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A review by DionMage 

"Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

This is one of those books that I have had on my bookshelf for years. My husband has repeatedly told me to read it and the glowing reviews have told me I SHOULD READ IT. So guess what? I finally read it and in ONE SITTING! I say this as I am an insanely slow reader, have young children and my focus tends to go everywhere. So when I say it is a quick read (a whole 94 pages), it is a quick read!

I have been reading a lot for work lately, some of it light and some of it so hard to get through I have to read it several times to understand it. This book is definitely not like that. But it makes you think about yourself long after you have read it.

Dr. Spencer Johnson takes readers on a journey from three viewpoints. The characters are Sniff and Scurry, who are mice and are one view point, and then Hem and Haw, take the next two points of view and are people. The story takes place in a maze and the journey looks at change in lives, reaction to change and outcomes from the reactions. It helps us recognize the signs that change is coming. It does not tell us how we should react to it (we are all different people and must choose that for ourselves) but it does help us see what outcomes our reactions might have.

Guess what? I am going to say it too … you should read this book! Especially right now. For people who are working, and not working, how can you not pick up a book that is “An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life.” I would also recommend teens to read this book. It would be a great one to read at an early stage in your life and read it again several times thereafter!

A review by Athena

All Systems Red by Marth Wells

All Systems Red is a 2017 science fiction novella by American author Martha Wells. The first in a series called The Murderbot Diaries, it is followed by Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy, all under 200 pages. A security unit android that discovers that they are no longer constrained by the rules that govern all androids, Murderbot tries to steer clear of exasperating humans; thwart an interstellar powerful corporation that’s breaking some serious laws; and figure out its past, including why it’s named “Murderbot” in the first place.

These short installments are full of adventure, making them perfect for fast reads, intriguing storylines and compelling connections as Murderbot learns to empathize and relate to people and their own priorities, essentially learning what it means to be human in the process.

The best part of this fast paced series is that there is now a full-length novel starring this grumpy, media loving cyborg killing machine that might be one of the most human experiences you can have in sci-fi right now coming out and I can’t wait to read it! Network Effect comes out in May 2020. 

A review by McDonald

Julia by Michael Kluckner, 2018

I enjoy reading historical stories about real women who have had significant accomplishments in their lives. Michael Kluckner’s Julia is presented as a graphic, comic book style biography of Julia Wilmotte (Henderson) Henshaw (1869-1937). Julia and her new husband, Charles Henshaw, were drawn west from Montreal to Vancouver on a recommendation from their friend, Lord Stanley. The famous Stanley Park in Vancouver, bears Lord Stanley’s name. He recommended that there were tremendous opportunities to be found in Vancouver. 

Ahead of her time, Julia started writing pieces on music, theatre and literature for the Vancouver papers and soon developed a reputation as an intellectual and public speaker. Her resilience shone through in an 1897 speech to the National Council of Women. “ Every time we exercise our wills in small matters we develop them for good….our well-trained will power …must undoubtedly carry us triumphantly across the shoals and quicksands of trial.” Her husband, was not so enthused, and forbid her to use his name, as he felt it was humiliating and people would think he could not support his wife. So, she used a pen name! Julia Durham- her mother’s family name from Durham, England. In 1898 the novel , Hypnotized? was published.

Julia accompanied her husband to the mining towns of BC’s Kootenays developing another novel, but it was meeting another woman, Mary Schaffer and her husband that provided a focus for more serious work inspired by the botanical work of the Schaffers. Mountain Wildflowers of Canada was published in 1906. Mrs. Henshaw was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for her botanical research in the Rocky Mountains and on Vancouver Island.

By 1910, Julia’s weekly writings and strong opinions were upsetting the Conservative elite and she lost her writing position. 

Julia was very active in the IODE- Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire. British to the core! In the fall of 1915, the IODE wanted to support a war-related project of providing every Canadian serviceman overseas with a present at Christmas. The Sir Sam Hughs made her a Captain, and she was appointed as a commissioner of the National Service Committee. This took her overseas to visit the front lines and see the devastation to lives, visit field units and tour factories to explore the war efforts. Again, her resilience shone through, saying “We must carry on…”  But despite  Julia’s success raising funds and educating the public, times changed and so did her work. She received many medals for her wartime work and reunited with her husband in Vancouver in 1919.  Julia W. Henshaw died in 1937 at the age of 69, and is buried in Vancouver's Mountain View Cemetery.

Her strongly expressed views of women’s roles, of racial and class issues and of her contrasting views of Canada and Great Britain as compared with the USA, set her apart from her contemporaries.

Julia is Michael’s third graphic novel. He currently lives in Vancouver, and volunteers as the President of the Vancouver Historical Society.

