me. So when I found out that the new film “Halloween” was going to retcon everything after the first one, I was excited. Instead of being the long stalked sister, in “Halloween” (2018) she is a tough, traumatized mother and grandmother who is waiting for Michael to come for her. Because she’s ready for him this time. This movie not only got back to the nitty gritty of the terror and suspense of the original, it showcases Curtis as the powerhouse she always as been, as well as introducing other lady characters who are here to take care of business. It is the sequel that “Halloween” has always deserved.

chilling-adventures-sabrina-netflixNetflix Show: “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

I had been waiting for this to come out for a long time, and now it’s here. Given how much I loved the comics, I was pretty excited to see what Netflix did with “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”. And while it didn’t go AS dark as the comics did, I think that there are a lot of things to like about this show. The cast is pretty great, with Kiernan Shipka playing the titular teen witch, but I thought that the real MVPs were Miranda Otto and Lucy Davis, who play Aunts Zelda and Hilda. While both of them could be two dimensional caricatures (Zelda as the stern true believer and Hilda as the bubbly optimist), they each give the aunts depth and nuance. While there are some moments that come off a little cringey (some of the optics weren’t totally well thought out), overall I think that “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is an entertaining and fun tale about witches and the mortals they care about.

 

Highlights: October 2018

HAPPY HALLOWEEN SEASON, NERDS!!! Yes, the Season of the Witch has begun, and Kate can barely contain her excitement for all things horror, while Serena looks forward to embracing all clothing cozy and cardigan-esque. Neither like to think about the upcoming winter. But with a new month comes new books, and here are the titles we are looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

36342330Book: “The Hollow of Fear” by Sherry Thomas

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Interested?? I’m SO much more excited than just “interested!” I absolutely adored the first two books in the Lady Sherlock series (thanks again Kate for getting me started on this!) and devoured them both in only a few days. So this has been one of my more anticipated reads of the entire year. I have a copy already on hand and it’s been all I can do to try to resist reading it until closer to its publication date. That being said, a review is going to show up VERY soon. As for the plot, it seems to be continuing the fallout of the break in Lord and Lady Ingram’s marriage, ending with murderous finality in this book with the discovery of the body of the latter found on Lord Ingram’s own property. Now it is up to Charlotte Holmes to save her dear friend from the noose. Have I mentioned that I’m excited for this one??

25446343Book: “Muse of Nightmares” by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Again, do you have to ask? After the crushing cliffhanger that was the end of “Strange the Dreamer,” I’ve been  biting at the bit to get my hands on this one and finally have all of my questions resolves. I mean, I’m sure they will be resolved in the heard-wrenching and tragic manner possible, because this is Laini Taylor we’re talking about. But the writing will be beautiful while we suffer, so at least there’s that. Don’t want to spoil the first one for any of you crazies who haven’t gotten around to it yet, but news gods have appeared, characters have died, and ghosts roam free. It’s sure to be a wild ride!

31822495Book: “West” by Edith Pattou

Publication Date: October 23, 2018

Why I’m Interested: This is also technically a sequel, but its predecessor, “East” a retelling of “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” came out in 2005, so it was a complete shock when I saw it making its rounds as an up-and-comer. I might have to go re-read that one to re-familiarize myself with that exact retelling of the tale (man, I read too many fairytales), but it sounds like this one is set in the same world with the same characters only nine years later. And once again tragedy strikes and it is up to Rose to save her love and, perhaps, the world. It’s pretty rare to see authors pick up stories like this over ten years after the first book, so I’m excited to see what Pattou has in store.

Kate’s Picks

37859646Book: “Broken Things” by Lauren Oliver

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Why I’m Interested: I have been a huge fan of Lauren Oliver for a few years now, as I think that she’s a pretty solid YA thriller author and has written some books that have caught me by surprise. So when I found out that she had a new book coming out this October, I was immediately interested. And then when it sounded a little like the Slenderman Stabbing, I was all the more excited to read it. Summer, Mia, and Brynn were inseparable teens obsessed with a fantasy book called “The Way Into Lovelorn”, so much so they began to believe that they could enter Lovelorn. Then Summer ends up murdered, and everyone thinks that Mia and Brynn killed her, though they are never charged. Now, a few years later, they are determined to clear their names, and to try and find out what did happen to Summer. I’m hoping for a solid murder mystery with lots of surprises!

