Good Books and the Random Movie

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05 February 2019

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood in the Scandinavian Way

Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood in the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting is a complete guide to firewood.

As someone who just purchased a wood stove insert, I wanted a book to teach me about firewood. This one comes highly recommended.

Mytting first became interested in the Norwegian national obsession with firewood when saw a neighbor receive an enormous pile of wood. After spending the winter mostly huddled in the house, his older neighbor Ottar, spent weeks moving the pile of wood from his front yard to the back, stacked as insurance against the next winter.

Mytting then traveled around Scandinavia and spoke to others who seem obsessed with collecting wood in early Spring - spending time drying it correctly, and then stacking it in various ways for the winter.

This is an informative, light look at the relationship wood plays in our lives. It is focused on types of wood found in Norway, but can be applied to trees in the US as well.

Mytting, Lars. (2015). Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood in the Scandinavian Way. New York: Abrams.

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02 February 2019

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4)

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (a pseudonym for JK Rowling) is the forth book in the mystery series featuring Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.

Cormoran is a private investigator based in London. He was military police until an explosion took part of his leg. Now he has a small agency that has been in the news a few times. His partner, Robin Ellacott, started as a temp. She was so helpful and showed a great brain and an interest in solving mysteries.

While Robin is out for her honeymoon, a man comes into the office who makes the temporary secretary nervous. Strike returns to the office to find Billy, who has a nervous twitch and has not bathed for a while. But his story is so detailed is seems credible.

Billy runs away before Strike can convince him to give them contact information. When Strike finds Billy's brother at an anti-Olympics meeting, the man is convinced that a government Minister sent him to harass him.

Then next day, that same Minister hires Strike to find out who is blackmailing him and to get some dirt on them to keep them quiet. Robin goes undercover in the Parliament. And she and Strike get a glimpse of what the upper classes do to each other.

Galbraith is a great writer and the main characters, Robin and Cormoran, are two of my favorites.

Galbraith, Robert. (2018). Lethal White. New York: Mulholland Books.

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20 January 2019


Pulp by Robin Talley is a series of stories of young lesbians - one in present day, and one in the 1950s.

Abby Zimet has to choose a topic for her senior project - a full year on something where she produces a work. It can be anything, but she has not chosen because she is preoccupied by her parents' relationship dying and the break up with her girlfriend. When she discovers the lesbian pulp books from the 50s and 60s she decides to write her own.

Abby's favorite so far is a book by Marian Love. The first (fictional) book where one of the main characters did not have to die to appease the censors of the time. She wants to find out more about the woman who wrote it.

Janet Jones picked up a book in the train station. A story of two women in love who have a hard time and then ultimately break up so that one of them goes back to her male fiancée. Janet is so moved that she writes a letter to the author.

But in the 1950s, along with McCarthy's obsession on finding communists, there was the lavender scare. A witch hunt of people turning in anyone who they thought was gay - or they just did not like. Janet's best friend (and crush) just got a job with the State Department.

Talley has written a kind of layered story of young lesbians finding authors who understand them, and they in turn writing a book that someone of a later generation finds. The character of Janet Jones - stuck in the 50s in a religious family - is the best part of this book. She is a strong, strong woman stuck in a dangerous time.

Talley, Robin. (2018). Pulp. New York: Harlequin Teen.

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14 January 2019

All Clear (Oxford Time Travel #2)

All Clear by Connie Willis is the second book in her Oxford Time Travel duo. Historians from 2060 travel to England during WWII to study the war and its effects on people.

Armed with the schedule of bombs dropped on London, Polly has traveled to the Blitz to study the people in shelters and how the almost nightly attacks affect them.

Her brief includes getting a job as a shop girl at the one department store not hit and renting a room in a street that is safe as well.

But her assignment also included checking in to give the team at Oxford her address so that if anything goes wrong they can pull her out. But her drop has not been opening so she cannot go back (technically forth!) and check in. The longer her drop does not open the more likely that she will be in London for longer than her list of bombs she studied.

Michael and Merope are having the same problem. Each of them know Polly and are going to London to find her and use her drop. If nothing else, it will be easier for the retrieval team to find them if they stick together. And due to the nature of time travel, even if the team at Oxford need time to figure it out, they can still travel back to when they need to for a rescue.

