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Teen Reviewer : School Spirits

School Spirits

School Spirits, by Rachel Hawkins
Disney Hyperion, 2013

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins is a well-written book with plenty of monster-hunting action to keep the reader entertained. With likable characters, an interesting plot, lots of mystery, action and a hint of romance, it is hard to put the book down!  The story line was brilliantly thought out, the events are perfect for keeping the reader’s interest, and the shocking twists really make the story unpredictable..

Izzy Brannick, like all of her ancestors, is a monster hunter. Her sister has disappeared, and her mother thinks Izzy is not ready to go on missions on her own. Izzy thinks otherwise, but it is her word against her mother’s. When the two hear about a haunting in Ideal, Mississippi, they move there and get Izzy enrolled in Mary Evans high, the sight of the hauntings. Ghosts are relatively easy to get rid of, so Izzy has this mission all to herself. The only problem is . . . Izzy has never set foot in a school.

When Izzy starts school, she hears about a ghost hunting club, and she’s eager to join to get clues about the haunting. Also in the club are Romy, Anderson, and Dex. Izzy quickly befriends them all, but she suspects Dex is a monster. After hearing about the first attack, Izzy learns that the ghost is leaving warnings for its victims, and it is not long before it leaves another warning, and she must fight a violent and powerful ghost, and must get rid of it quickly, or someone could be killed.

Izzy goes to the graveyard to seal the ghost in its grave, but her attempt fails and the ghost is not trapped. She discovers the ghost has gotten too powerful from the terror it strikes in the students of the school, and comes to believe a witch has summoned the ghost from its grave. When she and Dex go to the cave the ghost died in, they find a charm Izzy thinks was used in a spell. The identity of the witch remains unknown, but Izzy has to find out soon, or the angry ghost will kill everyone.

This story is a great recommendation for lovers of mystery with a paranormal twist, or for someone who likes a good ghost story.

Reviewed by Emma Clodfelter

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

Teen Reviewer : Some Great New Reads for Summer 2013

Reviewed by Emma Clodfelter

MoonglowMoonglow, by Michael Griffo

This is a story about Dominy Robineau, a teenager cursed to be a werewolf for all eternity. With the help of her friends–Archie, Jess, Arla, Caleb, and Nadine–Dominy must fight to break the curse so she doesn’t hurt the ones she loves. To break the curse, Dominy must find the one who placed it on her in the first place, the evil and vindictive Luba.  Her friends all must find different ways to keep Dominy in check during the full moon, though their methods never seem to work.

Dominy narrates the story, and she starts out when she suffers though her first transformation into a werewolf on her sixteenth birthday, which shocks her because she didn’t know she was a werewolf. When she wakes up, a dead body is lying next to her. Dominy is frightened and confused, and she believes she may be the one that did it.

Then the story goes back three months earlier and begins to lead up to the current time. Dominy is having bursts of anger and feelings of violence. She feels the urge to injure her friends, which is definitely not normal, especially for gentle Dominy. She also seems to have a fascination with her school mascot, a timber wolf. At school, she begins to act aggressively towards her friends. She feels terrible about being so mean, but her strange behavior doesn’t stop.

Dominy’s mother is in a nursing home/intensive care center with an irreversible coma, and she has been that way for ten years. Dominy’s father has also been acting odd. He seems tired and weak, and Dominy repeatedly gets angry at him for little reasons.  Dominy begins to suspect her father is hiding something from her, and when she goes to talk to him at the police station where he works, she overhears an odd conversation centered on her. Her father tells his best friend, Louis, he thinks Dominy will do something awful. Dominy becomes furious, and she doesn’t hide it at all.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It had good suspense and lovable characters, and it had a good story line. This book is great for the lovers of the supernatural. This novel did have some swear words, but that made it seem more realistic. The story really pulls at your heart with the death of some of the characters you get attached to. Overall it was a wonderful and chilling book, and it is very interesting and a must-read-right-away sort of book.

