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Interrupted, by Rachel Coker

Read This! - Fri, 2014-03-14 01:01

Noreen shares this review:

In this time of werewolves, vampires, zombies, and dystopian worlds, it is refreshing to find a teen novel about real people and a real time. Allie’s story starts in 1939 when she is living with her mother in Tennessee. Her mother is suffering from brain cancer and Allie is coping as best she can. Her neighbor Sam tries to help but Allie is not sure that she wants his assistance. Sam has a crush on Allie but she is too wrapped up in caring for her mother to care. And on one of the days she does spend time with Sam, her mother dies, leaving Allie alone and thinking that if she had been there she could have saved her mother.

Allie is adopted by Miss Beatrice in Maine. After a brief transition period, the book moves to 1943. While Allie has adapted somewhat to her new life, she still holds onto her mother, her mother’s fervent belief in atheism, and her need to keep her emotions carefully hidden. She does find friends at school, and becomes somewhat close to Miss Beatrice’s older daughter. And who returns to her life? Sam, who is visiting a relative living next door to Miss Beatrice. A new relationship begins between Allie and Sam.

The book is set against the background of World War II and includes all the emotions of teens growing up and finding their place in the world. The developing relationship between Allie and Sam, while a little predictable, rings true as does Allie’s search for the meaning of life and for a way to hold on to her late mother while learning to accept the love of Miss Beatrice and her new friends.

Interrupted is a first novel by Rachel Coker who was 16 years old at the time of publication and a longtime user of Williamsburg Regional Library. As a children’s librarian at WRL for many years, it is amazing to read a book written by a young lady we’ve known as a child. Seeing a library user grow up and produce a book that has been well reviewed and is well worth reading is the perfect gift for those of us at Williamsburg Regional Library.

Check the WRL catalog for Interrupted: Life Beyond Words.

Categories: Read This

Garrow’s Law (2009)

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-03-13 01:01

You’ve just been accused of stealing 17 yards of lace. Your trial lasts eight minutes. No one testifies on your behalf. Verdict: Guilty! Sentence: transportation to Australia. Don’t you wish you’d had a lawyer?

Set in the late 1700s, this BBC courtroom drama brings all the plot twists and cross-examinations that we have come to expect from a long line of lawyer shows, but with an entertainingly rudimentary legal system that is not yet close to what we would consider a fair trial. It’s based on the career of English barrister William Garrow, who championed such radical ideas as “innocent until proven guilty” at a time when it wasn’t even a given that you’d have a lawyer for the defense.

A Robin Hood of the legal system, Garrow speaks up for the poor and powerless, the defendants most easily steamrollered by the machinery of justice. He shakes up the status quo with his indignation and debate skills, and he doesn’t make himself any more popular by starting an affair with Lady Sarah Hill, the wife of a politician. (Lord Hill is played by the dashing Rupert Graves, whom it pains me to watch in a villainous role. Disliking Rupert Graves, even in character, goes against natural laws.)

Over three seasons, Garrow confronts corrupt thieftakers, slave traders, and the infamous “London Monster,” said to have disguised a knife in a bouquet of flowers to stab young ladies in the face as they bent to smell the roses. Many details of the cases come from the archives of the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court. Even the pettiest cases can be life or death. Under what would later be referred to as the “Bloody Code,” an enormous number of crimes could incur the death penalty. The emphasis on crimes against property seems to defy reason: note that Renwick, the London Monster, isn’t tried for assaulting a young woman’s person, but for ripping her dress.

Enjoy the raucous, public trials; the charismatic acting; and the period Georgian sets and costumes. WRL owns all three seasons (twelve episodes).

Check the WRL catalog for Garrow’s Law.

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta, illus. by Ed Young

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-03-12 01:01

A child’s search for a bedtime snack turns into a nocturnal adventure in Barbara DaCosta’s playful Nighttime Ninja.
A ninja is on a mission. Armed with a rope and anchor, he swings through the night sky until he reaches an open window. Carefully, with grace and precision, he enters through an open window and makes his way through the quiet house. He reaches his goal and prepares his tools when all of a sudden the lights turn on and the ninja (and reader) is greeted with a humorous surprise.
Nighttime Ninja is a simple and straightforward story highlighted by DaCosta’s confident, austere prose and Ed Young’s wonderful mixed-media collage illustrations. The text and illustrations truly complement each other. The collages are so large and expressive that too much text might overwhelm their effect. The scenes where the ninja is moving through the house are especially inventive.
Parents looking for a fun bedtime story should consider Nighttime Ninja.

Check the WRL catalog for Nighttime Ninja.

Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-03-12 01:01

I hadn’t meant to write about The Monuments Men, which, thanks to a movie starring the dapper George Clooney, already has an impressive reserves list. But I keep running into folks who say, “I had no idea there was a book!”—a statement that brings out the evangelical librarian in me. So: there is a book! And if you’re at all interested in the intersection of art and WWII, then you’ll enjoy learning where history and the movie overlap, and where the truth has been stretched to fit a different story.

Nazi art thefts during WWII were meticulously planned and immense in scope. After the war, 400 tons of artworks removed from museums and private collections were found in salt mines and castles, the best of them earmarked for Hitler’s proposed Führersmuseum, never built. But while the scale of art plundering was unprecedented, so were the preservation efforts of museum curators and the military, especially the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives unit, known as the Monuments Men.

Eventually, 350 men and women from 13 countries served, but at the beginning, there were only a handful: as of D-Day, eight men to inspect every important monument between the English Channel and Berlin. They expected to do conservation triage—follow after the front-line soldiers, survey liberated towns for damaged sites, and organize emergency efforts to protect works from exposure or keep Roman ruins from being used as parking lots for tanks. They didn’t expect that so many masterpieces would be missing completely. As the war drew to an end, their mission morphed into a treasure hunt for artworks and other valuables stashed in hiding places throughout Europe.

Possibly the most bizarre of these was at Bernterode: underground, in a sealed room, a circle of regimental flags surrounding the coffins of Frederick the Great and former German President von Hindenburg. The most exciting cache was at Altaussee, where the paintings were a survey of Art History’s greatest hits, and the mine was packed with bombs.

Edsel’s account follows several of the Monuments Men, drawing on their writings and interviews with surviving officers. It was lonely work, each man improvising on his own without much support or even assigned transportation. The work of identifying and returning artworks continued until 1951, while questions of rightful ownership concern the courts to this day. (For a taste of postwar Monuments work, the National Archives has a fascinating article about the myriad political and logistical issues raised by those coffins alone.)

Check the WRL catalog for The Monuments Men.

The Monuments Men in Italy had a slightly different chain of command, and Edsel covers their exploits in a second book, Saving Italy.

Invisibility, by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan

Read This! - Wed, 2014-03-12 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

Stephen has been invisible all his life. No one has ever seen him – not his mother, not his father. He has grown accustomed to living among others, never to be seen. Then Elizabeth moves in next door. Entering his apartment one day, Stephen observes Elizabeth attempting to unlock her door while loaded down with shopping bags. “‘Are you really going to just stand there?’ she asks. ‘Is this fun for you?’”

Elizabeth just moved to New York City with her mother and brother. The circumstances behind their move still have her on edge. So, when the neighbor boy doesn’t seem to be particularly helpful to his new neighbor-in-distress, she snaps at him. Not the best first impression. Little does Elizabeth know that Stephen couldn’t care less what words she has just spoken. The fact that she spoke to him at all is the only thing that matters.

Why can Elizabeth see him when no one else ever has? Is she just the first? Will he soon be able to be seen by everyone? While Elizabeth’s arrival in his life prompts question after question for Stephen, she has no answers. Elizabeth has never seen an invisible person before. Working together to investigate Stephen’s strange existence, they unearth a world of curses and spells, witches and spellcasters, hiding right in plain view in modern-day New York City.

Check the WRL catalog for Invisibility.

Categories: Read This

A Woman Entangled, by Cecilia Grant

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-03-11 01:01

Kate Westbrook is deeply in love… with a house. She can’t stop looking at the broad sweep of its double staircase, or keep her hands off the banisters. Sadly, the elegant home of her Mayfair relatives is not for the likes of her: Kate’s father has been ostracized by his wealthy family ever since he married (shudder) an actress. But Kate is not going to let family disgrace stand between her and her rightful place in “that glittering world of champagne and consequence.” She has ambition, studied manners, and stunningly good looks. Maybe a wealthy suitor will marry her before he notices how embarrassing her family is.

Nicholas Blackshear, longtime friend of the Westbrook family, is carrying a torch for Kate, but he knows it’s hopeless. She’s aiming for earls and above, and he’s just a barrister saddled with his own family secrets. Nick has deliberately reshaped his romantic aspirations into brotherly affection. When Kate has a brief opportunity to make her impression on London society, Nick intends to help her land the suitor of her dreams. But that lingering admiration just makes him the world’s least suitable matchmaker… or chaperone.

Language, for me, is what makes Regency novels such a pleasure to read, and Grant’s style hits just the right notes, never forced or artificial. Her sentences flow easily, whether in sharp dialogue or self-mocking interior monologues. The surrounding characters, especially Kate’s bluestocking sister Viola, add life and color to the story, rounded out with conversations about women’s rights and courtroom tactics and fannish discussions of Miss Austen’s commendable novel, Pride and Prejudice.

