The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Nina Hill is funny, smart, anxious, organized, and loves books. She’s also excellent company in this novel about a bookstore clerk in Los Angeles who finds out that her previously unknown father has mentioned her in his will and discovers a big, complicated family. When she’s not at a book club or competing in a trivia contest, Nina would rather be home, reading. Her other favorite activities include avoiding yoga class and planning her week, even if she doesn’t always follow her plan and scolds herself when she runs out of toilet paper. There is a cute guy on a rival trivia team, but it might be hard to work a date into her schedule, especially with new relatives to meet. Nina is also intense and likes to share random facts; this has gotten her trivia club in trouble. Numerous funny scenes add to the book’s appeal, including a woman trying to return a Jane Austen novel, her kids book club, and an ice cream fight outside the bookstore. Witty and heartwarming, I wanted the book to be longer, even after a satisfying conclusion. Her first book, The Garden of Small Beginnings, is also a good read, if not quite as funny.

Brenda

 

Gabriel’s Road

Gabriel’s Road: A Novella of the Devil’s West by Laura Anne Gilman

After a year spent mentoring Isobel, Gabriel has completed his bargain and is free of obligations in the territory. But the Devil’s West and especially the call of the river aren’t done with Gabriel Kasun quite yet. Starting out on a solitary journey in this alternate western America, Gabriel looks back on his past, worries about how Isobel is doing on her own, then has encounters with strange and wild beings. There is a strong sense of place in this mostly uninhabited and dry part of the West, and Gabriel is intriguing company. When he needs shelter from a storm, a small community takes him in and then asks for his help protecting their well and their village. This novella can be read before or after the fantasy trilogy beginning with Silver on the Road, and is available as an e-book in our Media on Demand collection from Overdrive, along with the short story collection West Wind’s Fool.

Brenda

The Big Ones

The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them) by Dr. Lucy Jones

Seismologist Lucy Jones describes a wide variety of natural disasters and ways communities can prepare for the future. I started reading this book after the recent 7.1 magnitude earthquake in eastern California, the day after a 6.4 magnitude quake, both of which she discussed at news conferences and at multiple television stations. As well as being a noted scientist, Dr. Jones is also an excellent storyteller, making the science behind volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and floods accessible to readers.

Two points she made repeatedly stand out for me: humans dislike randomness, look for patterns, and sometimes demand prediction even though many natural disasters are very hard to predict. In addition, we tend to forget events that happened more than three generations ago, even major natural disasters. Many Japanese coastal villages have stone tsunami markers, which saved some villages in 2011 but went unheeded in others. I had never heard about the megafloods in California and other western states in the winter of 1861-2. Huge lakes covered telegraph poles over an area larger than the state of Connecticut. Villages and farms were wiped out, and cities like Sacramento were completely regraded on a higher level. But a similar flood today would be even more devastating.

Jones writes about Pompeii, modern Italy, Lisbon, Iceland, Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, and much more. She also talks about working with Los Angeles to make the city more resilient to a future quake, and stresses the importance of planning for events that are very likely to happen, even though we don’t know exactly when or where. Suggested for readers interested in science, history, or natural disasters.
Brenda

A Single Thread

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

At 38, Violet Speedwell is one of England’s surplus women, her fiancé one of many young men who died in the Great War. Weary of her mother’s demands and complaints, Violet takes a position as typist and moves to the cathedral city of Winchester in 1932. Barely making ends meet until she speaks up and gets more hours, Violet finds a satisfying hobby when she joins the Broderers’ Guild, embroidering kneelers and cushions for the cathedral, often while listening to the bell ringers. The story is compelling and absorbing rather than fast-paced, with a strong sense of place and the wonderfully imperfect Violet, who has to talk herself into taking a planned walking holiday. Sure to be popular with book groups, I enjoyed this book more than any of Chevalier’s books I’ve read since Remarkable Creatures.
Brenda

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham

Chris writes an article for the Washington Post about the least scenic counties in America and keeps getting polite comments from the residents of Red Lake County, Minnesota, ranked worst. He visits, writes another article, and eventually moves to Red Lake Falls (which has neither a lake nor a waterfall) with his wife Briana and young twin sons. He leaves behind an awful commute from Baltimore to Washington, a cramped row house with three flights of stairs, and very limited time with his wife and sons. Briana takes time off from her government job to stay home with the boys, then gets involved in local organizations. In northwest Minnesota, they find a purple house with a playroom and back yard, a wide variety of mostly friendly neighbors, and brutally cold winters that have its own rewards. Candid and humorous, this memoir about discovering the joys of Midwestern small town life is sure to be popular.
Brenda

A Brightness Long Ago

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

In a land much like Renaissance Italy, only in a world with two moons and no Greece, the ripple effects of decisions made by a tailor’s son and a pagan healer have lasting impact. Kay is known for his epic fantasy; this book reads more like historical fiction. Not fast-paced except for a few notable scenes including two horse races, this is a novel to savor. The setting is gorgeously drawn without being overly detailed and the numerous characters are realistic. Strong female characters such as a duke’s daughter turned assassin add appeal. If you haven’t discovered Kay, who’s published a novel every two to three years since 1984, then you’re in for a real treat if you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy. Start anywhere, perhaps with Tigana, The Lions of al-Rassan, Ysabel, or Under Heaven. His previous book, Children of Earth and Sky is set twenty-five years after A Brightness Long Ago.

Brenda

 

Aurora Rising

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A fun, exciting science fiction novel written for teens, but with plenty of appeal for all fans of space opera. Tyler Jones misses the chance to draft a squad of the best cadets graduating Aurora Academy, but for an excellent reason. On a late night practice flight, Tyler responds to a distress beacon and rescues Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, in cryosleep for over 200 years. His squad, including his twin sister, has unexpected talents and quickly gets in over their heads on what should be a routine mission. Fast-paced and full of adventure, this first book in a new series by the authors of the Illuminae Files is off to a great start.
Brenda