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It's the End of the World As We Know It

The Dog StarsThe world has changed in Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars.  A pandemic has infected millions. Many have not survived, and those that have are shunned and avoided.  The novel begins nine years after the outbreak, and centers around pilot Hig and his aging dog, Jasper. Hig and Jasper live at an abandoned airport with survivalist and gun-nut Bangley.  Hig has refurbished a 1956 Cessna, which he takes on short flights in the area. He has to choose his paths with care. If he flies too far, he could run out of fuel.  Airports in the area can be dangerous places. Wandering groups of marauders appear that would kill you as soon as look at you.  Airport runways have fallen into ruin and there is a good chance Hig would not be able to land.  He could find himself too far from home, and not able to find the fuel he needs to get back.  He finds himself desperately lonely.  He is reminded of his wife Melissa who died during the pandemic.  Bangley is not much for conversation. Occasionally, Hig flies to deliver supplies to a group of Mennonites who have been infected with the blood disease, but he can never get too close with them. Suddenly, a tragic event happens that will change Hig’s perceptions and force him to make a decision that will alter the course of his life.

 

The Dog Stars is primarily a character study of a man who has lost hope.  It is a heartbreaking work, and the reader gets the sense of intense loneliness that Hig is feeling, trapped in this new world, fighting each day for survival.  Written in short passages and often single sentences, the story has a distinct style that is very readable and ultimately compelling.  This is a novel to be savored, and the reader will remember Hig long after they have finished the final page.

Doug

 
 

A Sweet Treat

A Sweet Treat

posted by:
September 28, 2012 - 7:01am

When in Doubt Add ButterMaryland native and bestselling author Beth Harbison has another hit on her hands with her new novel When in Doubt, Add Butter. Engaging, witty, and warm, this book is a sweet treat for a lazy afternoon. Gemma Craig is a private chef who spends her days catering to her clients’ unique needs and whims. She has the job that she has always wanted, and it pays just enough to keep her afloat financially. Each day is devoted to a different client. On Mondays, she cooks for the Van Houghtens in their beautiful Chevy Chase home and contends with uptight Angela’s crazy dietary restrictions that include no dairy, no beef, no onions, no soy, no nuts, no honey, no cinnamon or “warm spices,” and no garlic. Paul McMann, a.k.a. Mr. Tuesday, is a busy lawyer whose tastes run to comfort foods. Mr. Tuesday is never home, but the two of them regularly exchange flirty notes about the food. On Wednesdays, Gemma sees Lex Prather, a flamboyant social butterfly who could be played by Tony Randall. His tastes run to classic high society fair like oysters Rockefeller and Waldorf salad. Thursday nights, she cooks for the Olekseis, a large family headed by widower Vlad who Gemma worries may be involved in the Russian mob. Fridays are set aside for Georgetown social-climber Marie Lemurra who was recently on a reality show and strives to connect with B-list celebrities and politicians.

 

Gemma’s life is right on track until she gets fired by Marie for an unfortunate incident involving a peacock and the bumper of Gemma’s car. (Really, how was she supposed to know that they had a pet peacock?) Then, Gemma learns that someone is sabotaging her weekend catering jobs, and her well-ordered world starts coming apart at the seams. After a one-night stand with a mysterious man named Mack, things get even more complicated. Gemma has to pick up the pieces and figure out how to put her life back together.

Beth

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Death and Depravity

Death and Depravity

posted by:
September 27, 2012 - 8:45am

MonsterWanton debauchery, an all-consuming thirst for vengeance, satanic worship, madness, an undead predator-- any of these characteristics could be utilized to describe a monster. Readers encounter a plethora of individuals that qualify for this label in Dave Zeltserman’s new release Monster. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature fashioned from different human body parts and brought to life by Victor Frankenstein is easily classified as the monster. Zeltserman’s novel is the story of the unfortunate and unwitting brain donor used in the mad doctor’s creation. Written in a style that mirrors Shelley’s original work, this is a dark and menacing tale about a tortured man trapped in the body of an abomination.

