Saturday, December 27, 2014

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genres: Fantasy, Drama, Young Adult
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: ARC from Publisher

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Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.
This book has had it's fair share of hype even though there are still a couple of months before it comes out but the question that arises now is whether it lived up to the hype or not. As someone who doesn’t pay as much attention to the hype, I cannot answer that question with certainty but I can say that I wholeheartedly adored it. It’s one of those books I would have finished in a day had I not needed a desperate break from the brutality.

Sabaa Tahir has written a book that is bound to blow your mind or have you getting excited because it is so wonderfully crafted. It may not be the most original book; some aspects of it reminded me of other books I had read, but what is important is that Tahir adopts those aspects and makes them her own. Which is why I ended this book on a very high note.

I don’t know where to start breaking down this book because practically everything about it screams amah-zing.

Source: http://38.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6udvkKmHV1qfyb4ho8_250.gif
But I figure the characters would be the best place to start. Laia and Elias are worthy characters. For starters, I was just happy to come across a character named Elias, but that small fact aside. I absolutely adored the characters and their strengths.

Laia has grown up believing she could never be a strong or brave as her brother or mother who everyone referred to as the lioness.  And really, I am not going to tell you she is a typically strong  female lead. She isn’t. But she is strong, in a whole other way. She doesn’t start off as brave in the classic definition. She is not ready to do what she is going to have to to gain her brother’s freedom yet she does it anyway because she loves her brother and because he is her only family left. She does what she has to and while she is not happy about it, while it scares the heck out of her, while she isn’t even sure about her ability to make it through this alive, she pushes through and that is where her strength lies. That is why I adore her so. She isn’t classically strong, she is strong because she has no other choice which turns her into a character that becomes strong in a way that you cannot help but admire and relate to.

Elias is just as fantastic in his own way. He never wanted any of this. He hates the empire and he doesn’t want to be a martial. He isn’t out to save the world. He just wants out. He wants to be free. He doesn’t want to constantly hide who he is and he doesn’t want to have to kill people. At the last moment, when he is about to desert, something happens (I will not reveal this something so as to avoid spoilers). What makes me admire Elias is that even though he has a somewhat low opinion of himself (as a result of his fear of turning into a stone cold murderer like his mother), he somehow manages to retain his beliefs and almost always do what he believes is the right thing. That is his way of saving himself. His ability to do the right thing makes me adore him, especially considering that even his best friend doesn’t share all his ideals and thinks that he is out of line for believing certain things.

Is there a romance between the two characters? I am sure plenty of you are curious and I have to answer that question with a sad no. I personally think the two would make a great couple but that just isn’t happening now. We can only hope it happens down the road. I would like to mention that there is a bit of a love square situation but, it’s a lot more complicated than just that. If you’ve read the Seven Realms series, think the first two books (those are the only ones I’ve read so I don’t know what happens in the other two and cannot take those into consideration).

The world building on the other hand is a lot more straight forward. The blurb said something about a Roman-like world and I actually kept on seeing it as more of a middle-eastern-like world. There are so many mythological aspects weaved into this book too, like Jinns!!!!! That definitely got me excited and I cannot wait to learn even more about this world in the future instalments of the series.

In terms of plot, this book is brutal and I don’t say that easily. Tahir doesn’t hold back on us. Laia for example, goes through a lot not just emotionally, but physically as a result of her ‘owner’. The author doesn’t dance around this but instead shows us and inadvertently makes us feel the misery of the slaves. It’s one of the reasons why I had to put down the book instead of finishing it that very day. Elias faces his own internal conflict with his beliefs and the beliefs of everyone he is surrounded by and he needs to find a way to be himself.

This book is also paced beautifully and is neither too fast or too slow. The tension is just right in this instalment although I imagine things are definitely going to get more intense in the future instalments. 

This book is definitely a must read and I'd recommend it to not just all lovers for fantasy but anyone looking for a book that is bound to blow your mind and leave you with a massive book hangover!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel

You’ve heard of the Marshmallow Test. A child is presented with a desirable treat and given a choice – eat one now, or wait a bit and get two later. Versions of this test have been in use for over 50 years. In his book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control, Walter Mischel talks about the test and also about its implications for behavior later in life.

The ability to delay gratification, it turns out, is critical for a successful life, and reading this book made me think about my own behavior, goals, and self-control. It’s not a fast read but contains thought-provoking statements like this:

To resist a temptation we have to cool it, distance it from the self, and make it abstract. To take the future into account, we have to heat it, make it imminent and vivid. To plan for the future, it helps to pre-live it at least briefly, to imagine the alternative possible scenarios as if they were unfolding in the present. This allows us to anticipate the consequences of our choices, letting ourselves both feel hot and think cool. And then hope for the best. (p. 108 in the ebook)

And this:

The traditional belief that willpower is an inborn trait that you either have a lot of or you don’t (but cannot do much about it either way) is false. Instead, self-control skills, both cognitive and emotional, can be learned, enhanced, and harnessed so that they become automatically activated when you need them. (p. 171 in the ebook)

I am not a scientist, and some of the text was a little too scientific for me. But there are plenty of fascinating stories about the techniques kids use to resist the treats to balance things out a bit. The text seems very well researched. I wasn’t riveted, but I found The Marshmallow Test well worth reading. I recommend it for fans of Freakonomics, Mindless Eating, Stuff, and Quiet.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

Series: Pirate Stream #1
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Checked out from Library

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Wherever you need to go--the Map to Everywhere can take you there.

