Susan Van Kirk
The Finalist by Joan Long
The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda GormanI’m currently reading and thinking about The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, which Poet Lauriat Amanda Gorman wrote and read at Joe Biden’s inauguration when she was twenty-four years old.
Amanda Gorman was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Harvard University in 2020.
She is the author of the The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country (Viking Books for Young Readers, March 2021), the poetry collection The Hill We Climb (Viking, September 2021) and The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (Penmanship Books, 2015). In 2017, Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. She previously served as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, and she is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth.
Gorman was selected by President Biden to read her original poem “The Hill We Climb” for his Inauguration on January 20, 2021, making her the youngest poet to have served in this role. She also is the first poet commissioned to write a poem to be read at the Super Bowl. Her poem honors three individuals for their essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her vivid imagery and personality shine through in her work. She is at once, clear about the lack of progress in achieving equality for all, and hopeful for the future. Her words acknowledge the forces arrayed against moving forward and the determination to make a better country. She calls for action with love and respect for all people. Her writing is luminous.
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
I've just finished listening to A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende. This beautifully written novel takes us through the life of Catalonian Victor Dalmau—his horrifying time as a medic in the Spanish Civil War; his immigration to Chile where he becomes a doctor; and his loves and his friendships with real people like Pablo Neruda and Salvador Allende, the author's cousin. A marvelous tale of a Spaniard who, despite hardships, finds a new home in Chile.
James M. Jackson
Morning Star by Pierce BrownI recently started Morning Star by Pierce Brown. It’s the third in the Red Rising series. The series is set in a future in which humans have expanded across the universe and developed a caste system based on genetically modified color. The story follows Darrow, a Red, (Reds are lowly miners) who joins a rebellion against the structure.
The thing I most want to share about the series is not its storyline, but how we (Jan and I) discovered it. We belong to Wisconsin’s Digital Library (through a local library). During Covid times, we avoid physical visits and shop digitally for reads. The digital library has a “Lucky Day” feature: popular books you can immediately check out. It’s like scanning library shelves waiting for the serendipity of a book to call your name. Jan rarely reads science fiction or dystopian novels but chose Red Rising (the first in the series).
She loved it, so I read it. I rated Red Rising 5-stars and gave 4 stars to Golden Son (second in the series). You can check blurbs to learn whether the series is one you might like. Regardless, I encourage everyone to occasionally go wild and let a book pick you.
E. B. Davis
You Can’t Candle the Truth by Sarah Burr
The series features niece, Hazel Wickbury, and her aunt, Poppy Glenmyre. The two are actually three years apart, in their early thirties, and the best of friends. They live in the historic town of Crucible in upstate New York. Hazel, the main character, makes candles for her shop, A Wick in Time, although she is rather cavalier in keeping shop hours. The two women are independently comfortable due to their ancestors being town founders and possessing paranormal skills, which they have passed down. I won’t spoil the fun and say what they are, but their skills induce sleuthing in the case of the town’s first murder victim.
A small town by a lake, shopkeepers galore, and town snob meanies, with two good women possessing paranormal “whims,” as Sarah deems their gifts, comprise a fun read and an interesting mystery to solve.