Category: Fiction

Book review: Bury Him Darkly

By , May 29, 2015

Bury Him DarklyBury Him Darkly

by John Blackburn

What is it about ancient vaults moldering in the bowels of abandoned, crumbling estates that compel folks to want to open ‘em? Every dang time.

In John Blackburn’s Bury Him Darkly, the folks in question include a wealthy industrialist, an obsessive biographer, an elderly German scientist, a respected scholar and a local journalist. Each has their own reason for wanting the Church – responsible for protecting the security of Martin Railstone’s tomb, according to his final and specific instructions – to finally allow the opening of the crypt before the valley is flooded as part of a civil engineering project. Most of these reasons revolve around the possibility that Railstone was a genius and was buried with important works of art and science. On the opposing team is the Dean of Lanchester, convinced that the deceased individual was likely insane and definitely evil.

Part of the appeal of this author’s storytelling, as pointed out in Greg Gbur’s introduction, is the unpredictable nature of the narrative. The premise above is straightforward enough, but likely not to develop into quite what you expect. Blackburn penned novels from the late 50’s all the way up through the mid-80’s, and his specialty was the efficient and entertaining thriller, often a mixed genre bag of mystery, SF, horror, and espionage. This tale, from 1969, falls into three of those four categories, and is the only work by this author that the library currently owns, sadly. You can always change that!

But if you’re not really that into the take-charge, hands-on approach to collection development, at least give this slim novel a try and enjoy some vintage thrills.

- Ben

Women of a certain age

By , May 15, 2015

                                                           

Women of a certain age.

As baby-boomers redefine the cultural landscape, it is appropriate that we re-write the literature, cinema, and music of our time. That’s right, Stevie Nicks, it’s now the Edge of Seven-ty.

Women who came of age in the 60s and 70s are now entering their 60s and 70s, living life on their own terms and maintaining their lifelong independence. I hesitate to say “hard fought” independence as the argument can effectively be made that these paths were cleared by the previous generation of women.

Three titles exemplify the independent modern woman moving through later years: Lillian of Lillian on Life, Florence Gordon and of course, Olive Kitteridge. These women lead quietly intelligent lives. Each uniquely navigates love, family, work, lust, and a longing for aloneness.

The texts are sparse (each title is just at or under 300 pages) and reflect the direct, no non-sense women examined. Spend some time in the company of these women:

Lillian on life by Alison Jean Lester

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stroutwinner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.There is a HBO produced series based on this title, starring Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray.

It’s a Golden Girls meets Molly Dodd world out there. Tune in.

 

“I hate the idea that you shouldn’t wear something just because you’re a certain age.” Miuccia Prada

- laurie

Book Review: Two new reads in Science Fiction and Fantasy

By , May 10, 2015
Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, by Judd Trichter

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

 

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

By Judd Trichter

In the not-so-distant future, pollution is out of control. The streets are crowded. Drugs, prostitution, and other crime runs rampant. Why? Because Man and Android share the same streets. The tension is palpable. Androids have no real rights, other than the right to work. If one goes missing or is damaged, unless they are property of a person or company, there is no recourse from the authorities. That’s if the owner cares enough to report it, which they often don’t.

The androids are out to emancipate themselves, and humans are out to stop them, by any means possible.

What is the worst possible thing that could happen?

You could fall in love with an android.

This is what happens to Eliot Lazar. He is in love with Iris Matsuo, a C-900 android with a beautiful flaw in her eye, which remains an allegory for his relationship to her, and her relationship to the world in general. Eliot convinces Iris that they should buy or steal a boat, and head for the island of Inverness, where his mother lives. There, they can live together and be married without the social stigma.

But, when Eliot finally goes to get her, he finds her gone. Her apartment is in tatters, and the police are indifferent, at best. Except for one – an old hat named Flaubert who is getting close to the edge of retirement. His hands are tied about finding the android, but he is sympathetic to Eliot (in the same manner that people who know someone is mentally ill are sympathetic and helpful).

The kidnapping and dismemberment for parts of Iris sends Eliot into a frenzy – he WILL find her, and put her back together again. Finding each part comes with its own hazards, and he enlists his brother’s help. He makes some hard moral choices – and the book ends in a descent into madness, with the police on his tail, the world falling into chaos as android and man fight openly in the streets, and no idea whether his plot to put her back together brings back Iris, or someone else.

