The Wish Book Christmas
Author: Lynn Austin
Reviewer: Acorn Patrons
The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin is a delightful novella to read this Christmas season! This Christmas story can read as a stand-alone, but it follows the story If I Were You written in 2020. Since the first book is so wonderful, I recommend reading both.
We follow Audrey and Eve, their sons Bobby and Harry and various family members, friends and neighbors as they celebrate Christmas. The characters, old and young alike, grow in their views of giving and receiving, loving and forgiving, dependence and independence, and they finally grow in their expectations for themselves and others. I found myself cheering on the characters for the ways they expressed love and received love, especially because of the love they felt during the Christmas season. It’s a heartwarming story that makes the reader think about why we give gifts and how we can give gifts of service and time, besides tangible items.
Author: Lisa See
Set in nineteenth-century China, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan recounts the story of Lily and Snow Flower, two best friends who endure the foot binding tradition together. It follows their familial journeys, explores their experiences with love and marriage, and describes their adventures in motherhood. But while Lily is lucky enough to marry into wealth and lead a life of good fortune, Snow Flower’s family history and secrets force her to accept a less fulfilling future. When a misunderstanding arises between the two, their friendship hangs in the balance.
This novel is full of references to China’s warn-torn past and deep-seated traditions. While the relationship between Lily and Snow Flower is the focal point of the book, readers learn a lot about the country’s history and values. An absolute must-read for historical fiction lovers, this book is available at Acorn and in the SWAN consortium.
Author: David Maraniss
Reviewer: Acorn Patrons
I hope you will read A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father.
David Maraniss, associate editor at the Washington Post, has written an intimate story of his family in Detroit, Michigan, where the House Un-American Committee set up shop after World War II.
Elliot Maraniss was a newspaper man through and through. But he was always a man who accepted issues related to the perceived underdog: race relations, economic disparity, social justice for the poor and dispossessed. Because of his world outlook, Elliot Maraniss migrated to the Communist Party in Detroit, and worked in his time off for the local Daily Worker.
“Think of this story as a wheel. The hearing in Room 740 is the hub where all the spokes connect,” starts the story. A grandmother who needed the extra few bucks, took the job of informer and rose in the ranks of the CP. She is the one who sent the member list of the Detroit branch of the CP to members of the House Un-American Committee (HAUC). But the story is so much more than committee meetings of the HAUC in Detroit. It is the story of tentacles of the committee members, their memberships in the Ku Klux Clan, their work against voting rights, their work against the New Deal.
Elliot and his brother-in-law Bob Cummins both volunteered for the war in Spain in the 1930s, and then again, against Nazism in 1941. They spent five years in Europe and the Pacific.
So the story is about what makes a person American. This reminds me of when I visited the Soviet Union in 1971, as part of a semester abroad. We were at a bazaar in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, when a young soldier approached our group to ask from where we came. In our elementary Russian, we said, “America.” He asked, “Brazil?” Indeed, America is two continents.
Author: Holly Black
Jude was seven years old when her parents’ killer took her away from the human world along with her twin sister, Taryn, and her older half-fey sister, Vivi to live in the High Court of Faerie. Now, as a seventeen-year-old, Jude is trying to secure her place in the Court, despite her fey classmates despising her and telling her she does not belong. In order to gain any kind of power as a mortal, she has two options: marry a fey or become a knight, and her chances of either appear slim. What lengths will Jude go to in order to prove herself worthy of the High Court, and at what cost?
While the novel was captivating and easily held my attention, it did take me a little while to read as I don’t always gravitate towards books narrated by the main character. I think it does work well for this novel because Jude is an outsider, not only in the sense that she feels out of place in both the faerie and the mortal world, but also because she is often at odds with everyone around her, even the people she cares about and seeks to protect. Through her perspective, we see the world of the fey for what it really is: beautiful, deceiving, and dangerous. I hope that as the books go on, we get to see more of the other interesting characters’ perspectives and the motivations behind their actions.
If you’re a fan of dark fantasy, check out The Cruel Prince and its sequel, The Wicked King. Both are available at Acorn and through SWAN interlibrary loan.
