Saturday, October 29, 2016

Like a River From its Course

A beautiful character in this book, Baba Mysa, told her granddaughter: War gives us much "to be hurt and angry about, but there are things to love, too."

Like a River From Its Course is a stirring story of WWII seen through the eyes of four people tragically affected by the circumstances, chaos and heartache of war. First, Maria Ivanovna is a young Ukranian girl taken from home along with her sister. She suffers the brutality of the Germans, yet finds not all the enemy are monsters. Ivan Kyrilovich is a father and a good man who suffers for his good actions. Frederick Herrmann is a German soldier, driven to do horrendous things because he wants to please his father. And finally, Luda Michaelevna is another young girl who suffers much at the hands of German soldiers, yet falls in love with one. Four amazing stories - excellently written. Interesting, but none of the four main characters are Jewish, which is a new twist for a book about the Holocaust.

The stories are based on true life stories that the author, Kelli Stuart, researched for 15 years. They  are chilling, upsetting, tragic, but yet inspiring and beautiful.  ~ Reviewed by Patsy Scott

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Just 6 months until a giant asteroid (nicknamed Maia) is scheduled to destroy the Earth, Detective Hank Palace is assigned to investigate the death of Peter Zell. Most of the police force has given up on working too hard, and none of them think Palace should bother with what they believe is clearly a suicide. Something about the scene leads Palace to believe Zell has been murdered, and he is soon on a one man crusade for answers. As many people around the world are leaving their jobs, responsibilities, and even their families behind, Palace insists on working diligently to bring the killer to justice. As he pursues this case to the bitter end, his life is further complicated by his sister, Nico, and the shady characters with whom she has aligned herself.

Although there are myriad post-apocalyptic books to be read, few authors explore a pre-apocalyptic world. Here, the imminent destruction of the world is not just a backdrop, but an integral part of the mystery. People are no longer just living their lives day to day, they are desperate, unpredictable, and forced to make decisions they never thought they would have to face. This is the first book in an engrossing trilogy that will make you start to question what you would do with the knowledge that the whole world is going to end. Would you pursue your chosen career just as diligently as Palace does? Would you run off to New Orleans and party the time away? Or would you do everything you could to ensure your family survived until the last possible moment?

Winters has recently gained a lot of well-deserved praise for his new book Underground Airlines, a thriller set in an alternate current-day America where slavery still exists. Having loved that book, I was interested in reading this award-winning trilogy and was not disappointed. In this trilogy as well as his newest book, Winters uses the sometimes formulaic genre of mystery to take his readers on an existential roller coaster ride.

Posted by Portia Kapraun

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    The Underground Railroad is a story about a young slave girl named Cora.  Cora is a slave on the Randall plantation, a cotton plantation in the state of Georgia.  Cora was born on the Randall plantation, and this is where her mother and grandmother were also slaves.  The book doesn't tell Cora's age but lets you believe she is about fifteen or sixteen years old.  Her mother ran away when she was a child and Cora resents being left behind to fend for herself.
    The one thing Cora does own is "a plot three yards square and the hearty stuff that spouted from it."  This plot was passed down to her mother from her grandmother and then to Cora once her mother ran away.  Cora has to defend her right to this ground more than once and learns to stand up for herself and what is hers.
     Caesar, a new arrival on the plantation, offers Cora an opportunity to accompany him on the Underground Railroad, but she is hesitant.  But when leadership on the plantation changes hands and Cora's circumstances get even worse, she decides to take a chance and flee with Caesar.  Not one to let his property get away, Terrance Randall sends a determined slave catcher, Ridgeway, after the duo.     As Cora and Caesar embark on a horrifying journey through the heart of America in search of freedom, the dangers of being caught are always at the forefront of their minds. Their journey takes them through the states of Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Indiana.
   The Underground Railroad is a tale of one woman's strong will to escape the horrors of bondage.
   Good read. This book just made the shortlist for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Award.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

October is the perfect time to read this entertaining, scary novel written by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller. Nightmares! Is packed with monsters and other creatures only found in the Netherworld. You can read this story with your entire family and would be a great read-aloud.

