Good Books and the Random Movie

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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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24 August 2018

It's Not Like It's a Secret

It's Not Like It's a Secret by Misa Sugiura is a coming out tale.

Sana is Japanese American. She grew up in Wisconsin where she doesn't look like any of her classmates. When her father gets a job in California, she and her parents move. In her new school, there are people from all cultures.

While Sana is getting settled in her new school, the first classmate who talks to her says she will join the other Asian girls group. And she does make friends with them - her first group of friends who understand her culture. But she also makes friends with a punk guy and she has a huge crush on a Latinx chick she met before school started. Sana even tries out for the cross country team to have an excuse to talk to Jaime again.

Sugiura has written a beautiful coming out tale, filled with the stress of not fitting in in a new school. Her characters are courageous and beautiful. She uses poetry for the characters to convey things that are hard to say to each other.

Sugiura, Misa. (2017). It's Not Like It's a Secret. New York: Harper Teen.

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19 August 2018

The Other Woman (Gabriel Allon 18)

The Other Woman by Daniel Silva is the eighteenth book in his series featuring Gabriel Allon, a Mossad spy who just wants to be an art restorer.

In the continued time of every country spying on every other country, whether friend or foe, everyone is fighting for information. Israel has developed an agent from Russia and is sharing their finds with England and the United States.

When that spy thinks he has been burned, Mossad sets up a way to pull him out and resettle him in a safe place for all of his work over the years.

But the layers of espionage have other ideas. There is a French n the mountains of Andalusia whose knowledge could disrupt the spy services of the United States and England. She has been keeping tabs since she fell in love with a spy in Beirut in the 1960s.

Silva is a masterful story teller who weaves current day news into his stories. He is one of the best authors writing today.

Silva, Daniel. (2018). The Other Woman. New York: Harper.

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11 August 2018

The Weight of Ink

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish is an historical fiction discovery of a Jewish scribe in London in the 1600s.

Professor Helen Watts is approaching the age when she will be force into retirement. She is an authority on the Jews of England.

When a former student contacts her about some documents found in a house his wife has inherited, Helen is not too hopeful. Most of those types of finds are in the past. But hidden in a secret panel under the stairs are the papers of a little known rabbi from the 1600s. A possible glimpse into Jewish life of the time - well before the keeping of diaries.

Telling the tale of a Portuguese Jew who moved from Amsterdam to London, the papers are a great find. Even more astonishing - the scribe appears to have been a woman.

Told in alternating chapters between the 2000s and 1600s, this fascinating novel reveals a little explored time of Jewish history. For background, read Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean.

If you are a fan of history, archival librarianship or discovery, read this great book!

Kadish, Rachel (2017). The Weight of Ink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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24 July 2018

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queen Teens throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell is a collection of short stores about queer characters through history. Beginning in 1870s Mexico and continuing to the 1970s, the collection is diverse in culture and time periods hinting at what queer life was like in other times.

Great authors include Robin Talley, Malinda Lo, Dahlia Adler, Tess Sharpe, Sara Farizan and more.

I will admit, I am not a big fan of short stories. When they are done well, I want more and that makes me sad. So when I get a volume of them, I skim for my favorite authors.

For me the highlights are "The Dresser and the Chambermaid: by Robin Talley and "New Year" by Malinda Lo.

Mitchell, Saundra. (2018). All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages. New York: Harper Teen.

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18 July 2018

Imprudence (Custard Protocol #2)

Imprudence by Gail Carriger is the second book in her Custard Protocol series - continuing the world she created in her Parasol Protectorate series - a steampunk Victorian England with werewolves, vampires and adventure.

Rue (Prudence) has returned from her first adventure in her dirigible, the Lady Bug. While she is waiting for the next, something strange is going on with her parents. Her father, Lord Maccon is the Alpha werewolf in the London pack.

If the problem is what we all fear - the aging of an alpha that causes him to lose his mind and his pack to go crazy - there may be something Rue can do to help.

In Egypt there is a god-breaker curse that turns supernaturals back into humans. If her father is no longer a werewolf he can live out his life in peace. Unfortunately, werewolves don't float - making the dirigible the worst way to get him there.

