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100+ book challenge 2013
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A traveller in time [electronic resource]
This is the story of Penelope Taberner who goes to stay in a country farmhouse, Thackers, a manor house once inhabited by the Babington family of 1582. The Babingtons were supporters of Mary Queen of Scots and wanted her restored to the throne. Penelope finds she is able to slip back in time to the Elizabethan era and becomes involved with inhabitants of the manor house and the plot to liberate Mary Queen of Scots from the nearby Wingfield Manor. She slips effortlessly between the past and the present. It is a bittersweet story because Penelope is aware of the fate of both the Queen and the Babington family and that she will not be able to change the future. The book is written for children but it was written in the 1930’s and the language is very formal and somewhat old fashioned—I don’t think this is a book that would be enjoyed by younger children or even teens. Even I had a hard time finishing the book though I found the topic intriguing. A 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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Cover Art: The Devil's bones /
The Devil's bones
Bass, Jefferson.
The Devil’s Bones is the third novel in the Body Farm forensics series. This time Dr. Bill Brockton is involved in a number of plots that involve remains, bones and fire including charred remains found in a burned-out car, and a disreputable Georgia crematorium that simply dumped bodies on its grounds. I enjoyed this novel (I have read several others of the series) though I found the flow somewhat disjointed because there appeared to be little real connection between the different plots. It was interesting to learn about the science about how fire consumes flesh and bone. In addition to these mysteries, Dr. Brockton is also dealing with his nemesis Garland Hamilton who has escaped from prison. Though I have enjoyed others in this series more, the Devil’s Bones was still a good read--3 1/2 out of 5.
Adult Fiction BASS
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Cover Art: The inquisitor's key /
The inquisitor's key
Bass, Jefferson.
The Inquisitor's Key, the seventh entry in the Body Farm series, finds Dr. Bill Brockton and his graduate assistant Miranda Lovelady not only investigating ancient bones, but dealing with ancient relics, church and art history and the South of France. In the Palace of the Popes, a stone chest is discovered, inscribed with the crest of Jesus of Nazareth. Could the bones found inside possibly be the remains of Christ himself? How do the bones relate to the Shroud of Turin? These are the questions that Bill and Miranda try to answer, despite being hampered by relic collectors and the Church itself. The chapters bounce between medieval and present day Avignon—which helped enhance the understanding of the present. I have really enjoyed others of this series—and this one was no exception. Fast paced, full of twists and turns—a really great read. A definite 4 ½ out of 5.
Adult Fiction BASS
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Cover Art: The cost of hope : a memoir /
The cost of hope : a memoir
Bennett, Amanda.
When Amanda Bennett meets Terence Foley while on assignment in China, the last thing she expects is to marry him. Their marriage brings with it great passion, deep love and respect, two children, and a life together over two decades. Then comes a terrible illness, and the fight to win a longer life for Terence. This memoir chronicles the extraordinary measures Amanda and Terence take to preserve not only to save Terence's life but also the life of their family as well as their ongoing hope for life. After his death, Bennett uses her skills as investigative reporter to determine the cost of their mission of hope. What she discovers raises important questions many people face, and vital issues about the intricacies of America's healthcare system. At first I was reluctant to read this memoir—anticipating a deep sadness, but at times I found it surprisingly joyful. I believe that this memoir along with the Times article on the cost of heathcare by Steven Brill will help readers understand the complexity of our healthcare system both financially and emotionally. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.
Adult Nonfiction Book 362.19699 B 2012
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Cover Art: Midwives /
Midwives
Bohjalian, Chris, 1960-
The novel tells the story of Sibyl Danforth, a midwife put on trial for the death of one of her clients. On an icy winter night in an isolated house in rural Vermont. Sibyl takes desperate measures to save a baby's life. She performs an emergency cesarean section on a mother she believes has died of a stroke. However, what if Sibyl's patient wasn't dead--and Sibyl inadvertently killed her? As recounted by Sibyl's 14 year-old daughter, Connie, the ensuing trial is supposed to be about the death of a single woman but turns into a battle between science and nature as the right of a woman to choose home birth is debated. The biggest issue that I had with this book was that I never really cared about any of the characters, particularly Sibyl. I found her to be a little too “Earth Mother,” and her descriptions of pregnancy and birth were too ethereal for me. I had no real emotional attachment to any of the characters. The story had a good start, but it began meandering and never recovered. It wasn't awful, but I would have a hard time recommending it to others. 2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction BOHJALIAN
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Cover Art: I sing the body electric! and other stories /
I sing the body electric! and other stories
Bradbury, Ray, 1920-2012
This short story collection by Ray Bradbury is an eclectic mix of stories; science fiction; fantasy; characters portraits; poetry and some just plain silliness. Reviewing or rating a collection of short stories can be very difficult—but one thing I like to see is a recurring theme—which I did not find in this collection. Some of the stories were dull and felt like they were just a mix of random thoughts. I really like Bradbury and was disappointed in this collection. I did enjoy a few of the stories, specifically: ”I Sing the Body Electric” the story of a family who adopt a surrogate android grandmother after the death of the mother in the family unit. “Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby is a friend of mine “ the story of an unsuccessful writer who decides to spend the remainder of his life imitating the life and copying the writings of Charles Dickens. And while I liked these stories, overall I can not give it a strong recommendation (read the Illustrated Man instead). 2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction BRADBUR
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Cover Art: Going bovine [sound recording] /
Going bovine [sound recording]
Bray, Libba.