I’ve got to say – this book had me hooked from the beginning. The way the world is written – you can see the descent happening. Human beings are bound together by their hatred and use of androids, which are slowly destroying the world because the power they use creates waste toxic to humans and the environment.

I had a love/hate relationship with Eliot. He is a drug addict, a simpering fool, and he makes some justifications about his actions that make him seem like a hypocrite. But, he doesn’t stop. He does what he has to, what he feels is necessary to get Iris back together again. Even putting his life on the line, and confronting the leader of the android rebellion (who just so happens to have one of Iris’ parts.)

The book has kind of a bloody noir edge to it, but it doesn’t consume the entire book as it does with some stories. The world that Trichter creates as he goes is dark, dingy, and almost impossible to view without a little bit of disgust.

For an author’s first novel, this is pretty darn impressive. Add to this that Judd Trichter is the child actor who played Adam in “Big” and was in “Stanley’s Dragon”, a little tidbit I found out when I started reading his bio after the book.

Way to grow up, Mr. Trichter!

 

A Darker Shade of Magic, by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic

 

A Darker Shade of Magic
By V.E. Schwab

What if you had the ability to walk between parallel universes? How would you use that ability? What kind of trouble (or not) would you get into?

In this book, it takes a certain kind of blood magic to be able to walk between worlds. Only two people are left in the worlds who have the ability. One of them – Kell – is raised alongside the prince, kept as a messenger between the worlds. He describes each London by color – he lives in Red London, where magic is vibrant and plentiful. There is also a White London – where people fight to control magic (which, inevitably, has a mind of its own and doesn’t like this prospect). There is a Grey London, ruled over by an old mad king, which doesn’t have any magic at all (beyond what Kell brings to it).

There is also the mysterious Black London – sacrificed to protect all the other Londons. No one is certain whether it actually exists anymore – all artifacts from the place were destroyed.

Or were they?

Kell travels between the worlds for duty – but he also does a side business as a smuggler, bringing little trinkets through the doors and selling or trading them. He doesn’t have any real need to do this – his needs are completely taken care of by the King and Queen, and he wants for nothing.

I must admit, I REALLY want his jacket! (You’ll have to read to find out what I mean!)

When Kell finds himself in possession of a dangerous artifact and severely injured, he finds himself in the company of Delilah Bard – a thief who wants adventure, particularly to own her own ship and become a pirate.

When things get tricky, Kell takes Delilah through the worlds – and together they go on a dark adventure to stop a dangerous foe from taking over the three Londons.

When I picked up the book Vicious by the same author, I was delightfully surprised by her writing style and by the way she created a whole world with its own rules with just one book. V.E. Schwab has done the same thing here – the three Londons are fully realized, each with their own set of attributes (even when only glimpsed briefly, like Grey London). Not only is the world building wonderful, but the character development is done well. Kell and Delilah are both dynamic characters who are forced to change their perspectives on their respective worlds when they meet each other. Delilah is thrown into a whole new world – and she manages to adapt quickly (and maybe just a little bit gracefully). Kell is forced to face the consequences of his actions, and makes some choices that could be seen as selfless or selfish, depending on how you look at them.

I was very impressed with this book – it read quickly and easily, and the action was just the right pace, with a backdrop of interesting and well developed worlds.

If you haven’t read it yet, I also recommend her book Viscious as well as this one for a summer read!

Book review: Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow

By , May 8, 2015

Blood on Snow
by Jo Nesbo
Audio version narrated by the Patti Smith!

Do you know someone who suffers from reading avoidance? This person works hard all day and thinks the only way to relax at night is watching an hour or three of TV?  Jo Nesbo‘s Blood on Snow may be the book to fix the reluctant reader in your life.

The character at the center of Blood on Snow is called Olav.  Olav has made an interesting career choice.  He is a fixer under the employ of one of Oslo, Norway’s biggest crime bosses, Daniel Hoffmann.   Olav is fresh off a job fixing an associate of Hoffman’s competition, known as the Fisherman, when Hoffman calls with a new assignment.  He wants Olav to fix his own very beautiful wife, Mrs. Hoffman…

Olav is not without a heart, mind you.  He’s a gangster with a moral code, especially when it comes to  fixing women.  Does he fall in love with the boss’s wife and save instead of kill her? Maybe.  Does he go to the Fisherman to ask for a job fixing his current boss Hoffman?  Perhaps…  Has Nesbo written a mean little thriller featuring one of the most unusual shoot-outs ever put to the page by a writer? Most definitely!  If you’ve never read any Jo Nesbo, Blood on Snow would be a good place to start.  I highly recommend the audio version.  Patti Smith does a stupendous job giving voice to a Norwegian gangster.

