Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolutions, Revisited

About this time last year, I blogged about some books that might help you with your New Year's resolutions. This year, how about something a little different: here are some books by authors and journalists who spent a year (or some other set amount of time) doing something different from their normal lives, with wildly varied results. Perhaps they will inspire you to try an experiment in your life, or maybe they'll just make you grateful to escape their lists of arduous, arbitrary restrictions in 2013.

Drop Dead Healthy : one man's humble quest for bodily perfection by A. J. Jacobs is this intrepid stunt journalist's attempt to be as healthy as possible, based on information from a number of more or less reputable sources. Its humor is balanced by a lot of thoughtful reflection on what health really is, and how to integrate health recommendations in a way that's actually helpful and realistic.

Read on for more stunts (or are they more than just stunts?):

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

I have lots of various book lists going at a time; wishlists, to buy, currently reading, finished, etc.  This is the time of the year that I like to create yet another list, my favorites from the year.  It's always fun to look back at past literary adventures.  Certain books were not all that memorable, as evidenced by the fact that I can hardly remember the plot much less the character's name.  Other titles could be written in bold type, because they were so much fun.  Looking back I see I have read a lot of dystopias along with my standard fantasy and teen contemporary titles, so this list is heavily skewed in that direction.  Hmm, maybe my New Year's Resolution could be to branch out a little more.  Anyway, here were some of my favorites from the past year.

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
A Touch of Power by Maria Snyder
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

And may the New Year, bring many more.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Caregiving and a Road Trip

I really enjoy novels that are set in places that I know. I love reading about familiar street corners and towns I have been in. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison is just such a book. The story is set on a peninsula out in the Puget Sound, west of Seattle. Later in the book the main characters head east across Eastern Washington, northern Idaho and on into Montana, ending up in Utah. I am from Eastern Washington and I have lived in Seattle, Idaho and Montana as well. Utah too. Still, when I read this book it is the characters that stand out. There is Ben Benjamin, who lost everything but has a knack for taking care of people, and Trevor, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is a frustrated, hormonal 18 year old young man. The two characters come together when Ben applies for a job taking care of Trevor.  Ben has just finished taking a class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving and working with Trevor is his first job in this new field. The story of their relationship involves what might possibly be an ex-wife, an estranged father, a road trip, childbirth. It includes humor, waffles and a mysterious Buick Skylark. Check it out. You will enjoy it!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unconventional Pets

I'm a sucker for a good animal story. Although I've never had anything more exotic than cats and goldfish living in my home, I'm fascinated by people who (sometimes accidentally) take in pigs or sheep or chickens or ducks. Here are a few of my favorite animal memoirs. They're funny and sweet, and they'll make you want to stop whatever you're doing and give the critter nearest to you a good scratch behind the ears.


~Queen of Books

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Little Century: High Desert Drama

I'm not wild for westerns and cowboys are not my weakness. But that said, the adventures of Esther Chambers, Chicago schoolgirl turned homesteader heroine in Anna Keesey's Little Century, kept me turning pages.

Untethered and aimless after the death of her mother, Esther bravely pulls up stakes and lights out for Oregon's high desert country in search of family. The family in question is her distant cousin, a cattle rancher named Pick. Pick quickly convinces tenderfoot Esther to homestead Half-a-Mind, an abandoned claim adjacent to his own spread--even though she's a city girl who's never ridden a horse, and is not, strictly speaking, old enough to file a claim. No matter. Esther is nothing if not plucky, and if she proves up her claim in five years, Pick will buy the land from her. In the meantime he's counting on her presence to help keep out the sheepmen and preserve Half-a-Mind's good cattle-grazing land.

Well, everyone knows that cattlemen and sheepmen are sworn enemies, and Esther soon finds herself in the middle of a full-blown range war. This book has all the elements of a classic western: harsh wilderness, an arid, desolate landscape, outlaws, outcasts and privately-administered justice. Plus, the town of Little Century  has enough quirky characters--including the eccentric newspaper editor, the nosy postmistress, and a somewhat shady lady--to keep you happily occupied between confrontations. There's a romantic angle as well. Two of them, in fact, as Esther finds herself pursued by both a cattleman and a sheepman, guaranteeing that the course of true love does not run smooth.

Keesey teaches creative writing at Linfield College in Oregon; this is her first novel, but hopefully not her last. Fans of historical fiction will find it a tightly plotted, wonderfully descriptive evocation of the turn of the last century, and mighty fine reading.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Punny parody literary fiction dedicated to librarians? Count me in!

