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Bloggers

 

Look, Up in the Sky…

Look, Up in the Sky…

posted by:
May 8, 2012 - 1:11am

The Obsidian BladeTucker Feye is not the type of boy to see things that aren’t there.  His mother is not the type of person to see ghosts or act crazy.  His father is definitely not the type of person to lie.  Yet all of these things are happening and Tucker has no idea why.  Perhaps it has something to do with the shimmering, round, glassy thing that keeps appearing in the sky…right near Tucker Feye.

 

In The Obsidian Blade, it seems that Pete Hautman is departing from his usual tale of precocious teens challenging authority and finding their own solutions to the problems of life.  On the surface, this is a straight science fiction/dystopian story, complete with time-travel and futuristic technology.  Tucker is trying to solve the mystery of the shimmering disks, the sudden disappearance of his parents, and a girl and her cat who seem to have appeared from the future.   Once the reader gets past these things, The Obsidian Blade is a story about people: Tucker, his parents, his long-lost uncle, and a girl named Lahlia.  It is a story about religion and belief.  It is a story about truth and lies.  Mostly, it is a story about the decisions we make and the effect those decisions have on both the people and the world around us.

 

Pete Hautman is the author of the National Book Award winner Godless as well as many other books for teens.  The Obsidian Blade is the first book in the Klaatu Diskos trilogy.

Sam

 
 

A Grown-up Ghost Story

A Grown-up Ghost Story

posted by:
May 7, 2012 - 1:00am

The Haunting of Maddy ClareSometimes, nothing beats a good spooky story; the kind of tale that might make you turn the light on in a dark hallway before you go upstairs, or maybe double check that your doors are locked before you head off to bed. Simone St. James’ The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a ghost story with a romantic twist. Struggling to make ends meet, quiet Sarah Piper accepts an unusual assignment through her temp agency in post WWI London. Her job? Assist war-scarred ghost hunters Alistair Gellis and sidekick Matthew Ryder who are investigating the spirit of a servant girl who committed suicide in a countryside barn.  It just so happens that this particular spirit despises men, necessitating Sarah’s involvement in both communicating with Maddy Clare and solving the mystery of her death.

 

St. James’ writing style is lovely in this, her debut novel, and her choice of words and phrasing easily evoke the early twentieth century as narrated by Sarah.  The author is as skilled in describing rural England or some stylish period women’s wear as she is relaying the frightening atmosphere in the haunted barn or the suspicion of the chilly villagers. Unlike last summer’s supernatural-themed hit, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, this story is often creepy and sinister and has more in common with 2009’s Booker shortlisted The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  A page-turner to the end, pick up The Haunting of Maddy Clare knowing this one will be difficult to put down.

Lori

 
 

Dig, Till, Sow

Dig, Till, Sow

posted by:
May 6, 2012 - 7:01am

Grow, Cook, EatSmall-Space Container GardensBuilding Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners

Hope springs eternal this planting season, when a trio of new gardening books suggests that horticultural success is within a trowel's reach for even the palest of green thumbs.  Practical advice, along with enticing photography, perusable tables of content and the indispensable indices (for those in a hurry) hint of an enjoyable journey from inspiration to harvest.  

 

 Tending the garden has never been more fun or delicious in Willi Galloway's book, Grow, Cook, Eat: a Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips. As the lengthy title suggests the blogger and former editor at Organic Gardening magazine takes the food lover full circle from seed to table. Waste not is the goal here, and each chapter nicely lays out how to obtain the most from the vegetable's edible parts.   

 

If size matters award winning blogger Fern Richardson guides the space-starved gardener through a potpourri of creative options in Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs. From repurposing household items for plant duty to creating a "potager with a twist," Richardson organizes her nine chapters and subheadings according to garden practicalities that all gardeners can appreciate. Budget conserving tips, lovely illustrations and clear directions lead the way.

