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Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-10-17 00:03

Emily Arnold McCully’s Caldecott Medal-winning Mirette on the High Wire is an enchanting story perfect for holding the attention of an older audience. Mirette works in her mother’s boardinghouse where one day the retired high-wire walker Bellini comes to stay with them. After Mirette sees him walking on the clothesline, she decides to try it too, in spite of Bellini’s protesting. Then she overhears some other guests saying that Bellini is really “the great Bellini” who once fried an omelet on a wire in the middle of Niagara Falls and crossed a flaming wire, blindfolded, over Naples. When Mirette asks Bellini why he stopped high-wire walking, he says that fear on the wire never leaves someone. But he can’t stand disappointing Mirette, so he concocts a plan to conquer his fear. And it turns out that Mirette may be the very thing he needs to overcome his fear of the wire for good.
This rich, detailed story is a perfect elementary school read that will introduce kids to the exciting world of high-wire walkers. Above all, Mirette on the High Wire is a book about determination and conquering fear.

Check the WRL catalog for Mirette on the High Wire.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Read This! - Fri, 2014-10-17 00:01

Rachael shares this review:

Seconds is written by the author/artist of the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series, and seems to be a foray into the New Adult genre.  Seconds seems to speak to the 20-something population, offering the misadventures of Katie Clay, a young chef and restauranteur who finds herself and restaurant haunted by a “house spirit” who helps Katie by giving her a crop of magic mushrooms which allow her to erase bad actions and start the following day anew, with a second chance to make a better decision.  As Katie starts to rely too heavily on this magic trick as a failsafe for curing her business & relationship problems, her past, present, and future become increasingly tangled, and by avoiding the consequences of her actions, creates even worse circumstances.

I continue to be a fan of stories that are able to lovingly laugh at and make sense of the mess that can be adulthood in your 20s. (I loved that show “Scrubs”!)  It is a time of first-time adult choices, missteps, and self-discovery that anyone from teens on up can appreciate.  This is a fun, hipster fable that was visually a lot of fun, especially in the characterization of Katie. The range of emotions and action depicted by O’Malley really stands out in his many iterations of the central character. I recommend this book for older teens and 20-somethings with a sense of humor who appreciate graphic novels.

Check the WRL catalog for Seconds


Categories: Read This

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, by Matthew Quick

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-10-17 00:01

Leonard Peacock, age 18 today, doesn’t connect with anyone at school except for Herr Silverman, his social studies teacher. He spends his free time with a chain-smoking elderly neighbor watching Bogart films, and surfing the subway dressed in a suit, observing the workaday adults, and looking for any sign that “it’s possible to be an adult and also be happy.” He sometimes writes letters to himself from imagined loved ones from his future, as suggested by Herr Silverman to get through the daily life of his teenage experience.

Leonard is a loner, to say the least. His self-absorbed failed rock-star father is gone, and his aging model mother, pursuing a mid-life career as a fashion designer, spends most of her time in New York with an insidious “Jean-Luc.” None of these are the reasons Leonard has decided to kill himself and his once best friend Asher Beal today.

Leonard Peacock has a bitterly funny and painfully sincere perspective reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, questioning the norms of a world in which so much seems wrong. He laments a world lulled into the habit of accepting or ignoring everyday evils. But he harbors hope for the better: “Call an old friend you haven’t seen in years. Roll up your pant legs and walk into the sea. See a foreign film. Do anything! Something! Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take. Just don’t go back to that miserable place you go every day.”

This book is swiftly-paced, darkly humorous, and probably for the more pensive reader of realistic fiction. The darker themes may resonate more with older young adult readers, but adult readers shouldn’t miss out on this YA gem. (Quick also wrote The Silver Linings Playbook). The characters are flawed, real, and sometimes lovely. Several long footnotes/sidebars annoy at first, but seem to drop away once the main story and characters are established. Quick offers a perspective on hope and happiness in spite of terrible events, rather than for lack of them, and that happiness can require work. I really connected with this book and feel compelled to read the rest of his works–all of which have been optioned for film.

