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Many Kinds of Magic

                    When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find                   their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of          Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative.            There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be            different, and it will affect them in ways they could never predict. From the                mundane to the profound….
              There are many kinds of magic, after all. -Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus)

Hi! Thanks for joining me for my literary rants. Let me tell you a bit about myself.

First of all, I’m a nerd. A huge nerd. Like, a Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering,  quote-Firefly-and-proudly-call-myself-a-Browncoat nerd. I’m also a voracious reader, a homeschool mom, and an introvert. I’m more than a little awkward, and I express myself better in writing.

I’ll read pretty much anything, with the exception of romance novels. Sadly, I’m bereft of any sense of romanticism. I tend to gravitate towards fantasy, YA, and sci-fi, but I’ve been branching out more into nonfiction lately.

Because I homeschool two book loving little goobers, I’m also pretty up-to-date on children’s books, so I’ll discuss those here from time to time as well.  Honestly, I’d read picture books anyway, but having kids is a good way to browse the children’s section at the bookstore without getting too many weird looks.

I absolutely LOVE hearing bookish opinions and reading suggestions from other people. If you read a review and think it’s total bunk, tell me so. Tell me why. If you agree, props are good too. More than anything, I want to connect with other readers. Join me in discussion and let’s have some literary fun!

* On Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB
*Browsery app: Witty and Sarcastic BookclubMany Kinds of Magic

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Firefly Book Tag

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I thought I’d try my hand at a my own book tag, for the first time. Of course it has to be Firefly-related, to make my nerdy heart happy. So… take me out to the black, tell ’em I ain’t coming back!

Malcolm Reynolds- A Book with a Conflicted Character

“Mercy is the mark of a great man.” (stabs defeated opponent) 
“I guess I’m just a good  man” (stabs opponent again)
“Well…I’m alright.”
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The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman: Tanis is a very conflicted character. He’s often at war with himself, just like Mal. He’s also in a leadership role and feels that weight immensely.

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Zoe- A Book With a Hardcore Female Character:
Mal: “Well, look at this! Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?”
Zoe: “Big damn heroes, sir!”
Mal: “Ain’t we just.”

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake: Each of the three queens is strong in her own way, although at the moment Katharine (the poisoner queen) comes to mind.

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Wash- A Character or Book With a Good Sense of Humor:

“We’re all doomed! Who’s flying this thing?! Oh right, that would be me. Back to work.”

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Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

This book is so stinking funny, and its sequel is even better. I love clever humor and this book has it in spades.

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Jayne: A Violent Book or Character
“You know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I go get and beat you with ’til ya understand who’s in ruttin’ command here.”

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown
One of the many things I love about this series is that no character is safe. The body count builds rather quickly. When revenge turns into revolution, things tend to get messy.

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Kaylee- An Optimistic Book or Character:
Mal: “I don’t think there’s a power in the ‘verse that can stop Kaylee from being cheerful. Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.” 
Kaylee:  “I love my captain.”

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The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky:
Okay, hear me out on this one. This book deals with some incredibly heavy subjects. It makes me cry every time (and I reread this one a lot), but it ends on a feeling of hope. I can’t really explain it. If you read it, you’ll get what I mean.

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Inara: A Book or Character that’s mysterious:
Mal: “How’s business?”
Inara: “None of yours.”

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: One of the many things I love about this book is the air of mystery and impossibility of the Cirque Des Reves, as well as the characters.

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Shepard Book- A Book or Character involving faith
“You don’t fix faith. Faith fixes you.”

Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman: I don’t read a lot of faith-based books, just my Bible. But this book really resonated with me.

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Simon Tam- A Book or Character that’s highly intelligent:
” I don’t care what you’ve done, I don’t know what you’re planning on doing, but I’m trusting you. I think you should do the same. ‘Cause I don’t see this working any other way.”
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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford-English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

This book is fascinating, and I definitely learned some things while reading it. Who knew the dictionary had such an interesting beginning?

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River Tam: A Book or Character that’s a bit creepy:
“Also, I can kill you with my brain.”

Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobsky:
I’m about two thirds of the way through this book, and I can honestly say it’s given me the wiggins. I am loving it so far.

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Well, that’s it for my first attempt at a book tag. If you want to try it with your choices, please be sure to tag me as the creator. I’d love to see what you come up with!

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick-a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the sould of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.

But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills-and could cure Jetta’s too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.