 

Friedrich Hoffman is a young man convicted of killing his betrothed a week before their marriage. After suffering an agonizing and horrendous death on the wheel, he awakens on a slab in Frankenstein’s laboratory. His intelligence and memory are intact and he quickly comes to suspect his creator’s involvement in his beloved’s death as well as his own false conviction. The black magic employed in the creature’s reanimation leave Friedrich powerless to exact revenge on his enemy. Friedrich is not the only innocent victim to be ensnared in Frankenstein’s web. Something even more sinister and disturbing is planned in an abandoned castle in a remote mountainous region south of Geneva. Friedrich’s remaining humanity is called into question as he struggles with whether to intervene or be complacent with the sordid plans of Frankenstein and the evil Marquis de Sade.

 

Monster is a gripping gothic horror tale, brilliantly told. Zeltserman is an accomplished author of mystery, horror and noir. He has earned the Shamus, Derringer and Ellery Queen's Readers' Choice awards and could very well be on track to another winner with Monster.

 

Jeanne

categories:

 
 

Make it Work

Make it Work

posted by:
September 27, 2012 - 7:03am

Project Runway: The Show That Changed HistoryTim Gunn's Fashion BibleProject Runway is wrapping up its tenth season, and this landmark program featuring aspiring fashion designers is as popular today as when it first started. In the first full-color program guide, Project Runway: The Show That Changed History, all nine seasons are represented. Featuring hundreds of pictures of the hosts, designers, fashions, and more, this is the ultimate fan source. In addition to the photographs, there are highlights of seasons past, and interviews with designers, stars, and judges. Go behind the scenes of a television and fashion institution and learn how the show began and evolved over the years, and discover what some of the fan favorites are up to today. Enjoy commentary from host Heidi Klum throughout, as well as interviews with the behind-the-scenes crew and producers, top designers, judges, and of course, Tim Gunn.

 

And speaking of Mr. Gunn, Project Runway’s mentor and fan favorite offers a fashion-related title in Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible:The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet. Gunn is also the chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne and a former faculty member and chair of fashion design at Parsons' New School for Design. He shares his impressive fashion knowledge and presents an exhaustive history of clothing and accessory. From suits to sportswear, jeans to Crocs, Gunn surveys Western fashion and recounts the contributions to the way we dress and accessorize, and highlights revolutionary designers. In tracing the origin of our closets, Gunn combines his trademark sense of humor with a personable tone. This comprehensive volume not only informs, but serves as a reminder that while fashion is about fun and innovation, the quickly changing dynamics and fickle consumers lead to designers being in one day and out the next.

Maureen

 
 

Tommy Gun in a Black Violin Case

Gangster SquadPaul Lieberman’s Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles brings a new mob story to light. In the 1940s, L.A. officials were extremely concerned about gangster crime, so they created a new off-the-books squad of eight officers to combat mob crime called the Gangster Squad. The squad’s members were still listed on the rosters of their old stations. They had no office; they operated out of two old Fords and met in parking lots and on street corners. They made no arrests, handing cases off to homicide, robbery, or vice. Each squad member was assigned his own Tommy gun, which one squad member was known to keep under his bed in a black violin case. The gangster squad’s goal was to make life difficult for mob criminals. Since they were a shadow group, they didn’t bother with warrants. They bugged everything from television sets to a mobster’s mistress’s bed to gain intelligence on their targets.

 

Local gangster Mickey Cohen was one of the squad’s major foes. Pursuing Cohen was an obsession for Sergeants Jerry Wooters and Jack O’Mara, two very different men whose only common goal was taking down Cohen. Their separate plans to catch Cohen collided one night in 1959 at Rondelli’s restaurant in a shooting that resulted in the death of Jack “The Enforcer” Whalen. The fallout from that night brought this chapter in L.A.’s history to a close. Lieberman’s journalism background is evident in the way that he tells the story. He did extensive research and interviewed surviving members of both the squad and the mob. If this sounds like a story made for the big screen, it is. Gangster Squad will be coming to a theater near you. The film, which stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn, arrives in theaters in January 2013.