To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it's her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway that connects every world in creation. With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere--but they aren't the only ones looking. A sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can't beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear!

In Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis's first installment of a fantastical new series, adventure, magic, and hilarity collide in the treacherous skies and dangerous waters of the Pirate Stream. Heart-pounding escapades and a colorful cast of characters will have readers setting sail through this wholly original and unforgettable tale.
This seemingly simplistic book turned into a favorite of the year and I am not the least bit surprised. I love all kinds of books but I have a soft spot for adventures. All I’ve ever wanted from life is to have an adventure, a fantastical (in both senses of the word) one in particular. So whenever I come across an adventure book, I become extremely excited and get all grabby hands.  So when I came across this one, all I could think about was how much I needed the book. Awesome premise aside, have you seen that cover? Doesn’t it yell adventure?  To me it did. And indeed I had quite the adventure.

What makes this book so special though is the characters. They shine in the book because they are so well developed. They aren't some mere caricatures there to serve the purpose of an adventure, they are what MAKE the adventure. The book wouldn't be the same without them.

Fin is a master thief, but also someone no one remembers. Not just because he is 12 and unnoticeable but just because there is something about him, whether it's magical in nature we don't know. They could have met him yesterday but will forget who he is the next day. As a result, Fin doesn't have any friends or even a family since he is an orphan. As a result, he struggles with certain self-esteem issues. How would you feel if no one remembered you? The thing about Fin is that in spite of the way this makes him feel about himself, he is headstrong. He is stubborn and he makes smart decisions and he remembers his goals. He isn’t easily fooled. It’s why you cannot help but love him.  Also, he is pretty darn clever which just makes me want to tackle hug him. Aren’t clever thieves the best? (in books.. not so much in real life)

When Marill comes along though, for the first time someone remembers him and it’s so much fun to watch Fin deal (yes deal) with having a friend for the first time in his life, having someone to talk to. Well the more appropriate term for their relationship would be beautiful. You cannot help but feel all fluttery inside since he’s been on his own for so long!

But let’s talk about Marill now. Marill is fabulous. Marill is a great friend but more than that, she is just as brave and smart as Fin and even more determined to get back to her mother. What I like best about Marill is that she seems to realize when Fin needs to be reassured. Considering the kind of enemy they have in this book, Fin sometimes forgets that he isn’t just a nobody, there are people who remember him and people who care about him and she makes sure to remind him of this.

As you can already imagine, their friendship is pretty much full of win. Neither of them have really had a friend before so they have to learn to trust one another and depend on one another and it’s so much FUN watching them do so. They get to learn the friend dance and they become the best of friends. I’d totally want to be friends with them too. I know I could count on them to have my back.

All that said, the fun part. Ahh, the adventure. We spend this book looking for the pieces of The Map to Everywhere. The one that will take Marill home to her sick mother, the one that might help Fin find his mother. But they are joined on this journey, or rather they join Arden and Col both of whom are fabulous secondary characters even though they don’t remember who Fin is (in fact, it’s always funny to see their reaction to him each time they ‘meet’ him).

We are sailing on THE pirate stream, the stream that broke off from the river of creation, the one that connects all worlds together. I am sure this already gives you an idea of how fantastical the world building is in this book. The authors don't hold back on us. We are emerged into this world but the authors make sure we never feel lost, there is no sense of info dump and I felt quite in the element. I could imagine everything happening. 

This book is incredibly fast paced but it never feels rushed, it’s more like the fact that the book flies by and suddenly it’s over and you have no idea what to do with your life. Good thing this is part of a series because I am DEFINITELY NOT ready to let go of these fantabulous characters.

This original and gorgeously written book won’t fail to take you on an adventure, so strap in and have the time of your lives!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd

Death Comes to London is the second book in the Kurland St. Mary mystery series by Catherine Lloyd. The series is set during the Regency.  The second book isn’t quite as good as the first, Death Comes to the Village, but it was still an enjoyable book for me.

The growing romance between the independent Lucy Harrington, attempting to find her beautiful sister a husband during London’s season, and Major Robert Kurland, still recovering from a war wound and now being offered a baronetcy by the Prince Regent for his heroism, is slow but steady.  Some of the science seemed a little modern for the time, but on the whole the historical details seemed true. The mystery is a bit over the top, with too many plot details and too many deaths, but the book was still an entertaining and diverting read.