Carriger has created a wonderful world peopled with eccentric and lovable characters. Rue heads the next generation of the beautifully. If you have not read these, get started today!

Carriger, Gail. (2016). Imprudence. New York: Orbit.

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16 July 2018

You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition

You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death, and Transition by Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolboom is a memoir of two lives. Written in letters and responses, Chase and Mike tell of their childhood, coming out, transitioning, and second lives in this beautiful biographic novel.

Chase and Mike are, among other things, both film makers who are fans of the cinematographer Chris Marker. The first meet at the Orly airport in Paris where diehard fans gathered to mourn his passing.

Instantly taken with each other, they quickly decide to do a project together - a book of letters, the original style of novel. The result is a beautiful book of two interwoven tales. One of a trans man finding his way. And one of a man who finds out he is HIV-positive.

Chase or Mike begin a topic, and the other either tells his story, or comments on what was written by the first. Both are excellent writers able to capture feelings in words.

This is a beautiful book. Read it.

Joynt, Chase and Mike Hoolboom. (2016). You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death, and Transition. Toronto: Coach House Books.

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12 July 2018

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamout Sellout

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamout Sellout by Laura Jane Grace and Dan Ozzi is an autobiography of my favorite punk singer, the front woman of Against Me!

Laura Jane Grace is as famous for being transgendered as she is for her music. But it took her a long time to come to terms that she was born into the wrong body. There were hints in her music along the way, but it was a long time before she could admit to herself who she really was. And a long road from there to coming out and transitioning.

This is a raw, wide-open, memoir. Laura has kept journals since elementary school. With the help of Dan Ozzi, she puts her story down on paper, not skipping the hard parts - including drug abuse, being called a sellout for signing with a record label, and becoming a parent.

She chose the title as a statement. Very punk of her, but as it is a bigoted slur, she now cringes to hear others used the word that has not yet been fully reclaimed by the trans community.

This may be the most honest memoir you will ever read. Also, LGJ is flawless on stage - born to play the guitar for a crowd of screaming fans. She is also the author of one of my all time favorite albums: New Wave by Against Me!

Grace, Laura Jane. (2016). Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Sellout. New York: Hatchet Books.

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06 July 2018

Purple Hearts (Soldier Girls #3)

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant is the final book in his Soldier Girls trilogy (also know as the Front Lines series). This series explores WWII with the idea that, due to a court case about equality, young women were also drafted and allowed to fight on the front lines. Everything else about the novels are accurate to the war and time period.

Beginning with D-Day, this novel closes out the war for Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr and Rainy Schulterman.

Rio and her platoon are on ships in the UK awaiting deployment to the largest battle of the war. She is now a Sargent, in charge of keeping her people alive.

Frangie is in the same swarm of boats, ready to bring up the rear and provide medical aide. She will run into the fight whenever a soldier needs her help.

Rainy is in intelligence, about to be smuggled in to France to report on German tank movements. She will have no one but herself to keep her safe.

After the D-Day battle, they will still have to face many fierce and emotional battles: the Hurtgen, the Battle of the Bulge, and the liberation of concentration camps. This wonderful, terrible story is lovingly depicted by Grant via these women you would want watching you back in any fight.

Grant, Michael. (2018). Purple Hearts. New York: Katherine Tegan Books.

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28 June 2018

A Court of Frost and Starlight (Court of Thorns and Roses #4)

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas is the fourth book in her Court of Thorns and Roses series. - set in the fairy realm.

Everyone is rebuilding after the war. In the Night Court, Fayre and her friends are doing everything possible to repair the city and help those whose homes or lives were destroyed during the war.

This entry in the series is a treat for fans. The book takes place over a couple of weeks around the Winter Solstice. It is a holiday books where everyone figures out how to deal with the past few months - a nice looks at the more ordinary life in the fairy realm.

Maas is a great fantasy writer. Both this series and her Throne of Glass series are stellar. If you are not yet familiar, go get one today!

Maas, Sarah J. (2018). A Court of Frost and Starlight. New York: Bloomsbury.