Cameron's main goal in life is to coast through high school and life. Then Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and so begins the YA novel Going Bovine. While in the hospital Cameron meets Dulcie, a cute winged punk angel, who presents him with a quest to save the world and his own life . With nothing to lose, Cameron heads out on the ultimate of road trips. He is joined on his adventure by Gonzo, a hypochondriac little person, and Balder, a Norse god trapped in the form of a yard gnome. Along the way issues of time travel, life and death, love, sex, commercialism, happiness and existence versus living are brought front and center in a satirical, sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, and often absurd way. Is this novel a book of Cameron’s hallucination or a journey into a parallel universe doesn’t really matter in the end. I loved this quirky little book—I kept thinking about it days after I finished the last page. A 5 out of 5 stars.
Teen Fiction BRAY
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Cover Art: Inferno : a novel /
Inferno : a novel
Brown, Dan, 1964-
In the 4th installment of the adventures of symbology professor Robert Langdon, the reader finds him waking up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with a wound to his head and no recollection of how he got there. However, there’s no time to rest because dangerous people will stop at nothing to kill him. With the help of the doctor treating him – a mysterious woman with a past – Langdon tries to outrun his captors in order to find answers. An object sewn into his jacket offers clues related to Dante and his famous work the Divine Comedy. It soon becomes clear that if Langdon can’t crack the codes the world will be headed for the gruesome hell that Dante envisioned. The issues of genetic engineering, population control, politics and of course the city of Florence are front and center. I found this book exciting and a nonstop read (I finished it in 3 days). However, I found that I was a little disappointed that there was not as much puzzle solving (which has always been my favorite part of this series) as there has been in previous books. But as with all his books it has wanted me to explore further—particularly the city of Florence and Dante’s Divine Comedy. A solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction BROWN
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Cover Art: In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences /
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
Capote, Truman, 1924-1984.
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime. Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. Though I felt that the book was well written I found it difficult to read. I don’t understand why such beautiful prose and recognition should be given to two sociopaths who show no remorse and at times feel almost justified in killing an entire family (that they had never met) and changing the lives of so many. When did our society change so that we now shine the spotlight on those that are so unworthy and unrepentant! 1 out of 5 stars.
Adult Nonfiction Book
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Cover Art: The alchemist /
The alchemist
Coelho, Paulo
An allegorical novel, The Alchemist follows the journey of a shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to a gypsy in a nearby town to discover its meaning. She tells him that there is a treasure in the Pyramids in Egypt. Early into his journey, he meets an old king, who tells him to sell his sheep to travel to Egypt and introduces the idea of a Personal Legend. Your Personal Legend "is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. He adds that "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it". This is the core theme of the book. Along the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity, disaster and learns about himself and the ways of the world. I am not really sure how I feel about this book. I found it a little contrived—though I know it is really a fable about personal destiny and following your dream. What I took from the book is that the journey is your treasure not gold or jewels you find in the end. 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction COELHO
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Cover Art: Artemis Fowl /
Artemis Fowl
Colfer, Eoin.
The first book in the Artemis Fowl series, this YA novel follows the adventures of Artemis Fowl, a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, as he kidnaps a fairy, Cpt. Holly Short (part of the fairy police) for a large ransom of gold. He needs the gold to replenish the family fortune (which was depleted by his criminal mastermind father). Frankly I found this book a disappointment—though I am usually a fan of fantasy. I found that the characters were not well written and I found that it was difficult to enjoy or care about any of them—particularly Artemis. He really had few redeeming characteristics. 1 star out of 5.
Teen Fiction COLFER
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Cover Art: Catching fire /
Catching fire
Collins, Suzanne
Catching Fire picks up right where Hunger Games left off. Victors from the 74th Hunger games Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are on the victory tour to all the districts. Prior to the tour Katniss is visited by President Snow, who explains that he is angry with her for breaking the rules at the end of the last Hunger Games. Snow informs Katniss that when she defied the Capitol, she inspired rebellion in the districts. He tells her that she must convince the entire country of Panem that what she did was not an act of defiance, but that she was too in love with Peeta that she wasn't thinking straight. They then learn that for the next Hunger Games, the Quarter Quell, former champions are to be the competitors once again. Katniss and Peeta are going back into the arena. Catching Fire is everything The Hunger Games was and more. More of the story takes place outside the arena than within, and though there is plenty of action-packed combat, there is more on the power and politics of the Capital and the topics of sacrifice, morality and oppression. A 5 out of 5 stars.
Teen Fiction COLLINS
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Cover Art: The adventures of Pinocchio /
The adventures of Pinocchio
Collodi, Carlo, 1826-1890.
The Adventures of Pinocchio is a novel for children by Italian author Carlo Collodi. It is about the mischievous adventures of Pinocchio a marionette; and his poor father, a woodcarver named Geppetto. Pinocchio was created as a wooden puppet but dreamed of becoming a real boy. Its main theme is that of a naughty child who must learn to be good, not just for his own sake but for the sake of others around him too. The thing to keep in mind is that this is not your Disney’s Pinocchio. This classic flirts with death and disasters that Pinocchio can’t seem to stay away from. At various points in the story Pinocchio is hung from a tree until he dies, he bites a cat's paw off, his leg is caught in a bear trap, he gets arrested and he is turned into a donkey. Oh My! Despite this and the moral lessons being “taught”—the adventures are really quite fun. Despite some of moralizing and the gruesomeness of the story I found myself really liking this tale. 4 out of 5 stars.