I recommend the series to cozy mystery and fans and lovers of Regency novels. The Galesburg Public Library owns both books in the series.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

Genres: Adventure, Dark Comedy, Adult
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: ARC from publisher

Add on Goodreads

A boat has gone missing. Goods have been stolen. There is blood in the water. It is the twenty-first century and a crew of pirates is terrorizing the San Francisco Bay.

Phil is a husband, a father, a struggling radio producer, and the owner of a large condo with a view of the water. But he’d like to be a rebel and a fortune hunter.

Gwen is his daughter. She’s fourteen. She’s a student, a swimmer, and a best friend. But she’d like to be an adventurer and an outlaw.

Phil teams up with his young, attractive assistant. They head for the open road, attending a conference to seal a deal.

Gwen teams up with a new, fierce friend and some restless souls. They head for the open sea, stealing a boat to hunt for treasure.

We Are Pirates is a novel about our desperate searches for happiness and freedom, about our wild journeys beyond the boundaries of our ordinary lives.

Also, it’s about a teenage girl who pulls together a ragtag crew to commit mayhem in the San Francisco Bay, while her hapless father tries to get her home.
 
This was, my first book by Daniel Handler. I’ve read all the books he has written as Lemony Snicket but none that he has written as Daniel Handler. I must say, I am shocked. I guess this is how JK Rowling fans felt when they read The Casual Vacancy expecting it to remind them of their(our) beloved Harry Potter series but instead got something else. I can see his signature humor in this book but it’s darker in ways the humor in The Series of Unfortunate Event books weren’t. At first I was so thrown off that I had to take a break. Then I picked it up again ready to give it another shot and I was soon sucked it. I read the first half a lot quickly than I had expected but when I came to the second half, I was shocked again because it is then the darkness in these characters emerged. I guess I was so thrown off because you don’t imagine these kids could do something so bad but then they do and you’re shocked and a little outraged that the author would make them do something like that but in the end, I understood.

In the light of recent events involving the author, I was more than a little hesitant going into the book, not even accounting for the fact that I was completely unprepared for the journey Handler would take me on. I have to say, I still haven’t quite made up my mind about the book. Is it absolutely brilliant or is it just a horrid book?

I think it may be a mix of both. I believe the brilliance lies in the way the author exaggerates the experiences of these characters yet he mixes it with a heavy dose of reality. This book can be divided into the real and relateable and the exaggerated and perhaps a tad gruesome. Which is why I think this book isn’t for every reader. Some people will love the book and others will hate it.

It’s hard for there to be any middle ground in terms of how one will feel about the book not just because of the comedic gruesomeness  but also because of the way the author writes the book. His writing style is such that it is bound to confuse the reader, but purposefully. To the point where you might even question what is real, like I did.  The author flips between POVs and sometimes, there isn’t a transition. Sometimes you just need to figure out whose voice it is you’re reading. It’s definitely a pain but it also adds a certain character to the story.

One of the POVs this book it told in is Phil’s. Some might think Phil to be pathetic and that he is. But to me, he is realistically flawed. He made certain choices (or did he?? Handler never really makes it clear) and maybe they weren’t right but he has reached a certain part in his life where things become dull. He is missing a certain spark from his life and he doesn’t know why. It may be why he does what he does (if he does it). I personally didn’t like him until we got to see him after his daughter disappears. In the beginning I wasn’t really ready to like him but when you see the shock he is in when his daughter disappears. He seems real. He seems like someone who isn’t sure what they want but at the same time he cares about the people in his life, he cares about his daughter. He may not be fast on his feet, he may not have even helped the investigation, he may have just stayed in shock the entire time but the affect the event has on him makes him someone you cannot help but empathize with.

Gwen, his daughter, is the second POV the story is written from. She on the other hand is harder to like but in her own way is relateable. She is so brash but at the same time, underneath all that  teenage angst, she is someone who believes she is unwanted. She feels like she doesn't matter and what she wants is purpose. She wants something bigger, she wants to feel uncharge. She wants to not care about the things people may say about her and she doesn’t want to care that she may or may not be an unwanted child. Her actions however, make her seem a little psychotic! I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens when she and her rag tag group decide to be pirates and sail off, but believe me when I say it’s a little scary! I had to put the book down for a while before I felt ready to pick up where I had left off.

The rag tag group is made of a bunch of interesting characters (who I will let you meet on your own). Their journey is comedic but at the same time it’s terrifying! In some round about way, I can see people’s desperation to get away leading them to do things they might not do otherwise without even considering the consequences.

This book though, isn’t really about their adventure as pirates, no matter how much we wish it could be. Instead, this is more of a character driven book, focusing on the characters and their development and seeing how circumstances make them the people they are.