As the Blitz intensifies, the historians are living the history they wanted to study. But what if their prolonged stays cause ripples that change the outcome of the war or the people they meet?

Read this series! It is amazing. Connie Willis has come up with a fascinating timeline that puts readers and characters alike into the terror of war. What once seems like a simple plot, develops into a trap that readers will stay up late to escape.

Willis, Connie. (2010). All Clear. New York: Spectra.

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01 January 2019

Blackout (Oxford Time Travel #1)

Blackout by Connie Willis is the first of a two book series about historians who travel back in time to learn about their time of study.

In the year 2060, historians can not only study history, but experience it firsthand. Scientists have found a way to travel back in time. Oxford has been sending people back for years now. There are whole departments to make sure that clothing, paperwork and items are period-authentic so historians can blend in. The chaos of the space/time continuum will not allow the historians to alter events, but they still take care to watch their effects on those they meet.

Three historians who are studying WWII in England, are about to go to that time. Merope will be going back as Eileen, a woman in service who will help at a country house to study the child evacuees from the Blitz. Many families sent their children to the country to be clear of the bombs dropped on London.

Polly has already been to the war. She returned from 1945 where she was an ambulance driver. Now she is going to the beginning of the Blitz to see life in the air raid shelters.

Mike is traveling as a newspaper man, from America. He was due to go to Pearl Harbor first, hence the accent implant that means he needs a cover that is American. His drops were re-arranged with little explanation. Now he is on his way to see the evacuation of Dunkirk from the small boats along the English Channel.

Lately in the net, there have been slippages. Historians arriving a few minutes late or a few blocks away. It may be due to the fact that a drop will not open if there are witnesses. But each of these historians experience large slippage. How will that effect them getting back to 2060?

Willis has written an amazing book. It is one of the few WWII accounts that make the reader feel like they understand how people felt. If you are a fan of history or just great writing, read this!

Willis, Connie. (2010). Blackout. New York: Spectra.

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18 December 2018

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7)

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah Maas is the seventh book in her Throne of Glass series - a fantasy series set in the land of Erilea, which used to have magic and is fighting to get it back before an evil tries to enslave them all.

This final book in the series brings together all of the various characters and clans to fight against evil from another realm. It is hard to review the book without giving away spoilers from the previous six books.

If you are a fan of fantasy, strong female characters overcoming great obstacles, or young adult fiction you will enjoy this series. There are some great characters.

Maas, Sarah J. (2018). Kingdom of Ash. New York: Bloomsbury.

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30 November 2018

Past Tense (Jack Reacher #23)

Past Tense by Lee Child is the twenty-third book in his Jack Reacher series. Reacher is a retire Army MP who now wanders the country aimlessly while stumbling onto mysteries.

As the summer ends, Reacher plans to leave New Hampshire and head toward the Southwest. But he does not get far. The man giving him a ride gets an emergency call and drops Jack off on the side of the road.

The next sign points, in one direction, to the town where Reacher's father was born. Why not check it out? He has never been there. His father joined the Marines at 17 and never went back.

Sally and Shorty are driving from Canada to NYC to sell something they have in a large, heavy suitcase. They are hoping to make it all the way without stopping, but their car has other ideas. A motel sign in the middle of nowhere has them turning off the tiny road they are on and hoping for the best.

Child has put Reacher into another situation where he both helps and causes trouble - mostly to those who deserve it. His adventures are always fun reads.

Child, Lee. (2018). Past Tense. New York: Delacorte Press.

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24 November 2018

Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is the best fantasy book of 2018!

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of money lenders. But her father has stopped trying to collect debts. The towns people are not nice to him - both because of their debts and because he is Jewish.

When Miryem's mother gets ill, she decides to start collecting the money owed. She will not let people off the hook, adding interest for any missed payments. And as her family can afford food and fire wood again, her mother starts to recover.

Wanda has been hired by Miryem to help out at her house to help pay off her father's debt. For each day, Wanda lowers her fathers debt and earns money for herself. Money she plans to use to run away with her brothers once they have enough.