Grant’s A Lady Awakened was my first read of the new year; I’d meant to blog about its hilariously incompatible sex scenes, the trapped heroine who just wants to make a difference in her ridiculously circumscribed world, and lovers who warm towards one another not from any of their antics in the bedroom, but when they start discussing land management—but, it turns out Christine beat me to it. What she said!

Check the WRL catalog for A Woman Entangled.

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-03-10 01:01

This spring, I had the opportunity to work with the library’s technical services department, cataloging youth and young adult materials. The internship allowed me the chance to catalog books I might not otherwise notice during the course of my regular duties. One such book was Luke Pearson’s charming graphic novel Hildafolk.
The protagonist of this short, colorful graphic novel is a young girl named Hilda. One evening, while engrossed in a book about trolls, she overhears the weather report on the radio. Delighted to hear that the forecast calls for rain, she asks her mother if she can sleep outside in her tent. This is the start of a wondrous adventure for Hilda, who takes great delight in the natural world around her. As Hildafolk unfolds, the heroine encounters giants, trolls, and a very unusual figure made of wood.
I was initially drawn to Hildafolk because of the art. Pearson’s illustrations are whimsical and colorful, and Hilda’s eyes in particular are quite large and expressive. Although the story is fairly simple, Hilda’s sense of wonder and delight really brings Pearson’s narrative to life.
Hilda’s adventures continue in two sequels: Hilda and the Midnight Giant and Hilda and the Bird Parade.

Check the WRL catalog for Hildafolk.

Categories: Pied Piper Pics

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-03-10 01:01

You forget, sometimes, that there are people living in space.

During his 146-day sojourn on the International Space Station in 2012-2013, astronaut Chris Hadfield reminded me, and many others, about life in space, as well as the natural beauty of life on earth. While his crew carried out a record number of science experiments, Hadfield was also spreading curiosity and enthusiasm about life on the ISS through savvy use of social media.

He traded tweets with fellow Canadian William Shatner (“Standard Orbit, Captain. And we’re detecting signs of life on the surface”). He posted YouTube videos about working without gravity (why you can’t wring out a washcloth in space, for instance). And he used his enviable perspective from the ISS cupola to share photos, including a Valentine’s Day heart for the planet.

Hadfield’s post-retirement memoir is loosely organized around three missions in space: from his first flight to Mir on the Atlantis, both now retired; through a spacewalk from Endeavor, installing a giant robotic arm on the ISS; to his last landing, after five months on the ISS, in the Russian Soyuz—”a wild 54-minute tumble to Earth that feels more or less like 15 explosions followed by a car crash.” Mission anecdotes are mixed with advice on how to think like an astronaut, much of which boils down to extreme, obsessive preparation and attention to detail. Canada didn’t even have a space agency when 9-year-old Hadfield decided that he wanted to be an astronaut, but he set himself to acquire the flight and engineering skills that he would need, spending years as a fighter pilot and test pilot until reality caught up with his dreams.

I am too hard-headed to benefit from most self-help books, but apparently I will listen to motivational pep talks from people who have been in space. And Hadfield does have a gift for presenting his career of extreme competence without coming across as a braggart. He’s easy to relate to and has a clear calling for sharing his passion for the space program and involving readers in the sheer “wwooooww” factor of a spacewalk.

If you enjoyed Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, you’ll appreciate Hadfield’s wry descriptions of peeing for science. Astronauts on the ISS perform scientific experiments, but also they are scientific experiments—in how the human body reacts to long sojourns without gravity.

Check the WRL catalog for An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson

Read This! - Mon, 2014-03-10 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

This fun, light and entertaining read is a great choice for anyone looking for a sweet and enjoyable journey. Meet Virginia Blackstone, aka Ginny. She’s a shy and reserved seventeen year old girl living your everyday, ordinary life. But then she receives a very special envelope with detailed instructions that changes everything. Ginny herself isn’t particularly surprised by the note but instead, the sender, her late Aunt. An eccentric, vivacious and carefree artist Ginny’s aunt lived for the moment and when they were together Ginny always felt like a different person, someone lively and outgoing, not afraid to try new things or just be herself. But that was two years ago, before Aunt moved away to London on a whim with only a note beneath her doormat. And now, Ginny has just opened Envelope #1 (of 13) with a list of instructions, rules and a good chunk of cash. After months of begging her parents Ginny is finally allowed to follow the letter, despite its questionable orders. She is to buy a plane ticket to London and a backpack. She can’t bring any additional luggage, travel guides, language dictionaries or money. Then she must take the tube to a specified location and locate a specific house. Only after she’s completed the tasks in each envelope can she open the next. And so begins a journey across Europe for a shy and reserved teenage girl, on her own, with only a set of letters to guide her and the hope that her aunt wasn’t as completely hapless and crazed as some believed. What emerges is a lovely story full of adventure and exciting, wonderful people. Truly a feel good read!