 

Once the garden is sprouting it's time for garden projects. Veteran DIY author Chris Gleason describes with photographs and detailed directions fun and practical structures to improve your harvest in his latest book Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners: a Guide to 21 Handmade Structures for Homegrown Harvests.  Gleason readily shares his opinion on what works and how to make the process easier. At 160 pages, this slender book has something for everyone, whether it's a squash ramp, a vermiculture bin, or historical look at backyard farming. 

Cynthia

 
 

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 4:01am

The Casual VacancyJ. K. Rowling and her publisher Little, Brown, and Company have announced that they will publish The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for adults, on September 27, 2012.  With Rowling’s legion of fans, this novel is sure to be an instant bestseller.

 

The Casual Vacancy will be a very different novel from Rowling’s successful Harry Potter series.  Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly, leaving his seat on the Pagford parish council open.  The election to fill his vacancy causes an all-out war that tears apart the quiet English town.   This thought-provoking dark comedy will surprise readers. This is Rowling’s first novel published since her worldwide bestselling Harry Potter series, which have sold 450 million copies and have been translated into 74 languages.  The books became a worldwide phenomenon with children and adults alike.   The series was also adapted into an extremely popular film franchise.  As Harry Potter’s popularity grew, the phenomenon branched out into merchandising and even a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

 

Rowling has also announced that she has be working with Sony to launch Pottermore, a website dedicated to giving fans an interactive Harry Potter experience.  Pottermore will include exclusive content about the world of Harry Potter that fans won’t be able to access anywhere else.  To find out more about Pottermore, go to http://www.pottermore.com/.  The Harry Potter series is now available in e-book format through BCPL.   

Beth

categories:

 
 

Cozies and Kitties

Cozies and Kitties

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 3:01am

Copycat KillingThe Cat, the Wife, and the WeaponA Killer ReadCozy mysteries do their best to appeal to cat lovers, and some recent releases will definitely introduce you to some friendly felines.

 

Sofie Kelly is back with Copycat Killing featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical cats, Own and Hercules.  In this particular outing, Kathleen is helping some local artists rescue their artwork when a deluge threatens to flood their studio. Unfortunately for one of the artists, they may have created their last piece. This is the second in the series, following Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. Penguin is republishing the first of the series as part of their “Read Humane” campaign, and donating $25,000 to the Humane Society’s Animal Rescue Team, for the prevention of cruelty towards animals.

 

The newest Cats in Trouble mystery is set in Mercy, South Carolina and features quilter Jillian Hart. Jillian is searching for her friend Tom, who has gone missing. Meanwhile, Tom’s half-brother moves into his house and proceeds to lose his diabetic cat.  The Cat, the Wife, and the Weapon, written by Leann Sweeney, also features a trio of cats as well as a rat terrier helping to solve the mystery. This is the fourth in the Cats in Trouble series.

 

A Killer Read is the beginning of a new series by Erika Chase and features Lizzie Turner and the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society.  When the Society gathers in a Southern mansion for their book club meeting, the members find themselves embroiled in an actual mystery when a stranger is shot with an antique gun.  References to well-known mystery novels abound and readers meet a unique pair of cats named Edam and Brie. 

 

So cuddle up with someone you love, either the two-footed or four-footed variety, and read one of these great new cozies.  You will be glad you did!

Doug

categories:

 
 

Pastoral Peccadilloes and Goblin Goings-on – ‘Snuff Said

SnuffFollowers of the sometimes fantastical, always immensely funny Discworld series can breathe a sigh of relief. The remarkable storyteller Terry Pratchett has released another compulsively readable adventure. In Snuff, the reader once again joins Commander Sam Vimes, the streetwise Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and reluctant member of society’s highest echelons. The powers that be (namely his wife, the Lady Sybil) have decreed that Vimes is in dire need of a proper pastoral vacation. Resigned to his fate, Vimes bids farewell to his beat and arrives at the ancestral home and environs with his wife and young son. He sets his mind to relaxing but a copper is never really off-duty, and when the severed hand of a goblin turns up, it isn’t long before Vimes finds himself called upon to unravel a mysterious death and restore justice to the most unlikely of citizens.