Garden PrincessGarden Princess, by Kristin Kladstrup

Garden Princess is a fairy tale sort of book with an interesting twist. This book was enjoyable to read and has what any fantasy fan would want: action, danger, betrayal, a witch, a princess, and a talking animal that is actually a cursed human.

Unlike most princesses, Princess Adela loves to garden and would enjoy traveling the world in search of flowers. Hortensia, the witch, has a beautiful garden with flowers of every kind. Krazo the magpie is a forced servant of Hortensia, but he can no longer remember his human life before.

When Princess Adela’s friend and castle gardener, Garth, is invited to Lady Hortensia’s garden for a garden party, he asks her to tag along so he won’t be alone. Princess Adela agrees, even though she must suffer through an uncomfortable dress and shoes. The queen’s sister, Marguerite, will also accompany them. When the time arrives for the party, and the princess, Garth, and Marguerite are ready they head out in a carriage to Flower Mountain to meet Lady Hortensia and observe her breathtaking garden. When they get there, everything is normal, and they begin to meet the other guests.

Krazo is perched in a tree, taking note of the jewelry the guests are wearing, eager to take anything he can. Princess Adela is baffled by the garden; everything is in bloom, though it is October. There are plants that bloom in spring, summer, and autumn all blooming at once. The size of the flowers alone is odd–they’re abnormally large as plants go. But things get weirder when a magpie speaks to her. The strange happenings at the garden are suspicious, and soon Princess Adela discovers if she doesn’t escape the garden, she will be in danger.

To make things worse, all of the men at the party have been put under a love spell and have become servants to Hortensia. Princess Adela is all alone, except for the greedy little magpie that can speak. But Adela is sure he won’t be much help. Then Hortensia, realizing Adela is still in the garden, requests the princess be captured and taken to her. Then Princess Adela must escape the garden without being caught by anyone, and with no one to help her.

This novel was an enjoyable read with many attention-grabbing parts in it; it would be great for anyone who likes fairy tale romance and gardens. The story has cute relationships between characters, and each character has a well thought out personality. The book is well-written and interesting, and it has just the right amount of fantasy. I definitely liked this book.

midwinterbloodMidwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick

The novel titled Midwinterblood is a captivating and curious read, telling seven stories of romance and mystery, all of which focus on the same two people, though the stories take place centuries apart. The author brilliantly uses mystery and strange actions in the story to increase interest. This book is definitely for curious readers that enjoy romance and supernatural occurrences. This book is so incredibly thrilling I read it all in a day. It is no lie to say this story is a page-turner and impossible to put down.

Throughout the book are separate short stories that are all related, though how is not said until the end of the final story. The first story is about a reporter named Eric Seven that travels to Blessed Island, a mysterious island that little is known about, except rumors of an elixir of life. When Eric arrives, he is greeted by a group of people that are very hospitable. An old man named Tor explains to him they don’t receive very many visitors, and he gives Eric a place to stay. Another person Eric encounters is a beautiful young woman named Merle, who soon has Eric smitten.

Eric soon becomes suspicious of Tor because strange things have been happening and he gets dreary and forgetful when he drinks Tor’s tea. He overhears odd conversations between Tor and the other people, and Eric has seen no children on the island. He can never seem to remember why he is on the island, and he must force himself to remember he is a reporter getting a story, mainly centered around the Little Blessed Dragon Orchid that has many healing and possibly life-sustaining properties. He also has the weird feeling he has returned home, though he has never been to Blessed Island.

The second story is about an archaeologist that finds a stunning artifact. The third is about a wounded airman. The forth tells the tale of an old and skilled painter who depicts a horrifying ritual in a painting. The fifth story is told by a ghost about her own experiences. The sixth story is about a vampire seeking his children. The seventh is of Midwinterblood, the gruesome sacrifice of a king. Every story takes place on Blessed Island, and Merle and Eric are important recurring characters in every story, and Tor reappears in a few.

The stories are like a puzzle that slowly come together, and the ending is well-written and has a mixture of happiness and sadness. This was one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read many amazing books. The author added many twists to the stories and made them unpredictable. The unique relationships between characters in the stories are interesting to figure out, and the significant details that don’t seem important until you read on really help the stories intertwine. This novel, though strange, is wonderful and romantic.

