Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA paranormal fiction
Blue Sargent is from a lower, middle-class family that is composed of psychics, yet she has no psychic ability herself; instead she is an "amplifier." Blue's mother, Maura Sargent uses Blue's non-ability every year on St. Mark's Day to take note of the townsfolk who are going to die in the coming year. Usually this is a non-dramatic event, but this year a raven boy is among the dead. A "raven boy" is Blue's nickname for the rich and privileged boys who attend Aglionby Academy. Blue usually stays away from boys, especially raven boys, because of a dire prediction she has heard all her life: she will kill her true love with a kiss. Yet, Blue drops her Aglionby prejudice and becomes close to a raven boy (Adam) in order to help the soon-to-be-dead raven boy (Gansey).
Gansey has his own agenda for attending Agliony Academy in tiny Henrietta, Virginia, and it's not for the top-quality, Ivy League education. After a near-death experience introduces him the mysterious Welsh king, Owen Glendower, Gansey has used his spare time and family's wealth to hunt down clues to find the long dead king and Henrietta is located on a ley line (which are useful for waking dead kings).
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Title: Cold Days
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: urban fantasy
Chicago's favorite wizard/detective is back although he has been "promoted" to Mab's Winter Knight. After coming back from the dead and enduring Mab's version of physical therapy, Mab dispatches Harry on an impossible quest- kill an immortal. I can't give more details without venturing into spoiler territory, but as Harry returns to the mortal earth to carry out his "job," his friends show up one by one to help him. Karrin and Harry finally have a talk about their relationship (or lack thereof), Harry and Thomas trade brotherly insults, and Mouse even helps out. Pop culture references and sarcasm fill the pages as the danger mounts. Will Harry save Chicago while not succumbing to the dark dangers of being a Winter Knight?
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Author: Jessica Khoury
Genre: YA fiction, scifi
Pia is special, unique, and perfect. She is the result of 5 generations of genetic engineering that has rendered her immortal. Pia lives in the Amazon rainforest in an enclosed compound run by an organization known as Corpus. Pia has never left this compound and the lead scientist, Uncle Paolo, makes sure her knowledge of the outside world is very limited- Pia excels at science but has never seen a world map, never read great works of literature, or stepped outside the Corpus compound. Pia is satisfied with her life and the rules until her 17th birthday. Like all teenage girls she yearns for more freedom, so one day she figures out how to sneak out of the compound. In her first foray into the jungle, she meets Eio, the Ai'oans and her life is changed forever (literally).
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Title: Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Hello, guest poster today... My name is S'mores (see picture above) and my mommy has been so busy with work and Thanksgiving that she asked me to update the blog for her. My mommy started reading the Song of Fire and Ice series after watching the Game of Thrones series on TV. She was pretty obsessed with the book and impressed by the depth of Mr. Martin's writing. Mommy was also impressed by how closely HBO followed the book in Season 1. Hopefully, this will continue in the following seasons...
As you can see from the above picture I managed to sneak in a bit of reading time myself. Normally, Mommy and I don't read fantasy but what's not to love about dragons, medieval-type battles, deceit, family feuds, runaway children, a smartass dwarf and a few direwolves?
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Title: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War
Author: Drew Gilpin Faust
Genre: non-fiction, American history, Civil War
I first heard of this book last month when NPR replayed an interview with author Drew Gilpin Faust on September 17, 2012- the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. Suffering was published in 2008, but the interview was very interesting to listen to. You can listen or read about it here: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/21/161544181/civil-war-historian-drew-gilpin-faust-on-pbs
While most Civil War books and historical groups focus on Civil War strategy and Civil War generals' personalities, Drew Gilpin Faust looks at how the Civil War touched the individual and changed the American culture. Americans had never seen mass slaughter on such a huge scale before the Civil War and unfortunagely the immense loss of life would be a foreshadowing of World War One. The Civil War also brought about the national cemetery system and the next-of-kin notification system- out of necessity to deal with the numerous amounts of unmarked graves and unknown whereabouts of soldiers who had "disappeared" due to being blown up or buried in mass graves or unmarked graves.