So no, this book isn’t so much fun as it is, but I’d still recommend it for those of you who think they are up for a story about people and how deep down, we are all pirates.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Under a Silent Moon is the first in a new series. I love a good British police procedural, and this is a good one. The main character is Louisa Smith, a new Detective Chief Inspector. She had a brief relationship with one of her now subordinates, before she knew he was married. She’s attracted to the geeky Canadian analyst but leery after the disastrous affair.
The author is a police intelligence analyst, and it shows. The investigation and language feels authentic. Lou is an interesting character, and a number of supporting characters were well drawn with room to grow.
The mystery was okay, I find the whole BDSM angle a little overdone these days but it was fine. I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to a sequel. If you like books by Jane Casey, Jill McGown, Susan Hill, and other police procedurals, you will probably enjoy Under a Silent Moon. It can be found in the adult Fiction area under the author's last name.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

I read What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton for a couple of reasons. First, I love Jo Walton. Her book Among Others inspired me to start a science fiction/fantasy book discussion group at my library. That brings me to my second reason – I was hoping to get some good titles from this book for my group to read.

Jo Walton has read a lot more science fiction books than I have. Wow, has she ever. Reading What Makes This Book So Great was so similar to Among Others in some ways that I started to wonder if Among Others is not a novel but a memoir, and there really ARE fairies in Wales. In both books Walton throws out a lot of titles and authors for the science fiction reader’s consideration.

I enjoyed the book overall because it was like chatting with someone I don’t know well but like. The book is made up of a series of blog essays that were no doubt meant to prompt online discussion. The online discussions are not included. Some of the essays were fairly meaningless to me because I have not read the books or authors being discussed. However, I was definitely able to glean enough information about many works to decide whether or not to add them to my potential book club titles list. (Whether I can get my hands on enough copies of out of print books is another question.) By the time I finished What Makes This Book So Great, it was filled with little pieces of paper on pages I wanted to go back to.

Some of my favorite musings from this book:

“There are two kinds of people in the world, those who re-read and those who don’t. No, don’t be silly, there are far more than two kinds of people in the world. There are even people who don’t read at all. (What do they think about on buses?” (p. 17)

“Fantasy, post-Tolkien, has been largely involved with retelling Tolkien, or revolting against Tolkien.” (p. 342 – too true, but I like the way she said it)

“The Suck Fairy is an artefact of re-reading. If you read a book for the first time and it sucks, that’s nothing to do with her. It just sucks. Some books do. The Suck Fairy comes in when you come back to a book that you liked when you read it before, and on re-reading – well, it sucks. … Suck Fairies travel in battalions. Her biggest siblings are the Racism Fairy, the Sexism Fairy, and the Homophobia Fairy. … Then there’s the Message Fairy. The lovely story you remember as being a bit like The Phantom Tollbooth has been replaced by a heavy-handed Christian allegory!” (pp. 420-422)

If you are a hard core science fiction reader, or want to be, I definitely recommend What Makes This Book So Great. Even if I can’t choose some of these titles for book club, I will add them to my own to-read list!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Unlike some of my friends and coworkers, I was not a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan growing up. I read the Little House books, but I don’t remember them having a big impact on my childhood reading. Laura Ingalls Wilder is woven into the literary mystery that is the plot of Bich Minh Nguyen’s novel Pioneer Girl.

Narrator Lee Lien is the daughter of two Vietnamese immigrants. Her father is dead; her mother and grandfather run a restaurant in the Chicago suburbs. Lee has disappointed her mother by getting a PhD in literature instead of something more practical. She continues to disappoint her mother by searching for work in her field, instead of resigning herself to the family business.

Lee is jealous of her older brother, who she sees as her mother’s favorite, and complains about her mother constantly. The family has an heirloom and a story. In 1965 a woman named Rose visited her grandfather’s cafĂ© in Saigon and left behind a small gold pin. The pin sounds like a gift given to Laura Ingalls Wilder by her fiancĂ© and described in one Wilder’s books. Lee becomes obsessed with trying to discover whether the Rose from the family story was Wilder’s daughter Rose.

There are some great passages in Pioneer Girl. There is a spot-on description of American “Chinese” buffets at the start of Chapter Three and this musing on small towns in the Midwest:

Mansfield, Missouri reminded me of how the past will not be banished. So many small, dying, basically dead towns in the Midwest looked like this. Where once-graceful, ornate courthouses and libraries – back when libraries meant something important, something civic – had been, if not torn down or boarded up, converted dozens of times over into shops and offices and apartments and barely surviving historical societies. There might even be the remains of an ambitious opera house. The nicest building in town was likely to be a funeral home.

Main Street had been built broad, to accommodate horses, buggies, and hitching posts. And surely local efforts tried to preserve the “historic downtown” area. Surely there were sad little parades on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. In Mansfield a few local “shoppes” offered “olde-fashioned ice cream” and “sewing notions,” but it looked like most of the money was flowing in and out of the paycheck advance and pawn shops. (p. 140)
Still, I had some issues with the novel. The narrator is not very likeable. In addition to being a whiner, she is a thief. While doing research, she steals a photograph, a letter and a book. She talks about racism, ignorance about Asian culture, and stereotyping, but she herself stereotypes, and not in a self-aware manner.

