Monday, December 07, 2015

Together for Christmas by Katherine Spencer

 
   Molly Harding and her partner Betty Bowman are owners of Willoughby's Fine Foods and Catering in the town of Cape Light.  Betty Bowman's husband is recovering from a serious injury, and Betty has to step back from the business and take care of her husband.  This puts more pressure on Molly during the holiday season, which is Willoughby's Fine Foods and Catering's busiest time of year.  Molly is not as good as Betty with the finances and soon finds herself in over her head and, thinking she can do it all, puts off asking others for help.  Finally she realizes if she doesn't ask for help from her husband and best friend, Betty, they will lose the business.
   Meanwhile, a single mother, Carrie Munro, and her son, Noah, have come to Cape Light to start a new life.  Carrie is out of work and looking for a new job, a new place for her and Noah to live.  Noah likes his new school, and he's especially happy with his new friend, who he calls Theo.  Noah insists his new friend is an angel.  At first Carrie is amused but later becomes concerned; she seeks out the help of Dr. Jeff Carlson, who is a child psychologist for help and guidance.
    Looking for a good Christmas story to read for Christmas?  Together for Christmas by Katherine Spencer would be a good choice.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Memory Wall

Author Anthony Doerr has received a great deal of attention in the last year--and deservedly so--for his outstanding, Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See. Although I had read and liked his previous novel About Grace, I had skipped Doerr's short stories, preferring to read meatier, lengthier tales. Until now. The first and title story in Memory Wall is almost 90 pages of pure, glistening prose, more of Afterworld, alternates between an elderly woman suffering from epilepsy in present-day Ohio and her childhood in WorldWar II in Hamburg, Germany. The story explores the connections among memories, dreams, and the physical and ailing brain. Fascinating food for thought.
a novella than a story. It is set in South Africa in a futuristic time in which your memories can be extracted and stored in memory cartridges that can then be replayed by you or others over and over. Used as a treatment for dementia patients, the cartridges are also sought by others for nefarious purposes. The story is suspenseful and builds to a page-turning climax, but it is much more than that. It is a study of the power of memory. All the stories in the book are connected in this way, looking at the wonder of mind and memory. The final story in the collection, Afterworld, alternates between an elderly woman in Ohio suffering from epilepsy, and her childhood in WWII era Hamburg, Germany. It explores the connections between memory, dreams, and the physical, ailing brain. Fascinating food for thought.

Review submitted by Kelly Currie

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wildflower


WILDFLOWER by DREW BARRYMORE


I really enjoyed reading "Wildflower" and it was a good read. However, I was very surprised to read about her sad childhood.  I also couldn't believe that any judge would give a fourteen year old child her emancipation, which means she would be living on her own.

Liked Drew's honesty and openness.   Her life went down many paths, but she made good choices after her "wild child" days.  She met many good people who supported her.  I liked the chapter "The Royal Hawaiian" about her grandfather, who loved Drew deeply and had a great love for education.

Drew shows that you can overcome anything, and not being perfect is okay.  I think this book would make a good movie.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Killing Reagan

...by Bill O'Reilly.  Definitely an interesting read or listen depending on your media. You will learn much - not only about Ronald Reagan, his career and family - but also about political elections and politics in general. Our nation's political history is an interesting one for sure and there is much, that at the time, the public is not privy to... you now can be privy to in this book.

And then, Hinckley, the would be assassin of the president, we get to see what made him tick.

O'Reilly and his co-writer, Martin Dugard, did their research and Reagan is not candy coated one bit. The book is honest and not political-party biased. Killing Reagan gives us the real man, our 40th president, Ronald Reagan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

After the death of a family member and former pen pal, Delia and her family take a trip to renovate the house Aunt Cordelia left for Delia. This is no ordinary house and the family has no idea what horrors this former mental institute for unstable women holds beneath the surface.

Formerly the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females, known by locals as “Hysteria Hall”, is filled with spirits of former residents and employees who have been trapped for decades. This building also houses something dark and sinister that traps Delia on the property forever.

This horror story is filled with mystery and thrills. You get to know the history of “Hysteria Hall” and follow Delia’s journey in the afterlife. When family and former friends visit the house, she must fight the strong, dangerous force that is responsible for her untimely demise. Will she be able to save the ones she loves from an eternity at this asylum? What will become of the poor souls who have been trapped for decades? Why does Delia possess powers that nobody else does? To find the answers to these questions, pick up Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall from the Teen Room today.