39720991Book: “The Witch Elm” by Tana French

Publication Date: October 9, 2018

Why I’m Interested: This is another thriller novel based on a true crime, this time the “Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?” murder. And similar to that case, it involves someone finding a skull inside of a tree. But as if that wasn’t tantalizing enough, I’ve read a few other books by Tana French, and she is almost assuredly one of the most anticipated mystery writers out there right now, with her “Dublin Murder Squad” books almost always in high demand at book stores and libraries alike. “The Witch Elm”, however, is on it’s own as a standalone novel, which is definitely a change of pace for her. A man named Toby is trying to escape the memories of a trauma, and goes to a familial estate to care for an ill uncle. But while he is there the gruesome discovery of a skull in a tree is found, which makes Toby think that perhaps the past can’t really be escaped. Given that I’ve enjoyed her writing in the past I’m really looking forward to this new chiller from Tana French.

38355410Book: “Elevation” by Stephen King

Publication Date: October 30th, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Say it with me: STEPHEN KING!! But here is the thing about “Elevation” and what it sounds like: this book might not actually be a horror story. In fact, coming in at only 145 pages, this book sounds like it’s more likely going to be one of his more recent exercises in expanding his genres, and perhaps a little bit of therapy for a world and culture that feels more and more divided as each day goes by. When a man named Scott in Castle Rock realizes that he’s ill with some mysterious disease, he starts to reevaluate his life. One of his changes is to try and reach out to the lesbian couple next door, a couple that has been experiencing discrimination and bigotry from the town, and from Scott as well. As they make unlikely friendships, they come together to try and help each other. Does it sound a little cheesy? Oh yes. But honestly, after the Halloween season is over it may be just what I need to ease down from the scares and anxieties of my favorite time of year.

Not Just Books: September 2018

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

mv5bmtk3ndy5mtu0nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwndi3mde1ntm-_v1_sy1000_cr006791000_al_Movie: “Mission – Impossible: Fallout”

I actually watched this in August but somehow forgot to include it in that list, so it’s going on here! The “Mission – Impossible” series is one of those strange beasts that somehow has gotten better with age. Not only do we all want to check in to see what crazy stunt Tom Cruise will be pulling off this time, but the cinematography with how said stunt is shot has gotten better and better. Chock full of action, this lasted movie leans in on all that was great with the ones before it. The cast is phenomenal (though I will always hold the weird blurred section on Superman’s face in “Justice League” against this movie as it was the mustache Cavill had to grow here that they were trying to cover up). The action was non-stop. And it was even fun to see a few familiar faces from movies past. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this is a worthy next entry.

mv5bmjizmdcymdcxov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtg1ndk2ntm-_v1_Amazon Prime Show: “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”

So apparently it was an action movie/show type of month for me, as my second pick features yet another franchise heavy weight. This time it’s John Krasinski who takes on the titular role, and does an excellent job of it (to no one’s surprise). I’ve seen several of the past movies, but haven’t read any of the books, and the character was always only mildly interesting to me. But Krasinki’s effortless charm brings a new level of soulfulness to the standard action hero, and the show wisely learns lessons from other successful mini series, especially that shows like this often live and die on the strength of the villain. And here they devote a good amount of time to developing the villain and even, at times, making him a sympathetic character. The show was also incredibly tense at times, and I’m sure more than one kitten was squeezed more than he would have liked as I watched.

mv5bntrjnta4ymetnmu5zc00yjfjltk0yzmtnmfhzdi0zgyxnmi5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtk3ndawmzi-_v1_Netflix Show: “Safe”

