Something About the Sky by Rachel Carson and Nikki McClure

Review by Amy Halvorson Miller

Back in the early months of the pandemic, Olympia artist and writer Nikki McClure was approached by Orion magazine about illustrating portions of a script Rachel Carson wrote for television more than sixty years ago. Of course, she immediately agreed, making arrangements with Carson’s estate to create a picture book titled Something About the Sky, which was published last month.

Rachel Carson is known for her classic book, Silent Spring, which revealed how humans were poisoning Earth and creatures were dying as a result–most notably from the pesticide DDT. The alarm she sounded was crucial for us to hear during the formative years of the environmental movement.

In words and art the author and illustrator, having never met, help us understand that Earth has two oceans: one of seawater below and one of vapor above. Both carry and nourish life. Both move in currents, often with similar patterns shaped like waves, eddies, or ripples. Carson explains the water cycle and cloud types accurately and poetically. Fog, rain, snow–stormy or gently fleeting–are constantly reforming with no end nor beginning.

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

Review by Jules Galgan

I know they say not to judge books by their covers, but after one look at Samantha Shannon’s A Day of Fallen Night, I felt certain that a book that beautiful had to be filled with something great. I have never been more right. A Day of Fallen Night is one of the most epic fantasy novels of our time and has easily joined the ranks of my all time favorite books. It is a saga saturated with adventure, romance, and intrigue that makes the pages fly by.

The story takes place hundreds of years before Shannon’s other novel, the infamous Priory of the Orange Tree. As far as reading order goes, these two can be read as stand alone novels or the reader can view Priory of the Orange Tree as the main novel and read A Day of Fallen Night as a prequel. I personally feel that reading A Day of Fallen Night allows the reader to get a handle on the intricate world-building and makes Priory of the Orange Tree an even more enriching experience. Both books are rich and vibrant with a full cast of characters and exceptional pacing.

Bye, Baby by Carola Lovering

Review by Nikki Maples

Books have always been a huge part of my life. I have memories of curling up on the couch and sitting there for hours just reading. I remember begging my parents to take me to the bookstore so I could get the next book in the series I was currently obsessing over. I had to get the books the second they came out. Today, that is still true. I added Bye, Baby by Carola Lovering to my ‘to-read’ shelf on Goodreads and impatiently waited and waited for its release.

The day it was released, I slapped my debit card down on the sales counter at Inklings Bookshop and got my very own copy. That night, I went home and curled up with my comfiest blanket and stepped into the thriller that is Bye, Baby.

A lost friendship. Jealousy turned into a fit of blinding rage. A stolen baby. Carola Lovering introduces readers to her newest bestseller and gives the term ‘toxic friendship’ a whole new meaning. Bye, Baby thrust the reader into the lives of Billie and Cassie, two women who would once do anything for each other, who are now strangers passing by. Desperate to gain her best friend back, Billie pushes herself back into her friends life after Cassie gives birth to her first child. Past secrets start to emerge between the two and in a blackout moment of jealousy, Billie kidnaps Cassie’s daughter on their balcony ledge. The story then takes a drastic turn from there and has you at the edge of your seat.

UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government's Search for Alien Life Here—and Out There by Garrett Graff

Review by Chris Saunders

UFO: "Unidentified Flying Object". Recently rebranded “UAP” for “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon,” or “Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon.” Apparently “UFO” had some marketing problems.

As proud Pacific Northwesterners know, the first official sighting of otherworldly aircraft didn’t happen at Roswell, New Mexico, but rather, near Mount Rainier on June 24th, 1947, by a 32-year-old rescue pilot named Kenneth Arnold, who landed in Yakima later that day and told a lot of people about the “saucer-like craft” he saw. (I never knew any of this until I went off to college, and I’ve always wondered why stick-in-the-mud Yakimites don’t talk about this at all, while other communities are quick to cash in on the notoriety associated with UFO sightings. Even if it’s too late to attract tourists at this point, how about a plaque or a mural on the airport wall, or just something commemorating it?)

For what it’s worth, Yakima is first mentioned on page 4 of UFO, the 518-page book by investigative reporter Garrett Graff, whose previous subjects have included Watergate, September 11th, and the Cold War. Shortly after Arnold’s story appeared in newspapers, it seemed like everyone was seeing glowing aircraft everywhere during the Summer of ’47.

A Wild and Heavenly Place by Robin Oliveira

Review by Luanne Clark

When author Robin Oliveira was a younger woman, her family vacationed yearly on San Juan Island.

On its most northern tip, Oliveira found the ruins of a gray stone house, much different from the other architecture on the island. She became intrigued with the ruins and tried to research the lonely little cottage’s history. Failing at that, she created her own history of the little house. And that invented history became her latest novel, A Wild and Heavenly Place.

The story begins in Glasgow, Scotland, 1878, with orphan Samuel Fidess, a young man of poverty, and his younger sister. They live from hand to mouth in one of the many tenements in the city, far from the upper crust homes of polite society. Weekly church services are the one place where lives may cross.