I will say up front that Japser Fforde is one of my favorite authors ever. He is funny, geeky, a fan of literature, and can churn out wry observations and puns faster than James Patterson can release books. If you enjoy the humor of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, Fforde is an author you might want to look into. The Woman who Died A Lot is the latest novel in the Thursday Next series and it doesn't disappoint in the least.

Thursday Next lives in a world where literature is king, the library has its own military force that conducts morning raids to retrieve overdue materials (hmm, that's an idea...), and pet dodos are all the rage. She used to regularly travel to the book world where she worked for Jurisfiction, but has recently been forced into semi-retirement after an assassination attempt left her crippled. However, life is never uneventful for the Next family. Thursday must find out why her consciousness keeps getting downloaded into synthetic bodies. Her 16 year old genius daughter, Tuesday, is trying to figure out how to stop a smiting that will destroy a good chunk of her home town. And her son, Friday, must figure out why he is going to kill a snotty teenager as foretold in a letter he received from his future self. You know, all in the average day for a Next.

If this kind of silly alternative history meets light science fiction/fantasy appeals to you and you are not already a fan of Thursday Next, I recommend checking out the first novel in the series, The Eyre Affair, or the first book in the Nursery Crime series, The Big Over Easy, which is just as fun.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Move over Reacher, there's a new guy in town!

Have you already read all the Jack Reacher novels from Lee Child? Would you like to meet another ex-military hero that can hold his own with a little bravado and even a little swagger? Or maybe the thought of Tom Cruise playing Reacher in the upcoming movie adaptation has you looking for a new hero? Maybe it's time to check out Army Ranger Quinn Colson, star of a new series from Ace Atkins. Colson has the confidence and competence that makes  Reacher so appealing, but with slightly more humility and a lot more charisma.

In The Ranger, Quinn Colson takes leave from the army to return to his hometown in Jericho, Mississippi for his uncle's funeral. His uncle, Sheriff Hampton Beckett, supposedly killed himself. With the help of deputy Lille Virgil, Quinn starts to investigate in order to find out what really happened. The cast of characters in this action packed mystery includes ex-girlfriends, army buddies, meth dealing criminals, corrupt politicians and sinning preachers. If you like The Ranger, Colson's story continues in The Lost Ones.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Best Books of 2012 Galore!

This is the time of year when I am out in the book stores picking out great reads for my family and friends, especially my nieces and nephews. But which ones? I confess I love love love the "best books of the year" lists that I find all over the internet.

In case you enjoy them too, here is a collection for your perusal. P.S. Unlike the other titles we talk about here, these books aren't necessarily in our catalog.

Here goes:

All Ages
Book Riot's Best Books of 2012
Best Books 2012 (Publisher's Weekly)
Goodreads Choice Awards 2012
Southwest Books of the Year (Pima County Public Library)
25 of the Most Wonderful Book Covers of the Year (Atlantic Wire)

10 Best Books of 2012 (New York Times Sunday Book Review)
100 Notable Books of 2012 (New York Times Sunday Book Review)
What To Read Awards: The Salon Book Critics’ Poll (Salon Magazine) just added
Notable Books for Adults (ALA/RUSA)
Best Books 2012: Top Ten (Library Journal) just added
Best Books 2012: More of the Best (Library Journal) just added
Librarian Nancy Pearl's Picks For The Omnivorous Reader (NPR Books)
Great Reads In Store: Indie Booksellers Pick 2012's Best (NPR Books) just added
Our Editors Select The Best Books Of 2012 (Huffington Books)
The Slate Book Review Top 10 of 2012 (Slate Magazine)
2012 Books: Slate Staff Picks (Slate Magazine)
Overlooked Books of 2012 (Slate Magazine)
Nerdfighter Book Recommendations (author John Green) just added
The 10 Best Books of 2012 (And 5 Almost Worth Burning) (
The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration (ALA/RUSA)
Best Art Books of 2012 (Brain Pickings)
Best Design Books of 2012 (Brain Pickings)
Best Science Books of 2012 (Brain Pickings)
Best Psychology and Philosophy Books of 2012 (Brain Pickings)
Going Vegan: 5 Favorite Cookbooks from 2012 (Oregon Live)
Favourite Comics, Art Books & More (Drawn blog)

