Book review: Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands, by Susan Goldman Rubin

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands. Chronicle, 2017. $17.99. 99p. ISBN 978-1-4521-0837-7. Ages 10-15. P7Q8

Although Lin was largely known as the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when she was in college, her work has gone far beyond that one project to such works as a library for the Children’s Defense Fund and the Museum of Chinese in America. Chapters divided into artists’ materials such as granite, water, earth, glass, and celadon (a type of pottery) each concentrate on a specific project and include the reasons and background for her designs. Black and white photos of Lin’s family accompany color images of her designs during and after completion.

Verdict: The book has a stiff feel but still has an inviting layout with large-print text and wide variety of illustrations, and is about an important Chinese-American woman. Also interesting is Lin’s description of how she fought to guarantee that her vision of the Vietnam Memorial was unchanged.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives, edited by Catherine Gourley

Journeys: Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives. Ed. by Catherine Gourley. Candlewick, 2017. $9.99. 226p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9578-1. Ages 10+. P3Q9

Selections from thousands of letters sent to “Letters about Literature” for Grades 4 through 12 sponsored by the 40-year-old Book of the Library of Congress reveals how “hearts are inspired and at times healed by the power of an author’s words.” The 52 entries are divided into three age groups which are each subdivided into Destinations, Realizations, and Returning Home. Each young author shows how reading has made a difference to them in highly poignant and personal ways. The editor has been national director for the program for 25 years.

Verdict: The thoughtful entries will probably be of more interest to adults than youths.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human, by Kay Frydenborg

Frydenborg, Kay. A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human. Houghton, 2017. $18.99. 246p. ISBN 978-0-544-28656-6. Ages 12-15. P7Q9

Biology, paleontology, genetics, anthropology, and social sciences blend in this exploration of how humans and canines have related throughout history to expand the development of both species. The author explodes past myths of the dog’s evolution from wolves and presents new studies of how long dogs have existed—over double the time that previously assumed—through an accessible explanation of radiocarbon. Chapters also include dog psychology, superstitions about wolves, health, and dog breeding.

Verdict: The fascinating information surrounding dogs’ connection to humans makes learning about science enjoyable.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Mars One, by Jonathan Maberry

Maberry, Jonathan.  Mars One.  Simon & Schuster, 2017.  ISBN 978-4814-6161-0.  $17.99.  448 pages.  Ages 12 and up.  Q9P8

A not-so-very futuristic novel where a group of candidates are chosen to colonize Mars.  When you pick up the book you think the novel is going to be about colonizing Mars, but it’s about the pressures faced by the people who have been chosen to go.  The training they endure and how much training they have to go through, from psychological to physical.  The book story highlights the “reality” the characters portray to their doting fans, and the moral question of whether we should colonize a planet when we cannot take care of the one we have.  The book also explores the psychological duress created by leaving loved ones behind and the pressure to be the first human to take a step on Mars.  What I like most about this book is also what I liked least: I picked up the book thinking the story would take place on Mars, when we only get to take the first step.

Google Mars One and there seems to be an actual project, or a very believable mock-up of this very idea.  I’m not sure which came first, the actual project, or the book.

Verdict:  Loved the detail behind the training, and what life would be like while traveling to another planet, that combined with the complexity of the social media world we live in and how it literally finances projects like this, makes this an eye-opening story.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Julia Defiant, by Catherine Egan

Egan, Catherine.  Julia Defiant. (Witch’s Child series, #2) Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.  ISBN 978-0-553-53335-4.  $17.99.  445 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  Q8P8

The second in the Witch’s Child series.  This book expanded on the story line of Julia’s talents and the mystery of her apparent value to others in power.  The setting changes to an Asian feel as Julia and her friends try to find the magician who cursed the little boy Julia betrayed in book 1. A new character is introduced – Julia finds a sneak thief who seems to be as talented as she is at going unnoticed without her ability to disappear.  Together they try to find the magician and in doing so move further along toward solving Julia’s own mystery.

Verdict:  A great second novel in the series. It kept me engrossed.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Julia Vanishes, by Catherine Egan

Egan, Catherine.  Julia Vanishes. (Witch’s Child series, #1) Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.  ISBN 978-0-553-52484-0.  $17.99.  375 pages.  Ages 14 and up.  Q8P8

A new spin on witches in a 19th century setting.  These witches have to write their spells for them to work.  Needless to say, all forms of writing and tools of writing have been banned.  Can you imagine?  I cannot, but thankfully Catherine Egan did.  Julia, the main character, is the child of a witch, yet isn’t a witch.  Julia has her own special ability to move between planes of existence and this ability makes her dearly sought after by the most powerful beings of all.  Julia finds herself friends and allies with her would be victims (she’s a thief) and finds herself on a journey of self-discovery to save a little boy she betrayed.

Verdict:  A great new twist on witches and their powers!  A fast-paced, fun to read book.  I look forward to the next book!

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Mask of Shadows, by Linsey Miller

Miller, Linsey.  Mask of Shadows. “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” Sourcebooks Fire, 2017.  ISBN 978-1-4926-4749-2.  352 pages. Ages 14 and up.  Q7P8

A very fast paced medieval-ish fantasy novel with a heroine/hero!  She/he is gender fluid and while this confused me at first, the author does an excellent job at keeping the gender neutral. The nature of gender fluidity works extremely well for the part played in the novel.  Sal is a trained assassin for the queen and can assume any character needed to be successful at the job.  We experience Sal’s training and successes as an assassin.  Included is a nongraphic romance between two people who love each other not for how they look or their gender, but for who they are.

I give a quality 7 because of the slight confusion caused by the gender fluidity (I’m not sure this could have been achieved in a more understandable manner) and because I found myself flipping back in the book to confirm facts the story was based on, but not explained sufficiently for me to understand.  Love the art work on the cover!

Verdict:  An exciting fantasy novel with a non-gendered spin to stretch our minds and help us understand and accept their differences.

October 2017 review by Terri Lippert.