Nine Perfect Strangers
Author: Liane Moriarty
From the author of Big Little Lies, comes a new mystery drama. Nine strangers decide to escape the troubles of their every day lives and attend a 10 day health retreat. Little do they know, their lives are all about to collide and become intertwined in a very unexpected way. Moriarty gives us a complex and interesting cast of characters to follow throughout the novel. There is the “washed up” romance writer trying to get over her heartbreak and come to terms with the fact that her career is no longer what it used to be, the young married couple whose lottery win has taken a toll on their marriage, the middle aged man who just lost his beloved dog, and of course the beautiful resort director herself, whose ambition may bring them all to the edge. Although, the story moves a little slow at first, once it picks up the reader is in for a wild ride. Each chapter ends in a way that leaves the reader ready for the next, compulsively wanting to know what happens next. If you like locked room mysteries and character development, this book is highly recommended.
Author: Brian May
If you’re like me and rushed to the movie theater to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the new biopic revolving around Queen’s rise to fame, you will want to read this book. The first book about Queen written by one of the actual members, Queen in 3D contains many never-before seen photos of the band captured by Brian May himself as well as a personal account of the band’s history starting from when they released their first album to the recent tours of Brian May and Roger Taylor.
As the title suggests, the majority of the pictures in the book can be viewed in 3D using stereoscopic glasses. The book also discusses photography and the technological techniques that make 3D pictures possible. I like that Brian May found a way to combine his interest in music and photography in one book, all the while sharing his experiences and insight. The passion Brian May writes with is contagious, whether he is talking about a new camera he bought on tour, cultural aspects of performing in new places, or gifts from fans that he’s held onto all this time.
I enjoyed getting to know the members of Queen better through Brian’s photographs and stories. I also really liked that unlike other 3D books, the pictures are not too blurry to enjoy without using the stereoscopic glasses if you do not want to. It can be tedious to readjust the lens and refocus your eyes every time you want to look at a photo. Another detail that makes this book special is that Brian captions all of the pictures, so every photo has an explanation or a quote accompanying it. Queen in 3D has something for everybody to enjoy. If you’re a rock and roll fan or you like photography, you should read this book and learn something new!
Author: JENNY HAN
An avid fan of romance novels and all things old fashioned, Lara Jean Covey writes a love letter to every boy she’s ever had a crush on and keeps them hidden in a hat box. Her worst nightmares come true when the letters go missing and mysteriously find their way into the hands of their recipients – one of them her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.
Desperate to keep her feelings for Josh at bay, Lara Jean agrees to pretend to date Peter Kavinsky, one of her middle-school crushes who is in an on-again, off-again relationship with her old best friend, Genevieve. Will they be able to convince everyone, even family and friends, that they’re a real couple?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is more than just an entertaining young adult romance novel. Korean-American author Jenny Han does an excellent job of highlighting diverse family situations and portraying characters responding to change in realistic ways. For example, Lara Jean’s mom passed away when she was young and with her older sister moving away to college, she feels the pressure to live up to the expectations of her family and take on new responsibilities.
Even though the main protagonist is in high school, teenagers and adults can enjoy Lara Jean’s quirky personality and the fun cast of multi-generational characters surrounding her. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available at Acorn and through SWAN interlibrary loan. Read the other books in the series, P.S. I Love You and Forever and Always, Lara Jean, to find out what happens next!
Author: Rainbow Rowell
This award-winning young adult author of such titles as Eleanor and Park and Fangirl ventures into the world of adult fiction with a lighthearted love story that is sure to leave you smiling.
Set in 1999, readers are introduced to two coworkers and best friends, Beth and Jennifer. Their company has warned them that as the millennium approaches and technology advancements are being made, their emails will be monitored by a security officer. However, the two women don’t take this announcement seriously and continue writing electronically to each other about their personal lives.
Enter Lincoln O’Neill, who is responsible for reading the emails being sent from corporate accounts. When he comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows they are breaking the rules, but he finds their exchanges amusing and captivating. By the time he realizes he is falling for Beth, he can’t think of a way to explain himself without revealing that he has been reading her personal emails. Will their connection surpass Lincoln’s deception? Find out by borrowing the book from Acorn or requesting it from a SWAN library today!