Children's Nonfiction BookPZ8.C7 Ad 1996
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Cover Art: Night watch /
Night watch
Fairstein, Linda A.
Night Watch is the fourteenth mystery in Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper series. This is a ripped from the headlines kind of book. The story not only follows Alex's exploits and her relationship with Luc Rouget, a French restaurateur, the cutthroat restaurant industry both in New York City and France, but also the fact that the powerful leader of a major financial institution (think IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn) is brought to his knees by charges of rape. The main reason that I like this series is that Fairstein explores the history in and around the New York CIty. This time, the reader is treated not only to a behind-the-scenes tour of some of America's finest haute cuisine restaurants, but also to the history, dating back to the Prohibition Era, of the various means used to keep the liquor flowing from their camouflaged cellars. Two things hampered my enjoyment of this novel: Luc and the MGD storyline. To be fair, I have never liked Luc and am somewhat baffled he and Alex are still together. Alex’s behavior changes when she is around him, and he tends to be very patronizing in his treatment of her. The second failing of this novel is more universal: the MGD rape case. I found the characters involved in this plot line to be unsympathetic and difficult to respond to—this included the lawyers, victim and perpetrator. Still, the novel was a fun read—3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction FAIRSTE
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Cover Art: The Eyre affair : a novel /
The Eyre affair : a novel
Fforde, Jasper.
The Eyre Affair opens in an alternative universe--Great Britain in 1985, where England has been at war with Russia over the Crimea for 130 years, time travel is routine, cloning is a reality and literature is taken very seriously. Acheron Hades, Third Most Wanted Man In the World, steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and kills a minor character, who then disappears from every volume of the novel ever printed! Enter Thursday Next. She's the Special Ops literary detective, who pursues literary crimes such as forgery, plagiarism, manuscript theft, and the abuse of literary characters. Thursday is put in charge of the investigation, but soon Jane Eyre and Rochester are also involved in the adventure—literally! Usually I love the alternative history, time travel and fantasy genres—but I found this novel to drag on. So much of the book deals with the “set up” of Thursday’s world that I felt that the plot was somewhat thin. However, the end of the book does move along more quickly—and is more satisfying. A 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction FFORDE
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Cover Art: Gone girl /
Gone girl
Flynn, Gillian, 1971-
On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's wife Amy disappears. There are signs of struggle in the house and Nick quickly becomes the prime suspect. It doesn't help that Nick hasn't been completely honest with the police and, as Amy's case drags more and more evidence appears against him. Nick, however, maintains his innocence. The novel is told alternating points of view between Nick and Amy. In addition, an annual anniversary treasure hunt put together by Amy before her disappearance, pulls Nick into directions he never expected. As revelation after revelation unfolds, the truth is far darker, more twisted, and creepier than one can imagine. I loved this book. I was taken by surprise (which doesn’t happen to me often) by the many twists and turns and totally surprising developments. I can’t say I was happy by the ending— but it did make sense with these characters. 4 ½ out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction FLYNN
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Cover Art: Mistress of the art of death /
Mistress of the art of death
Franklin, Ariana.
In 12th century England, Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar, a female doctor and forensics expert with a strong sense of herself, is summoned by King Henry II to investigate a series of gruesome murders which the town has accused the Jews of committing (and preventing Henry from receiving his taxes from his biggest contributors). Adelia is accompanied by Simon, a Jewish investigator, and Mansur, a Muslim eunuch who is her bodyguard. It becomes clear that one of the pilgrim's they traveled with is the likely murderer, and as they close in on the killer, the chase takes some unexpected twists and turns, including a budding romance for Adelia with the King’s tax collector Sir Rowley Picot. The story combines, crusader knights, questionable nuns, suspicious monks, and a sly King Henry II. In addition, the book offers well researched period details not only about twelfth century England and way of life of the crusaders, but also Henry’s relationship with the church and the establishment of common law. The book is a well written, highly satisfying historical mystery. 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction FRANKLI
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Cover Art: Inkheart /
Inkheart
Funke, Cornelia Caroline
Meggie has been raised by her father Mortimer (Mo), a bookbinder, a lover of all books--a trait he has passed on to Meggie. Soon she discovers that her father has the ability to read things and even characters out of books. Unfortunately, nine years before Mo brought out characters from a book called Inkheart, and in particular, a dangerous, heartless character known as Capricorn. In addition, Meggie learns that Mo’s ability is how she lost her mother many years ago. Capricorn is now searching for Mo, and plans to force Mo to use his ability for his own advantage. To save all, Meggie, Mo and their friends and family travel to find the author of Inkheart and defeat Capricorn and his henchmen. The characters in Inkheart are very original and I particularly liked the character of Meggie, a brave, intelligent heroine. It also gives an interesting perspective on how we feel and think about books. A fantasy novel that I think that would be appropriate for both older children (there are some violent scenes) and adults. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Children's Fiction FUNKE
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Cover Art: The Ocean at the End of the Lane /
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Gaiman, Neil
In the newest Neil Gaiman novel, a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a remarkable family, the Hempstocks—Lettie (a 11 year old or is she??), her mother and grandmother. Though he hasn’t thought of them for years, as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) the past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. His death put in motion a series of events that put the boy and the Hempstock family in danger. The novel explores themes of sacrifice, boundaries, bravery, things remembered and how monsters are not always who or what they seem. I have loved the other Gaiman books that I have read and this was no exception. The book is magical, horrifying, haunting and beautiful all at the same time. Though it is described as an adult novel—I would say it is closer to YA. I found similar themes in Gaiman’s book the Graveyard Book (which I enjoyed a little more than this one). 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction
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Cover Art: The wolves in the walls /
The wolves in the walls
Gaiman, Neil
Lucy hears sounds in her house and is certain that the "sneaking, creeping” noises coming from inside the walls are wolves. No one in her family believes that there are any wolves—but you know that “if the wolves come out-, it's all over.” This book, though written for children, is particularly creepy and strange—and the accompanying illustrations just add to that “creepy” feeling. I love the work of Neil Gaiman—and this book was no exception. Not for the young child—maybe for those over the age of 8-10. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Children's Fiction GAIMAN
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Cover Art: Neuromancer [sound recording] /
Neuromancer [sound recording]
Gibson, William, 1948-