A small band of researchers squinted over Hoover’s notes and newspapers, setting up cameras on tabletop tripods to record their findings. They were a standard lot – frumpy and frowning, pallid and disheveled. (p. 76)

At times I felt that the author was judging the Midwest and finding it wanting (and once the narrator refers to the University of Illinois as “UI,” something no true U of I graduate would ever do). There is a random, out-the-blue sex scene between Lee and someone she just met that seemed pointless.

However, especially in light of recent high profile cases in the U.S. of unarmed black men being killed by white police officers, the themes of this book are quite timely, and I loved the book’s cover. If you are a fan of literary mysteries or novels dealing with stereotyping and race in America, you may find Pioneer Girl an interesting read.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Fart Squad by Seamus Pilger, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

Genres: Humor, Super Powers, Middle Grade
Release Date: April 21st, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Add on Goodreads

It was an average day at Harry Buttz Elementary until . . . KABLAM! The five-bean burritos churning in Darren Stonkadopolis's stomach exploded in a fart so volcanic it melted his desk seat, knocked out his whole class, and got him sent to the nurse--and he's not alone.
Something fishy is going on in Buttzville. And it's up to Darren and his three farting friends to combine their potty powers to get to the bottom of this evil plot--before it's too late. With their scent-sei, Janitor Stan, at their side, the Fart Squad has to learn to harness the powers between their butt cheeks. And then let it RIIIP.
Admittedly, I only gave this book a go because the title amused me but don’t be fooled by the title, this book is amazingly deep.

Oh who am I kidding, this book was laugh out loud hiliarious and I had a hard time getting myself to stop laughing. You kind of just fly right through it (if you’ve read the book you might understand why this sentence makes me laugh so much).

When a bunch of kids are forced to eat the horrendous burritos from the school cafeteria, their lives are changed forever as a result of… uncontrollable gas! Their farts are now magical. But something dark is brewing and it is up to the fart squad to save the day. 

As you can already imagine, there isn’t going to be much depth to a book like this but I most certainly admire these characters' bravery. They may just be little munchkins but they take it upon themselves to save the day. They train for it and they make themselves eat those horrendous burritos to help strengthen their magical powers. I wouldn’t put up with horrible cafeteria food for a bunch of silly children. Or maybe I would, but that's beside the point.

I thought, given the context, the plot line was actually pretty interesting. I had fun seeing them unravel the malicious plot and I was amused by the tricks they decided to use to help save the day. What really made me laugh was the way the magical farts were weaved into this. Hey, who knew having magical farts could help save the day?

This book, is unsurprisingly childish but I have to say, it definitely made my day. It’s hilarious and seriously, who doesn’t want to read about farts? … well that was a rhetorical question but either way I think that in spite of the book's childish nature, it was a good read so don’t be afraid to read it even if you think you’re too old for such childish endeavours. It’s worth it.

The Soul of Discretion by Susan Hill

I love a good British police procedural. That's why I've been reading Susan Hill's Simon Serrailler mysteries when they've arrived at the library as advance reader copies. I've only read three - 6, 7, and 8 in the series. After reading 7, I thought I'd stop because I had a hard time finishing 7. I felt I was missing a lot of background information since I hadn't been with the series since the start. Still, I think Susan Hill is a great writer, so I picked up 8, The Soul of Discretion, all the same.

Maybe I've now read enough of the series to be able to keep the continuing characters straight. Or maybe in this book, the focus is much more on Serrailler and so whatever I didn't know about the other characters didn't bother me as much. In any event, I thought this was a terrific read.

Serrailler goes undercover to try to crack a pedophile ring. A really bad pedophile ring. Things take an unexpected turn and he ends up on the run with the man he's trying to get secrets out of. Hill excels at building tension, and she did it very well here. I'm not even that fond of Simon Serrailler and I was so worried about him I had a hard time getting through some of the narration. In fact, I legitimately (click for spoiler)

wondered if Hill was going to kill Serrailler and end the series.

Although the narrative isn't graphic, the subject matter and level of violence involved is. Some of the plot points were far-fetched, and a secondary plot thread was not of that much interest to me. But this was a very entertaining book for me. I definitely recommend it for fans of the series, and it might even be possible to step into the series at this point for someone new.

I really need to read the first book in the series. The Soul of Discretion will be published in January 2015. The Galesburg Public Library owns a number of books in the Simon Serrailler series. They can be found in adult Fiction, in the audiobook section, and online as ebooks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of Magic is slow starting, but I enjoyed it once it got underway. Sixth-grader Felicity Pickle is cursed with a mother who can't stay in one place. Literally cursed, if the stories of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee are true. Two magical brothers dueled and everyone lost when the woman they both loved cursed them. Their descendants are still affected by the curse.

Felicity's gift is to see words. She seems them over people's heads, in rooms, along roads, in the stars. Her mother decides to return home - not to stay, just to visit. But Felicity feels like she has come home. She meets her first best friend, Jonah, a boy in a wheelchair with a delightful secret.