Check the WRL catalog for 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Categories: Read This

The Boyfriend App, by Katie Sise

Read This! - Fri, 2014-03-07 01:01

Jennifer D. shares this review:

If Apple sponsored a contest for high school students to create the next great app, would you enter? What if the winner got a $200,000 college scholarship? Public Corporation (a fictional Apple-esque company) announces just such a contest, and it’s enough incentive for Audrey. She’s got a leg up on the competition already, since she’s a tech geek, and now all she needs is a great idea. She can create an awesome app, but what should its function be? The best apps do more than just look cool, and to win the competition Audrey’s must be essential to existence.

Inspired by her desire to find true love, Audrey creates the Boyfriend App. Fill in a highly-detailed questionnaire and the app will find your perfect match. When your phone’s GPS detects you are near a match, an alert will notify you. Sounds simple, right? But, as the saying goes, “the course of true love never did run smooth”. Someone should have reminded Audrey that high school students don’t typically appreciate being told who they should and should not date.

Audrey’s app is soon turned on its head, however, when she uncovers some troubling technology hidden in her Public brand phone. What starts out as a simple high school romance novel soon becomes filled with suspicion and intrigue. Public is up to no good, but maybe Audrey can use their corruption against them. After all, $200,000 and true love are on the line.

Check the WRL catalog for The Boyfriend App.

Categories: Read This

Nightsong by Ari Berk, illus. by Loren Long

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-03-07 01:01

One of the most beautiful picture books I’ve come across recently is Ari Berk’s Nightsong. It is a sweet story with large, expressive illustrations by Loren Long that capture the beauty and wonder of the night and the unknown.
Nightsong is about a bat named Chiro who lives with his mother in a cave. One night, Chiro’s mother tells him it is time for him to fly out on his own into the world. She tells him to go no further than the pond and then come home after breakfast. Chiro is scared because it is dark and he cannot always see. He asks his mother how he will find his way. His mother says he should use his good sense, which is “the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you.” Using his good sense, Chiro embarks on a wondrous adventure that leads him to the pond and beyond before returning to the safety of his mother.
At some point, every child will have to go out into the world on their own and Nightsong presents this in a manner that is relatable for both parents and children. Ari Berk’s confident storytelling is enhanced by Loren Long’s illustrations. Long uses just the right amount of light, shadow, and color to illustrate Chiro’s adventure, and the expressions on Chiro’s face as he gains the confidence to follow his good sense and explore his world are simply delightful.

Check the WRL catalog for Nightsong.

Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-03-07 01:01

A mild-mannered sound engineer’s latest project blurs the line between fantasy and reality in Berberian Sound Studio, writer/director Peter Strickland’s homage to ‘70s Italian horror films.

Gilderoy (Toby Jones), a sound engineer who specializes in nature films, travels to Italy to work on the sound editing for what he thinks is a film about horses. He’s right about the horses, but it’s not a nature film.  Upon viewing the opening credits, he discovers that he’s actually been commissioned to work on a film called The Equestrian Vortex, a lurid horror film about witchcraft and murder at an all-girls riding academy.  To make matters worse, he barely speaks Italian, the cast hates the film, and the director, Giancarlo Santini (Antonio Mancino) won’t even acknowledge that he’s even making a horror film, insisting instead “It’s not a ‘horror’ film.  It’s a Santini film.”

Homesick, but unable to get his travel expenses reimbursed so he can return home, Gilderoy stays in Italy to work on the film.  As the sound editing progresses, he not only becomes more entrenched in the tense and often claustrophobic atmosphere of the studio, to the point of speaking Italian fluently, but he is unable to separate his life from his art.

Berberian Sound Studio is an inventive homage to the Italian giallo films of the 1970s.  Giallo is a genre of horror that typically, but not always, combines elements found in mysteries and police procedurals with common horror tropes.  Giallo films are also distinguished by their distinctive production design and sound, and a hypnotic, but incredibly creepy, score.  Notable Giallo directors include Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci.  Viewers who are unfamiliar with the genre will find additional background and context if they watch the special features included on the Berberian Sound Studio DVD.

Berberian Sound Studio is all about sound, and Peter Strickland keeps the focus on sound by not showing any scenes from The Equestrian Vortex aside from the opening credits.  The viewer experiences The Equestrian Vortex as Gilderoy does, through dialogue, music, sound effects, and, of course, lots of screaming.  Berberian Sound Studio is a meta horror film without many of the elements commonly found in horror films.  Through the use of sound, Strickland manages to create moments of real tension without relying on violence to generate scares.  Strickland also succeeds in crafting an impressive tribute to the art of foley, the creation of background sounds using common objects.

