RaveShelf AwarenessIn her gripping fourth novel, The Arctic Fury, Greer Macallister (Woman 99; Girl in Disguise) weaves together two timelines and multiple narrative strands ... Macallister examines sexism and racism in the pre-Civil War United States, and builds a compelling mosaic of a story. She also deftly uses [...] multiple viewpoints to call into question the notion of truth ... The Arctic Fury is not for the faint of heart: at times Macallister thrusts her characters almost aggressively into hardship, peril and gruesome situations. It is not a clear-cut narrative of adventure, love or justice, although it contains the seeds of all those things. But it is certainly compelling. Readers who love historical fiction, strong women and unusual settings will find all three--as well as a couple of truly inventive twists--in Macallister\'s novel.
RaveShelf AwarenessBell takes his widest angle yet on the nature of life, mixing those questions with humor, humility, family history and—surprisingly—a hefty dose of quantum physics. It\'s an odd combination, but (as the title suggests) it\'s all connected, and it all speaks to living as a human being on this vexing, beautiful planet ... Bell\'s story, in both form and content, is not remotely linear. Like the swirling galaxies that have earned his abiding curiosity, the narrative twists back on itself, returning again and again to those enduring questions. Bell is less interested in answers than he is in diving into the complicated layers of life and love, and learning to embrace every bit of his own story ... The Bell who appears in these pages is thoughtful, fun-loving, whimsical and kind. Most of all, he is held in thrall by a deep curiosity and wonder: about the universe, the world, the human heart, and every single story that might possibly shed the tiniest bit of light on any of the above.
PositiveShelf AwarenessSmarsh probes (though not too deeply) into the problematic aspects of a few shows at Dollywood, and tries to unravel the connection between Parton\'s business smarts, her acceptance (and proud display) of her own sexuality and the feminism she has been reluctant to (publicly) embrace. The emphasis is heavy on Parton\'s status as an example and icon to thousands of women ... Along the way, Smarsh examines the criticism--both class- and gender-based--that Parton has received over her half-century in music. While it includes sharp social commentary and well-placed personal anecdotes, She Come by It Natural is at its heart a love letter both to Parton and to the women who continue to see themselves in her songs.
PositiveShelf AwarenessAs Mlodinow tells the story of their collaboration, he summarizes the scientific ideas they worked on (as well as much of Hawking\'s other research) in a clear, accessible way, while painting a nuanced portrait of Hawking himself. Readers who are interested in popular science, cosmology or Hawking\'s work will find much to ponder here, but Mlodinow\'s book is also a thoughtful, tender yet unsentimental story of an extraordinary friendship.
RaveShelf AwarenessLevesque charts a course through the rapidly evolving field of astronomy. With humor and heart, she explains the basics of what astronomers do while relating dozens of entertaining anecdotes about her chosen field. She also makes a strong case for why humans should continue to study the skies ... Warm, engaging and packed with highly accessible science, The Last Stargazers is thoroughly entertaining and an impetus for readers to take up a little stargazing of their own.
PositiveShelf AwarenessNell\'s story contains hidden depths and rich layers of love, loss and wisdom ... full of memorable characters ... Sullivan\'s canvas may be small, but her message is universal: books—including this one—have the power to amuse, console and transform lives.
RaveShelf AwarenessWhile Nancy cuts a vivid, stylish figure through the novel\'s pages, her supporting cast is also well drawn ... Their feats of daring and gritty survival tactics are drawn largely from true accounts by Nancy and others, but Lawhon\'s elegant plotting makes them shine ... Bold, confident, dryly witty and driven by a strong sense of justice, Nancy (no matter which name she uses) is a fascinating character. Lawhon\'s gripping narrative gives \'Hélène\' her due.
PositiveShelf AwarenessÁlvarez writes movingly of his mother\'s endless shifts at the apple-packing plant and his father\'s backbreaking labor in fruit picking and construction ... Álvarez witnesses moments of transcendence--ceremonial prayers, outpourings of grief, bursts of joy--but his narrative sometimes gets bogged down in the dramas of irritable runners and leaders engaged in power struggles. The drama is at least engaging: his fellow runners, including a Canadian indigenous woman named Zyanya Lonewolf, emerge as distinct personalities ... a complex, thought-provoking journey shot through with flashes of glory and hope.
RaveShelf AwarenessStratford has created a cast of strong women ... Stratford has a keen eye for everyday historical details, including black Bakelite phones (often tapped by the FBI) and the different brands of cigarettes smoked on both sides of the Atlantic. She also explores the most insidious effect of the blacklist: the constant fear and mistrust, which affects not only those pursued by HUAC, but also their colleagues, families and friends ... Well plotted and moving, with witty characters and an unnervingly timely storyline, Red Letter Days is smart, satisfying historical fiction at its best.
PositiveShelf Awareness... fast-paced ... Murphy draws his characters with warmth and compassion, emphasizing their deep love for family ... The geopolitical dramas of the early 2000s and the actions in the Middle East by American leaders make the book even more relevant to present-day realities. But the novel\'s true strength is its cast of vivid, flawed, deeply human characters, who struggle and make mistakes, and do their best to work for good in uncertain, even dangerous, times.