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19 June 2018

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha #1)

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is book one in her Legacy of Orisha series - a great fantasy tale and an allegory for our lives.

Zelie Adebola remembers when magic exsisted, when her mother was a Reaper who could release trapped souls. She remembers the Raid when the king ordered the maji killed even though magic was already lost. And still today, those who have the mark of a potential maji - are treated as a lower class, their families always in danger from the soldiers.

Zelie lives in a fishing village. Her brother Tzain trains as a warrior athlete. Zelie trains to fight, but in the disguise of sewing classes. Mama Agba trains all the girls with white hair to fight. Zelie is about to earn her graduation.

Amari is the princess. She lives in the capital city. Her only friend is Binta, her personal servant. Her father is a tyrant of a man and king.

When something terrible happens, Amari can not stay. She steals an artifact from the time of magic. Her father sends the guards after her - not telling them who stole it - with her brother in the lead.

I can say no more without giving too much away. You will want to read this series. Adeyemi is a beautiful writer who has created a world that will draw readers in and not them go. Get a copy of this book today if you enjoy good stories, fantasy, or great storytelling.

Adeyemi, Tomi (2018). Children of Blood and Bone. New York: Henry Holt and Co.

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01 June 2018

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean

Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom - and Revenge by Edward Kritzler is the history of the Jewish men who traveled with explorers from Europe in the hopes of finding a land where their people could be safe and free.

In the fifteenth century, many Jews fled Spain during the Spanish Inquisition, others become Conversos. At the time, it was not safe for Jews anywhere in Europe - where they were scattered after being expelled from the land of what is now Israel with the destruction of the Second Temple. There were restrictions on where they could live, the type of jobs they could hold (which were often in commerce as the Christians of the time felt the fields were below them), and with whom they could interact. This was true all over Western Europe, creating a kind of loose alliance of people who knew they were the only ones who would look out for each other.

With the explorers of the new world, each ship had a Jewish man aboard - both doing his job and hoping to discover a land where he could move his family to safety.

During this time, the first country to openly welcome Jewish people, Holland, let to the oldest Jewish community in Europe, in Amsterdam. Rabbi Samuel Palanche ran the community as well as being an explorer and pirate who participated in many raids against the Spanish and visits to North and South America.

This book includes great tales of part of Jewish history few know about. Including in places like Jamaica, Barbados, Brazil, and the southern United States. Even the famous savior of New Orleans Lafayette is included. If you are interested in history or pirates, this is a must read.

Kritzler, Edward. (2008). Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean. New York: Anchor Books.

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31 May 2018

Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the best book I have read this year. I have given copies away and recommended it to everyone I know who likes to read!

Homegoing is an epic family tale, following two branches of a family tree from 1700s through today. The family started in what is today Ghana. The book begins with two sisters. They live in different villages and do not know they are sisters. One, Effia, marries a British man and lives in the castle that controls the slave trade in the region. The other, Esi, is captured during a battle between two tribes and is sold to the British and send to the United States.

Each chapter is a new person in the line, alternating between the progeny of Effia and Esi, through all of the changes in Ghana and the United States. Gyasi highlights the major themes of African and African American history through personal stories of the characters.

I tend to like family epics. A couple of examples are The Night Counter by Alia Yunis and Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. What Gyasi adds is a greater sense of how the social and political changes effect each generation and build on what that generation learned from the last.

If you have not yet read this, buy a copy TODAY! You will be drawn in by it. With each chapter you will fall in love with the next character while wanting more of the previous one (which you will get in many cases through the stories of their children). This book will live with you long after you finish it. I have read four books since this and still find myself thinking about it every couple of days.

Homegoing is on my list of best books I have ever read. I will always be grateful to my local bookstore for putting it on display.

Gyasi, Yaa. (2016). Homegoing. New York: Vintage Books.

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20 May 2018

The Long Sunset (Priscilla Hutchins #8)

The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt is the eighth book in series featuring space pilot Priscilla Hutchins (now renamed the Academy series).  Priscilla Hutchins works for the Academy, the group that sends scientists into space to explore signs of other life.

