Emerson can see dead people. Or, to be more precise, she can see people from the past. Sometimes they are easy to identify—the Scarlett O’Hara wannabe in the hoop skirt was easy to peg—but others look just like the living. It’s not until she brushes against them, or tries to interact with them, that she realizes they aren’t really there. It has become especially problematic now that more and more of the past is bleeding into her present. Where she would once see only individuals, now objects and entire scenes from the past are visible. Emerson’s visions began just before the tragic death of her parents, and now her brother and legal guardian Thomas is determined to find Emerson some help. She’s tried shamans, psychics, therapists, and nothing has worked. When she is heavily medicated the hallucinations stop, but she can’t function in that zombified state forever.
Enter Michael, a consultant from The Hourglass, who Thomas has hired to work as Emerson’s mentor. Michael is surprisingly unfazed by Emerson’s visions, and even has terminology for the things she can see. He calls them Rips, short for Ripples, and is adamant that The Hourglass can help her. Michael is slow to reveal his secrets, but Emerson soon realizes that Thomas’s hiring of Michael wasn’t exactly coincidental. She (and her ability) would be extremely useful to Michael’s latest project.
Hourglass is the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to reading more stories set in the world McEntire has created. She spends a bit of time setting up the rules that her characters must live by, and dropping hints for future novels, but succeeded in leaving me wanting more. There is enough going on that McEntire could have left out one of the romantic rival sub-plots (which has hopefully been permanently resolved) but that ultimately amounts to only a minor annoyance.
Check the WRL catalog for Hourglass.
The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family, by Josh Hanagarne
This sometimes ludicrous, but always poignant memoir is in part a love poem to public libraries and in part a moving account of living with Tourette’s Syndrome. Josh Hanagarne is a librarian in Salt Lake City Public Library who starts his book by describing his workplace as “a giant pair of glass underpants” and pointing out that in the collection of a public library “there’s something to offend everyone.” He keeps up the literary theme with chapter headings labelled with Dewey Decimal Numbers and a sprinkling of the names of books to make his points.
At the same time that is is a celebration of libraries, Hanagarne’s book is also the story of a life lived with the involuntary tics, movements and vocalizations of Tourette’s Syndrome. Hanagarne’s tics started when he was a small boy and made a misery of his teenage years as he dealt with a a difficult and–above all–visible disease. His early adulthood was a story of never being able to settle as he went in and out of jobs and school programs. As the subtitle points out this is also the story of the Power of Family and Josh’s family–parents, siblings, and wife–always supported him through Tourette’s Syndrome, schooling, life, struggles with infertility, and the various types of physical training which he attempted in order to control his tics. He is a large man who works his way up to a 590-pound dead lift (I am not sure what that is, but it sounds incredibly impressive), but from reading his memoir his true strength isn’t physical, rather it is his strength of character and strength as a human being that shines through.
Try The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family if you like memoirs about overcoming adversity. Other books in our library about living with Tourette’s Syndrome include: Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had, by Brad Cohen with Lisa Wysocky or Against Medical Advice: a True Story, by James Patterson and Hal Friedman.
Don’t assume this is a dark book, because Hanagarne is able to bring humor even to the description of library patrons throwing up in trash cans or his classmates jeering at him for his Tourette’s tics. And best of all for a librarian is the paean to public libraries: “I had faith in the library long before he walked in and told me what I already knew: A library is a miracle.”
Check the WRL catalog for The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family.
Little Chicken & Little Fox by Brigitte Sidjanski, with lovely illustrations by Sarah Emmanuelle Burg, is a sweet story of compassion and friendship. When winter arrived this year, I was excited to pull this book off the shelf and add it to my stack of storytime selections. At the beginning of the story, Little Chicken is snuggled in her nest inside a warm chicken coop when she hears a tapping at the door. It is poor Little Fox, who is lost and freezing out in a snowstorm. The other chickens are afraid to let Little Fox enter the coop because foxes eat chickens, but Little Chicken decides to jump out the window and help him find shelter for the night. The next day the two friends set off to find Little Fox’s parents. Though the animals they meet along the way remind Little Chicken that it’s dangerous to spend time with a fox, she nonchalantly ignores these warnings, feeling she can’t abandon her companion. Readers will be very curious to find out whether Little Fox is a true friend, or whether he is leading Little Chicken into a trap.