-Lauren

Monday, November 09, 2015

Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving

This month’s review found me drawing straws.  Fall seems to be the time of the year that all of my favorite authors tend to publish. Within the last three weeks I have read the newest Rushdie novel, Geraldine Brook’s latest, and one of my favorite authors, John Irving, published last Tuesday.  I was of two minds on which book to write my blog on, but finally settled on John Irving’s novel Avenue of Mysteries. Not necessarily because it’s the best offering of the three, but simply because I was so thrilled to see Irving again.  This novel, as many of Irving’s works, centers on the life and experiences of a burgeoning male adolescent.  No one writes children quite like Mr. Irving.  He never shies from burdening his child characters with a full range of emotional and physical experiences (horrors).  His newest protagonist, Juan Diego a “dump” kid from Mexico City, is no exception. From the present perspective we learn that Juan Diego is a successful writer (he has been able to retire from a career of teaching at Irving’s oft mentioned Iowa Writing Workshop), who dwells on the past to avoid a present wherein he finds himself somewhat “diminished” by a regimen of Beta Blockers prescribed to mitigate heart issues.  Diego’s main bone to pick with the pills is that they seem to interrupt a stream of dreams wherein he is able to relive the formative events of his early adolescence.  All of this begins to change soon after Diego embarks on a trip to the Philippines, where he plans to fulfill a promise made when he was just a boy. At the airport he meets two mysterious women who seem to have an odd, manipulative effect on him, both body and mind.  As he allows himself to be led on this here-and-now journey by two strange, yet strangely familiar women, he gives in ever more readily to the siren call of the past.  Diego’s vivid memories introduce the reader to a cast of characters only an Irving fan could love: Two dogmatic Jesuits, a transgendered prostitute, an atheist surgeon, a loveable priest, a flagellating scholastic, a mind reader, a cripple, a circus troupe, and the usual assortment of thoughtful children and dogs.  Despite growing up on Mexico City’s dump until a fateful day during his fourteenth year, Juan Diego describes his childhood as a happy one, self-taught by reading books left for burning, and translating the speech of his younger, twelve year-old sister Lupe, the “dump reader” reminisces fondly. Lupe, a mind reader, of the unreliable prescient sort, with an unknown speech impediment, becomes increasingly inscrutable as she and Diego fall victim to a series of unfortunate events. Fantastic and charming, Avenue of Mysteries reminds me why I fell in love with John Irving twenty years ago.
-Jennifer Wilson

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher is, to many, the author who defines the world of Urban Fantasy novels. His Butcher Files series features Harry Dresden, a private investigator in Chicago who also happens to be an incredibly powerful wizard. One of the things I love most about this series is Butcher’s ability to weave the magical world of wizards, vampires, ghosts, and more within the very real setting of modern-day Chicago. I love imagining all of the magic happening just out of sight while the rest of us are living our daily lives.

Butcher’s new Steampunk series, Cinder Spires, is a vast departure from the world we know, but does not sacrifice Butcher’s mastery of characters or plot in order to create this new world where the earth’s surface has been made uninhabitable and people live above the clouds in vast cities built within tall stone spires. In this fanciful place, travel is done by airship (literally ships that fly), and everything from the ships to teapots to weapons are powered by magical crystals. With so much to explain about how things work, the first installment of the series, The Aeronaut’s Windlass, has a fairly long, slow introduction before the action picks up. Luckily, once the story really gets started (about 200 pages in), it is action-packed until the very end.

When Spire Albion is unexpectedly attacked by a rival spire, the Spirearch (similar to a British monarch) sends a rag-tag group off to search for spies within his armies. Leading the group is Privateer Francis Grimm, a disgraced military man with a heart of gold. Joining him on his ship are members of the Spirearch’s personal guard, a couple of strange yet powerful etherealists (this world’s wizards), and a talking cat. Along the way, this group uncovers a conspiracy so deep it goes all the way down to the earth’s toxic and frightening surface. After delving so deep into this world, it will be hard to leave it behind until the next installment in the series comes out (hopefully soon!).


While Butcher has long been the King of Urban Fantasy, he has proven with The Aeronaut’s Windlass that he is not a one-genre pony. This is a fantastic book for fans of fantasy of any kind as well as anyone who enjoys a great adventure story. 
- Portia Kapraun

Monday, November 02, 2015

Last Bus to Wisdom

   


                    Last bus to is a modern-day Huckleberry Finn Story, that takes place in 1951, when 11 year old Donal Cameron is happy living in Montana with his grandmother.   Grandmother is in need of a female surgery, so Donal is sent a across country on a "Dog Bus" (Greyhound) to live with an aunt that he has never met in Wisconsin.  

       Soon after arising at aunt Kate's home he realized that it was not the place for him.   So he and uncle Herman the German,who decided to fly the coop with him, head out on their "freedom" ride back to Montana.