Isabel Allende, Trans. by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson
PositiveShelf AwarenessAllende\'s narrative...delves into the swirl of grief, love, pride, guilt and longing. Like their love for Chile, Victor and Roser\'s relationship is neither conventional nor tidy, but their bond grows deep and strong over many years, and Allende brings them through joys and challenges with grit, grace and stubborn hope. A Long Petal of the Sea is sprawling, sometimes difficult but ultimately satisfying.
PositiveShelf AwarenessIn thoughtful, incisive chapters, Calhoun shares interviews with dozens of women who feel overwhelmed, exhausted or downright terrified. Many of them love their lives--partners, children, careers, friends--while simultaneously worrying they\'ve missed the mark in some vital area, like finances or health. Calhoun steers clear of quick fixes in favor of a candid acknowledgment of the multilayered issues at hand, which is (fittingly) what many Gen X women are longing for: to be heard and seen. She doesn\'t offer easy solutions, but she does argue for greater self-acceptance, for savoring everyday joys and (when possible) letting oneself off the hook ... For Gen X women and the people who love them, Calhoun\'s book is a great place to start.
Naomi Shihab Nye
RaveShelf AwarenessOn every page, Shihab Nye\'s insistent call is the same: people, all people, deserve to live safe and healthy lives, free from fear and violence. She mourns, rages, takes politicians to task, but always lands on the side of compassion ... Her poems are a clarion call to readers to see the violence in Palestine and elsewhere, and to do what they can to work for peace.
RaveShelf AwarenessPhelps-Roper paints a nuanced portrait of Westboro as a group of human beings capable of both spreading hate-filled messages and living out their deep love for one another ... In a time of polarizing rhetoric, Phelps-Roper is a gentle, powerful voice speaking for compassion and thoughtful conversation. She explores the contradictions in Westboro\'s thinking, and is candid about her own ability (and later her increasing struggle) to gloss over the cognitive dissonance required to remain \'faithful.\' By leaving Westboro and wrestling through several dark, lonely seasons, Phelps-Roper has found her way to a different understanding of the world: one filled with humility and hope instead of hatred. Unfollow is a fascinating insider\'s account of life at Westboro and an urgent, timely call for dialogue and understanding.
Aarti Namdev Shahani
RaveShelf AwarenessShahani\'s insightful first book paints a layered and engaging picture of her family and their joys and struggles ... asks compelling questions about what it means to belong in this country ... [Shahani\'s] family emerges in vivid, textured detail ... Shahani pulls no punches in detailing the government\'s treatment of immigrants accused or convicted of even minor crimes, particularly those with a green card as well as those with non-permanent immigration status. She details the hopelessness of legal battles, the violence endemic to Rikers and other prisons, and the mixture of emotions when her father was finally released ... the system, and many of its challenges, remain exactly the same, and the questions Aarti Shahani asks in her book are still entirely relevant ... The Shahanis\' story, like that of so many immigrants, is a mixture of tragedy and hope, and Aarti highlights both, along with her deep love for her father ... a searing exposé of the U.S. criminal justice system and its glaring flaws, and a love letter from an impetuous, outspoken daughter to her soft-spoken, hardworking father. It goes beyond the scripted immigrant narrative to highlight the Shahanis in their complicated humanity, and it makes an insistent case for readers to do the same. It is at once a statement from Aarti to her dad--we will keep fighting for you until the end--and a declaration by millions of immigrants: we are part of this country, and we are not going anywhere. Clear-eyed and compulsively readable, shot through with compassion, humor and heart, Here We Are is a quintessential immigrant story and an urgent call for change.
RaveShelf AwarenessBlistering in its unequivocal critiques of the legal systems that keep refugees in limbo, yet strikingly layered and nuanced in its storytelling, The Ungrateful Refugee is timely, unsettling, compassionate and deeply compelling.
PositiveShelf AwarenessRosenbloom dives into her journeys with joy and curiosity: well-known tourist haunts and obscure side streets are equally fair game ... Alone Time is both a paean to its title and an invitation to anyone who has ever longed to explore a new city á seul.
RaveShelf Awareness... introduces the burgeoning subfield to the uninformed (but curious) and explores how it is transforming the work of people like Parcak and her colleagues ... Parcak\'s love for her field and her deep wonder and excitement come through on every page ... Clear, accessible and fascinating, peppered with witty asides and informative photos, Archaeology from Space is an excellent introduction to an exciting subfield that\'s still flying under the (satellite) radar.
