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.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Earth Girl

http://slpl.sdp.sirsi.net/client/catalog/search/detailnonmodal/ent:$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:1227442/one?qu=earth+girl+%2F+janet+edwards&te=ILSEarth Girl by Janet Edwards
263 Pages

Krista R. had previously reviewed this book and I read it based upon her recommendation.  Thus I'll keep the synopsis brief.  Jarra is one of those few individuals who are unable live off earth.  They remain on Earth, which is now a backwater and those who can't leave are referred to derogatorily as "Apes".  Upon turning 18, she decides to follow her love of history and study on Earth, but pretending to be from off world, so that she won't be discriminated against. 

The book was interesting and Edwards created a new world from an old planet.  There were only two criticisms I had.  Firstly,  Edwards tended to be a bit repetitive at times, with Jarra's insecurities.  Secondly,  the font chosen by the publisher is awful.  The type is small and odd. 

Severed Souls

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind
558 Pages


The second book of the trilogy which is a continuation of the Sword of Truth series.  Summing up,  the latest in a long line of books.  Richard and Kahlan are still infected with death and unless they get cured quickly, it will be curtains for them.  Meanwhile the bad guys are winning and their overwhelming numbers make the future look bleak. 

I originally enjoyed Goodkind's Sword of Truth series but lately not so much.   This book has a lot of repetition, preaching, and bleakness.  It is sort of like being a former reader of Laurell K Hamilton.  You kept reading, hoping it would improve again but it didn't and finally you gave up on the author.  That is the case for me and Goodkind.  I officially wipe my hands of the series and the author. 



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Being A Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love. Health, Identity & More



Although not fabulously well written, this book does contain a lot of good information for teens about all of the topics mentioned in the title.  It doesn’t shy away from difficult or sensitive topics and includes a lot of resources for teens who may not be getting help or information from home.  The book does encourage teens who are having difficulties to talk to parents or other trusted adults about problems, like depression, pregnancy, bullying, etc., but recognizes the possibility that some teens may not have trusted adults in their lives.  Generally, I would think that a lot of teens could benefit from the book, either reading the whole book or skipping to the topics that interest them specifically.

Odessa Again

Odessa Again by Dana Reinhardt, 196 pages


When Odessa’s parents get a divorce she and her brother Oliver move with to a new house with their mother.  One night, Odessa gets really angry and stomps in the middle of her attic bedroom and finds herself falling into the past, exactly 24 hours earlier.  She is able to change the situation that made her so angry that she was stomping in her bedroom and after the same thing happens again, this time to 23 hours earlier, she knows that it was no accident.  Odessa is able to start using her new power to change things she has done to make her life better but after a few times she realizes that she will probably have limited chances to use it, since each time is one hour less than the last.  If she is careful maybe she can find a way to use the power to help herself and Oliver, break up her father and his new fiancĂ©e and get her parents back together.  Any kids who have ever wished they could change the past will probably like this story.

P.K Pinkerton And The Petrified Man

P.K Pinkerton And The Petrified Man by Caroline Lawrence, 309 pages

P.K. is the sole private eye in Virginia City in the Nevada Territory, has come across another case.  A young servant girl, Martha, has witnessed the murder of Miss Sally Sampson, and believes that the murderer is now after her.  P.K. takes her case and sets out to find the murderer, because, although Martha was a witness, she has poor eyesight and didn’t get a good look at the man.  She only knew what Miss Sally called him and that Miss Sally had referred to him as an old friend.  P.K., being only 12, is able to slip into places unnoticed, unlike an adult, but also finds that some people do not take him seriously.  However, he also finds himself being taken too seriously when he, himself, is arrested for Miss Sally’s murder.  Now, it has become much more important to figure out who the real killer is.  Despite P.K.’s Thorn, Foibles and Eccentricities, he does have quite a few friends, and hopefully, with their help, he can solve the case before time runs out.  For kids who like mysteries and historical fiction, this is a fun and exciting story with plenty of action.  This is the second book in this series.

Lock In

Lock In by John Scalzi, 336 pages


In a not-so-distant future, a highly contagious virus has struck the world.  Many contract the disease but are perfectly fine when they recover, although a few die.  Others, however, are changed.  Some people, suffering from what is called Haden’s syndrome, are locked inside themselves, fully aware of everything around them but unable to react to the world.  An even smaller amount, called Integrators, are changed in such a way that they can let the people who are locked in borrow their bodies for a time period.  Usually, these people use a sort of android type machine called a threep to interact with the world as others do.  The main character, Chris Shane, is one of these.  He is a rookie with the FBI, partnered with a former Integrator, Leslie Vann.  The two of them are immediately sucked into a Haden related murder case that is clearly much more complicated than it seems at first.  With the possible future of Haden society resting in the balance, Shane and Vann must work quickly to uncover the truths surrounding the murder and solve their case.  A really good science fiction story, that isn’t too heavy on the science aspect.  A fascinating premise and a well-told story, this book will appeal to a lot of readers.