      Of course there is a happy ending but it is the adventures that Donal and later he and Herman encounter, worm their way through, kept me reading.

                                                    In Memorian Remembering Ivan Doig
                                                                   1937 - 2015

    "If I have any creed that I wish you as reader. necessary accomplices in that flirtious ceremony of writing and reading, will take you from my pages, it'd be this belief of mine that writers of caliber can ground their work specific land and lingo and yet be writing of that larger country life"
                                                 


Saturday, October 31, 2015

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware


     "Why now?" That is the question Leonora Shaw (known to some as Lee, to others as Nora) keeps asking herself. Nora has received a text from someone called Flo and she doesn't know anyone named Flo.  Was this text sent to her by mistake?
       Subject of the text: CLARE'S HEN!!
       The text says, Flo, is Clare's best friend from the university and her maid of honor. The Hen is going to be a weekend away near her old college stomping ground in Northumberland. Nora and Clare Cavendish had been best friends when they were in college at the University at Durham.  Clare and Nora have not be in contact with each other for 10 years and had not left college on the best of terms.  Clare and Nora have some unsolved issues to overcome.
      The Hen weekend ends up being in a dark cold woods in a eerie glass house.  As the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, and old memories shatters Nora's reserve, and Nora decides to leave. But before Nora and Nina, (who is also a close friend from Nora's college days), can leave a haunting realization creeps in, the party is not alone in the woods.
       Forty-eight hours later, Nora wakes up in a hospital bed, with the knowledge that someone is dead.  She doesn't remember what happened and is wondering, "what have I done?" Nora tries to piece together the events of the last weekend, while the police are waiting outside her hospital door to question her about the chain of events.
      What should have been a cozy and fun-filled weekend deep in the English countryside takes a sinister turn in Ruth Ware's suspenseful, compulsive, and darkly twisted debut psychological thriller. IN A DARK, DARK WOOD is a good, quick read and just in time for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories

Maybe you're like me and shy away from short stories. Many readers do, because they prefer the in-depth visitation a novel allows with its characters. I want to get to know these people and spend significant time with them. Short stories sometimes seem, well, too short. I picked up Delicate Edible Birds because of the author. I've read two of her novels and loved them. And, I should confess, the cover is lovely, so that attracted me, too. I'm happy to report that the inside pages are just as beautiful and compelling. The nine stories included are just the right length. My favorite story is a heartbreaking portrait of journalists in World War II, focusing particularly on the plight of one woman reporter, that left me cold and shivering. It's really hard to be a woman in a dangerous place full of desperate men. All the stories deal with women and girls of various ages in various places who use their wits and wiles to survive in a difficult world. If you're unsure about short stories, try one of these. They are beautiful little packages.
Submitted by Kelly Currie

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Drowning


















The Drowning is the sixth Patrik Hedstrom/Erica Falck Swedish mystery novel by Camilla Lackberg.  Patrik and Erica are married with one small daughter and expecting twins.  Patrik is a homicide detective and Erica is a writer and they live in Fjallbacka.  Erica is asked to help a new local author, Christian Thydell, edit his manuscript and finds that it is a fascinating piece of writing.  Her publishing agent is also his, so she attends his book signing events, where she discovers he has been receiving threatening letters in the mail.  She finds this very disturbing, so of course she needs to investigate.  When Christian's childhood friend Magnus first disappears and then is found murdered, her husband gets involved.
Christian has three childhood friends and they all grew up together in Fjallbacka.  It is soon discovered that all are receiving these threatening letters.  However none of them will discuss it with her or the police, which means little progress is made. So both Erica and the police begin to investigate Christian's early life.  The first page of each chapter delves into a memory of a young boy adopted by a beautiful mother and then rejected by the same mother when her own child is born.  Is this perhaps from Christian's book The Mermaid or is it the memory of one of his friends?  This definitely ups the tension in the story as you don't know which of the four friends lived through this abusive parenting.

This book is a definite page turner as are all of Lackberg's previous books.  If you are interested in reading a Swedish mystery, but feel some trepidation, this is the author to try.  So start at the beginning as the Hedstroms' relationship and family are a part of the story.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Yellow Crocus

by Laila Ibrahim
A beautiful story of pre-civil war slavery.  Ibrahim's main character is Mattie, who is chosen to be a wet nurse for the masters new baby girl.  Another prime character is Lisbeth, the child Mattie nurses and tends for many years. Lisbeth loves Mattie more than her own mother, and as she grows to adulthood, she is faced with some tough choices - to go the way of the South or become an abolitionist. Mattie, who has her own child but is separated from him, has tough choices to make also - stay a slave or run away and possibly not survive.