Neuromancer tells the story of Case, once a hot “cyberspace” cowboy who could infiltrate and rip off corporate databases. But he stole from his employer, who took revenge by crippling Case's nervous system, rendering him unable to hack. Case is then scooped off the street and given a second chance by a shadowy group of people who have big plans. In exchange for curing Case, they want him to help them infiltrate the core of a huge and powerful AI (artificial intelligence) called Wintermute. What was amazing about this novel was that it was written in 1984—but the concepts discussed are things that we now experience in our reality—cyberspace, the matrix (the Web), artificial intelligence, use of technology to treat disease/aging & DNA modification. As interesting as the concept was for this book, I found the book difficult to read—it is densely written, filled with a lot of jargon (it would have helpful to have a dictionary of the terms), with many characters who were difficult to keep track of. I think that if you are a computer enthusiast or gamer—this might be the book for you. For me I am glad I finished it, but frankly I was happy to leave Gibson’s future world. 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction GIBSON
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Cover Art: The magicians : a novel /
The magicians : a novel
Grossman, Lev.
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable—a familiar place to be as a teenager. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Unexpectedly, he finds himself admitted to a very secret, exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft. Still Quentin remains miserable. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real—but much darker and more dangerous than they could have imagined. I loved this novel—and can’t wait to read the next book The Magician Kings. This book could be described as combination Harry Porter and the chronicles of Narnia—but it is so much more. This is a fantasy with the insertion of real life and complicated issues of young adulthood-- friendship, love, sex, booze, boredom, disappointment and loss. 4.5 stars out of 5.
Adult Fiction
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Cover Art: The thin man /
The thin man
Hammett, Dashiell, 1894-1961.
The last of Dashiell Hammett's novels, it centers on Nick (a former PI) and Nora Charles who are reluctantly pulled into a case involving an old client who appears to have shot his assistant. The Thin Man is a hard-boiled noir mystery classic—with heavy drinking, casual adultery, parties, speakeasies and hard-nosed cops and crooks. I loved the 1940s Thin Man movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy—but I found the book somewhat dated and “politically incorrect”. 2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction HAMMETT
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Cover Art: Shadow of night /
Shadow of night
Harkness, Deborah E., 1965-
Shadow of the Night is the second book of the All Souls Trilogy. It continues the story of Diana Bishop, a historian and witch, her love, a vampire, Matthew Clairmont and the mystery of a book, Ashmole 782. Beginning where Discovery of Witches left off, Diana and Matthew have time travelled to Elizabethan England in search of Ashmole 782 and someone to teach Diana the skills of being a witch. Along the way, we meet many of Matthew’s friends, including Marlowe, Raleigh, as well as the head of the Clairmont family, Phillipe. The novel also leads us to 16th century France and Prague. During the course of the novel Diana discovers her true talent as a “weaver.” As with the first book I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the characters—and also the way “time and setting” affect the characters of Diana and Matthew. Deborah Harkness brings Elizabethan England to life using her professional knowledge and extensive and detailed descriptions. Only one caveat—because there had been sometime between reading the first and second book I found myself returning to the first book to refresh my memory. 5 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction HARKNES
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Cover Art: The anatomist's apprentice /
The anatomist's apprentice
Harris, Tessa
Dr. Thomas Silkstone, an anatomist and pioneering forensic detective, arrived in England to study to study under its foremost surgeon. The murder of Sir Edward Crick, brings Edward’s sister Lydia to Dr. Silkstone to investigate his death. Against his better judgment he agrees to examine Edward's corpse. He must determine both the cause and motive of this suspicious death, despite the skepticism he faces. I was really hoping to like this book—a murder mystery with a historical setting—what could be better. I found it slow going, with unbelievable twists and turns that did nothing to enhance the book. 2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction HARRIS
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Cover Art: The house of the seven gables /
The house of the seven gables
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
The House of the Seven Gables is a gothic novel, set in the 19th century. We are given the history of the house (built 160 prior to the main story) and the main inhabitants, the Pyncheon family. The house has been haunted since its construction by fraudulent dealings, accusations of witchcraft, and sudden death. The current resident, Hepzibah Pyncheon, opens a shop in a side room to support her brother Clifford, who is about to leave prison after serving thirty years for murder. A distant relative, young Phoebe, turns up and quickly becomes invaluable, the one bright spot in a gloomy dreary house. Themes of guilt, retribution, greed, curses and burden of family history are explored. I only mildly enjoyed this book—partly because I couldn’t really develop a strong attachment to any of the characters. I would give this novel a 21/2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction HAWTHORNE
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Cover Art: The physick book of Deliverance Dane /
The physick book of Deliverance Dane
Howe, Katherine
Set in Cambridge and Marblehead, Mass , this novel alternates between Connie Goodwin, a 20th century PhD candidate in history searching for an original primary source, and the story of a group of 17th-century outcast women who are accused of witchcraft (which may or may not be true). After moving into her grandmother's house to get it in shape for sale, Connie comes across a small key and piece of paper reading only Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest—to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact: a physick book or “receipt book” which may really be a witch’s shadow book. The novel gives an interesting look at not only the Salem witch trials, but the process of research and discovery.. Similar to another book I read recently, Ghostwalk, this novel was much better written, well told, fast paced, engrossing, and interesting. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction HOWE
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Cover Art: Three men in a boat : to say nothing of the dog! & Three men on the bummel /
Three men in a boat : to say nothing of the dog! & Three men on the bummel
Jerome, Jerome K. 1859-1927
This 19th century novel is the story of three men, accompanied by a dog, as they travel in a boat up the Thames River. The trip is taken by George and Harris and the narrator J., along with his rat terrier, Montmorency. After a few false starts in the preparations, the three men leave on their journey in a rented rowboat. As they pass each town and village along the way, J. provides brief, humorous histories of the area and the various monarchs and other notable figures associated with it, or side stories of his friends, himself or his dog (and even an uncle who has great difficulty hanging a picture). What starts out as a travel novel ends up being a comedy about the hilarious misadventures of this troublesome group plus one dog in a boat. The book is silly, but great fun, with a few rather poignant moments. One of my favorite was the description of being in the dark woods with the night stars. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction JEROME
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Cover Art: Killing Kate : a novel /
Killing Kate : a novel
Kramer, Julie.