Sidjanski keeps the story lively through the use of lots of dialogue and frequent setting changes. On their journey, Little Chicken and Little Fox meet a variety of animals, including wild pigs and a badger. When I read this book aloud to groups, I enjoy inviting my listeners to identify the more unusual animals. The tale isn’t especially humorous, but last time I read it aloud some of my listeners laughed at a few plot events, including Little Chicken jumping on top of a deer’s head. Little Chicken & Little Fox has some exciting parts, but overall it’s a quiet, heartwarming tale. This book could be effectively used for contrast during a read-aloud session filled with more boisterous stories. Burg’s soft illustrations were created using pencil and watercolors. The animals are very appealing and expressive. Burg’s fuzzy outlines and color choices make some of the illustrations quite low-contrast. This characteristic of the pictures means that they might be difficult for very young children to see clearly. I recommend this story as a group read-aloud for kindergarten and up. It could also work well with one preschooler, or with a group of preschoolers with abridgment of the wordier pages. Since it is set in a snowy landscape but does not mention any holidays, this sweet story is a great read-aloud all winter long.
Check the WRL catalog for Little Chicken & Little Fox.
On the arresting cover of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil we see one chubby baby’s arm labelled “Good” and the other labelled “Evil”. Like many people, I instinctively feel that babies as young as those pictured can’t be described as “good” or “evil,” no matter how annoying their habits, because their moral sense isn’t developed. I certainly feel older people can have these labels, so is the moral sense of older children and adults learned (Nurture) or innate (Nature)? This debate may never be completely settled but developmental psychologist and author Paul Bloom argues that “some aspects of morality come naturally to us.”
Paul Bloom is a working scientist and has performed numerous experiments and published several scientific papers designed to tease out the moral behavior of those who can not yet talk. He broadly concludes that babies of around six months feel empathy and compassion, have a sense of fairness, and are capable of judging the actions of others. He is not doing this as a parlor trick (see, I can upset a baby by pretending to be hurt) but because ”an appreciation of the moral natures of babies can ground a new perspective on the moral psychology of adults.” He adds that “moral deliberation is ubiquitous” and all societies create a formal and informal moral code. Many observers over millennia have noted that “people everywhere have a natural disapproval toward actions such as lying, breaking a promise, and murder.” He then argues that the circumstances under which the great human capacity for kindness can turn into a terrible human capacity for horror occur when people assign other people to categories, and then decide that some categories are deserving of compassion and some are not. As travel, migration and communication have developed, many people are learning compassion for an ever widening circle, and Bloom asserts that this is a wonderful thing.
Paul Bloom concludes his book with a chapter called “How to be Good,” in case you were wondering how to achieve this. Babies have a strong desire to “be good” and see others around them being good, but so do adults although we usually express it a more sophisticated way. He points out that many real life moral challenges have no clear cut right answer, but if we are aware that some of our moral reasoning is innate, but that most importantly, we can use our reason and judgement as well to expand and reveal our full humanity because ”our enhanced morality is the product of human interaction and human ingenuity.”
Try Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil if you are interested in the intersection of science, social science, and everyday behavior, such as in David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, by the popular Malcolm Gladwell. It is also a good choice if you are fascinated with questions of justice, retribution and meaning in books like Man’s Search for Meaning. Or just read it for a well-written, very readable book written by a real scientist explaining his own life work.
Check the WRL catalog for Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
A teenage girl shoplifts a too-tight, red, sleeveless turtleneck from Walmart. Immediately afterwards, the only adult in her life (who turns out not to be her mother or official stepmother) drops dead in the checkout line. This roller-coaster start sets the tone for this stirring tale of Lutie and her young brother, Fate, as they struggle to survive alone.