In addition to the use of sound, I really enjoyed the acting, particularly Toby Jones’ performance.  At the beginning of the film, Gilderoy is meek and polite, in sharp contrast to the brash rudeness of Santini and his producer Francesco Coraggio (Cosimo Fusco).  As work on The Equestrian Vortex progresses, Gilderoy’s personality begins to subtly change to match his surroundings, much to his chagrin.  Toby Jones gives a fine performance that works well with the tone of the film.

At the beginning of Berberian Sound Studio, Gilderoy is told, “A brave new world of sound awaits you.”  Strickland’s film is a clever and absorbing look at how this “brave new world” of sound is created and how it changes Gilderoy’s life.

Check the WRL catalog for Berberian Sound Studio

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, by Elizabeth Winder

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-03-06 01:01

Sylvia Plath’s summer internship as a guest editor at Mademoiselle magazine is explored in William and Mary graduate Elizabeth Winder’s insightful debut Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953.

In the spring of 1953, Plath, then a 20-year-old junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, is one of twenty young women selected by the editors of Mademoiselle magazine for an internship as a guest editor of the magazine’s yearly college issue.  She travels to New York in late May and spends the month of June in the city: living at the Barbizon Hotel; spending long days working at the magazine; and enjoying evenings filled with parties, ballets, and dates.

Within two months of her return to Massachusetts, Plath suffers a mental breakdown that leads to her first suicide attempt.  Years later, these experiences form the basis for her only novel, The Bell Jar, published shortly before her suicide in 1963.

Instead of recounting the grim details of Plath’s breakdown, Winder focuses on Plath’s interests and cultural influences in an “attempt to undo the cliché of Plath as the demon-plagued artist.”  Winder succeeds in reaching her ambitious goal.

Divided into eight sections filled with short, fast paced chapters, the book’s structure gives the reader the experience of an exciting, yet ephemeral, summer adventure.  The whirlwind of activity is anchored by candid interviews with several of Plath’s fellow guest editors.  These interviews are insightful and serve as a response to Plath’s depiction of her summer in New York in The Bell Jar.  The interviews, particularly the recollections of Carol LeVarn, provide some of the book’s most poignant and thought-provoking moments.

Winder balances the serious tone of the interviews with lively descriptions of Plath’s love of literature, fashion, and the popular culture of the early 1950s.  The text is enhanced by the inclusion of photographs, vintage advertisements, and fashion illustrations, including photos from the college issue.  Frequent sidebars include extended interviews, biographical sketches of people Plath met in New York, and quotes from her journals.  These sidebars add context to Plath’s experiences without breaking the momentum of Winder’s narrative.

Engaging and well-researched, Pain, Parties, Work will appeal to readers who are interested in Sylvia Plath’s life and work.  Elizabeth Winder is scheduled to present a program on Plath with Catherine Bowman at William and Mary on Thursday, March 20.

Check the WRL catalog for Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953

Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-03-05 01:01

A Cambridge graduate gets in over her head when she’s recruited by MI5 in Ian McEwan’s witty and metafictional tale of love and espionage in ‘70s Britain, Sweet Tooth.

Serena Frome (“rhymes with plume”), the daughter of an Anglican bishop, lives a quiet, sheltered life with her parents and sister in England.  Beautiful and clever with a talent for math, her parents, particularly her mother, insist that she study the subject at Cambridge.  Serena’s passion, however, is reading, and if left to her own devices she would have happily pursued an English degree at a small local college.  Her undergraduate studies at Cambridge are a disappointment; although she excelled in math as a schoolgirl, she struggles with her math tutorials.  Despite her lackluster academic performance, Serena continues to read voraciously, eventually writing a book column for a classmate’s literary magazine.  She also develops a relationship with a history student named Jeremy Mott.

Serena’s introduction to the world of espionage begins with a chance meeting with Jeremy’s history tutor, Tony Canning.  Captivated by her beauty and idealism, Canning begins an affair with Serena while grooming her as a possible MI5 recruit.  Their brief affair in the summer of 1972 includes intense tutorials on British politics and history, stoking the political fervor Serena discovered as a student at Cambridge.  The affair ends abruptly, but not before she lands an interview with MI5.

Although she starts her MI5 career performing low-level clerical duties, she soon receives an assignment that draws on her love of reading.  Seeking to influence the cultural conversation, MI5 is funding writers whose politics are consistent with those of the government through an operation with the code name of “Sweet Tooth.”  Serena’s mission is to recruit a promising writer and academic named Tom Haley.  His stories, surreal with a subtly political bent, enchant Serena, and she soon finds herself falling in love with Haley.  Their romance coincides with Haley’s first major literary triumph, but his nomination for a major award threatens to unravel MI5’s carefully crafted scheme.

