Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Washington Thriller

Wes Holloway, a presidential aide shot in an assassination attempt eight years ago, has never truly recovered. His face has healed but his spirit has not. His scars are a daily reminder of those moments of horror and he feels guilty that Boyle, a man he invited along for the presidential appearance, was killed that day. Wes still works for the former President and is with him in Malaysia when he sees a familiar face. It is Boyle...a man supposedly dead for 8 years. Wes has stumbled onto a plot hundreds of years in the making and one that threatens to destroy the country. The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

Shark Girl

In one moment, your whole life can change...

On a beautiful June morning, Jane Arrowood is attacked by a shark in shallow water. She loses most of her right arm. She actually loses much more than an arm...Jane is an artist who can no longer draw and a pretty girl who is stared at like a freak. Told in poetry form (like Sonya Sones), Jane struggles to regain her health and find her way in a much-changed world. Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Which Would You Choose: Safety or Freedom?

In the future, our country is now called United Safer States of America. When you play "sports," you are encased in padding from head to toe and padded mats replace cinder track. Sportsmanship is key; calling an opponent a bad name could get you sent to prison. That's exactly where Bo ends up when he insults someone on the track team. Will he survive life in a penal colony in the wilderness of Canada, making frozen pizzas for the MacDonalds Corporation 18 hours a day? In the end, he will have to choose. Will it be freedom or safety? Rash by Pete Hautman is in the Fiction section.

Get ready for Lost (coming in January)

One of the aspects of "Lost" which makes it very intriguing to watch is the number of references to books both popular and obscure. Check the booklist below to see some of them. btw this is only a partial list...check Wikipedia for a more complete one. Anyone interested in having an X block Lost discussion???

The Odyssey (Homer)
Alice in Wonderland /Through the Looking Glass
Wizard of Oz
Tale of Two Cities
Stranger in a Strange Land
Mysterious Island (Verne)
Watership Down
Brothers Karamazov
Lord of the Flies
Turn of the Screw
Catch 22 (Heller)

The End of the World Part 4

In the savage days after a war nearly destroys North America, Gordon Krantz is just trying to survive. He has no hope...nobody does. Roving gangs terrorize the survivors. and Gordon takes to the road, not knowing where he's going. He comes across a car with a dead mail carrier inside. Gordon takes the dead man's jacket because Gordon is cold and the dead don't mind the cold. When he reaches the next group of survivors, they think he is the postman and that things are getting better. They give him letters to deliver to their missing loved ones. And without meaning to do this, the Postman becomes a symbol of hope and, eventually, a legend. The Postman by David Brin And disregard the dreadful Kevin Costner film!! The book has the real goods....

End of the World Part 3

Deadly chemicals from a government research lab leak into the air and travel by winds across America. Only a handful of survivors are left. Some are called by Mother Abigail to be the army of goodness. Others are recruited by the "traveling man" to finish the job the government started: destroy the world. Can a failed musician, an elderly professor and a simple country boy defeat the forces of the dark side? This battle is The Stand by Stephen King.

End of the World Part 2

We take so many things for granted. Washing and drying our clothes, calling friends and family around the world on our cell phones, looking something up on the internet, having enough to eat and drink, being warm in the winter and cool in the summer and even going to school seem like things that can't ever go away. In Jericho, a series of bombs cripple the nation and force the characters to work hard for simple survival. In Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, an equally disastrous incident leaves 16 year old Miranda and her family struggling just to stay alive. Written in diary form, Miranda tells of her transition from normal teen to skeletal survivor over a period of a year. Here's a question to make you think about the issues in this book: If you had to survive with no help from anyone (no stores, utility companies, gas stations!) for one year, what would you buy to help you survive? Don't forget the batteries!!

This is the Way the World Ends

What would the earth look like if every human disappeared tomorrow? That's the gloomy question that Professor Alan Weisman tries to answer in The World Without Us. Within days, the subway pumps would fail in New York City and most buildings (except the skyscrapers) would be under water. Pressures would build up in the oil rigs in Houston and massive explosions would occur. Most materials things would rust or rot away. But plastic would still be around for centuries! Part nonfiction and part guesswork, this book will give science fiction writers of the future plenty to think about.

Shelter Stories

Shelter Stories is a compilation of Patrick McDonnell's comic strip MUTTS, a strip intended to shine a light on the many animals living in shelters and waiting for homes. You'll meet feral cats and abandoned bunnies, dogs who grew too big for their owners, puppies born on the streets and animals displaced in tragedies like Hurricane Katrina. In all their stories, the common thread is that, in a single act of love and generosity, anyone can make a difference by adopting such an animal or, if you can't , by supporting the shelters which do this heroic work. The comic strips are complemented by photographs of adopted animals with brief commentary by their new owners. You will not soon forget the blind bird given a home by an optometrist or the old warrior cat, ears torn and face scarred, who was given a loving home for the last days of his life.

