A Monster Calls

Monster“An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor, featuring stunning artwork by Jim Kay. At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting— he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd— whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself— Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.”

This book holds a power to help those experiencing grief. Especially anyone who must face the gradual decline of someone they love. Anyone who is in a position where they feel powerless and can do nothing but hope. That limbo between sickness and death. The power of this book is how it helps those stuck in that limbo, which is something most people have no idea how to do.

I am recommending this book because I believe it has the power to heal beyond just those who are grieving. It has the power to help us understand and better accept ourselves as human beings. We all have emotions and sometimes they get the better of us. This story reassures us that sometimes that is okay. Sometimes that is best. That it doesn’t make us lesser people because we cannot fully comprehend our own feelings.

Interested in this book? Look for it at your local library. If you’re affiliated with Lindenwood, you can request this book from the Lindenwood Library.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Handmaid“The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population. The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood popped on my radar a few years ago when it was being adapted for television. I didn’t know much about it at the time and only learned a few tidbits before I decided to read the book. All I really knew was that the main character was a woman who was considered special because she could bear children in a world where that was supposedly rare, and that it took place in a dystopian future.

I recommend this book because it makes you think about society in various ways. This book is a bit more disturbing than others, but for a purpose, and I think it is disturbing because it is hitting close to home on many issues we see today. Issues that were probably more prominent in the 1980’s when the book was first written. It is meant to make you think. Not about some fictional future but of our current issues and our past. To make us look closely and see what we may have been previously ignorant of. Hopefully, it will expand your mind and let you see the world you live in a little more clearly. Hopefully, it will encourage you to help make the world a little better off than it currently is.

Interested in this book? Look for it at your local library. If you’re affiliated with Lindenwood, you can request this book from the Lindenwood Library.

Educated

Educated“Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent. When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.”

I believe this book is important is because it shows how education allows us to grow. It shows how important education is and how we can sometimes take simple things for granted. I’m not referring to just a formal education but any type of education. You don’t have to go to school to learn. You learn everywhere and can learn many things outside of school. Perhaps even more than what you receive attending classes. Tara’s decision and devotion to her studies is inspiring, yes, but that devotion stemmed from a yearning to better understand the world she lived in. She wanted to know about history and the lives of those who came before her. The more she learned the more she became appalled at her ignorance. She sought to learn everything that she had missed by not attending school earlier. Education allows us to shed prejudices and and better understand each other. Tara’s journey leads her to better understand herself. Both fortunately and unfortunately, it also leads her to better understand her family, and that is where her true battle lies.

I encourage you to journey alongside Tara as she grows up and begins her journey into the realm of academia. I would love to hear your thoughts about her experiences. Most of all, I hope you learn something from her story.

Interested in this book? Look for it at your local library. If you’re affiliated with Lindenwood, you can request this book from the Lindenwood Library.

Vicious

” Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. “

If you have ever read VE Schwab, then you know this is going to be a great story. This is a great magical realism/science fiction book that has quite a bit of action in it. It is sort of like a graphic novel, good guy vs. bad guy (if there is even a good guy between Victor and Eli) type without the graphic panels. While I love to read, I don’t come across many books where all I think about is the story. This was one of those books. Victor and Eli are left with odd powers after testing Eli’s thesis of near death experiences. But getting those powers cost them something great and now both characters are out to get each other.

This story is written like a puzzle and you get bits and pieces throughout the text. When everything starts falling in place and you can start to see the big picture, it is absolutely amazing. I believe there was one night I woke up from a deep sleep having deciphered something within the book. That is how great this series is, you dream about it. Schwab’s writing always hooks me, but this series is my favorite of theirs. Did I mention series? Yes! This is one of two books, so you know you have another story with Victor and Eli after this one. 🙂

If you are interested in reading this book and are part of the Lindenwood community, you can request a copy through MOBIUS. You can also check your local library!

The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons : the history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery / Sam Kean

” Early studies of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike–strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, horrendous accidents–and see how victims coped. In many cases their survival was miraculous, if puzzling. Observers were amazed by the transformations that took place when different parts of the brain were destroyed, altering victims’ personalities. Parents suddenly couldn’t recognize their own children. Pillars of the community became pathological liars. Some people couldn’t speak but could still sing. Sam Kean explains the brain’s secret passageways and recounts forgotten tales of the ordinary people whose struggles, resilience, and deep humanity made modern neuroscience possible.”