FuriousFurious by Jill Wolfson

Furious was a very interesting read about three teenage girls (Alix, Stephanie, and Meg) who become the Furies and serve Ambrosia, a mysterious and popular new student in their school. The story is told from Meg’s point of view, starting out with her sitting in class and suddenly being consumed by an overwhelming feeling of hatred. Alix feels hatred towards a group known as “The Plagues” and her terrible father. Stephanie hates the people that shun her ideas of a better environment. Ambrosia brings them together and reveals to them that they really are Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera–the Furies. They have to power to punish those who do wrong. They do this by joining hands and singing their Fury song. The Furies force people to regret any wrong deeds they have done.

The stasimons (a kind of song that was part of a ancient Greek tragedy) in the story from Ambrosia’s telling were genius, giving the reader an understanding of what is happening and why Ambrosia has called upon the Furies. There is a bit of naughty language and a few inappropriate parts, but that made it feel more like a story about teenagers, although it’s probably more of an adult book. As for keeping the reader interested, this book had an age-old story that unravels as the book continues.

For readers who enjoy Greek mythology, high school drama, and a raging battle between Goddesses, this book is a recommendation. Going from chapter to chapter the changes in the girls become apparent. At first they want to teach everyone a lesson, but then they torment innocent people out of their own hate-filled hearts and vindictive spirits. They even change physically; Stephanie grows fangs, Meg looks sickly and unkempt, Alix has enlarged muscles, and they all have a rotten Fury odor. And to be more exciting, the identity of the person that will save the people from the Furies is surprising and makes the reader think.

This novel is great for young adults who enjoy Greek mythology and drama, as well as mystery and vengeance. It also has romance that takes a nasty turn for the worst. The novel definitely has a good story line to it and a satisfying ending.

 
 

Review : Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Cinnamon and GunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder
by Eli Brown

Farrar Strauss & Giroux, June 2013

What a great book season this has been for me!  My rep friend, Tom Leigh at MacMillan sent me this advance copy — did you know I’d get such a kick out of it, Tom?

Set in the early 1800s, and told through the journal entries of a man named Owen Wedgewood, this is a pirate story, a history lesson, and an adventure in culinary delights all rolled into one.

Wedgewood is an artiste.  Highly trained, he works as the personal chef for a wealthy and powerful man. But when that man is murdered in a surgical land strike by a flamboyant red-tressed pirate named Hannah Mabbot, Wedgewood is taken captive onboard the Flying Rose, and is later informed that he would cook for his life, literally.  Captain Mabbot wants him to cook for her on Sundays, “...the finest supper.  You will neither repeat a dish nor serve foods that are in the slightest degree mundane…

As can be expected, supplies onboard the pirate ship are less than gourmet, and the equipment is worse. The beleaguered Wedgewood despairs of surviving, but sets to the task, and creates a really amazing meal from weevil infested cornmeal, hardtack, jerky, and fresh caught seafood. Meanwhile, he gets to know the crew, including the first mate, Mr. Apple, a giant of a man who spends his free time knitting, the Chinese twins who serve as Mabbot’s bodyguards, the syphilitic cook, the deaf cabin boy, and many more.  He also begins to learn more about Captain Mabbot and the mission the Rose is on — the pursuit of a mysterious pirate named The Fox and eluding the agents of the Pendleton company. Along the way, he also learns something about world politics, religion, and human suffering.

If you follow my reviews, you may know that I do love a good battle scene, and this book does not disappoint!  Flying cannonballs and gunpowder abound, there are bloody battles, bloodless raids, and plenty of booty. There are dastardly villains and dastardly good guys, and a few people that are harder to define. Other action includes bar brawls, underground labrynth chases, men overboard, lost limbs, squalls, and sabotage. So much fun!