Beth

 
 

Catonsville Confidential

Catonsville Confidential

posted by:
September 26, 2012 - 8:11am

The Secret TreeAraminta (Minty) Fresh lives in the familiar setting of Catonsville in The Secret Tree by Natalie Standiford. Growing up in a close-knit neighborhood with her best friend Paz on the same block, she is happy and comfortable with her friends, family, and roller derby. But the summer before middle school is a season for change, not the least of which is Paz’s apparent desire to befriend some cool girls. 

 

When she spots a flash in the woods and chases it, Minty not only finds a new friend in Raymond, but also stumbles across the Secret Tree. The elm has a hollow trunk in which Raymond and Minty find secrets written on slips of paper. The notes hold confidences which range from crushes, to being held back a grade, to placing a curse on an enemy! Seems like her neighborhood is full of secrets and mysteries and Minty and Raymond decide to start finding some answers.

 

But this detecting duo has secrets of their own, and as they investigate friends and neighbors they must each deal with their own anxieties. Minty is a delightfully relatable yet quirky heroine with the right touch of tween snark to make her real. In the end, this story of changing friendships and pesky sibling relationships is about growing up and realizing that everyone has insecurities. Filled with the warmth and freedom of summer and a neighborhood full of unique characters, this imaginative coming-of-age story has an old-fashioned charm which will have wide appeal.

 

Be sure to look for Natalie at the Baltimore Book Festival on Saturday, September 29th at 5:30, where she’ll be appearing as a member of the panel, "Baltimore Bred", with fellow Baltimore natives Adam Gidwitz, Laurel Snyder, C. Alexander London, and Laura Resau to talk about how growing up in Baltimore influenced their work.

Maureen

 
 

Read the Book, Play the Game, Save the Future

A Mutiny in TimeIn A Mutiny in Time, Book One of The Infinity Ring series, James Dashner delivers a strong opening to the latest multi-platform, clue-finding series for kids. Best friends Dak and Sera are unusual kids.  Dak is a self-professed history nerd (and cheese addict), while Sera’s fondness for quantum physics is incalculable. So when the best friends discover a time travel device--the Infinity Ring--in a secret lab belonging to Dak’s parents, they’re seriously excited.

 

They’re not the only ones anxious to get their hands on the Infinity Ring though, and soon the kids are recruited by the Hystorians, a secret society formed by Aristotle and maintained over generations and many centuries. From the Hystorians, Dak and Sera learn that there have been a number of Great Breaks in history--rifts in reality--that will eventually lead to the world’s destruction! The only way to save the world is to use the Infinity Ring to go back in time and mend each rift.

 

Dak and Sera agree to help the Hystorians, in exchange for help in finding Dak’s parents, who were lost in time during a test run of the Infinity Ring. Joined by Riq, an older boy and youngest member of the Hystorians, Dak and Sera travel to Spain in 1492 to stop a mutiny on Columbus’ fateful voyage. There are dangers though; for as long as the Hystorians society has existed, so too has another society, the SQ, which has benefited from the rifts in reality and will stop at nothing to keep the Great Breaks from being mended. For every Hystorian Guide they find in each era, they must also elude the SQ’s Time Wardens who seek to stop them.

 

The fun doesn’t end with the fast paced first adventure in the series. After completing A Mutiny in Time, readers are invited to play the game online. The reader becomes a player and can solve puzzles, navigate wormholes, and explore cities of the past while receiving a dash of real history with their entertainment. Fans of The 39 Clues series now have a new series to enjoy.

Meghan

 
 

Catch the Ripper!

