Ardent April Staff Picks
My goodness do I have feelings about this novel and not enough space to adequately type them all out! What a ride. The Norse pantheon of gods and goddesses has certainly become more popular in the last several years thanks to visibility in media, and this book takes us right back to the source material. Following the witch Angrboda, who is the mother of Fenrir, Jormungand, and Hel with her husband, the ever-popular Loki, we see her traverse the realms of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Midgard in search of truth and identity. Gornichec’s version of Angrboda is beautiful and explores love and loss in this very human portrait of the gods and fate. The relationships between Boda and her children and Boda and the other gods are complex and woven through time and space. The lead up to Ragnarok is both inevitable and tragic, but ultimately love takes center stage. I’ve been chasing the mythological high of Madeline Miller’s Circe for 2 years, and this book has satisfied that craving. – Jenna
It always amazes me to read about the “secret network of women” who support each other throughout the ages. This intriguing historical mystery moves between the modern-day and the late 1700s. Nella runs a secret apothecary in a backstreet London alley, providing women with potions to poison their oppressive husbands. 200 years later, Caroline comes to London to “sort out” her failing marriage, and stumbles upon the story of the apothecary murders, determined to delve into the mystery. This fast-paced story focuses on the power of women, exploring the ways we have changed in our roles as well as understanding the intricate ways we are still the same. If you enjoyed The Henna Artist I think you’ll enjoy this read as well! – Virgie
With this novel, it feels that Jones asks “What is it to be a native in America today?” Beautifully and hauntingly told, you follow a group of men a decade after a hunting trip that changed everything for them. No detail can be spared for fear of spoiling this wonderful story of regret and identity. Firmly in the realm of Horror, this is by far the best and most creative ghost story I’ve ever read and you should too. If you’re a fan of the darker side of life, don’t hesitate and just pick this up, you won’t regret it. Beware though, you’ll be hooked on Jones’ writing for life (and maybe a bit beyond). – Ryan
Nobody pulls at a reader's heart while examining the human heart the way Kazuo Ishiguro does. Never Let Me Go ripped my heart out and I still think of it years later. He defies categorization, he falls under fiction, literary, dystopian, visionary/metaphysical, and science fiction. In this near-future novel, physically ill 14-year-old Josie is seeking an AF to keep her company. But do her parents have other motives for bringing Klara into the home? Is genetically modifying our children for better success worth the risk of illness and possible death? In the end, what is love? What do we do for love? Well, I love this author and really enjoyed this book. A page-turner that will make you think long after you put it down. – Kim B.
Jazz just wants to be rich. She’s hustling on the moon base Artemis as a porter and small-time smuggler. She could be so much more if she put her mind to it, but she’s not going to. When an opportunity to make a quick million comes along, she graduates from a small town smuggler to a cooperation saboteur. But most everything that can go wrong, short of her death, does. Now she has to figure out how she’s going to deal with the fall out of her actions, not that it’s a new thing, but this time the consequences are life or death.
Artemis is a fun book. It’s got enough snark and humor to offset the life and death situations Jazz finds herself in. -Izzy
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Most of us have probably “sowed our oats” in our youth, and with time have forgotten all about our unsavory actions. We’ve grown up, right? This psychological thriller includes a victim who has NOT forgotten her injustice. In fact, she is determined to get even! If you like sitting on the edge of your seat, knuckles growing white, then I think you’ll enjoy this domestic thriller! If you’re a parent, you’ll understand the lengths people will go to to protect their children. – Virgie
In my opinion, John Grisham has been on a bit of a winning streak lately. Starting with The Reckoning a few years ago Grisham’s books have seemed like a return to form with deeper, more powerful events and themes harkening back to A Time to Kill. In this book Jake Brigance is once again faced with an unanswerable moral dilemma, is homicide ever justifiable, and can a child ever deserve to be treated as an adult? I have a feeling this book was partly inspired by the recent Supreme Court rulings about life sentences for minors, and though Grisham’s entire Brigance series is probably his most easily attacked for playing into the “white savior” trope I think the discussion A Time for Mercy prompts about underage people who commit serious crimes well outweighs the negatives. – Sam
