In the recent past, a battle among witches led to the murder of the high priestess Athena. Pat Esden’s second book in a suspenseful, paranormal romance series is Things She’s Seen, covering the investigation into, and fallout from, the crime.
Gar is tasked with unearthing the truth while Em, an emotionally scarred psychic and recovering alcoholic, finds herself haunted by a restless ghost—that of another coven member who was murdered. This complicates the mysterious plot, which is steeped in references to the series’ backstory and to roiling intrigue within the high council of witches. Frenzied and adventurous, the story ravels into a half-demon’s grisly plans, discovered by Gar, Em, and the coven just in time.
Amid the coven’s immediate troubles and a larger arc in which witches seek their own gains, Em’s relationship with Gar is a source of racy respite. At twenty-two, Em is a youthful and flawed aspiring poet who sometimes doubts her own talents, even when intriguing encounters, like a brush with a ghost at Goodwill, reveal her compassion and skill.
Fragmented quotes from Em’s writings are glimpses into her life on the road. When flashes of her past intrude (scenes in which her mother and aunt shackled and drugged her, exploiting her gifts as a child medium), they highlight the uncertainty she’s endured and the bravery she showed in joining the coven, where she finds refuge.
Em’s ongoing recovery is intriguing; she shows a mix of strength and vulnerability. However, her adversaries tend toward uncomplicated villainy, if they provide the necessary animus to make the coven’s rescue of one of their own thrilling.
Things She’s Seen is a flashy, troubling depiction of abusive power. In its variegated darkness, it brings home the healing message that sometimes, real families are the ones people choose themselves.
KAREN RIGBY (October 27, 2019)
Victoria Williamson’s The Boy with the Butterfly Mind is a story about acceptance and empathy.
In Scotland, eleven-year-old Elin lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Paul. She thinks that if she can just be perfect, her father will leave his new family and return home. In England, eleven-year-old Jamie, who has ADHD, is about to move with his mother and her boyfriend, Chris, to the United States. His behavioral problems, coupled with the fact that he does not get along with Chris, lead to his mother’s decision to send him to his father in Scotland instead. He thinks that if he can find a way to control his behavior, he will be allowed back with his mother.
The story is told through Elin and Jamie’s alternating viewpoints, which are captured in a masterful way, though they’re very different people. As their stories unfold, it is revealed that Paul is Jamie’s father. Jamie is determined to keep the peace, but struggles to stay out of trouble; Elin sees Jamie as a further barrier to her happiness and is determined to get rid of him, even if she must lie and cheat to do it.
Still, Elin and Jamie ultimately want the same thing: to be loved and appreciated by their families. Their clashing is severe, but they come to recognize in each other the pain and insecurity that they both feel. Financial strains, blended family issues, problems with the other kids at school, and fighting between parents drive the story and its tension.
The Boy with the Butterfly Mind is an excellent story for any young reader who has ever felt that they are the cause of their family’s problems.
CATHERINE THURESON (October 27, 2019)
Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up
Using delicious locally grown herbs and botanicals, Mike Wolf’s Garden to Glass crafts unique cocktails from gardened and foraged ingredients.
Wolf, a talented bartender and foraged-ingredient mixologist, brings a wealth of knowledge to the subject of creative cocktail-making. Garden to Glass enjoyably combines complex recipes, seasonal ingredient charts, and informational interviews with foraging and farming professionals. There’s broad information on each topic.
Highlighting star ingredients, including rhubarb, mint, and dandelion, the book works to liven up familiar cocktails. It is visually stunning, and its professional photographs make the drinks extra appealing. The design of each page is decorative and tasteful. Chapters are divided logically, and color-coded pages make for easy retrieval of favorite recipes.
Beginning with basics on gardening, the text covers what type of soil to use, where to plant certain things, and how to build a functional garden for the specific purpose of using grown ingredients for cocktails. The section is informative, whether for building a small herb box or constructing an entire garden to place a variety of vegetables and herbs at your disposal.
The book’s emphasis on waste reduction and making the most of nearby ingredients is insightful. It’s a topic that most bartenders don’t touch upon when crafting cocktails. Related recipes and gardening tips are ambitious, making use of less-known ingredients and forwarding sometimes mountainous gardening plans. Elements of this work will apply to only a sliver of the population and to specialized bar professionals.
Garden to Glass brings foraging behind the bar, opening up a new way to craft cocktails and playing with the seasonality of botanicals. It also forwards basic gardening etiquette in an insightful, inspiring, and educational way.
KATIE ASHER (October 27, 2019)
An Astronaut’s Story of Invention
In her memoir Handprints on Hubble, astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan conveys the excitement of going to space.
Kathryn Sullivan had a career in oceanography when she was chosen to be among the first women astronauts recruited by NASA. She first relates her career in the decade before NASA’s determination to create a bus-sized telescope and put it into orbit made Sullivan, who was experienced in low-gravity environments, a logical pick for Hubble’s development team.
Sullivan’s narration is friendly and engages interest. She captures the feeling of launching into orbit with accessible scientific explanations and is modest about her significant role in Hubble’s creation. She creates a record of that development, and the people both inside and outside NASA who made it happen, and depicts the years of training, rehearsals, and ground work that went into launching it. All of this work underscores what it takes to be an astronaut.
Descriptions of developing tools and procedures are set against a timeline and under the continual threat of budget cutbacks; there’s urgency at every step, and the complexity and difficulty of the undertakings are conveyed with accuracy. Sullivan is honest about the sense of withdrawal that comes when astronauts return to ordinary life, and expresses envy while watching the launch of a repair team, sent to Hubble with tools she helped design, but didn’t get to use. Enthusiasm for space and admiration for the many people involved in its exploration is a constant.
Handprints on Hubble is an involving, inspiring personal account of creating Hubble, the telescope that changed Earth’s view of the universe.
SUSAN WAGGONER (October 27, 2019)
Dave Edlund’s thrilling Peter Savage series continues with Lethal Savage, which kick-starts a drastic solution to overpopulation.
On an Oregon reservation, the young men are struck by an unknown illness that leaves them sterile. Everyman Peter Savage is called in to investigate the mystery sickness and discovers that a mad scientist has concocted a simple but effective means of sterilizing the population, first spreading the illness through bottled water and then tapping into the global water supply.
Meanwhile, an assassination contract pops up on the dark net, targeting Peter. Peter is forced to dodge professional and amateur assassins as he races to stop the biological threat. He’s joined by a surprising ally: a sinister adversary from his past.
The story rockets between various points of view as it races to its explosive conclusion. At every turn, Peter relies on his quick thinking and interpersonal skills to save the day. He’s a blockbuster hero, capable with self-defense and weapons but fueled by compassion and intelligence. His allies trend ordinary and unassuming despite his storied career and previous adventures. A former assassin winds up joining in his attempts to stop the global threat, but Peter’s greatest ally is his trusted dog, Diesel, whom he uses in a clever fashion as a distraction and a viable threat.
This is a standalone thriller, but series regulars will appreciate its callbacks and connections to returning characters. The story provides ample context and balances exposition and action. The conclusion is complete, if a bit bittersweet, and rewarding for both new and returning readers.
Lethal Savage is a thundering action thriller with a charismatic lead and all-too-real premise.
JOHN M. MURRAY (October 27, 2019)