Midnight Gulch is known for Dr. Zook's Famous Ice Cream Factory. It stays frozen without ice, and the Blackberry Sunrise flavor is the most popular because it brings back memories.

But there is hope, found in the verses of the curse: "Cursed to wander through the night,/Till cords align, and all's made right./Where sweet amends are made and spoken,/Shadows dance, the curse is broken." Felicity, Jonah and a host of other 'do-gooders" set out solve the curse and make things right. Felicity is sure she can break the curse and keep her mother from wandering.

This is not a very magical book. Midnight Gulch has remaining only a snicker of magic. At times, I wondered if there really is any magic at all, and that's part of the book's charm. There are interesting characters of many different ages. This is a great book for new vocabulary, and for helping the reader see that everyone has secrets and fears. I definitely recommend it for the right reader.

A Snicker of Magic can be found in the Children's Room under the author's name, LLOYD, Natalie.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Blackhouse by Peter May

Posted for reader Kaye. Kaye died on October 26, but we wanted to publish her final book review.


This story takes place on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. A young detective, Fin, who grew up on the Isle, is sent back to investigate a murder that is similar to one he is investigating in his home in Edinburgh. His superiors fear it may be the work of a serial killer.

Life on the Isle was hard, the people had their customs, and it was very interesting to read about. The story told of a yearly trip the men from the Isle made to a smaller island to hunt and kill the “Guga,”  a native bird they spend two weeks out of the year hunting. What happens on the island, stays on the island, never to be discussed.

When he was 18, Fin fell on his first trip to hunt the Guga and was saved by his friend Artair's father. The older man tied a rope around Fin and pulled him up the cliff before plunging to his death. 

As the story unravels, Fin discovers that as a result of the accident he has a memory blackout of things that happened to him and his friend Artair. Fin has a dark secret that he has blocked out of his mind. Artair has hated Fin since the death of his father, and it has become deeply complicated.

The story kept me reading just to solve the mystery of the murders. It had a surprise ending. The Blackhouse is the first book in a series and can be found at the Galesburg Public Library in the adult fiction area under the author's last name, May.

Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Regency Charade by Margaret Mayhew

Regency Charade is a short (182 page) "Romance of the Regent's England" published in 1986. Definitely not as good as the best of Georgette Heyer, but entertaining enough. Miss Katherine Spencer lives in Kielder, the crumbling family castle, with her younger brother - only 9 years old but the next baronet. The previous baronet, their other brother, a gambler and a wastrel, died recently in a careless accident while racing.

Katherine discovers to her horror that he gambled away Kielder before he died. "Mr. Drew" arrives determined to take possession, despite the many tricks Katherine tries to drive him away (stopping up the chimney, breaking windows, etc.). Mr. Drew has a secret or two, which Katherine eventually discovers, and it all comes out right in the end.

The best scene was the one in which a bedraggled Katherine presented herself to the house she had reason to believe was Mr. Drew's and ended up having an interesting conversation with an earl.

If you are a fan of Jane Austen and Regency romances and are looking for new authors, you might check out Margaret Mayhew. The Galesburg Public Library has two Regency romances by her; the other is called Quadrille. They can be found in the adult fiction section under the author's last name, Mayhew.

The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Posted for reader Kaye - 

The main character in The Bishop's Wife is the wife of a Bishop in the Church of Latter Day Saints and a mother of five. As the Bishop’s wife, she is very involved in the charities and the social aspects of the church and the people in the ward. After the disappearance of a young wife and mother, she becomes close to the young woman’s child. She discovers the young woman’s cell phone, clothes and purse in the basement and believes something has happened to her. The young woman is found murdered, and she helps to solve the murder. In doing so, she uncovers incest in the church and helps to bring the guilty parties to justice.

During an elderly man’s lingering illness, she befriends his second wife. She uncovers a 30 year old mystery concerning his first wife’s death and her lack of a grave. She eventually helps to solve her death and disappearance also.

I could hardly put this book down, as I had to see what Linda, the Bishop’s wife, would do next! I loved the book and read it in a day. The Bishop's Wife will be published on December 30, 2014.

 - Georgette Kaye Carroll

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Posted for reader Kaye - 

This is the story of a mother of four who is widowed at a young age. It is set in Wexford, Ireland, a small community where everyone knows your business. Everyone has grown up together and knows everything that has ever happened in your life.

Nora finds work again at a company she had worked at 20 years before she married and had children. Nora has a hard time shaking off grief at the loss of her husband and doesn’t see how her young sons are struggling also at the loss of their father and now the loss of their stay-at-home mother. The boys are left a lot to themselves and struggle with school, their relationship with each other, and their mother.


Through her love of music, Nora starts to sing again, takes voice lessons, and is asked to sing at a big concert. After three years, she finally allows her aunt to clear out her husband’s belongings. She is finally able to move forward and finds herself and her children again.