Yellow Crocus is a moving glimpse into how it was for the slaves as well as the whites. Parts are somewhat predictable, but still a beautiful story of hearts that tear, souls getting abused and actions that are brave. Excellent read!
- Posted by P. Scott

Monday, October 05, 2015

Know Your Beholder by Adam Rapp

Everyone knows the age-old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But sometimes a cover is so quirky or intriguing that I just have to find out if the story is as well thought out as the cover. This is exactly what happened with Know Your Beholder. Something about the cover, an old house sprouting out of a big bushy beard, was so intriguing that I picked it up without even reading the synopsis on the inside flap. And I’m so glad I did.

Know Your Beholder tells the story of Francis Falbo, a down-on-his-luck 30-something in south central Illinois. In the past few years, his once promising music career has ended, his mother has died, and his wife ran off to New York City with another man. After his father left for Florida with his new wife, Francis converted his childhood home into apartments, moved into the attic, and now spends his days working on the house and endlessly ruminating on his wife’s new marriage. When the reader first meets Francis he hasn’t left his house in over a month or even changed out of his uniform of long johns, bathrobe, and slippers in nine days.

Francis’s story, though it sounds overly gloomy, is full of quiet beauty and more laugh-out-loud moments than one would expect. His internal dialogue feels both inordinately beautiful and surprisingly natural whether he is contemplating his growing agoraphobia, thinking about his failed band and/or marriage, or spying on his tenants. Rapp is especially good at creating an interesting turn of phrase, such as when Francis describes his drug dealer, Haggis, talking about fitness “as far away from the concept of the word as a shipwrecked man from a fax machine.”


Fans of Nick Hornby’s odd but loveable characters will enjoy Know Your Beholder, but be warned: this is not a story of redemption and there is no real happy ending for our hapless hero. At the end of the story, a lot of things have changed in Francis’s life, but very little has really improved for him. Luckily, there is at least the possibility of a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel he has dug for himself.

-Portia Kapraun

Monday, September 28, 2015

Purity: A Novel

I don’t always let out a squeal of delight when the new-books cart rolls out of the staff room, but when I do, you can be assured that one of my favorite novelists has finally released something new (I seem to be drawn to authors who frustratingly eke out only about one book every four years).  Such was the case with Johnathan Franzen’s (National Book Award Winner for The Corrections) newest novel Purity.  The novel starts out a little slow, with the first-person, present-day account of its nominal character.  Young Purity, a college debt-laden idealist, squatting in a foreclosed house, working for a seedy company, and in love with a married man; hardly comes across sympathetically.  But the real beauty of a Franzen novel is its open invitation to the reader: the characters seem to encourage scorn and judgement in much the same way that Evanovich’s court the approbation of the middle-classed and middle-aged.  It isn’t until about 100 pages in that Franzen’s true genius becomes apparent. It happens in that moment where you find yourself rooting for this poor schmuck whom you’ve spent the better part of the early chapters disdaining.  Purity, who goes by Pip, fortuitously meets up with a German tourist, who inexplicably recommends her for an exclusive internship with the world-famous Sunlight Project. The project (a global whistle-blowing affair), developed and overseen by the enigmatic Andreas Wolf, begins to seem evermore an attractive escape as Pip’s prospects at home, the dead-end job, self-destructive romances, and a needy and secretive mother, turn ever more disappointing.  The added incentive of regular student loan payments (frankly, that alone would be enough to entice me to risk a bit of typhoid), and the promise to help Pip discover the identity of her father, finally lure her to the Sunlight Project’s gorgeous South American headquarters.  Once there, Pip finds it increasingly difficult to buy into the hero-worship of Andreas and at the same time, perversely, finds herself oddly attracted to him.  The novel’s cast then seamlessly expands to include the first-person reflective of Andreas and a handful of additional characters; all of whom contribute to make the novel absorbing and smart; such that twists in the tale actually caught me off-guard because I wasn’t looking for them. I was simply content to spend time with a group of people I had become fond of.  Par for the course, Jonathan Franzen has once again provided us with the anachronistic literary page-turner.