The opening paragraph of Sweet Tooth not only reveals the outcome of Serena’s brief tenure in MI5, but it also lays the groundwork for McEwan’s audacious metafictional trick.  It’s a risky gambit; why bother reading the rest of the book if you already know how the story will end before you finish the first page?  I thought it worked because it ultimately ties in with Serena’s love of stories and literature.

Some of my favorite moments in Sweet Tooth involve Tom Haley’s stories, particularly the novel he completes after he meets Serena.  These stories within a story help develop Haley’s character and the relationship he has with Serena.  The intriguing cast of supporting characters include Shirley Shilling, Serena’s friend and co-worker at MI5; her colleague Max Greatorex; and Tony Canning.

Wryly entertaining, Sweet Tooth deftly mixes espionage, love, and literature.

Check the WRL catalog for Sweet Tooth

Legend, by Marie Lu

Read This! - Wed, 2014-03-05 01:01

Tabor shares this review:

Legend is a masterfully done Young Adult novel constructed attentively with the theme of ignorance vs. knowledge implemented through the two central characters. Lu composes a refreshing story by creating characters with their own set of loyalties and ideas. Even though both come from different economic backgrounds Lu utilizes their similar characteristics of stubbornness and intelligence to form an unlikely bond. The growth of both June and Day is an amazing feat accomplished by Lu as she takes them both through a series of emotionally devastating circumstances and complex decisions to resolve the story. At its finest Legend is a satisfying fill that has a better ending than Divergent’s.

Written by Marie Lu, Legend is a dystopian novel situated in a futuristic United States called The Republic and follows the intertwining narratives of June Iparis and Daniel Wing. Born into an elite family, June Iparis is a fifteen-year-old prodigy who is being preened for a successful career and life within the Republic’s military. Contrary is Daniel Wing, who goes by Day, and was born into the slums of the Republic where he became their most wanted criminal. These characters under normal circumstances would never have met but what happens when they do unfolds a tantalizing and intriguing story. The catalyst for their encounter occurs when June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Driven by grief, June commands the story with her determination to seek revenge by finding Day and making him pay for her brother’s death. The only problem with this intent is that Day’s motives may not be as malevolent as the Republic portrays. Legend unfolds from this and engrosses the reader as they soon understand that the Republic’s biggest mistake was allowing June and Day to ever meet.

The Republic is a futuristic dystopian version of the U.S.A that is at war with itself. North America has been separated into fractions: the all ruling Republic and the Colonies who serve them. A rebel group called the Patriots is another component in the story as they seek to free themselves from their totalitarian government. This backdrops serves to contrast the main characters: June and Day as they are pitted against each other as poster children for each of the fractions.

June Iparis is a military prodigy having scored a perfect score on her Trial, a test that determines a person’s mental and physical capabilities and how they can serve their Republic. June is sharp-witted and noted for having a taste for trouble at her military college. Since her parents died in a car crash when she was younger her only family is her brother Metias who serves as the last shred of familiarity in June’s world and drives her out of her world when he is murdered.

Day in his youth earned a reputation as a troublemaker but it is only when he fails his Trial did the Republic decide to interfere. Failing his Trial meant that Day is sent into the Republic’s work camps that actually turn out to be labs experimenting on the children who failed their Trials. After serving his purpose in the camps, Day was left to die but instead of doing so Day survived and decided to take revenge on the system that left him to die. With his thirteen-year-old sidekick: Tess, Day uses his intelligence and skills to create chaos for the Republic.

Check the WRL catalog for Legend 

Categories: Read This

Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig, illus. by Marc Brown

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-03-05 01:01

Here’s a book full of movement and sound that is perfect for energetic preschoolers. Told in a rhyme, animals leave their footprints while they dance across the page. “Tippity! Tippity! Little black feet! Who is dancing that tippity beat?” Young children will enjoy interacting with the story and guessing which animal uses their feet to make these sounds when they dance. A turn of the page reveals the answer, “Ladybugs are dancing on tippity feet. Tippity! Tippity! Happy Feet!” Lindsey Craig has teamed up with Marc Brown, author of the award winning Arthur series, on her debut book. Marc Brown’s simple shapes, collage-style art, and textured patterns will appeal to readers. Dancing Feet! is an ideal choice for getting children moving and singing during story time.

Check the WRL catalog for Dancing Feet!

Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-03-04 01:01

Marissa Meyer reinvents the story of Cinderella as dystopian science fiction in Cinder, the first novel in her series The Lunar Chronicles.

