Book Review: The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

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The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal follows multiple generations of a family in Minnesota and their struggles and successes as they work to survive. Edith and her younger sister, Helen, aren’t particularly close growing up and that distance only grows after their father leaves his entire inheritance to Helen, cutting older Edith out. While Helen builds a successful brewery, Edith squeaks out a meager living baking award-winning pies at various jobs and working extra shifts at Arby’s, eventually bringing her teenage granddaughter, Diana, into her home. The three women lead very different lives that all lead to the same conclusion: beer.

Lager Queen is a sweet, sometimes bitter and emotional, story brimming with strong female characters that are easy to root for. You’ll learn more about brewing and the craft beer revolution than you ever expected. Stradal’s down-to-earth writing really makes this book. And while he didn’t craft the most complex characters you’ll see in fiction, you’ll find yourself cheering alongside them as they find their way.

Interested in brewing your own beers? Learn more about homebrewing here and the craft beer revolution here.

Review by Sara McEachern, APL Support Librarian

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Book Review: Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

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The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

From first-time author, Noelle Salazar comes a powerfully stunning tale of The Flight Girls: female WASP pilots during WWII.

Audrey Coltrane loves to fly. It’s why she signed up to train new military pilots in Hawaii when the war began in Europe. It’s why, despite surviving the horrors of Pearl Harbor, she decides to join 1,100 other civilian volunteers in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP for short) program, flying almost every type of military aircraft. They tested newly overhauled aircraft, ferried planes across the country, and towed targets for ground and air gunners to train with live ammunition.

Women Airforce Service Pilots (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Flight Girls is a compelling historical fiction novel that explores the relationships and friendships forged in the uncertainty and horrors of war. While there is some romance in The Flight Girls, the central story is about the strong bonds between these formidable women, a powerful tale of courage, and their determination to serve their country. Salazar’s writing is crisp, her characters memorable, and her novel is full of rich historical detail.

The Flight Girls is an excellent first novel from Noelle Salazar and would be perfect for any book club.

Learn more about women pilots in WWII by reading Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII by P. O’Connell Pearson and Women With Wings: Women Pilots of World War II by Shannon Baker Moore.

 

Review by Sara McEachern, APL Support Librarian

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Book Review: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods

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Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods by Tania del Rio, Illustrations by Will Staehle

What begins as a “Sleeping Beauty” tale transforms into an enchanting fantasy. Warren the 13th is not your average twelve-year-old; he is a caring, responsible, and honest orphan. As the naive groundskeeper, bellhop, and manager of the family hotel, he guides the staff as they tend the guests in his cruising hotel, “where every stay is a go!” Indeed, these traveling hotel guests encounter fanciful settings ranging from the Malwoods captivating forest to raging rivers.

Slippery Sid operates a Sundry Shoppe with magical potions, special oils, notions, and assorted products. This old-fashioned haberdashery is complete as a men’s outfitters and tailor; the shopkeeper also serves as a dentist. Read how the elusive Sid becomes Warren’s imposter and calls himself Warrin.

Ordinary animals with magnificent alterations mesmerize readers in grades four through ten. Those who appreciate Tim Burton’s artistic interpretations and stories will enjoy this book. More than a comic book, the literary elements engage the reader with alliteration, simile, metaphor, and onomatopoeia with clever-sounding words and expressions. The descriptive scenes of formidable quicksand, sticky sap, venomous snakes, and supernatural forests leave the reader bewildered and astonished. Stylish fonts and imaginative shading enhance unique drawings.

Learn how Warren faces the obstacles Warrin creates. After continued failed attempts to repair the hotel and redirect the course, can Warren transform the walking hotel into a cruise ship and save the guests and employees? Will Mr. Friggs’ experiences in reading and tutoring aid the passengers? Will the evil tattooed witches plague the course? Will Petula, the perfumier in training, portend the future? Will Warren’s fondness for and knowledge of Jacques Rustybooks piratology properly guide him?

Although the sinister characters in this fable may startle a young reader, the persistence of Warren provide hope that good will prevail over evil. The book is dark without causing nightmares and comical without being preposterous. Read Warren the 13th, solve the riddles, and appreciate the decorative, gothic illustrations. The book is a sequel; nonetheless, books in this series do not need to be read chronologically.

Also check out the first book in the series: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye.