But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined-…

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Book of Dave by Peter Lingard- ARC Review

Dave Wilson is a London barman who, in late December 1995, sifts through telephone numbers accumulated during the year. Each chapter tells the story behind one number. He joins a band of people who wear pink underwear every Friday, goes to sea in a collier, helps a client sell his invention, takes a sick woman to hospital and has other adventures. He becomes friendly with a less than honest policeman, and flies to New York where he falls for an unobtainable woman. There are stories of Christmas parties and egotistical celebrities. Humour weaves through this collection of slices from different lives. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review. This will be available for purchase on July first.

First: I loved the idea for this book! Having several stories all told from the point of view of a barman in a pub is such a clever idea. There’s so much that could be done with that. Really, the sky’s the limit (literally; there could be a story involving a pilot; but I digress). The thing is…this book didn’t deliver.

In the beginning of the book, you see Dave- the main character- going through receipts, napkins, etc, that he’s gotten while working at a pub over the years. The book continues by detailing where each number came from. The numbers themselves come from an array of characters: a less-than-moral cop, a woman on a train to Scotland, a member of the PUFFS (Pink Underwear For Friday) club. But, still, the book didn’t go anywhere.

The problem is, Dave isn’t likable at all. He thinks with only one head, and it isn’t the one on his shoulders. It felt very cliche to have a main character whose sole goal in life was to hook up. There were so many excellent set-ups too, but ninety percent of them just turned into a story detailing the beginning of a short-lived relationship. For example, there’s a story in which he rides with a sick woman to the hospital–which turns into a hookup. In another story, Dave meets Captain Sam, a woman who runs a ship—it turns into a hookup. See where I’m going with this? I kept getting distracted, thinking of all the std’s Dave probably had.

I was so disappointed because this book could have been so much and it just wasn’t. The writing style is solid, but the descriptions were lacking (how many times can you mention a woman’s curvy calves or cleavage without it getting old?), and it just wasn’t for me. I do hope that Mr. Lingard continues to write, but I doubt I’ll read anything of his in the future.

One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence- ARC Review

Ready Player One meets Stranger Things in this new novel by the bestselling author who George RR Martin describes as “an excellent writer.”

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this, in exchange for my honest opinion. This is available to purchase now.

This was one of those books that I didn’t hate, but I also didn’t love. The idea is solid, and I can understand why this book would be considered a gut-punch for some, but it just didn’t resonate with me. It’s kind of a bummer, because I was so excited to read it.

I honestly think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a full-length book. It really was too short for me to get all that invested in the characters. I do love the D&D angle (I happen to play myself), but I don’t think it was explored as well as it could have been.

The biggest strength in this book is the author: man, Mark Lawrence can write! However, it wasn’t quite enough to pull me from a “meh” reaction to a “holy guacamole” one. That being said, the shorter format might work better for others than it did for me.

It was a worthy effort, but it fell a little flat.

Mental Illness Awareness Week 2019: Bookish Opinions

**This post discusses mental illness and might include something upsetting. Please continue at your own discretion.**

Here’s the thing: I live with mental illness. Along with many, many others, I don’t often talk about it. Why? Stigma. It’s hard to talk about something that is often belittled or disbelieved. Over the years, I’ve gotten some seriously odd (and at times, harmful) comments regarding my bipolar. But I’ve realized something: there is absolutely no reason for me to feel ashamed or embarrassed by my mental illness. Yes, sometimes I am fighting a battle with myself. But I’m fighting, which I think I should be proud of.

Being me, I have several books that I’ve read over the years that portray mental illness in a way that helps me. Here are a few of them. And please know this: if you struggle with mental illness, you are not alone. You are not lesser than. You are not a burden. Not ever.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini : inspired by Ned Vizinni’s own mental hospital stay. It discusses suicide, depression, and finding hope.

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“People are screwed up in this world. I’d rather be with someone screwed up and open about it than somebody perfect and ready to explode.”
Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkoski : Written by the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, these emails and poems discuss depression, drug use, faith, and accepting help.

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You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.There is still some time to be surprised. There is still some time to ask for help. There is still some time to start again. There is still some time for love to find you. It’s not too late. You’re not alone. It’s okay –whatever you need and however long it takes- its okay. It’s okay. If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here. If you feel too much, don’t go. There is still some time.”  -Jamie Tworkowski, If You Feel Too Much

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison : Jamison’s autobiography is incredibly uplifting because, not only did I completely relate, but she is a talented mental health professor despite (because of?) her illness.

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I have seen the breadth and depth and width of my mind and heart and seen how frail they both are, and how ultimately unknowable they both are. – Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chobsky: This beautiful book discusses ptsd, depression, possible unspecified mood disorder, and drug use.

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So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.- Stephen Chobsky, Perks of Being a Wallflower

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher: talks mainly about bipolar disorder.

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“One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside). At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” 
― Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking


Are there any books that you feel portray mental illness well? What are they? I’d love to get a list going!

