Saturday, January 26, 2019

Educated


You know it was a great book when, after you finished it days ago, you find yourself still thinking about it. I'm at a loss for words. It has been ages since a book has affected me like this emotionally.
I've got no flowery language, no qualms, nothing. All I really have to say is wow.

Educated is the memoir of Tara Westover, who didn't step foot into a classroom until she was seventeen. Born to survivalist Morman parents in the mountains of Idaho, she grew up preparing for the end days by sleeping with a "head for the hills" bag and spending summers canning anything they could. Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a nurse or a doctor. Serious injuries were treated at home by her mother, a self-taught midwife and herbalist. And because they were so isolated from anyone, there was no one to intervene when one of her older brothers became violent or when her father became even more extreme in his beliefs.  Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to teach herself math and grammar. Which lead her to being admitted to Brigham Young University in Utah, then to Cambridge, then to Harvard, and then back to Cambridge to receive a PhD in History. It's amazing.

I can't tell you how many times this story made my jaw drop. Everything about this story is shocking; how her parents could ignore the abuse that was happening under their roof, for one example, is beyond me. And then go so far as to disown Tara instead of dealing with their son is appalling. Author Claire Dederer says this about Tara's memoir and it explains how I felt so well: "A punch to the gut, a slow burn, a savage indictment, a love letter.... Rarely have I read a book that made me so uncomfortable, so enraged, and at the same time to utterly entirely absorbed. I loved this book, and this woman".  The way Tara writes her story, I think, is what I loved the most. For someone who has literally gone through hell, she doesn't write about her experience in a bitter tone at all. Being so isolated as her family was, there was nobody around long enough to tell her what was happening wasn't even close to being okay, and that's how she writes. She didn't know any different. How could she have? And it doesn't end happy either. To this day, her parents still won't see her. And of her seven siblings, she's close to three.

My goal this year is to read more non-fiction. And to be honest, I'm a little upset that this was the first book that I've read not only this year, but within my goal, because I honestly don't know how anything I'm going to read now is going to top it. This book was that good.

--Elise F--

For more information on Educated  by Tara Westover, visit us in store or visit our website here.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Color of Lies

   Far be it from me to sneer at a title where they spell [colour] without the 'u'. Unusually enough, it wasn't the title of this one, or even the cover, that drew me. It was the concept.

    Ella Cleary has a rare medical condition known as synesthesia, which messes with her brain and senses, allowing her to read people's emotions based on the colour that appears around them whenever she looks their way. So when a stranger approaches her exuding no colour at all, and calling her by the name "Nora" which she hasn't used since she was three years old, she has every right to be confused. Cautious.

   Downright suspicious.

   Even more unnerving is that he wants to ask her about a murder she's certain she never witnessed. She's not even sure she believes it happened, because first of all, her parents died in a fire--there was no murder involved, just a freak accident. And second of all, she wasn't ever there to see it.

   C J Lyons evokes an exciting, emotional mystery as these two characters encounter and re-encounter each other while they try to unravel the mysteries around Ella's parents and their sudden deaths. It's a story that made me wonder again and again, "how could they possibly figure out this mess?" and there's nothing more satisfying than finding the answer to that question.

   An intriguing, easy read for Teen or YA Fiction reader who enjoys a tragic past, a dark mystery, and a high-stakes race to uncover the truth.

--Elise T.--

   For more information on The Color of Lies by C J Lyons, visit our website here.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Racing to the Finish

    This isn't the sort of book I would expect myself to read. Not because women can't enjoy NASCAR, but because I thought I'd had enough of NASCAR to last a lifetime. My brother, who is 5 years younger than me, spent a few years, a decade and more ago, obsessed with the sport. He could name every driver's stats, and not just NASCAR, but Formula 1 and IndyCar as well. There was always a race on TV, and so the names and locations found their way into my world as well. Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson were household names. While I would occasionally watch with him, and had my favourite (Jeff Gordon), NASCAR was not my favourite thing in the world. It may have had something to do with the fact that the Daytona 500 often fell on my birthday, and there was no way my brother was missing the Daytona 500.

   As I began to read Racing to the Finish, it felt like I was going back in time and back to my childhood, as names and places I'd forgotten were in the forefront of the story. But you don't have to be a fan of NASCAR to enjoy this book. This is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s story of injury and recovery, and the resilience it takes to be a racecar driver. Rather than being an account of his entire life - although he does reminisce about his father and grandfather, and discusses the beginnings and evolution of his racing career - Racing to the Finish is the story of Earnhardt's concussions, recovery, and subsequent retirement. His injuries and recovery happened at the same time the NFL was finally beginning to talk about the affects of concussions, and Earnhardt's journey shaped the way concussions and other injuries are viewed in the racing world.

   Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s story of resilience and healing - and the perseverance required for both - is inspiring, no matter what your own life looks like. I found it a fascinating book, and I was also delighted to find that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a gift for writing as well as racing; he has proven himself an insightful and skilled author, with a style both entertaining and honest.

   Earnhardt wrote this book not only to tell the story of why he was off the track for so long, but to help others who have concussions and other head injuries to understand what is happening in the brain, and know that help is available and recovery possible. As NASCAR's unofficial spokesperson for concussions, and thanks to his fame and fan base, he is in the perfect position to help raise awareness for the prevention and treatment of concussions. For me, this book also gave me a new appreciation of the racing world that I had long forgotten. The often wistful combination of nostalgia and glory which Earnhardt has woven into Racing to the Finish has made me fall in love with NASCAR again.

   While this looks like a man's book - it's a sports and medical autobiography written by a racecar driver, after all - I firmly believe books should not be marketed as "men's books" and "women's books." I am a woman in my mid-twenties and I loved it. I believe it would interest anyone with a taste for sports, medicine and psychology, or biographies. Or, like me, give it - or another book outside your comfort zone - a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

--Aliah--

   For more information on Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr., visit our website here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Hidden Among the Stars


This book is a wonderful story that sees Callie, a bookstore owner in small town America, being given an old copy of Felix Saltern's classic children's book "Bambi". Inside she finds the original owner's name, Annika, and also a list amongst the pages, written in German. The list seems to be of valuables such as ruby bracelets, candelabras and the like, but why are they in an old children's book? And who exactly was Annika?
 
We go back in time to Austria in 1938, where Annika is a caretaker, along with her father, of an estate in the lake region of Austria. The castle is owned by a wealthy Viennese family as their summer house. Annika is in love with the owner's son, Max, but does he share her love? Or is there another that has captured his heart?
 
We slide between the two stories as Callie, aided by university lecturer Josh, try to find out what happened to Annika, and what the list is for. She also wants to find any remaining members of Annika's family to return the book to them. Meanwhile, back in 1938 Austria is being taken over by Nazi Germany, and it is a dangerous time for many in Vienna.
 
Melanie Dobson weaves a marvellous tale of two women, separated by an ocean and 80 years, whose lives are brought together by a simple children's book. It is an enduring story, the terror of the Nazi regime and the lives of the Jewish people devastated during the holocaust. And what becomes of Annika? 


Don’t miss Dobson’s other utterly amazing read, Catching the Wind. Fans of historical fiction will not be able to put either of these books down.

--Candace--


For more information on Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson, visit us in store or visit our website here.