Monday, November 28, 2011

A Pair of Time-Travel Novels

Generally, I like to read things with straightforward plots, clear and understandable. But then there are days that I just want my brain to be twisted into a pretzel, and that's when I pick up books like Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, which won the prestigious Hugo Award earlier this year.

Set in . . . well, it's hard to say when this is set, because that's the plot, you see. In 2060, humanity has perfected the art of time travel. At Oxford, historians don't just read old diaries and peruse photographs, they go back in time to observe history as it happens. They do their best not to affect events, but they're secure in the knowledge that history is self-correcting and nothing they do can alter its course. Not really, anyway.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Lifetime in the Making...

A few weeks ago, a blog reader approached me and told me he loved a book I recommended, and he had one I should read. He described it to me, and it sounded up my alley, so I picked it up and gave it a try.

Lately I've been turning over the concept of "predestined love" and it seems I am involuntarily reading a spate of books that explore this idea. However, The Little Book by Selden Edwards is much more than a love story. A book that took thirty years to write, it spans ninety-one years with a grandiose historical setting, taking on pivotal historical moments, family relationships, time travel, and love.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Terrorism Up Close and Personal

Some lives and some novels are dramatically altered by one defining moment.  Incendiary by British journalist Chris Cleave is a brilliantly haunting example of Before and After.

On a lovely spring day, the narrator's husband and four year old son are happily attending a football match when 11 terrorist bombs explode in Arsenal Stadium blowing them and a thousand other spectators to bits and pieces.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Patrons' Recommendations

One of the things I enjoy about my job is talking about great books with library patrons and making suggestions about something they might like. However, one of the more unexpected pleasures of my job is all the recommendations I receive from patrons. Two books I have read recently based on patrons' suggestions are In the Woods by Tana French and Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In a Single Sitting

I have seen entire blogs and websites devoted to books read in a single sitting. Really? People have that much time that they can read all their books in a single sitting? Alas, I don't seem to have that much time. When I do read a book in a single sitting, it stands out as something special. I had heard of the Noah Braddock Private Investigator series, but I was a bit skeptical. A surfing PI seemed like a bit of a stretch. When Liquid Smoke came into the library, the cool cover caught my eye (I shallow!) and I thought I'd give it a go.

Noah is approached by a lawyer looking for help with her client, an inmate on death row in San Quentin. Noah is reluctantly drawn into the case when he hears the prisoner is Russell Simington, his biological father he never met. Simington has a reputation as a remorseless, cold blooded killer who made his career as a gun for hire. The family reunion sets events in motion with unforeseen and tragic consequences.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Staff Picks

Here is what our staff recently enjoyed reading.

Betsy and Heather recommend Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Two stories weave back and forth, one told in prose and the other in pictures as two children search for what is missing in their lives.  Ultimately they find they need to be open to the wonders of the world.  

Helene enjoyed The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson.  It's an enchanting love story set in P. T. Barnum's American Museum in 1865 New York City.  The main character, Bartholomew, is The World's Thinnest Man. 

Karen liked The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok.  This is Mira's memoir.  Her mother is a homeless, schizophrenic whom she has been estranged from for seventeen years. After a car accident affects Mira's memory, her mother's diaries and letters allow her to build a memory palace and regain pieces of her childhood. 


Monday, November 7, 2011

The Olive in all of us

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout  is a novel in short stories.  The anchoring character is Olive Kitteridge, a school teacher in a small town on the coast of Maine. The stories take place over a lifetime of years.  Each story features Olive, her family or a resident of the town.  The author magically weaves these stories together so that by the end of the book the reader truly knows Olive.

Now the frightening part, Olive is us.  Olive is occasionally funny, often cruel, at times sensitive and sometimes extremely vulnerable. Her husband, Henry, who can only be described as long suffering, loves Olive despite her flaws. Her only child, Christopher, is smothered by Olive’s possessiveness, dependence and also her love.  I found that when I disliked Olive the most, I saw a part of me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shhh.....It's a Secret!

When Lemony Snicket completed his Series of Unfortunate Events, I fell into a state of despair. What other series, I wondered, could possibly fill this void in my life? What other books might contain an anxious but omniscient narrator who speaks directly to the readers; clever, resourceful children who manage to scramble out of any scrape, no matter how impossible or scary; and evil but slightly stupid villains whose nefarious plans threaten all hope of happiness? What other series might contain a mystery compelling enough to keep me awake late at night to finish the first book, just so I could dash to the library the next morning to scoop up the second title?

At last, my wait is over. I've found that series. Meet 11-year olds Cass and Max-Ernest, who, in a series of five books (each based on one of the five senses), try to uncover an enormously important secret, while preventing a group of grown-up scoundrels from finding it first. With a touch of magic, lots of luck, and plenty of brainpower, the children manage to stay just a few steps ahead of the bad guys--and the readers, too.

There's only one catch: the name of the book I'm recommending to you is also a secret. No, really, it is. Check out The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, the first in the Secret Series.

~Queen of Books