Telling the story of a father who lives with his family in a gated community when he teenage daughter goes missing, “Safe” is both comfortingly familiar as well as interestingly new. “Broadchurch-like” could almost be a genre of its own at this point,  and this would fall well within that as the story plays the same mind games by introducing a wide cast of suspects all hiding their own secrets. However, it is an interesting twist plotting the story around a missing girl rather than than a known murder. The question of whether she’s alive or not is its own mystery for much of the story. While I, like many, was horribly burned by the ending of “Dexter,” I always liked Michael C. Hall, so it’s a blast to see him in action again. Yes, the accent is weird at first (the story is set in England), but after a while, even that faded as I focused in on the secrets that were slowly be revealed.

Kate’s Picks

220px-hamilton-posterMusical: “Hamilton”

Yep. I saw “Hamilton”. It is currently running in the Twin Cities, and my mother was one of the lucky people to win the lottery to get a time slot to potentially be able to buy tickets. And yes, it was that complicated. But she scored four, and my husband and I went with my parents (it was a birthday gift to him from my folks). I had high hopes that it was going to be good, because after all, I enjoy the soundtrack. But even with that knowledge I couldn’t anticipate just how excellent it was going to be. The music is, of course, phenomenal, but actually seeing the players on stage was a whole other experience, and everyone was great. Not only is it entertaining and in a lot of ways informative, it’s also an incredibly emotional show. By the end of the show I had been moved to tears multiple times, and all of us really loved the performance.

mv5bmjm0mda2ndeznf5bml5banbnxkftztgwodyznjg4ntm-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_TV Show: “You”

It’s finally here!!! Near the inception of this blog I read “You” by Caroline Kepnes, and really enjoyed it. Since that first read, I’ve re-read it multiple times, as I am downright obsessed with Joe Goldberg, the psychopathic stalker extraordinaire. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that Lifetime was turning the Joe Goldberg books into a TV series, and now that it’s started airing it’s been so great to see on screen. Penn Badgeley is a VERY good Joe, and while the show has tweaked and made some changes to the book (some of which I’m not COMPLETELY on board with yet) it has really captured the essence of the narrative at its very heart. It’s been so fun seeing the various moments from the book play out, from mentions of a red ladle to ‘engine engine number 9’ (if you’ve read it you know what these mean), and two episodes in I’m completely hooked.

mv5byzg2zdq3mjctytqxyy00nzljlwe5mtgtyzjimmm5ztmyyjnkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjywnda2mde-_v1_uy268_cr00182268_al_TV Show: “The Purge”

I first saw the original “Purge” movie a few years ago, and found beneath the horror movie surface a story that had a lot to say about American society, specifically how the ‘haves’ victimize the ‘have nots’. For the unaware, the basic premise is that an extremist political party known as the New Founding Fathers of America is now the dominant party, and once a year they hold a Purge, in which all crime is legal for twelve hours.  The TV series takes place on the 10th Purge, and follows a number of people during the twelve hours, from a man looking for his sister, to a liberal minded couple who is wooing NFFA big wigs in hopes of getting funding for a charity project, to a woman who has a grudge against her colleagues, to a mysterious masked ‘purger’. It continues to ask a lot of good questions about who would support The Purge, and who would be victimized by it.

Back to School: A Book List

While both of us are well past the point where fall means it’s time to head back to school, there are quite a few good books out there that run wild with the concept. I mean, even “Harry Potter,” at its core, is a British boarding school tale! Here are a few of our favorites!

24337Book: “Ella Enchanted”

Author: Gail Carson Levine

Even after the unspeakable movie was released and tried to taint this book forever, “Ella Enchanted” remains one of the more charming fairytale retellings you’ll run across. Ella was given a “gift” when she was born, the gift of obedience. Unsurprisingly, this gift turned out to be much more of a curse than anything else. Luckily, our plucky heroine never wavers in the face of her challenges and is determined to make a life for herself free of those who would use her gift/curse for themselves. Much of the story takes part at a boarding school where Ella has been sent to be finished. There she makes both friends and enemies. The whole book is just a delightful affair and the school elements makes readers praise their lucky stars that “finishing” so isn’t a thing anymore.