Extra Yarn by Mac Bennet
Children and Teens
Best Books 2012 (School Library Journal)
Notable Children’s Books of 2012 (New York Times)
Best Children's Books of 2012 to Give as Gifts (Parenting Magazine)
Children's Books 2012: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing (NYPL)
Cybils Award Finalists for 2012
The Best Illustrated Children’s Books and Picturebooks of 2012 (Brain Pickings)
My Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2012 (so far) (Abby the Librarian)
Best Young Adult Books of 2012 (Goodreads)
Judy B.'s 2012 Top Teen Fiction Reads (Tattered Cover)
Judy B.'s Favorite 2012 Non-Fiction Teen Reads (Tattered Cover)
Christmas Book Ideas for Teens (YA Nerd blog)
Top 10 Science and Health Books for Youth (Booklist)
Outstanding Science Books for Students K–12 (National Science Teachers Assn)
Children's Books (NPR Books)
Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels (NPR Books)

--Lisa, your Facebook Librarian

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Am Serious. And Don't Call Me Shirley.

Lately I've been in a rut of very serious books. They're all about the fate of the world, and death and love and other serious matters. They were good, by and large, but I seriously needed a change.

Luckily, the next book in M.T. Anderson's Pals in Peril series came my way. This is an homage to, and send-up of, all those kids' adventure tales of the 40s and 50s. Every time I read one, the sheer madcap fun of it all leaves me smiling. I dare you to keep a straight face when reading even the titles:

Whales on Stilts!
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen
Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware
Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger!
Zombie Mommy

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gifts from the past

I know, I know it's time to go out and spend money and shop and buy presents for people.  For those short on cash but with lots of creative spirit have I found the book for you.  I spied it out of the corner of my eye, and it was too irresistible to pass up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion presents a fascinating look at the long-ranging effects of cheap clothing and explores the average shopper's shift in expectations. Many of us, for example, don't expect our clothing to last for decades. Instead, we expect a t-shirt to fade and stretch, a pair of jeans to go out of style. And when the trend passes or the seam rips, we get rid of the garment. After all, if you can buy a new t-shirt for $5, why repair the old one?

Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed examines the long-term effects of our throwaway culture. She visits factories where clothing is made, malls where clothing is purchased, and thrift shops where clothing is dumped. I found this book to be insightful and provocative, and I highly recommend it.

~Queen of Books

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Pity the books in the 641.8654 Dewey Decimal classification system - the books on baking. They languish through the sweltering Tucson summer without as much as a passing glance but the cooler temperatures and upcoming holiday season will soon propel them off the shelves and into Pima County kitchens. Here are four titles to entice you, your family, and holiday guests.

Crazy About Cookies: 300 Scrumptious Recipes For Every Occasion & Craving is excellent for the novice as well as the experienced baker. Beginning with Cookies in the Know, a chapter on equipment, ingredients, types and techniques, author Krystina Castella divides her recipes into Everyday Cookies, Party Cookies, Occasions Cookies and Christmas Cookies. Holiday Cookies include Chinese Sesame and Almond Cookies, Day of the Dead Cookies and Jewish Holiday Cookies. In addition to a section on Cookie Exchange Cookies, Castella, an industrial designer and professor, provides templates for constructing gingerbread houses and dollhouses. Toast the New Year with black and white bow-tie cookies and champagne.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

While You Wait for Cloud Atlas

I fell in love with Cloud Atlas when I saw the new movie adaptation. So of course, being a Ravenous Reader, I greedily devoured the book it was based on, by David Mitchell. I'll admit, I had some trouble getting into it on my first try, but this time around, it had the best of both worlds, with all the cleverness of literary fiction, and all the fun of genre fiction. While you're waiting for your hold to come in, you might want to check out some similar books and movies, or peruse the list of recommended background reading to catch its literary allusions.

When I walked out of the theater, I thought: "This is the movie of A Swiftly Tilting Planet I've always wanted!" That classic by Madeleine L'Engle, part of the series that begins with A Wrinkle in Time, also spans millennia, showing through telepathy and, yeah, okay, a magic unicorn, that people's actions and obsessions have repercussions that echo across centuries in surprising ways. Although it's written for a younger audience, many adults (including myself!) still count this series among their favorites. Like Cloud Atlas, it has a lot of layers that rereading can reveal.

Read on for more:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Psychological Suspense

Family secrets make for some chilling psychological suspense. So if you enjoyed Kate Morton’s novel The Secret Keeper we recommend these similar titles.

Think Twice by Lisa Scottoline. When your twin sister buries you alive, you know you have some serious family problems. In this case Bernie is determined to stay alive until she can exact revenge.

The Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell. Ismay's little sister, Heather, drowned their stepfather, but they never speak of it. When Heather starts to date, Ismay begins to wonder if she is capable of killing again.

Dear Husband: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates. These fourteen short stories look at the tangled bonds, and sometimes desperation and violence between family members.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Take an Epic Journey with The Passage

Meet Zero, whose previous name, Patient Zero, has long been forgotten. Before he had that name, he was a scientist called Tim Fanning who went on an expedition to Bolivia and came home with a virus that changed everything. When you pick up this huge book that spans places all over the world, and enough time to follow generations of characters, you get to find out what happens after a top-secret military project tried to use Zero's illness as a weapon, and also what happens to the people he meets and infects along the way  -- their everyday, horrifying, and heroic stories will surprise you.

Now that the second volume of Justin Cronin's trilogy is out, this is the perfect time to pick up The Passage and catch up. (The new one's called The Twelve.) If you're a fan of epic-length genre fiction that straddles horror and sci-fi, like Stephen King's The Stand, or Robert McCammon's Swan Song, you'll love Cronin's blend of action, world-building, and his carefully-thought-out take on vampires (don't worry, it's nothing like Twilight).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Classic or Crusie?

We love ghost stories. Oh, the spine-chilling thrill of it all! You know the elements of a great ghost story: spooky mansion, lonely governess, strange children, and things that go bump in the night. Henry James wrote The Turn of the Screw in 1898. I love this tale, but of course I am one of those librarian types who love the classics. I would highly recommend this story. OK, so if you do not want to read it -- at least watch the movie.

Jennifer Crusie's humorous take on this classic ghost tale is Maybe This Time. This book contains all the same elements of the Henry James story: a spooky isolated mansion, a conflicted nanny, orphaned brother and sister with issues, detached yet charming guardian, a maniacal housekeeper, and an evil ghost named Peter.  Crusie's version of this tale also includes a large cast of quirky characters and some spicy romance.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Family Affair

The season for gathering with kith and kin is nearly upon us--for good or ill--and I can't think of a better time to dip into The Red House, Mark Haddon's piquant account of an extended family’s misbegotten attempt to spend quality time together.

This tale, full of sound and fury, is told sequentially by the various family members exiled together in Dysfunction Junction. Richard is a well-to do surgeon; he has invited his more or less estranged sister, Angela, her unemployed husband and their three kids (a teenage boy with raging hormones, a teenage daughter who has inexplicably joined a fundamentalist sect, and a little boy with little boy issues) to join him, his new wife and her sulky, mean-girl teenager for a week straight from hell in a rented house in the English countryside.

This family doesn’t travel light--they bring along plenty of baggage filled with quirky habits, guilty secrets, 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story

Every so often I get the urge to go back and re-read one of my beloved childhood books see how different it is now that I'm an adult. Because of this, I was really excited and surprised to see Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn cross the shelf at my branch. This was my FAVORITE scary book when I was a tween and I just had to give it a read. This book frightened me back then and I am happy to say that 20ish years later it is just as spooky as I remembered, a perfect Halloween read for any older child looking for a good scare.

Molly and her brother Michael are less than happy when their mother announces that they will be moving to an old church in rural Maine with her new husband, Dave, and his spoiled rotten and somewhat spooky daughter, Heather. Molly, who is afraid of her own shadow, is even less happy when they arrive and she discovers an old cemetery right in their back yard! Soon Heather is acting even more strangely than usual, claiming that she has made friends with a ghost girl named Helen who would make Molly and Michael ever regret being mean to her. Though no one believes her about the ghost girl, Molly is convinced that Helen is planning to harm Heather and vows to protect her stepsister, no matter how horrible she acts.

On top of being a wonderful ghost story, Wait Till Helen Comes contains some good lessons about love, forgiveness and family. Despite being 25 years old, I still suggest this book to my tweens who are looking for books of scary tales and am always rewarded when they come back with stories of staying up all night in order to find out what happens when Helen finally comes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mysteries of the Southwest

Several readers have written in to the Personalized Good Reads service asking for mysteries set in the Southwest. Most people using the service are avid readers and have already exhausted the complete works of Tony Hillerman and J. A. Jance. While I was thinking of a reply for the patron, I came across Steven F. Havill's latest book, One Perfect Shot. This book is a prequel to a long running series set in Posadas County, New Mexico. The main character is an Deputy Sheriff Bill Gastner and Estelle Reyes is a new hire for the department. This prequel does an excellent job of setting the stage for a series - solid plot, well defined characters, a great sense of the place. I went on to pick up another book in the series, Double Prey, to find Estelle Reyes-Guzman as a seasoned Deputy Sheriff. I'm looking forward to going back at my leisure to fill in the missing years.

