Thursday, December 29, 2011

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Remember The Scarlet Letter?  This is a rewrite set in a dystopian future when church and state are no longer separate but co-mingled in all but a few holdout states.  In this future those found guilty of a crime are Chromed.  They are genetically altered so their skin color reflects their crime.  Yellows have committed misdemeanors, blues are sexual predators and reds are murderers. 

Hannah Payne committed murder in the eyes of the law when she had an abortion.  She refused to give any information about the man who performed the procedure or the identity of the father.  By withholding this information her sentence as a Chrome has been extended by six years to sixteen.

Reverand Dale is a charismatic religious leader who speaks for leniency at Hannah’s trial since she was a former member of his congregation.  He is now in Washington D.C. serving in the highest religious position in the country.  He was also the father of Hannah’s child.

All of this sound a little familiar?  It’s a unique retelling where things don’t always go the way you suspect and character motivations aren’t always what they seem. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Murder on the Cliffs: A Daphne Du Maurier Mystery by Joanna Challis

Where did Daphne Du Maurier get her inspiration for the classic tale Rebecca?  From becoming involved in a murder investigation!  When Daphne comes across the body of a woman at the bottom of a cliff she finds herself in the center of a scandal.  Did the bride-to-be commit suicide?  Or was she pushed?  There are a number of people who would want the young woman dead, but did any of them commit murder?

The author works the real-life authoress into this fictional mystery very well.  Never do you feel like you are getting a history lesson or a biographical sketch.  You learn about the times and the woman through the course of the narrative.  It is also a well written mystery with a gothic air reminiscent of Rebecca.

If you are a mystery reader, you may be interested in joining the Mysterious Mornings discussions.  Our next theme/sub-genre is Real People – Unreal Crimes.  A list of suggested authors and titles is available at the Bridgewater Library and titles are on display right now.

If it’s a mystery and the main character is famous for something other than solving crimes, and is now solving crimes, then it fits this month’s sub-genre.  Just keep in mind how the main character’s fame and profession affects the mystery because that will be a major talking point at our discussion on Wednesday, January 11th at 9:30am at the Bridgewater Library.

Wickedly Charming by Kristine Grayson

Wickedly Charming by Kristine Grayson

What if all the characters in fairy tales actually existed?  What happens after the happily ever after?  Well, Prince Charming and Ella (that’s her real name, the Cinder part got smushed on by the Brothers Grimm) are divorcing.  Mellie, the stepmother from the Snow White tale, is trying to get a grassroots movement off the ground to ban the lies (meaning the fairy tales).  And Dave (the name Prince Charming uses in our world) just wants to run his bookshop and get books at the book fair.  That’s when he runs into Mellie who is protesting the book fair.  He tries to pass on his love to books to her; she sees a way to get her message about nice stepmothers out there; and they start collaborating on a plan.  Could Prince Charming fall for an Evil Stepmother?  Is there life after Happily Ever After?  If you’re a fan of romance, retold tales or just a fun, quick read, you’ll enjoy visiting the Greater World (where we live) and the Kingdoms (where the fairy tales happen). 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Legend by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu

Missing The Hunger Games?  Looking for the next big dystopian series?  Look no further.  Lu has a winner with Legend.

It’s some time in the future in what is now part of the Republic, the place we know as California.  The West Coast is not only a location prone to earthquakes, but devastating hurricanes happen with frightening regularity.  It’s also a hotbed of plague with mutant forms of the virus sprouting up in the poorer sections of the cities every few months.

If you’re from a wealthy family like June, life in the Republic isn’t so bad.  Add to her comfortable living situation the fact that she scored a perfect score on her Trial (mandatory testing given to all ten year olds in the Republic) and you have a girl on the fast track to success.  June loves the Republic and wants to be a great solider, just like her older brother Metias.

If you’re from a poorer family like Day, life in the Republic isn’t so great.  Add to his not-so-great living situation the fact that he’s on the run for his actions against the Republic.  While he’s not working for the Colonies he is considered one of the biggest enemies of the Republic.

Told in alternating chapters by June and Day (you just know these two are going to meet!) this is a great edge of your seat tale about life in a place that is good or horrid depending on where you stand and a place where nothing is at it seems to be.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

Are you the sort of person who notices the type style in advertising and signs?  Does it drive you nuts when something you are reading changes fonts in the middle?  Do you know the difference between a serif and sans serif typeface?  Then this is the book for you!  (Even if you aren’t currently a font fanatic, this book will help you become impassioned about the printed word!)

