The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Recently I saw a ripple of excitement across social media: a new Sarah Waters book was coming out soon!! I thought: who? Which was surprising to me, since, as a librarian, I like to think I’m pretty well caught-up on the popular authors of the day. But of course, no one person can read everything. Still, given how excited many of my friends were about the release of The Paying Guests, I figured I should probably try reading it.

I was a little disheartened when I picked up my hold on it and discovered that it was a very long work of historical fiction set in 1920s England. I’m one of few Americans who isn’t mad for Downton Abbey–it’s just usually hard for me to enjoy period dramas. But still, I decided to give The Paying Guests a try, and I’m so glad I did. It’s the story of Frances Wray, a spinster who lives with her mother. Her brothers died in the Great War, and her father died shortly after, and as a result, the Wrays have fallen on hard times and must take in boarders to make ends meet. Their neighbors refer to the boarders as “paying guests” to make it seem classier.

At first, Frances is determined to go about life as normal, but her life quickly gets entwined with the drama their boarders, the Barbers bring with them. The Paying Guests is a beautifully-written story that combines a page-turning crime story with a tender romance. Waters’s historical details inform and shape the story without dragging it down. I would highly recommend The Paying Guests to anyone, but especially to those who already enjoy historical fiction.

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Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Furies of Calderon cover

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive and threatening races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies – elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal.  But now, Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, grows old and lacks an heir.  Ambitious High Lords plot and maneuver to place their Houses in positions of power, and a war of succession looms on the horizon.  Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, the boy Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting.  At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps.  Yet as the Alerans’ most savage enemy – the Marat – return to the Valley, he will discover that his destiny is much greater than he could ever imagine.

The cover of the edition that I read stated that Furies of Calderon was inspired by Tolkien.  In some ways, I see that, I guess.  I really thought it was more reminiscent of A Song of Ice and Fire series with a bit of Avatar: The Last Airbender and maybe a little bit of Pokémon thrown in, but in a good way.

It started out a little slow, but once I got to Chapter 10, it became a page turner.  I just had to know what was going to happen next because, by that point, I cared about the characters so much.  Butcher includes plenty of plot twists, which really kept me guessing and one of things I look for in a book is the ability of the author to keep me guessing.  It got to the point that, after I had been surprised by so much, nothing would surprise me, if that makes any sense.  I definitely can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

I recommend this to fans of High/Epic Fantasy, especially if you like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Five stars!

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The Color of Water by James McBride

Growing up, author James McBride wondered why his mother looked and acted different than other parents in his neighborhood.  He describes feeling like something was missing in his life because his mother never discussed her background. This book fully titled The Color of Water A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother tells the story in alternating chapters of the author’s upbringing in Brooklyn and Queens with eleven siblings and his mother Ruth’s Jewish upbringing in the south.  His mother agreed to discuss her background with her son only if he would also include each of her grown children’s many accomplishments in the book (all have college degrees).  The author paints the whole picture when it comes to recounting his mother’s life including the good times and the bad, which only makes you appreciate her resiliency even more.  I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know the author’s family through these pages, and I highly recommend this uplifting title.

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New Fiction eBooks!

We didn’t just get non-fiction ebooks. We also added a lot of fiction, some old, some new. Check out the list and see what catches your interest!

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