Read on for more mystery series set in the Southwest.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Green Heart

Alice Hoffman's book Green Heart is a gem. It contains the text of 2 related novels: Green Angel and Green Witch. It is a lyrical examination of grief and the way forward. Sixteen-year-old Green is the one who was left behind. She is the one who speaks to plants, coaxes them to grow and ripen. These skills cannot prepare her for the day that her kind parents and her lovely, changeable, moon-bright sister go to town and do not come back.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The miles go by

Since I have a thirty minute commute, I have learned to love listening to books.  And it really makes a difference who is narrating.  They can make or break the book.  I once listened to Alan Rickman (Professor Snape to those Harry Potter film fans) narrate a Thomas Hardy book and I didn't even understand the language in the entire first CD, but his voice flowed so smoothly that I kept listening, gladly.
Today, I would like to pay homage to my favorite narrator, Barbara Rosenblat.  She is just masterful and I would probably turn into a babbling fool if I ever had the good fortune to meet her in person.  Are you looking for a hard-boiled New York accent?  Try listening to Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series starting with  Track of the Cat.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Country Called Home

Welcome to Fife, Idaho, a tight-knit, rural community and compelling character in Kim Barnes' novel, A Country Called Home. For years, pharmacist Burt Kalinosky - or Dr. K as the locals call him - managed the medical needs of that small community from "menstruation, childbirth through menopause" and he is a bit bemused to hear that Tom and Helen Deracotte, a New England doctor and his pregnant wife, bought the old Bateman place - sight unseen. The news also causes quite a stir among the area old-timers who know better than to buy a farm without walking the fence line and weighing the soil.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Feels Like Home

"I like it. I'm not sure why, but I like it here."

"Do you? . . . You must have guessed that I love the desert. This desert. Even in winter, and the three weeks of jungle after the rains stop and before the sun gets a good hold again."

I first read The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley when I was about twelve. At the time, I was living in the green, humid, flat Midwest. The mountainous desert setting of this novel seemed as exotic as the face of the moon. Now, Tucson is my home, and McKinley's Damar feels intimately familiar. The heat, the dust, and the barren landscape all feel just like the Sonoran desert.

In the novel, Harry Crewe goes from the cool, green land of her birth to hot and dusty Damar. To her surprise, she falls in love with her new home.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Star Wars Reads Day

Lucasfilm and their publishing partners teamed up to celebrate both reading and Star Wars by creating National Star Wars Reads Day.  This year it falls on Saturday, October 6th.  Fans will be letting their inner Jedi or possibly Sith out to play at libraries and bookstores across the country.  The Flowing Wells Branch Library is an official site which means they have planned all sorts of fun things to do.  There will be games and origami crafts, some of which were inspired by The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.  And what would a Star Wars event be without Stormtroopers and Jedi?  Which means there will be a costume contest as well.

Even if you won't be joining us you can still get into the fun by reading Star Wars books.  That's what inspired this event in the first place.  Here are some of our favorite picks.

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown.  What if Darth Vader was a dad like any other?  This hilarious comic style book takes a look at the trials and joys of parenting with the added challenge of the force. 

The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton.  Learn how to make Chewbacca Sock Puppets,  Jabba the Hutt Body Pillows, or Wookie Bird Houses.

Specter of the Past by Timothy Zahn.  Grand Admiral Thrawn, one of the most cunning and ruthless warlords in history, tries to reestablish the Empire. 

May the force be with you.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Not For The Faint of Heart

 In years past, I often referred library patrons to the 364.1523 section of the Dewey Decimal system - the classification number for True Crime. This was territory ruled by Ann (Rule) and shared by Joe McGinniss, Jack Olsen and the late Thomas Thompson.     

Lately, I've barely thought about the 364s until a friend recommended Midnight In Peking, which should garner author Paul French a well-deserved corner of that bloody terrain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fire in the Ashes

Jonathan Kozol has spent most of his life working with and writing about urban-dwelling children stricken by poverty and funneled through dismally inadequate schools. Each time I read one of his books, I marvel at his compassionate storytelling that invites me to share the triumphs and struggles faced by the children he profiles, and to understand the factors that contributed to their situations. He has just published a brand new book, Fire in the Ashes, and I snatched it up and devoured it in just a few days.