The 4th in the Riley Spartz series, finds Riley dealing with a serial killer drawing chalk outlines shaped like angels around the bodies of his victims. With this she unearths an eerie legend dating back nearly a century. Tracking clues to an Iowa cemetery, Riley finds an infamous Black Angel monument that may be connected to homicides. In addition Riley also gets the scoop on a dog left locked in a hot car. Noreen her pet-loving news director is crazy about this story, but the dog owner goes crazy, too. Is he now stalking Riley? A light read, fasted paced and memorable characters, make this novel a good summer read. 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction KRAMER
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Cover Art: Shunning Sarah [sound recording] /
Shunning Sarah [sound recording]
Kramer, Julie.
Shunning Sarah is the fifth book in this series featuring television reporter Riley Spartz. Riley thinks she's going to report on a basic boy-in-a-sinkhole story near her parents' farm in rural Minnesota, but it turns into a lot more. When the young boy is rescued, a woman's body is found at the bottom of the sinkhole. The woman's body at the bottom of the sinkhole turns out to be an 18 year old Amish girl named Sarah Yoder. Riley then becomes involved in investigating the Amish community and their culture—as well as bear research?? Although I enjoyed this series in the past, this one was a bit too much—particularly as the twists, turns and addition of more plot points (sexual harassment, bear research etc) became of improbable and difficult to believe. 2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction KRAMER
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Cover Art: The girl who played with fire /
The girl who played with fire
Larsson, Stieg, 1954-2004
The second book of the Millennium Trilogy—the book is set 2 years after the Wennerström affair and Lisbeth Salander is enjoying the benefits of her “acquisition” of wealth, traveling, purchasing an apartment and changing her appearance. She returns to Stockholm and soon becomes embroiled and framed in the murder of two writers working with Mikael Blomkvist (her former lover) and her guardian Nils Bjurman. The investigation leads Lisbeth to confront her violent childhood and the resulting tragedies. I enjoyed the fast paced action of this novel—though I enjoyed the first book more. The one thing that I didn’t like as well in this novel was the lack of real interaction between Bloomquist and Salander—which was one of my favorite parts of the first novel. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction LARSSON
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Cover Art: White Fang [compact disc] /
White Fang [compact disc]
London, Jack, 1876-1916
A classic by Jack London, White Fang could be considered the companion to London’s Call of the Wild, except in reserve. Whereas Buck from Call of the Wild finds his wild nature—White Fang finds his human love and is able to integrate into domestic life. White Fang is born in the wild to a wolf father and a half wolf mother. When he is made captive by humans, he is outcast from the other dogs because of his wildness. He learns to fight for his life. Finally, he has an opportunity to experience a new life away from the violence and savagery—but will he learn to embrace it is the question. I loved this book despite the violence and the brutality of the life led by White Fang—and the cruelty of the humans he encounters. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction LONDON
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Cover Art: Trail of the Spellmans : document #5 /
Trail of the Spellmans : document #5
Lutz, Lisa.
The fifth in the Spellman family series, finds private investigator Izzy Spellman and her quirky family of sleuths, engaged in a lot of weird activities—even for them. Mom has taken on an outrageous assortment of extracurricular activities. Dad has a secret. Her brother and sister are at war, but neither will reveal the source of the conflict. There is one source of sanity in the Spellman household: Demetrius Merriweather, employee of the month for eighteen months straight. On top of everything Grandma Spellman has come to live with the family. On top of all the family craziness, various members of Spellman Investigation are hired to follow a variety of people—that slowly begin to overlap. I love this series. Though the mysteries are not always complicated—the family is a joy. This one did take on a few more serious changes in the relationships of the family—which I found sad but understandable. 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction LUTZ
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Cover Art: Wolf Hall [sound recording] : [a novel] /
Wolf Hall [sound recording] : [a novel]
Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography documenting the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More. Born to a working-class family, Cromwell rose to become the right-hand man of Cardinal Wolsey and eventually the powerful adviser to the King. He oversaw Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, the English church's break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries. Mantel's novel offers an alternative to that characterization of Cromwell as well as that of Thomas More. Cromwell is presented as a pragmatic and talented man who cares deeply for his “family”, whereas, More is presented as an arrogant hypocritical religious fanatic. The novel ends with the execution of Thomas More, bringing Cromwell to the height of his power and influence. The first part of the book was a bit slow, and it was difficult to keep all the characters straight, but in the end I found it a fascinating look at a chaotic time in history. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction MANTEL
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Cover Art: A game of thrones [sound recording] /
A game of thrones [sound recording]
Martin, George R. R.