Garfield takes you on a journey through the history of printing and the font revolution Steve Jobs created when his Apple software came preloaded with a number of fonts.  You learn which fonts are most airport friendly, which fonts you’ll find in France and which fonts were created for special purposes and have become legendary.  (You’ll also learn about some font flops and most hated fonts.  Comic Sans being the most hated of all.)

If you’re looking for an entertaining read and also looking to learn something which may one day help you on Jeopardy! you’ve found a good one here.  The chapters are short and basically stand on their own so you can read a bit, have a giggle or two, and put it down for a day and not lose anything. 

I recommend only reading this book in its physical print form.  The typeface changes to illustrate various fonts and the illustrations are wonderful.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

As we are aware, history is written by the victors.  Therefore, most of what I knew about the French Revolution was from the side of the citizenry, even though their side was a brutal one.  The Reign of Terror is a very appropriate description indeed!  What made this book, and its main character, unique was the way both sides of the revolution were portrayed.  You get to see the revolution from the beginning, when it was just talk in a salon, through to the road running red with traitorous blood: the definition of traitor getting vaguer and vaguer as time went on.  You also get to see into the court of Louis and Marie Antoinette by the sculptress’s tutelage of the king’s sister.  The woman we now associate with wax museums was a sought out artist in her time.

It was interesting to see how involved (albeit unwillingly) Tussaud was in the French Revolution.  (If you don’t know how, I’m not giving it away here!)  The process and expense of the wax figures at that time was shocking, but not more so than the popularity of her museum and the price of admission. 

This is a fascinating read of another time and place which the Popular Fiction Book Discussion Group will be discussing Madame Tussaud on Tuesday, February 21st at 7pm at the Bridgewater Library.  Please contact the library at 908-526-4016 x105 if you would like to signup to attend this discussion.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Robert Greenblatt

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Robert Greenblatt
Reviewed by Cassandra, Librarian at Mary Jacobs Library

It seems that every nonfiction book I've reviewed for the blog has been my all-time favorite. I guess I should continue on that trend with this book! The Swerve is in my top 10 favorite nonfiction books of 2011 and it might just be one of my all-time favorite books.  It is a quick listen on audio at just 8 discs and the reader, Edoardo Ballerini, is easy on the ears.

In explaining how European civilization started to push away from Christian religiosity of the Middle Ages into a worldview we recognize as our secular own, Greenblatt traces book hunter Poggio Bracciolini, in 1417, on his quest through Medieval monasteries to search for ancient manuscripts. On this quest he unearths Lucretius's "De rerum natura" (On the Nature of Things.) This book-length Latin poem, written in the 1st century B.C.E., is described as remarkably beautiful and gripping, while being a great example of Epicurean philosophy (available from It is the story of how this particular manuscript was found, copied and passed along that Greenblatt believes led the way out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance and then into modern philosophy.

In essence, this book is an ode to the power and tenacity of manuscripts and the celebration of the scribal skills of men such as Poggio and Niccolo. There is also an amazing insight into medieval religious fervor and the medieval monks who toiled in monastic scriptoria and discreetly inserted grumbles - "Thin ink, bad parchment, difficult text" -onto the pages they produced.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

You don’t have to read Shanghai Girls to appreciate See’s latest book, but it certainly helps since this is a direct sequel taking place IMMEDIATELY after Shanghai Girls ends.  This is the story of Joy, an idealistic and na├»ve nineteen year old who decides to go to China to find her biological father.   It is also the story of Pearl, her mother, who follows her daughter to China.  If the story took place today it would be complicated enough, but in the book it is 1957 and Joy has just entered Mao’s China. 

Seeing Mao’s communes and the transformation of the city of Shanghai is startling.  I knew that things under Mao were bad; I just was unaware of how bad.  Mao’s unreasonable demands on the communes (fertilizing the fields with crushed glass, seeding ten times the normal amount, competitions for harvest times) caused the great famines that killed up to 45 million people.  You get a great understanding of why there wasn’t an uprising of the people, it’s hard to rebel when you are dying of starvation.

