Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

While the crown prince's parents are fully consumed by the mission to find him a proper princess, Sebastian is sidelined with other secret pursuits. His alter-ego, Lady Crystallia, is the talk of the town with her vibrant hair and dramatic custom gowns. But he's secretly terrified what may happen when his proud, royal family discovers the dresses.

This is also a story about friendship, and about encouraging and supporting others to do and be their best. About self-discovery, and about doing what's best for you.

Plus, it's fun! It's a well-drawn graphic novel, beautifully illustrated and lavishly colored.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Waiting for the Punch: Words to Live By from the WTF Podcast by Marc Maron & Brendan McDonald

Sometimes all it takes to get through something is to know you're not alone. To know that somebody else has been there, and they lived. They made it through, and so can you. That's what this book is about.

I'm not a podcast listener, but I know a lot of my friends are. This book is culled from conversations on WTF with Marc Maron. Maron is a comedian and he interviews lots of other comedians, along with other pop culture celebrities like actors, writers, producers, musicians, and even a former president of the United States. And they open up about the most sensitive topics.

One look at the labels with which I tagged this post would lead you to believe it's a depressing book: childhood trauma, addiction, suicide. But it's actually a helpful, hopeful book with true stories and personal insights.

It would be a great book to dip into and out of, but I even found it hard to put down sometimes: I want to know more about what goes on in people's heads and how they've overcome their inner and outer demons.

You may just find the kernel of strength you didn't even know you were searching for.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

A clumsy 13-year-old gets a strange birthday gift from his long-gone parents, which is then stolen. That may be the last "normal" thing to ever happen to Al Smedry.

I picked this up on the recommendation of a former library employee - I'm not sure what he's trying to tell me here?!? Just kidding.

It's a fantasy sci-fi story which reveals to you that we're living in a world of limited information. Turns out the librarians have been holding us back through their throttling of available information, and there's actually a whole big world out there that's way more advanced than we are. And there's a war on to save us.

The book's intended for kids, but it's not written down to them and is just as enjoyable to an adult. It's funny and moves briskly. The omniscient narrator is the main character (just a few years more mature) and he's fond of popping in, breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, interrupting himself, and generally making a straight-forward battle story into a lively romp where you'll question your own prejudices and perspective.

I'm not sure I'll be reading the whole series, but I did enjoy the exposure to a whole new world.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon

I've already recommended this book to a TON of people, so you might as well just go out and get ahold of a copy now.

This book is chock full of short biographies, brief essays, interviews, quotes, and illustrated portraits. The women featured have all done amazing things, and none of them "made it" until they were well into adulthood (No child prodigy here! Some of them didn't even get started until they were 70+ years old). You'll know a bit about some of them, but you won't have heard of every woman featured (I spent a lot of time Googling while I was reading), and there's something in every story to fascinate.

And the takeaway is this: we regularly live to be 90+ in modern society, so what are you going to do with the 30+ years after "retirement"? Why are you waiting to start doing the things you really desire?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Nigerian father's tyranny is robed in Catholic religious fervor, but how much right does it take to pardon what's wrong in this family?

I picked this book for our discussion group because it came up three times in a couple days in random conversations - it was like the universe was trying to tell me I needed to read it. So I did.

What an amazing book for discussion. There's the element of the unfamiliar: the foods and language and terms of Africa that are unexplained in the text (I spent time Googling while I was reading). The religious ideologies. Domestic and child abuse. The idea that the university's struggles mirror the government's issues.

It's a sad book, but very engaging. I read it in essentially one sitting, but have pondered it long after the final page.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Dodgers by William Beverly

Four LA gang kids set off to kill a judge in Wisconsin, but that task is just the setup for a complex personal drama about gangs and personal growth. You can take the kid out of LA, but can you take the gang out of the kid?

East is a 15-year-old on a path to redeem himself to the kingpin after a raid and shootout at the drug house where he oversaw security. Making sure this hit goes perfectly would be proof of loyalty and trust, if only he could keep the rest of the team on task. The fact that the "gun" on this job is his estranged 13-year-old brother complicates things.

And complicate it does. I loved that there's no guessing what's going to happen next with this story - there's a twist at every turn. It's not a tough, violent gangsta story; it's more an internal story of East's evolving state of mind. He's got some decisions to make, and this roadtrip gives him some wide-open spaces to think.