But most of all, the Civil War changed the way Americans viewed death. Before the Civil War, a "good death" consisted of dying at home surrounded by family. Dying on the battlefield or from an amputation far from home changed the way Americans perceived and dealth with death. Some Americans' spiritual beliefs would never recover from the events of this war.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Title: The Truth About Style
Author: Stacy London
Genre: nonfiction, fashion & style
Not your normal style manual...
Stacy London introduces us to nine "normal" women who having clothing issues due to various life experiences. Stacy looks into the psychology of why we hide behind our clothes, why we let ourselves go, etc. Sassy, sarcastic and non-judgmental, Stacy looks back on her childhood and college years- years that were filled with painful psoriasis and eating disorders. Recommended for all women in various stages of style in their life who need to be reminded how special and unique they are.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Title: Turtle in Paradise
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Genre: juvenile fiction
Turtle (so named for her tough emotional exterior) is a preteen sent to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Key West in 1935. Turtle's mother never told her about her extended family so she is surprised to learn she has so many cousins. Unfortunately, in her eyes, they are all boys. In this quiet gem of a book we get a glimpse of Key West during the Great Depression and before commercialism and tourism changed the Keys' way of life forever.
Kids will learn about pop culture in the 1930s- Shirley Temple, The Shadow, etc. While dealing with her pesty cousins, Turtle learns more about her mother's past, goes sponge fishing and searches for buried treasure, and experiences her first hurricane! A quick and enjoyable read if you want to travel back in time to Old Florida.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Title: The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken
Author: Tarquin Hall
Tarquin Hall's mystery series featuring Vish Puri keep getting better and better. In this third book in the series, the reader must wade through a more complicated storyline while envisioning the colorful food and cultural mashup that is modern day India.
Vish Puri takes on a case that really doesn't suit his private detective reputation-the world record holder for the longest mustache is in need of Puri's detective skills when he wakes up one morning to find half of his mustache gone. While ruminating over the silliness of the case and possible motives, Vish Puri is witness to a dramatic death/murder of a visiting Pakistani while at a dinner party. While not officially investigating this case, curiosity and the behavior of his Mummy-ji at the dinner party compel Vish Puri to seek out justice. Vish Puri soon finds connections between his Mummy-ji and the murdered man- a connection that goes back 60 years!
When you are done with this book, you will want a heaping plate of Indian food! Contains a glossary which defines the food and slang mentioned throughout the book and some recipes too. If you want a mystery that's not graphic, yet not saccharine sweet, you need to check the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Title: City of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte
Genre: fiction, a wee bit of paranormal, sci-fi and some time traveling too
Wow! What a great book! I actually stayed up until midnight one night reading this book- it was that good. Sarah Weston is a P.h. D. candidate in musicology who grew up on the tough streets of South Boston. She is hired to work at the Lobkowicz Castle in Prague to catalog and perform archival work on sheets of music penned by Beethoven. While in Prague, she learns of her beloved professor's "suicide" and vows to look into the circumstances of his death. While performing her job duties, she is surrounded by the drama of Czech politics and history and falls hard for the prince of Lobkowicz Castle. Alas, the castle has secrets of its own- a conniving U.S. senator with ties to the KGB, a 400 year old dwarf, and a drug that lets you see into the past. Read and you'll agree with me and the book jacket: "one of the most entertaining novels of the year."
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Title: Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony
Author: Lee Miller
Genre: American history, non-fiction
Most Americans are familiar with the legend surrounding the Lost Colony of Roanoke: a small group of English settlers attempts to create a colony in the New World only to vanish under mysterious circumstances. Unfortunately, most history books gloss over Roanoke in a paragraph and it's on to the next fact.
