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Here is a story I have read:
A man named Mawat, and his trusted aide, Eolo, have journeyed to the fortress of Vastai, the seat of power in a land called Iraden. Mawat has been summoned home to take over power from his father who is preparing to die. When they arrive, they find that Mawat’s father has gone missing and his uncle, Hibal, is now sitting on the throne. There are parallels to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but with a twist.
The world Iraden occupies is ruled by gods as much as men. There are many gods, both powerful and weak, with the most powerful ruling kingdoms and the weakest merely granting small favors to those who give prayers and offerings. The gods take many forms: animals, insects, trees, and stones, to name a few. The primary god of Iraden, a most powerful god, takes the form of a raven. The human ruler is known as the Raven’s Lease, and rules with impunity until the bird dies. While the god is incubating in a new egg, waiting to be reborn, the Lease must sacrifice himself and the heir will take his place. No one can kill the Lease or take power from him. A Lease’s failure to sacrifice himself at the appropriate time can lead to dire consequences for all. The question of what happened to the Lease, how his brother is able to sit on the throne and live, and what will happen once the egg hatches, loom large.
Ann Leckie has created an amazing world in her book, The Raven Tower. The narrator is a god, an ancient god, but not the Raven. The story follows not Mawat, but his aide, Eolo. The book moves between the goings on in Vastai after Mawat returns, the history of Iraden, and the story of the god narrator. All these stories tie together in the end. The book is a mixture of fantasy, adventure, and mystery. It is not a book one can easily put down, nor is it a story that leaves you after you finish reading. A very engaging read, especially for lovers of fantasy worlds.
Raymond Storm’s debut novel, Northern Lights, is a coming of age tale about a young man who’s mother abandoned him and his father recently died. On the day of his high school graduation, he comes home to find a note from his uncle telling Shane to be gone before the uncle returns from work, taking only what fits in the backpack left for him. Not having to be in Minnesota for college until August, Shane decides to take the opportunity to go to Holm, MN to try and find his mother starting at her last known address.
Shane is androgynous in his appearance and not really sure of his identity. With little money, he arrives in a small, upper midwestern town to begin his search. Discovering his mother had left over a year ago, he decides to remain and search for clues about who she was and where she may have gone. He befriends a girl named Jenny and a whole cast of other lost misfits in their early teens and twenties, including a young man who drinks too much and, like Shane, questioning his identity. Shane’s androgyny also attracts the attention of the more bigoted and violent people who live in Holm, particularly an unhinged bully named Sven Svenson.
The story is told in first person from Shane’s point of view. It is an engaging and well written novel, a character study of young people trying to discover themselves and find their way, despite all the pitfalls of living in small towns with limited opportunity and too much substance abuse. Though the story takes place in the 1990s, it unfortunately has resonance and too much that is still recognizable for people today. As the violence escalates, Shane has to decide if he should remain in Holm and with the only true friends he has known, or abandon it all to create a new life for himself somewhere else.
The novel explores the themes of loss and abandonment, identity and self-determination, and the nature of human relationships and life in a small town. The prose is tight befitting the story he tells. A good, suspenseful book that you won’t want to put down. Fans of Denis Johnson will really like this book.
Author Elizabeth Letts has written two works of fiction, Quality of Care and Family Planning (both currently out of print), as well as two best selling works of nonfiction, The Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse: The Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped by Hitler, for which she won the 2017 PEN Center USA Literary Award for research nonfiction. With her newest book, Finding Dorothy, Ms. Letts combines her formidable skill in research with her talent for writing to create a fictional account of Maud Gage Baum, the wife of L. Frank Baum - creator of The Wonderful World of Oz.
The book starts with Maud as a seventy-seven year old woman trying to meet with Louis B. Mayer to offer her services as they turn her late husband’s beloved children’s book into what would become an iconic movie. She has come to honor her late husband and protect his vision and, in a way, to protect “Dorothy” and ultimately the actress who plays her, a young Judy Garland. The book then moves to tell the story of Maud herself, raised by an early Suffragist and good friend of Susan B. Anthony, whom she called “Auntie Susan,” to her time as a young woman in the Ivy League, her romance and marriage to L. Frank Baum, motherhood, their time on the South Dakota prairie that inspired the Oz books, to their life in Chicago and, finally, in Hollywood. The book toggles back and forth between 1939 and Maud’s life up to that point.
Eliabeth Letts has truly written an engaging story that imagines the life of Maud, Frank, and her family. So much of the book is based in fact and brings to life an interesting period in American history. Maud was born on the eve of the Civil War and died in 1953, just shy of her 92nd birthday. Frank Baum appears to be a man who’s vision saw the future long before it arrived. A dreamer and creative type, he found it difficult to live an ordinary life. He found the perfect wife in Maud. An afterword gives more historical detail of Maud and her family. This book is a wonderful confluence of fact and fiction, with the emphasis on the facts while creating an engaging narrative to flesh out the actual people behind the historical remnants of what was once their lives.
Maud does her feminist mother proud, with her indomitable spirit, her intelligence and strength, her no-nonsense manner, and her ability to carry on in the face of hardship. The book will keep you reading and leave you wanting to know even more about Maud. This book will inspire you and make you grateful for women like Maud and her mother and their peers whose strength and tenaciousness left women a better world more open to all that they have to offer. Plus there’s romance and the wonder of imagination. If you’ve liked any of her other books, or if you enjoy historical fiction, this is definitely the book for you.
Nothing Is Scary With Harry is a sweet children’s book about a girl and her comfort object, a blanket named Harry. Katie takes Harry everywhere with her when she is young. Harry is not just for self-soothing. Harry is an empowering best friend who makes scary events seem far less scary. Thunderstorms become “dancing raindrops,” doctor visits become “a trip for lollipops” and everywhere they go, Katie is able to do amazing things because Harry is by her side.
As Katie grows older, she ignores criticism and teasing and refuses to get rid of Harry. She helps her mom understand how important her friend, Harry, is to her. Harry sees her through school, college and right on up to the birth of her own baby. The ending will bring a tear to your eye, in a sweet and beautiful way.
Katie McElligott does a wonderful job telling the story in simple, beautifully written rhyming sentences making it fun and musical when read aloud. It’s a book parents will enjoy reading over and over again. Jennifer A. Bell does and amazing job with the illustrations. Like the words, they are simple yet beautiful.
For a first time author, Katie McElligott makes it look so easy. A great picture book for young children, especially those who have a best friend like Harry, a comfort object who empowers them to be brave and strong in the face of all of life’s scary moments. It really is fun to read aloud!