My Own Devices: Essays from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love by Dessa

Book – Minneapolis-based rapper and musician Dessa started out as a poet, so it is not surprising that she would eventually write a book. Like her songs, it’s personal and universal all at once, engaging and easy to read.  Every once in a while there’s a punchline that really feels like a punch and makes you put the book down, causing you to take a moment to fully absorb what you just read.

The common thread through the book is her on-again, off-again, tumultuous romantic entanglement with a man she calls X (who you could probably identify if you really wanted to). They fall in love, break up, get back together, hurt each other. Along the way, Dessa considers taking out insurance on her romantic disaster (as a writer of heartbreak songs, she might be out of work without it), shadows her little brother on a day’s work as an artisanal cannabis salesman, tells the story of the airplane her father built, and explores what neuroscience has to say about where love lives in the brain.

Even if you have never listened to one of Dessa’s albums, there is plenty of joy to get out of this book, particularly for the heartbroken and stubborn. Once you have read My Own Devices, you will have a richer experience of listening to her records. Two of her best albums are currently available on Hoopla.

All I Want For Christmas is a Cowboy by Jessica Clare

Book – A sweet romance, All I Want For Christmas is a Cowboy by Jessica Clare is a wonderfully cozy romance of two strangers who meet by chance during the holiday season.  Cassandra needs to escape her life for the holidays.  Her boss’s boyfriend has been harassing her since she met him and it seems like there’s no escape in sight.  The solution?  A Christmas in solitude spent alone at her parents’ cabin.  Driving through a snowstorm, Cassandra flies off course in an accident.

Eli is a real cowboy, living alone on his ranch tending to the cows and his dogs.  He’s content with his life the way it is, and is happy to spend the holiday in his reclusive home.  Ready for another Christmas in solitude, Eli’s plans are drastically altered when he finds an injured woman stranded in the blizzard from a car accident.  As any gentleman would do, Eli takes her to his home and tends to her wounds.  But when Cassandra awakens, she has no memory of who she is, or any reminder of her life before the accident.  As the two learn to cohabit the Christmas season together, Cassandra’s amnesia becomes less of problem, as they grow closer.  Separated from the chaos of her previous life, Cassandra thinks maybe this is her Christmas wish come true.  But life always seems to get in the way of things.

 

Shot on Gold by Jaci Burton

Book- Will, a hockey player thru and thru and loves his life as one. This will be his second year at the winter games for Team USA.  At his first games, Will played, and partied, too hard. This year, however, he wants to take a step back to be in the moment.

Amber, a figure skater thru and thru, is attending the winter games for a third, and final, time. Although she is 26-years-old, she is considered past the “prime” age of competitors.  Nevertheless, she worked on a new routine and honed her skills for 4 years.  Amber has stood on the medal stand, but this year she is going for gold and nothing will get in her way. Always the good girl, she rarely left her room unless it was to practice. This year, Amber wants to do it all! Can she party, find a man to help her let loose, and win the gold?

I adore this series and like most of the other books, this one is likewise amazing. Author Jaci Burton does a fantastic job of detailing life in Olympic Village. I was drawn into the story and felt like I was experiencing life alongside Amber and Will. Of course, this is a romance novel, so the ever-looming question prevalent in most romance novels is,
“Will they stay together forever or was it just a fling?”  I thought of at least a dozen endings to this story, but Burton went above and beyond in her storytelling, tying things up with a little bow on top of the whole package.

This is the 14th book in the Play by Play series. We have several of the books in our library holdings.  Most of the titles are available on Hoopla.

Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren

Book- Troubled Waters is the fourth installment in the amazing, Montana Rescue Series.  The story starts out with a forest fire, which sends the PEAK rescue team into action. Through unfortunate events, the chopper is damaged and in need of help of former PEAK member, billionaire Ian Shaw. PEAK member Sierra convinces him to  have a fundraising junket on his yacht, the Montana Rose. Despite having been built on a steep budget, the luxurious yacht has never actually sailed.  During its first trip out to sea when a series of rogue waves rock the ship – everyone is hurled overboard. Who will survive, and if so, how? If given a new lease on life will opportunities be seized, and the perspective that life is too short for petty issues, be realized?