Narrated in the first person by both Joy and Pearl you get great insights into these two characters and get to see the transformation of Joy into a woman and the love Pearl has for her wayward daughter.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Dana is a secret.  She is the daughter of a hidden family.  Her father James has two daughters, Dana and Chaurisse, born only four months apart, yet only one can claim him as her father in public.  Dana is not that daughter.

Dana grows up knowing her father is a bigamist, knowing all about her sister and her family.   She knows that if Chaurisse wants to attend a certain program or work at a certain place she cannot.  She feels that Chaurisse is the lucky one, the favored daughter.  Things start to unravel when Dana and Chaurisse start to hang out together.  Dana is trying to learn everything she can about her sister while Chaurisse is thrilled to have a new friend.  Secrets don’t stay secret forever.

Set in the 1980s in Atlanta this is an interesting look at how this social situation could actually seem to work for an extended period of time.  I read an interview with the author and she was amazed at how many letters she received from people like Dana who were from hidden families. 

I think the best part of the book was the perspective switch at the midpoint.  The first half is told from Dana’s point of view and suddenly we have the story from Charuisse’s viewpoint.  While it was jarring at first since the girls are more alike than either would ever admit, seeing the other side of the story was in interesting storytelling device.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

This book was popping up on mystery lists everywhere for the past couple of months.  It is the first Nina Borg mystery to be translated into English and it’s the first Danish mystery I’ve read.  I will ruin a little of the suspense for you: the boy in the suitcase is alive. When I read the title my mind went to doom and gloom and to places I don’t wish to explore.  While the tension is created around the main character, Nina, who is a clueless as we are about why this young boy is in a suitcase and her mind goes to where ours would (human trafficking, etc.), what is really happening is so much more intriguing and twisty than I would have suspected. 

Nina Borg, our heroine, is likable despite her habit of disappearing from her family for months on end.  She’s saving lives in Africa so you can’t really fault her.  She is a nurse who needs to make a difference in the world and she does so wherever and whenever she can: which is why she feels the need to figure out why there is a three-year-old left in a suitcase without going to the authorities.

Not nearly as dark, brooding or gory as the Swedish mysteries that have been getting all the press as of late, this is a great introduction to Scandinavian mysteries for those that want a taste without the attendant depression of the Swedish ones.  (I don’t know about all of you, but I need to read something light and happy after getting through a Swedish mystery.)

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Have a favorite flower to give or to receive?  Do you know what that flower is saying?  The Victorian art of communication through flowers is at the heart of this novel about a damaged young woman, named Victoria, struggling to understand and be understood by those around her. 

In and out of foster homes most of her life, and now homeless and with no one to turn to, Victoria finds work at a local florist.  At this job she begins to create arrangements using the language of flowers – and creates a successful business out of her work.  All is not resolved, Victoria must learn to find her place in the world and talk about her feelings and allow herself to feel in turn.  The writing style is not flowery, yet it is a lush tale of damage and the journey to redemption. 

At the end of the novel is an appendix of flowers and their meanings.  My favorite flower means cheerfulness which makes perfect sense since gerbera daisies are fun flowers. Beware though.  Some flowers may mean jealously, deceit or other unsavory things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks by Ken Jennings

I just love maps.  I love looking at them, dreaming about what other places are like, even wondering how certain places got their wonderfully wacky names.  I think having a GPS is cheating.  I love finding my way through corn mazes with only a map and my wits to guide me out.  I can’t understand people who can’t read maps.  Then again, I can’t make sense of a large area until I see a map, so I really shouldn’t judge.

Ken Jennings (big time Jeopardy! winner) is a lover of maps (read: maphead) too.  A much bigger fan than I.  Obviously, he wrote the book.  And what a fun book it is!  Full of facts and odd bits of knowledge about map making, the hidden lives of old maps, geocaching, lifetime travel lists, and geography bee champions, this book is as entertaining as it is informative.  I was so caught up in map love I put a road atlas and a “cool” world atlas on my list for Santa (read: dad) to bring me this year.

If you are a fan of humor, knowledge, maps or trivia you’ll want to give this one a read.

The Non-Fiction Book Discussion Group will be talking about Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks on Thursday, February 9th at 1pm.  Register online if you would like to join in the discussion!

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean

I never saw Rin Tin Tin on the silver screen or on a television screen, yet I knew he was a famous German Shepherd.  He’s part of American culture.  And now he’s back in the minds of America because of Orlean’s new book.