Jennifer Wilson

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Dust that Falls from Dreams

The latest novel from Louis de Bernieres takes us to Edwardian England. We meet the Pendennis, McCosh, and Pitt families when their children are young and carefree, with the four girls and five boys playing together in the idyllic setting of their upper-class neighborhood in Kent. Soon, however,World War I ushers in a dark period of time for all of England, and these three families are not spared their sorrow and heartbreak. Some of the boys do not return home from the war, and it affects all the families deeply. The "dust that falls from dreams" is Sophie's description of all the shining dust motes that you see flying around your house on a sunny day. It is the perfect title for the book, as on these pages we see some of the characters' dreams dashed and others lifted into reality. This is a beautiful glimpse into a lost era, peopled with characters that may be ordinary--but are extraordinary all the same. If you enjoy historical family epics, this book is for you.
posted by Kelly

Thursday, September 10, 2015


















Ragged Breath is the latest in Julia Keller's mysteries based in the Appalachian community of Acker's Gap which is located in West Virginia.  Bell Elkins is the prosecuting attorney in a town hit hard by drugs and lack of jobs especially mining jobs.  There have been some big changes in her personal and work life which have left her feeling lonely..  Sheriff Nick Fogelsong  has retired and his deputy Pam Harrison is the new sheriff.  At home, Bell's daughter has gone to live with her father also Bell's ex-husband to finish high school.
This case is based on a true event which happened in West Virginia 's Buffalo Creek Hollow in 1972.  After a long hard rain, water rose over the dam and mining officials did not notify the Hollow residents.  132 million gallons of black water rushed through the narrow Buffalo creek killing 125 residents and leaving 4,000 homeless.  Royce Dillard was left an orphan after the disaster and now is accused of murder 30 years later.  Since his aunt died, Royce has been living off the grid away from town with his dogs.  Unfortunately this is near the site where the body of  Ed Hackel was found.  Ed was the salesman for the Magic Mountain resort which was welcomed into the community by some who saw it as bringing in jobs.  Royce Dillard did not want to sell his land.  He planned to turn it into a dog sanctuary.  Ed Hackel was stalking him offering him more money and pushing him to sell.  Finally he tried blackmailing Royce.  So is this why Royce killed him or were there others with more to lose?  Bell misses discussing the case with Nick Fogelsong and does not yet feel comfortable with the new sheriff.  This seems to prolong the solving of the crime. 
Julia Keller's books show the beauty of West Virginia but also the despair.  She shows the beauty of the coal mines, but also the damage they do to the mountains and the health problems of those who live there.  Bell Elkins' character grows with each book as she more fully understands how the past influences the future which is also shown in the character of Royce.  I would recommend that new readers start with the first book, A Killing in the Hills.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore






If your parents were murdered in a restaurant fire when you were a young child, would you spend the rest of your life looking for the killer?  That is what Abby Hart/Morgan did.

Promising herself to become the best homicide cop around.  After 27 years, she has a chance to talk to the governor, who at the time of the murder, was co-owner of a restaurant named "Triple Seven".   At the same time she meets a PI, Luke Murphy, who is also looking for the killer, as his uncle, Cookie, was also killed in the fire, after saving Abby.  Abby is banned from any forward investigation when it is found out by the Chief of LBPD that it was her parents that were killed  Abby and Luke put their files and heads together to do their investigating.  They are both warned to stop before they or their family get hurt or even killed.
Too many people know too much of what isn't being said.  In the end it always come out.

This is a good mystery and I can't wait till the next book in this series comes out in 2016.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Evidence Not Seen

This is an old book but a wonderful book! Darlene Diebler Rose tells her story of when she was a prisoner in a Japanese war camp during WWII.  Darlene and her husband, married only one year, went to be missionaries in Dutch New Guinea.  Her story is difficult and yet beautiful.  Her God makes known to her His presence, His word sustains her and she gets through a most horrible ordeal... brutal camp commanders, lack of food, sickness and more.

Let this book build your faith, as it educates you on WW II in the South Pacific. You will want to know more of Darlene's story, that she lost her husband and that she made it back to the states to later return again as a missionary. This book was the August 2015 selection for Delphi Public Library's Faith Book Club.
Submitted by Patsy Scott

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

We often have patrons asking for a good series to read aloud with their families, and Treasure Hunters is the first book in a new series filled with adventure, action, humor, and excitement. The book includes many illustrations that help children to visualize what is happening while you read to them. Treasure Hunters is sure to be a hit with the entire family.

Growing up on a boat with treasure-hunting parents sounds like a dream for thrill-seeking children, but it may come with a hefty price to pay for the Kidd children. With parents who went missing during separate incidents at sea, the children must navigate the ocean and figure out what their parents were searching for. Determined to solve the mystery their father was working on so diligently, the children have to travel the world, fight with criminals and pirates, and fend for themselves to be able to survive long enough to complete the mission. Will the Kidd children find their parents? Can they protect their ship against pirates? Will they outsmart international criminals? Check out this book for your family to find out.