Read-alikes for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock include Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher, Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

Check the WRL catalog for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock


The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-10-16 00:01

As human beings we are all connected, even across time. Small acts of kindness or a single act of brutality may have repercussions down through the years and perhaps even across generations. During World War II, a baby was placed in a girl’s arms in Paris. She raised the baby as her own son and told him a romantic version of his origins. Almost two decades later as a young man in the United States, he realizes that his circumcision means that he was almost certainly Jewish and learns what that meant for his chances of survival in World War II Paris.

Simon Van Booy’s haunting novel starts in 2010 with a series of coincidental meetings. An elderly man in California cradles a new rest home patient as he dies. Then the story jumps around through disparate people in different decades and on different continents and at various points in their lives. The people portrayed in the first decades of the 2000s are largely unaware that they are connected to horrific and sometimes heartwarming events in the battlefields of WWII France sixty years earlier. It is a compelling story told through vignettes painted in sparing poetic language.  It only as you read on that you can build up the picture of the connections between the characters, in many cases connections that they themselves will never know. There is the mystery of what happened to John during the war and minor characters who suggest or carry out small acts of kindness that show how lives are entwined  throughout the decades.

The Illusion of Separateness is a quick read and a memorable story that raised the possibility of redemption, the power of love, and the healing in human connections. I recommend it for fans of  literary fiction. Read it in a quiet moment to savor the language, the story and web of connections as they build up.

Check the WRL catalog for The Illusion of Separateness.


Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

Read This! - Wed, 2014-10-15 00:01

Mandy shares this review:

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


Categories: Read This

Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein, by Stephanie Hemphill

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-10-15 00:01

As a longtime fan of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, I picked this up as soon as I saw the subtitle. The book is told in free verse–but don’t be thrown if you are not a poetry lover–from Mary’s perspective about her young life from age 14 through her early 20’s, during which she ran away with the charismatic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to travel Europe with his coterie of fellow intellectuals and artists, and she wrote Frankenstein, before she was even 20 years old.

I fear this book won’t be very popular for those not inclined to pick up historical fiction, poetry, or the gothic classic, Frankenstein, but it is full of romance, scandal, and adventure in a format that doesn’t keep you waiting. The brief but dense poetic format offers one scandalous tidbit after another, and the title of each of the poems/entries make it easy to flip back to earlier moments in the story or character introductions. I would almost call this a celebrity gossip special, 19th-century style, if it also weren’t so beautifully written, and didn’t so carefully explore Mary’s joys and struggles as a young woman who is intellectually voracious, determined to write, and in love with an inspiring yet unstable man (did someone say “bad boy?”)

I think young women will be able to relate to Mary’s growth as a young woman, as a writer, and in her relationships with others and the world; her strength and frequent acts of informed fearlessness also make her a character to admire. Hemphill’s choice to write this book about Mary’s formative years as a writer offers the additional benefit of exploring the often raw and complicated formative years of young adulthood, and the strength and genius that can emerge from them.

Although this book seems limited to the historical fiction and YA genres, it has much wider appeal characteristics. Teens who gravitate toward gothic and/or historical drama will find this an interesting and fast read, as will anyone who enjoys celebrity drama and scandal without a lot of excess prose. This also offers appeal to both teens and adults that appreciate YA realistic fiction about the struggles and revelations of young adulthood. Young women will also admire Mary’s self-determination, even though Mary’s love affair with Shelley may be questioned by today’s higher standards for the marital and gender equality in relationships. Adult fans of Philippa Gregory and 19th century English literature will enjoy this, as well as literature buffs who may enjoy the insight that this biographical fiction may offer into readings of Mary’s written work (I couldn’t help but constantly comparing the monster/creator relationship in Frankenstein to the strained relationship between Mary and her adored yet rejecting father).

This book was interesting, packed with drama, and nicely written. I will share that there is a character list at the end of the book that may be helpful as one needs refreshing about the large cast of characters that populate the story. Enjoy this on a rainy day.

