Friday, April 21, 2017

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents

If you or your children have read Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, then you probably know it was recently adapted into a series on Netflix. Having been a fan of the series throughout my middle school years, I couldn't wait to watch the entire first season upon its release. However, since the episodes released so far only cover the first four books in the series, they were just enough to remind me how much I loved the world Snicket created in those books and long to return to it. Luckily, I found that we carry other series and standalone works by "Lemony Snicket," the pen name used by author Daniel Handler for his works in youth literature. I chose to read his book File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents because it can be read as a standalone work, or as an introduction to his All The Wrong Questions series.

This book takes place long before the Baudelaire's story he recounts in his more famous series, and focuses on Lemony Snicket's childhood as an inductee to the top secret organization that eventually leads to the unfortunate events the Baudelaire orphans face. As an apprentice to an adult member of the VFD, Snicket leads the reader through 13 mysteries he's tasked with solving in the shady town of Stain'd-By-The-Sea. In true Snicket fashion, the children are by far the stars of the stories, and openly show their disappointment at being patronized by the few adults left in the town. The mysteries themselves are written in such a way that the reader really steps in as a co-detective in the cases, as each one ends by directing the reader to a page in the back of the book where Snicket has filed the conclusion under code names.

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents is great for those new to Snicket's work as well as those fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The reader can use it as an introduction to the world in which Snicket's series are set and move forward from this book into his All The Wrong Questions series followed by A Series of Unfortunate Events, or view it as a prequel to provide context to the already well-known Baudelaire series. The writing style and format also lends itself to be read individually by a child beginning to read chapter books, or as a family read.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Conclave

Robert Harris writes very compelling accurate historical fiction covering subjects from ancient Rome to the Nazi era.  Several of his books have been made into movies including Fatherland and Enigma.  In this book he focuses on the traditions and maneuverings that precede the election of a new pope. 
The current pope is found dead in his bed by Cardinal Wozniak, and uncommonly there is a delay of several hours before others are informed.  A timeline is drawn and the apartment is sealed to inhibit rumors and gossip among staff and reporters. 
The Conclave begins almost three weeks after the Pope's death.  The 118 Cardinals arrive and are locked in the Sistine Chapel  until a Pope is selected.  Three of the most ambitious of them have factions of supporters inside the electoral college-Bellini who is the favorite of the liberals, Tremblay who has ties to the third world, and Adeyemi who could become the first black Pope.  Managing the election is the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Jakopo Lomeli.
During the course of the next 72 hours, many secrets will be revealed and expectations will fail.  As the other cardinals become more aware of the attitudes, and  views  of their fellow cardinals it seems to become harder to elect one. Five ballots are cast, but no one has the necessary two-thirds majority needed to become pope.  Tensions mount after the death of Cardinal Wozniak and it is rumored that one of the cardinals had been fired just before the pope died.  Then a terrorist attack occurs.  This inspires the group to work together and the most unlikely of candidates is chosen  
This book would be of interest to anyone who attended Catholic school where the person of the Pope is much revered.  This book makes it very clear that they are just men, with all the wants and needs of the average man.  One of the interesting additions is quotes from the diaries of real popes such as John XXIII and Pius VI.  Tidbits from the lives and deaths of the popes are interspersed throughout.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The last few years I’ve been putting off reading Justin Cronin’s remarkable saga, The Passage. This procrastination resulted from no perceived flaw in the book, but rather my desire not to begin the much lauded trilogy until the final book, City of Mirrors had been published. It has been out for nearly a year, but like many a reader, I had become distracted by other fare. After finally checking it out last week, I finished the 766 page book in three days. It was that good. Unlike many post-apocalyptic/sci-fi novels, The Passage doles out its plot with reserve. This suits me. Unlike many novels fitting within the aforementioned genres, wherein the first 20 pages outline and foreshadow nearly every plot development, Cronin’s work is a masterpiece of suspense, a real page-turner.

The story begins to unfold through a series of emails. A scientist, Jonah Lear, relays updates on a daring journey to discover the cure for everything in the South American jungle. He is chagrined to admit to his friend that he has received funding for the expedition from USAMRIID (US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). Soon he finds his expedition co-opted by the military, for reasons he cannot ascertain. The emails then begin to take a troubling turn as the team nears their destination.

Fast-forward some months. FBI agent Wolgast has been tasked with retrieving death row inmates for an experiment in the Colorado mountains. It soon becomes apparent to the reader that the subjects of the experiment have developed a power more insidious than is perceived by their keepers. Lear sends Wolgast on one final mission. He and agent Doyle are sent to claim one more target, a six year-old girl, Amy, abandoned by her mother at a convent. Wolgast, who lost a daughter of his own, develops a bond with the girl. One that will prove fateful for them both when the 13 original subjects break free from their captors and unleash an apocalyptic terror upon the continent, and possibly the world.

Some years later the reader is introduced to one of the last surviving colonies in North America, possibly the only enduring colony. They have scraped together a semblance of a life, by finding an ingenious way of keeping the “smokes” at bay. But time is running out, and some members of the colony appear to have fallen under the sway of a presence who has invaded their sleeping minds. Several brave members strike out across the Dark Lands in order to find both answers and solutions. The discoveries they make on their journey are unsettling and never predictable.


This book kept me up nights and I’m eager to get a start on the second installment, The Twelve. Any fans of suspense, sci-fi, horror, or just plain well-written novels would do well to take a look at what the New York Times hailed as "A blockbuster…astutely plotted and imaginative." This work is available for check-out as an EBOOK, 12-disc audio book, and hardback novel.

-Jennifer Wilson

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Golden Hour

by T. Greenwood

Struggling artist Wyn Davies resides in New York and makes a paltry living painting art pieces which are composed of birch tree sceneries. She lives in one half of a duplex ; her ex (also an artist) living in the other and between the two, they raise a young daughter.

When Wyn receives word that Robby Rousseau, (a man who was accused and found guilty of a horrific crime against her) may be released from prison due to new DNA evidence, she flees to Maine, for her and her daughter's safety and to concentrate on her painting.

Acting as caretaker for a friend's recent property purchase, Wyn discovers a box of film canisters in the basement of the house and soon embarks on a journey of piecing together the mystery of the young woman (pictured in many of the photographs) while attempting to come to terms with an assault which took place twenty years previously.

~ Cathy Kesterson

Our Short History

Single mother Karen is dying of ovarian cancer. This is not a spoiler, because it's no surprise to the reader from the very beginning. Karen and her son Jake are visiting Karen's sister Allison on Mercer Island, WA, as part of Karen's plan for preparing Jake to live with his Aunt Allie and her family after Karen passes on. Another part of her plan is to write this book for Jake, to tell him about his early life and give him some guidance for the future. Jake is a great kid. He's funny, smart, and very warm and loving towards his mom. But he surprises her, and throws a bit of a tantrum about wanting to meet the man who is his father. Karen is torn between wanting to keep Jake for herself, and wanting to give him what he wants. This book is not only a love letter to Jake, but an exploration of the complicated feelings that are involved in all relationships, especially those from which a child is born. The author has a way of poking at things gently and then peeling back the layers to get at what Karen is feeling, and what we all might feel at critical junctures in our lives. Highly recommended for those readers who enjoy character-driven stories that make you think.

Review by Kelly Currie