Cinder is a teenage mechanic living and working in New Beijing.  An orphan, she lives with her legal guardian, Adri, and Adri’s daughters, Pearl and Peony.  She doesn’t remember anything about her past or the operation that turned her into a cyborg. Every day, Cinder works in the local market fixing androids and other electronic devices with her trusted android Iko by her side, returning at night to a difficult home life with Adri and Pearl.  Her lone ally in the house is the sweet and gentle Peony.  One day, the handsome Prince Kai comes to Cinder’s booth asking if she can fix an android he calls Nainsi.  An immediate attraction develops between Cinder and Prince Kai, but Cinder refuses to acknowledge her feelings because she’s afraid the prince will reject her once he finds out she’s a cyborg.

Prince Kai is also struggling with a few problems of his own.  His father, the Emperor Rikan, has been stricken with a seemingly incurable plague called letumosis, also referred to as the Blue Fever.  If Rikan dies, Prince Kai will become the Emperor and even more attractive to the Lunar Queen Levana. Before he fell ill, Emperor Rikan and Queen Levana had been negotiating an alliance.  The prince, however, is suspicious of the motives of the queen, a crafty and vain woman who was implicated in the deaths of her sister, Queen Channary, and her niece, Princess Selene, the rightful heir to the queen’s throne.  Prince Kai believes Princess Selene may actually be alive, and he’s desperately searching for any information to confirm his suspicions.

When Emperor Rikan dies of letumosis, Queen Levana travels to New Beijing to discuss the alliance with Prince Kai. Levana’s idea of an alliance includes marriage to Prince Kai, and she uses the threat of war to secure an engagement. Meanwhile, Cinder discovers information that could be useful to Prince Kai while working on Nainsi.  Will Cinder reach Prince Kai before the coronation ball, where he will announce his engagement to Queen Levana?

Cinder is an inventive twist on the classic tale of Cinderella with great characters and fast-paced action. Cinder is an appealing heroine who uses her intelligence and creativity to solve problems.  Prince Kai is a noble hero who tries to stay one step ahead of Queen Levana’s schemes.  The attraction between Cinder and Prince Kai is obvious from their initial meeting, but I liked how Meyer kept the subplot fresh by adding a few unpredictable complications.  Queen Levana is an intriguing villain who uses the power of illusion to manipulate people.  The science fiction elements of the story work really well with the allusions to the fairy tale Cinderella, especially the way Meyer handles Cinder’s preparations for the pivotal coronation ball.  Cinder is full of more characters and storylines than I could comfortably fit into the synopsis, but Meyer adeptly uses these elements to establish the basis for the next book in the series.

The Lunar Chronicles continue with Scarlet and Cress.

Check the WRL catalog for Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress

The Returned (2012)

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-03-03 01:01

A fifteen-year-old girl named Camille (Yara Pilartz) is on school trip.  As the bus reaches a sharp curve in the road, it suddenly careens down a steep embankment, killing all aboard the bus.

A young man named Simon (Pierre Perrier) dies on the eve of his wedding to Adèle (Clotilde Hesme).  He had just found out that she was pregnant with their first child.

Years later, Camille and Simon, along with several other people who died years before, suddenly and inexplicably return to their homes and families in a remote mountain town in the first season of the beautifully eerie French series, The Returned.

The first episodes focus on the characters of Camille and Simon, who are unaware they are dead, as they return to their homes.  Both soon discover that everything has changed.  In the years since their deaths, Camille’s parents Claire (Anne Consigny) and Jérôme (Frédéric Pierrot) have separated, and her twin sister Léna (Jenna Thiam) is now an adult.  Adèle has moved on as well.  She is now engaged to a Gendarmerie captain named Thomas (Samir Guesmi), who is helping her raise Simon’s daughter Chloé (Brune Martin).

For Claire, still struggling to come to terms with Camille’s death, the return of her daughter is a miracle; one she hopes will bring her fractured family back together.  Jérôme and Léna are a bit more skeptical, but accept Camille’s return for Claire’s sake.  Adèle’s feelings about Simon’s return are more complex.  Like Claire, Adèle still grieves the loss of Simon, but she has found love and security with Thomas.  Adèle is soon faced with a choice that will have an effect on the life she has built with Thomas and Chloé.

While Camille and Simon attempt to reintegrate with their families, several other mysteries unfold.  A waitress is attacked in a tunnel and left for dead.  Her attack bears all the hallmarks of a serial killer who terrorized the town years ago.  A respected teacher burns down his house then jumps to his death from the local dam.  A nurse whose brutal attack seven years ago was linked to the serial killer, is followed home by an enigmatic boy whom she decides to call Victor.  Then there is the matter of the dam. Water levels in the reservoir unexpectedly drop, wreaking havoc on the town’s water supply.  Are these seemingly random events linked to Camille and Simon’s return?