A review by Beehut

Home Front Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

This a story of two women, pen pals, that found each other under the guidance of the 4H during the Second World War. A time when the world was uncertain and the drudgery of - when will it be over so we can get back to normal. 

Rita is in her early forties lives in Iowa and Glory is in her twenties and lives in Massachusetts. Each of these woman from different backgrounds has loved ones overseas. The story describes their discovery of unknown personal strength as they manoeuvre through this time in history. 

Gloria learns from Rita to garden and they share recipes (which are included) with limited supplies. They each become advocates for others in their surroundings. They give guidance to one another as they deal with others in their lives past and present.

There friendship grows into a trust where they share their deepest secrets and support one another. There is joy and sorrow as they endure their situations. This is a story of strength, love and friendship. 

Susan Hayes lives in North Branford, Connecticut and Loretta Nyhan in Chicago. 

A review by Hershey

"The Girls With No Names” by Serena Burdick

The story takes place in 1910 in New York City. It’s a tragic story involving the House of Mercy, which was a religious institution for “wayward girls”. It tells the life story of three girls, two of whom are sisters. The cultural expectations of women and their powerlessness are all explored. Family dynamics and the power of family love and friendship influence the outcomes of these girls’ lives. A great read!

A review by McDonald

Chasing the Wind by C.C.Humphreys. (2018).

This book focuses on Roxy Loewen, a female pilot in the 1930s. Life was not easy in those years and money was hard to find. Roxy felt her plane was the last remaining attachment she had to her overly indulgent, caring father whose debts and debtors caught up with him. She used her plane to run guns in Spain and Ethiopia, but became involved in a deal involving rare art and the passion for this rare art by Hitler and Goering during the 1936 "Hitler Olympics" in Berlin. These good times did not last. Roxy's nemesis, Sydney Munroe, an American and the man who pushed her father to commit suicide to evade his debts, is a man with much money and a lot of greed. He also wants the rare painting desired by Goering as a gift for Hitler. Culminating with a 1936 one-way trip on the famous blimp, the Hindenburg, Roxy uses her wit and wisdom and her network of female pilots to overcome her adversities.

This is a fast-paced historical fiction novel with a smattering of well-known people, events and places. This is an interesting story, with a twist - focusing on a female pilot during the 1930s.

C.C. Humphreys lives on Salt Spring Island, one of the Gulf Islands off the west coast of Canada.

A review by Pinklace

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a thriller set in Iceland. (Book one in the Children's House series. ) A woman is murdered in her own home. The only witness is her 7 year old daughter. Detective Hudar, newly promoted leads the investigation. He asks Freyja who works with traumatized youth at he Children's House for help. There are secrets from the past and clues from the killer. Will they be able to work together and solved the crime before the killer strikes again? Steady pace, dark, disturbing, complex, satisfying, suspenseful start to finish. Enjoyed it so much I am on book three.

A review by McDonald

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini (2019)

This historically sound and exceptionally relevant novel is centred on Mildred Fish, graduate student from Wisconsin who moves with her new husband, Arvid Harnack, a German economist, to the thriving cultural city of Berlin in the mid-1930s. Life was good- but the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party power and the deterioration of human rights, strengthen her resolve to stay in Germany. A group of women, including Martha Dodd, the US Ambassadors daughter, Greta Kuckhoff, a mother and author, and a Jewish literature student, Sara Weitz  risk their lives, and in fact gave their lives, to do what they believe is right- to gather intelligence and  bring down the Third Reich. This novel is based on actual events.The Harnack Resistance cell was detected and taken down with fatal consequences. This ordinary group of women were determined to resist evil, fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

Mildred Fish Harnack is honoured on September 16th as" the day Wisconsin remembers the Milwaukee woman who holds the tragic claim as the only American woman executed on direct orders of Adolf Hitler".

This inspiring, well written story, shows what ordinary, determined women can accomplish in extraordinary times. A good read!

A review by Litldods

There is so much to love about Arthur Phillips' newest novel "The King at the Edge of the World". It is a historical fiction and transports the reader back to the Elizabethan era, a time when a person's religious beliefs could mean the difference between life and death. This is also a time when the arts became accessible to more of the population; music, painting and theatre were used to shape personal views and impression. Phillips harnesses this time of expression and uses it throughout the novel to build intrigue and mood. In my opinion, the addition of theatre and stage plots within the novel adds to its reliability as a historical fiction by creating a sense of realism and presentism.

Mahmoud Ezzedine, one of the main characters, finds himself quite literally forced into the lives and castles of Queen Elizabeth I of England and King James VI of Scotland. As a medical doctor, Ezzedine was a gift by the Turks with the intention that he might promote good health and establish relationships between England and the Turks in Constantinople. Later he is regifted by England to Scotland. One review online compares Ezzedine with Gulliver in "Gulliver's Travels". I think this is an accurate analogy because like Gulliver, Ezzedine is able to critique and relay an outsider's perspective on both English and Scottish society without being accused of choosing a side. It is for this reason that the ending of the novel doesn't make sense to me. It seems disjointed from the rest of the larger theme. Without giving too much away, if Ezzedine character represents a critical, impartial outsider, then there must be an ending corresponding with his implied role.