 

Book review: Murder!

By , May 4, 2015

The Golden Age of MurderThe Golden Age of Murder
by Martin Edwards

Although this is not a mystery, as the subtitle suggests, it still has lots of pithy anecdotes about the original members of the Detection Club, whose ranks included Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton.  Edwards also does a great job of describing numerous detective novels of the period and giving just enough details to make you want to track down the books (but not enough to spoil the endings).

 

 

Art of the English MurderThe Art of the English Murder
by Lucy Worsley

I enjoyed every page of this. It details many of the famous true crimes that inspired the Golden Age detective fiction above.

 

 

 

 

 

4:50 from Paddington4:50 from Paddington
by Agatha Christie

As one of my Agatha Christie-loving librarian friends pointed out, this is the original The Girl on the Train.

Book Review: Dead Space: Martyr

By , April 26, 2015

Dead Space: Martyr
By Brian Evenson

The Earth is dying, the human race is circling down the drain, and something has been found in the Chicxulub crater, under the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. This incredible discovery has the ability to change the course of human existence, but are people really prepared for the consequences it could bring?

Dead Space: Martyr is a prequel to the popular horror video game, Dead Space. “Martyr” delves into the founding of a new religion called Unitology, and the Marker–a mysterious object that the practitioners worship. The novel mainly follows Michael Altman as he investigates the alien artifact found in the Chicxulub crater, the impact Altman has on the world after making his discovery, and how he feels about his role towards both.

The book is well written, and the author does a superb job pulling together numerous elements from the Dead Space video game to create a fluid story. There are several nods to the game that might go over some readers heads, though they never take away from intensity of the novel. I really appreciated the sense of dread and  paranoia that many of the characters experience. The feelings that I got from the book were not exactly the same as what I got from the video game, but it was close enough to send a chill down my spine.

-Sade

 

Book List: Baseball Stories

By , April 21, 2015

 

Summerland
by Michael Chabon

Mythology and baseball merge in this fantastical tale by Pulitzer Prize winner Chabon. In order to save his father, Ethan Feld, plays baseball with his friends, travelling on a strange road trip through Summerland.

 

 

 

The Heart of a Champion
by Carl Deuker

One boy has all the potential, while the other has all the need. Jimmy has been playing his whole life. One day he is out playing with his dad when Seth comes by. The two boys could almost be brothers, except that Seth is bearing a heavy sorrow. A story of the way a game can bring out the best parts of ourselves.

 

 

Calico Joe
by John Grisham

In the summer of 1973, “Calico Joe” Castle is dynamite at the plate, hitting home runs at his first three times at bat for the Chicago Cubs. Until he is hit by a pitcher and injured so badly that it ended his career. Thirty years later, a ten-year-old baseball fan, Paul Tracey, tries to discover the truth of this errant pitch, and how it has affected his own life.

 

 

The Art of Fielding 
by Chad Harbach

At 17, Henry Shrimsander plays shortstop for an amateur team in South Dakota. His near-mystical talent for fielding attracts the attention of a player from Westish College, Mike Schwartz. Under Mike’s protective wing, Henry thrives, attracting attention from Major League scouts. Until one day, one bad throw, and Henry completely loses his stride.

 

 

The Contract
by Derek Jeter

We meet eight-year-old Derek Jeter when he is selected to play with Kalamazoo’s Little League Tigers, but not in his preferred position of shortstop. With the help of his parents, who have Derek sign a contract promising that he will maintain a positive attitude, Derek finds a way to transform his disappointment into success.