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

The popular author Sophie Kinsella (of Shopaholic fame) introduces a new heroine with a big problem. Lexi Smart wakes up in the hospital with a case of amnesia caused by a head injury. The last thing she remembers is being a loser: crooked teeth, frizzy hair, no money and a dead-end job. But apparently the three years she can't remember were big ones: she's now sleek, sophisticated, rich, a successful businesswoman and married. But as she tries to reconstruct her recent history, Lexi begins to dislike the woman she became. If you're a fan of Samantha Who? or are just in the mood for a funny and touching story, this is the book for you.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

'“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
"Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were the "wintergirls," forever frozen in their obsession to be thin. They need to be in control by not eating, by purging, by exercising, by cutting. But when Cassie goes too far and dies, Lia is haunted by her former best friend, by her own guilt, and by the fear that she might be next. Can a wintergirl bloom in the spring?

Can You Summarize in Six Words?

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six word memoir: "For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Used." That tells quite a story, doesn't it? In Not Quite What I Planned (SC Str), the editors of Smith Magazine solicited "famous and not so famous" writers to submit their own six word memoirs. Here's one of my favorites: "Followed rules, not dreams. Never again." I could think about that one all day. So here's your chance...submit a six word memoir to our Comments section. We'll put them all on a page in the library website for semi-immortality. The only restriction...keep it clean! Oh wait, you want mine? Here it is: Some dreams deferred, but never forgotten. Your turn....

A Sequel as Good as the First!

Sequels are often disappointing, especially in a projected series. So I started Hunger by Michael Grant hoping for the best but expecting the worst. This is a true annoying recaps of the first book taking up a lot of room. The children of Perdido Beach are now facing an enemy worse than Caine and his scary pack of murderous preppies: hunger. All the junk food is gone and the good food has rotted (of course! little kids would always choose cookies over chicken!). Sam is desperately trying to hold it all together by harvesting farmers' fields. The problem is that they are all being guarded by worms with deadly teeth (another mutation). As hunger weakens the children, Caine makes his move to conquer his brother and serve the dark being in the mine. And Sam ends up fighting a war for survival on multiple fronts.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Things That Keep Us Here

By the time Carla Buckley's novel is published in February, I hope that the swine flu outbreak will have subsided. In this book, H5N1 influenza, with a 50% mortality rate, frighteningly reaches pandemic in a matter of weeks. Buckley focuses on one family in Ohio and their efforts to stay safe during the pandemic. Peter and Ann Brooks have been separated for a year and are about to formally divorce when the flu strikes. Their two daughters are angry, confused and acting out. Peter and Ann reconcile to keep their daughters safe during power outages, food shortages, and violence that escalates as people die.

On one level, this is an exciting survival story that feels very real and plausible. But the book is much more than that. As all four family members struggle, their characters reveal more and more about themselves. We come to understand how fragile marriage is, how vulnerable children are, how easily we lose our true essence in day to day life. Only when we confront a huge challenge do our true selves emerge. A very satisfying story on many levels and for all readers. You will never forget the baby on the doorstep....

End of a thought-filled trilogy

The Golden City by John Twelve Hawks finishes the trilogy begun by The Traveler. The final book has a mystical quality to it and a tone very different from the first two. Gabriel and Michael travel between realms in the endgame between the Tabula and those seeking personal freedom. Tabula's ultimate goal is revealed: humanity is to be barcoded and manipulated through fear. Michael sets a child abuser loose to terrorize parents and encourage them to computer chip their children for safety as step one of the process. This made me think of the dreadful local news at night. I've stopped watching because the reports are intended to frighten us and I need my sleep! It is so easy to fall under their spell and see murderers around every corner. So Twelve Hawks again captures an aspect of modern life and questions the motive.

This is a reasonably satisfying conclusion to a thoughtful series. I could have lived without the religous allegory and would have appreciated a more concrete ending to our characters' stories. I'm not convinced the author doesn't have a second series in mind, although he says in his notes that he is finished with it. So many loose ends....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I was a First Reader!

As part of my work, I read a lot of book related blogs to see what is new and interesting. One of my favorites is Suzanne is a wonderful friend to authors and readers. She lives in Sarasota Florida and runs a very successful online book club. Many local libraries subscribe to it. When you sign up, you receive a chapter or so of a book in your email every day for 5 days. At the end of the week, you make your own decision about whether to get the book and finish it! Great idea, isn't it?

Suzanne also runs a lot of contests and I won one this summer. The prize? I had a chance to be a first reader for an author getting ready to deliver his manuscript to the publisher. His name is Nate Kenyon and he has written a number of well received horror/thriller novels. Nate sent me his new novel, Sparrow Rock, as a PDF file. It was so good I read the whole thing before the paper copy could get to me! It is the story of some teens who plan to party in an eccentric grandfather's fallout shelter. But then the bombs actually fall and they try to survive many scary challenges. Trust me, you can't stop reading it! I sent Nate feedback: things I liked and didn't like, questions about the story, comments on the characters. And it turns out that Mr. Kenyon lives in Newton MA! It's a very small world, isn't it?

Sparrow Rock will be out in the spring but Bone Factory is available in paperback right now. I have a signed copy (thanks Nate) which you can borrow... just find me in the library!

