Monday, October 27, 2014

Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos

Submitted for reader Kaye - 

Before He Finds Her is the story of an 18 year old woman who was raised in a small West Virginia town. She has been told for 15 years that she must not reveal her real name, as she believes she has grown up as part of the Witness Protection Plan. She decides to return to Silver Bay on the Jersey Shore where her mother was murdered 15 years ago. She believes her father murdered her mother and wants to find out why and where he is. Everyone believes he also murdered the daughter and dumped her body in the ocean. She discovers many secrets and stories concerning her mother’s death and her father’s disappearance.

I was completely surprised by the many turns the story took and definitely by the end of the mystery concerning her mother’s death. I enjoyed this book and had to keep reading to see how it would end.

This book is scheduled to be published in February 2015.

-Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll/October 15, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

Series: The Accidental Highwayman #1 (there isn't actually a title at the moment for the series)
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads
In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales.
Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows….
Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman and will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.
You, like me, might scoff and roll your eyes at how this book is being compared to The Princess Bride. It’s understandable to be wary considering what a masterpiece The Princess Bride was, but that said, don’t be. This book isn’t The Princess Bride but it’s definitely written in the fashion of it and that’s why I adored it so much. This book isn’t, at least to me, trying to be The Princess Bride but it instead is trying to invoke the same humor and the same fun adventurous feeling.

Obviously, they aren’t wrong in making that comparison because this book lived up to what you would expect when a book gets compared to a beloved book. It was funny, it had witty comments and it had fantastic characters.

Kit is a great main character and someone you cannot help but root for. He is also a bit of a stereotype but that ties back into the whole fact that this book may or may not be a satirization of a typical fantasy. That said, Kit isn’t really annoying, his fascination with a certain princess can be but that aside, he is a fun hero who is loyal to those he cares about and will fight for what he believes in. What else can you want from a hero? 

Princess Morgana is fun too. She is a typical princess but with all her princessiness, she also manages to grow and become someone who thinks not just of herself and her selfish reasons for doing things but also thinks about the rest of her kingdom and what she could be doing to help them win this war.

What I really loved about this book was the secondary characters. They really did add to the story and made the already fun adventure a lot funnier, I do mean funnier and not funner since the adventure was already fun. You cannot imagine how many times I burst into laughter just by the actions of these bizarre secondary characters. My favorite character was in fact Lily’s uncle. His cluelessness always did me in. He had a way of messing things up but at the same time, if it weren’t for him, they wouldn’t have gotten as far as they had.

The romance was alright. I say alright because even though I know that there is a bit of satire involved in the book, instalove in this case wasn’t done as well as it could have. Remember the romance in The Princess Bride? That was fantastic. The romance here? Not so much. I loved some of the moments involving the two but other mushy ones did not work for me.

The plot on the other hand did. It was so all over the place and so exciting! It was definitely an adventure and there was a circus involved! CIRCUSES ARE AWESOME. There, that’s a selling point. A circus, one the characters formed. Why must I be so vague you ask? ‘tis because I am trying to sell this amazingly fun book and if I were to take away the mystery of what actually happens in the book, it wouldn’t be as intriguing would it?

What really works for the book is its quirkiness. I love the way the narrator inserts random tid bits in the notes as he tries to define the meanings of certain words that are ‘beyond our understanding’ and also manages to contribute to the world building aspect of the novel.  It makes the book original and it also manages to separate it from The Princess Bride  so that while it is written in the fashion of the great novel, it isn’t trying to copy it.

I am incredibly excited to see where Tripp will take us with the sequel and I only hope it’s to better places since there are two more books left in the trilogy.

I’d definitely recommend this book to lovers of The Princess Bride and really anyone who just wants to read a fun fantasy that involves the fae.  If that isn’t reason enough, here is another one, the author is the son of the illustrator for Amelia Bedelia! That worked for me, I hope it'll be enough to convince you to pick up this fabulously fun book.

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Imogen Rockford is a normal American teenager with a secret – she is part of the British Rockford Dynasty. Her grandfather was the Duke of Wickersham, a title just below royalty. Although she never expected to inherit the title and the manor, as her father was the second son, she finds herself with both. Her grandfather is dead, his two sons and their wives are dead, and her cousin Lucia is dead. Imogen is all that remains of her family.