-Lauren Brannon

Friday, August 28, 2015

White Teeth by Zadie Smith



It isn’t often that I come across a “literary” novel peopled with characters who are almost universally likable and believable.  Such is the case with Zadie Smith's novel, White Teeth.  It isn’t so much that I find each person admirable, nor are their choices and resulting actions always on the up and up.  It’s more that these characters, well-written and compelling, become, by the fullness of the story’s climax,  like semi-close relatives;  you don’t necessarily respect their decisions, but you get them, you understand their behavior, even if you wouldn’t particularly want to have them over for dinner more than twice a year.
The novel opens upon the scene of one Archie Jones’s suicide attempt, on a side street of London, circa 1975.  Archie had just gone through a particularly disheartening divorce (all the more so because, rather than in spite of the fact, the marriage was never a happy one). Before taking his final polluted breath courtesy of a misappropriated Hoover hose, Archie is saved by a reluctant rescuer, Mo Hussein-Ishmael, a Halal butcher whose delivery dock was blocked in a timely (for Archie that is) fashion by Archie’s unlikely death machine.  Grateful for his reprieve, reminiscent and hopeful, Archie recalls his time spent in the service during World War II where we are introduced to Samad Iqbal, Archie’s battle buddy and life-long friend.

Upon being introduced to these two men, one pompous, one self-effacing, we are then well-met by their wives, both decades younger than their husbands.  The first to make the reader’s acquaintance is Clara, Archie’s Jamaican teenage bride. Desperate to flee an oppressive Jehovah's Witness mother, and an increasingly fractious boyfriend, she gravitates towards a middle-aged Archie and the improbable dream of escape. Next is Samad’s wife, Alsana, the product of a traditional Bengali arrangement in which Samad waited many years for the birth of his betrothed, a fiery pessimist, both acclimating and rebelling within a strange marriage, in a strange land.

The novel follows these incongruous friends and their equally odd domestic pairings, as they make and raise families in a time of unsettling changes in morality, media, and technical advancement.  Their tale measures up well in equal parts for both humor, and a deep vein of thought-provoking societal observations. I recommend this to fans of character-driven novels, and for those with a taste for something different, yet familiar all the same.

Jennifer Wilson

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Full disclosure: Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book) is one of those authors I would follow to the ends of the literary earth. If he published a phone book, I would read it knowing that he had put his own unique touch on the pages and that I would come away from it with a greater understanding of humanity.

Luckily, Trigger Warning is not a phone book, but a wonderful collection of “short fictions and disturbances." Gaiman admits that the collection is a hodge-podge of horror, ghost stories, science fiction, fairy tales, fabulism, and poetry. The collection features a number of well-known characters (Dr. Who, David Bowie, Sherlock Holmes, and Sleeping Beauty, to name a few) as well as a lot of characters one hopes to only encounter in the pages of a book. Fans of Gaiman’s award-winning American Gods will be happy to see a new story featuring Shadow, “Black Dog,” which was one of my favorites in the collection.

While the stories are quite varied in subject, Gaiman ties them all together with a thoughtfully written introduction. In it, he looks at the phrase “trigger warning” which originated as a way to warn people about content on the Internet that might trigger anxiety or other negative reactions for some readers/viewers. Then the concept began to expand into the “real world,” and colleges began discussing putting trigger warnings on certain works of literature and art. He ponders, “…Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places?” Gaiman’s exploration of this idea is well considered and worth reading all on its own.


It is with these thoughts in mind that one can look at the stories in Trigger Warning not with an eye on the fantastical nature of the tales, but instead thinking about the truths we so often experience in fiction. For example, the imaginary high school girlfriend who later comes to life in “The Thing About Cassandra” may not seem like a story to which one can easily relate but the consequences of past lies and half-truths catching up to us is. This is where Gaiman truly shines, in taking the reality of everyday life and holding it up to a fun-house mirror, reflecting back at us a somehow truer sense of humanity.
-Portia Kapraun

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

After the Storm by Linda Castillo

It always pleases me when I catch an article in some journal or another that Linda Castillo has a new novel in the works. She writes solid mysteries which surprisingly enough, maintain my interest far longer than what I deemed humanly possible. (I'm not a fan of the mystery genre) Castillo's characters are likable and her plots are believable. What more could one possibly ask for? After the Storm, the seventh book in the Kate Burkholder series, captured my attention from the get-go.

Chief of Police Kate Burkholder has the task of identifying human remains which are discovered  after a tornado wreaks havoc on Painters Mill.  As it turns out, the bones are over thirty years old and after analyzed, it appears that the body had been eaten by hogs. And the Amish community? Well, they're not talking.