The plot bounds along as appalling events follow closely one after another. The children end up living on the streets of Las Vegas where they are prey to a parade of unsavory characters who seem to offer a helping hand but really want to exploit them. Teenage Lutie is often flawed, sometimes to the point of not being likable, but I realized that she has adult responsibilities without any help or guidance. Ultimately, she knows she loves her shy, bookish brother and wants to do what is best for him. A series of plot twists and turns ensue including Lutie’s forays into child prostitution and drugs. I found this very plausible and and also very disturbing.
Lutie and Fate’s desperate situation and downward spiraling luck drew me into their story, but I found it increasingly difficult to believe that they would ever extricate themselves from the mess their lives had become. Readers of Billie Letts’ other novels, such as the popular Where the Heart Is, know that she leans towards tearjerking but heartwarming endings, and Made in the U.S.A. follows that pattern. Who knows, maybe some of the exploitative strangers are genuinely kind? And maybe Lutie will find a practical use for her gymnastic talents?
This book is for you if you like a fast-paced, human interest novel with strong, quirky characters, that shows the dark side of life but ultimately has a joyous ending. I was glad that their story ended how life should proceed rather than what often happens to the many real Luties and Fates alone and lost on city streets.
Check the WRL catalog for Made in the U.S.A.
I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
These are the first lines of Roald Dahl’s retelling of Cinderella, but it applies to all his Revolting Rhymes. They are all familiar stories with characters such as Jack climbing his beanstalk or Goldilocks breaking into the bears’ house, but as readers of Roald Dahl’s acclaimed children’s books know – he never sugar coats the nastier aspects of life.
With wonderful rollicking rhythm and Roald Dahl’s hallmark mastery over words, Revolting Rhymes is full of quotable tit-bits. My family has been quoting them for over twenty years. I am not sure what it says about us that one of our most quoted lines is, “She beat the boy for half an hour, with (and nothing could be meaner) the handle of a vacuum cleaner” from Jack and the Beanstalk.
All the old favorites are here including Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs. In these retellings the hero isn’t always who we assumed it was. Goldilocks is described as a “brazen little crook” because after all she does break into a stranger’s house, steal their food and break their furniture. The morals of these stories might not be what you expect either. Which one of these well-known tales do you suppose has the moral of “A bath he said does seem to pay. I’m going to have one every day” or “Which shows that gambling’s not a sin. Provided that you always win”?
These are great read-aloud poems for all ages. I read them with great enjoyment (on both sides) to my children for years. Before I had children I read them to the residents of a continuing care home where I worked. Even those who were confused seemed to enjoy the readings. They are familiar stories and these versions are fast, punchy and funny. Try Revolting Rhymes for something light and humorous to be shared among the generations these cold winter days.
Check the WRL catalog for Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes
Boo and Baa Have Company by Lena and Olof Landström is charming picture book filled with droll humor. The story is translated from Swedish, and stars Boo and Baa, a male and female sheep whose good intentions get them into sticky situations. Other books featuring these characters include Boo and Baa in Windy Weather, Boo and Baa at Sea, and Boo and Baa on a Cleaning Spree. In Boo and Baa Have Company, the two sheep are raking leaves when they notice a cat sitting on a high tree branch. Believing that the cat is afraid to climb down, Boo and Baa try various methods to tempt it from the tree. Their attempts to help go awry, leading to slapstick humor in the illustrations paired with deadpan humor in the text. Boo and Baa eventually decide that maybe the cat prefers to be in the tree, and they go inside and go to sleep. At the end of the story, only the reader sees that the cat has climbed in through the window and fallen asleep on the rug in the sheep’s bedroom.