Once Miryem starts to do well, the Staryk - fey creatures of ice who live in the forest, come looking for her. A Staryk man gives her a bag of silver and tells her to turn it into gold. If she fails, she is sure she will be killed. If she succeeds, she is trapped into a bargain with a dangerous, magical being.

Novik has written an amazing book that centers around 3 women - all in a web caused by Miryem's desire to save her family. Buy this book today! You will reread it like a great fairy tale. And it is exciting to see a Jewish character in a great fantasy book.

Novik, Naomi. (2018). Spinning Silver. New York: DelRey.

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09 November 2018

The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is an amazing historical novel about a missing cousin and a female spy network.

1947 - Charlie St. Clair in traveling from the United States to Switzerland with her mother. They are going because Charlie is unwed and pregnant. But Charlie has other ideas - she is searching for her cousin, Rose, who has missing since the middle of the war. Everyone else has stopped looking.

Charlie has the name of someone in London who might know what happened. So when their ship stops in the UK, Charlie ditches her mother and heads to London - based on a name scribbled on a scrap of paper.

Eve Gardiner is in no mood for visitors. In fact, she really only speaks to one person - her driver, Finn. What they don't know is the reason Eve is angry and usually drinking.

Eve Gardiner was recruited to join a female spy network in 1915. She was sent to infiltrate a restaurant in France - a restaurant owned by a man who gladly served German officers.

Charlie convinces Eve and Finn to go with her to find her cousin - who worked for a restaurant and an evil man during the war. A story that will bring up all of the demons of Eve's past.

Quinn has written an incredible book. Go buy a copy right now if you have not already done so!

Quinn, Kate, (2017). The Allice Network. New York: William Morrison.

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27 October 2018

The Prisoner in the Castle (Maggie Hope #8)

The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia MacNeal is the eighth book in her Maggie Hope series - an espionage / mystery series set in WWII.

Maggie Hope has done a lot for the war effort - from helping to break codes to being dropped into France during Nazi occupation. But someone thinks she knows too much.

After being drugged, Maggie finds herself on an island off of Scotland. She is there with other British soldiers and spies in what amounts to a fancy prison. No one knows when they will be released - an almost no one knows where they are.

When there is a murder, all of the are suspects. And the bodies drop in the Agatha Christie style mystery, other people are starting to wonder where Maggie Hope is hiding. In fact, she is need to testify in a major criminal case in London - without her a serial killer may go free.

MacNeal has created a wonderful character, set in one of history's most interesting times. This is a must-read series.

MacNeal, Susan Elia. (2018). The Prisoner in the Castle. New York:Bsntam.

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23 October 2018

Changers: Forever (Changers #4)

Changers: Forever by T. Cooper and Allison Glock-Cooper is the final book in the Changers series. A Changer, as opposed to a plain human, spends each year of high school as a different person. They wake up on the first day of each year in a different body. These changes give the Changer a look at life from different perspectives, creating a more compassionate and understanding adult.

At the beginning of the book, Kim (change #3) has told her best friend / girlfriend about the Changers. Audrey has fallen in love with each of the forms Kim has been so far.

When Kim was Drew freshman year, and kissed Audrey, she got a flash of Audrey's future. She was fighting with a blond, muscly boy and drove off into a car accident.

When Kim wakes up at the beginning of her senior year, she is no longer Kim. She is Kyle - the boy Audrey fought with. So instead of telling Audrey who he is, Kyle tries to prevent the accident from happening.

This final instalment of the Changer series, bring together all that the main character has learned. In the forever ceremony, Kyle/Kim/Oryon/Drew will have to choose a final/forever form.

Cooper, T and Allison Glock-Cooper. (2018). Changers: Forever. New York: Black Sheep.

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17 October 2018

The Radical Elelment: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes and Other Dauntless Girls

The Radical Element: 12 Stories of Daredevils, Debutantes, and Other Dauntless Girls edited by Jessica Spotswood is a sequel to the collection A Tyranny of Petticoats. Both volumes feature some great female YA authors writing about various times in history.

This edition looks at girls who are changing things in their communities, as opposed to those on the outside featured in Tyranny.

In Daughter of the Book by Dahlia Adler, a young woman in a southern Jewish community longs to learn. She will break any rules to be allowed to learn more about her culture and religion.