This particular case isn't the only issue that Burkholder is currently dealing with. During the aftermath of the tornado, she'd rescued a small child from a potentially life-threatening situation, only to have the little one die from its injuries. An impending law suit from the child's parents is now hovering over Kate as well as a secret in which she's harboring from her significant other, State Agent John Tomasetti.

A thrilling, quick read for those who are mystery buffs ; and even for those who are not.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

THOSE GIRLS by Chevy Stevens



    Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters, Jess, Courtney, and Dani who live on a remote ranch in western Canada.  Their father has a bad temper and they have learned to stay out of his way when he has been drinking. When their mother was alive she seemed to be able to control him, but since she passed away their father seems to be out of control. One night, a fight gets out of hand, and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town.
     As events spiral out of control they find themselves in a horrifying situation and are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.
Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer. But when one of the sisters goes missing, followed closely by her niece, they are pulled back into the past. And this time there's nowhere left to run.
     Those girls is a fast-paced suspense novel written by Chevy Stevens.  Her debut novel, Still Missing, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Martian


















The Martian by Andy Weir is definitely one for science and math geeks.  Mark Watney is on a spaceflight to Mars and wants to be the first astronaut to walk on the surface.  He didn't know he might be the first one to die there. The first few sentences of the book expresses this succinctly. While exploring the planet, a fierce dust storm arises forcing the crew back to the ship and then back to Earth.  One of their crew is killed during the evacuation and left on Mars.  But dead he is not!  Now he is stranded on a planet with no communications, limited food but enough water and oxygen as long as his equipment keeps working.  His habitat and equipment were designed to last only thirty days.  Poor planning on NASA's part!
Mark Watney has one of those can-do personalities.  He'd rather think of solutions then wait for death.  He wants to survive and he must communicate to Earth that he is still alive.  Will his knowledge of engineering and botany keep him alive until rescue comes?
Mark keeps a journal of log entries, so others will know what he went through.  He projects an upbeat personality but the time spent alone takes a toll on him.
Except for the technology, this is an old fashioned science fiction novel. It is the theme of  Everyman against the unknown.  The Martian was first self-published in 2011.  Turned down by publishing houses, he put the book on his own website, one chapter at a time for free.  At the request of fans, he made an Amazon Kindle version available.  It sold 35,000 copies in three months and was picked up by Crown Publishing.  Now it has been made into a feature film starring Matt Damon as Mark Watney.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Case For Grace

Lee Strobel is a great story teller. In The Case For Grace he tells us real life stories that makes GRACE come alive for us. We all need a deeper understanding of God's grace.
Strobel, who has written  many other "Case for ... " books (The Case For Christ, The Case for a Creator, The Case For Faith), was once a devout atheist but through researching for a book, became a Christian.
In The Case For Grace you will meet all kinds of people who have been touched by grace. You will discover how some have been "rescued by grace" and how others become "addicted to grace."  You will learn about going "beyond mercy to grace," and the "effects of cheap grace."  And there is more! Much more about grace! Take a new look at "grace" and be warmed by human stories that end more than well!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

In the first line of Seveneves, the moon explodes without warning. At first, scientists and lay people alike are astounded and amazed by the seven large chunks of moon hanging in the sky. Dr. Dubois Harris, a popular scientist frequently found explaining science to the masses on television news, even gave them cutesy nicknames based on their size and shape. It soon becomes apparent, though, that the moon is just the beginning; soon the Earth will be destroyed by the “Hard Rain,” a meteorite bombardment that will last for millennia and wipe out all life on the planet. World leaders and scientists devise to send as many people into orbit in arklets that will congregate around the International Space Station, keeping the human race alive for the next 5,000 years.

Stephenson divides his epic tale of speculative fiction into 3 parts: before the hard rain, the first few years of life in space, and 5,000 years later when the Earth is once again habitable. Even full of technical space jargon, the 861 page tome never feels bogged down due to the depth and breadth of the story and a cast of memorable and fascinating characters, from the original residents of the International Space Station to a power-hungry American president to the human race as imagined in 5000+ years.

