Monday, September 26, 2011

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

After Jacob’s grandfather dies in odd circumstances Jacob feels his life coming apart.  He can’t ignore the strange and scary things he has seen that seem impossible.  And he can’t get the weird stories his grandfather told him about his childhood in Wales out of his mind.  Did his grandfather make it all up as he suspects?  Or is there any truth in the tales?  To ease his mind Jacob travels (with dad in tow) to find the orphanage where his grandfather spent his childhood: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

I really like books that play around with format and style.  In this book the author takes Victorian era photographs from various personal collections (all purchased from yard sales and antique shops) and weaves them into the story.  These are creepy photographs.  It’s amazing what you could do with trick photography back then.  My favorite is the photograph of a young girl looking into a calm pool of water.  Normal enough until you realize that in the pool are the reflections of two little girls…

Marketed as a young adult novel (personally I feel it’s because of the photographs interspersed with the plot) this book would appeal to those who have ever felt a little different or wanted to be more peculiar.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

When Amanda, Jennifer's best friend, is murdered the police don't know who did it, but they wonder why four fingers of her right hand were carefully (surgically even) removed.  They are especially curious about Jennifer’s possible involvement in the crime since she is a world renowned hand surgeon.  Unfortunately Jennifer doesn't know what she knows.  She is suffering from Alzheimer's and often forgets that Amanda is dead, or even who Amanda was.  Much of the time Jennifer can’t remember who she is, where she is, or her place in time.

This story is told from Jennifer’s point of view and it is a case study of the progression of the disease coupled with an interesting murder mystery.  Unlike Still Alice, another book told from the point of view of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, Turn of Mind shows the disease in all its ugliness.  The reader experiences not only the gentleness and childhood memories, but the stubbornness, irrational anger and fits of temper Jennifer fluctuates between; as well as her moments of lucidity – painful for her family to have since they are so rare and fleeting.

If you are looking for an psychological thriller told by an unreliable narrator I think you’d enjoy Before I Go To Sleep much more, but if you are interested in a book told from the point of view of a person with Alzheimer’s this is a eye-opening portrayal of the disease.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

It takes a special person to discover something no one in our lifetimes has discovered – a new planet! – and then argue that his discovery isn’t the glorious thing everyone seems to think it is.  Mike Brown feels that Pluto, and therefore his planet Xena, don’t deserve the lofty designation of planet and is extremely pleased when his planet is demoted (along with Pluto) by the governing body of astronomy.  Why is Pluto demoted?  How was Pluto almost saved by tricky wording?  How are new planets and objects found in the far flung reaches of space?  All these questions and more are answered here.

While this book is mainly concerned with finding new planets and then demoting them, a lot more is covered here.  The way scientific discoveries are presented to the world, how telescopes work (and how a scientist gets time to use them), even how life sometimes gets in the way of science.  Brown’s engaging and light style will keep you reading and interested in the tumult of his personal life and his life as a gazer of wandering stars (otherwise known as planets).

The Non-Fiction Book Discussion group at the Bridgewater Library will be discussing How I Killed Pluto on Thursday, November 10th at 1pm.  If you would like to join the discussion please call 908-526-4016 x105 to sign up.

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

Thirteen year old Evie didn’t go home after school and now she’s been gone for a while.  The police think they know who abducted her, but is everyone telling all they know?  Lizzie is Evie’s best friend.  They share everything, or at least Lizzie thought they did.  With Evie’s disappearance, which seems to be a kidnapping, everything is coming to an end.