Boo and Baa Have Company features colorful line drawings. Boo, Baa, and the cat are the only characters, and they all have very expressive faces and bodies. On some pages, the text describes exactly what is happening in the illustrations. For example, when Baa is greasing the axle of the wheelbarrow, the text reads, “She greases the axle.” This supportive relationship between image and text could be helpful for young readers who are unfamiliar with the concept of greasing an axle. On other pages, however, the spare text provides droll commentary on the action taking place. For example, one attempt to rescue the cat leaves Boo stranded in the tree. When Baa tries to use a rope to lower Boo to the ground, both sheep fly into the air and fall into a leaf pile. Instead of describing the action on these pages, the text simply reads, “Baa is lighter than Boo. She hasn’t eaten any sandwiches. It’s lucky there is a pile of leaves.” Text like this requires the reader to pay attention to the illustrations. When I read this book aloud to kindergarteners, I had several opportunities to invite the kids to describe what was happening in the story. These listeners especially enjoyed the spread where Baa is making a variety of “disgusting” sandwiches, including a cucumber sandwich and a sardine sandwich. I shared Boo and Baa Have Company at a fall-themed storytime. It was nice to have a book in which autumn is the setting but not the focus of the story. This funny book would work well year-round as a read-aloud for preschool and up.
Check the WRL catalog for Boo and Baa Have Company.
At the opening of this postapocalyptic novel, Sheriff Holston is walking up a spiral staircase to his death. For generations, his community has lived and died on the 144 levels of an underground silo, and Holston has just committed a capital crime—asking to go outside. Technically, it’s a suicide. Everyone knows the outside world is a toxic wasteland. Three years ago, on the big-screen monitors that show the surrounding desolation, Holston watched his wife die out there, and now he’s going to join her. Just like all the others who have been pushed out the airlock, he’s given a protective suit. It lasts just long enough for the condemned to do some silo cleaning and maintenance—for one thing, scrubbing the grimy outdoor camera lenses so that folks inside have a nice, unblurred view of your death. Now, why the condemned should care what’s shown on the big screens…that’s what Holston is about to find out.
My brother, who hasn’t read a book in dead-tree format since the invention of the smartphone, insisted that I read Wool, and read it immediately, sending it from his app to my app with a tap and a swipe. In a nutshell, that’s the success story of Wool. At the time author Howey first self-published the story direct to Kindle, Holston’s atmospheric, claustrophobic story was all there was to the Silo universe. But as word-of-mouth reviews drew more and more readers, Howey began to elaborate.
In later, serial-style installments, the search for a new sheriff takes the silo’s mayor and deputy down through the floors of the silo, through hydroponics and the nursery and IT to the mechanical levels. As they descend, readers learn more about how this society works, and doesn’t work, stratified both literally and by an inflexible class structure. With the appointment of a hardworking mechanic, Juliette, as the new sheriff, a longer story arc begins. An outsider from the bottom levels, Juliette shakes up the power struggles of the upper floors. She’s a character that readers rally behind, as she learns more about the factions governing the silo, especially on the IT level, which controls what’s left of the silo’s forgotten history on its closely-guarded servers.
The original, novella-length Kindle releases have been collected in omnibus print editions, starting with Wool and continuing with Shift and Dust. It’s a little bit old-school Twilight Zone, a little bit Shirley Jackson, a little bit Lost, without quite so many characters. With a compelling storyline and characters who you can root for, Wool should appeal to teens as well, and it fits right in with the current YA mania for dystopias. Plus you can get in on the ground floor—see what I did there?—before the inevitable movie.
Check the WRL catalog for Wool.
Cas and his mother just moved to a new town. They move around pretty often, so Cas knows the routine: find a house, find a school, find the popular crowd, and get them to share the local ghost story. Chances are, if Cas has done his research well, the ghost everybody thinks is just a story will turn out to be real. That’s why he and his mom moved to town in the first place. Cas is a ghost hunter.
