Cedar's Picks

Cedar Goslin


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Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812980479
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade - February 2nd, 2016

In reviewing this book, I'm breaking my own rule to not recommend something before I've finished reading it completely; but I love it so much that I can't help it. I adore stories, true or fictional, about women pushing the boundaries of society, and Romantic Outlaws is just that. It is a dual biography that, in alternating chapters, tells the story of Mary Shelley, who would grow up to author Frankenstein, and Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women and the mother Shelley would never know. Wollstonecraft died only weeks after giving birth to Shelley, who was her second child. It's fascinating how similar the lives of these women turned out to be, though they barely intertwined. Both were avid advocates for women, and passionately dedicated themselves to the betterment of their lot in Victorian society; both became writers of work that has stood the test of time. So far, I have been enthralled by the lives of these two remarkable women, and impressed with Gordon's skillful writing. From the opening page, where we discover that Shelly learned to read on her mother's tombstone (perhaps a fitting start for the girl who would become a founding mother of horror literature) the book reads like a historical novel.This is a must read for fans of history, classic literature or those with an interest in the history of women's rights.

Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured Cover Image
ISBN: 9780767932493
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Anchor Books - October 13th, 2015

I've always enjoyed Joan of Arc as an historical figure for two reasons. One is that she is one of the first female warriors in recorded history, which is particularly impressive when you take into account that she was born in Medieval France, where women were expected to be wives, mothers and nothing more. The second reason is that so much about Joan's life is up to speculation. Some still regard her as a Saint and truly believe that she was anointed by god, while others think she slyly fabricated a religious calling to escape her lot in life. It's also possible that the "voices" Joan claimed to hear were a symptom of an undiagnosed mental illness. We may never know the truth, but it is sure interesting to speculate.
That being said, this is the first book I've read about Joan of Arc in which the author was not putting forth her own theory. Joan of Arc: A life Transfigured is a straight timeline of Joan's life and everything we know about her. I was surprised to learn how little I actually knew about this fascinating woman! Harrison was the perfect person to write this book. She was dealing with many different sources and muddled records, but she pieced everything together in a way that was simple and enthralling to read. Somehow she managed to weave in an element of suspense that made me want to keep reading, even though--of course-- we know how this story ends. All throughout the book are excerpts from Joan's final interrogations before she was executed. Her story is undoubtedly a tragic one, but also one of the most incredible that history has to offer.

Rebel of the Sands Cover Image
ISBN: 9780451477538
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking Books for Young Readers - March 8th, 2016

Corrupt kingdoms, disgraced princes, mystical beasts and a heroine who is more than she appears to be--what more could you ask for in a story? Alwyn Hamilton's debut novel is a little bit western and a little bit middle eastern fantasy-- a delightfully satisfying combination. Amani is a teenage girl as tough and gritty as the desert she calls home, who is desperate to escape her aunt and uncle before she is married off. A skilled sharpshooter, she sees her chance at a new life in the form of the prize money from a saloon shooting competition--but in order to compete, she'll have to disguise herself as a boy. Predictably, all does not go according to plan. Instead of slipping into the night with a tidy sum of gold, Amani finds herself fleeing for her life on the back of a mythical sand horse with a fugitive whom she's not sure she can trust. Rebel of the Sands, is the perfect book for when you want to be enveloped in fantasy. Hamilton is a skilled storyteller, and you'll find yourself lost in the vivid desert world she creates, and falling in love with the believable and beautifully flawed characters.