 

Pratchett’s characteristic humor and sense of timing are in fine form in this latest Discworld adventure, and those who are familiar with the characters the author has honed over the years will not be disappointed. For those new to Pratchett though, a caveat: Snuff is a uniquely Vimes-centric story and as such is not an ideal first foray into the Discworld. Recommended prior reading includes Guards! Guards! and Night Watch

 

Whether a seasoned sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast or a hesitant newcomer ready to dip one’s toe into the genre, the works of Terry Pratchett are equally accessible and more than a little addictive. Granted there are certain fantastical elements (The City Watch counts among its employees various trolls, vampires and dwarves; Death is really a loveable fellow once you get to know him - he has a soft spot for kittens - and oh yes, the entire world is one large disc supported by four elephants that are in turn balanced on the back of a great turtle. You get the idea.) Yet at the heart of what Pratchett really writes are wildly humorous, acutely insightful commentaries on the nature of humans and the societies they cobble together.

Meghan

 
 

Susan Lucci of the RITAs?

Susan Lucci of the RITAs?

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 1:01am

When Beauty Tamed the BeastThe Romance Writers of America recently announced the finalists for the 2012 RITA awards.  The RITAs honor authors for excellence in romance writing.  This year more than 1,200 novels and novellas were judged and finalists were announced in 12 categories. When popular author Eloisa James heard that her novel When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a finalist, she tweeted about her RITA losing streak. “The RITA is the Romance Writers of America's highest award... and I just got a call telling me that When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a finalist! I'm so happy. Mind you, I am the Susan Lucci of the RITA contest; I'm in the double digits for finalists (almost every book I've written) and I've never won. Maybe I'll be lucky this time!”  Like soap opera actress Susan Lucci’s famous streak of 18 Emmy nominations without a win, James still hasn’t won the coveted award.  Will this be the year for Eloisa James?

 

When Beauty Tamed the Beast is the second book in the Eloisa’s Fairy Tales series.  Miss Linnet Thrynne finds herself rejected by a prince with whom she has had a harmless flirtation, but her troubles really begin when a rumor starts to circulate that she’s pregnant with the prince’s child.  She needs a husband ASAP!  She is taken to meet Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant, a brilliant doctor known for his foul temper (think Dr. Greg House from the Fox TV series House, M.D.) whose father wants him to be married.  Linnet is sure that her charm will bring Piers to his knees within a week or two, but Piers has other plans.  A funny, witty battle ensues where both characters win.

The 2012 RITA award winners will be announced on July 28 at the Romance Writers of America annual conference.  Check out the full list of finalists at http://www.rwa.org/cs/2012_rita_and_gh_finalists#top

Beth

categories:

 
 

Oh What a Tangled Web

Truth and ConsequencesThe Wizard of LiesHe really did deceive the entire world.  In a moment’s time, thousands of organizations and individuals worldwide lost their financial savings when Bernie Madoff’s massive investment fraud was uncovered.  The widespread public outrage was directed not only at him but also his family.  Surely those closest to him knew everything and were reaping all the benefits, right?  Two recent books tell otherwise. 

 

The first, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family, by Laurie Sandell, chronicles the lives of his wife Ruth and sons Mark and Andrew both before and after the 2008 revelation that brought the financial empire crashing down.  Ruth, who was married to Madoff from the age of 18, had all property seized.  Mark committed suicide two years to the day of his father’s arrest.  Andrew struggled to rebuild his own reputation in the business community.  The writing at times entertains frivolous details and inconsequential family spats but provides an honest look into a tightly controlled family whose trusted patriarch was their ultimate undoing. 

