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.