The newest installment of the ACOTAR series certainly lands this series firmly in the adult fantasy genre, and it is an excellent addition! I love this series and am absolutely thrilled that we finally get a story from the perspective of a different set of characters. I can’t remember the last time a fantasy novel dealt with trauma and mental health as well as this book has done. The tried and true fans of Sarah Maas will not be disappointed by this addition and if you have not read this series yet, you should start if for no other reason than you will get to read this newest story! It is spicy and sexy and gritty in all the best ways. If you like fae, mythos, proving grounds, and sagas of fierce female friendship and unconditional love, this is the book for you. – Jenna
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I’m in the process of nominating books for the Best of West Award and this book is my current front runner. Set in 1976 Odessa Texas Wetmore paints rich descriptions of the vast Texas plains. Each character has a different perspective; wild, beautiful, haunting, dangerous, desolate, the setting is a character itself. In this setting, a brutal crime is committed by a white roughneck against a young Latina girl. Issues of race, sex, justice, and family are threaded through beautifully. Even though this is set in 1976 these topics could not be more relevant. A must-read that will bring up all the emotions. – Kim B
What appears as “good” isn’t necessarily correct. Fern and Rose are grown-up fraternal twins; one sister has difficulty determining reality, and the other sister is simply evil-minded! Read this psychological thriller and determine for yourself which sister is the “good” sister! Believe me, your decision will flip-flop until the brutal end! If you enjoyed Big Little Lies, then I’ sure you’ll find this read just as entertaining! -Virgie
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If you like this you will like this: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Anthony Bridgerton has been what the mamas would call a “determined bachelor” - sure, he’s had his fair share of romantic dalliances, but none of them among the respectable females of the ton. This season, though, Anthony has decided to renounce his rakish ways and settle on a wife. He has but one condition: she cannot be somebody he’ll fall in love with. Ever since Anthony’s beloved father died before the age of 40, Anthony has become convinced that he will not live past that age himself - and who would want to inflict such tragedy on a wife one loves? When Anthony sets his sights on the belle of the season, her protective older sister Kate makes it clear that if Anthony wants her sister, he’ll have to go through her first. But perhaps there is something more to Kate than first meets the eye… - Megan
The Bridgerton saga continues, this time with Colin Bridgerton, the ever-charming - and ever traveling - third brother. Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin since she first saw him a decade ago, but she has long since given up hope that Colin will ever return her affections. She is determined to sink into her spinstership life with dignity, alongside her very best friend Eloise Bridgerton. But when Colin comes back from a trip abroad, an unexpected connection seems to spring up between Colin and Penelope - could this be the chance for them both to be seen for what they are, instead of for what society assumes them to be?
Don’t skip this charming addition to the Bridgerton series! – Megan
Compiling the list for my Best of West Award nominations and this one has definitely made the shortlist. The conservative Texas town of Bentley holds its high school football team to superstar status. When the popular quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing the book seems like a typical hardboiled murder mystery. However, it takes a very Stephen King twist when secrets are uncovered, and mysteries are unraveled. What are the Bright Lands? Well-written, fast-paced thriller. – Kim B.
Have you ever REALLY thought about all the people we share our world with? Author Stanton traveled to over 40 countries, taking photos of everyday people, and conducting an interview with each. This amazing coffee table book includes those photos accompanied by a simple story. It’s curious, but I found that I am more LIKE these people than different, sharing similar needs, wants, and fears. We are ALL human, regardless of where we live or what we look like! Become world-savvy by reading these entries, and you will feel compassion seep in! -Virgie
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If you like this you will like this: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Walden by Henry David Thoreau
When Christopher Knight was 20 years old, he abandoned his family, his job, and his car to disappear into the woods. 27 years later, he was arrested for stealing food from a summer camp in remote northern Maine - thus was the reign of the infamous (at least locally) North Pond Hermit put to an end. But why did he do it? And how did he do it? Knight survived in the unforgiving Maine forest for decades without ever talking to another human, or even lighting a fire. Journalist Michael Finkel heard about Knight after he was arrested in 2013 and became determined to find out all he could about this mysterious figure. Through letters, jail interviews, and all the background information he could acquire, Finkel lays out a vivid portrait of a man totally dedicated to solitude - no matter the cost. – Megan
Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw her latest book on the shelf, I dove in, and read it in one sitting! Yes, it’s that good!