 

The Furies by Katie Lowe- ARC Review


This harrowing debut is the story of a girl trying to fit in, whose obsessive new friends and desperation to belong leads her to places she’d never imagined…dark, dangerous, and possibly even violent.

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on her boarding school’s property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. What happened to her? And what do her friends know? To find out, it is necessary to go back to the beginning.

The school is Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school located in a sleepy coastal town, with a long-buried grim history of 17th century witch trials. A new student, Violet, joins the school, and soon finds herself invited to become the fourth member of an advanced study group, led by the alluring and mysterious art teacher Annabel.

Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals, and that they are just mythology. But the more she tries to warn the girls off the topic, the more the girls start to believe that magic is real and that they have the power to harness it.

Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this addictive new world. But when she comes to learn about the disappearance of a former member of the society, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled in her newfound friendships.

Was it suicide, or a foul play more sinister? How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another? (taken from Amazon)

                    Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on October 8th.

**Be aware: there is a theme that could be very upsetting. I have mentioned it below in the vaguest way I could, but please read at your own discretion.**

Dark and unsettling, this was a hard book for me to read. In fact, I almost gave up on it. Sexual assault was a driving force in this book , and that’s something I try to avoid reading at all costs. I only finished because I felt that I owed it to the author to provide feedback for their pre-release. Now that I’ve written that, let me rush to add that I am going to do my absolute best to separate my distaste for parts of the book, and focus on it as a whole.

This book felt to me like it was going for a Virgin Suicides-meets- The Craft vibe. Violet wants desperately to find a group of friends, a fact that is noticed- and exploited by Robin- a girl who is on a headlong rush into disaster. This book explores the depths some people can fall to when love, lust, revenge, hurt, and loss collide.

Although there’s nothing incredibly new about the plotline, the story itself is well-written and hard to escape, if that makes sense. Part of what makes this book so disquieting is that there is no good guy to cheer for, and no redemption for any of the characters at all. Don’t go into this expecting a quick, fun mystery with a hook.

Aside from the unexpected and unwelcome impetus, my big complaint would be the ending. Throughout the book the author did a very good job of drawing things to a breaking point, then pushing them a little further. However, the ending felt rushed and didn’t fit in with the rest of the book at all.

This book was disturbing and thought-provoking: if that was the author’s intention, she succeed magnificently. However, if I had known before starting this book that there would be a theme of assault, I would not have read it. So…I guess the verdict is: this book is one to read if you like things on the harsher side. For me- I wish I’d skipped it.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman


Imagine if the show Stranger Things focused more on the Upside Down. Picture the sense of growing desperation when those meant to protect people from The Gray are unable to do so.  Add a group of town Founders who are definitely not what they seem, and teens with uncanny abilities, and you’ve got the perfectly creepy cocktail that is The Devouring Gray.

After the unexpected death of her sister, Violet Saunders and her mother move to the small town of Four Paths. There, she learns of The Gray- and the horrible monster that lives there. She also finds out things about herself that she hadn’t known before, things that are a wee bit unsettling, to say the least.

Along with Justin Hawthorne, Isaac Sullivan, and Harper Carlisle, children of the founding families with secrets of their own, Violet is thrown into the midst of a violent struggle against The Gray.

This book was eerie fun! It’s familiar enough that there’s no exposition necessary, (family member dies, teen dragged to small town), but different enough to be engaging. In fact, halfway through I realized that I didn’t want to put it down. 

The characters were all interesting, and each had their own separate issues they were dealing with, which meant that none of them was superfluous. I would love to learn more about Isaac; I feel like there’s a lot more to him just waiting to be revealed.

Another fantastic thing about this book is the angst was kept to a manageable level (on a scale of 1- Toby Mcguire’s Spiderman, it was about a 4), and it focused on other types of relationships, making the story much more three-dimensional. By the end of the book, I got annoyed any time I had to pause to rejoin the real world.

This is a creepy, fun book that’s absolutely worth reading. I suggest picking it up the next time you’re at the bookstore. 

Have you read this? What did you think?

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

This book was fantastic! Steeped in Norse mythology, and utterly creeptastic (add that to your vocabulary: if “fleek” can be a word,  “creeptastic” can be too), this was just what I needed .

Martha senses things about people just by touching their clothes. It started after she fell out of the twisted tree at her Mormer’s (grandmother’s) house, and became blind in one eye. Trying to get answers for this disturbing development from the one person she suspects might know something about it, she runs away to see Mormer- only to learn that she’s dead and that a teen boy has been living in her house.