3008Book: “A Little Princess”

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Obviously we had to include this, the almost quintessential boarding house book! This classic tells the tale of the young Sara Crewe, the daughter of a wealthy and devoted father who sends her to boarding school. While there, she learns of her father’s tragic death and her idealic life quickly becomes a nightmare, re-located to the attic and forced to work as a servant under the vengeful eyes of the awful headmistress. But through it all, Sara’s imagination and caring nature continue to give her strength. It’s a lovely story and probably has one of the best villains as far as evil teachers/headmistresses go!

35465844Book: “Tempests and Slaughter”

Author: Tamora Pierce

While it is tempting to simply include the first two Alanna books here since they, too, are school stories, we thought we’d include Pierce’s more recent release. This story focuses on the childhood of Numair, the powerful mage we follow in “The Immortals” series alongside Daine. The book covers Numair’s years from age 11 to 14, detailing his time at school as he learns to wrangle his own powerful magical abilities. He also befriends the ambitious prince Ozorne, another familiar face to fans of the original series. This is the first book in its own series, so it will be fun to see where the tale goes from here!

434631Book: “Freak Show”

Author: James St. James

James St. James, known predominantly for his time as a New York club kid and his book “Disco Bloodbath” (about sociopath Michael Alig), has created an over the top and boundary pushing ‘new kid in school’ story with “Freak Show”. Billy Bloom, a gay teenage drag queen with a flair for flamboyance and glamour, has been sent to live with his straight laced and wealthy father in Florida, who sends him to an elite school filled with kids who are not like Billy at all. Billy is teased and tormented for being out and proud, but finds a friend in the handsome school quarterback, Flip Kelly.  When Billy decides to buck the norms and run for homecoming queen, things REALLY get complicated. While this book is admittedly dated in a lot of ways, and while St. James is known to push the envelopes of bad taste, “Freak Show” is ultimately about being yourself, loving yourself, and finding your place.

510632Book: “Killing Mr. Griffin”

Author: Lois Duncan

The original queen of teenage suspense was known for giving her characters a lot of moral quandaries, and none were as controversial as “Killing Mr. Griffin”. A group of teens really hates their English teacher Mr. Griffin, and thinks that it would be fun to pull a prank on him just to teach him a lesson, so they kidnap him in hopes of scaring him into kindness. But then something goes wrong, and Mr. Griffin ends up dead. Now the kids have a real problem, as while some want to come forward, others want to pretend it never happened. “Killing Mr. Griffin” is one of those Lois Duncan books that brings up questions about responsibility and culpability, and makes the readers muddle through some complex issues. And while it has been considered a controversial book (it has been on the Banned Book List before), it has a lot to say about cause and effect and the consequences of our actions.

6334Book: “Never Let Me Go”

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro

Though now people are kind of aware that this is a dystopian book with questions about the ethics of cloning, what sometimes gets lost in the sauce is that it is, indeed, a boarding school story to start out with. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are all students at a mysterious boarding school called Hailsham, in which they are taught about high culture and living a healthy life. What they find out, however, is that they are actually clones who have been created to donate their organs to unhealthy people. Our three main characters all meet at Hailsham, and forge strong bonds between each other in spite of the fact that they are not likely to live very long after they start donating their organs. “Never Let Me Go” is a heartbreaker of a novel as you get attached to characters who are seemingly doomed to die, and it raises a lot of questions about what makes a human, who society values, and how far is too far when it comes to medical science and research.

What are some of your favorite books that take place in schools? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights September 2018

Happy Labor Day! The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are getting cooler, and some of us are very sad to say goodbye to summer. But others can’t wait to break out the Halloween decorations and pumpkin pie! You take the good with the bad. But, as always, we have some exciting books to look forward to regardless of our opinions on cooler weather.

