Sunday, February 26, 2012
Boys of a certain age in the land of Skandia go through Brotherband training. They split into teams and compete against each other in many different skill areas. The team we are most interested in is made of up of the outcasts - the boys who were not picked by the other teams. Each has one or more quirks or unusual life circumstances. They are not perfect, but they make mistakes and learn from them as they compete against the other teams. A nice camaraderie is built between the boys as they develop their teamwork skills.
So far, the new series is not quite as good as Ranger's Apprentice in my opinion. The character of Halt was an anchor for that series, and there is no character who plays the same role here. There is a lot of introductory narrative in this book, so it's possible I will enjoy future books more.
The villains in this book are a group of pirates. The good guys, on the other hand, are raiders. I don't see a lot of distinction between those two professions, which caused me a little trouble while reading this book.
Like the Ranger's Apprentice series, this is a good book for reluctant male readers and for anyone who feels like the kid who always gets picked last. I will give at least the next book in the series a chance to hook me more thoroughly than this one did.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
In the summer of 2009, the husband she still loved but was divorcing died suddenly at the age of 43. Making Piece is the grief-filled memoir Howard wrote as she struggled to deal with guilt and grief after his death.
Howard used pie as a way out of her grief. She made pie, she gave away pie, she judged pie contests, she sold pie. She's a good writer. She made me laugh out loud and she made my eyes well up with tears. The book is funny, thoughtful, and poignant.
I did get a bit tired of the pie analogies, and the many scenes of uncontrollable grief did not resonate with me. I'm not criticizing the author for being so honest, I just could not relate. I enjoyed the book, but I cannot rave about it. For those who are also dealing with grief, the book may be more compelling.
Making Piece reminded me of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (although I liked Making Piece a lot more). If you enjoyed that book, this may be a title you will enjoy. The book is scheduled to be released on March 20.
Friday, February 17, 2012
I first read the classic science fiction work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams years ago. We just started a science fiction/fantasy book club at the library, and our first discussion will be about Hitchhiker’s.
It’s hard to put into words why this is a classic. It’s got a certain something I can’t capture in words when I try to describe to someone who has not read it why it’s a great book. It has a ridiculous plot, so it’s not that. It has some ridiculous characters too, although exasperated Arthur Dent, reeling from the fact that his home planet of Earth has just been destroyed, is someone just about every person can relate to in some way.
The many absurd aspects of the book are part of the appeal. The suggestion that a towel is “about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” The idea of a spaceship powered by an Infinite Improbability Drive, which causes any number of highly improbable things to happen. The intelligent, contemptuous, depressed robot Marvin. The fact that mice are the most intelligent species on Earth. A race of beings who write poetry so bad it’s torture to listen to it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide is a very funny book. But it is also a book that makes you think about things. Things like Life, the Universe, and Everything. Conceived as a radio comedy in the late 1970s, it foresaw technology in use today. If you are not a fan of science fiction and fantasy, or if you like your fiction tidy and sensical, you may just not get it. But if you are a sci fi fan and you’ve not yet read it, get it on your “to read” list. (And if you have read it but not lately, maybe it’s time to revisit it!)
If you'd like to discuss the book but can't attend discussion tonight at 6 pm at Alternate Realities, please comment here!
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott is great historical fiction involving the sinking of the Titanic and the development of the survivors' relationships. Potential is likely for a second and/or third book to further the main characters' life stories.
Monday, February 13, 2012
The book opens in Chicago, with immediate fast action and good writing. We have a group of four friends who have decided that their college degrees are worthless because they can't find a job, so have taken to kidnapping instead. Wouldn't be my first choice of careers, but they got away with it for a couple of years until they kidnapped the wrong man. That's when things started to unravel.
This book is full of action and adventure and is really fast-paced, right up to the end. It was a real page-turner, which explains why it only took me a couple of days to read it. It must be said here that it could keep you up past your bedtime because it was hard to put down.
If you like a good adventure, intelligent police work and a little bit of mob action, then this book is for you.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I am not a student of the affairs in the Middle East, and I’m sure there are people who will disagree with some of what is written in Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril. However, I found the narrative accessible and the narrator compelling. In the book, the author tries to shed light on the Middle East for American readers. King Abdullah II was educated in the United States and England, and Jordan is a friend to the United States. He says, “I have been highly critical at times of Israel’s behavior and intransigence, but it goes without saying that there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides for the failure of the peace process.” He also writes, “One of the more frustrating misconceptions in the West is that all Arab women are oppressed, illiterate, kept at home to look after children, and forced to wear the veil when they venture out of the house. Many women across Jordan and the Arab world…go to university and then achieve great things in their professional careers.” He tackles other misconceptions about the Middle East as well.
One of the things King Abdullah II has accomplished is the creation of a co-educational academy in Jordan offering scholarships to those unable to afford the fees. All students are treated equally; even his own son has do his chores and take his turn waiting on tables for other students. One goal is to help Jordanian students compete in the modern global economy. The proceeds from the sales of this book support the school’s scholarship fund.
King Abdullah II is an unusual world leader. If you would be interested in reading about the Middle East, Arabs, and Muslims from a point of view other than what we usually hear on American television, from someone who lives in the Middle East and deals with the issues every day, I recommend Our Last Best Chance.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
This is a book written by Anders Roslund, who is a former journalist, and Borge Hellstrom, who is a former criminal with some tricky punctuation on top of each "o" in his name. So right there I thought this book ought to be good.
This story begins in Ohio, where a man named John Meyer Frey is on Death Row, accused of murdering his girlfriend. He was 17. We get a sneak peak into prison life, we learn a little bit about the other prisoners, the guards and the Death Penalty. We come to like our guy John, so when he suddenly dies from heart disease right there in his cell, we feel sad. Well, I did anyway.
Fast forward six years, and we run into a man who is a lot like John, but this man lives in Sweden and has a wife and a small child, and so now we are confused. This new John gets himself into a bit of trouble with the police, and his life suddenly takes a horrible turn for the worse. And this, my friends, is where the story truly begins, which is quite fantastic really, and full of twists and turns and a whole lot of people.
This is a good mystery, well-told, well-written and quite exciting. These two authors wrote another mystery/thriller before this called "Three Seconds" which I will try to find. I will tell you that this is a lengthy book, but they use their time wisely, and they really develop the characters.
If you like mysteries that are multi-layered and well thought out, you will love this book. I know I did!
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Thursday, February 2, 2012
In A Bitter Truth, Bess finds herself involved in a family mourning the loss of one son, with a second son lashing out in grief and pain after his own war injury. He and his wife are estranged; his mother and grandmother mourn not only the dead soldier but a child who died tragically many years before. After an argument involving a guest in the house, the guest is found murdered, and everyone in the house at the time including Bess is under suspicion. Another plot thread involves an orphaned French child who may or may not be the daughter of the living son.
There are some plot holes, as well as some twists that are highly implausible. However, I was fully involved in the story and I forgave the issues with the plot. If you like historical mysteries with a heavy emphasis on character interaction (like books by Anne Perry, for example), I recommend A Bitter Truth as well as the entire Bess Crawford series.