The book quickly picks up an incredibly eerie atmosphere: out in the middle of nowhere with a huge storm coming, something outside (a wolf- or worse?), ghosts inside, and questions that need answering,  Martha has to face the truth of the Twisted Tree and…

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Evil Queen by Gena Showalter- ARC Review

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Far, far away, in the realm of Enchantia, creatures of legend still exist, magic is the norm and fairy tales are real. Except, fairy tales aren’t based on myths and legends of the past—they are prophecies of the future.

Raised in the mortal realm, Everly Morrow has no idea she’s a real-life fairy-tale princess—until she manifests an ability to commune with mirrors.

Look. See… What will one peek hurt?

Soon, a horrifying truth is revealed. She is fated to be Snow White’s greatest enemy, the Evil Queen.

With powers beyond her imagination or control, Everly returns to the land of her birth. There, she meets Roth Charmaine, the supposed Prince Charming. Their attraction is undeniable, but their relationship is doomed. As the prophecy unfolds, Everly faces one betrayal after another, and giving in to her dark side proves more tempting every day. Can she resist, or will she become the queen—and villain—she was born to be? (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available to purchase on June 25th.

This is going to be one of those blog posts that is a mixed bag. The premise was original, in that it’s Snow White’s nemesis that’s a bit reluctant to take up her expected role as as the villain. I also haven’t read many fairy tale adaptations that take place in both “the real world” (I write that in quotes because the way the real world was written felt off to me), and the fairy tale world.

The premise is what worked for me. The rest…not so much. The characters felt very one-dimensional to me, like they were archtypes of a CW show. There was the snotty ex, the prom queen, the popular good girl that everyone likes, and the misunderstood outcast. I found it very difficult to care about any of the characters at all.

The writing didn’t work for me. I’m just too enamored by words. So, when something unexpected happened to the main character (Everly), and the book just said, “reeling” in italics, it really irritated me. I would have preferred something along the lines of, “the news sent me reeling,” just as an example. A full thought, as opposed to a quick word,  would have worked much better for me.

The dialogue felt very over the top and unbelievable to me, and the very long random explanations given throughout the first bit of the book caused the story to seem very stop-and-go. I never ended up invested in the story.

Ultimately, while it had potential, this book simply did not deliver. However, I could be just too much of a grammar nerd to appreciate the dialogue and writing style. While this book wasn’t for me, this is just one person’s opinion. I believe that Showalter is very popular author, but this book just wasn’t my thing.

Conversations with Wilde: A Fictional Dialogue Based on Biographical Facts by Merlin Holland- ARC Review

Renowned for his endlessly quotable pronouncements, Oscar Wilde cut a dashing figure in late Victorian London … until his tragic downfall resulting from an ill-judged libel action. We remember him not only for his famous trial and imprisonment, but also for a “devil’s dictionary” of timeless aphorisms and for the enduring brilliance of plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest.

Wilde’s life resembles his early short story, “The Remarkable Rocket”, which, rising from nowhere in a shower of sparks, explodes and falls to earth, exclaiming as it goes out, “I knew I should create a great sensation.” Merlin Holland expertly traces the arc of his illustrious ancestor’s life, from his birth in Dublin in 1854 as Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, to a brilliant career at Oxford University where his reputation for dandyish wit was first honed, through to his conquest of the drawing rooms and theatres of fashionable London, culminating in disgrace and imprisonment at the hands of the Marquess of Queensberry in the most notorious libel trial in English history. Wilde died in penury and obscurity in 1900, yet his reputation today has never been greater.

This engaging and innovative short book features a concise biographical essay on Wilde’s meteoric career, followed by a Q&A interview based on Wilde’s own words and Merlin Holland’s unrivalled knowledge of his grandfather’s life, work and puckish observations. This sparkling biography does full justice to Oscar Wilde’s writerly genius and irrepressible humanity. It offers readers a renewed appreciation for a man who at times scadalised his era as much as he delights our own. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available to purchase on June 11th.

I was interested in this book for two reasons: First, I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray. Second, the idea of a fictional conversation with Wilde is fantastically original. The closest to that setup I’ve read is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, which I really enjoyed, and of course there’s no biographical angle with that.

This book was so much fun! Oscar Wilde was larger than life in many ways, which Holland conveyed with ease. During the course of this book, I realized that I knew far less about his life than I thought. Despite his levity, Oscar Wilde’s life was tragic in many ways.

What set this apart from many other biographies is the sense of fun the entire book had about itself. It really did feel like an interview over cigarettes. I would gladly read more books written in this style by this author.

At less than 200 pages, this books can easily be read in an afternoon, but the facts thrown in, combined with the engaging conversational feel will keep you thinking about it long after you finish the last word. I definitely recommend this fun fact-based fiction.