Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Song For Bijou

A Song For Bijou by Josh Farrar, 296 pages


Bijou is a girl recently arrived from Haiti.  Alex is a boy who really wants to get to know her.  From the first time he saw her, he thought she was amazing and as he gets to know her, he knows she is amazing.  Unfortunately for them, Alex attends the all-boys school, St. Christopher, and Bijou attends its sister all-girls counterpart, St. Catherine.  Also, because of the cultural background, Bijou isn’t really allowed to have any contact with boys that aren’t related to her outside of school.  Since they don’t even go to the same school, that makes getting some time to spend together very difficult.  Alex is persistent though, and the two of them actually get some time to talk, at a school dance and through letters, and even some other opportunities achieved through friends’ plots.  Alex and Bijou begin to be friends and maybe even a little bit more, but something major happens that could spoil everything.  A sweet little story about first love that will probably appeal to more girls, but some boys may like also, this would work best for older elementary kids.

Guardian

Guardian by Alex London, 340 pages


In the sequel to Proxy, the Rebooters have become the Reconciliation.  Since the revolution, the people who used to be Proxies and other marginally members of society have taken charge and their former patrons have been sent to work farms to be re-educated.  Certain words like debt and owe have been outlawed in an attempt to change society’s entire outlook.  There is only one problem with this new utopian society.  People have started to die from a frightening new illness that causes their blood to boil and their veins to burst open.  Syd, Liam, and Marie have seen this phenomenon firsthand, but their leaders don’t seem concerned so they set out to try to find a cure themselves.  Unfortunately, the cure may mean the end of everything they have worked to change.  An action packed science fiction adventure, teen fans of these genres will probably like this series.

Born Of Fury

Born Of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon, 678 pages


This is one of the League novels.  This story is mainly about Dancer Hauk so we get a lot of his back story along with the current action.  Hauk is pledged to take his nephew, Darice, on his Endurance, a quest testing his skills.  Darice hates his uncle because he believes Hauk is responsible for his father’s death.  Hauk’s niece, Thia, is also coming along.  This loves Hauk, but can’t stand Darice, so it should be an interesting trip.  The trip only gets more exciting when they discover a wounded woman near their campsite.  Hauk suspects that the woman, Sumi, is an assassin sent to kill him.  Although that isn’t exactly true, Sumi has been sent for a reason that Hauk wouldn’t like it.  If he knew why she was there, he would probably kill her.  Unfortunately as the weeks pass, he finds himself falling in love with her and he is falling in love with him.  Since he is promised to another, their union can never work.  Fans of Kenyon’s other books will like this new fantasy romance.

Brazen

Brazen by Katherine Longshore, 524 pages


This is the fictional story of Mary Howard, who married Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII.  The author has used as much factual history as possible, but only a small amount is known as fact about Mary so some of the story is completely made up.  This is more about Mary’s feelings, her love and anger at her father, her hopeless anger at her mother, her love and worry for her brother and her friends, and her ambivalent feelings towards her husband.  Theirs was an arranged marriage and the two barely knew each other.  Even after they were married, the King said they were too young to consummate the marriage and never legally did.  However, the author presumes that they did end up loving each other.  Whatever the truth, this was a fascinating story told from a minor character in the Tudor saga and teen fans of historical novels will probably like this book.

Revolution

Revolution by Deborah Wiles, 495 pages


Sunny’s town is being invaded by college students and people fighting for civil rights.  Sunny is twelve years old, it’s 1964 in Mississippi, and the law says that African Americans have the right to vote.  However, lots of people in Mississippi aren’t happy about it and people in Sunny’s town are divided.  Many people are members of the Ku Klux Klan or just want everything to stay the same while other white people support the right for everyone to vote.  Many black people are too scared to do anything but others want to fight.  Sunny doesn’t understand exactly what’s going on but she knows that some of the violence she has seen against the African Americans in her town, especially by police officers, isn’t right.  Caught up in her feelings about her mother, who left when she was a baby, and her feelings about her new, blended family since her father remarried, Sunny has been having a very mixed up summer.  This is a really good historical fiction story that brings to life some of the tension and violence of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.  There is some information about the end about some of the other facts surrounding why it was particularly bad there.  Kids who like historical fiction will probably like it.