The Sasquatch Escape

The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors, 215 pages


This is the first book in a new series, The Imaginary Veterinary.  We first meet Ben, who is being sent to stay with his grandfather for the summer.  We also meet Pearl, a girl who lives in the same town as Ben’s grandfather.  Ben and Pearl both see a large bird on the day Ben arrives in town.  Pearl thinks it is a dragon.  Ben isn’t sure what it is but when a small creature that seems to be an injured baby dragon appears in his bed, Ben also recalls a strange man he and his grandfather saw at the store who had a recipe for artificial dragon’s milk.  Ben and Pearl seek him out at the newly opened worm hospital where they make a fantastic discover about many creatures that they didn’t know really existed.  Unfortunately, in the process, they accidentally let a Sasquatch escape and are given the task of retrieving it before it causes any trouble.  This is a fun fantasy story for school age readers.

Assassin’s Quest

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb, 757 pages


The third book in the Farseer trilogy shows us that Fitz survived being joined with his wolf, and does make it back to fully becoming a man once more, with a lot of work from Burrich and Chade.  Fitz, however, is still driven by some wolfish principles and also thirsts for revenge.  He sets out to kill the false king, Regal, but in the process ends up called to the true king, Verity, who is still somewhere in the mountains trying to find the Elderlings to help them in their fight against the Red Ships that threaten to completely overrun the Six Duchies.  Fitz’s journey is ridiculously hard, sometimes only assisted by his wolf, Nighteyes.  Although he gains more aid through the course of the book, his journey never really gets easier and the end of the journey doesn’t mean the end of the trouble.  The series, and each book in it, make for good epic fantasy.  Fantasy lovers will probably enjoy the series.

Knockout Games

Knockout Games by G. Neri, 298 pages


Erica has just moved to St. Louis in the aftermath of her parent’s break-up.  A white girl in a mostly African-American neighborhood and school, she quickly becomes entangled with a group in the neighborhood called the TKO Club.  The club’s main form of entertainment is trying to knock out unsuspecting people on the street by punching them.  Erica has a video camera and videotapes several of these incidents and shares them among the members of the club and their friends.  At first being with then group, especially their leader, Kalvin, feels great.  She finally feels like she has some control. But more and more, as the game goes on, she starts to feel uneasy.  The victims are mostly people from the neighborhood who she sees after the attacks and some of them seem pretty badly hurt.  She worries that what they are doing is not just a fun game, but could be dangerous and possibly land her or other members of the club in jail.  A good portrayal of a real problem in St. Louis and other parts of the country, any teens who live in major metropolitan areas might like to read this book.
226 Pages


This book is a history of the ad campaigns designed by the Ad Council and their success or failures.   I originally picked it because I was familiar with the 2 campaigns mentioned in the title and thought the book would be more interesting than it was. The book takes more of an academic approach to the topic which makes it less readable than it could be.  It also suffered from poor editing with several mistakes within the text.  From the reviews I read, it is the only book that has studied the history of the Ad council and hopefully someone would cover this topic more successfully in the future.


Openly Straight

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg, 320 pages

Rafe is tired of being identified as just “the gay kid” and decides to go to a boarding school across the country so that he can change his image.  His parents have always been supportive and no one has ever bullied him but he has been overwhelmed with the fact that his gayness is the only thing that identifies him.  His parents don’t know his plan.  They think that he is switching schools to have a better chance at getting into an Ivy League college and are appalled when they find out what he is doing.  Because Rafe, although trying not to lie about being straight, is allowing the boys at his new all-boys school to assume that he is straight.  Unfortunately for Rafe, his feelings and who he really is haven’t changed and when he begins to fall for one of his new friends, he doesn’t know how to tell him the truth without driving him away.  A really good coming out story, different from most of the typical stories but no less valid.  A funny story that a lot of teens both gay and straight might like.

The Last Forever

The Last Forever by Deb Caletti, 321 pages


Tessa’s dad decides that he and Tessa need to go on a road trip.  Both of them are still grieving Tessa’s mother’s death.  The road trip is just supposed to be a few days, to the Grand Canyon, but turns into a a much longer trip and finally ends in her father’s hometown, at Tessa’s grandmother’s house.  Tessa hasn’t seen her grandmother Jenny since she was 2 years old, but her dad leaves her there without even saying good-bye.  Tessa is angry and quickly becomes distraught over the health of the last pixiebell plant.  The pixiebell is a plant that her mother’s father stole from a colleague.  Tessa’s mother kept it healthy until she died and Tessa has done the same since.  Now, maybe because of all of the traveling, the pixiebell seems ill and Tessa has made it her mission to find out what’s wrong and nurse it back to health, and perhaps to find out what happened that she hasn’t seen her grandmother for so long, and possibly, to fall in love.  A touching but realistic story about family and love with a couple of surprise twists and an unusual but satisfying ending that a lot of teens, probably mostly girls, would enjoy.