In this epic fantasy novel, Martin creates a world that bears a familiarity to the Middle Ages. Winter is coming. Winter in this world means a sort of mini ice age that will last for seven years before receding. In the North, races of nonhuman beings (the Others) are gathering to advance to the South—though the Wall and Men of the Night's Watch are trying to keep them at bay. At the same time in the South, political infighting for the Iron Throne has begun. Overseas, the daughter of the dispossessed former King is maneuvering forces of her own for a bid for the throne. All this is told through the various stories of a variety of multiple characters' points of view, each giving us a glimpse of this vast saga on an intimate, up-close scale. The main characters of this first novel (and told from their POV) are the Starks (Ned, Catelyn, Sansa, Jon, Bran) the Lannisters (Tyrion), and the Targaryens (Daenerys). The many plots steadfastly go where you least expect. Heroes die and villains turn out to be not so bad after all. Unlike many fantasy novels, Martin’s characters and their motivations are fully fleshed out—my favorites were Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister. One drawback is that this is the first novel in a grand Epic series and so there is no real resolution at the end. This is a graphic, viciously unsentimental novel and a joy to read. 5 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction MARTIN
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Cover Art: The heart is a lonely hunter /
The heart is a lonely hunter
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
This novel is set in a small Georgia mill town in the late 1930s. At the center, is John Singer, a deaf man, who rents a room in the Kelly house after his fellow deaf companion, Spiros Antonapoulos, is sent away to an asylum. Singer becomes the confidant for four of the town's misfits—Mick Kelly, a teenage girl who dreams of becoming a trained musician; Benedict Mady Copeland, the town's black doctor; Jake Blount, an alcoholic socialist; and Biff Brannon, the owner of the local café. Each of these four characters regularly visits Singer, telling him about the injustices and pain in their lives. Each outcast believes that only Singer can understand his or her loneliness, although Singer reveals little of himself to them. What is so heartbreaking in this book is that each of these characters is so self absorbed, they fail to discover that Singer listens, but he doesn’t understand, nor do they realize that he, too, is lonely and isolated — or why. The theme of social and spiritual isolation is overwhelming in this book. Issues of race relations and poverty are also presented. I found the book beautifully written, yet incredibly heartbreaking. One caution I would make is that some of the language is of the time and may be offensive to some. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction MCCULLE
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Cover Art: Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace murders : from the American Chronicles of Joh
Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace murders : from the American Chronicles of Joh
Millett, Larry, 1947-
In 1896, while visiting Chicago, Sherlock Holmes receives a letter from James J. Hill, asking the detective to come to St. Paul to investigate the disappearance of Jonathan Upton on the eve of the man's wedding. Holmes, accompanied by Dr. Watson, travels to Minnesota where the Twin City is hosting its annual winter carnival. However, instead of finding a missing person, Jonathan's severed head is found amidst the ice sculptures. Soon, Holmes, Watson and local bartender Shadwell Rafferty attempt to solve the case, taking both of them to the highest levels of local power, the frozen Mississippi river and the Winter Carnival ice palace. A fun read, as a Twin Cities resident I particularly enjoyed learning about the history of the city of St. Paul, the politics of the city at the time and the tradition of the Winter Carnival. 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction MILLETT
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Cover Art: The night circus : a novel /
The night circus : a novel
Morgenstern, Erin
The circus arrives without warning—thus begins the story of the Night Circus. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their dueling instructors. What they and everyone is unaware of is that, this is a game that is played to the death. The Night Circus is a story of an ancient dual between two schools of magical knowledge: old and new. During the course of the deadly game, two young illusionists fall in love, forever changing their lives and the lives of the performers and the guests of the night circus. I loved this book—while reading it I felt like I could see the contents of the tents, feel the fluffiness of the cloud maze, smell the caramel in the air. Morgenstern makes her creation real and believable—despite the fact that this is fantasy. Completely original, never boring,romantic and thrilling at the same time. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction MORGENS
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Cover Art: The eight : a novel /
The eight : a novel
Neville, Katherine, 1945-
The Eight features two intertwined stories set in the 1790s and the 1970s, both revolving around the Monteglane Service. This bejeweled chess set, a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, holds great power and has been buried in an obscure abbey in the French countryside and later scattered throughout Europe to keep it out of the wrong hands. The first story takes place in 1972 and follows computer expert Cat Velis as she is sent to Algeria for a special assignment. The second is set in 1790 and revolves around Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey. The fates of both characters are intertwined as they try to unravel the mystery, power and potential formula behind the Montglane Service. The Eight is combination of historical references, conspiracy theory and action/thriller novel. This book can be difficult to read and keep track of all the players—it would have been helpful to have some additional appendixes to keep track of characters, historical time frame and some scientific history. Also I found it difficult to believe some of the plot twists, as well the number of real historical characters met by Mireille (she started to remind me of Forest Gump). All in all it was an interesting but difficult read. 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction NEVILLE
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Cover Art: One corpse too many : the second chronicle of Brother Cadfael /
One corpse too many : the second chronicle of Brother Cadfael
Peters, Ellis, 1913-1995.