In a word I would call this book disturbing.  I listened to it and the reader captures Lizzie’s inner voice perfectly.  She sounds like a tween, which makes the words she is saying much creepier.  While Evie is gone Lizzie wonders what it must be like spending time with a man (three times her age) who loves her so much that he would take her away like he did.  She is picturing knightly romantic love, spending time together talking and flirting, not the images of a girl kidnapped by an older man that would start forming in the mind of an adult.  As I said, disturbing, but the author does an excellent job of getting in the minds of the tweens and teens of the novel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Cat’s best friend (well, he was before she separated herself from the world these past couple of years) is savagely beaten and lies in a coma in the hospital.  Patrick is the victim of a hate crime.  He was beaten viciously because he is gay.   Being gay in a small mountain town in backwoods North Carolina was difficult for Patrick but many thought he was accepted for who he was, including Patrick.  Then this happens.  Cat knows the local police personally and knows that they are inept.  Therefore she decides to start asking around and learns what her friend’s life has been like and she begins to see the people around her more clearly and is frightened by what she sees.

This is a gritty and dark look at being a teenager in this part of the country where poverty is only a step away and once hardworking people turn to dealing and using meth to get by.  This is a young adult novel, but I think anyone who reads realistic fiction and wants to know how other people survive the circumstances of their youth would get something out of this novel.

Though Not Dead by Dana Stabenow

Though Not Dead by Dana Stabenow

Stabenow is very popular in our library system, but I had never read one, so I picked this one up to listen to while I was working around the house.  The book focuses on main series character Kate Shugak, a Native American PI living (most of the time anyway) in the Park – the wilds of Alaska some miles outside of Anchorage.  In this book she is mourning the loss of her Great Uncle, Old Sam.  Soon though, she is cursing her beloved Old Sam for leaving her a final letter to Find His Father!  Easier said than done since Sam was about 90 when he passed and it seems that other players are just as interested as Kate to solve the mysteries of Old Sam’s past. 

I enjoy mysteries that flit back and forth between the present and the past so I really enjoyed this one.  You get glimpses into Old Sam’s life as a young man and the experience of the Native Alaskans in the Aleutians during WWII and during the bid for statehood.  There is a lot of history in here.  The mystery is also well crafted.   I didn’t know who was responsible for what attempt on Kate’s life until almost the end.

Okay.  I have to say it.  I had a really hard time dealing with her dog Mutt.  She seems a nice husky/wolf mix but when one character asked Mutt, “Hey Girl, where’s Kate?” I had memories of Lassie and Timmy in my head and had a hard time taking Mutt seriously after that.  She’s a little too superdog for me.

If you want to learn about modern day Native culture in Alaska, what life (and food – they eat LOTS of moose in this book) is like and the climate (VERY cold) you couldn’t pick a better book.  Great on audio, because I don’t think I would have pronounced some of the place names correctly in my head!

Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper by Geoffrey Gray

Who was D.B. Cooper?  Did he survive his infamous parachute jump with $200,000?  How unbelievably common were skyjackings in the late 60s and early 70s?  This last question is what really got me.  I didn’t realize how many planes were hijacked during this time period.  The first part of the book deals with the workings of the airplane industry and what the responsibilities of pilots and stewardesses were.  Let me tell you, it is a far cry from the service one can expect today.  There is also an extremely detailed description of the skyjacking from the people who were there and the FBI agent who became the lead on the case.  The second part of the book breaks into a few strings, each string following a different man, a different man who could have been D.B Cooper.

I enjoyed listening to this book because you start reading about the obsession of the FBI agents working the case, and other men who have spent the better part of their lifetimes searching for the Cooper money.  Then you begin to realize that the author of the book is as obsessed as the people he is writing about.  He NEEDS to know who Cooper was.  It is the focus of not only his book, but his life.  And he’s got some wonderfully convincing candidates, but no solid proof.  The answer to “Who was D.B. Cooper?” is left in the hands of the reader.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crime in the Big Apple

The Mysterious Mornings group met this morning and talked about their favorite mysteries set in the Big Apple. If it was a mystery and took place in NYC (or the outer boroughs) it fit this month’s subgenre.