Allende begins the book by stating that she’s “been a feminist since kindergarten.” Her meditation certainly proves her truth! Allende has a way with words, and her reflection on the history of women’s roles and inequitable and oftentimes violent situations throughout the ages, leads her to ponder what feeds the soul of women! Her meditation on the power of women holds hope and a promise to find our own meaning in life, especially as we age. (If we are alive, then we are ALL aging!) I was moved by Allende’s deep thoughts, and I am inspired to “count not the years in my life, but the life in my years!”
If you enjoyed Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher, then I believe Allende’s book will be right up your alley! -Virgie
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I am turning 70 this summer, and this book is talking to my soul! I want to be that WOMAN ROWING NORTH!
Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia, clinical psychologist and cultural therapist, has written this book for women on the cusp of change. We cannot deny change because it’s going to happen anyway! Rather, we must embrace change and consider this the perfect time to expand our souls! This book is filled with wisdom to ponder, accompanied by statistics. One of my favorite nuggets of wisdom was, “When we limit our belief in our own potential to grow, we also limit our incentive to grow.” This book came, for me, at the perfect time! - Virgie
This book proves once and for all that Mexican American food is beautiful. The photography in this is almost as delicious as the recipes. The flavors range from floral, to spicy, to luscious. Chicano Eats is for the foodie in your life, someone who loves to cook and loves to eat. – Izzy
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“Maybe Eve was never meant to be our warning.
Maybe she was meant to be our model.
Own your wanting.
Eat the apple.
Let it burn!”
According to Doyle, it’s a life-long battle for a woman to stay whole and free in a world hell-bent on caging her! The expectations for women and girls are rigid and strong! In her biography, Doyle relates just how she was “caged” and exactly how she became free. This powerful and inspiring book is for women, for mothers of girls, and equally important for mothers of boys. Doyle’s further thoughts on politics and religion give the reader significant ideas to ponder. I only wish I had read these thoughts long ago! This is, by far, my most inspirational read of the year! – Virgie
Lycanthropy and Other Chronic Illnesses is about many things. It’s about how to live with a chronic illness, how to ask for help, friendship, and werewolves. Priya has Lyme disease, and it has drastically changed her life. While she had been studying pre-med at Stanford, our story finds her in bed dealing with her new fatigued and achy reality. Her main solace is in Brigid, a friend she met via Tumblr. She settles into her new reality and finds a chronic illness support group that helps her process and commiserate. She begins to get to know Brigid better and find out about her furry secret. -Izzy
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In a world where teenagers are tried as adults and thrown in prison, fourteen-year-old Alex Sawyer got the short end of the stick. During a night out with his best friend Alex finds himself in the presence of some intimidating men in suits who end up framing him for murder. When found guilty Alex is locked up in the most secure prison in the world; Furnace. Strange noises stalk the night and even stranger stories make it hard to sleep when you’re locked up underground. With twists and turns you never expected, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s the perfect mix of suspense and mystery, with a bit of friendship thrown in as not to be too dark. If you like a good mystery book, and the rapid beat of your heart when something unexpected happened, then this book is for you. - Patty
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Flora, or Florian depending on the situation, has been a pirate on The Dove since childhood. This vessel and her crew take its passengers and, after they are far enough from port, sells them into slavery. Lady Evelyn Hasegawa is a highborn woman being shipped off to an arranged marriage with a casket full of finery. She is a passenger on The Dove. Florian is assigned to guard Evelyn, and as they grow closer over books and mermaids, Florian doubts that they can go through with the usual plan.
Love, Pirates, Mermaids, the sea, what more could you want from a story? I love pirate stories because they take place at the edge of society, they explore why folks would choose piracy or why they must. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea is filled with twists and turns, making for a wonderful story. -Izzy
Deka strives to be the same as everyone else, in part because she is visibly and intuitively different from all of her peers. She lives by the doctrines set for women by her society, she is humble, meek, and subservient to the men around her. As a blood ceremony to prove purity looms, she prays for the red blood that will mark her as a worthy and eligible woman.