One Corpse Too Many is the second novel in the Brother Cadfael series. The castle at Shrewsbury, sworn to the cause of the Empress Maud, is taken by the forces of King Stephen, her cousin and usurper of the throne of England. The captured forces are put to death, and Brother Cadfael is put in charge of giving rites to and laying to rest the 94 unfortunates. However, he discovers a 95th among them, a young man who was clearly not among the castle's defenders, and yet has somehow been dumped in with them. He is allowed by King Stephen to discover who the man was, and who killed him and used the mass execution as a cover. Although technically the second book in the series, this book introduces many of the regular features and characters in the series, including Hugh Beringar who serves as a partner in Cadfael’s many investigations. For those who love a good mystery, with an interesting protagonist—and a little history thrown in, this would be a fun read. 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction PETERS
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Cover Art: The ruby in the smoke [compact disc] /
The ruby in the smoke [compact disc]
Pullman, Philip, 1946-
This young adult novel, opens with 16 year old Sally Lockhart visiting her deceased father’s shipping firm and accidentally causing one of his associates to die of a heart-attack when she ask him if he knows of the Seven Blessings. The phrase was on a piece of paper dictated by her father before his death and sent to her in secret. Believing that her life is in danger, Sally seeks to determine why her father died, who would like to see her dead, and where to find a mysterious ruby. The novel is set in Victorian London, and quickly Sally becomes entangled in a web of mystery involving murder, illegal opium trading, and a stolen ruby. She also meets a variety of characters along the way--both good and bad--including Frederick and his sister Rosa ( photographer and actress respectively) and Jim, a plucky office boy. Sally is a wonderful character--brave, smart, realistic and pragmatic. Lots of twists and turns keep the reader wanting more. 4 1/2 out of 4 stars.
Teen Fiction PULLMAN
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Cover Art: The warlock /
The warlock
Scott, Michael, 1959-
This book is the fifth book in a series about the adventures of Nicholas Flamel and others in his world. The characters in this book either want to save the ancient city of Danu Talis, which would mean the destruction of what is the current world, while others want the city to fall as it did in the past in order to save the present world. The Warlock begins, where the 4th book ended, Josh (the gold twin), John Dee, and Virginia Dare are fleeing from Dee's burning office. Josh feels Sophie has betrayed him. in his eyes, by whipping a creature he had just brought into the world. Sophie thinks Josh has been corrupted by Dee and Josh feels Sophie has been deceived by the Flamels. The majority of our heroes are in Danu Talis, trying to ensure that it falls as it is meant to. This second to the last book in the series moves along quickly, with a lot of action, history, mythology and tension. The only disappointment is that the Twins are separated and this changes the tone of the books considerably. I can’t wait to get to the 6th and last book the Enchantress. 4 out of 5 stars.
Teen Fiction SCOTT
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Cover Art: On beauty /
On beauty
Smith, Zadie.
On Beauty is about two families on opposing sides of the culture war: The atheist, liberal Belseys on one side and the ultra-religious, ultra-conservative Kipps' on the other. It's also about race and racial identity: black versus white, academic life and intellectualism and the hypocrisy of those the "firm ideals". Though I found the book well written I found it difficult to like many of the main characters, particularly Howard and Zora. These two characters show the hypocrisy of their lives and beliefs and their lack of real emotional intelligence or empathy. The characters I was able to connect with were Kiki, Levi and Carlene--who show real growth and understanding of their lives. They were the real redemption of this novel. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction SMITH
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Cover Art: The art of racing in the rain : a novel /
The art of racing in the rain : a novel
Stein, Garth
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed as a race car driver; the unexpected loss of Denny's wife; the three-year custody battle with his in-laws over their daughter, Zoe. What is different about Enzo is that he is a dog with the soul of a human. His goal is to become a human in his next life (based on a Tibetian myth) based on his what he has learned in this life. And he has learned plenty—about being a compassionate soul, how our mood effects our environment, about seeking joy and many other lessons. I loved this book. I kept thinking about Enzo and his journey for days after finishing this novel. A 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction STEIN
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Cover Art: Dracula /
Dracula
Stoker, Bram, 1847-1912
Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Dr. Van Helsing. The novel is told as a series of letters, diary entries, ships' log entries, and so forth. The main writers of these items are also the novel's protagonists, including Jonathan Harker (who has direct contact with the Count), his wife Mina and Dr. Steward a psychiatrist. The story is occasionally supplemented with newspaper clippings that relate events not directly witnessed by the story's characters. I would say this is not your Twilight vampire, no romance or beautiful people here. Dracula is pure evil and all that entails. The novel, though written in 1897, is surprisingly modern; themes of sexuality, women’s role in society, evil in society and its effect on the soul are all found here. One of the great surprises was the inclusion of a strong female character, Mina Harker who is critical to the development of the story and drives the plot with her intelligence and resourcefulness. A solid 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction STOKER
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Cover Art: Ghostwalk : a novel /
Ghostwalk : a novel
Stott, Rebecca
A Cambridge historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang, is found drowned, clutching a glass prism in her hand and thus begins the novel Ghostwalk. Her son, Cameron, asks his former lover, Lydia Brooke, to ghostwrite the missing final chapters of his mother’s book on Isaac Newton and his early involvement in alchemy at Trinity College. Lydia agrees and moves into Elizabeth’s house. Lydia is soon entrenched and entangled in the deaths of five people in the late 1660s that may or may not be connected with several modern-day murders that have taken place; as well as an animal-rights group, who may or may not be killing animals in and around Cambridge. Ghostwalk has all the elements of a modern gothic mystery novel: murders, secrets, passion rekindled, and ghosts. However, after a promising beginning I simply had a difficult time sustaining my interest in the various storylines. This is one novel I would have a difficultly recommending—1 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction STOTT