The Laura Line

The Laura Line by Crystal Allen, 328 pages


Laura and her best friend, Sage, are picked on at school because they are overweight.  Laura mostly tries to not let it bother her, but Sage sometimes gets upset because she wants to be popular.  Laura’s parents are going to have to leave for two weeks for Army Reserves training and while Laura is going to miss them, she is excited that her Aunt Carmen is coming to stay with her.  At the last minute, her aunt cancels and Laura is horrified to find out that she is going to stay with her grandmother instead.  On her grandmother’s property is an old slave shack.  The shack embarrasses Laura and she has never been in it.  Then her teacher surprises everyone with a field trip to the shack.  Laura doesn’t want any of her classmates to see the shack and tries to think of ways to get the trip cancelled.  Her teacher makes a deal with her.  If she will go in and the shack and can’t find even one amazing thing then she will cancel the trip.  Laura agrees, sure that there is nothing in the shack that is amazing, but she might be surprised by what she finds about her family, and all of her female ancestors that make up the Laura Line.  A good contemporary story about growing up and being bullied with some interesting historical information thrown in.  A lot of older elementary kids would probably like this story.

You Don’t Cry Out Loud: The Lily Isaacs Story



I had never heard of this book or the singing group The Isaacs when I stumbled upon a friend reading this. Since I’m always looking for a great read, my friend let me borrow it.

The story begins with Lily as an adult, having to make difficult decisions about her aging parents. During the course of the story, readers learn about life as the child of Holocaust survivors; as a child with scoliosis; as a wife and mother; as a cancer survivor; as the matriarch of a beloved, multi-award winning music group; and a covert from Judaism to Christianity.

Any one of these stories would have made a great book.  But in this small story, we get Lily’s matter-of-fact retelling of her life’s adventures.

 
The writing is simple, clean, and honest.  It’s like she’s sitting on my sofa telling me her life story.

 Be sure to put this on your list of books to read; I give it five out of five stars.

Afterparty

AfterpartyAfterparty, by Daryl Gregory, 304 pages

In the not-so-distant future, there has been a "smart drug" revolution- people can create recipes for drugs and print them on chem jet printers.  When a girl is brought into the psych ward and starts going through terrible withdrawal from a drug that made her "see God," a fellow patient becomes personally involved.  Lyda Rose watches the withdrawal and knows that the drug she took is one Lyda swore would never come to light again.  She sets out on a trip that takes her across Canada, into the U.S., and crosses paths with cigarette-smuggling First Nations, dangerous drug dealing immigrants, her girlfriend from the psych ward who goes off-medication in an effort to help, and the scariest of all: her past.  This book offers a great deal to think about regarding faith, God, drugs, and the brain.  It also has a bit of a mystery to it, so there's a little bit of everything in it.

Watson and Holmes: a Study in Black

Watson and Holmes - A Study In Black
Watson and Holmes: a Study in Black, by Karl Bollers, ill by Leonardi and Stroman, 144 pages

Jon Watson is recovering from the horrors of fighting in Afghanistan, while working as a doctor (well, ok- a medical intern) in a hospital in Harlem. When he meets a PI by the name of Holmes (NO ONE calls him Sherlock), their paths merge; Watson's hospitalized victim of a drug overdose is found to have overdosed on truth serum.  This leads them down the paths of drug dealers, hit lists, computer encryption, and babies found in dumpsters.  It is a fascinating re-envisioning of the classic Sherlock Holmes characters, and works quite well with African-American main characters and taking place in New York City.

Year of No Sugar

Year of No SugarYear of No Sugar, by Eve O. Schaub, 303 pages

In this latest in the trend of "My Year of Doing a Thing" books, Schaub watches a video on Youtube that convinces her that sugar is a toxin that is in everything we eat and we would all be better off without it.  Which is way easier said than done.  As Schaub and her family discover, sugar is in the sweets, but also in the crackers, mayonnaise, vegetable broth, bacon, and salad dressing (among others).  More significantly, sugar is also how we tell people we care ('I baked you these brownies'), how we reward ourselves, and a far more powerful symbol than we think.

