Friday, October 12, 2018

The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

This year N.K. Jemisin became the first person ever to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in a row for her Broken Earth novels, and I cannot think of a more deserving series. This trilogy, which begins with 2015’s The Fifth Season, is a powerhouse of speculative fiction with amazing world-building and a storyline that is both intricately-plotted and immense in scope.

In The Fifth Season, readers are introduced to Essun, a woman on a mission to track down her ex-husband who has murdered their son and run off with their young daughter. Her plight is complicated by a “fifth season,” a major climate catastrophe that causes increased hardship and violence as cities crumble and ash fills the sky. Essun is an orogene, someone who can shape and control the earth, but has spent much of her life pretending to be normal, in hiding from those who would enslave or kill her because of her race. Now she will need to call upon her powers to protect herself on her difficult journey. Along the way, she comes into contact with a cast of characters who will help and hinder her along the way.

As Essun’s story progresses through the three books, readers come to know her painful back story as well as her present where she truly comes into her power, not just as an orogene, but as a mother and a person willing to fight for the future of the planet.

Jemisin is an amazingly powerful storyteller, adept at detailed world-building and a plot that weaves effortlessly through past, present, and future. Her characters are fully-realized, complex, and dealing with issues of identity, racism, oppression, and coming to terms with the fact that one person’s actions can truly destroy or save the world.  

This is a great series for fans of Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. Le Guin, or anyone looking for an immersive tale with unforgettable characters.

-Portia Kapraun

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Emily falls in love with the man of her dreams. Adam is perfect in every way....well, until she meets his mother Pammie.
Pammie is a very annoying type of woman who runs Adam's life and tries to runs Emily's as well. In Pammie's eyes, Emily can do nothing right. There's nothing this mother wouldn't do for her son, and Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants. After a while Emily starts to put up with abuse from both Adam and his mother. In the middle of the story, a mystery murder comes to the surface.  

This book is exciting and a classic page turner with a "what the heck is going on" feeling. You may think you have it all figured out, but the end is a real shocker in a very surprising way. A great first novel.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger

William Kent Krueger, award winning author, writes of two main characters in his novels: Cork O'Connor and Henry Meloux. Desolation Mountain is his latest book featuring Cork O'Connor.

This story takes place in northern Minnesota near the Iron Lake Reservation, home to the Ojibwe people. The Ojibwe believe this area is cursed. It is a popular place for hikers, however, due to the rugged terrain and gorgeous country. Many photographers also love it here.

When a private plane crashes into the mountain, Cork's son Stephen and a few Ojibwe men are first on the scene. They discover that there is a very important person on this plane, but before they can determine the reason for the crash, the FBI dismisses them and takes over.

Stephen O'Connor has had previous visions of something huge taking place and tries to determine if this incident is connected to his vision. The plot thickens as Cork O'Connor discovers that Bo Thorson, a private security consultant, is also investigating this crash.

Why the FBI?
Why the private security consultant?
Why excuse the Ojibwe people and the O'Connors?
Who was the important person on the plane?

If you find this novel exciting and interesting, Krueger has many others to keep you in suspense.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Aunt Dimity & The King's Ransom

Aunt Dimity & The King's Ransom is book twenty-three in Nancy Atherton's paranormal mystery series. (Although the book can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone, be aware that a ghostly friend from Aunt Dimity's Death makes an appearance and might intrigue first-time readers of the series.)

On her way to a well-deserved weekend getaway to meet up with her husband Bill, Lori Shepherd instead finds herself seeking refuge in the rural town of Shepney, England, due to an extra-tropical rainstorm. When she arrives, she meets former bishop Christopher. Having no room to house her, the bishop suggests an inn called The King's Ransom.

The only inn space available to Lori is a dusty and supposedly haunted attic without heating, plumbing, or electrical outlets. Trying to make the best of it, she arranges the room to make it a bit more comfortable. When she begins hearing strange sounds, she enlists her ghostly friend, Aunt Dimity, and the bishop for help in searching for their source. Their exploration leads them to underground tunnels that were used by smugglers during the 18th century. Full of history, mystery, and intrigue, this is a great book to cozy up with, alongside a nice cup of tea!

