Tuesday, February 10, 2015


In college I had a professor who encouraged me to free write a few hundred words whenever I finished reading something. Over time it's proven to be wise advice.

It's been a pretty diverse month over here at the Robison Reading Nook. We've got a superhero story, some introspective women's fiction, historical Biblical fiction, and a rom-com. Something for everyone!

ILLUSIVE (Emily Lloyd-Jones) is a young adult sci-fi/comic-bookish story that gives an alternate take on the current vaccination controversy (kidding, kidding, but kind of not kidding).
The premise:

"Once upon a time, there was a pandemic. It was a new strain of meningococcal disease. Named Meningococcas Krinotas - or simply the MK plague - it embodied the worst traits of both viral and bacterial meningitis. Because it was a virus, anticiotics had no effect, and the current viral vaccines were ineffective. The result was a disease that, when diagnosed, was always followed by a funeral."

So a doctor developed a vaccine, and that vaccine gave a small percentage of the population special "immunities" - like telepathy, perfect recall, increased intuition, levitation, and the ability to create illusions. And once the doctor saw what his vaccine could do, he destroyed it so prevent more "immunities" from manifesting. Those who have immunities (or, what I could call "super powers") are hunted down and recruited by the government and criminals in equal measure. ILLUSIVE bounces back and forth between an criminal and a fed.

This was a really fun book with a delightful and diverse cast of characters, plenty of action and solid platonic (refreshing) relationships. It also had one of the great character names I've ever come across: Kit Copperfield, a kindhearted criminal who kind of reminded me of Fagin from Oliver Twist, if Fagan had boatloads of money and fine taste in art.

(Note: The second book in the series, DECEPTIVE releases in July 2015)

FAR FROM HERE (Nikki Baart) was introduced to me as "Women's Fiction/Book Club Fiction" - a genre I'm not overly familiar with, but when I met Nikki it was obvious that she was a lady who has interesting things to say. She's a preacher's wife. She and her husband are founding members of a non-profit that works with orphans in Liberia. She writes fiction from a Christian perspective, but her multiple books don't appear in the faith-based section of the bookstore.

FAR FROM HERE is the story of a woman whose husband goes missing in the Alaskan wilderness, and what follows is a thought provoking series of events that raise questions without "right" answers (which is probably what makes it "book club fiction" - good discussion questions). How can others support someone in this sort of traumatic situation? (For example, the main character is annoyed by people bringing her endless casserole dish dinners that she has no appetite to eat, but is deeply touched by a neighbor who offers to mow her lawn). What is she willing to sacrifice to search for her husband (she is terrified of flying, but the only way to search is by air in tiny, tiny planes - identical to the one her husband was flying when he went missing). And, how does she balance holding out hope while still moving forward and functioning in her everyday life. Nikki's video is a great introduction to this book, to see if it might be for you.

FOOL ME TWICE (Mandy Hubbard) a young adult rom-com about a group of eighteen-year-olds in the summer between high school and college. They have killer summer jobs living and working on a luxury ranch, entertaining guests with rodeos, riding lessons, spa treatments, etc. There is an amazing girl-best-friends relationship. There's a prank war. And LOTS of horses! There's an elaborate plot to exact revenge on the boy who broke the narrator's heart the previous summer. I'm afraid to say too much because I don't want to give away any of the jokes. Funny is so hard to do. I appreciate it so much when it's done well.

FOOL ME TWICE is grounded in reality, but there is almost a playful/magical element to it where the rules of the real world don't quite apply (Confession: I have ~20% left; there may be another shoe yet to drop, but I didn't want to wait to recommend it). Oh, and since the story takes place in the state of Washington, I got a chuckle out of multiple Seattle Seahawks jokes. "Wilson Russell... NO, Russell Wilson." This is a fun, cheerful read. Especially if you're buried under 15+ inches of snow, like I currently am. It was the perfect dose of summer.

ISCARIOT (Tosca Lee) is historical Biblical fiction told in the first person narrative of Judas Iscariot. I was blown away by this book. Biblical fiction is something I'm typically a little wary of. I feel like it's important to recognize the line between entertainment and doctrine, between "I'm reading this for fun" and "I'm reading this to enrich my spiritual life." I'm not really in to the big Hollywood blockbusters of Bible stories. I didn't really dig The Red Tent (braces for onslaught because everyone else loves that book). I'd decided that Biblical fiction just wasn't really my thing until I met Tosca (who, by the way, might be the Most Interesting Woman in the World).

But I was so interested in the idea of a first person account from Judas's perspective that I dug in and in the end I felt both entertained and enriched. It's beautifully written and thoroughly researched. There's such care and tenderness in this story, spanning Judas's entire life, making it essentially a fictional autobiography. I highly, highly recommend this book - and I might suggest starting with the author's note at the end, where Tosca explains how this books came to be (and try this short, beautiful video; Tosca is good at videos). She's written three works of Biblical fiction - Judas, HAVAH (the story of Eve), and THE LEGEND OF SHEBA (the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon - check out her video for it here! Seriously, watch it). I CANNOT wait to read the others and can't recommend Tosca's work highly enough.

Upcoming Want to Reads: ANOMALY by Tonya Kuper, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, DOLL BONES by Holly Black, THE CONSPIRACY OF US by Maggie Hall, TRUST ME I'M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer, THE SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson