The Way of Kings
Adult / August 11, 2017

Stormlight Archives #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter. It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable. Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled…

Ship of Magic
Adult / August 7, 2017

The Liveship Traders #1. Author: Robin Hobb. Summary: Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven… Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Robin Hobb creates a rich, complex world of many layers…

Passage
Adult / August 3, 2017

Author: Connie Willis. Summary: A tunnel, a light, a door. And beyond it … the unimaginable. Dr. Joanna Lander is a psychologist specializing in near-death experiences. She is about to get help from a new doctor with the power to give her the chance to get as close to death as anyone can. A brilliant young neurologist, Dr. Richard Wright has come up with a way to manufacture the near-death experience using a psychoactive drug. Joanna’s first NDE is as fascinating as she imagined — so astounding that she knows she must go back, if only to find out why that place is so hauntingly familiar. But each time Joanna goes under, her sense of dread begins to grow, because part of her already knows why the experience is so familiar, and why she has every reason to be afraid. Yet just when Joanna thinks she understands, she’s in for the biggest surprise of all — a shattering scenario that will keep you feverishly reading until the final climactic page. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Connie Willis’s characters are, as in Bellwether, neatly characterized and sharply amusing. I do think the drawn-out suspense of not-knowing basically anything for much of the…

All Clear
Adult / July 3, 2017

All Clear #2. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler’s bombers attempt to pummel London into submission. Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong. Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the…

Blackout
Adult / July 1, 2017

All Clear #1. Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Oxford in 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being sent into the past. Michael Davies is prepping to go to Pearl Harbor. Merope Ward is coping with a bunch of bratty 1940 evacuees and trying to talk her thesis adviser into letting her go to VE-Day. Polly Churchill’s next assignment will be as a shopgirl in the middle of London’s Blitz. But now the time-travel lab is suddenly canceling assignments and switching around everyone’s schedules. And when Michael, Merope, and Polly finally get to World War II, things just get worse. For there they face air raids, blackouts, and dive-bombing Stukas–to say nothing of a growing feeling that not only their assignments but the war and history itself are spiraling out of control. Because suddenly the once-reliable mechanisms of time travel are showing significant glitches, and our heroes are beginning to question their most firmly held belief: that no historian can possibly change the past. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Don’t go into Blackout thinking science fiction. Even though that’s technically the genre, since the time-travel short circuits out in the beginning, and the actual execution is historical novel. And…

The Nanny Diaries
Adult / June 30, 2017

Nanny #1. Author: Emma McLaughlin. Summary: Wanted: One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless–bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Hermès bag. Those who take it personally need not apply. Who wouldn’t want this job? Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn’t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day. When the Xs’ marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance…

Solstice Wood
Adult / June 29, 2017

Winter Rose #2. Author: Patricia McKillip. Summary: When bookstore owner Sylvia Lynn returns to her childhood home in upstate New York, she meets the Fiber Guild-a group of local women who meet to knit, embroider, and sew-and learns why her grandmother watches her so closely. A primitive power exists in the forest, a force the Fiber Guild seeks to bind in its stitches and weavings. And Sylvia is no stranger to the woods. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Solstice Wood didn’t seem as engrossing and well-plotted as the other McKillip books I’ve been reading, but it was still a good read. The fae are portrayed near-perfectly through most of the book, drawing on the old folk-tales and fairy-tales without sounding too cliche. (To be fair, perhaps you could call them cliche, since they’re so similar to various folk-tales. I call them well-written.) Most of the characters aren’t very rounded out, though; while the clannish, slightly queer atmosphere of the village is strong, the individual people that make it up aren’t developed. Even the main character has something of a back story but doesn’t feel as individual and real as sometimes. I wanted to know why she avoids the woods despite her…

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Adult / June 23, 2017

Author: Neil Gaiman. Summary: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. My Thoughts: I spent a little while trying to figure out what this novel reminded me of, and finally I thought “Coraline. That’s it. The undefined…

The Scent of Water
Adult / June 9, 2017

Author: Elizabeth Goudge. Summary: Mary Lindsay is a born and bred Londoner who has enjoyed her city life–a prestigious job, and friends with whom she takes in the city pleasures of theatre, art and music. But fleeting memories of a childhood visit to her father’s elderly cousin out in the country are revived with the news that the woman has willed her home, the Laurels, to Mary. She makes an uncharacteristically sudden and life-changing decision to leave London for the country. The gradual unfolding of her understanding of herself, of the now-deceased woman who has bequeathed her home to Mary, and of the people of Appleshaw, all weave together in a most memorable story of love’s redemptive power.   (Amazon summary) My Thoughts: Lovely. The Scent of Water is slow-moving and quiet-paced, and it’s meant to be that way. The reading atmosphere is that of a quiet summer day, when you have all the time in the world and are enjoying every minute of it. The POV flips from character to character in a way you don’t see as much anymore, giving the reader a double-view of many minor characters; both how the outside world sees them, and how their internal…

Wyrms
Adult / May 30, 2017

Author: Orson Scott Card. Summary: The sphere is alien in origin, but has been controlled by man for millennia. A legend as old as the stars rules this constructed world; When the seventh seventh seventh human Heptarch is crowned, he will be the Kristos and will bring eternal salvation . . . or the destruction of the cosmos. Patience is the only daughter of the rightful Heptarch, but she, like her father before her, serves the usurper who has destroyed her family. For she has learned the true ruler’s honor. Duty to one’s race is more important than duty to one’s self. But the time for prudence has passed, and that which has slept for ages has awakened. And Patience must journey to the heartsoul of this planet to confront her destiny . . . and her world’s. (Published summary) My Thoughts: I can’t really say whether I liked it or not. I don’t think it’s a book you’re supposed to like or not. It’s definitely an adult book, possibly too adult for me yet. Had some interesting reflective thoughts, thoughts on free will and right versus wrong. Short, I found it quite fast-paced with only a few slow parts….