Over the course of eight episodes, the first season of The Returned weaves together several seemingly disparate storylines into a compelling and creepy mystery.  I think the key to the show’s success is the setting.  On the surface, the town looks quiet and peaceful with its pristine mountains and tranquil lakes; however, the only access to the rest of civilization is a road that goes over the dam.  If the residents can’t cross the dam, then they are unable to leave the town.  The town’s isolation enhances the tension as the mystery deepens.

The Returned is an adaptation of a 2004 French film called They Came Back.  Although both share the same basic premise of the dead returning to their families, the film is a drama with supernatural elements while the series is a supernatural mystery.  Fans of The Returned should check out They Came Back if they haven’t already seen the film, but they should not expect the film to have the same characters and storyline.  Both are in French with English subtitles.

Check the WRL catalog for The Returned

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Read This! - Mon, 2014-03-03 01:01

Lily shares this review:

The Fault in Our Stars is a beautifully written story about two cancer kids that fall in love. It’s about the way we look at life and how, after a life close to us is taken away, that perspective effects the way we cope. It’s about learning that people aren’t who they seem (or who you want them) to be. People will disappoint you greatly, or perhaps surprise you into love. This book is about LIFE. Real life. Real people. Real love.

This story and the characters in it are alive in my heart and they will never leave. Reading this book brought laughter to my lips, tears to my eyes, and deep thoughts to my mind. What a marvelous combination! The way John Green writes makes me feel and think – not many writers can do that, and he does it wonderfully and fluidly. John Green, you are MAGNIFICENT.

The main two characters:

Hazel Lancaster – “I told Augustus the broad outline of my miracle diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer when I was thirteen. (I didn’t tell him that the diagnosis came three months after I got my first period. Like: Congratulations! You’re a woman. Now die). It was, we were told, incurable.” ~Hazel, page 24.

Hazel is sixteen, her favorite book is An Imperial Infliction, and she enjoys watching reality TV shows with her parents. She attends college classes and has a huge vocabulary. Because of the metastasis forming in her lungs she is constantly hooked up to an oxygen tank. She has short brown hair and is told by Augustus she looks like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta.

She is an up-beat, sarcastic girl that has an irrepressible affection for…

Augustus Waters – Handsome and flirtatious, this guy stole that piece of my heart reserved for book boyfriends as soon as I set eyes on him. Augustus meets Hazel at Support Group and they start their relationship with a steamy stare-down, which Hazel wins. Confident, charming, tall. This guy has it all…well, I guess there’s the little detail of him having one leg due to the Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) that was in it.

Augustus is determined to leave his mark on the earth before he dies. In this way he is very different from Hazel, who is afraid to hurt anyone by leaving her mark and does all she can to prevent the pain others will feel when she herself dies. Augustus complains at one point of the book that he just wishes he could have a major impact on people. “It crossed my mind to fake a choking incident or something so that he might give me the Heimlich. Maybe then he could rid himself of this fear that his life had been lived and lost for no greater good.” ~Hazel, page 237.

She then tries to make him understand that by just living he impacts those around him: “I just want to be enough for you, but I never can be. This can never be enough for you. But this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life.” ~Hazel, page 241.

They are young and in love and bring to mind a favorite quote from Doctor Who: “Life is short, and you are hot” ~Billy Shipton in the episode Blink.

Check the WRL catalog for The Fault in Our Stars

Categories: Read This

Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow by Robert D. San Souci, illus. by E.B. Lewis

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-03-03 01:01

Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow, written by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, is a re-telling of a traditional English ballad. In this story, Robin Hood and his Merry Men once again find a way to outsmart the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff thought it would be clever to catch them using an archery contest as a setup, as he knew the men greatly enjoyed archery and in fact had quite a knack for it. However, Robin Hood and his men knew the contest to be a trap, and so went to it disguised and arriving individually from different directions. When a stranger triumphs over the Sheriff’s best archer, but refuses to work for the Sheriff afterwards, the Sheriff becomes angry and leaves. Later, a poem informs the Sheriff that the very man he wanted to catch that day won the contest, further infuriating him. It was a victory for Robin and the Merry Men.
This awesome story is accompanied by fabulous illustrations. The colors bring the reader back to Medieval England, and the characters look so realistic. The forest is absolutely beautiful and the costumes look period accurate. For those who love adventure, this book is for you. With lots of page-filling pictures, this book is perfect for reading to a young one.

Check the WRL catalog for Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow.

Categories: Pied Piper Pics