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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Karen always reads all the best books – here’s one that I may have to add to my list this summer too.  And, bonus – if you’re doing the Read Across America year-long reading challenge, you can check Kentucky off your list!

I love to read historical fiction, and historical fiction that involves a horse (well, actually it’s a mule) and library books, plus it’s set in Kentucky (for those doing the state contest), really made my list.  With the hot and humid weather outside, it was easy to stay in and read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek in just a couple days.  “Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, [this book] is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere-even back home.”  The author’s notes at the end of the book were just as interesting to read, as she discusses both the blue-skinned people suffering from methemoglobinemia, a rare congenital disease, and the Pack Horse librarians, known as “book women”.  She states that “in the years of service, more than one thousand women served in the Pack Horse Library Project, and it was reported that nearly 600,000 residents in thirty eastern Kentucky counties considered “pauper counties” were served by them.”  It thrills me that I can find a book that shares an important part of history that I knew nothing about, and about subjects that I love, horsewomen and books!

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Book jacket cover of Magic for LiarsI lost track of how many “most anticipated” and “best books of the year” lists that I saw that included Magic for Liars. Lots of great blurbs too (my favorite: “The Magicians meets Tana French”). Who could resist reading such a  book? (spoiler: not me!) Not surprisingly, I really enjoyed it.  Booklist has a nice summary and gave it a starred review, writing “[p]rivate investigator Ivy Gamble does her work in the seedy underbelly of Oakland, California, alone and growing bored with adulterers and disability claims until the headmaster of the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages approaches her. A teacher at this magical school has died gruesomely, and the headmaster wants to know if it was murder. Ivy’s twin sister works at the school, though they’re estranged; Tabitha discovered her magic in high school, but Ivy doesn’t have that power. Despite her reservations, Ivy plunges forward into the world that never wanted her. Gailey takes command of this story, from the arresting prologue to the final reveal. Ivy’s relentless drive to solve the crime coupled with the unique setting will propel the reader through the narrative, but the many layers of theme and character set this novel apart. There’s something for almost all readers here: family drama, romance, high-school gossip, fantasy-world building. Above all, Gailey shows us that humans are humans, even when they are magic, and they are still flawed, damaged, and oh so interesting.”

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Things haven’t really been the same for Lucy Everhart and her dad since her mom died five years ago.  A renowned biologist, Lucy’s mom was on a boat tracking great white sharks off the north Atlantic coast when she died.  Lucy’s dad is a police detective in their small coastal Massachusetts town and a rescue diver who works all up and down the coast, which means he isn’t home too much, but her neighbors are always there – old Mr. Patterson on one side, hanging out on his porch listening to his police scanner, and the Kellys on the other, including Fred Kelly, Lucy’s best friend, and his two sisters.  Mrs. Kelly took care of Lucy after her mom died, when things were really bad, and Lucy feels almost like part of the Kelly family.

It’s summer, and Lucy and Fred are hard at work on their summer project, a field guide to Cape Ann wildlife (Fred writes the descriptions, while Lucy illustrates), when local fisherman Sookie catches a great white in one of his nets and hauls it to shore.  The two head to the dock to get a good look at the shark, and that night, while trying to get the illustrations right, Lucy catches some old footage on the news of her mom talking about great whites moving into the north Atlantic.  Footage she’s never seen before – which sets her down a path of discovery about her mom’s work with sharks, Fred by her side.  As the two dive deep into shark research, Lucy starts to feel like she’s getting to know her mom the biologist, not just her mom the mom.

But when another tragedy rips a new hole in Lucy’s heart, this time with serrated edges, she has to fight hard to hold on.  Her mom’s research feels like a life line, and finding answers her mom didn’t get a chance to investigate feels like a way for Lucy to keep swimming, even in the dark waters of grief.  With the field guide and her pencils in hand, her mom’s unanswered questions forming the path ahead, and help from more than a few unexpected places, Lucy slowly begins to find her way forward.

Shark Week is still a month away, but you can get a jump start with this fabulous debut novel by Minnesota author Kate Allen!  The Line Tender is an exploration of family, friendship, love, loss, and chock full of the science of sharks.  A great summer read (although maaaybe not for a trip to an ocean…), there are tons of shark and other marine biology facts in this novel that were super fascinating, and Lucy’s shark illustrations fill the space between each chapter.  With a mystery or two, quirky neighbors, good friends, a road trip, and lots of sharks, this is definitely one to add to your summer stack!