Recommended debut Sci-Fi novel: “Lightless” by C. A. Higgins

cover of "Lightless" by C. A. Higgins

cover of “Lightless” by C. A. Higgins

I enjoyed the multiple mysteries presented in this combo Hard Sci-Fi/Soft Sci-Fi tale: Who is Ivan and is he really a bad guy? What did Mattie do to the Ananke’s computers? What is the real identity of space terrorist Mallt-y-Nos and what is their “big plan” against the System?

The storyline alternated nicely between Althea and her crew’s attempts to maintain and hopefully repair their ship’s computers with the interrogation of Leontios Ivanov — aka “Ivan” — so that the pacing was well-maintained. Also, Ms. Higgins does a fine job of character development: I had a clear picture of each person by the time I’d read the first 30% of the book. I also enjoyed reading the imagined crew life onboard the Ananke as well as the of the vessel Ananke itself.

If I had any complaints — and I really hate to complain about debut novels — there were a few parts I felt they needed a tad bit more tightening up…for example, I started skimming over parts of the interrogation conversations with supercilious System agent Ida Stays, but that’s being exceedingly nit-picky for a book that nicely combines so many different spec. fiction genre attributes: hard science, social commentary, military sci-fi, and aspects of a spy thriller. There really is something for pretty much everyone.

A recommended read for sci-fans.

Published September 29th 2015 by Del Rey ; ISBN 9780553394429

Is this book at your library? Check at Worldcat

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That All May Read: What IS a print disability? An answer + resources

Libraries are commonly understood to be the repositories of the human experience, storehouses which take that human experience and, from it, create opportunities for library consumers to “learn, grow, and know”. But what if someone you know has a print disability* and cannot use the ‘typical’ resources offered at your local library? Because one of my areas of interests is accessibility, and because statistics show that approximately 21 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, I want to share some resources with you.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Danielle Miller, Program Manager of the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress. (Every state has an NLS-affiliated library.) The phrase “That All May Read” comes from the NLS website.

The interview gave me a good understanding of what they offer, and I realized what a great resource this library is for state residents toward achieving the universal accessibility described in the ALA’s Bill of Rights: “A person’s right to use the library should not be denied or abridged because of disabilities.”

In addition to the NLS site, listed below are some online resources for people with print disabilities, as well as for parents and teachers with children/students who have print disabilities, in the hopes of some day achieving equal use:

  • If you’re a teacher, and want to help students in your classroom, visit the website Learning Through Listening: Classroom Tools and Sound Advice (
  • If you’re a parent or educator, LD Online ( can provide both information and solutions, providing “articles, multimedia, monthly columns by noted experts, first person essays, children’s writing and artwork, a comprehensive resource guide, very active forums, and a Yellow Pages referral directory of professionals, schools, and products”
  • If you have a print disability, there is an online resource, Bookshare, “Books without Barriers” (, the largest provider of accessible reading materials for those with print disabilities, with “…unlimited access to accessible books, textbooks, newspapers and magazines. Additionally, free access technology makes it easy to read books with a computer.”
  • If you are looking for a physical bricks-and-mortar library, The American Foundation for the Blind has a find tool for all US States and Territories (
  • National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped  ( – you can apply for NLS membership, available to U.S. residents and citizens living abroad, here: To speak to an NLS librarian in your service area during normal business hours, call toll free 1-888-NLS-READ and follow the prompts; your call will be connected to the appropriate library
  • National Federation of the Blind ( is the largest organization of blind and low-vision people in the United States; its goal is the “complete integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality” and has a great Resources for Learning list (

*Some people reading this article may be wondering exactly what constitutes a “print disability” : a print disability is quite simply any aspect that hinders a person’s ability from accessing print in the “standard” way, whether it’s because of a visual impairment, learning disability, or physical disability (for example, not being able to hold a book).


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Ian Caldwell’s “The Fifth Gospel” — an excellent and riveting thriller

Fifth Gospel book cover

“Fifth Gospel” cover image courtesy

“The Fifth Gospel” by Ian Caldewell; pub date March 3, 2015 ; ISBN 9781451694147

I haven’t read a religious thriller that interested me this much since Stephen Bransford’s “High Places” back in 1991 — I enjoy books that teach me something about history, and Caldwell’s book easily displays the meticulous research gathered over the ten years it took him to write it.

The murder mystery is multi-layered and well-thought-out. The complex relationship of Vatican history, architecture, and politics, Greek and Roman Catholic Church history (which I knew little about), and how criminal trials might play out under canon law are all experienced through the life of a truly likeable main character, Greek Catholic priest Fr. Alex Andreou, shows this book is the work of a passionate author and just-as-passionate editor. (And yes, I may have used way too many hyphens in this paragraph.)