Check the WRL catalog for Hideous Love


Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, illus. by Lynn Munsinger

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-10-15 00:01

Wodney Wat has a problem: his name is really Rodney Rat, but he can’t pronounce his r’s. All the kids at school tease him while he tells them that another name for bunny is “wabbit” and that “a twain twavels on twain twacks.” But things start to change for Wodney the day Camilla Capubara, the biggest, meanest, smartest rodent of all comes to school. All day long she steps on tails, knocks people over, and tramples the whole class on the way to recess. When Wodney gets chosen to lead a game of Simon Says, he is terrified of what Camilla will do to him. But Camilla doesn’t understand that Wodney can’t pronounce his r’s… So for instance, when Wodney says to “wake the leaves,” everyone else grabs a rake, but Camilla grabs a leaf and yells, “Wake up!” Wodney realizes that he might just be able to use this advantage to get rid of Camilla altogether…
This hilarious read is great for large groups. Preschoolers and elementary kids will appreciate the frequent wordplay. Hooway for Wodney Wat is a great read for anyone who has ever felt insecure about something, and teaches an important lesson about respect and self-acceptance.

Check the WRL catalog for Hooway for Wodney Wat.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

In the Kingdom of Ice, by Hampton Sides

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-10-14 01:01

Armchair explorers, add this to your bookshelf of travel and survival narratives in the cold and lonely north.

The USS Jeannette set off in search of the North Pole in 1879. Manned in large part by men who had just missed the “glory” of service in the Civil War, the expedition boasted the latest innovations, including Edison’s lights and Bell’s telephones, and was spurred on by scientific theories that the Kuro Siwo, a Pacific equivalent to the Gulf Stream current, would sweep the ship effortlessly north to a temperate polar sea. Unsurprisingly, this was not their experience.

Instead, the Jeannette was locked in a vice of pack ice for two years before its hull was crushed, and the expedition was left to make its way 1,000 miles across more ice and unexplored territory to Siberia—before winter, and before their provisions would run out. At one of the lowest points in their journey, they learned that despite days of grueling slog to the south, hauling their boats, the drift of the floating ice over which they were travelling had dragged them north, even farther from rescue than when they started.

Author Sides delves into the background of the expedition, setting the usual narrative of cold and deprivation in its Gilded Age context. Vivid descriptions, many from the letters and journals of the men involved, add to the account.

Possibly the most striking character in this story wasn’t even on the expedition: financier James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, whose journalist was embedded with the crew. In a book filled with colorful personalities, Bennett is still, as Sides writes, “spectacularly weird,” having once abducted a musical theater company, broken off an engagement by urinating into his prospective in-laws’ grand piano, and boosted newspaper circulation by printing a fake story about New Yorkers mauled by escaped zoo animals in Central Park (“A Shocking Sabbath Carnival OF DEATH!”)

Check the WRL catalog for In the Kingdom of Ice.


The First Phone Call from Heaven, by Mitch Albom

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-10-13 00:01

Mitch Albom, author of the best-seller Tuesdays with Morrie, continues to write inspirational books exploring faith and humanity.  I find his books easy to read with simple plots and sympathetic characters, but each also has a message that lingers.

The First Phone Call from Heaven takes place in a small Michigan town. One morning three different people receive phone calls from family members who have passed away. A short conversation–maybe just a phrase–but sending the message that they were communicating from heaven.

That same day Sullivan Harding is released from prison.

The plot jumps from the history of the telephone to Sully’s story of why he went to prison to the growing interest in these heavenly phone calls.

Sully is is trying to carve out a normal life–a life shared with his young son, Julian, but without his beloved wife; a life as an ex-convict, not a respected Navy pilot. The calls intersect directly with Sully when Julian starts questioning when he is going to get a message from his mom. Julian doesn’t see the difference between Sully going away to prison and coming back, and his mom dying and not coming back. Sully determines to get to the bottom of where these calls are really coming from so his son doesn’t hold out false hope for his mom’s return.

Meanwhile the calls themselves are gaining national attention.  A small-time reporter gets the first interview with a women who received a call from her deceased sister. The video goes viral, throwing the small town into chaos as more and more people come to witness the miracle phone calls.

The plot reminds me a little bit about the movie Heaven is for Real, which Chris reviewed a few weeks ago. The phone calls are either real or a complete hoax depending on what you believe. Albom explores the ramifications from many different angles–the individuals receiving the calls, the religious community, the news outlets, the believers, the unbelievers, the  curious. And like I said, it will leave you thinking long after you finish the book.