 

 

 

Heavy Hitters  
by Mike Lupica

Longtime sports writer Mike Lupica is the author of many gripping sports novels, such as those in the Game Changers series. Each novel in the series focuses on a different sport: Heavy Hitters, seen here, focuses on baseball. Eleven year-old Ben is off to a rough start when he’s hit by a pitch in the first game of the season. But more challenging problems lie ahead when the best hitter on the team begins behaving erratically. Other baseball novels by Lupica include Heat  and Travel Team

 

The Natural
by Bernard Malamud

There was no stopping the meteoric rise to baseball fame of nineteen year-old Roy Hobbs. The kid could pitch and hit as if he were born to do nothing else. But his career is stopped abruptly after an encounter with the wrong kind of woman. Expect some strange and dark humor in Malamud’s first book, originally published in 1952.

 

 

 

Diane

Book review: Broken Open

By , April 13, 2015

Broken Open By Lauren DaneBroken Open
By Lauren Dane

Broken Open is the second book in Lauren Dane’s  Hurley Brothers series. The story deals with Ezra Hurley and Tuesday Eastwood. Ezra has lived a rock-n-roll lifestyle, so he is trying to find balance within his life. Tuesday has suffered a loss and is trying to regain her bearings. Both are trying to learn how let go of past issues and relationships, while trying to build new ones. The book also delves into the lives of the people around Tuesday and Ezra. This sneakily sets the reader up for book three, but it also adds meat to the overall story.

Because this is a Romance novel, the audience is well aware that the two main characters connect with one another. Lauren Dane, however, has a tendency of adding realism to her books which can shake up the typical Romance-arc. Similar novels have instant chemistry and a happily ever after.  This novel will give the reader most of that, but s/he is also  shown how and why these two have a genuine bond.

Tuesday and Ezra have a prior connection with each other, so there is a basis for  their relationship. They are beautiful and successful people who acknowledge that they need time to get to know each other as partners. They have both had life experiences that have made them mature adults, and their actions towards each other have legitimate consequences.

The reason this book is such a good read is because while this book is definitely a  romantic fantasy, it is not outside the realm of possibility. The realism that Dane brings to this novel made me accept Tuesday’s and Ezra’s relationship ten times more than I would have otherwise. Plus, Tuesday is not a woman to be walked on, and the Hurleys are not people who will let you walk on loved ones!

–Sade

Book review: If You Liked…

By , March 2, 2015

This post is straight recommendations, no commentary.  You’ll just have to trust me!

If you liked The Goldfinch, try Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm:

Unbecoming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you like big sprawling books about families and friendships and class issues, like Middlesex or The Fortress of Solitudetry A Dual Inheritance, by Joanna Hershon:

A Dual Inheritance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you liked the memoirs The Glass Castle or This Boy’s Life, try With or Without You, by Domenica Ruta:

With or Without You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you liked Olive Kitteridge, try Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton:

Florence Gordon

Book review: The Sweetheart

By , February 24, 2015

The Sweetheart
By Angelina Mirabella

Raise your hand if you ever thought you’d read a fictional book about lady grapplers in the 1950s? Hmm. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

No one?

Yeah, me neither. But then I picked up this beauty and (cue the announcer) got sucked in to the “Story of the Century…ry…ry…ry!”

Ok maybe not the century, but this was definitely a good read. I used to make fun of my brother for watching wrestling. We had epic battles of “You know that’s fake right?” (me) and “No it’s not” (him). But I never knew that women used to wrestle. I thought that was a more recent addition. According to the wonderful wikipedia though, women’s professional wrestling has maintained a World Champion since 1937. That’s a lot of spandex.

Our story follows seventeen year old Leonie Putzkammer and her rapid transformation into The Sweetheart of the Ring. Standing close to six feet tall, Leonie never considered herself beautiful or desireable. But after a chance encounter at a diner (and the execution of the perfect back flip on a dare), Leonie’s dead-end life is over. Suddenly she’s on a train to Joe Popsisil’s School for Lady Grappling where she leaves her old self in the past and becomes the beautiful, the heartbreaking, Gwen Davies.  Leonie/Gwen keeps you rooting for her – even when she’s the bad guy. Nashville makes a cameo appearance because we were and are a proud wrestling city (or so I’m told).

The author does admit that most of the wrestling events were staged – with the winner predetermined before the match. For some reason, though, this didn’t bother me. (Also, to my brother, “Told you so.”) It was just nice to see the big girl win for a change.

So if you think you’re man enough to wrastle a lady, check this one out.

Let’s get ready to rumblllllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeee…er, I mean reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeead!

:) Amanda

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