This book is far different than any book I have read before, but I really enjoyed it. I had to keep reading to see if Nora would shake off her grief and work through her problems. A great book!

- Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath

Genres: Historical, War, Young Adult
Release Date: November 11th, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: ARC from Publisher

Add on Goodreads

It is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is crumbling into violence.
Beyond Anatolia, in the Armenian Highlands, Shahen Donabedian dreams of going to New York. Sosi, his twin sister, never wants to leave her home, especially now that she is in love. At first, only Papa, who counts Turks and Kurds among his closest friends, stands in Shahen's way. But when the Ottoman pashas set their plans to eliminate all Armenians in motion, neither twin has a choice.
After a horrifying attack leaves them orphaned, Shahen and Sosi flee into the mountains, carrying their little sister, Mariam. Shahen keeps their parents' fate a secret from his sisters. But the children are not alone. An eagle named Ardziv watches over them as they run at night and hide each day, making their way across mountain ridges and rivers red with blood.
Note: This book is written in verse.

This beautiful book
isn’t as fun to read.
It treats your heart like a stone
and tosses it into a lake
where it skips and skips and skips.

It’s not easy to read
you might have figured that one out
but it’s worth every moment of pain it will put you through

You see
it’s not a regular YA novel.
it is one that tells a story of immense loss
yet it also tells a story of familial love.

The author doesn’t cut back on the
gory details
believe me
I’d know.

But at the same time, she is honest
which is why this book is so heartbreaking

With its fierce characters
who continue to march on
You cannot help but fall in love
with not just with their innocent determination

You cheer for them
because they need to be cheered
Most of all though,
you hope,
you hope everything will be all right.

If you are a lover of truth and
a lover of heartbreakingly real stories
I’d say give this one a shot
and let your heart skip skip skip
over a lake of your own tears

Monday, November 10, 2014

One of Us by Tawni O'Dell

Posted for reader Kaye - 

This story is set in a Pennsylvania mining town in modern time. Very quickly I felt a part of this town and its people, a town steeped in history. I could picture the lives of the Irish miners and the poverty they lived in.

In the past, the owner of the mine and his family became wealthier, while the miners and their families struggled to keep food on the table. They were lucky to have a few pennies left from their pay after paying their bill at the company store - the company store where they had to purchase everything if they wanted to continue working in the mine, or anywhere, or be blackballed by the owner from working anywhere else. The prices were high and the goods inferior.

In the history of the town and of the mine, ten men were hung from the gallows for the murder of two policemen. These men were trying to start a union to get better working conditions and pay for the miners and their families. Eight men were innocent, but ten were hung as a warning to the rest of the miners: a warning that the wealthy owner was in control and could do as he wanted. The mine is still producing now, using a process called fracking, and employing about 40 men. So the mine still controls some of the descendants of the original miners.

A story unfolds after a man returns to his hometown to visit his sick grandfather and his mentally impaired mother. A death in the town unveils a secret from the past. Then three more deaths from the past come to light after several more murders. I read this book in a day, as I had to see how it would end. This is the first book I have read by this author, but plan to read more from her!

-Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll 

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult


Posted for reader Kaye - 

Jodi Picoult is probably my #1 favorite author. I have read almost all of her books and this new book did not disappoint me! It is the story of a brave 13 year old girl, Jenna, who is trying to find her mother. Her mother disappeared after a tragic accident when the child was only three years old. Jenna is raised by her maternal grandmother, who never speaks of Jenna’s mother. Her father is in a home for mentally disturbed persons.

Jenna’s mother was a research scientist, working on a doctorate on elephants and how they relate to the deaths of their family members and non-related elephants. The research that was done on elephants for this book is fascinating. I learned a lot about elephants from this book. It is true “an elephant doesn’t forget”!

Jenna meets a disgraced psychic, Serenity, and hires a retired alcoholic police detective who is working as a private investigator to help her find her mother. Their search takes them to several locations and into different situations. All this is unknown to her grandmother.

I couldn’t put this book down, as I wanted to see if Jenna found her mother. I took the book everywhere with me. I read at doctor appointments, at railroad crossings and at traffic lights! I was totally surprised by the ending of the book, never suspecting it would end this way. You definitely don’t want to miss this book. Jodi Picoult has done it again!!

-Submitted by Georgette Kaye Carroll 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

Have you heard of the urban legend of the Vanishing Hitchhiker? Normally a young woman, often in an evening gown, she hitches a ride with a passing motorist. Sometimes she borrows a coat or a scarf. Then she disappears. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire is narrated by this legend. Driven off the road in 1952 while wearing her prom dress, Rose Marshall has been haunting the roads ever since.

“'Go toward the light,' they tell the dead, but in my experience, the light has always been an oncoming car,” says Rose (p. 108).

This book was not what I expected. Although it’s a ghost story, it can’t be classified as horror or even as scary. The narrative jumps around in time, from 1952 to the present, as Rose relates her encounters with various living and dead people (and some who are somewhere in between). We learn about her life, and her death, and what’s it like to be a ghost who is called home whenever a person who you cared about in life is ready to die.