Check with WRL catalog for The First Phone Call from Heaven


Bats At the Beach by Brian Lies

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-10-13 00:01

Have you ever wondered what bats do at night, while all the humans are in bed? Bats at the Beach has an answer! In this enchanting, beautifully-illustrated story by Brian Lies, readers enter a world where, while everyone else is sound asleep, bats have fun at the beach. Read about how bats need their “moon-tan lotion” and how they love to eat “salted ‘skeeters” and toast “bug-mallows.” The illustrations add details to this unique bat world, as bats make kites by tying strings to themselves and chat upside-down at the “snack bar”: a ceiling where all the tasty bugs gravitate toward the light bulb. The illustrations also demonstrate how the bats don’t let their small size get in the way of having fun–they make swords out of straws and use food containers as boats. Since the illustrations are so intricate, this book is better for a one-on-one read, and while the bright, glossy pictures should captivate any audience, older readers will best appreciate the bat-related humor.

Check the WRL catalog for Bats At the Beach.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Read This! - Mon, 2014-10-13 00:01

Melissa shares this review:

If you enjoy television shows like Criminal Minds or  CSI or Cold Case, or any of the many TV dramas that involve solving criminal cases in an hour, you should pick up the YA novel The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Cassie is a 17-year-old with a gift for reading people. At the beginning of the book she’s working in a diner using her gift of picking up subtle details to figure out what kind of eggs a customer might order, or if they are likely to skip on the check. She catches the attention of an FBI agent named Briggs who has developed an experimental program  that uses gifted teens to help solve cold cases.

He asks Cassie to join his group of “naturals” so she can develop her skills. Cassie doesn’t have anything to lose. Her dad is serving overseas in the military and her mother, who taught her much of what she knows about reading people, was murdered years ago. With little to keep her in Denver with her grandmother and the hope that maybe she can learn something about her mother’s unsolved murder, she agrees to join the eclectic group and work for the FBI.

The “naturals” live together in a house in Quantico, Virginia, near FBI headquarters. She meets Michael, the handsome rebel who reads emotions, but doesn’t like to be read himself; Dean, the other profiler, who is the son of a convicted murderer; Lia, who specializes in deception and sarcasm; and Sloane, the computer nerd whose gift is  numbers and probability. The characters are easy to distinguish and likeable–if also somewhat stereotypical.

The plot moved along quickly and kept me entertained.  Interspersed with the training exercises and the teens getting to know one another (in part through a risky game of “Truth or Dare”) are chilling chapters from a serial killer–a killer who seems to be escalating in the number and brutality of murders… a killer who targets Cassie as the next victim.

The Naturals is listed as the first in a series.  Stay on the lookout for the sequel.

Check the WRL catalog for The Naturals


Categories: Read This

Don’t Wake Up Mama! by Eileen Christelow

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-10-10 00:01

Eileen Christelow’s famous five little monkeys wake up early to bake Mama a birthday cake. They keep reminding each other, “Sh-h-h! Don’t wake up Mama!” But they soon have to deal with one noisy disaster after the next: somebody sneezes, one little monkey slips on spilled oil, the cake even burns and sets off the fire alarm! Will the monkeys’ crazy antics wake up Mama and spoil the surprise? Also, a surprise twist at the end makes the story even more fun!
Kids and parents alike will delight in seeing kids who are eager to help around the house, but who don’t always yield the best results. Preschoolers will benefit from the frequent repetition in the story, and the monkeys’ shenanigans and the frequent sound effects make this book great for a story time setting.

Check the WRL catalog for Don’t Wake Up Mama!


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

Read This! - Fri, 2014-10-10 00:01

Rachael shares this review:

Ender is a gifted child selected at age 6 to train to be a space soldier, battling alien forces in zero gravity.  He is sent to battle school with other prodigies and must learn not only to battle but how to strategize and lead others.  I thought this book was amazing. It poses big social questions about war and violence: making violence a game, making soldiers of children, breeding violence with violence, striking first and asking questions later, and the loss of innocence, among other things. A lot of the themes reminded me of Slaughterhouse Five and Full Metal Jacket. This can be enjoyed by young adults, but I think will become more and more meaningful as the reader ages (this is the same reason I went back and read S.E. Hinton in my 20s even though I read it in 7th grade). This book does just as much in what it doesn’t say as what it does – don’t be fooled by the simple style and the Star Wars geek appeal. This is one of the best books I’ve read, and the movie was pretty decent, too.