My second biggest critique of this novel is that a good portion of this novel is not about King James VI. The title implies a story about a king and I found more than half of the story was not about him but about England and the Turkish empire. King James VI is also a secondary and not well developed character, at least in my opinion. We learn about what he does, his daily routine, but not who he is and what his relationships are like. I wish the story between Matthew Thatcher and King James VI began earlier in the plot and we were able to delve a bit deeper into who he is, possibly even explore more about his relationship with his wife. For this reason I gave the novel 4 out of 5 stars.

Should you read this book? I think so. I was surprisingly intrigued by the plot and Phillips' writing demonstrates passion, research and experience. I also really love the cover!

A review by DionMage 

"The Earthquake Bird" by Susanna Jones

Starting "The Earthquake Bird" I was a little nervous in what to expect. This was a Christmas present I received this year and I always hesitate when it is a book I have not chosen. I usually read young adult books, science fiction or fantasy, which this book was neither. But, having lived in Japan I was interested to see how Susanna Jones depicted Japan’s society (from a foreign character’s point of view), it was only 200 hundred pages (I am an insanely slow reader) and I wanted to tell the person that had given it to me that I had read it!

Man, am I really happy that I did take a chance on this book! Dig into it I certainly did. Off went the TV in the evening (which we all know can be a little too inviting these days) and page after page seemed to fly by.

"The Earthquake Bird" is a dark mystery at it’s heart. The upper torso of a woman’s body (missing the arms and head) washes up in Tokyo bay and we find out right away that the character we are hearing the thoughts of is the main suspect in the murder. All of Japan seems to “know” that Lucy did it but we hear from Lucy’s thoughts that she is absolutely sure she did not. Or does she know that? So begins the story of Lucy’s childhood in England and of her time spent in Japan, the country she associates as her own, the place where she belongs. The layers of Lucy are unfolded throughout the story, her best friend, lover, small yet mysterious accidents that happen. When you do reach the end it really makes you feel like the story has been finished, but at the same time it makes you think, huh? Did I read that right? Is this how everyone feels about the ending?

I really loved having this story come from a foreigner’s point of view. Susanna Jones did a wonderful job at the pros and cons of living in a society where Lucy belongs, but is still an outsider. Jones’s description made me breath in and feel as if I could smell the mountain air in Japan, see the train stations, and taste delicious Japanese noodles. It is not a pretty and fluffy look at Japan, but one that felt real.
I would definitely recommend this book to people who enjoy a mystery. Not a fast passed, action packed mystery, but one that definitely wants to keep you reading to see what happens in the end. Also, for people that are interested in Japan, or have been there, I think that this would very much interest them. 

A review by Litldods

"A Song Below Water" by Bethany C. Morrow is new and upcoming YA novel (Expected publication date: June 02, 2020).

I honestly really loved this book and I think it is perfect for a YA audience. "A Song Below Water" is filled with themes of friendship, love and relationships mixed with a touch of magical realism. Effie and Tavia are as close as sisters can be and yet they each have unique qualities and interests. Their everyday lives are made even more challenging with the addition of magical powers as they learn to use them carefully amidst rolling and uncontrollable emotions. In their hometown of Portland, everyday people outnumber a handful of "unique" people with exceptional powers and abilities. Tavia is a siren. She is one of many who are required to keep their powers hidden because of the fear and prejudice against them. This is a novel about racism and sexism, but the through-line of social justice is subtle and interweaves well with themes of relationships and friendship. I think these are important topics and I was initially worried that this novel might be too heavy but it was actually quite engaging and upbeat.

The two main characters struggle through friendships, betrayal, love and family dynamics while remaining optimistically hopeful that something good will evolve after their efforts. And then there is the Gargoyle; who wouldn't love to have a Gargoyle keeping them safe and watching over them from a distance?

I think even adolescents who aren't into fantasy would still love this book. Effie and Tavia exist in more than just a fantasy world, their world is relatable to everyday life and the supernatural is weaved throughout a believable and complex plot. That is a challenge for every author who writes magical realism; it takes skill to make the unbelievable become ordinary and rational.

I would highly recommend "A Song Below Water" by Bethany C. Morrow. It is primarily aimed at adolescent readers but really it would be great for anyone who enjoys reading fantasy and novels bringing awareness to issues of social injustice.

I also want to thank Macmillan-Tom Doherty Associates and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review a copy of this book prior to publication.