His current case is the titular Anna Dressed in Blood. She was murdered while walking to a school dance in 1958 and her killer was never found. Anna now haunts her former home, killing anyone who enters, until the day Cas comes to call. Cas is the first person to enter Anna’s home and make it out alive. In fact, not only is he alive, but he is entirely unharmed. He is the first person to enter Anna’s home who could actually cause her harm, could even destroy her, and still she chooses to let him go. Now Cas is driven to solve both Anna’s murder and the mystery of her sudden change of heart. In Cas’s experience, a ghost with a track record like Anna’s doesn’t just turn over a new leaf. But then Anna isn’t quite like any ghost Cas has ever hunted before.
Check the WRL catalog for Anna Dressed in Blood
Bear Snores On features “a great brown bear” who sleeps on through winter while many of his animal friends visit, share food, and make a ruckus. Finally he wakes up with a loud sneeze and he complains that all his friends have been having fun without him! So the bear and company eat more food, tell stories, and have a good time. But soon his friends fall asleep and the bear is the only one left awake!
Karma Wilson’s Bear Snores On is a great storytime pick for ages 2-6 because it is fairly short and will easily grab their short attention spans with its witty rhymes. One feature of this book is the repetition of the phrase “and the bear snores on” which kids will love saying aloud with you. In addition, it has onomatopoeia, including many different animal noises (every kid’s favorite), on nearly every page which kids will love echoing during storytime. A prominent theme of sharing between friends is also noteworthy about Bear Snores On. Finally, Jane Chapman’s colorful illustrations perfectly complement the story and will help reinforce it for younger readers, and are large enough for kids to see even at bigger storytimes.
Check the WRL catalog for Bear Snores On.
Humorist Allie Brosh has been blogging at Hyperbole and a Half since 2009. Her posts, a combination of written anecdote and quirky illustrations drawn in Paintbrush, chronicle the sort of everyday topics that only work in the hands of a really good storyteller: hijinks from when she was a hyperactive five-year-old, weird dogs, that time a goose got into the house. Brosh, of course, is a really good storyteller, and this book, which collects some of her classic posts along with new material, is a great opportunity to curl up in a chair and just giggle. And giggle some more. And snort in an unladylike manner.
Brosh has said that she thinks of her pieces as stand-up comedy, with the illustrations as punch lines. Her drawings may look like a preschooler’s, but they communicate a lot of raw emotion, whether she’s talking about being a procrastinating twenty-something stuck in a guilt spiral or a kid on a monomaniacal quest for forbidden cake.
My favorites are the stories about her pets, Simple Dog and Helper Dog. Whether they are not understanding basic concepts, like moving, or snow, or “sit,” or whether they’re having an epic running-away adventure, I recognize the thought balloons that float over their heads. I can picture them floating over the head of my own Helper Dog.
Hyperbole and a Half isn’t all madcap humor, neurotic animals, and kindergarteners on a sugar high, though. Brosh’s blog went dark for a year and a half, during which she was both constructing this book and dealing with major depression (and my hat goes off to anyone who can do both of those things at the same time). The most painful pieces in the book—and yet still, somehow, funny—talk about what it feels like to feel nothing at all.
Check it out if you need to explain depression to someone, but with cartoons; if you worry that your dog is too stupid; or if you just need a good laugh.
Check the WRL catalog for Hyperbole and a Half.
Corduroy is a classic children’s book that some children may have read before but they are still enraptured by it every time. Corduroy is a teddy bear who lives in a department store and desperately wants someone to take him home. One day a young girl named Lisa comes in to the store and wants to buy Corduroy but her mother says no because he is missing a button. Corduroy searches the department store for a button because he thinks he needs one to get taken home by Lisa. Before he attaches the button, he is found by security and put back on his shelf. Luckily, Lisa comes in again to purchase Corduroy with her own money and tells him that she likes him just the way he is. Corduroy and Lisa become friends and Corduroy finally feels like he has found a home.
Corduroy is an adorable story that is perfect for storytime because it warms the hearts of children and adults alike. It is also a great storytime choice because of its large and colorful yet simple illustrations by the author Don Freeman. Corduroy also features onomatopoeia such as “POP” which kids will love sounding out at storytime. In addition, most children have a special stuffed animal in their lives so this book is especially relatable. Corduroy’s primary message of acceptance and being okay with who you are is one particularly important for children and further enhances the quality of this lovely book.