Susan May Warren strikes again with yet another winner. I found Troubled Waters somewhat more “churchy” than the others in the series, but nevertheless compelling. Her way of storytelling describes experiences with great detail, and to a such degree that readers feel as though they themselves experience what the characters do.I was chilled to the bone when the crew went overboard! I eagerly await the next book in the series, Storm Front, due out this June.

Talk to the Paw by Melinda Metz

Book- Jamie is a grade school history teacher, who has had many poor relationships in the past. This year, it’s all about her! Jamie is determined to use the money gifted by her recently deceased mother.  She packs up her apartment and moves to California with her cat MacGyver (Mac). Jaime isn’t interested in the nephews, dentists, or grandsons the nosy neighbors keep trying to get her to date. She is more interested in trying new things like surfing, acting classes, talking to street vendors, and photography to name a few. She is making new friends in her new community, including a quirky Hollywood set designer, baker, TV series actor, and a cranky teenage girl.

MacGyver has other plans. He is determined to find Jamie a pack mate. Living as the superior-being that he is, he knows what she needs and figures out an escape route in the new house. He travels the neighborhood taking items with strong scents (of various types) and gifts them to particular people in need of said items.

This book is a fun easy read, told mainly from Jamie’s point of view, however, MacGyver gets his say as well. Being a crazy cat lady myself, I thought this book was a creative way to tell a story. I highly recommend Talk to the Paw if you are looking to sit back and giggle here and there through a pleasant storyline.

Shatter Me Series by Tahere Mafi

Book – A thrilling fantasy novel set in a dystopian society where the outbreak of disease is wiping out the population, and the remaining are left starving.  The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. The Reestablishment promises to fix the crumbling society but the threat of war lingers in the air for any who attempt to rebel against the powerful organization.  In this mess of a world, we meet Juliette.  Juliette was taken from her home and imprisoned by the Reestablishment.  Juliette has a gift, or rather a curse.  Her touch can kill.  The last time she reached a hand out to someone, he died.  She’s never experienced the comfort of being embraced in her mother’s arms, never known the love of family, a friend, anyone.  The Reestablishment wants to use her as a weapon, but Juliette swears she will never hurt another person.  But Juliette must make a decision on which side to stand on–to be a weapon with the Reestablishment, or a warrior fighting for the rebels.

A blend of romance, fantasy, and rebellion, I highly enjoyed this series.  Juliette’s gift is so interesting to learn about.  Initially, we meet her as a prisoner who would rather die than hurt another person through her touch.  As the series unfolds, Juliette’s inner struggles lead her on a path she never expected.  I could never decide if I actually like the main character through her development across the series, though nonetheless enjoyed the story as a whole.  It reminded me of the X-men movies, which are definitely worth a watch.  There are currently three books in the series, and author Tahere Mafi promises three more, the first to arrive in March 2018.

 

 

Girls (2012)

TV Series – It seems to me that the TV series Girls has become an obsession in the world of millennials, and just in general.  It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of mid-twenties life that I’ve seen in a television show.  Sure, certain aspects are clearly dramatized, as in any popular series, but it just feels real.

Lena Dunham stars as the main character, Hanna, but is also an executive producer, which is pretty impressive.  The series follows a group of budding adults: our starring character, Hanna, her best friend, Marnie, the bubbling Shoshana, and eccentric Jessa.  They each have such distinctive personalities; it’s fascinating to see how they change and grow as the seasons progress.  They’re in that phase of their lives where they’re cut off from their parents, struggling to pay rent, while also trying to maintain friendships, romantic relationships, and holding down jobs to support themselves.  The experiences can be crude, disturbing, and intensely sexual, but it’s also though-provoking and something good to reflect on.  It deals with difficult topics including: mental illness, drug use, sexuality and the daily struggles of life.