In this book, Kozol shares what has happened to some of the children he met years ago. Some stories are incredibly sad, but others are full of hope and triumph: for every young adult that succumbs to drugs and crime, Kozol introduces us to others who claw their way out. And while I mourned for the children who didn't succeed, reading about the ones who have risen above their difficult circumstances to find peace and joy gave me the happy tingles. Fire in the Ashes can easily be read as a stand-alone title, but I also highly recommend his earlier titles--particularly Ordinary Resurrections, which will introduce you to the adorably spunky, outspoken child, Pineapple, who's featured as a young adult in Fire in the Ashes, too.

~Queen of Books

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ender's Game

Have you ever gone back and read something you loved as a younger person, only to find that your memory of it was much better than the real thing? Well, I recently reread one of my all-time favorite books out of sheer curiosity, and I thought it was just as great as the first time I read it, back in the mid-80s. I actually might like it more now!

That book is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It is a science fiction novel that appeals to both teens and adults and it is awesome. The book is about a very young boy named Andrew Wiggin ("Ender") who is taken from his family and sent off to a school out in space.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Ahoy Mateys.  Wednesday, September 19th is Talk Like A Pirate Day.  This has inspired us to share some of our favorite booty ahem... I mean books about pirates.

For the little raider we recommend Small Saul by Ashley Spires.  Can Small Saul prove his worth to his pirate crew or will he be forced to walk the plank?

For the bigger swashbuckler we recommend Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  A Spanish galleon full of gold is always a perfect pirate target.

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers.  No this one is not part of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies but it is about pirates, Blackbeard to be specific.  If that isn't enough there is the search for the fountain of youth (apparently this is a popular pirate quest) and also Zombies.

We have plenty more titles to recommend, but if you are feeling a little lost at sea may we recommend brushing up on your pirate speak.  Our Mango languages database includes a complete course in Pirate.  You will learn everything from how to give sailing commands, to greeting your boss, or calling someone names.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The House of Silk

Sherlock Holmes is dead. Dr. Watson is near the end of his life, but he has one last tale to tell. The adventure of The House of Silk must be told. Sherlock Holmes is in prison, charged with murder. Watson is left to solve the case, relying on his wits.  The story is so sensational that according to Watson's instructions his manuscript is to be sealed in a vault. The vault is to remain sealed for one hundred years following his death. The story, if told, will cause such scandal that the entire fabric of British society will be torn apart. However, it is a tale worth telling.

Anthony Horowitz now shares this tale with us in The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel.  The Arthur Conan Doyle Estate

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Anatomy of a Good Read

"Every reader his or her book, and every book its reader." -S. R. Ranganathan

Did you know that you can ask for your very own personalized list of good reads? Today, I'm going to give you the behind-the-scenes tour of our recommendation process, share some of our most-recommended read-alikes like Downtown Owl, and offer up some of our arcane, mystical secrets (okay, yeah, publicly-accessible databases and websites).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Married You for Happiness

Casting about for reading inspiration, I consulted the Publisher's Weekly  "Top Ten Books of 2011" and opted for Lily Tuck's I Married You for Happiness -- what serendipity!

Tuck's short (193-page), poignant novel takes place over the course of a single night, during the vigil that Nina keeps at the side of her husband who has died, quite unexpectedly. It sounds like a tragic scenario, but in the expert hands of this award-winning novelist it is a lyrical and absorbing portrait of a 42-year marriage.

When Nina discovers that Philip has suffered cardiac arrest during a pre-dinner nap, she settles in by his side for a last night with him. Weaving a dreamlike tapestry of their years together she randomly revisits the events of a closely-shared lifetime, holding at bay the need for arrangements, phone calls and the inevitable onslaught of grief that will arrive with the dawn.

Flash back to the sidewalk cafe where young Philip, a gifted mathematician and academic, meets artistic Nina, whose job in a Parisian art gallery pays just enough to keep her in painting supplies.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Love in Writing

Can you fall in love with a person without ever seeing them? Dash and Lily are starting to think so, with the help of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

Dash and Lily are two New York City teenagers, who've never met and aren't likely to. Both are on their own and at loose ends for Christmas. Then Dash finds Lily's notebook in the Strand bookshop, and what follows is a whirlwind romance on paper, as they dare each other to take on new and frightening experiences.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cool Off with White Heat

Are you getting tired of the summer heat? Do you feel like a little cool weather would be refreshing? For those of us unable to take a trip to cooler climes, maybe we can be satisfied just reading about snow, ice and blizzards...