Lee Miller digs deeper and comes up with a complicated, yet interesting theory. She theorizes that the Roanoke colonists were a Separatist group seeking asylum and a fresh start in the New World. Unfortunately, they were sabotaged by a member of the royal court who was the archnemesis of Sir Walter Raleigh. Lee Miller also theorizes that the colonists were kidnapped by the local Native American tribes, enslaved by them, and intermarried with them. She based this theory on reports of explorers in the late 1500s and early 1600s that came across "Indians with beards," "Indians with grey eyes," and sightings of Native Americans in English-style houses.
This is a fascinating aspect of American history and Lee Miller spent much time researching this, but the only fault with this book is her writing style. I had read other reviews online that criticized her writing style and I thought the reviewer was being harsh. Now I know what they were talking about. She sprinkles fragmented sentences throughout her paragraphs, like they were quick notes and ideas that were jotted down but not fleshed out. I don't know how this passed by an editor, but it drove me crazy and it took me longer to read this book because of it.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Title: The Dressmake of Khair Khana
Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is an excellent and inspiring book! Afghanistan didn't become a household name in the United States until 2001 when U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime. This book tells what happened to Afghanistan when the Taliban took over in the mid-1990s. Afghanistan had been a Westernized, modern society from the 1950s until the mid-1990s. Women were allowed to wear a small head covering that could show their face and some of their hair. They were also allowed to wear Western clothes and pursue higher education and work outside the home. Once the Taliban took over, everything changed. Women had to wear the chadri, a full-length garment that covered them from head to toe. A wrist shown in public by mistake could mean prison or death. When women went out in public, they had to be accompanied by a male family member. A female shopper could not inquire after a male shopkeeper's family even if the two had known each other for decades. Work for women was forbidden as was music and dancing.
Women that were used to being busy and productive chafed under the restrictive regime. In this book we meet Kamila Sidiqi and her sisters who use their sewing skills to earn money for their family. The great part of this story is that Sidiqi sisters shared their sewing skills with women in their neighborhood; they never turned a woman away who was need of work. Strict rules were set so as to not attract the attention of the Taliban. Kamila's neighborhood work soon led to a job with a foreign aid agency which helped her reach more of her fellow countrywomen.
I stayed up past my bedtime to finish this book and it was worth it. A must-read for any woman (or man) concerned with the issued that affect his or her fellow human beings.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Title: A Working Theory of Love
Author: Scott Hutchins
I really don't know what to say about this book; it's not one I would have chosen to read but it was sent to me as a galley through Penguin's First Flight galley program.
Neill Bassett Jr. lives in San Francisco and works at at 3-employee startup company although he has no programming or IT experience. This startup, Amiante, is trying to create the world's first intelligent computer (a computer with emotions, humor, self awareness, etc.). Neill is involved because Amiante is giving the computer a "voice" using Neill's dead father's journals. On top of this eccentric project, Neill ponders why his marriage failed and tries to date two women at once and screws that up while uncovering a family secret.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Title: City of Women
Author: David R. Gillham
Genre: historical fiction, WWII
It took me about 100 pages to get into this book. I wasn't sure how I felt about the protagonist, Sigrid Schroder. She is aloof to her neighbors and coworkers as she maintains the facade of a good German soldier's wife, but she is really carrying on a passionate affair while her husband is fighting the Russians. Stuck in a loveless marriage and living with a rampaging mother-in-law, Sigrid easily falls into the passionate embrace of the mysterious Egon. But Egon has secrets of his own and with the roundups of Jews in Berlin, Sigrid is soon entangled in the underground network of saving Jewish lives.
I did enjoy reading Gillham's depiction of Berlin during World War II. As an American I'm used to books and movies from the American/Allied Forces view (the view of Berlin being bombed). Gillham did meticulous research on the everyday lives of Berliners and it shows
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Title: Rocky Road
Author: Rose Kent
Genre: juvenile fiction
What's the next best thing to eating ice cream? Reading about it, of course! Especially when it's 100 degrees outside...