This is an interesting endeavor, especially because she really does not make it a whole year without sugar.  Since she is doing this undertaking with her whole family, two young children included, it makes sense that she makes some compromises, but it felt a little less than genuine.

The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife, by Kathleen Kent, 352 pages

Martha Allen is a no-nonsense woman living in colonial Massachusetts.  She suffers no fools and has not been able to find a husband for it.  While assisting her cousin during the term of her pregnancy, she meets a man with a mysterious past, named Thomas, and feelings begin to blossom.  But Thomas' past is sailing across the ocean with murder in mind, and Martha and Thomas' future is uncertain.

...that is, unless you read the book to which this is a prequel, The Heretic's Daughter.  I had not, so I did not know how it would end.  The journey to the ending, though, is the interesting part.  This brought up a lot of interesting talk about Oliver Cromwell and Restoration England in our book discussion.

Seconds

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O'Malley, 336 pages
Seconds
This is a tricky one to explain without giving it all away.  Let me just say that this book had all of the humor and spirit of the Scott Pilgrim series, but with the satisfaction of the story being contained in one volume. It also had a lot of heart, if you'll forgive such a hokey phrase. Katie is a brilliant chef, opening her own restaurant- or at least trying to.  Setbacks keep frustrating her, as does the fact that she still lives over the restaurant she started and is leaving.  One night full of a series of terrible events, though, ends differently when Katie is faced with the option of a second chance.  If she had a second chance, what would she do differently?  And would anyone really be satisfied with only one second chance? (Yes, I realize the awkward phrasing ^_^) I really enjoyed this.

The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1)The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, 295 pages


Don Tillman is a genetics professor living with Asperger's, who just doesn't realize it.  He has social difficulties, limited friends, lives an incredibly structured life, and decides to build a survey in order to find a wife who is perfect.  Rosie Jarman is a young woman looking for genetics advice in her search to find her real father.  Together they set out on a journey to find her father and find self-realization for Don.  It is actually a book with humor and a cozy ending.  The book club really enjoyed this book and it offered a great deal of discussion about the autism spectrum and what love is and isn't.

SWF Seeks Same

SWF Seeks Same, by John Lutz, 216 pages

Swf Seeks SameAllie Jones is in a good place- she has a great boyfriend who has moved in with her, and she has a pretty sweet apartment in New York City that she couldn't afford without the extra help.  But when she kicks him out after a phone call in the middle of the night reveals he's been unfaithful, she has to find someone to help her pay the rent.  She places an ad in the paper, and meets an unassuming woman named Hedra.  There her troubles begin.  Hedra begins by innocently appearing to idolize Allie, but then off-putting events start adding up to something far more ominous.

The '90s movie was based on this book, but I never saw it, so I can't offer comparisons.  I can say that there were parts of this book that were incredibly dated- there is talk of 'the green glow of the computer screen,' or even the fashionable outfits he describes sound kind of horrendous.  Even the prospect of using the newspaper to find a roommate, really.  It just made me curious how a current best-seller will hold up in 25 years.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Medieval Foundations of Renaissance Humanism

Medieval Foundations of Renaissance Humanism by Walter Ullmann, 202 pages
 
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Fxu-UUIvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgIn this book, Ullmann locates the origins of the Renaissance in the development of political science in the late Middle Ages, particularly in the legal faculty at the university of Bologna and in the work of St Thomas Aquinas and other scholastic philosophers influenced by Aristotle.  In these schools, there developed the idea of a secular realm where the natural man finds his proper sphere of activity, complementary to, but separate from, the religious realm.  This, in turn, prompted a reexamination of classical sources in a search for purely secular examplars.  The search for a pure understanding of classical philosophy, untethered from medieval interpretations and interpolations, subsequently served to inspire the quest for an ahistorically pure primeval Christianity which produced the Reformation.
 
This is a rather interesting study of the genesis of the Renaissance, though Ullmann is perhaps a bit too sweeping in his assertions that the early Middle Ages completely lacked any concept of secularity.  Despite this quibble, the book remains an erudite, compelling account of the gestation of the modern world.