Check the WRL catalog for Corduroy.
Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) is trying to escape an abusive boyfriend and a criminal past. Following a train ride home, she finds herself alone on the platform with a distraught woman who sets her purse down before taking off a pair of stylish high heels. The woman turns and stares at Sarah, who is struck by the uncanny resemblance between her and the stranger. The woman then walks off the edge of the platform and into the path of an oncoming train. In the aftermath of the stranger’s suicide, Sarah makes a split-second decision that puts her in the center of a mystery. With emergency personnel focused on the stranger, Sarah sees an opportunity for a quick score, and she walks away with the woman’s purse. Sarah learns her doppelgänger’s name is Elizabeth (Beth) Childs. Beth shares an expensive house with her boyfriend. She also has a large sum of money in the bank. Sarah decides to use her resemblance to Beth to her advantage and assume Beth’s identity. Once she has emptied Beth’s bank account, she’ll use the money to start a new life with her daughter, Kira, and foster brother, Felix.
Sarah believes she will be able to pull off the scam and quietly slip out of town; however, Beth’s life is far more complicated than she originally thought. First, there are calls from a man named Art and texts from an unknown number. There is also the matter of a safety deposit box containing copies of the birth certificates and photographs of other women who bear a striking resemblance to both Sarah and Beth. As additional secrets from Beth’s life surface, Sarah learns that the women—Beth, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, and Katja Obinger (also Tatiana Maslany)—are all clones and she is a clone as well. This discovery is the gateway to a mystery involving a scientific movement called Neolution, led by the charismatic Dr. Aldous Leekie. Will the women unlock the secret of their connection to this group before they become the next victims of a killer who’s on a mission to eliminate the clones?
Orphan Black is a thoughtful and complex show that deftly balances questions of personal freedom and what it means to be an individual with a delightful streak of dark humor. The acting is first-rate. Tatiana Maslany succeeds at giving each clone her own distinct personality and unique set of characteristics. My favorite clone is Alison Hendrix, a conservative wife and mother whose sense of self is completely upended by the discovery she is a clone. The fine supporting cast includes Kevin Hanchard as Beth’s partner Detective Art Bell; Maria Doyle Kennedy as Sarah’s foster mother Mrs. S; Dylan Bruce as Beth’s boyfriend Paul Dierden; and Jordan Gavaris as Sarah’s foster brother Felix Dawkins. In a clever bit of casting, Dr. Aldous Leekie is played by Matt Frewer, who became famous in the mid-‘80s playing a character named Max Headroom.
Fast-paced and well-plotted, Orphan Black quickly builds momentum and maintains it throughout the season. Now is a good time to catch up with the show—or discover it—before the second season starts in April.
Check the WRL catalog for Orphan Black.
The best fantasy writing makes you believe completely in the validity of the story, and by that criteria, Maggie Stiefvater’s young adult novel The Scorpio Races is certainly a winner.
The story is set on Thisby, a mythical island off Ireland or Scotland in an otherwise normal world. Thisby is a misty, Brigadoon-like mecca for horse lovers because it’s the place where the capaill uisce, the beautiful, terrifying water horses, emerge from the sea. For unclear reasons, they come ashore every November, when some of the most daring locals dare to capture and ride them in the annual Scorpio Races. The races are both thrilling and horrifying, a bloody spectacle in which some riders are inevitably killed as the capaill uisce charge along the beach, bite each other and anything else in reach, and frequently resist their riders to plunge back into the ocean.