So this book took me almost an entire year to read and you might be thinking, well then I clearly didn’t like it, but that wasn’t the case at all. In truth, I am so used to reading fiction, that reading nonfiction was very refreshing, but it was time consuming. The material in the book was dense, but fascinating. I always wanted people to comment on the book when I was out and about with it, so that I could tell them whatever fascinating story Kean was explaining at the time.

I have recommended this book to many people throughout my year of reading it and I wanted to recommend it here as well. This book might take a while to get through if you are used to quick fiction stories like I am, but if you have any interest at all in understanding the brain, this is a perfect book to read. I didn’t even know I wanted to know about the brain until I started reading this book and then I was hooked. I wanted to know about the crazy experiments that have been done and gain a better understanding of how the different areas of the brain work. You never know when the information from this book will help you understand what is happening with a friend or loved one.

If this sounds like something you want to try out, check out The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons from our shelves today.

Kate Daniels Series

” When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it arose, leaving all kinds of paranormal problems in its wake. “

I am always looking for books that have that the hint of romance and fantasy piece and this series delivered. Kate is a strong female lead that has no problem working in a magically unpredictable world. Even when the romantic interest part joins the series, it doesn’t weaken her character, which was a relief.

The first book in the series might be a little confusing as the world building took a bit to adjust to, but once I understood the rules and how things worked, I flew through this series and each time I finished a book I couldn’t wait to start the next one. The nice part about the series though is that you don’t really have to read the next one in most cases. Each book is complete in itself, but does have an overarching villain that I was always curious about.

I think the author does a great job of building suspense and doesn’t rush into situations or conclusions of a particular story line. I would say that having read straight through everything that was listed as a main Kate Daniels’ story, I would recommend that you also read the supplemental material in the correct order. There were a couple of times where I felt I had missed something and having gone back and read some of the supplemental materials, it all comes together.

So if you are looking for something a little different and love fantasy with a hint of romance, I would say this is a great series for you.

Eye of the World

” The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. “

I had started this novel, The Eye of the World, when I was a senior in high school. I never finished it. It was not due to the quality of the book so much as I had so many other things to keep me busy, distractions to keep my mind moving rapidly, and other books to read. This November, I decided to return to this book and to complete the journey I had begun so long ago. I am glad I did.

While the main protagonist has the minor irritation of being whiny (often seen in some characters in anime) at times, there is much to recommend this book. Jordan has created a rich tapestry of characters set in a mythology that’s a cross between eastern and western myths, incorporating concepts from major religions as well (which fantasy nerds like myself totally geek out about). The story never seems to drag too much, and while the generalized chase motif is used, it doesn’t feel stale or plodding. If anything, the one flaw for me is the growth of Rand Al’thor, the main protagonist, doesn’t feel quite enough, at least when considering all he has gone through in the book (and beyond, as this trend continues into the second book). While stubborn is one of his traits, it seems to bend too far into unrealistic for me.

I won’t go so far as to say this is one of my all-time favorite series, at least not yet, and I doubt it will ever dethrone Tolkien as my favorite (I have yet to find one that has come close), but there is alot to like here. The magic in the world feels unique and cohesive, and the mythos Jordan creates feels full and deep, and lends itself to a world that stretches across many ages and has experienced many great events. The cultures all feel mostly unique, if not always as fleshed out as I would like at times. Perhaps this grows and changes as the series progresses, so I can’t completely hold that against the novel. Jordan is doing alot here, and sometimes too much detail too soon might detract from the story.

For those who haven’t read Jordan but are looking for a new author or series to check out, I would highly recommend it. My own opinion (and to some this will seem like blasphemy) is that the Wheel of Time series is superior to the Game of Thrones series, at least as fantasy series go. While Game of Thrones feels more like a political intrigue with a fantasy backdrop, the Wheel of Time feels far more grounded in fantasy and the magic that makes up the world. That is an aspect I highly appreciate and enjoy.