Take Me With You by Sara Farizan sees a new immigrant joining her neighbor in a punk band - after escaping from the war in Iran.

These are great stories for fans of history. They offer a different angle on what is usually written about by historians!

Spotswood, Jessica. (2018). The Radical Element. New York: Candlewick Press.

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16 October 2018

Fresh Ink: An Anthology

Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles is a collection of diverse stories from some of the best young adult writers. Giles is one of the founders of We Need Diverse Books - a collective of writers who are trying to expand the typical YA character into a better reflection of who is really out there. Their goal is for teens to see themselves in fiction.

Meet Cute by Malinda Lo is the story of a budding relationship at the Denver ComicCon.

Why I Learned to Cook by Sara Farizan is the story of a Persian American young woman learning to cook with her grandmother - to impress the girl she likes.

Super Human by Nicole Yoon features a superhero who, without a mask, would be targeted for harassment by the police.

Other authors include Jason Reynolds, Sharon G Flake, Melissa de la Cruz and Gene Luen Yang.

Giles, Lamar. (2018). Fresh Ink. New York: Crown.

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14 October 2018

An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon is a look at racism in a science fiction setting.

Aster is part of the forth generation of people on the spaceship Matilda. Stories say it left a dying planet many years ago and will someday reach a (possibly) livable new world.

The ship is massive and carries the remainder of humanity. The floors are set up in a hierarchy that evokes the antebellum South.

Aster has been trained to be assistant to General, the ships main doctor. She has a pass to leave her own deck to see patients. And she has an forgotten part of the ship to do experiments with plants and healing.

With the help of her friend, Aster is trying to decode her mother's journals. Rumor says her mother killed herself, but no one ever found her. Aster is sure she was working on something that got her killed.

Solomon has created an unforgettable story of race and misogyny in outer space. People trapped in their roles, assigned by their skin color and gender. Reader will think of this story long after they have finished the book.

Solomon, Rivers. (2017). An Unkindness of Ghosts. New York: Akashic Books.

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04 October 2018

Competence (Custard Protocol #3)

Competence by Gail Carriger is the third book in her Custard Protocol series featuring Prudence Akledama and her friends who are traveling the world in her dirigible (which looks like a giant lady bug).

Pru and her friends are on their way to South America. They are going to hunt or rescue a different type of vampire - the letter was vague.

Filled with wonderful supernatural creatures from vampires and werewolves to werecats and those who can take any shape, all of Gail Carriger's books are a great ride.

While it is impossible to choose a favorite book out of all I have read, Gail Carriger is definitely one of my favorite writers.

Carriger, Gail. (2018). Competence. New York: Orbit.

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27 September 2018

In Fury Born

In Fury Born by David Weber is a thrilling ride through space, special ops and Greek mythology. A space opera for the ages.

Alicia DeVries is a marine like her grandfather. She is sent to far off planets who are part of the Earth empire. Tapped for an elite squad of drop commandos called the Cadre, she is a killing machine.

Follow Alicia through this store that was originally two novellas and a novel. Readers will encounter pirates, revenge, voices in their heads, artificial intelligence and more.

Weber is a master of science fiction story telling. This stand alone novel is a great introduction to him and his kick ass female characters set in world where men and women are treated as equals.

Weber, David. (2006). In Fury Born. New York: Baen

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29 August 2018

Marriage of a Thousand Lies

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu is the tale of breaking away from what your family expects, to be yourself.

Lucky (Lakshmi) is married to Kris (Krishna). They are both gay. In their families, you grow up and get married - that is the only option that does not bring embarrassment on your family.

Lucky and Kris are friends. Their arrangement is that they can date other people. They live far from their families and do what they want.

When Lucky's grandmother falls, she goes home to help her mother take care of her. When she gets home, all of the rules she had when she was a kid are back in place.

While she is home, her best friend from high school comes over - Nisha was also Lucky's first girlfriend, with whom she is still in love.

Sindu has written a rich story of going against others wishes to be who you need to be for yourself, and the consequences of that choice.

Sindu, SJ. (2017). Marriage of a Thousand Lies. New York: Soho Press.

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