Check the WRL catalog for Ender’s Game


Categories: Read This

The Dead Zone, by Stephen King

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-10-10 00:01

If you read this blog regularly, and I hope you do, you may notice that I like to read about politics. Strangely enough, Stephen King, who I really like, wrote a book about politics and my first response to it was less than enthusiastic. I read it again a few years later, and it really drew me in. Just goes to show that the same book won’t be the same every time you read it. Since then, I reread it several times and it’s one I suggest to people when they dismiss King as just another scary writer.

The basic story: John Smith is a young teacher, a nice guy falling in love with a nice girl. Then an accident puts him into a coma, and years of that good life just melt away, along with all its possibilities. When he recovers, he has gained a frightening ability. Just by touching something or someone at an emotional moment, he gets flashes—visions of the past, intuitions of the present, knowledge of the future. Some might think it a wonderful power, except he can’t turn it off and can’t get people to believe him.

Johnny has no idea what he is to do with this ability and no interest in exploiting it. He wants to go back to teaching, to pay off his enormous hospital bills, and to find that nice girl he’s still in love with, but word of his ability spreads and he becomes infamous. He also becomes sensitive to the reluctance that people—even the ones he loves?—feel towards touching him. And through a powerful experience he learns that he does have a purpose, even if it isn’t one he believes or wants. He sets off on his own to avoid it and to rebuild the wreck of his life.

Johnny’s story is populated with memorable characters: Sarah Bracknell, his girl; Greg Stillson, the ambitious salesman intent on riding the winds of change; Sam Weizak, Johnny’s doctor and friend; Sonny Ellison, a reformed biker; Sheriff George Bannerman, a desperate cop; and Chuck Chatsworth, the student Johnny finally connects with. Each becomes a reminder to Johnny that he cannot escape his purpose and it becomes more and more apparent that this good and sensitive man is the only person able to prevent an apocalypse.

Politics is the background Johnny’s struggle is illuminated against. From the radical disturbances of the early Seventies to the post-Watergate cynicism of the American public, Johnny is a witness to public life. The story becomes a lesson in political history as told through the eyes of a time traveler adrift in a culture he doesn’t recognize. People have become personalities, character has become charisma, ideas have become ideologies. But Johnny’s struggle is an eternal one—can the ends ever justify the means?

Check the WRL catalog for The Dead Zone


Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-10-09 00:01

Capitalism is great. When it works, it transfers money from people willing to take risks to people who have risks worth taking. Sure, the eventual payoff to both is in proportion to the risk, and the risk is in proportion to the vision, but the overall purpose is to move idle money to the places that can put it to use. Capitalism is great. When it works.

And then there are the parasites.

In Flash Boys, Michael Lewis tells the story of a bunch of regular guys who decided to drag one group of parasites into the light so the markets could understand how and why they had become hosts. The parasites had a simple business model. Someone sends out an offer to buy United Widgets at $1.00, the parasite would see his offer, and go buy the available shares at $1.00. Then he’d offer them to the buyer for $1.01. A penny a share of pure profit, no risk, no real value added. But how did he see the spread between the two?

He figured out that placing his computer server just a little closer to the server that executes trades would buy enough lag time that he could spot the opening and get the jump on real investors. The smart guy and his cronies started at milliseconds and wrung every angle until they were down to beating legitimate investors by nanoseconds. These weren’t the small-time investors, either—institutional investors managing billions of dollars couldn’t figure out why they were constantly paying higher prices when the computer said right there that they should have gotten it for less. They’d scratch their heads and pay the higher cost.

But there were people in the system who caught on to the parasites. Instead of cashing their knowledge in for a few million bucks, these regular guys decided they were going to put the markets back on an equal footing. (Well, as equal as it could be.) There are too many for me to credit in this post, but basically they were organized and inspired by Brad Katsuyama, a low-key guy working for the low-key Royal Bank of Canada. For my money (what’s left of it after the markets got hold of it), he should be recognized as a genuine hero. But his discovery about lag time was only the tip of the fraud, and his real courage came out when he brought his findings and his solutions to those institutional investors. Their reaction—and the way he finally convinced them that he had a viable solution—shows that sometimes heroism doesn’t happen in a flash. Heroism takes work.

As for the parasites? A friend once told me, “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.”  When I look around, it seems that the parasites, and the pigs, are actually doing better than everyone else. Capitalism is great. When it works.