While looking through the most powerful telescope yet invented, a signal is intercepted. It is a video of a waterfall with what sounds like classical music. This message sparks debate: do we send a ship to explore the area and maybe find intelligent life or should we worry about finding life that could follow a ship back and attack the Earth?

A team is chosen to go explore, if the okay is given by the Academy. Priscilla Hutchins, the captain of many a trip into the unknown, is chosen to fly what may be the last ship sent outside our solar system. They are not to make contact, but to find the source of the message.

What follows is the discovery of more than one planet containing sentient beings. One of which is in danger from a black hole slowly approaching.

McDevitt writes a great science fiction story. And Priscilla Hutchins is the captain you would want with you on any space exploration. Any fans of science fiction, good stories, or interested in how our society may progress should read this series.

McDevitt, Jack. (2018). The Long Sunset. New York: Saga Press.

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13 May 2018

Nantucket Rose

Nantucket Rose by CF Frizzell is a lesbian romance set on the beautiful island of Nantucket.

Maggie Jordan is about to open a bed and breakfast on Nantucket. She purchased an historical home in the village and has fixed it up. If all goes well she will open on time, have a great summer, and sell the B&B in the Fall. However, if the islanders get wind of the idea that she is there to flip the property her life will become very difficult. Nantucketters are very protective of their heritage and community.

Ellis Chilton's family has been on Nantucket since they were part of the whale oil business. She works for the Steamship Authority on the Ferry Eagle. She lives on the boat that was her grandfather's and then her father's. She grew up in an historic home in the center of the village that she lost due to a bad business investment.

Frizzell has written a great romance set in an idyllic location. This is a great beach read. Plus if you have not been to Nantucket, it is very worth the trip!

Frizzell, CF. (2017). Nantucket Rose. New York: Bold Stroke Books.

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05 May 2018

Freedom to Love

Freedom to Love by Ronica Black is a lesbian romance in the middle of a manhunt.

Brynn Williams is getting out of prison after five years. She took the fall to protect her sister and she is ready to be out and toeing the line.

Sargent Kat Vander is the officer who arrested Brynn. Brynn has no hard feelings. If they had not been doing something against the law, she would not have been arrested. Sgt Vander was just doing her job.

From the moment she gets out she is back in the family drama. Her sister Bea show up to get her in a stolen car, and high. On the drive back to their home town, their car is overtaken by an SUV that almost hits them. Next comes a police car.

As Brynn and Bea come around the next bend in the road, the SUV is shooting into the police car. They stop and try to help, though Bea does not think that cops deserve help. When the shooting stops, Brynn races to the car. It looks like the driver is dead, but the passenger can be saved.

Brynn forces her sister to drive them to the hospital. The whole time Brynn is trying to keep Sargent Kat Vander alive. Unfortunately, they broke the law, so Brynn has no desire to stick around and answer questions. And because of her family's reputation and Sgt Vander being unconscious, the rest of the force is convinced that Brynn had something to do with the shooting.

Black has written a fast-paced, lesbian romance between two women from different backgrounds. This is a great vacation read.

Black, Ronica. (2017). Freedom to Love. New York: Bold Strokes Books.

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03 May 2018

To Die But Once (Maisie Dobbs 14)

To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear is the fourteenth book in the Maisie Dobbs series - an historical mystery series featuring a psychologist and private investigator in London.

It is 1940 and the British Army is being forced out of France by the invading Nazis. In the UK, children who have been evacuated to the country are trickling home as no bombs have (yet) been dropped on London. Young men and women are working for the war effort.

Maisie's neighbors come to her about their son Joe. He is working with a painting crew on a government contract, painting on the Air Force bases in the South. But he has not called. They are worried. He is not the kind of young man who would worry his family on purpose.

Maisie's investigation will reveal an underworld connection - someone making a profit while putting the soldiers at risk.

Winspear captures the time period and the tensions, worries and fear that plague a society at war - and on the brink of invasion. Her characters are well created and her stories based on family tales of the wars. For anyone who likes to read, this series is a must.

Winspear, Jacqueline. (2018). To Die But Once. New York: Harper.

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