When Imogen leaves New York for England, she does so under a mysterious warning that came in an anonymous letter. She is filled with questions about how her cousin died, whether she is in danger, whether she herself is quite “normal” -- and how that cute boy she had a crush on as a child will react to her return.

The attempt at Gothic suspense is a bit over the top at times. (“Lucia’s hairbrush, perfume, and makeup are arranged in orderly fashion on her vanity, and it’s then that I recognize the jasmine scent that has been wafting in and out of my bedroom over the past weeks. The scent is her perfume.” (p. 157 in the ARC))

Suspicion is competently written and is sure to delight any teen who would enjoy a slightly spooky paranormal mystery with a likable heroine and a touch of romance (despite the completely unbelievable plot twist at the end). The book cover is breathtaking and it alone will convince many a teen to give this book a try.

Although not presented as such, Suspicion is surely meant to be the first book in a series, and I see more adventure (and much more romance) for Imogen in future books.

I read a digital advance reader copy from Netgalley. Suspicion by Alexendra Monir is scheduled to be released on December 9, 2014.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Nice Little Place on the North Side by George F. Will

I love Wrigley Field and was interested to see what George Will had to say about it. I went to a game this year and Wrigley was really spruced up for its 100th anniversary - I doubt it has ever looked better.

There's a lot of baseball lore in this book, much of which I'd heard before but enjoyed reading about again all the same. Will really meanders all over the place; this book is a musing on baseball more than anything else.

"There are no waves in central Illinois. There the land is flat, so some people consider the vistas dull. But, then, there are those who consider baseball dull, and as sportscaster Red Barber once said, baseball is dull only to dull minds." (p. 16)

I learned something about Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker - they detested each other, but were destined to go down in history as having played magically well together because "their proficiency at turning double plays became the subject of a famous and god-awful poem, 'Baseball's Sad Lexicon.'" (p. 38) I've certainly heard "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" often enough.

Will's basic thesis is that Wrigley Field is the cause behind the Cubs, against all odds, not having won the World Series in more than 100 years. He makes a lot of sound arguments. I was there in August 2014, on a Friday afternoon with the Cubs in last place, and there were still over 30,000 fans in attendance. I don't know how the Cubs can turn their losing streak around while still playing in Wrigley - neither does Will - but I hope they keep playing in Wrigley Field as long as I'm attending baseball games.

I doubt this book would have much appeal for someone who is not a fan of Wrigley Field, but I enjoyed it. Not a great book, but short and very readable. It can be found in the new nonfiction section of the Galesburg Public Library at 796.357 WIL.

Note for Galesburg residents: Mr. Carl Sandburg makes an appearance in this book. "Since his death in 1967, at age eighty-nine, his reputation has fallen on hard times, and has fallen from quite a height. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was what now seems like an oxymoron, a celebrity poet." (p. 21) I'm constantly amazed by how often Sandburg crops up in books I read.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Drift by Jon McGoran

I bet Jon McGoran has seen a lot of Hollywood cop movies. A LOT of Hollywood cop movies. And I bet he was imagining his book Drift as a movie as he wrote it.

The hero, Doyle Carrick, is a likable guy. A Philadelphia narcotics detective on suspension for unprofessional behavior. Bit of a hot head, but with a good heart. If he’s not shooting at something or someone, he is being shot at. He loves his gun. He takes it with him everywhere – even into the shower at one point! And he’s even able to take control of a gun in the arms of a dead bad guy and use it to shoot at the other bad guys.

With nothing else to do while on suspension, Doyle heads to his parents’ house in the country when his stepfather dies. His mother is already dead. He meets a pretty girl, a stereotypical blustery incompetent chief of police, and a host of shady characters. The girl, Nola, is trying to establish an organic farm, but someone is determined to see her fail.

