Category Archives: challenge

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water

I liked Girl On A Train. This new novel from Paula Hawkins is in the same style, writing from multiple points of view, but in my opinion she took it too far this time. There are way too many characters and plot lines. Also the book jumps between centuries, and sometimes it doesn’t seem to start and stop in the same place. The book is OK. I would recommend it, but be prepared to pay very close attention.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry

Murder on the Serpentine

A new (2017) book in the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series, this book finds our main characters on the cusp of many changes–worldwide and domestically. Written with the reliably steady hand of Anne Perry, the book captures and keeps your attention as the Pitts try to solve murder and mayhem at the Queen’s behest. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: A book published in 2017

How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards

How to Read a Dress

Lydia Edwards’ delightful new book, How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century is part fashion plate, part art book, and part historical text. Comprised of photos of about 100 surviving dresses – mostly from Europe, North America, and Australia – Edwards chronicles changes to hemlines, fabrics, sleeves, and undergarments between 1550 and 1970. In addition to describing each garment, Edwards also shows how home seamstresses were able to modify existing dresses to conform to changing styles. Edwards also discusses how women in rural Australia and North America adapted urban European silhouettes to fit local climates and conditions.

How to Read a Dress is the perfect guide for your next period piece movie marathon.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

Green: The Beginning and the End by Ted Dekker


I was I interested in reading Ted Dekker’s Circle series after learning that it can be read with Green as either the first or last book of the series. I started with Green because it was listed as “book 0” (and more importantly it was immediately available at the library). It is a fantasy that pits good against evil and takes place in both present time and the future (possibly after 4036 based on the prologue).

I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the book more with a different starting book or if I just didn’t like the book. I had trouble relating to the characters and their actions, this may be due to the ambitious premise of the book/series and relating actions in the other books. I’m not saying that the book wasn’t enjoyable at all; I enjoyed the connection between the timelines, the symbolism (I’m not literary enough to identify/understand it all, but it can be fun to think about), and some of the action. I will give the next book in the series (or maybe I should say the first book in the series) a chance because I still find the idea fascinating


Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended with reservations
Challenge: Book with a color in the title

Threads from the Refugee Crisis by Kate Evans

Threads from the Refugee Crisis

Threads is the firsthand report of Kate Evans, a cartoonist who volunteered in 2015 and 2016 in “The Jungle” of Callais– a refugee community that the author describes as the “Disunited Nations” because it houses refugees fleeing conflicts in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Cartoonist Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch out For & Fun Home) describes the form of Evans’ book as “comics journalism at its finest.” While most of the frames follow Evans’ as she meets people in the camp, other pages and chapters offer creative zoom-outs or zoom-ins on different aspects of crises hitting refugees hardest. She writes:

“To protect some of the people described in this book[,] their identities have been altered and some characters have been conflated. But everything you are about to read really happened.”

The effect of this formal choice is to create a multi-voiced and multi-perspective work that shows the humanity existing in the maddeningly destitute camps situated amidst one of the richest areas of the world. This in turn helps show how different “threads” of the refugee crisis make gordian knots or rapidly unravel (it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor) in ways that further oppress and traumatize people fleeing horrible violence. I especially appreciated the amount of this work that focuses on what people would see on the screen of a smart phone. Phones are interspersed across the pages showing twitter feeds of callous, cowardly internet trolls in the UK and across the world who are afraid of young orphans and those most traumatized by the 21st century’s worst conflicts, and whose fear is expressed through sickening rage (the conflicts, Evans reminds her readers, have been either instigated or exacerbated by American, British, and European colonialism, militarism, and economic woes. She notes that while we seem to have unending money to fuel the crisis, we can’t find any will to spend money to allay it).

Reading this beautiful book impacted me viscerally– at times it feels like you’re being gut punched by the stories and images– and other times furious at the cowardly tweets, the needlessly violent riot police, or the opportunistic politicians damaging the less fortunate to further their careers. Evans is hardly a neutral bystander. She screams at border police officers pinning a small child to the ground who tried to get to the UK: “You have an obligation to do your job in the most humane way possible!” Yet my fear in writing this review is that I’m making Evans’ book seem a mawkish, simplistic morality play where refugees=good and xenophobic Europeans and Americans=bad. It’s not that at all, though that’s not all that far off how this book ultimately made me feel. For one, it doesn’t portray the European volunteers as saints– they are at times incompetent and are uncomfortable walking the line between volunteering and embarking on “misery tourism.” The refugees themselves are not saints either, though Evans fiercely defends the refugees from all the racist, xenophobic slurs and logics that are so common in today’s political discourse.

Everyone should read this book.

Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Book from a small press published in 2017

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Golden Prey

If you are a fan of John Sanford’s first couple of Prey books, you will love Golden Prey. Lucas Davenport is back, now a US Marshall and on the hunt to find some men who robbed a drug cartel lord killing several people, including a 6-year-old girl. The cartel boss has sent hired assassins to find the killers and they will stop at nothing to find them. As the assassins torture and kill their way thru Florida and Texas, Lucas is hot on the trail. Throw in the element of modern technology and you have a classic Prey novel. It’s the best Sanford I’ve read in a while. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Availability: COSMOS
Reviewed by: Lynette Starke
Rating: Highly Recommend
Challenge: Book with a color in the title

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

A Dance of Cloaks

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish is the first book in the Shadowdance fantasy series. It primarily takes place in the city of Valdaren where there is a power struggle between the rich, the thieves’ guilds, and the king – each side has enough flaws that it is hard to sympathize with any of them. The plot is very complex with many (maybe too many) secondary and tertiary characters. The main character is Aaron Felhorn, the son of the Spider Thieves’ Guild leader; he is being groomed by his father to eventually lead all of the thieves’ guilds (despite the wishes of the other guilds).

Much of the “action” is in the scheming but there is also a significant amount of sneaking and fighting. Many of the characters are either incredibly skilled or cannon fodder, as such many fights are beat downs with little drama. Although it is a fantasy setting, there is limited use of magic (but significant when used).

Some would probably term the book “fast paced” due to the multiple characters, schemes, perspectives, and sub-plots; I thought it seemed more “jumpy”. I plan on reading the next book in the series because I’m curious what happens to the main character (and a couple of secondary characters), but I’m not sure if I will read the whole series.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: Written by someone under 30