Sunday, June 30, 2013

Imaginary Friends and Enemies

Most kids had imaginary friends when they were little. Most kids grow out of it. In the creepy and witty Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Kami Glass never did.

At sixteen, she's learned not to talk to other people about Jared, or to talk out loud to him. But she always knew he was there, the invisible friend in her head. They share everything with each other, joys and sorrows, frustrations and triumphs. But it's not as if she's ever seen him. He is imaginary, after all.

Then the mysterious Lynburns return to her small English village, and she meets the black sheep of the family. A boy who knows an awful lot about her. A boy who seems awfully familiar. A boy named Jared.

As Kami and her friends try to uncover the dark secret of the Lynburns, she also tries to work out what, if anything, she has to fear from Jared. What do you do when your imaginary friend suddenly comes to life . . . and just might be evil?

- Maureen K.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Good Prose is an Art

Like many of my library co-workers, I started adult life as an English major - creative writing, to be exact.  I imagined the artistic life I would lead in my mountain retreat, hound dogs lazing at my feet while I effortlessly tossed off remarkable prose. But, as those who write know, good writing is hard work and requires as much discipline as inspiration. So, as the years passed I accepted that "I coulda been a writer" but instead am a reader who enjoys literary fiction, mysteries, and - when I hear those hounds howling - books exploring the writer's craft.

My latest muse is Tracy Kidder - winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award and co-author of Good Prose : The Art of Nonfiction. With his editor Richard Todd (a relationship that began at The Atlantic Monthly in the early 70's), Kidder explores his maturation as a writer, the importance of beginnings (oftentimes the best "hook" is understated), story over subject, narrative strategies, memoirs, essays and the fact that the tale will dictate the telling.

What makes this book so valuable to me is the editorial point of view - including the last chapter entitled "Being Edited and Editing." Todd contends that editing is a "wifely trade" requiring listening, supporting and intuiting, noting that "writers assert; editors react." Kidder's claim that he struggles most with the first draft baffles Todd, who believes the first draft is the most liberating because it is a venue for your brightest, scattered thoughts. They both believe that writing is revision and "all prose responds to work."

Having been the victim of heartless editors who chuckle cruelly while wielding their red pens, I especially enjoyed an anecdote about author-editor role reversal. When editing Todd's book - which started as cultural criticism and spiraled into a personal memoir and essay - Kidder responded to the manuscript with "S**t-can this." It took Todd three weeks to get over that comment and I can only speculate on how many revisions.

Vicki Ann

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Oven Proof!

Summertime in sizzling Tucson. Just your luck to be the designated dessert provider at the upcoming potluck or perhaps you want to make that special treat for a birthday, anniversary or dinner party. Stay calm and cool and check out No Bake Makery: 80 Two-Bite Treats Made with Lovin', Not an Oven. Author Christina Suarez Krumstick offers more than 80 desert recipes, that are easy to make, bite-sized, delicious, and adorable (Krumsick refers to the confections as "edible accessories"). Absolutely yummy and - best of all - NO OVEN REQUIRED!

All recipes are easy to make - ranging from three ingredients with three steps to twelve ingredients with ten steps. Preludes to the actual recipes include a list of kitchen tools and supplies, special instructions for working with chocolate and a chart suggesting specific recipes for holidays. Gluten free options are provided throughout the book.

Christina's No Bake Makery's business success has been huge. Four months after launching her bite-sized enterprise from her Brooklyn apartment - with a blog, no-bake recipes and a Paypal account - she counted more than 3000 bites to fulfill orders that had poured in. Outside of her kitchen, which is equipped with a working oven, Krumsick is a publicist at a major publishing house.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Redefining the "Summer Read"

I don’t know about you, but at my house, summertime is high season for pleasure reading. From time immemorial, summer has meant one thing to me—devouring stacks of books, preferably sprawled out in a shady spot with something cool to drink close by in a frost-beaded glass. Summer books don’t need to sound impressive when you talk about them at dinner parties, or make you look smart when you take them out to read on the bus. To me, summer reading is all about enjoyment.

So when someone recently recommended Willa Cather’s My Ántonia to me as a great summer read, I was skeptical. Willa Cather’s name conjured no frivolity! The book was published in 1918! It sounded suspiciously like A Serious Classic, and I wasn’t sure that that would fit the bill for hammock reading. Still, I decided to give My Ántonia a shot.

Having swallowed the book whole in two short days, all I can say is: wow. A vividly-rendered story of love and loss along the road to adulthood, this title provides plenty of that other quality necessary for a truly fine summer read: escapism. My Ántonia is the story of a boy named Jim, who moves to Nebraska to live on his grandparents’ farm after being orphaned. The Bohemian girl living on the farm next door happens to be Ántonia Shimerda, a girl with sparks in her eyes and a talent for living. Jim and Ántonia grow up and toward each other. But life creates complications and problems, and what transpires between Jim and Antonia is anything but simple.