But the very best parts of this novel are the cooking scenes.  Week after week the Flying Rose and her crew sail the seven seas in pursuit of the elusive Fox, and Wedgewood outdoes himself with the dishes he brings to Captain Mabbot’s cabin each Sunday.  Other reviewers have compared this part of the story to Scheherazade’s stories, and this is an apt analogy.  As Wedgewood acquires new ingredients like miso paste and fresh papayas, he applies a certain genius to his own kind of alchemy, which Brown describes in exquisite and philosophical details.  He makes bread leavening from scratch, nurtured in a little can he carries on his person at all times, builds equipment from scraps, and even uses a cannonball for a rolling pin . Here is how he prepares an eel that one of the pirates catches for him:

“The eel I handled thus: after cleaning it, I rubbed salt and a little honey into the body cavity and coiled it on the grill of the improvised smoker above a small pile of red-hot embers.These coals I covered with a handful of steeped tea leaves.  The lid I left slightly ajar and returned every ten minutes to add more coals or tea until, with the daylight waning, the eel was finally done.  The honey had caramelized into the meat, which came easily from the bones, As for the smoke: when one has been on the road, tired and rained on, and catches, long before seeing any sign of a house, the faint but unmistakable odor of a chimney and with it the promise of drying off next to a fire–that is the feeling that the tea smoke imparts, not the actual arrival, but the comforting nearness of home.”

I’m not sure how I feel about eel, but I think I’d eat anything this man made!

So, all ye foodies, adventure lovers, and historical-fictionados, this is your must get beach read of the summer!

Thanks, Tom.

review by Annie Leonard

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

Book News for May 14th, 2013

Inferno Inferno by Dan Brown

Kept under wraps until today, so I haven’t read it yet, but the newest thriller from the author of The Da Vinci Code is out, to much fanfare!!  As before, the hero is Robert Langton, the erudite and adventurous hero of Brown’s previous books.  I’ll keep you posted as to whether it’s as awesome as Code!  Better yet, you let me know!  Write a review, and I’ll post it!

Guns at Last LightThe Guns at Last Light by Rick Atkinson

The long awaited final volume in the Liberation trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner, Atkinson is finally here.  I’ve been reading this one for a couple of weeks, savoring one incredible, rich, revealing chapter at a time; learning something new in each one – even though I would have thought I knew a little something about WWII in Europe.  This book is amazing, and will forever change the way I look at war in general, and the last World War in particular.  If you haven’t read the first two in the trilogy yet – An Army at Dawn, and The Day of Battle – I’m stocking those as well.  Congratulations, Mr. Atkinson, on a remarkable achievement.  Read more.

Sleeping in EdenSleeping in Eden by Nicole Baart

For those of our customers who so enjoyed Far From Here (about the wife whose pilot husband disappeared over Alaska, and the secrets she unearthed about his life), here is the newest offering from Iowa native, Baart.  This time the past and the present are on a collision course in Blackhawk, Iowa, when a doctor filling in for the coroner is called to the scene of an apparent suicide, and then finds the body of a young woman buried under the floor of the barn, just below the suicide’s body.  With the atmospheric and beautiful prose we’ve come to love from Baart.  Read more.

Sinners and the SeaSinners and the Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife by Rebecca Kanner

This novel is getting lots of buzz, and is being compared to the Red Tent, and it certainly has a beautiful cover!  This is the story of a girl who remains unnamed because of a birthmark, which is seen as the mark of a demon.  When she is nearly too old to be married, her father gives her to a strange old man named Noah.  Yes, that Noah.  And this unnamed, but incredibly strong woman is destined to be the mother of all the generations after the flood.  This is her story.  Read More.

5th WaveThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

If you keep an eye on books in cyberspace, like I do, you’ll find that this one is prompting some serious chatter.  Described as “The Passage meets Enders Game”, this young adult post-apocalyptic is being hailed as the next big thing.   I just lost about 15 minutes as I was writing this up, so no doubt you’ll be getting the report from me on this one!  So, here’s the scenario: Cassie is a girl alone in the world, maybe not the last human on earth, but one of the last, after an alien invasion.  She’s smart, tough, and very afraid, and she has to decide whether or not to trust the few people she encounters, because you never know if someone is really human, or if they are Other.  If you loved Hunger Games, check this one out   Just in time for summer reading!  Read more.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

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Book News for May 7th 2013

It’s Tuesday, which means our book shipment is in, so I’ve got some great new titles to share with you and some new releases in paperback, etc.