Charlie and his little brother follow his father to a new house after his father remarries, after the death of his wife and Charlies mother. The new house is a giant, old mansion that gives Charlie the creeps. He also does not like his new stepmother, mainly because he feels that she may be a witch. After moving into the mansion, Charlie begins having the same recurring nightmare and he becomes suspicious of the house. Nobody seems to believe Charlie about his suspicions or his nightmares until his nightmare begins to terrorize the town. Already suspicious about the mansion, Charlie and his friends begin to explore when they come upon a portal to the Netherworld, which Charlie has unknowingly opened. Inside the portal are everyones nightmares and they can escape if the portal is not closed. Leader of the Netherworld, President Fear, works hard to make sure they cannot close the portal. Will Charlie be able to close the portal and save the town from continuous nightmares?

I recommend this story to families who have children in upper elementary to middle school. Some of the scenes can be frightening to young children or those who are fearful or do not enjoy scary stories.
This is the first book in the Nightmares! Series. The second book is The Sleepwalker Tonic. The third book, The Lost Lullaby, has not been released yet. 


Thursday, October 13, 2016

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

A stunning debut novel, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s We Love You, Charlie Freeman, is a gripping tale of loneliness and betrayal.  The novel opens in 1990, as witnessed from the point of view of 14 year-old Charlotte Freeman.  The Freemans, Charlotte’s father, mother, and nine year-old sister, have been selected to take part in an important research study at the reclusive Toneybee Institute.  The family, specifically Charlotte’s ambitious mother Laurel, are fluent users of sign language, though they are neither deaf, nor mute. In turns crushingly earnest and insouciant, Charlotte is the “experiment’s” first skeptic. The research goals are suspiciously vague, and it soon becomes apparent (if only to the reader) that the study has far more psychological aspects than linguistic ones. The general idea is that the family “adopt” a young chimpanzee named Charlie.  Charlie had been abandoned as an infant by his adolescent, cage-reared mother, and it is the belief of the research team that, if he becomes fully integrated into a family setting, it may lead to ground-breaking data with regards to language acquisition and interspecies communication. The Freemans believe that their unique gift with sign language secured them this prized spot on the Toneybee team, but all is not as it seems. What none of the family can predict, as we learn as Greenidge gives each member their own narrative voice, is the toll the experiment will extract from all concerned.  Startling secrets, both within the family, and the institution itself, will keep you turning pages far past your bedtime!

-Jennifer Wilson

Monday, October 03, 2016

Ashes of Fiery Weather

Until Goodreads told me so after I finished it, I hadn't noticed that I began reading this book on September 11. The novel is about six generations of an Irish American family, many of whom are firefighters, in Ireland and New York. Although 9/11 is not the focal point of the book, no one who lived in New York, especially firefighter families, was left untouched by that day in 2001. This gave me a proper chill in my bones. Aside from that, this book really moved me in many other ways. The story is told by multiple female narrators, jumping around in time from 1897 to 2012. Only one of the narrators, Annie-Rose, the first generation born in the US and the earliest generation to speak in the book, is given a first person narration. I'm not sure why that is, and I'd like to ask the author that question. Maybe because Annie-Rose was the first true Irish-American in the family, and everyone else's voices were made possible by her? I don't know, and I suppose it doesn't matter, because we are still given peeks into multiple family members' lives and are privy to so many motivations and struggles. A firefighter's family lives always under the shadow of tragedy, and the Devlin-Keegan-O'Neill family is no exception. They deal with loss repeatedly, and we grieve with them. There are good moments too, and we see how resilient and strong and supportive large families can be. This is my favorite kind of book, because it reveals patterns in families that are very hard to see when you're on the inside of your own family. Reading a book like this makes me feel more empathy for people who are coming from a different place than I am. And aren't we all coming from different places? Well done, Kathleen Donohoe!