Check the WRL catalog for Flash Boys


Moira’s Birthday by Robert Munsch, art by Michael Martchenko

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-10-08 00:01

Robert Munsch has created another laugh-out-loud adventure that kids of all ages will love. Moira can’t wait for her birthday, and is so excited for her party that she wants to invite everyone in grades one through six, and kindergarten. But her parents say, “That’s crazy!” and that she can only invite six kids. But everyone at school who hasn’t been invited begs her to let them come too, and Moira just can’t say no to anyone…
So sure enough, on the day of her party, everyone in grades one through six, plus kindergarten, shows up at her house. At first it seems like a disaster–when Moira tries to order two-hundred pizzas and birthday cakes, everyone tells her, “THAT’S CRAZY!” Plus, after the fiasco is finally over, she ends up with way too many presents and food. Now Moira has to figure out a way to get rid of everything.
While the story’s crazy antics will hold the attention of all age levels, the book’s repetitive style will benefit younger readers with counting practice. Everything about this book is lively, from the all-caps quotations to the illustrations that show all the chaos that Moira’s party creates, making Moira’s Birthday a fun large-group read.

Check the WRL catalog for Moira’s Birthday.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-10-08 00:01

It’s an easy comparison: picture Paris Hilton getting out of prison ten years after murdering her own mother. Even better, she’s only free because the LAPD forensics lab screwed up evidence collection in a bunch of cases, so she doesn’t even have the shelter of a presumption of innocence. Swap Paris for the fictional Janie Jenkins, and you’ve got the premise for Dear Daughter.

With her conviction overturned, Janie wants to do two things: hide from the paparazzi and crime shows and blogs, and find out whether or not she killed her mother. True, they had a rotten relationship, and yes, Janie had stolen some expensive stuff, and she was found in the closet of an adjoining room, covered with her mother’s blood. Oh, and her mother had written Janie’s name in her own blood on the wall just before she died. Not even the Dream Team could get her off that one.

With the help of her faithful and hunky appellate lawyer Noah, she grabs handfuls of cash from her inheritance and sets out to disappear. She’s got exactly one clue to go on, one way to lose the rabid searchers, and one chance to clear her name. Off into flyover country she heads, towards Wisconsin (!). Or so Noah thinks.

Janie finds a way to get to the one place that might offer some answers, but has to completely transform her personality to fool the locals. Plus, she’s deliberately deceived Noah, to his increasing consternation. And a sensationalist blogger has turned his reader base into a nationwide dragnet, and they’re getting closer to finding her. Time is running out.

What Janie learns confounds her. She knew her mother was a gold digger intent on turning Janie into a retro 20th-century heiress, but she had no idea how much of a gold digger she was. She knew her mother had no family, but Janie learns why she was alone in the world. And she learns what her mother really thought of the child who derailed her plans for success.

There isn’t much more I can say, because the plot becomes so twisty that to proceed would untangle the whole thing, and you’d miss out on the fun. The best part of the book is Janie herself—deeply sarcastic, seemingly superficial, struggling to hide her killer persona under the mask of a meek academic. And traumatized, institutionalized, and full of self-doubt as she tries to understand why she’s still running, and where it will get her.

Check the WRL catalog for Dear Daughter


Pandora the Curious, by Joan Holub

Read This! - Wed, 2014-10-08 00:01

Lizzy shares this review:

One of the few mortals at Mount Olympus Academy, Pandora is famous for her mega quizzical nature—not that she thinks there’s anything wrong with being curious, of course!

Her curiosity kicks into high gear when a godboy named Epimetheus brings a mysterious box to school. Epimetheus is the nephew of an MOA teacher in whose class Pandora once opened another box that sent a few weather disasters to earth. Still, Pandora can’t help but take a peek inside this new box when it unexpectedly lands in her lap. What could be the harm in that, right? Little does she know that opening the box will open up far more trouble than she ever expected! – Book Summary

Pandora the Curious is a book in the “Goddess Girls” series. The story surrounds Pandora and her quest to save her friends from the horrors inside a mysterious box she opened. I love how the characters work with all the old Greek mythology stories. Altogether it was a fun read that was enjoyable.