Just Released!

Silken PreySilken Prey by John Sandford

The 23rd book in Sandford’s Lucas Davenport thriller series set in Minnesota, and Booklist gives it a Starred Review!  This time, Davenport, the lead investigator for Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is asked by the governor to investigate a stash of kiddie porn found on the computer of a Republican political candidate, a grade school friend of the governor.  Then the story is leaked to the press, and the opposing candidate, a beautiful and ruthless woman, begins to gain ground in the polls, and a political operative disappears.  “This is the best [Davenport novel] in a long time. It’s suspenseful, witty, and wise in the ways of modern politics. And the conclusion is darkly unforgettable. A superb thriller.” (Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)  This is one of our best-selling series, so if you love a razor-sharp thriller and haven’t picked up a Sandford yet, now’s a good time!  Filled with politics, crooked cops, dangerous women and plenty of action. By the way, John Sandford is a native Iowan.  Read more.

Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

This is one of my personal favorites of the year, continuing with my little riff on Middle Eastern fiction, but definitely of more universal appeal. It is the story of two mythical creatures, one anciend and one newborn, one a captive Syrian jinni named Ahmad, and the other Chava, a Golem made of mud by a renegade Rabbi, living among their traditional peoples in the immigrant neighborhoods of New York City a century ago. As they struggle to make sense of the teeming humanity around them, they encounter each other and become unlikely companions. And then an ancient evil begins to stalk them through the streets and workshops of the ethnic enclaves populated by folk with one foot in the old world and one in the new, where everything is shifting, and enemies can hide in plain sight.  I found Ahmad and Chava’s story profoundly moving and suspenseful, sometimes eerie and strange, but at others intimately familiar.  Even if you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre, give this beautifully haunting tale a spot in your reading pile this year.  Read More

Just out in Paperback!

WildSome of the past year’s best sellers are just out in paperback, including Cheryl Strayed‘s raw memoir Wild : From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which has been selected for Oprah’s Bookclub, won a Midwest Independent Booksellers Choice Award, and has appealed to many of our customers here at The Next Chapter.

 

 

Bring up the bodiesAlso out in paperback this week is Bring Up the Bodies, the second part of Hilary Mantel‘s fictional account of Thomas Cromwell’s life after Wolf Hall, and winner of the Man Booker Prize. In the words of New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin, Bring Up the Bodies is “beautifully constructed… The wonder of Mante’l retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again…Sublime.”

 

 

Agent Garbo

If recent history is more your thing, Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty is another new release about master spy Juan Pujol, a Barcelona poultry farmer who posed as a Nazi spy inside of England and “created an imaginary million-man army, invented armadas out of thin air, and borugght a vast network of fictional subagent to life.” He convinced the Germans that Allied forces approaching Normandy were just a feint, and that the real invasion would come at Calais.  This incredible, true story is based on years of research and interviews, and is a pulse-pounding true espionage thriller.

Crucible of GoldFor fans of Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire series, the wait for the 7th installment is over!  Crucible of Gold is now out in paperback, and this time Will Laurence and his faithful dragon Temeraire come out of retirement in Australia to fight Napoleon’s forces once again, this time in South America! This series is alternate history fantasy at its most entertaining, and although it’s aimed at adults, it is a great choice for teens transitioning out of the children’s section.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in Book News, Books, Reviews

 

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Top 20 Reads for Spring 2013!

This is a list of our favorite new books released this season!

These are selected by Annie, Tresa and Diane, especially to appeal to our customers.  We don’t pretend that these are necessarily the most important books of the season, or that these will all become classics, but they are all great reads we hope will keep you entertained and enriched for the next few months at least!  Enjoy!