What makes this thriller so exciting is that mostly takes place inside the Vatican walls – where the church holds all the power to arrest and condemn (or grant reprieve), and where Fr. Alex has always been under their watchful eye. (In fact, he was raised there.) Mr Caldwell provides a believable controversy concerning the Shroud of Turin, and skillfully discusses the reasons that might exist for a rift between the Eastern and Western Churches.

Thoroughly recommended to those who like historical trivia, puzzles, and a deftly-woven mystery.

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“Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters” — another excellent YA adventure from Shannon Hale

Forgotten Sisters cover

“The Forgotten Sisters” image courtesy

“Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters” by Shannon Hale; pub date Feb 24, 2015; ISBN 9781619634855; Grade Level: 4-8

Going by all the books I’ve previously read by Shannon Hale, including the two previous Princess Academy books (“Princess Academy” and “Palace of Stone“) or her wonderful Books of Bayern series, I was thinking I would really enjoy this book as well, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Ms. Hale has an uncanny ability to create strong, intelligent, and resourceful characters that make you root for their success. Miri, the star of this series, is put to the test of being sent out into a remote swampland to refine members of the royal family to make the girls acceptable for a marriage that would avoid war. (Of course, she’s not supposed to tell them that!) What she finds are three wild girls who hunt and roast rats – and caymen – for food. After arriving Miri starts wondering about the mystery of who exactly Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are while participating in Hale’s believable landscape…and this is the best part of all her books: Ms. Hale shows you, not tells, so that you feel as though you are learning the same swampy survival lessons as Miri.

Rife with action, humor, suspense, [some] romance, and likeable as well as unlikeable characters, this is definitely a great addition to the Princess Academy series that I imagine numerous tween/teen girls and guys (because many of the male characters are great, too) will devour.

Thank you once again, Shannon Hale.

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Book suggestions from TechRepublic — 7 Leadership titles to read in 2015

I enjoy opening my Daily Digests from Tech Republic — there’s always something that’s useful or interesting to read, even though I’m not a programmer or high-level IT guru, I just like working with technology and learning about what’s out there.

One of today’s links led to a short list of leadership books that will be published in 2015, as well as a short blurb for each as to why they’re a good read…which, as a Reader’s Advisory professional, I really appreciate (if someone is telling me to read a book, I want to know what it’s about).

I can’t personally vouch for every book since, well, only one has been published so far, but the list covers a variety of interests, and the blurbs have me looking forward to all of them. I love knowing about titles in advance!

The following titles* suggested by Tech Republic staff writer Erin Carson –thank you, Erin — are (in order of publication date):

Cover of Marissa Mayer and The Fight to Save Yahoo! Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! by Nicholas Carlson; pub date Jan 6, 2015; ISBN 9781455556618

Reviewers say this book isn’t just about Marissa Mayer, but about the entire journey of Yahoo! from THE place to go to find things to a company whose future is still unknown.


cover of How to Fly A Horse How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton; pub date Jan 20, 2015; ISBN 9780385538596

Explores creation/creative people: how did the “new” come to be?


cover for Yes, And Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration — Lessons from The Second City by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton; pub date Feb 3, 2014; ISBN 9780062248541

Yes, that Second City…the improv school that’s produced numerous comedic geniuses. I’ve already pre-ordered it. The authors claim that the book is “…aimed at increasing creativity, collaboration, and teamwork.” Since comedy troupes can’t be successful without any of these attributes, I believe them.


 cover for Act Like a Leader, Think Like a LeaderAct Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra; pub date Feb 10, 2015; ISBN 9781422184127

Lots of advance praise for this one…talks about how change yourself to positively effect your surroundings and promotes action over introspection. It’s now on my  Amazon Wish List.


cover for Elon MuskElon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance; pub date  May 19, 2015; ISBN 9780062301239

No, I’ve never heard his name before, and I’m still deciding if I should be ashamed about that, although I now know that he’s CEO of SpaceX and a co-founder of paypal.


cover for Misfit EconomyThe Misfit Economy: Lessons in Creativity from Pirates, Hackers, Gangsters and Other Tales of Informal Ingenuity  by Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips; pub date June 16, 2015; ISBN 9781451688825

Explores the world of underground innovators.


cover for Leadership BSLeadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer; pub date Sept. 15, 2015; ISBN 9780062383167

This has gotten good [very] early editorial reviews…and it does seem like time for a re-haul of what it means to be a good leader. There is no title image available yet, but I imagine it will be better than a beige cover.