Tess Dobson's mother is driving her crazy. On a whim, Delilah Dobson is moving her two kids, Tess and Jordan, to Schenectady, New York to open an ice cream shop. In the middle of winter. Having been subject to the consequences of her mother's whims before, Tess is not very supportive of the move and the business venture. The Dobson family has suffered through evictions and multiple failed business ventures because of Delilah's "Shooting Stars." Once Tess gets to Schenectady, she learns that her mother's risk-taking, sloppy spending, fast talking, and mood swings have a name: bipolar disorder. Will the diagnosis ruin the ice cream shop's future or are the Dobsons in for a sweet future?
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Title: The Island at the Center of the World
Author: Russell Shorto
Genre: non-fiction, American History, New York History
These Dutch names look strange to our American eyes, but we know them by their Angilcized versions: Staten Island, Long Island, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Yonkers. It has been said that history is written by the victors and this is especially true about the history of Manhattan before the English took over in 1664. What most Americans know about the Dutch rule of Manhattan has been reduced to a few paragraphs in our history books: Peter Stuyvesant, his wooden leg, and Indians. In this exhaustive and detailed book (it has the most impressive bibliography I have ever seen!), Russell Shorto takes us back to the discovery of Manhattan by Henry Hudson and explains how seemingly minor details in European history affected Manhattan as well. When the English took over Manhattan, the Dutch background of this important colony was reduced to almost nothing. Thankfully, the discovery and translation of 12,000 Dutch documents is changing the way Americans view New York history.
Page 28: "Upward mobility was part of the Dutch character: if you worked hard and were smart, you rose in stature. Today that is a byword of a healthy society; in the seventeenth century it was weird."
"The whole package- the Founding Father, the young and vibrant republic, the war for independence, the hard-nosed, practical populace that disdains monarchies and maintains a frank acceptance of differences- has a ring of familiarity to it..." Sound familiar? This was the Dutch republic declaring independence from Spain, but these values would emigrate to the Manhattan colony and become part of the American culture and government.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Title: The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors, and One Woman's Fight For Justice
Author: Kathryn Bolkovac
Genre: non-fiction, book to movie
Another book and book-to-movie combo, this time based on a true story. Kathy Bolkovac was a seasoned and professional police officer when she was hired by DynCorp as part of a peacekeeping operation that would bring democracy and order into war-torn Bosnia. After being promoted to Gender Affairs, what she thought would be a noble mission turned ugly when she discovered that many of her coworkers, private contractors, and UN personnel were taking an active part in fueling drug trafficking of minors into Bosnia. The intimidation and good-ol-boy system she encountered is frustrating to read about and the layers of bureuacracy within DynCorp and the UN is mind boggling. She must have taken copious notes to keep everything straight!
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Title: The Orphan Master
Author: Jean Zimmerman
Genre: historical fiction
As promised a few months ago, I have finally reached The Orphan Master on my reading pile...
The Orphan Master is set in the colony of New Amsterdam (present-day Lower Manhattan). America's most famous, bustling metropolis started out as a humble Dutch colony complete with canals and a wall (precursor to Wall Street) to keep out the "savages." In 1663, New Amsterdam is in danger of being overtaken by the English and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Most locals don't care about the political storm raging through their colony; there is a more serious threat that's ruining their lives. Children are being killed; specifically orphans. Not only are the orphans being killed, but they are being raped, tortured and eaten. Rumors abound of the witika, a Native American demon that eats and thrives on human flesh. Witika sightings abound and the suspect list grows. Suspects include the colony's orphan master, a visiting Englishman, a local female trader, various male leaders in the colony, and of course, some Native Americans.
