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Book Recommendations Jan/Feb 2024

I started this as a reminder to my forgetful self about which books I'd read and what I thought about them. I hope you find it useful.

Fourth Wing was hailed as the romantasy of the year. Fourth Wing is Harry Potter as a soldier with dragons. A rather wimpy girl (Violet) is forced by her mother (a general) to enter a war college and become a dragon rider. Generally, I'm not a fan of books with dragons in them, but I made an exception for this one. It covers just about every trope in the romance/fantasy genre. Wimpy girl becomes a badass: Check. Romantic triangle: Check. Brooding, possibly murderous hottie: Check.

The Last of the Moon Girls Lizzy Moon never wanted Moon Girl Farm. Eight years ago, she left the land that nine generations of gifted healers had tended, determined to distance herself from the whispers about her family’s strange legacy. So of course, she must return or there wouldn't be a story. In the course of this book, she reconnects with her gifts, tries to clear her grandmother's name, and connects with a hot guy from her past. As a gardener and amateur herbologist, I found this book absolutely charming. Well-developed characters and descriptions of places and situations were icing on the cake. In the end, I wanted to be Lizzy Moon.

Random in Death Anyone who knows me knows I have a thing about the In Death series. I've read them all. Eve Dallas is the kind of wise-cracking badass I want to be, and she's a homicide detective. Since I seem determined to mention hot guys, yes, her husband Roark is a hot guy. As always, JD Robb (Nora Roberts) does it best. Characters who, by now, need no introduction or description, are still described well enough for the first time "In Death" reader to see them in her (or his) mind's eye. The plot, while obvious, is nonetheless intriguing, as is the way Dallas works through it, and draws the reader in. Get hooked.

Parable of the Sower I've felt for a long time I should read Octavia Butler, and a recent article on this book tempted me. When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. . .

Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.

The book felt a bit too religious for my liking. I related to the story, however, because there is so much dystopian stuff going on in the real world right now. Our 2024 hasn't become the 2024 Butler created, but it's too close for comfort. I recommend the book to anyone pondering climate change. That being said, I was not tempted to read the next book in the series to find out what happened.

Prophet Song is particularly relevant given the current global situation: Ukraine, Gaza, and the fractured politics of the USA. The winner of the Booker Prize 2023, Prophet Song presents a terrifying and shocking vision of a country sliding into authoritarianism and a mother’s fight to hold her family together. I kept reading to find out what happened, however, the storytelling is told in a stream-of-consciousness style that I did not like. I also did not find the narrator particularly believable in her desire to stay so long in a country where her children were in danger. (She has multiple opportunities to leave and refuses.) That said, I had to keep reading, which says something.

Friend in the Dark is about a digital romance that turns deadly. This book was one of the free books you get every month if you're a Prime member; it was the best choice, but I wouldn't have bought it. If you're looking for a book to read when you finish a book and haven't decided on your next great read or you want a distraction that you don't have to think much about (both in my case), Friend in the Dark fills the bill.

Queen of Heka I had to reread the proof copy, and I found I still liked what I'd written. If I can't give my own book 5 stars, who can? If you're interested in a timeless love story and ancient Egyptian gods playing a game of thrones, this book is for you.

The Fortune Seller Middle-class Rosie Macalister has worked for years to fit in with her wealthy friends on the Yale equestrian team. But when she comes back from her junior year abroad with newfound confidence, she finds that the group has been infiltrated by a mysterious intruder: Annelise Tattinger, a talented tarot reader and a brilliant rider. Fortune Seller is a very dark coming-of-age story.

This book kept popping up in my recommendations with comparisons to The Cloisters, another dark coming-of-age story with hints of Tarot. I loved The Cloisters and I'm quite interested in Tarot, so I bought it. The Tarot bit was fairly ho-hum and seemed almost tacked on. The story might have been just fine without it. The interactions between the women, the bits about horses, and the class differences made it all worthwhile.

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