Rinty, as his owner affectionately called him, was a foundling: an orphan pup found in a bombed out kennel in France during WWI.  From these humble beginnings he became one of the most famous actors in the world and a beloved hero of multiple generations.  Told in a factual and entertaining way Orlean follows Rinty’s life as other dogs take on the collar (so to speak) and become the new Rin Tin Tin.  There is a lot of interesting background on how dogs fought alongside our soldiers in various wars as well as the evolution of the motion picture and television industries.  More than just a book about a dog, this is a book that would appeal to anyone enjoying a story about how a legend was born.

The Non-Fiction Book Discussion Group will be talking about Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend on Thursday, January 12th at 1pm.  Register online if you would like to join in the discussion!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

Yes, there are an awful lot of books out there.  And yes, it’s hard to find something “good” when there are a lot of similar books (amateur sleuth, vampire romance, spy thriller – to name a few) in a subgenre coming out every year.  But every once in a while you have to take a chance on the new kid on the block, and I’ve found more often than not I’m not disappointed.  Enter Keye Street, recovering alcoholic, disgraced FBI profiler, now private detective in Atlanta, Georgia.  The damaged former golden child of law enforcement has been done before, typically with a male protagonist, but Street is a character to watch.

I enjoyed Street’s story, there is just enough to satisfy my curiosity, but not too much so that the main plot is overwhelmed.  She’s an adopted child of stereotypical Southern parents.  For example, her mom is a genteel (in her mind) southern lady who refused to address Street’s cat by her given name.  Street found her cat outside in the garbage can; it is a white cat, so she named her White Trash.  Street’s mom doesn’t find the name proper and calls her White Kitty, Whitey and her new favorite name Snowflake.  It’s little touches like this that make the book read more like a real life and less like an episode of CSI.  But this is no cozy and Street is a tough lady.  The way she takes down a bail jumper twice her size is too cool to give away here.

This is a complex serial killer thriller.  Street and her best friend from Atlanta Police Department are trying to track a sadistic killer with terror, red herrings and back story galore.  I love a thriller that keeps me on the edge of my seat and constantly guessing and this book is a winner.  I’ve read so many of these types of books that sometimes I see the end coming and I really don’t like that.  I like the surprise.  I like participating in the brain games and the chase alongside the main character.  I was with Street every step of the way.

Amateur American Sleuths

The Mysterious Mornings group met this morning and talked about their favorite mysteries starring Amateur American Sleuths. If it’s a mystery and the main character is solving crimes, but isn’t a police officer or private investigator, then it fit this month’s sub-genre. Since we have already (or will be) discussed culinary, crafting, hobby and pet mysteries, we left them off the list.

Here are the group favorites listed by author and their series main character:
  • Barr, Nevada (Anna Pigeon)
  • Burke, Jan (Irene Kelly)
  • Cannell, Dorothy (Ellie Haskell)
  • Clark, Mary Jane (KEY News Mysteries)
  • Dobson, Joanna (Karen Pelletier)
  • Graves, Sarah (Home Repair is Homicide)
  • MacInerney, Karen (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries)
  • Maron, Margaret (Deborah Knott)
  • Meier, Leslie (Lucy Stone)
  • Riggs, Cynthia (Martha's Vineyard Mysteries)
  • Thompson, Victoria (Gaslight Mysteries)
  • White, Kate (Bailey Weggins)
Interested in joining in on a Mysterious Morning discussion? A list of suggested authors and titles are available at the Bridgewater Library and books will be on display about a month prior to the discussion. (If you’re a voracious mystery reader you can read more than one.) Our next theme/subgenre is Real People -- Unreal Crimes.

If it’s a mystery and the main character is famous for soemthing other than solving crimes, and is now solving crimes, then it fits this month’s sub-genre. Just keep in mind how the main character's fame and profession affects the mystery because that’ll be a major talking point at our discussion on January 11th at 9:30am at the Bridgewater Library.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

The small town of Gentry seems like a normal enough place.  It’s a lucky place – when a factory closes another large business seems to move in and keep the town employed, all seems to go well for the town.  All is happy and gay except a child dies every seven years: a child that seems different, off somehow.  And no one seems to notice or care that the child who dies isn’t the real child.  It looks like the real child, but it simply isn’t.  But Mackie Doyle cares.  He’s is a “different” child: a child that has lived sixteen years despite being fatally allergic to iron, blood and consecrated ground.  (Which some may not think is too hard to avoid, but his dad is a pastor.)  Mackie Doyle is a replacement.  And he’s determined to figure out why he is like he is and stop the horrible cycle of Gentry.