Love AnthonyLove Anthony , Lisa Genova

Gallery Books, $16.00, Fiction

By the author of Still Alice and Left Neglected comes another tour-de-force exploring the inner workings of the human mind. This is the moving story of one family’s struggle with the realities of parenting a child with autism, and the support they get from the community around them.  When the child dies young, his mother, who has struggled to connect with him, is left to pick up the pieces of her life and find hope again. After reading this remarkable story, especially those passages told from the child’s perspective, you will see autism in an entirely new light.  Read More

Promise of StardustThe Promise of Stardust , Priscille Sibley

William Morrow, $15.99, Fiction

The story of a successful and loving, but childless, couple and the tragedy that shatters their world, leaving a wife on life support, and a family to grapple with questions of life and death in the face of a political and media frenzy.  Full of questions about the boundaries of decency and the public versus the private world.  Moving and thought provoking, great for fans of Jodi Picoult.  Read More

Calling Invisible WomenCalling Invisible Women, Jeanne Ray

Broadway Books, $14.00, Fiction

A delightful read about Clover, a middle aged former reporter, wife and mother who wakes up one morning to discover she’s invisible–truly invisible!  What would you do?  Have you ever felt invisible to your family and the world around you?  Would you retreat and hide, unsure of your new role? Or would you set out to change the world? As Clover grapples with this problem, she learns she is not alone in her invisibility, and that she may just have what it takes to change the world for all the Invisible Women!  Read More

 

 

BenedictionBenediction , Kent Haruf

Knopf, $25.95, Fiction

The new, beautifully written novel from the beloved and bestselling author of Plainsong and Eventitide, set once again in Holt, Colorado. In Benediction, Haruf follows ‘Dad’, a dying man through his quiet last days, as he reflects on the ties that bind people together, and observes all the wonderful small things about life in a small town. But make no mistake, this is not a book about dying, it is a book about living told in the luminous prose fans of Haruf have come to love. Read More

 

 

Ordinary GraceOrdinary Grace, William Kent Krueger

Atria, $24.99, Mystery

A departure from Krueger’s usual thriller fare, this is a coming of age story about a two boys in the early 1960s whose childhoods come to an abrupt end as death visits their small town — first with the death of a young boy, then with their happening upon the body of a hobo, and most terribly, the brutal murder of the beautiful older sister of the main character.  As they grapple with death and what it does to their own families, they must also learn what ripples it will leave in their community. Ordinary Grace is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.  Read More

 

Ghana Must GoGhana Must Go , Taiye Selase

Penguin Press, $25.95, Fiction

Kwaku Sai is dead. A renowned surgeon and failed husband, he succumbs suddenly at dawn outside the home he shares in Ghana with his second wife. The news of Kwaku’s death sends a ripple around the world, bringing together the family he abandoned years before.  This novel teaches us so much about the lives of immigrants to America, and the cultural differences that we all grow up with that shape how we see the world and what we believe is wrong or right. This one with stay with me for weeks!   Read More.

 

 

BirdseyeBirdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, Mark Kurlansky

Doubleday Books, $15.95, Biography

This lively biography from the author of Cod and Salt follows the life and times of Clarence Birdseye, the man who developed the process for fast freezing food, and founded the company that still bears his name.  But not only did Birdseye forever changed the way we preserve, store, and distribute food, and the way we eat, but his insatiable curiosity let him to invent solutions to a wide variety of problems, and to a rich life full of family and perpetual discovery. This is a vibrant and affectionate narrative reveals Clarence Birdseye as a quintessential “can-do” American., Read More

 

After Visiting FriendsAfter Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story

Michael Hainey, Scribner, $26.00, Memoir

This memoir that reads like a thriller is the account of a man’s search for the truth about what happened to his father forty years ago,  when he was found dead in Chicago.  Filled with familiar places, and set against the backdrop of the newspaper industry of the Midwest, it is a son’s relentless quest to uncover what really happened, and an account of a mother’s love and sacrifices, and how families create and bury secrets.  Read More.