This book is light on romance and character development (despite the hero’s brooding over his relationship with his dead stepfather), heavy on rogue cop action. There are a lot of convoluted twists to the plot, leaving gaping holes behind. But it’s a quick read. If you like Russian bad guys, cops with a heavy trigger finger, buddy cop banter, and a pretty girl thrown in for good measure, you may enjoy Drift.

The Galesburg Public Library owns both of Jon McGoran’s ecological thrillers, Drift and its sequel Deadout.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer+Bray
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads
Forced to obey her master.Compelled to help her enemy.Determined to free herself. 
Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?
I think the most important thing for everyone to know is that this isn’t a book for everyone. Some people will hate it and get so disgusted that they’ll have to give up and other people are going to love this. I know I did. Of course, had I not known a certain tid bit before, I probably wouldn’t have.

Before going into this book, you need to know that there is an awkward love triangle and one of the relationships in this love triangle is unhealthy and abusive. It’s not meant to be romantic though and that’s what you need to know. You need to know that this disgusting relationship isn’t being romanticized. In fact it’s the exact opposite. You’re meant to hate it with every fiber of your being.

Let’s start at the beginning thought. Let’s start with Nalia. Nalia is an amazingly strong female lead and you feel for her. Sold off in the slave trade when just 15, with her entire race dead and the only surviving member of her family, her brother, sent to work camp, you feel for her. She does not have it easy. Especially given that she has a crazy captor.

Malek is cruel yet on top of that all, he is also very emotionally manipulative. Nalia, having been mistreated for so long, living only on the hope of seeing her brother and freeing him, is immediately drawn by his ‘gentle’ side and falls for his lies. I say lies because no matter how much he claims to love her, he will never see her as anything but a possession.

It will break your heart to see her go through all these ordeals and when Raif comes into the picture, you cheer, you cheer like crazy and hope for Nalia to snap out of it and realize how unhealthy her relationship with Malek is. It’s beautiful to watch her go through that character development.

Raif is a wonderful character AND a love interest. What I love about him is that in spite of everything, he does put his faith in Nalia, he chooses to trust her. It isn’t that he isn’t vary of her, heck yeah he is but seeing that he needs her help, he, in the end, chooses to trust her instead of making the whole thing some awkward dance.

It’s why their romance is so beautifully developed. It starts with variness of one another and leads to trust. It may be a tad fast paced but it’s still no less wonderful. Romance based on trust rocks doesn’t it?

The world building in this book is amazing. Heather does NOT hold back on us. She uses her gorgeous prose to paint beautiful pictures of Arjinna. That isn’t it though, she makes this world come to life by creating different races of jinnis thereby giving the book her own original twist and she also throws in a fun language.

The plot was amazing. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, on the tip of your toes and you kind of just fly through the book.  I mean it’s a big book but I was surprised by how quickly I got through it. The stakes are quite high in the book which really does amp up the anticipation levels. 

I am definitely looking forward to where things will go with the sequel and I only hope that Raif and Nalia’s relationship improves.

I’d recommend this to anyone who is looking for something a little more original in Paranormal YA and won’t mind feeling some discomfort in the search of a good book. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Carrion Death by Michael Stanley

I checked out the audio version of A Carrion Death for one reason - Simon Prebble. I was about to take a car trip and I love listening to his narration. He really excelled on this book. He was required to do a large number of voices and did them superbly.

This is a long book - 14.5 hours - and I didn't finish it on the trip. By the time I listened to the final chapter I'd forgotten some of the details at the beginning. There was one thread involving an orphaned child that I wanted more of. I didn't understand some of the plot twists.

A Carrion Death is the first book in a mystery series. It is set in Botswana, and I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the landscape and the native plants and animals. It was nice to hear the words and names pronounced correctly. (If you read the print book, there is a cast of characters with phonetic pronunciations at the beginning.) The main character, assistant superintendent David "Kubu" Bengu, was well drawn and very interesting. (His nickname means Hippo, and he is a big guy who loves food, nice things, and life.)

I would think fans of The #1 Ladies Detective Agency would also like to meet Kubu. I am definitely going to read additional books in the series. It's up to four. The Galesburg Public Library owns all four titles in print and the first in audio. The books can be found in the Fiction area under the author's last name, Stanley.