All cover photos courtesy — an excellent site for book lovers. All titles were available as Kindle books.

To subscribe to any of Tech Republic’s read-worthy newsletters:

*While the original Tech Republic article listed eight items, I couldn’t find enough data on Amy Cuddy’s “Presence” (described as a book about how your body’s posture can impact your life, due to be published Fall 2015), to include it here.




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Chi’s Sweet Home series – a gentle introduction to manga for adolescents or manga newbies

cover of Chi's Sweet Home volume 1 cover of Chi's Sweet Home volume 2 ChisSweetHome3




I saw this as a recommended title on a YA list, ordered issues 1-3 from the library, and agree with others that this is a cute series that would be a great way to introduce the manga style to a YA or mange newbie, especially those that love cats.

With an impressively consistent 4+ star rating on goodreads (out of 5 stars) for all ten volumes, I can see the allure: the interaction of a new kitten with a family that seems to have little experience with felines and how each sees the world. Distracted by all the wondrous things in a world brand new to her, Chi gets separated from her mom and fellow kittens while out for an exploratory walk. Hungry and lost, she falls into the grass near where a young boy, Yohei, has also fallen. Both crying, kitten and boy bond, and Chi is taken home with Yohei and his mom. When calls to see if anyone wants a kitten fail to produce fruit, Chi is eventually invited to become part of the family– but they have to be careful, since pets aren’t allowed in their building!

Seeing things through Chi’s eyes is a good introduction into what it means to be a good pet owner who respects and cares for their charge. It was also really funny in parts, like when Chi gets a bath and she thinks for sure the human is trying to kill her, or  Chi thinking the plastic bag that the cat toys came in was actually the best plaything of all. Any cat owner knows only too well these scenarios. All this results in a good manga series for all ages.



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Discover WyrmeWeald – a Dragon Trilogy worth getting lost in

Well-known for their popular YA “Edge Chronicle” series, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddel have created a teen (and I would include adults) trilogy that’s worth reading by building a fascinating and believable dragon-focused ecosystem — a world that revolves around Dragons (or as they’re known in this book, Wyrmes) — while at the same time providing a solid and entertaining bildungsroman…we see Micah evolve from a naïve and gullible lad to an intelligent and decent man.

Returner's Wealth cover image
WyrmeWeald #1

 Returner’s Wealth 

Book #1 introduces us to with Micah, a young greenhorn barely surviving in the weald (I picture the weald akin to our Great Plains here in the US) who is out to seek “Returner’s Wealth” so as to make himself worthy enough for a girl. Almost dead due to lack of experience in the wild, he crosses path with taciturn, well-weald-versed, and ultimate decent guy Eli Halfwinter, who not only saves his life but teaches him the way of the weald. Along the way, they meet Thrace, a kingirl, her whitewyrme, Aseel, and also make some dangerous enemies along the way.


Bloodhoney cover image

WyrmeWeald #2


Fullwinter is brutal in the weald, so Micah, Thrace, and Eli are confined to a cave for the winter. Their enemies are not content to let them alone, however, as RedMyrtle, a keld hag, has sent assassins to kill them. Micah and Eli end up in a place called DeepHome: on the surface it’s a great retreat from fullwinter, but it hides a very, very dark secret underneath it…and there’s still an assassin at their backs.  The one bright spot from DeepHome is Cara, a young auburn-haired beauty enthralled by Micah.

The Bone Trail cover image
WyrmeWeald #3

The Bone Trail

The final book takes us through the fight for the weald…who will be the ultimate victor in the battle not only between wyrmes and kith, but between kinned- and kinless wyrmes?




While I’ve sometimes found it difficult for books later in a series to live up to the excitement caused by the first book (after all, you already know the world, so there’s the sense of the unknown that of course decreases), I really enjoyed all three of these books. I feel each stands alone well enough, but I wouldn’t want to have missed any of them, so I think reading all three is a worthy time investment. The art at the beginning of each chapter is nice, and they’ve even provided mini wyrme-guides at the back.

I hope you enj0y them, too!


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Ben H. Winters’ “The Last Policeman”…what would YOU do?

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters; image courtesy

image courtesy

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters; published May 13, 2013 [9781594746741]

What would you do if you knew that the Earth had less than six months until it was either completely or mostly destroyed by an asteroid? Would you stay in your current job or spend those days working on your Bucket List?