 

 

 

Rage Against the DyingRage Against the Dying , Becky Masterman

Minotaur, $24.99, Mystery/Thriller

Retired FBI agent, Brigid Quinn’s experiences in hunting sexual predators have left her with memories she wishes she didn’t have and lethal skills she hopes never to need again. But the past intervenes when a man confesses to the worst unsolved case of Brigid’s career. We definitely hope to see more of this feisty white-haired heroine and her riveting adventures!  Read More

 

 

 

Evidence of LifeEvidence of Life , Barbara Taylor Sissel

Mira Books, $14.95, Mystery/Thriller

After a woman’s husband and daughter disappear during a weekend camping trip, she mounting evidence that her husband had secrets, and she will not rest until she solves the mystery of what happened to them.  For fans of Anita Shreve, this is a taut psychological thriller that cuts to the heart of a woman’s fears. Read More

 

 

 

YardThe Yard, Alex Grecian

Putnam, $16.00, Mystery

Set during the early days of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad, just after Jack the Ripper’s rampages, during the height of the Victorian era, this tale of murder and suspense is a satisfying first entry in a new series.  Readers get to know the hard-working cops that patrol the streets of London, their families, and the murderer who is stalking them and killing the police-men one by one. Readers also get glimpses of the emerging science of forensics, as law enforcement begins to use the advancements of science in their sleuthing.  The first in what promises to be a great new series of historical mysteries!  Read More

 

Maid and the QueenThe Maid and the Queen : The Secret History of Joan of Arc, Nancy Goldstone

Penguin, $16.00, History

You may think you know the story of Joan of Arc, the simple medieval peasant girl who led the French army to victory against the invading English, but was later tried for heresy and burned as a witch.  But, as Goldstone carefully lays out, that is not the whole story.  Joan, or Jeanne D’Arc as she was known, did lead an army, but she was much more than a simple peasant, and she was supported by Yolande of Aragon Queen of Sicily, one of her time’s most influential politicians.  This is the tale of two powerful women set against a complex backdrop of shifting alliances and a world where women had to work behind the scenes to control their own destinies.  Not a light read, but one of those fascinating and satisfying books that change the way you look at history. Read More

Seven LocksSeven Locks, Christine Wade

Atria, $15.00, Historical Fiction

With a haunting and utterly unique voice, this is the story of a wife and mother living in a Dutch community in the Catskill Mountains on the eve of the American Revolution.  She cares little for what her neighbors think, but when her husband abandons her to care for their farm and children alone, she must depend on her community, and her own hard work for survival.  This novel gives voice not only to a hidden corner of history, but also to the common citizens who were buffeted by the winds of war and politics during the early years of your nation’s history.  If you like historical fiction, don’t miss this one! Read More

 

 

Aviators WifeThe Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin

Delacorte Press, $26.00, Historical Fiction

This novel goes inside the private world of the very public figures of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and will change the way you look at fame, at aviation, and even at history.  Beautiful and riveting, this story gives us an inside look at what it was like to be a wife and mother during the early decades of the 20th century, at a crossroads of women’s rights and responsibilities within the family, at a juncture of fame and fortune, and during the crisis of a family caught in the middle of it all.  Read More

 

 

Mary CoinMary Coin, Marisa Silver

Blue Rider Press, $26.95, Historical Fiction

Most of us have seen the iconic photograph taken by Dorothea Lange of a woman and her children during the dustbowl years of the Great Depression.  This is the story inspired by the photograph of this Native American migrant worker and mother of six. It is also the story of the photographer who captured the image, and a man, decades later, who tries to find the truth of the story.  This is Diane’s pick for best book of the year!  Read More

 

Orphan TrainOrphan Train, Christina Baker Kline

William Morrow, $14.99, Fiction / Historical Fiction

This is the story of a 9 year old Irish immigrant girl who was among the thousands of children shipped west from New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on what became known as the Orphan Trains.  These children were parceled out to any families who would take them in states like Kansas and Iowa, and often faced lives of servitude and abuse at the hands of their new ‘parents’.  This is also the story of a modern-day troubled teenager who is just aging out of the Foster Care system, and is given the choice to do community service to recompense for her crime.  To meet her obligation, she goes to help an elderly woman clean out her attic, and the two find they have a great deal in common as they sift through the memories of a lifetime. Read More