Author: Lynn Austin
Reviewer: Acorn Patrons
The following book review was submitted by patron Janice Visser.
Legacy of Mercy by Lynn Austin is the sequel to Waves of Mercy written in 2016. Waves of Mercy was excellent but I felt like I was left hanging at the end, wondering what would happen to the characters. Austin does a wonderful job of pulling together the details of the characters to answer my questions.
Legacy of Mercy is a beautiful story of forgiveness, love, and courage. Each character had to wrestle with these themes: What is most important in life? Is it social status? Does happiness come from great wealth or a simple lifestyle? What does love look like? What are our motives? How can one have the courage to do the right thing? What is the best way to handle a difficult person in our lives?
Austin describes each character in such a vivid way. I felt like I was sitting right next to Anna, Geesje, Derk, William, the Dominie and Cornelia and the others and watching their stories intersect and unfold. I loved the entire story; I couldn’t put it down, because I wanted to find out what decisions each character would make and how each one would react to various troubling situations that came up. My grandparents and other relatives are from Holland, Michigan and I currently live in a suburb of Chicago, so it was a real treat to read about both locations. I understood the characteristics of the Dutch characters. I highly recommend this story to anyone who wants to get lost in a book that has thought provoking characters and themes woven throughout it.
Author: Mary Kubica
Mary Kubica, a native of Illinois, keeps readers guessing until the very last page of her psychological thriller The Good Girl. When Mia Dennett, an inner-city art teacher, goes missing from her Chicago home, speculation abounds that her disappearance is related to her father’s prominence as a judge. One night, after she is stood up by her boyfriend, Mia decides to leave the bar with Colin in the hopes of forgetting about her unreliable date. Little does she know that Colin is plotting to exploit her for financial gain. Only, right before he is supposed to deliver her to his employers he has a change of heart and sequesters her away in a secluded cabin.
As the novel progresses, the puzzle of Mia’s kidnapping is revealed piece by piece, revealing an ending so shocking readers won’t see it coming. A fantastic read for anyone who enjoyed Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. The Good Girl is available at Acorn and through SWAN interlibrary loan.
Patron Review: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them
Author: Ann Spangler
Reviewer: Acorn Patrons
The following book review was submitted by patron Janice Visser.
In Ann Spangler’s book, Less Than Perfect Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What we Can Learn from Them, she sheds light on Biblical characters with two unique ways. First, she tells the story from the Bible of the character and weaves in extra details to compel the reader to think about the character in a new, thought-provoking way. Secondly, after each character she has a section called “the times.” She has factual information such as the Hebrew or Greek words to explain the passage better. Then, she has 3 or 4 questions for personal reflection or for a small group study. I found myself wanting to keep learning about the next character.
Both my 13-year-old daughter and I enjoy Spangler’s style of writing. It captures your interest and gives you new insights into God’s character as well as the Biblical characters. I can relate to many of the characters and I love pausing to think about God more deeply too. I highly recommend this book.
Scythe (Arc of a Scythe)
Author: Neal Shusterman
In the future everyone is immortal and an omnipresence that started out as your everyday computer cloud, now known as the Thunderhead oversees all and has created a perfect world, where no one wants for anything. The only thing the Thunderhead does not control is the Scythedom. In order to control population, scythes (socially sanctioned killers), select people for gleaning. There are very few ways a person can die in this futuristic society, except if you are gleaned by a scythe, then you are permanently dead. Scythes undergo rigorous training and must adhere to a moral code. Scythe Farady selects 2 teenagers as apprentices and they are set in a mortal competition together. Rowan and Citra must set aside their feelings for each other and fight for their lives. To make things worse, corruption seems to be running amuck in the Scythedome. And things are changing in a big way.
Neal Shusterman captivates his audience with a plot that moves forward at a fast pace, with a lot of twists and turns to keep the reader interested. At times you’ll be rooting for one character, and then by the next chapter you’re championing another. The story, the characters, and the settings are all enough to keep the reader wanting more. It is highly recommended that you not only read this book, but as soon as you’re done you check out its sequel Thunderhead.