For Henry Palace the approach is to fulfill his job as a detective, which currently involves the case of an accountant found hanging in a McDonald’s bathroom stall. Since Henry is sure that the death isn’t the suicide everyone else is happy to label it, he’s compelled to uncover the truth. No one else cares whether it was suicide or not, even his bosses, so the journey is made all the more difficult. He has to know though: being a detective has always been his dream job, after all! Unfortunately, Henry is not a professional sleuth as he’s had only three month’s training in forensics… not exactly star detective material for a difficult investigation.

Ben Winters does a good job of tossing in enough tidbits of humor (Henry writing notes in bluebooks, and why he has so many bluebooks to begin with) and humanity (strong friendships with his coworkers) to add glimmers of brightness in an otherwise unbearably dreary world.

In addition to being a good police procedural, The Last Policeman is also an interesting exploration of how people might react to a non-escapable catastrophe. As you read through the book, it’s obvious that strictly adhering to the rule of law in a lawless world is Henry’s way of dealing with the stress. What would your reaction be to impending worldwide doom?



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Reviews of great books coming…the dry spell is over

Have you ever had a span of time when it seemed that you chose books that just never satisfied that itch that a good story scratches? Over the past few months, this has been my experience. At first I thought it was me being a jaded reader…then I read a book (Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” that I’ll likely review soon because so far it’s gripping) that described my criteria for declaring a book ‘good’, and I realized that I was just waiting until I read the right book:

“a book that did what books always promise to do…get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better”

While I wouldn’t say I read to get somewhere better, I do want a book to get me into somewhere else. (Reason: I like horror and thriller novels – not places I’d like to be, but places I like to read about!) I’ve read adequate books — meaning not really bad — over the past few months, but I like to recommend books that have taken me somewhere else completely. Is that too harsh a criteria? Please let me know. While I’ll be giving more in-depth reviews in the near future, I at least wanted to get the titles out there. This list includes both teen and adult items.


"The Last Policeman: Book 1" by Ben H. Winters. Image courtesy

“The Last Policeman: Book 1” by Ben H. Winters. Image courtesy

The Last Policeman: A Novel (Last Policeman Trilogy Book 1) by Ben H. Winters What would you do if you knew the world would be ending, thanks to an asteroid on a collision course with earth? Henry Palace is spending that time being a detective who still cares about solving crime in a world that has lost all structural norms.





Adult & Teen

"The Infinite Sea: 5th Wave Book 2" by Rick Yancey. Image courtesy

“The Infinite Sea: 5th Wave Book 2” by Rick Yancey. Image courtesy

 The Infinite Sea: The Second Book of the 5th Wave by Rick Yancey [9780399162428] This book entertained me almost as much as the first one*  although sometimes the transferring point-of-view left me wondering who the narrator was…but perhaps that was intentional, to keep the reader guessing? *since Book 1 was my #1 teen book for 2013, it would be hard to match that…and I already know the setting, so I can never be as intrigued simply because Yancey has managed to make this world knowable.




"Angelfall" by Susan Ee. Image courtesy

“Angelfall” by Susan Ee. Image courtesy

 Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days Book 1) by Susan Ee [9780761463276] It’s six weeks into the angel apocalypse — why are the angels here and why are they killing humans? And, more importantly, how do we survive them? Penryn has the added burden of needing to find her little sister, stolen by one of the angels…what do they want her for?

"World After" by Susan Ee. Image courtesy

“World After” by Susan Ee. Image courtesy

World After (Penryn & the End of Days Book 2) by Susan Ee [9781477817285] Penryn needs to find her kidnapped sister while figuring out how to help defeat the angels. Note: I don’t usually recommend a series as a whole, as I’ve found that sometimes the second or third book isn’t as good as the first…when they are, I figure they deserve the special recognition.

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Lynnwood by Thomas Brown – great horror story

cover of Thomas Brown's Lynnwood A tourist driving through the village of Lynnwood would see a typical charming bucolic British village kind of like one would find while watching a Miss Marple mystery. People might even like to go mushrooming in the forest that oversees the homes…but I wouldn’t recommend it. Like Agatha Christie’s settings, this charming veneer overlays sinister goings on. Unlike Agatha Christie, what goes on in Lynnwood is more than a single family’s tribulations…instead the whole town is subject to the horrific goings on that are an inherent facet of the community.

Thomas Brown creates a fantastically chilling tale of multi-generational decline into depravity; some fight it, others don’t; some are prey, others hunters; some recognize what’s going on right away, others are slow on the uptake. Thoroughly enjoyable book.

Pub date June 17, 2013; ISBN 9781907230387

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