Neal Stephenson is a fascinating author whose books span a wide variety of topics such as cryptography (Cryptonomicon) and massive multi-player online role playing games (Reamde), and the amount of research and detail he is able to weave into compelling storylines is truly amazing.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel, The Sympathizer, is in a category of its own making.  Written by a Vietnamese-American, the novel provides an insight seldom found in western accounts of the Vietnam War.  As a social critique, the novel shrewdly dissects western notions of the “Orient” without coming across as heavy-handed or preachy, while still allowing itself to be both a moving and entertaining story.  The tale, which reads as a first-person, typed confession, revolves around a Vietnamese double-agent, introduced to the reader as simply the Captain, an operative of the North Vietnamese posing as an aide to a South Vietnamese general.  As the fall of Saigon becomes imminent, he must choose to continue his assignment, maintaining his posting with the general as he is evacuated and settled in California, or stay behind to witness the long-anticipated communist victory.  Torn between his revolutionary fervor, and his secret love of American Literature and academics, the choice is ultimately made for him by his blood-brother and superior operative.  The Captain arrives in California saddled with guilt, homesickness, and not a small amount of relief.  Having earned his degree studying abroad at a small Californian university, and as a lover of American literature, our Captain finds some of the capitalist trappings a tad less repugnant than he should.  In addition to participating in a forced mass assimilation of Vietnamese refugees (the Vietnamese were deliberated settled in disparate communities across the United States to discourage the formation of independent cultural enclaves similar to those developed by the Chinese), he must come to grips with some of his own questionable acts and memories. He also must continue to act at the behest of the general in his plot to reinvigorate an expatriate South Vietnamese army, itself populated by generals and other war heroes, who in their new roles as clerks, manual laborers, and janitors are all too eager to recapture the esteem and status of the their glory days.  In the end, the Captain must decide once again to stay or to go, and his decision and its repercussions are both exhilarating and dreadful.

Monday, July 06, 2015

A Man Called Ove

Ove is a curmudgeon of the highest order. He is the grumpy sort of neighbor who growls at children and single-handedly tries to enforce neighborhood regulations that no one else cares about. But of course he has a story. And his story involves love and loss and all the complicated emotions that go along with those. After a young family with two noisy daughters (and another on the way) moves in next door, accidentally flattening his mailbox in the process, we begin to see inside Ove's solitary life and discover the loving, caring man he really is. It takes Parveneh and her chatty family, and a scruffy wandering cat that won't go away, to draw out the real Ove, the man who makes us laugh and want to hug him. This book is hilarious, touching, and a true pleasure to read. If you liked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry or Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, check this book out. I think you'd like Ove.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

       Living in a tiny, nowhere town can be difficult while also making you feel trapped in an isolated existence you can never escape. For Skylar, adding an alcoholic mother who you have to support with a low paying job makes this story even more emotional. Life in Creek View is not exotic, exciting, or promising for most of its inhabitants. The author’s writing is intelligent, informative, and brings the story of this small town to life.

      Skylar works at the Paradise Hotel where she reconnects with a former coworker, Josh, who is back in town because of medical leave from the Marines. Josh has lost a leg and struggles with PTSD and depression. His story gives insight into what many soldiers have to live with after serving overseas and it can be devastating to read at times. Throughout the story, Skylar and Josh become close and create a unique relationship that was beautiful to read but includes times of sorrow, much like most realistic relationships. Skylar has always been determined to make it out of Creek View and has worked hard to make it a possibility, but will having Josh in her life change her dreams?  What made this story so captivating to me was the strength of the characters and their determination to be happy during tragedy, heartbreak, and unfortunate circumstances that were faced throughout the book.


                I would recommend this book to fans of realistic fiction and romance.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Time of Death By Mark Billingham.









I am a great fan of Billingham's Tom Thorne suspense/mystery novels. They are intense, dark, and addictive.  Now with his 13th Thorne novel, he has become more focused on developing characters and relationships. First his relationship with Phil Hendricks forensic pathologist and more recently his love interest Helen Weekes. Even though it is fairly new, their relationship already carries baggage including a young son who resulted from Helen's previous relationship.
Having deposited their son at Helen's fathers, they go on a holiday to the Cotswolds. Shortly after arrival, they hear of the kidnapping of two teenage girls in Helen's childhood village. She decides to forgo her holiday in order to support her childhood friend whose husband has been charged with the kidnappings. Helen has not returned home since leaving 25 years earlier, nor has she kept in touch with her former schoolmates, so why is she so eager to help.? Thorne goes along for the beer and to be with Helen. But almost upon arrival, Helen becomes uncommunicative and of course Thorne decides to check on the progress of the case.
It's not long before he totally disagrees with the conclusions of the local police who are patting themselves on the back for their quick result. Plus there is still one girl missing and Thorne believes she is still alive. The locals are not pleased with his interference. Taking the novel out of the usual setting and into the small village of Polesford is a welcome change. It puts both Thorne and Weekes out of their usual element and gives them a disadvantage.  The novel is injects viewpoints from the murderer and the victim.  It will be interesting to see what carries over into the next book.  As always, I can't wait.