For the Love of Reading

Euphoria

This compelling novel does what few do these days—it discusses subjects and ideas with intelligence and feeling.  In this case the primary subject is the new field of anthropology presented through the viewpoints of three field scientists in the 1930s. It’s based upon the real lives of Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson although the novel’s ending veers far from the historical record.

What a captivating novel this is--set in exotic Papua New Guinea, where hundreds of native tribes lived, speaking different languages with vastly different cultures and customs.

It hooked me right away. Was that a baby, the Mumbanyo just threw in the water?  Nell, the character based upon Margaret Mead, couldn’t see because her husband had broken her glasses. When she and Fen (based upon Mead’s second husband, Reo Fortune) arrive back in civilization (of a sort), her eyes are malarial and she has welts over her body as well as bruises on her ankle. Two English ladies express shock at her appearance as they guzzle liquor on the boat.

Never Always Sometimes, Adi Alsaid

Longtime best friends Dave and Julia are determined to live their lives authentically. Dead set against being cliché high school students they create a list of things they swore they’d never do. The list includes things like never dying your hair a wild color and never running for prom king and queen, to never date your best friend. But with two months left of their senior year and nothing left to prove, Julia convinces Dave to set out to break every rule on the list. Of course, things get complicated very quickly.

If you’re looking for a book to help carry you through finals and the end of the school year, Sometimes Always Never is it! Full of crazy antics, charming characters, and a bit of romance, the book will have you looking at what rules you can break in your own life.

Jane Steele

This book retells Jane Eyre in the voice of a serial killer. No, the novel is not some bizarre mocking of a great classic, but a humorous, well-executed pastiche --literary even—of Charlotte Bronte’s favorite book.

Jane’s first killing is accidental. When Jane was only nine, her annoying first cousin, Edwin, who was thirteen, kissed Jane and then tried to force himself upon her when they were playing outside. She shoved him away, perhaps with more strength than she’d intended.  His head slammed on a rock and he died. 

It happened during an awful period for Jane. Her French mother had just died from a self-inflicted draught of laudanum, and her Aunt Patience, her cousin’s mother, had decided to send her off to boarding school.

But according to Jane’s mother, whom Jane shared a lowly cottage with, the whole vast estate belonged to Jane and she would inherit it when she came of age.

Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

We lived in Alaska when this volcano blew spectacularly in 1980. Two months later, we flew from Seattle to the east coast, and the pilot flew over the great mountain, so everyone could get a glimpse at the destruction. Yet, it wasn’t until ten years later that we made the trip to Southern Washington and visited the monument itself.

My husband and children and I stared in horror at the skeleton trees still standing, and at the grey scar that extended for miles down the mountain. In that moment we felt the cataclysmic power of nature. Other than the dead trees, the landscape looked like it could have been on the moon or some barren planet.

Ten years later my husband and I returned, and this time we were amazed by the rebirth of forests, the greenery. You could still see the damage the eruption had caused, but much of the forest was verdant again. Amazingly green and vibrant.

When Breath Becomes Air

As a young neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi had the difficult task of preparing patients and their families for death. As a brain surgeon his patients included everyone from young children with epilepsy, to teens shot in the head during gang violence, to people of all ages suffering from brain tumors.

Then there was the man who spoke only in numbers. He enunciated well, and spoke with a conversational lilt to his words yet no one understood him. The numbers signified nothing, and left him feeling more alone.

Unlike many doctors, Dr. Kalanithi enjoyed the challenge of discussing death with his terminally-ill patients. His undergraduate and graduate studies of philosophy and literature helped him make these talks both meaningful and helpful while always being cognizant of where the patient and family were coming from in their understanding of the patient’s condition.

But then in his last year as a resident when he was the chief neurosurgery resident at Stanford, he woke one day with intense back pain. He had a checkup but nothing serious showed, so he flew to upstate New York for a reunion with dear friends that he had long been anticipating.

An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir

If you have been feeling that you'd never find another book you could love like The Hunger Games, then have no fear, An Ember in the Ashes is here! Laia is a Scholar, one of the oppressed people living under Martial rule. Her family has been destroyed by the rebellion against the empire and now she's on her own, trying to save her brother from a Martial prison. Elias is a Mask, one of the Empire's most elite soldiers, but he doesn't feel fully connected to the Empire. He plans to desert on the very day he graduates from the military academy, but he's not sure he'll actually be able to go through with it.

Laia's story is one of covert operations, family, and endurance. To save her brother, Laia is placed as a slave in the household of the ruthless leader of the Empire's military academy. Her need to collect information is quickly sidelined behind a greater need to survive. Elias meanwhile is chosen to compete in the Trials, a ruthless test that will leave one of the chosen few standing tall as the new Emperor, one as his second in command, and the others will not survive.

Readers will find themselves quickly pulled into Laia and Elias' story. With two heroes to root for and two separate lives to follow, the narrative is very fast paced. You might think this is just another story of a chosen one, but you'll be surprised where An Ember in the Ashes will take you!

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