Serena’s Picks

37588503Book: “A Spark of White Fire” by Sangu Mandanna

Publication Date: September 11, 2018

Why I’m Interested: I’m always on the lookout for new science fiction, so I was super excited when I saw this book listed. Much of the story sounds very familiar to other fantasy books: an exiled princess, a stolen throne, a fight to reclaim one’s inheritance. But add to that sentient warships and dark moons, and you’ve got yourself what sounds like an intriguing space opera! What makes it all the more appealing is the fact that the story is loosely based on ancient Indian folklore. All together, it sounds like an intriguing mix!

32824058Book: “Strange Grace” by Tessa Gratton

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Well, first off, look at that cover! Is that gorgeous or what? This is definitely one of those cases where I clicked through to read more about this title based simply on the lovely cover art. But then I read the synopsis and was even more in. The story is that of a town where long ago something terrible happened (or was it love?) between a witch and a demon. Either way, the result is every few years the town must sacrifice its best boy to the forest. At its heart are our three protagonists and what looks like the set-up of some complicated relationship drama. There’s also a good chance that Kate should probably read this, too, what with the witchcraft angle and the representation.

37854049Book: “The Sisters of the Winter Woods” by Rena Rossner

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Another beautiful cover! Plus, a fairytale-esque fantasy novel featuring sisterhood. Of course I’m all over this one! Liba and Laya are two Jewish sisters, and while they’ve heard of their people have troubles at other villages, in their small home, the community has lived together in peace. But the arrival of a strange band of young men begins to stir unrest, and Liba and Laya discover startling truths about their own heritage and that what were once fairytales may in fact be histories. Even that brief description pretty much checks all of my boxes, so I’m sure there will a review for this one coming up shortly!

Kate’s Picks

34810320Book: “Sadie” by Courtney Summers

Publication Date: September 8, 2018

Why I’m Interested: I’ve read another of Courtney Summer’s books, “Some Girls Are”, and I found it to be an interesting and gritty story. “Sadie”, on the other hand, makes “Some Girls Are” sound like child’s play. As someone who loves her share of true crime podcasts, I’d me remiss to pass this one by. After her younger sister is murdered, Sadie is on the trail of the man she believes killed her. Meanwhile, a podcaster has taken interest in Sadie’s story, and is trying to figure out where she disappeared to. This book is getting a lot of advanced praise, and it sounds like a realistic and rough look at violence towards women, and how our culture tries to capitalize on it.

377158591Book: “We Sold Our Souls” by Grady Hendrix

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Why I’m Interested: Because who doesn’t love a little satire, a little heavy metal, and a really badass female protagonist? Given how much I loved “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”, it was a sure thing that I was going to get my ands on whatever novel he came out with next. And lo and behold, his follow up was about a washed up heavy metal player, an old grudge she has for a former bandmate, and the possibility that her soul was sold without her permission. Since I have a special place in my heart for metal music, and since Hendrix is a fun author whose books have some scares but a whole lot of heart, I am very much looking forward to “We Sold Our Souls”.

38255342Book: “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Kiersten White

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

Why I’m Interested: You all know how much Serena loves White’s “Conquerer’s Saga”, but now it’s my turn to see her take on a classic tale and twist it into her own thing. I do enjoy “Frankenstein” quite a bit, but I’ve always felt bad for Victor’s doomed ladyfriend Elizabeth. SO color me interested in “The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein”, as it sounds like it’s going to give this character more of a voice. While I’m sure that this story will be as emotionally devastating for me as “The Conquerer’s Saga” was for Serena, I am very excited to see what White does to this classic story, and the places she takes it.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

 

Fair Reads: Books About Fairs, Circuses, and Carnivals

This week, one of Minnesota’s grandest traditions starts: the Minnesota State Fair. To born and raised Minnesotans this is one of our most important moments of the year. To outsiders, it may seem a little overblown. But regardless how you feel, it’s going to be a really fun time. In honor of the Fair (one of the biggest in the country), we’ve put together a list of books that take place at fairs, circuses, and carnivals!