Some Luck

Some Luck by Jane Smiley
395 Pages


This book is the sage of a farming family in Iowa in the years 1920-1953.  As time progresses we see the couple Rosanna and Walter Langdon have children and suffer through the years of the depression, droughts and World War II.  The narrative jumps from Langdon to Langdon but progresses linearly until 1953.  Supposedly Smiley will be writing two more books in the Langdon family saga. 

If you haven't read any Jane Smiley I would recommend Horse Heaven or A Thousand Acres as well as this novel.  She has a very easy style and you will quickly get engrossed in the story.

Coronal

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41RZ%2BQX03dL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgCoronal by Paul Claudel, translated by Sister Mary David, SSND, 128 pages 
 
Coronal is a translation of Claudel's Corona Benignitatis Anni Dei, a collection of religious poems and reflections on the liturgical year.  Whether a result of the translation or the unconventional style of the original, most of the poems are unmemorable, but occasionally a striking image bursts out, like the crucified St Peter looking "down at the heaven to which he holds the keys" or St Francis Xavier investing the continent of Asia as if for a siege.  The climax, a poetic Way of the Cross, stands out as a searingly personal examination of conscience.
 
The original French is presented with the English translation on the facing page.

The Shadow Queen: A Novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor


I must admit that before I read The Shadow Queen, I didn’t know much about Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. 
Before I read this novel, Wallis’s life seemed like a fairy tale. A king abdicated his throne to marry her, and she was a socialite from the late 1910s through her death in 1986. However, Wallis not just another silver-spoon. She was driven, ambitious, intellectual, and witty.
 Her maiden name was Warfield, a prominent Baltimore family, and although she and her widowed mother were destitute, they relied on the support of her deceased father’s family and lived with relatives.
 
At school, she would have voted most likely to succeed.  The book chronicles her life from birth up until Prince Edward, who was about to become King Edward VIII. It goes into detail about her life as a child, a teenager, the devastating first love who betrayed her, a young woman, and both of her marriages. Throughout the story, Edward is present, having become the fascination of a young friend, and many times, Wallis was either near him or in his company.
Two things fascinated me the most. First, that she was homely, with a square jaw and flat-chested.  She was tall and angular. A women who gets around as much as Wallis did usually does not fall in the ugly category. Second, was her sexuality. Although she appeared normal, she was unable to have normal intercourse. Recent research suggests that she was born with a Disorder of Sexual Development, or intersexuality. Fortunately, the novel doesn’t linger on this aspect, but it runs subtly throughout.
 
I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu, 239 pages



Cover image for How to live safely in a science fictional universe / Charles Yu. Minor Universe 31, is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where the rules of science fiction govern peoples lives, and time travel is a serious business. Every day people try to do the one thing they shouldn't ever do which is change the past. Our protagonist is Charles Yu, a time travel technician helps save people from themselves, and when he's not taking clients or consoling his boss, Phil he searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. Along for the ride are TAMMY, his time machine's operating system with low self-esteem, and his nonexistent but still there dog Ed.
 
This was another book I pulled off of a science fiction display, which I kind of had mixed feelings about. To me it started off really slow in that nothing really happened to the point where I almost stopped reading. This book takes place mostly in the lead characters mind and so there is a lot of narration, and some of it felt kind of repetitive, or unnecessary. That being said the book did have some redeeming qualities, I enjoyed the whole concept of the book and how they dealt with the paradoxes of time travel, as well as how time travel worked. I also enjoyed how Yu keeps building up to the end while creating a new and fresh look at science fiction. Overall I think this book will probably be a good read for people who enjoy serious science fiction. 

I also really loved the cover with all its ray guns and its one dog.

Life After Life

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, 525 pages

Ursula Todd was born on February 11, 1910 in the outskirts of London. Unfortunately, she died at birth. Fortunately, she was again born on February 11, 1910, and this time she survived. But then, a few years later, she died again. But hey, she was again born on February 11, 1910 and survived a little while longer. In Life After Life, Atkinson tells and retells the story of Ursula's life as she lives it over and over again, with changes here and there resulting from different decisions. This book takes Ursula and the reader through the bulk of 20th-century British history, including the 1918 influenza epidemic (Ursula has a rough time that year) and various elements of World War II, especially the Blitz.