Here are the group favorites listed by author and their series main character:

Barbieri, Maggie (Murder 101 Mysteries)

Block, Lawrence (Matthew Scudder)
Bowen, Rhys (Molly Murphy)
Castle, Richard (Nikki Heat)
Coyle, Cleo (Coffeehouse Mysteries)
Deaver, Jeffery (Lincoln Rhyme)
DeMille, Nelson (John Corey)
Harris, Rosemary (Dirty Business Mysteries)
Patterson, James and Michael Ledwidge (Michael Bennett)
Pintoff, Stefanie (Simon Ziele)
Roker, Al (Billy Blessing)
Rozan, S.J. (Lydia Chin/Bill Smith)
Spillane, Mickey and Max Allan Collins (Mike Hammer)
Thompson, Victoria (Gaslight Mysteries)
Wiprud, Brian (Standalones)

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 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 fits this month’s sub-genre. Since we have already (or will be) discussing culinary, crafting, hobby and pet mysteries, I’ve left them off the list. Just keep in mind how the amateur’s job or personal skills affects the mystery because that’ll be a major talking point at our discussion on November 16th at 9:30am at the Bridgewater Library.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

Need a little chick lit in your life?  Want to read something light, short and sweet?  Try this collection of stories following a group of friends through their twenties and into their thirties. 

We learn about them: their struggles through imperfect and perfect men.  How Lauren is convinced she got dumped because she told her boyfriend that in middle school she thought ham came from hams…weird looking oblong creatures.  Their struggles with jobs they hate but are good at, and jobs they think they should love, but don’t.  We also learn about their friends: Ellen who only dates ugly boys and Kristi who after five bridal showers will probably no longer be their friend after the wedding because they won’t be able to afford the baby showers when she starts having kids.

Set in New York City, with appropriate accents, this was an enjoyable listen.  Perfect for short car rides!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Feelers by Brian M. Wiprud

Feelers by Brian M. Wiprud

I don’t think I’ve been able to use the very fun words: madcap, zany, whirlwind, and jaw-droppingly-laugh-out-loud to describe a book in a long, long, too long time.  This book is all those things and more.  Granted, you’ve got to like your humor a bit (quite a bit) on the dark side for these adjectives to apply, but it you’re a fan of off-kilter heist books, you’ll love this one.

Morty Martinez is a feeler: a man who clears out the homes of the deceased in East Brooklyn and chooses his jobs based on feel.  He “feels” whether or not the deceased has stashed money away in the house.  And since the current owner of the property signs over all the proceeds of the house to Morty, he can legitimately keep whatever he finds.  Like the 32 tight ones (money rolled tightly into Planters Peanut cans) with over $800,000 in them stashed under the last guy’s stained plaid couch.  Unfortunately others are interested in Morty’s sudden good fortune.  Like the man who just got out of prison for robbing an armored car fifteen years ago.  The same man who hid the five million dollars in his Uncle’s house.  The same Uncle who died just a couple of weeks ago and had a feeler clean out his house…

This book has a great Brooklyn feel (excuse the pun) to it.  The whole story is a written confession by Morty to a priest and his eloquent use of language, and the lack of eloquence by his associates, makes for a fun mix.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Step on a Crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Step on a Crack by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

What a great audiobook!  There are two narrators – one man voices the chapters from the good guy’s point of view and another man narrates the chapters about the bad guys.  This style worked REALLY well and kept me on the edge of my seat.  I found myself taking the long way to places just so I could listen a little longer. 

Michael Bennett, NYPD homicide detective, finds himself thrust into the role of hostage negotiator when some of the most influential and wealthy celebrities of the time are taken hostage during a state funeral at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  As the days pass, heading towards Christmas, Michael is at wits end as to how the kidnappers were able to pull this off, and how they manage to stay one step ahead.

This book really gets your adrenaline going and you’ll also shed a tear or two.  Michael’s wife is dying of cancer and the scenes she is in are heartbreaking.  Add in their brood of ten multi-ethnic adopted children ranging in age from three to thirteen and the waterworks will drip I guarantee.