In her debut novel White Heat, M.J. McGrath takes us deep into the Arctic tundra. Edie Kiglatuk, half Inuit and half Caucasian, lives on Ellesmere Island and works as a hunting guide. Edie is always at odds with the patriarchal establishment and things get worse when a tourist is murdered on her watch.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Run Away to the Museum

We have blogs for great teen books, and wonderful books and literacy activities for ages birth-to-five. But what about those pesky middle years, when you're too young to drive, but too old to suffer fools (like parents bossing you around) gladly? If you're a tween, or you know one, then I have the classic escapist fantasy to check out: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, written and illustrated by E. L. Konigsburg.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Discover a New Planet

Raz (Erasmus), the protagonist in the novel Anathem by Neal Stephenson is a mathematician and monk (a "fraa" or "avout") in a monastery on the planet Arbre. Thousands of years prior to the opening of the story, Apert's society was on the verge of collapse, and the avout fled into monasteries in order to protect the cultural and intellectual legacy of their planet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sorta Like a Rock Star

Give it up for the Princess of Hope, the last of the crazy optimists, Amber Appleton! From teaching English to Korean immigrants via R&B lyrics, to her weekly battle of words with a determined nihilist for the entertainment of lonely nursing-home residents, to her regular haiku exchanges with a Vietnam vet, this teenager does her best to shine a little joy into the lives of the people she encounters on a daily basis, in Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick.

Except that her own life isn't so miraculous. Unbeknownst to anyone, Amber, her mom, and her beloved dog, Bobby Big Boy, are living on a school bus in the middle of winter and scraping by on the wages of one part-time job.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Made From Scratch

Although I do not fear the zombie apocalypse any time soon, for some reason I have been reading a lot of books about survival, growing your own food, how cities need to rethink land use, water harvesting, etc. One of the most enjoyable books in this latest nonfiction binge has been Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich.

I believe most of the chapters in this book came from Jenna's blog originally, but being the tactile person that I am, I wanted to read the book. Each chapter is a different aspect of life that she has explored in her move to the country - raising chickens, starting a beehive, running the sled dogs, starting a garden, baking bread, knitting, sewing, playing an instrument, you get the picture.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


It's midsummer and for some of us that translates into a burst of activity - packing for or unpacking from a trip, getting children settled into the new school year - all conspiring to shorten our time for reading.

So, if you're looking for a quick read, Eat, Memory Great Writers at the Table by Amanda Hesser fits the bill, or, more accurately, provides a most interesting bill of fare. Think of this slim volume as literary tapas.  You can sample a few bites at a time or devour them all at one sitting.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I am an adult – past middle age—and in addition to adult books I like to read young adult books, children’s fiction and an occasional picture book. I know some of you might think that is a bit peculiar but there are more of us out there than you might guess. 

I heard about my current favorite children’s book on NPR in March. The book is Wonder, written by R. J. Palacio, and it is about a boy named August (Auggie) who is getting ready to attend public school for the first time in his life. He is a fifth grader who has always been homeschooled before – a fifth grade boy whose face is severely deformed and has had too frequent surgeries to attend school before now. The book, Palacio’s debut novel, explores Auggie’s experiences during his first year in public school and the experiences of his sister and his new friends as well. Different sections of the book are narrated by the different characters and the various perspectives on Auggie’s life give the book real depth.

So if you haven’t read any children’s fiction since you were a child, or you haven’t read any since Harry Potter, give this book a try.  It is a wonder.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Olympics and Beyond

Olympic fever has turned the thoughts of the Ravenous Readers reviewers to our favorite books and films that spotlight the "sporting life."  Enjoy them all year long.

As Good As Gold: 1 woman, 9 sports, 10 countries, and a 2-year quest to make the summer Olympics by Kathryn Bertine.  This hilarious account documents an elite triathlete's attempts to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. 

Born to Run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen by Christopher McDougall.  Secrets of the world's greatest distance runners--the Tarahumara Indians of Copper Canyon, Mexico and a fifty mile race. 

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford.  A fictional account of a man who chooses to be a sportswriter instead of a novelist.  


Monday, July 30, 2012

Bend Your Mind

Are you a fan of movies like Inception or Memento, with shocking revelations and plot twists that make you go whoa, what's going on? (In a good way!) Well, then, I have some books you'll love to be confused by!