Not only does The Orphan Master provide the reader with a chilling mystery, but we get a glimpse of everyday life in America in the 1600s. Oysters were about a foot long, Dutch women had more legal and social freedom than their British counterparts, and I learned about a Dutch-Indian War (the Esopus Wars) that I had never heard of before.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Title: Sarah's Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Genre: historical fiction
I watched the movie before I read the book (I usually read the book first) and I enjoyed both immensely. The two plot lines in Sarah's Key revolve around a little known piece of French history: the V'el D'Hiv roundup. In July of 1942, the French government, by order of the Nazis, rounded up French Jews and sent them to "work camps" in the French countryside. Once at the work camps the men were separated from their families. A few months later the women and children were separated and the women sent to Auschwitz. Unfortunately, the rest is history. These true events are unknown here in America and even unknown to the younger generations in France- the older generation is ashamed that they allowed this tragedy to happen.
In alternating chapters we read about Sarah's family being rounded up and sent to the camp. The other chapters take place in modern-day Paris where Julia Jarmond is remodeling an apartment with her husband. Julia is a transplanted American journalist who is assigned to write about the 60th anniversary of the V'el D'Hiv roundup. Her research and interviews eventually confirm that the apartment her family is remodeling has connections to this tragic day in French history.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Title: The Brief History of the Dead
Author: Kevin Brockmeier
Genre: Sci-fi, futuristic
In The Brief History of the Dead, we are introduced to two seemingly different plot lines that slowly converge as the book progresses.
Plot Line 1: Three scientists are stranded in the Antartic after losing contact with the outside world. The two male scientists leave and after a few weeks, the female scientist, Laura Byrd, realizes they're never coming back. When she reaches the main station, everyone is dead. While staying at the main station Luara learns that her colleagues and most of the world's population died from a global pandemic.
Plot Line 2: Everyone who has ever died is in a world just like our Earth, except with one major difference. The dead only stay in this second world as long as someone from our world remembers them.
While these plot lines may seem unrelated, as the book progresses, the reader realizes that the memories of the dead in the second world have some connection to Laura Byrd. Meanwhile, on Earth, Laura Byrd feels like the last human alive....
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Title: To Selena, With Love
Author: Chris Perez
Genre: musical biography/memoir
Like most of America, I didn't know who Selena was until after her death in 1995. When my husband and I were dating, her song "Dreaming of You" was on our personal playlists to each other (when playlists consisted of recording a song from the radio or a CD to a blank cassette).
Selena Quintinilla-Perez broke many barriers in her short, musical career: she was the first woman to break into the Tejano music scene and also the first Latino woman to successfully cross over into the American mainstream pop music genre.
Chris Perez was Selena's husband and in this beautifully written memoir, he chronicles their secret dates, elopement, and life as newlyweds. Since Selena's death, Chris Perez has fulfilled his own musical career and journey, remarried, and had children. Even with all this success, you can tell that Chris still misses Selena. You'll need tissues for the last two chapters; all in all a great tribute to his first love.
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Title: Born Under a Million Shadows
Author: Andrea Busfield
Fawad is a preteen boy in modern-day Afghanistan. He has only known the horror of war, first by the Taliban and now the occupying forces of the West. When his widowed mother gets a job cooking and cleaning for three Westerners, Fawad gets a first-hand look at the strange customs and lifestyle that the occupiers are bringing to his homeland. Despite the foreigners' strangeness, Fawad and his mother come to appreciate and love James, May, and Georgie.
James is a lazy, drunken journalist, but has a sympathetic ear for Fawad. May is the first lesbian that Fawad encounters, and Georgie is Fawad's favorite. She is beautiful, smart, speaks the local language and helps farmers and their goats. Unfortunately, Georgie is in love with a rumored drug lord which brings her emotional, and sometimes physical pain...
The first 40 pages dragged but after that I couldn't put the book down. Busfield spent a few years in Afghanistan and it shows in her humorous and sympathetic portrayal of ordinary Afghans.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Author: Avery Aames
Genre: cozy mystery
Our favorite cheese-loving, amateur detective is back in the second installment of the Cheese Shop Mystery series. An abandoned winery is being converted into a college. During the scavenger hunt fundraiser, a nasty surprise is found that was not on the scavenger hunt list: a dead body. The list of suspects is varied and the crime scene is full of symbolism. Was it the angry fiancee, the jealous best friend? The art instructor?
