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.