Guest review by Carmaine Ternes: Kansas Librarian, Researcher, Writer, and Presenter

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Book Review: Becoming

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Becoming by Michelle Obama

Available in audio, large print, and regular print

The elusive “Middle C” did not prevent Michelle Robinson Obama from performing at her first piano recital under the guidance of her prim, sensible Great Aunt Robbie who demanded a great deal from her students. Discipline, responsibility, music, and laughter were expectations and elements of Michele’s childhood that continued through her adulthood. Her humble South Side Chicago upbringing did not restrain her imagination nor deter her from completing her homework and contributing to her neighborhood. Although the Robinson family did not possess property or wealth, they were rich in conversation, faith, fulfilling promises, helping others, and family commitment. Unfortunately, those children who “felt devalued” were often caught in a vicious, depraved cycle resulting in poor decision making, theft, lack of education, or addiction.

Fraser and Marian Robinson worked hard, contributed to their community, and invested in their children, Craig and Michelle, raising them to be accountable for their actions. “Basketball unlocked a frontier for Craig” earning him a scholarship to Princeton, while Michelle was “quietly collecting bits of data” on a ninety-minute one-way bus ride during high school. When an educator informed Michelle, “I’m not sure…you are Princeton material,” she increased her efforts and energy to “rise to the challenge!” Being wheelchair-bound due to multiple sclerosis, Fraser did not ask for assistance nor did he miss work. Stoic Marian welcomed and accommodated countless guests into their quaint home. Michelle credits her accomplishments to her nurturing parents due to their wisdom, expectations, and sacrifices.

While attending Princeton University, Michelle connected with the Third World Center and other organizations raising awareness about cultural understanding providing encouragement and educational resources. In an effort to build equitable relationships, she forged community connections. With an Ivy League degree in sociology, she was accepted to Harvard Law School where she continued to “climb ladders” and be substantive. When she returned to Chicago, Michelle worked for a law firm “parsing abstract intellectual property issues for big corporations.” When she was asked to interview potential interns, Michelle met Barack Obama who had earned degrees from Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School. She later remarked, “Barack was a deep thinker and spent money on books.”

Together, Barack and Michelle visited community groups listening to ordinary people suffering to keep jobs, earn a living, provide for their families, and face adversity. Barack asked the participants, “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” to help them identify their goals. Both were committed to guiding Chicagoans to the resources they needed to become successful.

After careful planning, Michelle became pregnant, yet faced a miscarriage, “a lonely, painful, and demoralizing almost on a cellular level.” When she conceived again, she was delighted to deliver Malia Ann then almost three years later Natasha Marian “Sasha” was born. Michelle was a single parent during the week while Barack spent time in Springfield serving three terms as an Illinois Senator. Juggling professional responsibilities, motherhood, campaign commitments, and community health care collaborations consumed Michelle’s life. She pledged to routinely give her girls their nightly bath, read to them, and spend precious time together. This Mary Tyler Moore fan was steadfast in her “you’re gonna make it” resolution and determined “most likely to succeed!”

Through the trials and tribulations of the Presidential campaign, Michelle remained focused on family values despite criticism from opposing forces. Promises to improve the economy, health care, and the criminal justice landscape, end Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and raise awareness about climate change were some of Barack’s key conversations. Living in the White House presented a unique paradigm since the Obama family was under attentive scrutiny and surveillance. Nonetheless, Michelle’s efforts to raise her daughters to be responsible for making their beds, completing their homework, and eating their vegetables was a mainstay.

As First Lady, her initiatives comprised being a role model for women, an advocate for healthy lifestyles including “Let’s Move” to reduce childhood obesity and “American Grown: The Story of the White House Garden.” She visited veterans across the nation and felt dedicated to the lives of service members and their families. “Let Girls Learn” and “Reach Higher” are examples of her educational endeavors. Along this journey, Michelle emerged as a welcoming and inclusive First Lady balancing the demands of motherhood, work, community, and service with a sense of style and personality.

Her reflections make memorable storytelling and leave the reader astounded and engaged without bewilderment or disappointment. If you wish to read an account of a child who lived in a financially challenged neighborhood, rose beyond a life of crime or gang affiliation, earned university degrees, and committed her life to making a difference, you will appreciate Becoming.

Writing is a craft Michelle Obama has mastered in her personal story concentrating on overcoming obstacles with sincerity, charm, wisdom, and humor.

Guest review by Carmaine Ternes: Kansas Librarian, Researcher, Writer, and Presenter

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