Blood of Olympus

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan, 516 pages

In this, the fifth and final book in the Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan wraps up the convoluted tale of seven teenage demigods sent on a quest to save the world from a vengeful and reawakening Gaea. Meanwhile, two other demigods and a testosterone-fueled satyr are tasked with dragging a 40-foot-tall marble statue halfway across the world to Long Island, in an attempt to mend fences between Greek and Roman factions.

Simply put, there is too much going on in this book. Riordan tries to pack too much action in, and from too many perspectives. As in the other books in this series, chapters are told from the points of view of different demigods, which allows us views into different storylines. However, it's not always easy to distinguish voices, especially when he switches between two characters involved in the same plot thread. This was an OK book, and definitely one to read if you've made it through the rest of this series. However, I'm getting a bit tired of the whole modern kids-meet-mythology thing, and I probably won't be picking up Riordan's books on Norse mythology, which are supposed to kick off in 2015.

How to Survive a Sharknado

Cover image for How to survive a sharknado and other unnatural disasters : fight back when monsters and Mother Nature attack / Andrew Shaffer ; with contributions by Fin Shepard and April Wexler.For people who enjoyed the Zombie Survival Guide, and How to Survive the Robot Uprising comes How to Survive a Sharknado. With things like "Who Said it? Evil Wizard Dimitar or Kanye West?" and comments like "Don't take pictures of the Elecktrokraken.- Survival is more important than page views or retweets." this book is a great read, especially if you have seen and enjoy SciFi original movies. If you enjoy laughing, and over the top survival guides I would recommend reading this book.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

House of Chains

House of Chains by Steven Erikson, 669 pages

House of Chains or Malazan Book of the Fallen #4 picks up a couple years after 3. The rebellion is over for the cities but the Sha'ik's Whirlwind still protects the majority of the troops. With this invasion force posed to strike the new Adjunct, Tavore Paran, is sent to end the threat.

Easily the first third of this book is used to set up back story for all the people we meet. Which is good since there are a lot of them. Some of them also go by multiple names or surnames which only adds to the difficulty. The middle third is setting all the pieces of the story in motion, while the final third is non stop action as everything violently clashes. There is a lot that goes on in these books and at times I had to reread parts or use the handy index to remind me who people were and why a piece of story line is following them.
I think multiple readings are needed to understand everything. An example of a read alike would be Tolkien. If you can read his works you should read Erikson as well.

Diary of Edward

Cover image for The diary of Edward the hamster, 1990 -1990 / translated from the original Hamster by Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia.Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990 by Mirian Elin, 85 pages

I came across this book while looking for a different graphic novel. When I opened it up and flipped through it I knew I had to read it. If you could not tell from the title it is about the short life of a hamster named Edward. Though short Edward encounters love and ponders life, plots to kill and has a hunger strike. It makes me wonder what we would hear from our pets if they could talk. It is simplistically illustrated but makes up for this in humor. I would call it a must read for everyone.

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
325 Pages

This was a Library Reads pick for October  and is a murder mystery set in 1930's England.  Amory Ames is a woman in an unhappy marriage to a playboy.  When her former fiancee asks for her help in dissuading his sister from marrying a man with similar character, she embarks on a holiday at the sea.  When a murder occurs, Amory tries to figure out who is responsible, but there are many suspects.

 Several people seemed to have liked this mystery, but I didn't feel engaged by Amory or any of the other characters.  For this reason I wouldn't recommend this book to a mystery lover.

Golem of Hollywood

Golem of Hollywood - Jonathan Kellerman/Jesse Kellerman
549 Pages


Johnathan Kellerman and son Jesse team up to write this mishmash of a police procedural/mystery/supernatural novel which doesn't really work very well.  Jacob Lev is a detective whose career is not proceeding well.  He drinks too much and dwells on his past.  He is suddenly contacted by this mysterious arm of the LAPD and told he will be investigating the death of this mysterious man.  Only his head has been found with a word written in Hebrew that says justice.  As the book proceeds he finds himself drawn into a supernatural mystery that has roots all the way back to Adam and Eve.

While the plot has aspects that are interesting, the characterization falls flat on most of the characters and the parts of the book that could really develop into an interesting story, only get cursory coverage.  I don't know if both Kellermans plan on collaborating again but fans of Jonathan will not care for this entry.