I’ll be perfectly forthright: this book will smash your heart into tiny smithereens and make you cry. But it won't just be because of the things that happen. The unbelievable, aching beauty of Cather’s prose and the love letter she has written to the wild prairies, mirroring Jim’s vision of Ántonia, will transport you to another place entirely. Although My Ántonia is nearly one hundred years old now, it will grip you as if it had been published yesterday. So, you see, this is the perfect summer read after all. Find that hammock, get your cold drink, and prepare to disappear for a few hours. (Just consider bringing a box of tissues along for the ride.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Horror in the Woods

Do you like scary stories? How about scary stories set in deep, dark woods well off the beaten path? If so, then The Ritual by Adam Nevill is the perfect book for you.

Four old college friends get together for a vacation backpacking in a very remote area of Sweden. Unfortunately, a couple of the guys are unprepared for their trip even before encountering the creepy unknown thing in the woods. Behind schedule, the group decides to veer off of the trail and bushwhack through the woods to make up for lost time. (Never a good idea, but especially bad when backpacking in remote areas that very few people ever tread.) On the map, it looks easy – cut through a slim section of woodland and then pop out near the river and enjoy the evening in a tourist hut. Unfortunately, the forest is not easy, the friends are unprepared, and there is something awful living in these woods.

From the very first page, The Ritual pulls in the reader and does not let go until the end. Suspenseful and surprising, this is a very fast paced book. Nevill does a great job of both building tension and developing the relationships between the characters. The sense of dread throughout the book definitely places this story strongly within the horror genre; in spite of this, the story does have glimmers of light and is not all gloom and doom, but readers should be prepared for more than a few gruesome scenes.

- Sarah, guest poster for Ravenous Readers

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Eye Spy

I love large photo books, the kind that cover your lap and look good on your coffee table. Serengeti Spy: Views from a Hidden Camera on the Plains of East Africa by Anup Shah is a gorgeous title containing pictures of animals from the national parks and reserves of Tanzania and Kenya. There are photos of cape buffalos, jackals, elephants, gazelles, zebras, and vultures. Each photo's caption is short and interesting; the image details are so clear that I find myself flipping through pages over and over.

In the introduction Shah explained how he camouflaged the camera, but could not fool the lions and monkeys. Sometimes the animals heard the shutter click and came in closer to investigate, treating the reader to a shot of a hyena's nose or a group of curious lion cubs. The author hid the camera in strategic locations on the ground, so instead of seeing the subjects from above, it is like sitting down next to them. If you have ever wanted to be in the midst of a wildebeest migration or come face to face with a cheetah, this book has photos for you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dog on It

If you ask me why I am an adult services librarian I will tell you, “Because I don’t want animals to talk in the books I read.”  OK, so there are other reasons too such as I am really really bad at dancing the Hokey Pokey.  Dogs in books should bark or even sometimes growl, but they should never talk.  However, after six people told me I should read Dog on It by Spencer Quinn, I reluctantly gave in and checked out the book. As you probably have guessed, the book is narrated by Chet the dog.  To my surprise, I truly enjoyed the book and loved Chet.  If dogs could talk, I imagine that they would sound just like Chet.
Chet’s sidekick is private investigator Bernie Little. He is a bit down on his luck. He needs money

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Once Upon a Flock

If you've ever had a flock of pet chickens or suspected that you might one day want to build a chicken coop in your backyard, or if you enjoy stories, photographs and drawings of adorably fuzzy chicks, then you should scoop up a copy of Lauren Scheuer's Once Upon a Flock. Scheuer adopts four tiny chicks and immediately begins to pamper them by building them a palace of a coop and by teaching her dog to see himself as flock leader rather than flock eater. During the months that follow, she invents recipes to use dozens of eggs, learns to identify the meaning of various chicken grunts and coos, discovers how deep human-chicken bonds can go, and participates in a wide range of crazy schemes to ensure that her chickens remain safe and happy. Once Upon a Flock is quick read, each page supplemented with whimsical hand-drawn chicken caricatures and photographs of Scheuer's pets.

~Queen of Books

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rules of Civility: A Cool Read for a Hot Day

Great historical fiction can be a great escape when it transports you to another time with well-researched and lushly-rendered descriptions, and evocative story-telling. With Rules of Civility, Amor Towles delivers a perfect time machine of a novel--he positively owns glamorous, jazzy, 1930s-era Manhattan--plus, it's a rollicking good read.

The setting won’t be unfamiliar to movie buffs with a taste for black-and-white flicks from the ‘30s (picture Rosalind Russell or Kate Hepburn playing the spunky heroine who arrives in Manhattan from the provinces and lands in a boarding house with a wise-cracking roommate). Katey Kontent, fresh from the Midwest, has a job in a typing pool, but it can’t hold her for long: she’s on her way up the career ladder--and the social ladder--fueled by her own limitless smarts and the champagne cocktails she shares with tuxedoed playboys in smoky jazz clubs and on Long Island estates. From the 21 Club to the Lower East Side, Katey is living the dream until a random event demonstrates with painful clarity that choices matter, luck can turn on a dime and people (especially rich people) are often not what they seem.