I’ll admit it.  I picked this one up because of the cover.  Young adult books have the coolest covers and I just tend to gravitate towards them.  So does my mother.  I received The Replacement as an advance reader’s copy last year and never got around to it.  I was in an independent bookstore this weekend with my mom and she picked it up and I promised her my copy when I was done with it.  Being a nice daughter I moved it to the top of the pile.

Fans of paranormal and urban fantasy would enjoy this book.  What is also nice is that it isn’t to be continued.  The story fits nicely in its small package and that is something to appreciate right there.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

This is one of those books where none of the reviews did it any justice.  The reviews make it sound like high esoteric fantasy where really it’s a great dual-world paranormal fantasy.  It’s totally accessible to any reader, even non-fantasy fans, since one of the two worlds is our Earth: makes the alternate world learning curve a LOT easier to deal with.  The Entertainment Weekly review made it out to be literary and in my mind I equate literary with unreadable or “out there.”  This reviewer must have just meant “very well written” and has made me rethink glossing over novels labeled as literary.

In this novel we’re in present day Prague.  Karou is a blue-haired art school student with a secret other life.  She is also a retriever of teeth for a shop run by chimera, beast/human mixed beings.  This shop is accessed through multiple doors hidden throughout our world and Karou has had many an adventure retrieving different types of teeth from all sorts of nice and unsavory characters.  All is well with Karou and her dual existence until a being, an angel is the closest word she can find for this beautiful man with fiery wings, opens her eyes to the war being fought on her other home world.   

This is a well-crafted thoroughly engrossing tale.  Fans of paranormal fantasy and romance – check this one out.  One warning: the last three words of the book are – to be continued…  ARGH! 

Hard Truth by Nevada Barr

Hard Truth by Nevada Barr

I have been meaning to read an Anna Pigeon book forever and finally got around to listening to one.  All the mysteries in this series take place in National Parks since Pigeon is a Ranger with the National Park Service.  In Hard Truth Pigeon just took a position with Rocky Mountain National Park and is caught up in the story of two battered tweens who stumble out of the woods six weeks after they were reported missing.   The girls claim they have no idea where they have been or what has happened to them and they don’t know where the third girl who was with them has gone. 

I listened to this book and the reader was very good, however, there was a lot of mouth noise.  I don’t know if she was drinking glasses of water throughout her recording or what, but it was pretty distracting.  Still, great story, maybe not such a great listen.

I was expecting a cozy mystery and instead got a polygamous sect, serial killers, hand raised predators and some strange sociology/psychology insights.  For me it was a pleasant surprise.  Next time Barr comes out with a new mystery I will probably be adding her to my book pile.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Marina Singh loves her job as a researcher at a large pharmaceutical company.  She also loves where she lives in frigid Minnesota.  But when a close colleague doesn’t return from his attempt to track down an elusive researcher in the Amazon she is sent to both check on the status of the fertility research in the jungle and find out the details of her colleague’s death.

This novel really reminded me of Heart of Darkness – the jungle is a ferocious, exotic and completely alien place.  Patchett makes the Amazon and its inhabitants a lush and multi-dimensional being, really allowing the reader to walk in Marina’s shoes. 

At the core this is a story about medical ethics.  Just because medicine can alter the human body, should it do so?  What are the consequences of each new discovery?  Are some discoveries too value to humankind to attach a price to?  If so, who does pay the price?

Join the Popular Fiction Book Discussion Group at the Bridgewater Library on Tuesday, December 13th at 7pm as we talk about this novel.  Sign up online or call the Adult Reference Desk (908-526-4016 x 105) to register.

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Virals by Kathy Reichs

I’m sure you’re familiar with Reichs’s Temperance Brennan character from either her bestselling novels or the hit television series Bones.  But did you know she has a niece with her own series?  Tory Brennan is the main character in the book Virals, the first in a new series.  Tory, like her aunt, is a bit of a science nerd but that is where the similarities between the series end.  Tory is in high school, lives on Morris Island outside of Charleston and is a bit of a modern day Nancy Drew with a twist.  She and three of her fellow Morris Island teen residents stumble upon a decades old mystery/conspiracy/cover-up and manage to get themselves infected by a strain of (supposedly) canine-only disease.  I don’t want to give too much away here, but the kids call themselves “virals” and they can do some pretty neat things with their senses now. 