~Dani Green

"The cyclone taught me a valuable lesson, Dimity."  Did it teach you to check the weather forecast before you leave home? "Definitely!" I said, laughing. "But it also taught me to embrace the unexpected."

~Aunt Dimity and The King's Ransom

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Selected works by Jesmyn Ward

It’s always exciting when I find an author whose writing makes me want to burn through his or her bibliography like a dangerous fever. I grabbed the three books I could lay my hands on at the library, and dove head first into Sing, Unburied, Sing, I followed with Salvage the Bones, and concluded with The Men We Reaped. Each story is powerful and compelling, but as a body of work, they are a vivid testimony of growing up Black and poor in the rural south.
Salvage the Bones is Jesmyn Ward’s second novel, and a visceral snap shot of a family, which itself is a microcosm of the greater systemic disenfranchisement of Blacks in the book’s fictitious town of Bois Sauvage. Told over twelve days in rural Mississippi, and climaxing as Hurricane Katrina moves inland, Esch’s story will break your heart. Fourteen year-old Esch “grew up” (as  a child who has only ever known deprivation and struggle can) putting the needs of her brothers first: Randall (a serious basketball star, already proving to be a far better father to his little brother Junior, than their dad ever has been), Skeetah (who, while trying to “make them know,” ends up finding the love of his life…of a kind), and their baby brother Junior (a sweet boy, the last boy, the birthing of whom killed their mother). Junior, whose clinginess binds them, but also reminds them of how fierce and tenuous they all feel without their mother. Within this backdrop, while a hurricane threatens on the horizon, Esch struggles with a secret that scares her more than calamity.

In Sing, Unburied, Sing, we meet a thirteen-year-old boy named Jojo, a young boy growing up in a house/family that is haunted by racism, the poison of it spreading to each member of the family like a cancer, body, mind, and soul. Jojo is at that age where he is dreaming about being a man. And those dreams take on the straight lines of Pap, Junior’s grandpa. Junior, his baby sister Kayla, and their mom Leonie all live with Pap and Mam. When Leonie decides to take Jojo and Kayla on a three day odyssey to pick up her man Michael from prison.(Michael is, to a much lesser degree, their father. But Jojo learned early what baby Kayla is just now feeling: Michael has eyes and ears only for Leoni.) Without Pap’s imperious presence on the trip, Jojo feels unmoored, and worries that Leoni can’t keep them safe. Running both parallel and through Jojo’s experiences, are Richie’s. But the same eye Jojo turned so sweetly upon Kayla, sweaty and hot on a too-long car ride back from the prison, becomes baleful when it lands upon Richie, slumped impossibly on the floorboard beside him.  Well, maybe it’s not so impossible if you understand that Richie is a ghost that roams forward and back in time, tethered to a plantation that had many a PR facelift during its time. The owners may change in name, but never in deed, and those fields may now be growing Parchment Penitentiary cotton instead of that old slavery cotton, but it’s the same damn field. And the Black men and boys, rounded up for charges ranging from petty to imagined, as prisoners, may now be legally yoked to the field once again. The master/jailer’s face may change, but the same enslavement flows through and around time like a snake eating itself.

I finished my holiday reading with The Men We Reap. This volume of Jesmyn Ward’s memoirs tracks the fatal arcs of five boys’ lives. Stars that dropped right out of her family’s sky. Jesmyn begins her telling with the freshest loss, family friend, Demon Cook. Cook was the boy from an unbroken family, a dedicated provider and conscientious neighbor, who was murdered on his front lawn. A crime still unsolved. He was preceded in death by Charles Joseph Martin, a lithe acrobatic marvel and chivalrous and beloved cousin. Death came calling next for Ronald Way Lizana, a dazzling and charming friend; and lastly, Jesmyn discusses the loss of her little brother, Joshua Adam Dedeaux. Alternating with each heartbreaking memorial, are autobiographical chapters chronicling the history of Jesmyn and her family. She paints a bleak picture of what a young boy can expect when he’s young, Black, and poor in rural America. She describes in haunting detail what it looked like when the light dimmed in the eyes of a brother, a friend, or a loved one as they realized, with their eyes wide open, that the American Dream isn’t an option for every sleeper.

Reviews by Jennifer Wilson