The Mirage is the new novel by Matt Ruff, author of the hilarious plot rollercoaster Bad Monkeys. It opens with a Homeland Security agent investigating terrorist attacks by religious fundamentalists from an impoverished third-world country. The twist: this agent works for the United Arab States, the dominant world power, and the terrorists come from the backwards, Balkanized region of...America. So that's how this book starts, and it'll just keep twisting your brain into knots as you get further into the story! Read on for more head-exploding books and authors...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Flower Says...

I have always loved flowers.  Walking into a florist shop is such a wonderful experience, from the cool temperatures, to the scents, to the colors.  So I was delighted by The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  This book combines those tactile things about flowers with the intriguing meanings behind them.  In Victorian times people would use the flowers they gave to communicate hidden meanings. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Night Circus

Do you believe in magic? You will after you read this book. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a fairy tale for adults. The circus opens on October 13, 1886. The black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves appear without advertisement. There is only a simple sign that says "Opens at Nightfall, Closes at Dawn." Reality is suspended. Illusion becomes real. One tent holds a garden made entirely of ice. In another tent, you can relive a happy childhood event. There are illusionists, white tigers, living statues, and performing cats.  As quickly as it comes, the circus disappears leaving visitors with a longing for its return. The time and place of its next appearance is unknown.

The circus, however, is more than entertainment. As the circus evolves, it becomes more and more

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Language of Baklava

I'm always on the lookout for memoirs that use clear, evocative prose to tell fascinating stories of ordinary people. I also seek out books about food (including pie cookbooks, mystery stories set in donut shops, or children's books about budding cupcake enthusiasts) because I like to engage my taste buds' imagination, as well as my brain's. But best of all, I love to read well-written memoirs that use food as a way to convey a narrator's culture, values, and perceptions. And Diana Abu-Jaber's The Language of Baklava perfectly accomplishes that feat.

The Language of Baklava introduces us to a girl who lives with one foot in the United States (her mother's country) and one foot in Jordan (her father's country). The book is constructed as a series of vignettes, each chapter its own story, each story supplemented with recipes that relate to the chapter's themes: tabbouleh, pita bread, Arabic ice cream, and more--including, of course, baklava. Not only do the recipes perfectly coincide with the contents of each chapter, but each word is masterfully chosen, each sentence flawlessly constructed. Abu-Jaber writes about the contrast between stinky elementary school cafeteria food and her homemade bag lunches of spinach pies and grape leaves; about the painful discovery that, in the United States, family barbecues are held in the backyard rather than the front yard; about her father's thwarted attempts to open his own restaurant; about returning to Jordan as an adult and reconnecting with the relatives and the heritage that have helped to shape her. This book begs to be savored, just like a luscious piece of baklava.

~Queen of Books

Monday, July 16, 2012

While You Wait for Gone Girl

I just finished Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, the plotty thriller that everyone and their brother has a hold on this summer. No spoilers: it's as good as they say it is, keep it on your list! Here are some lesser-known titles to tide you over until your hold arrives.

Last year's must-read plot twist novel was Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson. Reminiscent of Memento, the main character wakes up every morning missing most of her memory. She sees a forty-something in the mirror, but the last thing she remembers is being a twenty-something college student. This is not her beautiful house, and certainly not her beautiful husband. If you haven't read it yet, now is the perfect chance to peer into her diary as she tries to piece together the missing years. Read on for more ominous thrillers!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Read and Greet

Our warm welcome goes out to PCPL’s newest branch - Oro Valley Public Library. What better way to meet the staff than to learn their reading tastes? So check out their picks and get to know the Oro Valley team.

Amy recommends Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson.         
Marianne travels to join her twin sister in Edenbrooke for the summer, and discovers romance and adventure when she meets the dashing Sir Philip.

Betty recommends Pip’s Trip by Janet Stoeke. 
After failing to convince her fellow hens to join her for a ride, adventurous Pip climbs inside the farmer's truck only to realize there is no place like home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gritty Crime Fiction

When Ian Rankin finished up his Inspector Rebus series, I was devastated. I had followed his career over the span of 17 books and almost 20 years. I couldn't imagine another author capturing that same feel - the underbelly of Scotland, the dourness and the grit. I'm thrilled to have found Denise Mina's series featuring Alex Morrow, a tough, female detective inspector. The Glasgow backdrop makes a change from Rankin's Edinburgh and Mina does a great job with the dialog. You can hear the strangulated vowels leap off the page as you read.

Still Midnight, the first in the series, opens with a home invasion and kidnapping. The criminals are inept and unsure of themselves. The situation is almost funny, until an accidental shot ups the stakes. DI Alex Morrow is assigned to the case, but not in the leading role she feels she deserves.