While adults will want to read it because of the author, those that don’t like a little science fiction with their mystery may not enjoy it as much as teen readers.  A great pick on audio – the use of sound effects adds to the suspense and the accents are great.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

In the 1960s a woman is browsing a gallery with her husband.  The photographs on the walls are from the late 1930s.  An artist used a hidden camera to photograph people on the subway.  He hadn’t shown the images until now because he didn’t want to invade the privacy of these unsuspecting passengers.  The woman is startled to recognize her old friend Tinker in one of the photos.  In it he is well dressed and looks weary.  As she is leaving the gallery she spies another photo of Tinker.  Now he is shabbily dressed, on the thin side, but has a slight smile.  Her husband comments that it’s nice to see how he went from rags to riches.  The wife corrects him.  The well dressed photo was taken in 1938; the shabbily dressed one was taken in 1939.  This is the story of the year in a life of four friends and the events which shaped their futures.

The city, the economy, the time are as much characters as the four friends.  This is a well-crafted relationship story that shows people are many layered and not always only as they seem.  It’s also a study in the meaning of happiness and success and how conventional definitions don’t fit everyone. 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

In a word: absurd.  In another word: wonderful.  To sum up: wonderfully absurd. 

Some time in the not-so-distant future a plane full of Miss Teen Dream contestants crashes on a deserted island.  Not many Teen Dreamers make it.  Only about fifteen girls survive.  One has a tray table stuck in her forehead, one is determined to practice her routines (no matter that the pageant will most likely not go on), one joined just to sabotage the pageant (and is now stuck with the others), and yet another isn’t even strictly female.  But they have spunk and ingenuity and they are survivors.  Nevermind the illegal weapons deal, the secret base on the island and the political intrigue.  That’s just icing on the cake.

If you’re a fan of the absurd writing of Douglas Adams or Carl Hiaasen you will probably laugh out loud over this one.  What’s really great is under all the sarcasm and weirdness is a real message.  Girls can do anything when they are given the opportunity to succeed.  This is a book with heart at its core and wackiness everywhere else.

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

A co-worker with connections in publishing told me that mermaids would be the next big thing now that the vampire craze is losing some steam.  Lost Voices describes an interesting idea about the creation of mermaids.  Mermaids are created when abused girls are near death; they dissolve into the sea and are reborn as these mythical creatures: vengeful creatures luring ships and their human occupants to their deaths in the cold seas.

Fourteen-year-old Luce was orphaned about a year ago and sent to live with her uncle in a small Alaskan fishing village.  He was never kindly towards Luce, but in an alcoholic stupor he goes too far and the next thing Luce knows she is comfortably floating in the icy sea surrounded by other girls.  All of these girls suffered abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to care for them (one girl was starved to death by her mother, another thrown from a moving car by hers, and the stories are each worse than the last).  The mermaids have beautiful singing voices they use to lure the humans on passing ships to their deaths.  But Luce doesn’t want to kill humans.  She is upset with what happened to her but doesn’t feel that all humans should suffer because of what her uncle did.  This is her struggle to fit in and do what she thinks is best.

This is one of the oddest coming of age stories I’ve read and I must admit I’m intrigued.  First in a trilogy it will be followed by the second book next year.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

Blizzard conditions in October?  Freezing weather?  What’s going on?  Since I was huddled at home on Saturday listening to trees cracking and crashing all around me I figured I’d read about people colder and much more on edge than myself. 

In the middle of nowhere Canada – truly, middle of nowhere – it is usually about twenty below on a warm day in the winter.  Also in this small town in the middle of nowhere is one of the scariest creatures ever.  For this cold place has been the home for a creature of the cold.  A creature that hungers for the young.  A creature who transforms his prey into creatures of the cold like itself.

While in some ways this is the typical horror monster tale, it is very different in its crafting.  It’s a very different retelling of the Native American wendigo story.  The monster isn’t as you’d expect and the way it hunts is very unique.  If you’re looking for a fun action-packed tale that keeps you guessing, and keeps you freezing, get chilled to the bone with this one.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Seventeen-year old Luce is sent to a reform school in Georgia after the mysterious death of her boyfriend.  No one knows how Luce killed him, or even if she actually did, but she was alone with him in the cabin when it started to burn.  Not helping assure those around her of her innocence is Luce’s problem: the shadow figures that she sees and no one else believes in.  You’d think that would make her an oddity at her new school, but everyone there has a history and some are even darker than hers.  This is Luce’s opportunity to start over.  Or so she thinks. 

