Good Books and the Random Movie

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30 March 2016

Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson is an account of the worst volcanic event in US history and its scientific and social backstory.

For months in early 1980 the Cascadia fault line under Mount St. Helens in the southwest Washington state began rumbling - concerning scientists and nearby residents and exciting media and sightseers. Scientists (volcanologists) at the time new little about the type of eruption that was to happen, but swarmed the area trying to both study the mountain data and give locals a warning if any large-scale events.

The government officials danced between restricting access to potentially dangerous area and popularity with hikers and residents. After a couple of weeks of shaking and some ash expulsion, things seemed to quiet down. But on one side of mountain a bulge began to grow. At some point, it could slide downhill or, if enough pressure built, erupt.

On the morning of Sunday, May 18, 1980 at 8:33am Mount St. Helens exploded. Instead of the stereotypical eruption straight up into the air, the bulge opened and slid, with a destructive, boiling cloud heading north, northeast and northwest. The sideways angle allowing the destruction to travel farther that anyone thought possible.

Olson tells the story of the people in the area that morning, including the 57 people killed and the survivors to made it through the eruption / ash storm, but starting earlier with the lumber tycoon who owned miles of forest around the mountain and early efforts to protect our wild land. Eruption is a great narrative nonfiction book that brings both the science and people of the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption to life.

I remember where I was the day it erupted. I was 10 years old, in third grade, living in a small town in Northern California. A friend and I were playing in the backyard. The sky filled with ash that day - giant flakes - as the sun dimmed even though we were about 700 miles south of Mount St. Helens. Ash affected eleven US states and five Canadian provinces. I cannot fathom the power behind such an event.

Olson, Steve. (2016). Eruption. New York: WW Norton and Company, Inc.

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28 March 2016

Sound (Salvage #2)

Sound by Alexandra Duncan is the sequel to her book Salvage, set in the far distant future.

Miyole has wanted to be a deep space engineer since she was quite young. Rescued from a freak storm that killed most of the people in the Gyre, Miyole moved to India and excelled at school.

Now sixteen, but with papers that say she is eighteen, Miyole is on a Deep Sound Research Institute ship headed for the farthest reaches of known space. She is a research assistant working on adapting butterflies and bees to live in terraformed atmospheres.

When the ship is approached by another, smaller ship, all aboard are asked to go to their stations. Trained as a medic, Miyole is on her way to the dock when part of a fighter breaks through the wall. The bio-mechanical substance that forms her ship begins to heal right away, but Miyole's life has been changed forever.

A family is rescued from the crash, but pirates had one of the sons. His sister, Cessia, is determined to somehow follow and save him. Miyole, instantly smitten, will agree to help Cessia steal a shuttle, retrofit it, and search for him.

Duncan has created a fascinating science fiction world - multiple worlds, really - in this series. Miyole lived on a floating island, will visit a planet where everyone lives under the sea, and space ships are grown instead of fabricated.

Duncan, Alexandra. (2015). Sound. New York: Greenwillow Books.

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25 March 2016

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman is the first book in her series featuring Lady Helen Wrexhall in regency England.

It is 1812. Lady Helen Wrexhall is about to be presented to the queen and enter British society as an adult. Helen and her brother are being raised by her aunt and uncle after their parents death. Helen's aunt is hoping the stain of Helen's mother does not limit her chances at a good marriage. Her mother was accused of treason.

Two men notice her as soon as she is presented. Her brother's best friend - a match that would rank Helen so high she would be in line for the crown. And a distant cousin who is trying to find his way back into society after being accused of killing his wife.

Goodman has taken regency England and added a new element in this alternate history series. Hidden in the world Lady Helen is entering is another layer - Deceivers who feed on people and the Reclaimers who have to protect society from them. This is a great start to a wonderful series!

Goodman, Alison. (2016). The Dark Days Club. New York: Viking.

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14 March 2016

Emissary (Legends of the Realm #1)

Emissary by Thomas Locke is a beautiful fantasy novel - and the first in a (hopefully long, long) series.

Hyam of the Three Valleys is a likable young man who will make a great farmer someday. His plot of land in the forest is more than enough to feel him and his mom with left over to sell. But as his mother is on her death bed, she begs him to return to the Long Hall where he studied for five years as a boy.

Hyam's mastery of language was go great that it made people at the Long Hall suspicious. Humans usually spend a lifetime mastering the languages of the other creatures (Ashanta and Elves) and none can read more than a few words of Milantian. But Hyam mastered them all before he left the hated magic school.

Now, while delivering his mother message, the Mistress of the Long Hall gives him a startling revelation that will send Hyam on a path to his destiny.

Locke has created a novel that epitomizes great fantasy. It is rich in description and world with a hero's journey, a strong allies, and an evil foe. Fans of the genre or fans of great adventures will love this book!

Locke, Thomas. (2015). Emissary. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.

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09 March 2016

Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies by Laruen Groff is the story of a relationship between Lotto and Mathilde.

At the age of twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde met at college. Two weeks later they were married.

It is hard to say much more without spoilers.

Readers follow their lives through their marriage, with some flashbacks to childhood. Groff has written an epic tale of the lives of two people. Her writing is beautiful, her words and phrases poetic, her characters flawed - which makes them so real. Just pages in, you can see why this novel won the National Book Award.

It takes a masterful author to be able to write a book out of chronological order and yet lead readers seamlessly through the lives of Lotto and Mathilde. Groff's writing reminds me of Ann Marie MacDonald, though the feel of the story is different. Groff writes in a way that leaves readers breathless at plot twists.

Read this book! Now! You will both love and hate the characters, but in the end you will love this book.

Groff, Lauren. (2015). Fates and Furies. New York: Riverhead Books.

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07 March 2016

Honeyed Words (Sarah Beauhall #2)

Honeyed Words by JA Pitts is the second book in his series featuring Sarah Beauhall - a smith who repaired an ancient sword, restoring it magic and gaining the attention of the creatures around Seattle.

As Sarah settles into her new view of the world - one that includes dragons, dwarves, gods, witches and Valkyries - and recovers from battle wounds, she feels responsible for the other people who got hurt. Sarah is doing what she can for her boss's business while her boss, Julie, recovers.

The smiths around Seattle are taking up the slack and working with Sarah, who is still an apprentice, to keep Julie's clients happy. One of the smiths who is willing to help out lives way out of town in the mountains.

Anezka is a strange woman. She seems to be a great smith, but her house has a strange feeling. There is almost a force field around it. And she has a demon living with her.

Pitts has created a world within our own - filled with creatures from Norse mythology, witches, dragons, and more. Sarah Beauhall is a flawed character who is doing her best after discovering the hidden truth around her. Like many fantasy trilogies, the second book is about growing and/or recovering but overall I love this series.

Pitts, J.A. (2011). Honeyed Words. New York: Tor.

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01 March 2016

Symptoms of Being Human

Symptoms of Being a Human by Jeff Garvin is a book about a high school student who does not fit neatly into a box.

Riley Cavanaugh is changing schools. And Riley thinks life will be better in public school. Riley doesn't fit the stereotype of how a person should act or dress - Riley is gender fluid - sometimes feeling like a girl and sometimes like a boy. But classmates tend to react poorly if you change your look once they have labeled you, so Riley tends to dress androgynously - somewhere in the middle.

To make matters worse, Riley's father is running for reelection to Congress.

Garvin has written a great book where readers are never sure of Riley's sex. And why should it matter? Follow Riley through a school year - gaining two good friends and a handful of enemies.

Symptoms of Being Human is a great and important read.

Garvin, Jeff. (2016). Symptoms of Being Human. New York: Balzer & Bray.

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