 

Weight of Small ThingsThe Weight of Small Things, Sherri Wood Emmons

Kensington, $15.00, Fiction

When an old love resurfaces in her life, asking for her help in keeping his non-profit children’s shelter open, a woman must decide if she will help him, thus facing the choice she made decades ago. Moving and thought provoking, this story explores the weight of those decisions we all carry with us as we move through life. Read More

 

 

 

Truth About Love and LightningThe Truth About Love and Lightning , Susan McBride

William Morrow, $14.99, Fiction

A freak tornado brings a magical man to the walnut farm where Gretchen lives with her twin sisters. It’s as if he fell from the sky, landing in the millions of walnuts dropped by the storm.  This mystery man has no memory of who he is or how he got there, but something seems very familiar.  With Gretchen’s daughter Abby arriving simultaneously to the farm, pregnant and unmarried, all is a bit unnerving for Gretchen.  Are these events about to reveal her 40 year old secret?  Read More

 

Fate of Mercy AlbanThe Fate of Mercy Alban, Wendy Webb

Voice, $15.99, Gothic Suspense

For fans of the classics from Phyllis Whitney and Daphne DuMaurier, a quintessential Gothic Romance from award-winning novelist Webb. This is a spine-tingling modern-day haunted house story set on Lake Superior, with all the elements a good gothic should have, including a mysterious house, a beautiful heroine, an enigmatic love interest, forgotten stories, and the retainers that know them all. Webb has woven a suspenseful mystery that skillfully skirts the boundary between what is paranormal and what is psychological., Read More

 

 

Alif the UnseenAlif the Unseen, G Willow Wilson

Grove Press, $16.00, Fantasy

A sort of Arabian Nights meets Harry Potter in which a young computer hacker in an unnamed Arab emirate shields his clients–dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups–from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif. He is in love with a woman out of reach of his social status, and when she is betrothed to his arch enemy, the Government computer mastermind known as The Hand of God, he is betrayed, sending Alif on the run through the streets of the city along with his neighbor, a young woman whose face he has not seen since they were children and she took the veil.  Deeper than it’s adventurous spirit may seem, this was one I could not put down, and that has stayed with me for months!  Read More

 

River of No ReturnThe River of No Return, Bee Ridgeway

Dutton, $27.95, Fantasy / Historical Fiction

This romp in time has it all!  There’s a dashing hero, several feisty heroines, some really nasty bad guy, plenty of mystery, suspense, humor and romance as Ridgeway navigates her eminently plausible route along the River of Time filled with paradoxes and switchbacks. For readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Deborah Harkness’ Discovery of WitchesRead More

 

Review : Alif the Unseen

Alif the UnseenAlif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson is a delicious mix of modern and ancient, secular and mystic. It is an adventure tale of a young half Arab man living a somewhat desultory life in an un-named emirate in the middle east. He makes his living as one of the Grey Hats, the invisible hackers who leach some measure of freedom from the stifling laws of his world for their friends and clients. This means he lives in constant peril of discovery, torture, and imprisonment.

To complicate the situation, he loves a girl, which, as we all know, is a risky business, and this love proves to be the catalyst that propels him into danger, out of the isolated bedroom where he does his coding, and through the streets of his city, which are populated by veiled women, haughty turbaned royals, and a cast of mysterious creatures who are not quite human.

Wilson proves a worthy successor to Scheherazade with a story that pays homage to the Arab Spring and the Arabian Nights, and also paints a loving portrait of an Islam that is founded not on the more familiar themes of jihad and oppression, but on Godliness and learning.

I read Alif the Unseen as part of what is turning out to be a bit of a meditation on Middle Eastern culture. I also read, and highly recommend the forthcoming The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and the mystery series set in Saudi Arabia by Zoe Ferraris, including Finding Nouf and City of Veils. These first three built my understanding of that part of the world, and helped me understand the complexity of Alif the Unseen better.

review by Annie Leonard

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized

 
 
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