Five Ghosts

Five Ghosts Volume 1 and 2 by Frank J Barbiere, 134 and 186 pages

Cover image for Five ghosts. Volume two, Lost coastlines / writer, Frank J. Barbiere ; artist, Chris Mooneyham ; colors, Lauren Affe.Cover image for Five ghosts. Vol. 1: the haunting of Fabian Gray / written by Frank J. Barbiere; art by Chris Mooneyham ; colors by Lauren Affe, S.M. Vidaurri.An explorer named Fabian Gray has five chunks of a magical "Dreamstone" imbedded in his chest from when it exploded. Through these stones he can call upon five literary ghosts. There is the detective, who is Sherlock Holmes. A ranger who appears to be Robin Hood. Dracula or at least a vampiric figure, though I am pretty sure it is Dracula. Finally there is a magician and a samurai. Neither of these were recognizable as anything other then representations of a genre. The same explosion that imbedded the stones in his chest trapped his sister Silvia. Gray believes the only way to free her is to track down all of the missing stone pieces.

This graphic novel series reminds me a lot of Indian Jones. In fact if you replaced Gray with Jones and removed the ghosts it would still be a plausible story right down to the giant spiders and killer tribesmen. If you liked the Indiana Jones novels then you should read this as well.

This was another one of my table finds. I am glad our patrons have such great tastes!

Academic Exercises

Academic Exercises coverAcademic Exercises by K. J. Parker, 529 pages


This book was recommended by one of our librarians here at Central. It is a collection of short stories intermixed with three short humorous treaties. Most of the stories revolve around a place called the Studium and happen in what are imperial lands. The Studium is a place where the greatest scientific minds come together to teach magic. Though the people in the stories say they are not wizards and can't do magic. They claim they are just unlocking abilities of their minds. But for all practical purposes they are wizards.

I found "Black and Purple" and "Sun and I" to be the best of the bunch. "Black and Purple is an epistolary, meaning it is written just through letters sent back and forth. This was my first encounter with this writing style and I found it to be fascinating. The use of letters breaks the story down into its more basic parts. While this can lead to skimping on details it was used rather well here.

"Sun and I" is about a group of upper middle class friends that decided to invent a religion so they can con people out of money. What actually happens is a deeply philosophical and humorous story about what happens when the scheme goes to far.

I really enjoyed reading this collection and would recommend it to the borderline science fiction fans.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wraith


Wraith by Joe Hill & Charles Paul Wilson III, 204 pages

I was excited about the release of this graphic novel, as I really enjoyed NOS4A2, which the Wraith is from. FYI, the Wraith is an old Rolls Royce, featured on the cover.
This gave a good back story on Charlie Manx and how he became the loathsome creature he is. His chauffeur outfit is very reminiscent of Nazi uniforms, in my opinion. I didn't like the artwork in this as much as the Locke & Key graphic novels, however, the Christmasland scenes were very detailed and fun to pore over. The back of the book features an art gallery and there's a cool diagram of Christmasland and the various attractions within.

Parthenon Enigma

 
Cover image for The Parthenon enigma / Joan Breton Connelly.The iconic Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens in the golden age of Pericles as a temple to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, replacing earlier temples built on the site.  It has since served successively as a Christian church, a mosque, a powder magazine, and as a picturesque ruin.  It was as this last that it captivated nineteenth century neo-classicists, who interpreted the building as a shrine to Reason and the center of a rationally ordered society.
 
It is Connelly's contention that this is a fundamental misreading of the nature and purpose of the structure.  She contends that the site on which the Parthenon stands was believed by the ancients to be the location of the grave of the daughters of the legendary king Erechtheus, sacrificed to Athena by their parents to ensure the city's survival.  It was in this context, the commemoration of a terrible, bloody sacrifice made for the common good, that the Athenians processed to the Acropolis during the annual festival of the Panathenaia, binding the populace together with sacred bonds of self-denial.  Only with this spirit could the Athenian democracy survive and flourish.
 
Doubtless, Connelly's thesis is controversial.  Nor is her evidence entirely compelling - there is a great deal of speculation here, and no clinching argument or piece of evidence.  Still, this is a serious thesis that deserves serious consideration and discussion.