RaveShelf Awareness... a powerful, heartbreaking story of star-crossed lovers and Iran\'s political upheavals ... Tehran\'s contradictions come to life in Kamali\'s narrative ... Kamali draws her characters with compassion and dignity: they are at once buffeted by outside events and doing their best to act with grace and wisdom. Mr. Fakhri\'s stationery shop and its owner are a tribute to the importance of ideas and poetry, and Roya\'s eventual encounter with Bahman is a powerful study in seeking truth and forgiveness. The Stationery Shop is at once a layered historical saga of a country struggling toward democracy and an intimate meditation on \'a love from which we never recover.\"\'
PositiveShelf Awareness... fast-paced, meticulously researched ... Purnell expertly weaves Hall\'s narrative together with the story of SOE\'s founding, highlighting its attempts to build a new kind of covert operation (and its mistakes along the way) ... The woman\'s bravery and brilliance are on constant display, but Purnell also highlights the quiet heroism of ordinary people who risked their lives daily to fight fascism. She also minces no words about the sexism Hall and other women faced at the State Department and in SOE--both agencies having started as well-heeled boys\' clubs ... Although some of Hall\'s exploits are epic, even cinematic, there\'s also a lot of nitty-gritty detail: cracking radio codes, planning elaborate prison escapes, agents narrowly avoiding capture (or not). Purnell\'s narrative moves along at a cracking pace, somehow managing to keep track of a large cast of characters against the ever-changing backdrop of war ... Purnell\'s book is a gripping account of an extraordinary woman, and a celebration of courage, ingenuity and grit.
PositiveShelf AwarenessButtigieg\'s warm, thoughtful narrative voice reflects his approach to local politics: seeing people as individuals who are also part of their community and figuring out how to make their lives better. During a turbulent moment in national politics, it\'s refreshing to read an account of hope, compassion and plain hard work at the local level. Buttigieg\'s story is particular to South Bend, but it offers insights for those working to lead cities around the country. His personal journey—as a local boy returning home, a Navy Reserve officer juggling his day job and commitment to his country, and a gay man coming out and finding love while in the public eye—is equally compelling.
PositiveShelf Awareness\"Horowitz draws on well-established facets of Bond\'s image: his gambling, his fondness for women and alcohol, his ability to keep a cool head under pressure ... The narrative slows down at times to provide exposition, though the last several chapters—involving an American tycoon, a sumptuous yacht and a Corsican mobster who speaks only via his translator—barrel along at a breakneck pace. Longtime Bond fans or those who simply enjoy a good thriller will find much to enjoy here, including a martini or two (shaken, not stirred).\
RaveShelf AwarenessMany avid readers have a \'book bucket list\': that hefty classic they\'ve always meant to tackle, that series they\'ll get around to someday, that book their mother or husband or best friend loves that they\'ve just never managed to try. But 1,000 books to read before you die Sounds intimidating, to say the least. Fear not. James Mustich, a longtime bookseller, voracious reader...has taken has taken on the task: he\'s compiled a...surprisingly accessible list of 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die ... the best way to use this book is, in fact, to wander: flip through a section or two, go back and forth looking for something you thought you saw. Read the endnotes, skip a few entries or whole sections, only to find them again later. In short, \'Read at whim!\' ... Thoughtful, often witty, informed and unfailingly enthusiastic, Mustich\'s collection fulfills one more aim of every bookstore worth its salt: inspiring readers to dive headfirst into a good book--especially one (or 12 or 50) they didn\'t know they were dying to read.
RaveShelf AwarenessIn Lands of Lost Borders, her luminous, incisive memoir ... covers thousands of miles and hundreds of years: she draws in Marco Polo, Charles Darwin, NASA and many other explorers past and present ... Her capacious intellect takes in poetry, politics, environmental writing and the strange rhythms of English spoken by her new friends. She doesn\'t spare the gritty details of the trip: stern checkpoint guards, exhausting traffic, much sweat and countless flat tires. But she is also awed repeatedly by the world as seen from a bicycle ... Harris\'s journey includes both in spades--but the letdowns are far outweighed by wonder and joy. Lyrical, brilliant and sharply observed, Lands of Lost Borders is a paean to wanderlust and a call for readers to launch their own explorations.
Katherine J Chen
PositiveShelf AwarenessThough timid and resigned at first, Mary\'s narrative voice grows acerbic, even caustic: she does not suffer fools and spares her family members no indignity. Readers of Pride and Prejudice already know of Mrs. Bennet\'s flightiness and Lydia\'s lack of self-control, but Mr. Bennet, Charlotte Lucas and Lizzy—especially Lizzy—do not come off well in this retelling. Only Jane, kind to the last, retains her sweetness and beauty. Austen purists may be scandalized at Chen\'s reimagining of these familiar characters and her handling of the Darcys\' relationship, but the book\'s plot twists are thought-provoking.
PositiveShelf AwarenessUmrigar draws her characters with a keen and compassionate hand--not only her protagonists but her supporting characters as well ... Packed with sensory details and tart dialogue, Umrigar\'s novel deftly evokes the complicated realities of poverty, love, hard work, guilt, grief and friendship in modern-day Mumbai.
Ursula K. Le Guin
RaveShelf Awareness\"No Time to Spare presents the best of Le Guin\'s blog: sharp-eyed, big-hearted, idiosyncratic and highly enjoyable. Both Le Guin\'s eye for detail and her dry wit are on full display here ... There is much to think about in this wise and eloquent collection.\