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Life: The First Four Billion Years by Martin Jenkins

Picture of book cover for Life: The First Four Billion YearsI’m trespassing on Megan’s turf here, writing about a children’s book. That’s because deep down I have not outgrown my desire to be a paleontologist when I grow up (I know, chronologically that ship sailed so so many years ago, but maturity wise I’ve still got a ways to go…)

This is a truly fascinating book with glorious illustrations. Like a lot of people, I know a fair amount about dinosaurs, critters from our fairly recent past. After all, the Jurassic period was only a couple hundred million years ago. But I know almost nothing about the really old times, like the Archean Eon (4-2.5 billion years ago). There were some truly weird creatures in the old times! And the geological history is incredible as well. Highly recommended!

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

everythingOur book club guru Karen has found one that is tailor made for book clubs. Booklist wrote “Heart-breaking tragedy and unthinkable decisions lie at the center of Mackintosh’s fourth novel, a turn towards a different type of suspense. Max and Pip Adams are the perfect couple, and they’re living the perfect life until their three-year-old son, Dylan, becomes critically ill. Forced to make a choice about his care and future, they find themselves at an impasse, unable to agree on which path is right. But what if it were possible to go down both roads? Mackintosh uses a clever combination of alternate narration and parallel stories to explore what happens to the Adams’ relationship if each of the possibilities is chosen. Inspired by a similar situation with her own son, Mackintosh makes readers question what makes a choice right or wrong. How can you move forward if you never know whether or not you did the right thing? Max and Pip are thoroughly relatable, compelling, and as are most people, complex. Sure to keep fans of Jodi Picoult or of Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage thinking about issues of morality and marriage long after the last page.” Karen said she couldn’t put it down.

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.”