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Categories: Read This

A Foreign Country, by Charles Cumming

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-10-07 00:01

It’s a staple of spy thrillers that your friends are sometimes as dangerous, if not more so, than your enemies. After all, the main survival mechanism in espionage is paranoia. Is this colleague a spy? Is that one undermining my missions, going rogue, or threatening my budget? Is the agent from an allied power spying on me? The advent of women in both real world and fiction espionage has increased that problem geometrically and given thriller writers a new topic to explore.

Could woman, that most domesticated and docile of creatures, turn on her former masters and take her revenge in ways a man can’t comprehend?

That’s the problem that dominates the minds of the top administrators at Vauxhall Cross, headquarters of Britain’s MI6. A new chief has been named, and it’s (gasp) a woman! Amanda Levene has mastered every challenge at MI6 and has succeeded to the office no woman has ever held before. Well, some of the old boys say, it’s political correctness. Others say that she’s a lightweight incapable of shifting her parochial interests to the larger picture. Some hint that maybe she’s slept her way to the top. In short, every rationalization successful women everywhere have faced is thrown at Levene, with the added element that these resentful men have the intelligence resources of an entire nation ready to take her down.

Unfortunately, they have ammunition. Six weeks before taking the chair, she’s disappeared, taking with her the highest-level knowledge the agency has. And those who may or may not be loyal to her can’t turn their assets loose to find her without airing the dirty laundry. So they go outside MI6 to recruit their searcher.

Thomas Kell is perfect for the job. One of the most experienced field agents they had, he was let go in the wake of a prisoner torture scandal in Afghanistan. For seven months he’s drifted along, promising himself that he’ll start writing that book, that he’ll apply for that security job, that he’ll take up a hobby. But his days have passed in drinking and feuding with his estranged wife. So the prospect of going back out into the field is his shot at personal and perhaps professional redemption, and without bureaucrats peeking over his shoulder he has a chance at doing the job his way.

Using whatever assets he can muster, Kell picks up Levene’s trail and follows it to a surprising end, one which offers an understandable explanation for her disappearance, but also carries within it the potential for destroying Levene’s career. And in clearing up some of the minor details, he turns up a far deeper threat than anyone, including Levene, can imagine.

The path Cummings creates in finding Levene is interesting and somewhat exciting, filled with the kind of tactical planning and surveillance that espionage thriller readers have come to expect. He also mixes in a group of secondary characters who provide some comic relief in their efforts to help Kell, and does a brilliant job describing Kell’s journey across the Mediterranean aboard an overnight ferry crossing. But once the main plot takes off, A Foreign Country moves into the big time, and Cummings handles both plotting and characterization with confidence. Plus he shows that a woman can unquestionably do the job as well as any man.

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A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson

Read This! - Mon, 2014-10-06 00:01

Laura shares this review:

The 1963 Newberry-award winning novel, A Wrinkle in Time, was a favorite of mine as a child. There was something so gently compelling about the storyline and I could relate so deeply to main character. Teenager Meg Murry doesn’t fit in, in school or seemingly anywhere else. She’s smart but stubborn, and fiercely protective of her family, even with its complete lack of normalcy. She is especially combative when anyone speaks badly about Charles Wallace, her youngest brother, who is definitely an odd child. Their father is missing, and his unexplained disappearance haunts the family, and leads Meg to be even more belligerent as she struggles to deal with the loss and the emptiness of not knowing what happened to him.

Although it has been many years since I last read A Wrinkle in Time, I was immediately swept back into the adventures had by Meg, Charles, their neighbor Calvin, with the Misses Whatsit, Who, and Which guiding them along their journey throughout the universe to save Mr. Murry from the terrible blackness that envelops him. The story, to use the words of Mrs. Murry, requires a willing suspension of disbelief, but the relationship between Meg and her brother Charles Wallace is poignant, and the storyline flows smoothly and quickly.

This work, adapted and illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Hope Larson, is the first time the iconic story has been presented in a graphic novel format. The illustrations are deceptively simple, and use a limited color palette of black, white, and sky blue. The blue hue serves to soften the starkness of the images, giving a dreamlike mood to the rapidly shifting number of worlds that they visit. Night and day have no definition here, as fighting the darkness without losing yourself or those you love is the only thing that matters.

This book is appropriate for all ages, but is especially recommended to fantasy readers and anyone who wants to revisit an old favorite from their childhood.

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Categories: Read This