 

While Truth and Consequences focuses more on family dynamics and less on the actual logistics of Madoff’s crime, The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana B. Henriques gives a detailed recounting of the Ponzi  scheme itself.  Henriques, a financial writer for the New York Times and one of the few to interview Madoff in prison, follows a substantial “cast of characters” including family members, accountants, federal  investigators and lawyers to examine how a respected businessman could carry out deception on such a grand scale.  If her earlier narrative seems dry and overwhelming in places, the latter half of the book provides plenty of courtroom drama and emotional testimony to keep readers engaged.  As both authors note, family members and outsiders alike had their lives upended by the “Wizard of Lies”, and the rebuilding for many has just begun. 

Melanie

 
 

The Mark Cuban of China

Brave DragonsFormer New York Times Beijing bureau chief and Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Yardley uses basketball as a vehicle to illuminate the global story of the Americanization of China.  In Brave Dragons: A Chinese Basketball Team, an American Coach, and Two Cultures Clashing, Yardley follows the Shanxi Brave Dragons for the 2008 season.  He is initially drawn to the team because of the fish-out-of-water hiring of Bob Weiss, a former NBA coach and player.  But the players, officials, and owner also draw him in and all have strong roles in this excellent narrative. 

 

The Shanxi Brave Dragons were and remain one of China’s worst professional teams and owner Wang Xingjiang (“Boss Wang”), a peasant turned steel tycoon, was desperate for improvement.  He promised Weiss autonomy with the players to infuse the NBA way into this team.  Once Weiss landed in China, Wang went back on that promise and refused the players any freedom or individual expression, necessary to truly change their games.  Wang, referred to as the Mark Cuban of China, interfered in nearly every aspect of the game, including sitting on the team bench with his mistress, criticizing performances, and in one case physically assaulting one of his players.

 

This is a fascinating history of basketball in China told with humor and a strong sense of the culture clash between these two countries and people.  Readers meet the players, some from around the world, but most from China. These athletes were recruited in elementary school because x-rays of their skeletal structure led to projections of tallness.   Training and practice took place in a depressing warehouse in Taiyuan, once ranked as the most polluted city in the world.  Coach Weiss had to use an interpreter to communicate with the players and with his assistant Chinese coach, Liu Tie, with whom he faced a constant power struggle.  In addition, there was rampant corruption among game officials and a multitude of cultural obstacles.  All of these elements combined with excellent research and a clear writing style add up to an engaging narrative that will appeal to sports fans and readers who enjoy well-written contemporary nonfiction. 

Maureen

 
 

Kitchen Focus

Kitchen Focus

posted by:
May 3, 2012 - 1:11am

My Family TableIn My Family Table, A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking, famed New Orleans chef and restaurateur John Besh shares his philosophy for putting together simple, delicious meals on a regular basis at home. Besh emphasizes the importance of what he calls Kitchen Focus: creating simple, refined dishes using just a handful of the best quality ingredients.  He recommends stocking your pantry in a strategic way in order to be able to bring meals together without a need for last-minute runs to the grocery store. Many of Besh’s suggested pantry items reflect the multicultural way modern cooks approach the kitchen, listing ingredients such as rice noodles, risotto rice, Israeli couscous, stone-ground grits and sambal chili paste. Fresh produce and meats complete the flavorful recipes.

 

Casual home cooks will appreciate Besh’s clear explanations and easy to follow directions for what he terms “master recipes,” easily customizable recipes for things like risottos, frittatas, and fruit crumbles. Narrative passages instruct on practical topics such as one-pot meals, braising meats, cooking fish, and planning ahead in order to pull together quick weekday meals for families. True to his promise, recipes throughout this approachable cookbook are uncomplicated yet interesting and delicious.

 

Designed in an oversized format, My Family Table is rife with inviting photos of ingredients, finished dishes, and Besh and his family, clearly enjoying these home-cooked recipes in their daily lives. This volume has all of the hallmarks of a cookbook you will return to again and again. My Family Table has been nominated for a 2012 James Beard Foundation cookbook award in the general cooking category.

Paula G.