I turn to The Office when I need some comedic relief after watching Girls, which often makes me think too much about my own 20’s life.  It presents characters that feel like people I might know and provides a good example of how relationships change after college. I really enjoy this series as a whole.  As an added bonus, Adam Driver stars in the show, albeit as Adam, an often disturbed/disturbing love interest.  I adore Adam Driver as the angsty Kylo Ren, so it’s always a pleasure to see him on screen.

 

 

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Book–High school senior Desi Lee likes to have her life under control. With perfect SAT scores, high school popularity, and a great relationship with her goofy, Korean-drama-obsessed widower dad, Desi’s drive and methodical determination have gotten her almost everything she wants in life. The only thing she’s missing is a boyfriend. When she feels an instant connection with impossibly cool and handsome new student Luca Drakos, she decides to apply her scholarly single-mindedness to the project of snagging Luca. Using her father’s Korean drama formulaic romances as a template, she devises a step-by-step plan to win Luca over. Staged near-death experiences and contrived K-drama hijinks ensue.

I had mixed feelings about this book; Desi’s plans cause real harm to real (well, fictional-real) people and she is upfront about how bonkers her plans get. I found that this book was immensely fun if I didn’t take it too seriously, sort of like Korean dramas themselves, in fact. Desi is a charming, strong-willed protagonist with an out-of-whack moral compass who, without spoiling anything, gets off a bit too easy for some of the dangerous stunts she pulls. If you enjoy I Believe in a Thing Called Love, I recommend books by Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Book— Despite 26 crushes, Molly Peskin-Suso has never had a kiss or a  boyfriend. Her twin sister Cassie gets a girlfriend, her friends have boyfriends, even her two moms are getting married, but Molly has no one and obsesses about it, feeling awkward and left behind. Molly decides to do something revolutionary–rather than just crushing silently, she chooses to risk rejection and go after the boy she wants. The trouble is deciding which one. Will she go after Will, the cute, hipster-cool best friend of Cassie’s girlfriend, or Reid, the nerdy, so-uncool-it’s-almost-cool boy at her summer job?

While Molly is sometimes so boy-crazy that it’s suffocating to read about, she is a witty, engaging narrator who feels like a real teenager, complete with a Pinterest obsession and dialogue laden with tumblrspeak. Molly is chubby and suffers from anxiety for which she takes medication, situations which Albertalli portrays realistically and sensitively. This is a light, fun book with lots of diverse representation that’s perfect for summertime. The Upside of Unrequited will appeal to readers of John Green and Rainbow Rowell as well as those who enjoyed Albertalli’s Lincoln-nominated first book, Simon Vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda.

Beast by Brie Spangler

Book--Ever since the 6th grade, Dylan has been larger than other boys. Now at over 6 ft. tall, improbably hairy, and still growing, 15-year-old Dylan (called Beast by his peers) hides his face under hats and feels trapped in a body that doesn’t match his insides. When his school bans hats, Dylan walks off the edge of the school building and breaks his leg. He claims it was an accident. His orthopedist and his mother don’t agree. They send him to counseling for teenagers with self-harming tendencies, where he meets Jamie. Jamie is beautiful, smart, and funny, just the kind of girl that would impress Dylan’s friends. Because this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, Dylan starts to shed some of his shallowness and misogyny as he falls in love with her, and begins to let go of his anger at the world. However, when Dylan learns that Jamie is transgender (a fact that she told him when they first met, had he been listening), he freaks out and pulls away from her. Will Dylan be able to get over his knee-jerk transphobia and apologize to Jamie? Will she be able to forgive him? Will they get back together?

Of course they will. But reading about how is the whole fun of it. I really enjoyed reading about Dylan’s journey from crass and callow teenage boy to sensitive young man. Despite being a fairy tale retelling, Beast stands on its own. If you enjoy this one, you may also enjoy other LBGT classic story retellings aimed at young adults (yes, this is a whole genre) such as Ash by Malinda Lo (retells Cinderella), Great by Sara Benincasa (retells The Great Gatsby), and As I Descended (retells Macbeth).