It’s at church one week when Samuel first notices Hailey and is captivated. When circumstances allow Samuel to rescue Hailey’s little brother from a carriage accident, he is invited to their mansion for dinner. From those simple beginnings, a love blossoms that will carry both Hailey and Samuel 3,000 miles to the Pacific Northwest and a brand-new Seattle.

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Review by Jules Galgan.

Sometimes you read a book and you think to yourself, “Oh my goodness. Someone sat down and created this absolute masterpiece with nothing but their mind and their research.” Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is that someone and that book is Chain Gang All Stars. This book was stellar. The story kicks off in a dystopian America in which inmates in the prison system can opt out of their sentence and instead fight other inmates to the death. These fights are put out as entertainment for all and advertised as the newest sport. If the allstars survive their matches for three years, they then earn their freedom. 

Chain Gang All Stars is the perfect bridge between the reality of the prison system in the United States today and a far off dystopian world in which animosity is turned into entertainment for the masses. This made the message all the more powerful as it was both a warning and prophecy. Adjei-Brenyah uses footnotes to cite the sources for real world examples of people who experience the very same things these fictional characters experience, things like solitary confinement and the effects it has on people’s minds, forced labor for next to no pay, forced labor conditions that are dangerous, etc. all with an emphasis on how the prison system disproportionately affects and targets people of color. 

Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Review by Elisabeth Martin Rogers

The Alloy of Law is said by Brandon Sanderson to be an accident, but you would not think so upon reading it. He sought a half step between his more epic novels and this thrilling mystery style novel is a lovely intermission. It beautifully intertwines with the world he has created in what he calls “The Cosmere”. For fans of Sanderson, his intricate world building and how he incorporates powers is the main draw. The Way of Kings and Mistborn, are a part of his Cosmere. This carries on in the new Wax and Wayne series that Alloy of Law kicks off. His popular trilogy, Mistborn becomes the lore for Wax and Wayne because they exist millions of years after Mistborn concludes. You do not need to read Sanderson’s other books to read this one, but I recommend going back to read the “lore” in Mistborn if you have not already.

The fantastical aspects of Sanderson’s writings presents itself as a modernized way of allomancy - which is how characters draw on metals' natural power to give them unique abilities. We get a taste of futuristic use of metals while keeping that nostalgic “lawkeeper in a lawless land” feel.

Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon by Michael Lewis

Review by J.T. Menard

Michael Lewis has a knack for making highly complex topics simple enough for the non-expert. He demystified sabermetrics in Moneyball and got me to at least feel like I understood subprime mortgages in The Big Short.

The latest inscrutable topic Lewis approaches in his new book, Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon, is the world of cryptocurrency. Specifically, he covers the explosive rise, and fall, of cryptocurrency king Sam Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried was the head of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange that failed spectacularly in November 2022. Bankman-Fried was found guilty of seven counts of wire fraud and conspiracy in November 2023.

Lewis had been embedded with Bankman-Fried for months when FTX imploded. It is evident that Lewis’ original conception for the book was to paint Bankman-Fried as a financial maverick and super-genius challenging and remolding the world of finance. The revelation that FTX’s success was based upon fraud and deceit forced Lewis to change this narrative, and you can see it in the abrupt tonal shift in the back half of the book.

While Going Infinite is certainly an interesting book, it is not one that will age well. It was released too early, in October 2023, just before the start of Bankman-Fried’s trial, where the extent of the fraud was laid bare by the Department of Justice. Why Lewis did not wait until after the trial to revise and release the book baffled me. Going Infinite essentially went out of date only a month after its release.

The Women by Kristin Hannah

Review by Irene Pearcey

Coronado Island, California May 1966

On a beautiful and peaceful California evening as family and friends said farewell to Finn McGrath, his sister Frances found herself alone in her father's study staring at the "heros" wall. A wall filled with the memorabilia of her family. "Men in uniforms, women in wedding dresses, medals for valor and injury, a triangle-folded and framed American flag that had been given to her paternal grandmother." Frances (Frankie) wanted to be a part of that wall, but while the path to honor was laid out for men, it was not so clearly defined for women.

Finn was leaving for Vietnam, to a war that raged thousands of miles from the peaceful golden sands of California beaches and Frances was finishing her nursing degree.

Frankie wrote to her brother every Sunday for six months and then one quiet November evening the doorbell rang and "two Naval officers in dress uniforms stood there at attention".

The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris

Review by Sue Domis

The author Dave Eggers has written popular adult novels such as The Every, The Circle and A Hologram for The King. He is also the author of young readers' fiction such as Her Right Foot, and The Lifters. Dave Eggers is also the founder of the popular publication McSweeney's. His newest children's work is the book The Eyes & the impossible. This is an exciting read for readers ages 8 and up. The animals in his latest book are very bright, funny and engaging. People of all ages who appreciate good animal fiction will enjoy this read. Besides beautiful writing, the book is enhanced with classical landscape paintings with the main character, Johannes, added to each painting. Shawn Harris is the artist who added Johannes to the paintings.

The Eyes & the Impossible is not meant to be an allegory. In Eggers forward to the book, he writes that the book is fiction. "No places are real places, no animals are real animals." And that "no animals symbolize people. Here dogs are dogs, birds are birds, goats are goats, and the Bison Bison."