54607Book: “Something Wicked This Way Comes

Author: Ray Bradbury

Usually a traveling carnival can bring joy and wonder to a community, but Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show is a bit more sinister than that. Best friends Will and Jim find themselves targets of the malevolent Mr. Dark, Mr. Cooger,  and their evil carnival, a carnival that includes arrives once a generation and leaves chaos and tragedy in it’s wake. Attractions at this carnival include a carousel that can manipulate your age, and the Dust Witch, a being who is filled with magic but also incredibly dangerous. While this book does have it’s scary moments that have become legendary in horror literature, it also addresses friendship, coming of age, the power of kindness, and how to face your fears.

13872Book: “Geek Love”

Author: Katherine Dunn

Though ‘freak shows’ are not the entities that they once were (and are more about showcasing talents and feats of illusion than gawking at those different from you), “Geek Love” takes us back to a crueler time, and gives us the story of one of the ‘freak’ families. The Binewskis are a family of carnival workers that travel around showcasing their various ‘oddities’: Arturo the Aquaboy has flipper-like limbs; Iphy and Elly are the conjoined twins who are seen as seductive sexpots; Oly is the hunchbacked Albino. Then there is Chick, who seems ‘normal’ on the outside but inside contains multitudes of dangerous gifts. All of these people came to be because their parents hoped to create a family of human oddities they could profit upon, and used various means (such as arsenic, drugs, and radioactive materials) to do it. This is a story about family, a story about ambition, and a story about what actually makes a person ‘normal’.

9361589Book: “The Night Circus”

Author: Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives at night and is open only during those dusky hours. It leaves as mysteriously as it game. This is the story of not only a strange, magical circus, but of the two magicians who are using the circus as a platform in their ongoing competition to best the other with new and wondrous displays of magical prowess. But it is a game that has been chosen for them, and as they find themselves growing closer and closer to one another, the ultimate conclusion of this competition becomes more perilous. Equal parts fantasy, romance, and historical fiction, this story has a circus that is not only a setting for the plot to unfold but feels like a living, breathing entity itself.

43641Book: “Water for Elephants”

Author: Sara Gruen

You can’t have a fair/circus book list and not include “Water for Elephants.” This massively popular book from several years ago, however, earns the hype it has gathered. It follows the story of a young veterinarian who suddenly find himself adrift and alone in the world. Of course, he joins the circus! But there he finds not only the wonders and spectacle that come with the greatest show on earth, but a seedy underbelly full of intrigue and danger. When he begins falling in love with the wife of the animal trainer, he quickly realizes that danger has arrived at his door. This is another historical drama and features not only a nice romance, but, of course, a lovely relationship between Jacob and an elephant.

23982Book: “Modoc”

Author: Ralph Helfer

You may have noticed that the title of this book is truncated in our version and that’s for the simple reason that the biggest complaint filed against the book is the highly questionable “true story” that it claims to be telling. But I don’t think this should detract from what is still a beautiful story about the love between an elephant and a boy. While there was an elephant named Modoc (maybe even three!), there is very little evidence to support much of this book, but I still felt it was an excellent and heart-breaking story on its own. Just approach it as a fictional story rather than nonfiction, and you’ll probably be happier with it!

21996Book: “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America”

Author: Erik Larson

This may be considered one of the very best books about a fair, though it is also considered one of the best true crime books all time. Erik Larson tells two stories: that of the creation and execution of the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and that of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who preyed upon women who came to Chicago looking for a new life. Larson is the master of drawing parallels between his various narratives, and in “The Devil in the White City” he shows the extent of American progress within an urban setting, and how a growing and bustling city can lead to the kind of anonymity that a serial killer can thrive in. History buffs and true crime buffs will both find a lot to love in this book, as the grandiosity of the Columbian Exposition will enthrall you as much as Holmes’s ‘Murder Castle’ will horrify you.

What about you? What fair, circus, and carnival books have you enjoyed? Let us know in the comments. And to our Minnesotan readers who are going, enjoy the Great Minnesota Get Together!