We meet ghost hunters and an undead stretch of road, and we visit many diners, where Rose can enjoy a hamburger and a malt if given freely to her by someone living.

This is a story of the road, not just Sparrow Hill Road, where Rose died, but the entire network of roads across the U.S., and the ghost roads that lay underneath them. This book is a love letter to the roads, and to the drivers that navigate them, and to the diners that once gave them food and rest.

“Every inch of ground on this planet is a palimpsest, scraped clean and overwritten a million times, leaving behind just as many ghosts. That daylight America exists, alongside a thousand other Americas just like it, but the twilight Americas outnumber them a thousand-fold, and beneath them, the midnight Americas lurk, hungry and waiting.” (p. 41)

This is not a book of great action. Rose’s character is well drawn, and the author spends a lot of time on world building. Hitchers and routewitches, gather-grims and bean sidhe. Some of these are real legends and some were created by the author, but I didn’t really care which as I read this fascinating book. McGuire’s ghostroad underworld felt like a real place, and Rose like a real person (although a dead one).

Sparrow Hill Road gets a little draggy in the middle and turns a bit far-fetched as Rose reunites with her long-lost love in automobile form, but the narrative constantly went in directions I did not expect. I recommend this unusual novel to any reader who likes something a little out of the ordinary and is willing to be pulled along into the fantastical.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz

Series: Heart of Dread #1
Genres: Dystopia, Adventure, Young Adult
Release Date: October 2nd, 2014 (UK Edition)
Publisher: Orchard Books
Source: eARC from Netgalley

Add on Goodreads

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.
At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.
But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all. 
This book is sad. Not because it's actually a sad book but because it has the potential to be so much more. I felt sorely disappointed by this book because I found it to be lacking. The premises was so intriguing yet we didn't get what we had been promised.

The book is set in a world where the people are stuck in an ice age of sorts and you can kind of imagine the kind of trouble that would cause. The poor tend to suffer from frostblight since they cannot get warm enough and the rich hoard heat credits. Sounds interesting? Yeah. And over time, the population has forgotten how to read and text speech is now what is being used to communicate with the population. Sounds scary? HECK YEAH! Unfortunately all these things that could have been further developed to make the world more solid and definite were only mentioned. Plus, the mythology fan in me was severely disappointed when the aspect of Atlantis was only mentioned. The entire book is based on them finding it yet we got nothing about it besides how awesome it was. More than a little saddening.

That isn't all though. The characters themselves weren't as well developed as they could have been. I don't know a lot about them and what I know kind of makes me shake my head. The two main characters, Wes and Nat, were just not that smart. When you get ready to plan some sort of adventure across a polluted ocean and you have the money to buy provisions, BUY THEM. Buy them so you don't resort to eating twigs and fishing a polluted ocean for fish that may or may not be poisonous. Think things through.

They are also supposed to be super smart. The weird thing about Wes is that in spite of all his experiences he doesn't seem to be the hardened solider one might expect. In fact he is pretty soft, he admits it himself! He is also a horrible leader, that he also admits. He's got the lives of his own crew to protect yet he is willing to take on extra passengers even if they have nothing to eat and taking on said passengers could lower all of their survival rates. Way to call the shots and make tough decisions.

These little things bothered me but what also bothered me was the fact that two fell into a serious case of insta-love. It seemed like insta-love was the norm in this book. I don't understand how they could have fallen in love so quickly, with so little to go on and so many secrets between them. I am sure love happens but at the same time, there wasn't enough development afterwards to make the insta-love believable.

The plot was okay. Okay is a sad word to use but really that's what it was. A bunch of random things happened and were not really elaborated on and the we never really got a lot of the answers. Of course, the author may be saving the answers for the sequels. I just feel like I wanted more out of this book than I got.

A lot of the plot seems to fly by and in a bad way. They don't face as many challenges as one might expect and on top of that, the major obstacle goes by in a matter of pages, not even a chapter, pages! It happens and then THE END.

I never really noticed them using the map all that much either which made me wonder how they got to their location in the first place. In fact, I would have imagined that having the map would have been useful but with the way things turned out for them, they didn't seem to have needed it.

All these little inconsistencies with the plot bothered me but I never really hated the book.

It's not a bad read, it's just it's not quality reading material either. The pages might fly by for you and you might love this book to pieces but that was just not the case for me.

If you're looking for a quick mindless read and are intrigued by this one, I'd say go for it, just don't expect miracles.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Posted for reviewer-in-training Stephanie E., grade 5:

What is The Hunger Games, you may ask?

Well, it's about a game. The main character is a hunter named Katniss Everdeen. She has a younger sister named Primrose. Prim is chosen to be a tribute in the Hunger Games, but Katniss steps up to take her place. Peeta (the boy tribute) helps halfway. Teenagers show affection for each other, yet they fight to the death.

I recommend The Hunger Games to be the next book you read.

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.