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Title: The Lacey Confession
Author: Richard Greener
The second book in the Locator series brings us back to St. John where Walter has turned his grief over losing Isobel into a constructive way to improve his life. In addition to improving his physical health and appearance, he has retired and enjoys lazy days on his Caribbean island home. Then one day a famous, beautiful movie star visits him and asks him to find her nephew. Her nephew, Harry Levine, through a series of supposedly random events, becomes the temporary owner of a document that contains the confession of JFK's killer. We learn through interconnected story lines that the JFK assassination was not a grand conspiracy, but revenge on a more personal level.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Title: The Knowland Retribution
Author: Richard Greener
Basis for the TV show "The Finder"- contains the funniest dedication I have ever seen. With that being said the book and the TV show are nothing alike. On the TV shoe Walter Sherman is an Iraqi war vet with an unusual brain injury that helps him "find" lost things or people. The Walter Sherman in the book uses a combination of intuition, logic, and Sherlock Holmes-type detective skills to find things or people. The TV show is quirky and fun; the book is a hard-to-put down mystery and detective story rolled into one.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Title: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Author: Paul Torday
When I first started this book and I realized the story was going to be told through a series of emails, memos, and diary entries, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this book.
A Yemeni sheik contacts various agencies within the UK to help him bring salmon fishing to his country, the Yemen. A semi-devout Muslim, the sheik believes that the peacefulness of salmon fishing will bring his countrymen together, reducing violence and feeding the hungry among his people. Alfred Jones is a bland, middle aged fishery scientist that gets swept up in the project and his life and marriage are transformed.
Paul Torday takes a potentially boring subject- salmon fishing- and livens it up for the non-fishing reader. Snippets of the life cycle of salmon are interspersed with the novel's plot line, making this a surprisingly interesting read. This book was brought to the big screen recently and stars Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Title: Raining Sardines
Author: Enrique Flores-Galbis
Genre: juvenile fiction, magical realism
After reading the Hunger Games trilogy in a week and a half, I needed a light read and Raining Sardines fit the bill. The setting is in rural, pre-Castro Cuba and a bit of magical realism is entwined into the story (hence the title). Enriquito and Ernestina are best friends with two secrets: they have befriended the island's wild Paso Fino population and have discovered buried golden treasure! When the town land baron destroys the mountain the locals have used for centuries for crops and hunting, the ponies' way of life is threatened as well. Enriquito and Ernestina hatch a plan to keep their beloved ponies safe and using the treasure to help their downtrodden neighbors.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
While most history buffs and students know about the mass deportations of Germans, Jews, and Russians during World War II, little is known about Lithuania. Intellectuals, artists, teachers, and librarians (and their families) were forcibly removed from their homes and exiled to Siberia. Between Shades of Gray tells us about the horrors experienced by the Lithuanians from a teen girl's point of view. Ruta Sepetys effectively lays out the horror of war without getting too graphic. This book would make an excellent starting off point for World War II Lithuanian research. The author's note also list more resources for Lithuanian research.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Title: The Orphan Master
Author: Jean Zimmerman
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Talk has been buzzing in Library Land about The Orphan Master by Jean Zimmerman. This historical fiction novel is set in 1663 New Amsterdam (now known as Manhattan), and features a motley crew of characters and vivid historical details. Look for my review coming soon...
And if you're wondering how I was able to get an Advanced Reader's Copy, I have joined the First Flights program by Penguin Publishers. It's easy and free to join and you can do so by clicking here: www.earlyword.com/firstflights.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Title: Faces from the Land: Twenty Years of Powwow Tradition
Author(s): Ben and Linda Marra
Composed of full-page and half-page color photos of various modern Native Americans dressed in traditional Native American powwow costumes. I never knew that powwow costumes were so colorful! The tribes represented are mostly from the American and Canadian Plains and western part of the continent. The photos were taken over a time span of 20 years but look timeless and elegant due to consistency in background and lighting.