I won't lie: this book was more than a bit confusing. However, it is apparent that the confusion is intentional, and is shared by Ursula. As she lives life after life after life, bits of deja vu slip into Ursula's experiences, underscoring the fluidity of time, chance, destiny, and decisions. This tale, which I've described to friends as Groundhog Day meets Downton Abbey, could be horrible. But Atkinson has created a series of vignettes that create a cohesive, compelling story. Fans of historical fiction, British fiction, and The Time Traveler's Wife will enjoy this one. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Copperhead

Copperhead by Tina Connolly
318 Pages



The sequel to the novel IronSkin (which I have not read).  Copperhead returns to the world where the humans are at war with the fey.  The hundred leading ladies of society find their freedoms curtailed by the threat of being taken over by the fey through the magic of their perfected faces (apparently something that happened in the first book). As a result they must wear iron masks when outside.  Helen Huntingdon and her sister Jane are attempting to convinced these handicapped beauties to take back their original faces but when one such operation goes wrong, Jane disappears and Helen must track down her sister and determine who is at the root of a conspiracy to control all the women. 

Clearly a feminist novel in the guise of a supernatural fiction book, this work is okay but a little heavy handed towards the end in its feminist message.

Neverhome

Neverhome by Laird Hunt
246 Pages

The story of a woman who goes to fight in the Civil War.  Constance/Ash is more masculine than her husband and feels the need to answer the call of the Union Army in the battle between the states.  Through her natural affinity to the outdoors and army life, Ash becomes a folk hero within the Union Army.

While the premise is interesting, the narrative style is very spare and unfeeling.  Ash is almost one step removed from her life and as she narrates the battles and struggles she goes through, her experience is dampened by this lack of emotion.


The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
289 Pages

Fforde, known for his irreverent Thursday Next series has the second young adult book about the Ununited Kingdoms.  With magic again on the rise, Jennifer Strange is all that stands between Bad King Snodd IV's attempt to corner the magic market.  A book of fun and wit.

The Silent Life

The Silent Life by Thomas Merton, 176 pages
 
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/b5/e1/2a/b5e12a2585ded814a07ad947681ac991.jpgThis is a sustained, book-length reflection on the nature and meaning of monastic life and the monastic vocation, divided into two broad classes - the monk in community and the hermit, the former being represented by the Benedictines and Cistercians, the latter by the Carthusians and Camaldolese.  Merton does not deal with the more externally active orders, such as the mendicants, since his central theme is a rebuke of the Josephist attitude (just as prevalent in our time as in 18th century Vienna) that external works - that is, social utility - justify an order's existence.  The vital reason for monasteries is so that men may seek God more freely and fully.  All else is secondary.
 
This is not one of Merton's confessional works (The Seven-Storey Mountain), but it is clearly shaped by his own experiences (and struggles) as a Trappist monk.  This adds a certain additional depth to the work - Merton was only too aware that the voice of his abbot did not always sound to him like the voice of God, but understood that this, too, is part of the monastic vocation.  But Merton does not allow his own tradition to dominate his outlook, either, presenting a truly Catholic balance which recognizes the diversity of human experiences.  In keeping with this, there is much for those living outside the cloister to learn and apply as well.

Beautiful Music For Ugly Children, Kristin Cronn-Mills

Cover image for Beautiful Music for Ugly Children / Kirstin Cronn-Mills.Beautiful Music For Ugly Children, Kristin Cronn-Mills, 2012, 271 pages


    Gabe is about to graduate high school and seems to be on the cusp of everything. Except that most people do not know him by the name Gabe, they know him as Elizabeth. He has a radio show on his town's community station called Beautiful Music For Ugly Children, (much like St.Louis's own KDHX ) where he is comfortable being Gabe on the air.  The story follows Gabe through his coming out to his community as a trans-dude and some of the adversity he faces as a result of this. 
     The writing is pretty good, (except some of the music references are off, in my humble opinion) but I felt like Gabe's story could have been a bit more nuanced as per his developing gender identity.  I do however, think this was an earnest effort by the author, who did her research. Describing an experience like transitioning gender is no easy task, especially if the author is a cis-gendered person.  What saved the book for me, was that she included a note that functioned like a PSA at the end, although I might have like to have seen it at the beginning of the book.  Again, this would be a great book for questioning youth, as Gabe's character is fleshed out in a believable way. 

The letter Q : Queer Writers' Notes To Their Younger Selves


Cover image for The letter Q : queer writers' notes to their younger selves / edited by Sarah Moon ; with contributing editor James Lecesne.
The letter Q : Queer Writers' Notes To Their Younger Selves, edited by Sarah Moon, 281 pages
 
 
 
      What a fantastic book that should be in every teen non-fiction section of every library across the land. No Joke. This book is the real deal.  While the book has entries from Queer writers of all kind, the entries all take the form of a letter each person has written to their younger selves.  These letters are often humorous, witty, and poignant. Some of the letters speak about things that happened to the authors that should never happen to anyone, and all of the letters speak about how much better it gets as they have grown into adulthood.  For LGBTQIA questioning youth, this is an invaluable book that can actually make a difference.