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Cover Art: The Amulet of Samarkand /
The Amulet of Samarkand
Stroud, Jonathan
Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. In this parallel, modern-day Britian, Parliament is ruled of a group of magicians. Nathaniel is little more than 10 years old when everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him. Nathaniel vows revenge and spends a full year preparing his plan. For this, he needs to enslave a powerful spirit: enter Bartimaeus, a 5,000 year old witty, djinni (genie), summoned to steal an artifact currently in Lovelace’s possession – the Amulet of Samarkand. The theft of the Amulet sets in motions a series of unexpected events that find Nathaniel and Bartimaeus in situations more deadly than they could have imagined. The novel switches back and forth from Bartimaeus's first-person point of view to third-person narrative about Nathaniel. The Bartimaeus's chapters are the highlights of this book: Bartimaeus is absolutely hilarious, with his dry sarcastic, irreverent asides. A funny, suspenseful and fast moving novel—perfect for the YA reader. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Children's Fiction STROUD
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Cover Art: Perfume : the story of a murderer /
Perfume : the story of a murderer
Suskind, Patrick.
In the slums of 18th century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with two “gifts”: an absolute sense of smell, as well no odor of his own. As a boy, he apprentices himself to a prominent Parisian perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. One day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him to create the "ultimate perfume"—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. The premise of the story seemed interesting enough, however the character of Grenouille was difficult to understand—he is a sociopath with no redeeming value. The plot is gruesome and grisly and I felt had no ultimate point. I felt that part of my life had been stolen from me by reading this book! 1 out of 5 stars (maybe it should really be a 0!)
Adult Fiction SUSKIND
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Cover Art: Black Irish /
Black Irish
Talty, Stephan.
Absalom “Abbie” Kearney grew up an outsider in her hometown, Buffalo NY—south side, “the County.” She is the adopted daughter of an Irish American cop. Back in the city after a Harvard education and a stint in a Florida police department, Abby is not just taking care of her senile father but is following in his footsteps as a local detective. When a killer begins targeting members of a semi-secret Irish society, Abby is put in charge. Her usual rational cool begins to crumble when the murders hit close to home and evidence begins to point directly at her. This novel is a solid psychological thriller--murder mystery built over a police procedural core. The bleakness and coldness (emotional and environmental) of the setting, the plotting, and the characters work together to create a chilling, fast moving debut novel. I found the character of Absalom intriguing, but found a few of the plot twists a little hard to believe. A solid 3 ½ out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction
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Cover Art: Saving fish from drowning /
Saving fish from drowning
Tan, Amy
The title of the book is derived from the practice of Myanmar fishermen who "scoop up the fish and bring them to shore. They say they are saving the fish from drowning. Unfortunately... the fish do not recover," Bibi Chen, San Francisco socialite and art vendor, plans to lead a trip to China and Burma for 12 friends. Unfortunately, Bibi dies, in very strange circumstances, before the tour begins. Despite Bibi’s death, the group decides to proceed with her plans. Bibi, as the ghost narrator of the story, tells the tale of how her friends disappear while during their visit to Burma. What started as a vacation turns into an “unaware” kidnapping by a tribe, who recognize their savior among these tourists. We will learn things about Burma and its struggle for independence as well as the daily fight of its tribes for survival. However, while I have enjoyed Amy Tam’s books in the past, this book was not one of my favorites. The characters bordered on cartoonish, sections of the novel were unnecessary making the book too long and some of the plot twists just silly. 2 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction TAN
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Cover Art: The Secret history /
The Secret history
Tartt, Donna.
The Secret History is the story of a closely knit group of six classics students at a small Vermont college, involved in the murder of one of their own. This is not a spoiler—we know this from the beginning, the question becomes why. The majority of the novel explores the circumstances and lasting effects of Bunny's death on the group, particularly the narrator Richard—more an observer than a member of the group. I found this book interesting yet very disturbing at the same time. These characters are not very likeable—though you do feel sorry for both Francis and Richard is some ways—but they do expose some of the flaws of being human. Some parts of the novel do drag on a bit—but worth the effort. A 4 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction TARTT
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Cover Art: Death of a king /
Death of a king
Vanderwal, Andrew H.
Children's Fiction VANDERW
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Cover Art: Journey to the center of the earth /
Journey to the center of the earth
Verne, Jules, 1828-1905.
A classic novel by the father of science fiction Jules Vernon. Written in 1864, the eccentric scientist Professor Hardwigg finds directions to the center of the earth in an old book and sets out, with his nephew Henry and the guide Hans, to Iceland where they find the mountain and the shaft that allows them access to the depths of the earth. There they find an expansive ocean, huge creatures, giant mushrooms and insects, a herd of mastodons, prehistoric humans and more. This was a fun read--I was expecting it to be somewhat dated because of its age, but was pleasantly surprised how contemporary it felt. 3 out of 5 stars.
Adult Fiction VERNE
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