Catch the Ripper!

posted by:
September 25, 2012 - 8:11am

RipperJack the Ripper has long captured the imaginations of readers and writers. Stefan Petrucha’s new teen novel Ripper brings a new twist on the well-known Ripper mythology.

 

Carver Young loves mystery novels and breaking the rules, which recently led him to find a letter from his father. This is the only information that he has about his parents. When the orphanage where he lives is forced to require all children over eight years old to find homes, 14-year-old Carver is adopted by a retired Pinkerton detective. Soon, Carver is being trained as a detective by his eccentric mentor, and his first assignment is to follow the clues to learn about his father. As his investigation progresses, Carver begins to see more and more parallels between his father and a killer who is stalking women in New York City. With Carver, the New Pinkertons, and the New York City Police led by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt on the trail of the killer, two questions emerge: Is Carver really Jack the Ripper’s son? Can he stop the Ripper? 

Gadgets abound, giving this fast-paced novel a hint of steampunk feel. The New Pinkertons’ headquarters is a haven for contraptions that will make the detectives’ work easier. From an analytical engine (a steam-powered computer) to a stun baton and an auto-lock pick, these devices add a quirky element to the story. Petrucha takes liberties with historical details, but he does include notes to help readers distinguish between fact and fiction. Although they are on the trail of Jack the Ripper, the story is low on gore and high on action and suspense. Petrucha has created a non-stop thrill-ride with a killer twist that will leave readers waiting for the sequel, which he is already writing!

Beth

 
 

Before the Maze

Before the Maze

posted by:
September 25, 2012 - 8:01am

The Kill OrderFans of James Dashner’s best-selling Maze Runner trilogy rejoice! The events preceeding the construction of the maze and the fates of the Gladers are now revealed in The Kill Order.

 

Long before Thomas created and entered the maze, the earth was bombarded by solar flares which destroyed most of the living creatures on the planet. Those who survived were left to fight against a disease that ravages both brain and body. Alec, Mark and Trina are among these survivors, and with a small group in tow they stay on the move in the mountains near what was Asheville, North Carolina. They do their best to avoid others at all costs, for fear of contagion, but other wanderers do find them. The group gets smaller and smaller as members succumb to the disease, and Mark and Alec strike out alone to find answers and hopefully a cure.

 

Much like the Maze Runner trilogy, Dashner presents as many questions as answers in this prequel; however, the background information regarding the solar flares and their consequences does explain some of the events that follow in latter books. As always, Dashner provides a good mix of high-octane action and intense emotion that will keep readers engaged. He is currently working on the screenplay for the film adaptation of The Maze Runner, which is now in pre-production with Wes Ball making his directorial debut.

Sam

 
 

Ghosts, Moors and Village Secrets

Beneath the ShadowsA couple and their infant daughter move from the hustle and bustle of London to a remote cottage in North Yorkshire. Soon after, the husband Adam disappears, leaving the baby in her carriage on the front doorstep. So begins Sara Foster’s debut novel, Beneath the Shadows. A haunting, psychological tale, the reader is transported to a beautiful but desolate English village, complete with secretive townspeople and a history of ghosts and unexplained occurrences.  

 

When the wife, Grace, returns to the village the next year, she begins talking to the locals and discovers more about her husband’s boyhood. She also learns about more unsettling issues, including hauntings, characters from local folklore and even strange details about the cottage her husband inherited from his grandparents. Her city friends and family are encouraging her to sell the cottage and run, but Grace cannot yet bring herself to do that. Even as an unknown person or people are sending her increasingly sinister warnings to leave, she needs to know the fate of Adam and if he really did abandon his family.  

 

This book has all the elements for a good autumn read: the moors, cold weather, snowstorms threatening to cut off the village, hints of the paranormal and the ever-present danger of harm coming to a mother and daughter trying to rebuild their lives. Fans of the Bronte sisters, Daphne du Maurier or Jennifer McMahon will be intrigued by this story which slowly unravels to lay bare a town’s and a family’s history and secrets.  

Melanie