Forna develops her characters beautifully. We see Deka and her compatriots grow emotionally and intellectually into fully realized people through the course of the book. It mirrors the growth so many folks have needed to go through to accept and love themselves in a society that labels them monsters. This is a great adventure, perfect for folks who enjoyed Children of Blood and Bone. – Izzy
Wendy Darling hasn’t been the same since she was found alone in the woods after missing for 6 months. She has no memory of what happened to her or her missing brothers. When children begin to go missing again, suspicious eyes turn her way. Then Peter Pan shows up. He’s only supposed to exist in the stories Wendy tells kids in the hospital, but here he is. And he’s lost his shadow again. Wendy is once again immersed in old fears and a new determination to find the missing kids and her brothers.
I adore new takes on old stories, and Aiden Thomas has created a wonderful new take on Neverland. Thomas uses this story to explore what it means to grow up, how we can be forced to grow up too quickly, and how hard it is to hang on to the kid you once were. – Izzy
The Dangerous Gift is the latest book in the Wings of Fire Series. . These books just keep you wanting more after everyone. Tui Sutherland is such a wonderful author with her creative world-building and wonderful characters. Her creativity has no limits in this dragon world. (I’ve had the privilege of having dinner with her and talking to her about her books!!) It only makes me want more!! -Chris
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Will Dog Man be able to escape the cone of shame!? Will Petey ever get some peace and quiet!? Will his dad finally make a friend?!? Dav answers each of these questions and more in Dog Man: Mothering Heights. Throughout his books, Dav has used Dog Man to deal with tough issues like loss and forgiveness, and this one is no different. Dog Man is confronted with bullying and a lack of confidence, while Petey recounts his mistakes and his struggle to become a better person. I would never have guessed that Dog Man would address the issues caused by going to jail like not being able to get a job, and not finding housing, and the cycle of crime that can create. Once again Dav has created a touching, educational, 10/10 book.
If you like this you will also like Investigators - Sam
Unsolved Case Files is the name of a new graphic novel series for kids. This first book tells the true story of D.B. Cooper, who hijacked a plane in 1971, demanded $200,000.00, and jumped out of the plane. His case is still unsolved to this day. The book includes a high-interest true story, illustrated with comic panels, and reproductions of real documents and pictures. Take a look at this series! You’ll learn about the incident as well as the scientific parts of the story. - Virgie
This short story collection centers around the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This is a huge event that brings in folks from many nations. We get to experience this event from the eyes of the kids who attend it and one Rez Dog. Covering topics ranging from ghosts, family, adoption, and community, Ancestor Approved is an excellent collection. I loved it. -Izzy
“Everyone was covered in lollies...and a really bad smell.”
Ben’s classmate invited him to a birthday party! Will the Fart Monster be welcome? Ben becomes worried if anyone will be mad about the Fart Monster’s farts. Will they blame Ben? Join Ben and the Fart Monster on this adventure, and discover how the classmates respond!
– Kim T.
“Your farts can push the shuttle to planet Let ‘er Rip!”
Ben’s class is going on a field trip to the museum! The museum has exhibitions about space, and the Fart Monster hopes to share his home planet of ‘Planet Let ‘er Rip’ with Ben. There wasn’t an exhibit for his home planet, so the Fart Monster decides to hop onto the shuttle and fly Ben to his planet. Will they make it there safely? – Kim T
Investigators is great. If I were in elementary school this would definitely be one of my favorite things to read. The similarities to Dogman are unavoidable but there are differences. Though it keeps the fun and silliness that some kids need to keep them engaged I would say that the writing in this is for a slightly older age. I enjoyed it immensely, and there is no better book I can imagine to teach the concept of “punny.”
If you enjoy this you would also enjoy Dogman.
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Follow these 10 monsters to the 10 “coolest” places in Colorado and watch them dwindle in number when a monster is left behind at each site. This fun, rhyming book also includes a short “info” about each place. What a great way to learn about the great state of Colorado. Maybe this book will even inspire a future road trip! – Virgie
This is a super fun book all about learning to appreciate things in life and to take more time to do fun things no matter the day of the week. The illustrations are very colorful and the word bubbles bring so much to the story that makes this a great read-aloud. - Chris
I love Jory John’s books!! This is his newest one!!
It’s not every day that you see a bear in underwear!! Well, I hope not. But everyone in the forest sees bear in his underwear. This is a book about being confident in your own “skin” and being who you are. - Chris
Jack Prelutsky has written another poetry book, and this one is just as funny as his other books. I love his humor and creative thinking! This poetry is the perfect way for kids to laugh out loud, read with a rhythm, and have fun with words! -Virgie