Here's what Booklist had to say about it: “Kenyon’s masterful third novel weaves supernatural realism and vivid characterizations into a powerfully suspenseful plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

And one more, coming in 2010

I'm very excited to see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. And if you want to know more about Lewis Carroll (a very strange guy!), click this link

Monday, August 17, 2009

Read It First!

Lots of great movies are coming out this fall and many of them are based on great books. Read the book first and then compare.

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer I know, you've already read it! If you haven' of the vampire series from this author.

The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald True story of a man who exposed corruption in agribusiness.

Bright Star A movie based on the tragically brief life of British poet John Keats.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane A gripping thriller set in a mental hospital on an island in Massachusetts. Scorsese movie with DiCaprio

Amelia Biopic about the famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart

The Road by Cormac McCarthy A father and son travel across a post-apocalyptic world.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl) and Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendack) Revisit your childhood may see things you missed when you were little!

Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Jim Carrey as Scrooge? Works for me!

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold I predict the book will be better but the trailer looked good. A young teen is murdered and her spirit/ghost watches the aftermath.

Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle The famous detective gets a remake (with kung fu moves).

Invictus is a story of Nelson Mandela and his efforts to unite South Africa using rugby. based on Playing the Game by John Carlin

And on TV: Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer A particle accelerator is turned on in Switzerland and every person on Earth passes out. When they wake up, they have seen visions of their future lives.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

State of the Onion and Hail to the Chef

I know, the titles of Julie Hyzy's books are groaners. But these mysteries are a lot of fun. They feature Ollie, a White House chef. She is plucky, sometimes sticks her foot in her mouth, and always creates fabulous food. Working in the White House is an incredible challenge, especially when there are mysteries to be solved and state dinners to be served.

Hyzy does a fabulous job of making Washington D.C. and the White House come alive. Ollie and her co-workers are fun characters and the recipes at the end of each book are just the (eh-hem) icing on the cake.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

Tassie is a college student in the months after the 9/11 attack. She needs a job (Dad is a semi-retired potato farmer) and answers an ad to be a "child care provider." The family does not yet have a child...Sarah is hoping to adopt. Tassie travels with Sarah and Edward to several potential adoptees and the family finally adopts Emmie, a beautiful biracial 2 year old. But something is seriously wrong with this family...there is a lack of warmth and affection which Tassie tries to fill while juggling school, a new boyfriend, friends and her own family. As this intricate story unfolds, Tassie learns much about families, about war, about love, about racism.

Tassie is a character you won't ever forget. She has an instinct for love, even in the face of hate, betrayal, and death. And the other characters in this novel are complex and very human. Finally, this is one of the funniest novels I've read recently. The humor is dry and keeps you on your toes as a reader. Here's a sample: "The heel end of another loaf [of bread], weeks old, was sitting on the counter in a plastic bag with what looked like a snake inside: a coil of mold with orange and black markings. It was the Frugal Girls' Museum of Modern Art."

A seriously fine book.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

Nicola Tesla was a genius and inventor who spent his last years in a lonely room at the New Yorker hotel. He is responsible for the electricity we use today and once harnessed the power of Niagra Falls to power the World's Fair. Robbed of recognition and patents by uncrupulous scientists, he continued to work on inventions. This much is true. Add in a lonely chambermaid, a grieving father, a mad genius who claims to have traveled in time, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and flocks of pigeons. The result is this amazing novel about what it means to be creative, to be different, to be part of the larger cosmos. This book (obviously) defies description. It is funny, touching, inspirational and just plain fun to read. By the way, Mark Twain was a huge fan of Tesla's and used to visit his room for "hair raising" electrical experiments. The real Tesla and one of his inventions are pictured on the left.

Hunger by Michael Grant

Sequels are often disappointing, especially in a projected series. So I started Hunger hoping for the best but expecting the worst. This is a true annoying recaps of the first book taking up a lot of room. The children of Perdido Beach are now facing an enemy worse than Caine and his scary pack of murderous preppies: hunger. All the junk food is gone and the good food has rotted (of course! little kids would always choose cookies over chicken!). Sam is desperately trying to hold it all together by harvesting farmers' fields. The problem is that they are all being guarded by worms with deadly teeth (another mutation). As hunger weakens the children, Caine makes his move to conquer his brother and serve the dark being in the mine. And Sam ends up fighting a war for survival on multiple fronts.

Twenties Girl

Sophie Kinsella has a new book and it is a winner. Lara Lington is obsessed with her failing business and her failed relationship with the adorable Josh . She is in a decidedly bad mood when she is roped in to attending the funeral of 105 year old Great Aunt Sadie Lancaster. Her mood goes from bad to worse when she discovers she's being haunted by irrepressible Aunt Sadie. The only way to get rid of this ghost is to help her find her missing necklace. While she's looking, Sadie starts taking over her life, with funny and outrageous results. Will a modern girl and a flapper from the 1920's be able to get along? And will the missing necklace and the delightful ghost change Lara's life?