Luce meets two nice boys, both alluring in their own ways, makes some friends, and seems to be dragged into the battle.  And I mean THE battle.  The one between angels and demons and all that end of the world stuff.  There are fallen angels out there and Luce has met them before.  She keeps meeting the same people, life after life, but this time history isn’t repeating itself.  This time she may find out what the shadows are and why they are haunting her.  This time she won’t get another chance to live her life.

If you’re looking for a multi-part paranormal romance I would point you here (and also to Shiver by Stiefvater).  I’ll admit I’m not a fan of Bella and Edward.  I never got what the two of them saw in each other.  In Fallen you understand the emotion between the two characters and you don’t want a third character (Jacob, to extend the Twilight comparison) coming between them.  And I’ll admit that too, I was a Jacob fan.  Not what you’re supposed to be in a young-love-against-all-odds romance!  In this one, you do want love to prevail against horrific odds and you root for them to the end, waiting impatiently to get your hands on the sequel.  (I really enjoyed it on audio.)

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Louisa Cosgrove is going to spend some time with friends of the family in the country.  It’s Victorian England and that is the sort of thing young ladies do.  However, Lou never arrives at her perceived destination.  Instead she arrives at Wildthorn, a mental institution where everyone is convinced that her true name is Lucy Childs and she is just too mad to know it.   Who has committed her?  Why?  How can she possibly get away?

This is a great view of the inner workings of an asylum of the time.  It’s a harsh and unjust place and brings up a disturbing question: how do you convince those who believe you are crazy that you are not?  Is it even possible?

Spoiler: this historical novel with a huge psychological element is also the story of one girl’s awakening into herself.  She discovers that she is a lesbian and comes to terms with her feelings.  Yet another spoiler: it is refreshing that her sexual preferences are not the reason she is committed (when in that time period it could have been).  No, there are more sinister goings on afoot that Louisa is going to be challenged to discover and devastated to know.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Rem Suma

Imaginary Girls by Nova Rem Suma

Chloe idolized her big sister Ruby.  Ruby is the girl that everyone wants to be and everyone bends over backwards to please.  Chloe enjoys being Ruby’s little sister; Ruby who has basically raised her since their mom spends most of her time at the local pub.  One day, while hanging out at the Hudson Valley reservoir one of Chloe’s classmates, sixteen-year old London, is found dead floating in a rowboat.  Chloe’s dad sends for her to live with him and his new family in Pennsylvania and she goes reluctantly.

Two years later Ruby, whom Chloe has never known to leave their hometown in upstate New York, goes to Pennsylvania to retrieve her sister.  When Chloe gets back to the town she notices that things are strange.  London is alive, and no one seems to think it strange.  And everyone is being unbelievably nice, subservient even, to Ruby.

This is a really strange book, but I mean it in a good way.  It leaves you off balance as you see the world through Chloe’s eyes and try to make sense of the world around her.  If you are a fan of magical realism, think Alice Hoffman, then you may want to enter the strange world of this small town in New York.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian

Chip Linton was a pilot before the accident.  Now he doesn’t like to see airplanes or birds.  Chip was piloting a regional jet when a flock of geese flew into his plane and killed both engines.  Thinking he couldn’t return to Burlington or make it to Plattsburgh he decided to recreate the Miracle on the Hudson on Lake Champlain.  It started out well, but the wave created by a ferry turning to help caught the wings and flipped the plane over while it was still moving at a very high speed.  The plane broke apart, and while there were survivors, including Chip, 39 people lost their lives.

Chip, his wife and twin daughters, decide to start over in a rambling Victorian in rural Vermont.  The neighbors are all extremely kind and constantly sharing the bounty of their greenhouses.   All seems idyllic until Chip notices the small door in the basement.  The door sealed shut with 39 carriage bolts…

I really enjoy Bohjalian’s books (like The Double Bind and Skeletons at the Feast) and I was looking forward to this one.  I am pleased to say that the man can not only write great psychological fiction and historical fiction, but he tells a great ghost story as well.