The atmospheric island has little else to recommend it. Sure, it’s scenic, but it’s also a difficult place to make a life, with wild weather, little food, entrenched ways and only a few wealthy landlords who dominate the other locals. Most young people leave the island for adventures on the mainland or in America, and as the novel opens, Puck Connolly’s older brother Gabe announces that he plans to leave as well. That’s a problem because Puck, her somewhat compulsive younger brother Finn, and Gabe are orphans left behind after their parents were killed by the water horses and Gabe has been supporting them. To stall Gabe’s departure and perhaps to win enough money to save their home, Puck decides to ride in the Scorpio Races, although a woman has never competed and she’ll have to ride her speedy but undersized mare Dove instead of a capaill uisce.
One of her competitors is Sean Kendrick, a young man who has won more Scorpio Races than any other rider, but who has been trapped by Terence Malvern (the same man who is foreclosing on Puck’s house) into working in his stables. Sean loves riding Corr–the fierce red water horse on which he’s won so many races–more than anything else, but Malvern owns Corr and keeps Sean in line by refusing to sell him. Sean’s tenth share of his race winnings have made him wealthy by island standards, but not compared to Malvern who still controls the only thing Sean wants. Sean’s life is further complicated by the jealousy of Malvern’s horrible son, Mutt.
The lives of these two riders become entwined as the book continues and they rise from mutual frustration to grudging respect to romance, but their survival is constantly threatened, their personal problems seem insurmountable, and their final goals are in conflict. Surrounding them with quirky islanders, a mysterious American visitor, and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes terrifying water horses, Stiefvater weaves a tale that will keep you enthralled from start to finish. I felt like I’d run in my own Scorpio Race by the time I was done, and I certainly came away a winner.
Check the WRL catalog for The Scorpio Races
Or try The Scorpio Races as an audiobook
This was a lovely book to spend an afternoon reading. I was sorry to leave the small English town where Cleo and her friends live. Nicely woven plot lines kept the story amusing and moving between the main characters.
Cleo is pretty happy with her lot in life. She has an interesting job as a chauffeur and has recently started seeing Will, who is showing potential of being “The One” for her. He has a good job, is good looking, and best of all, came to a funeral so she could show up the boy who tormented her all through school. You’d think after 13 years the resentment would fade, but Johnny LaVentura just pushes all her buttons the wrong way. It doesn’t help that Johnny is now a famous sculptor and dates super-models.
Unfortunately, Will turns out to be much less than she had hoped. His wife, Fia, didn’t think he was all that great either—after finding out about the affair! Despite the odds, Cleo and Fia become friends. And it turns out that Johnny isn’t so bad either…
Then there’s Cleo’s sister, Abbie. Her world is turned upside down when she finds out that her husband fathered a child many years ago. Georgia is now a young woman wanting to develop a relationship with her dad—and Abbie feels like a third wheel in her own home.
The conflicts are nicely resolved by the end of the book. And there’s plenty of happily ever after to put a smile on your face!
Check the WRL catalog for Take a Chance on Me.
This book is for anyone who has experienced a child’s consuming love of a favorite color. Little Annie love, love, loves purple. Her latest must have is a lovely purple hat. The emotional elements in this book make it an endearing story. It is perfect for children who are learning to understand longing and disappointment. The young reader will relate to Annie’s loss
and everyone’s desire to help her feel better. Of course the best emotion of all is Annie’s joy in the surprise ending of this sweet story.
Check the WRL catalog for The Purple Hat.
Three’s the charm for the novella-length short stories in this young adult collection, centered around three kisses. Some kisses are promises and some are threats; some could make you lose your soul, and others might help you get it back again.
In “Goblin Fruit,” the handsome new boy in school has eyes only for Kizzy, which would be a good thing, if he were human. (Kizzy ought to know better: her grandmother gave her a stiletto for occasions just like this.) A contemporary take on Christina Rossetti’s creepy poem, “Goblin Market,” which you certainly don’t need to know to enjoy it, this story ends in an unsettling place… or makes you want to start writing the next chapter.
“Spicy Little Curses Such as These,” set in India at the height of the British empire, was my favorite of the three stories. An elderly woman, “with a stare that could shoot laughter from the air like game birds,” serves as an ambassador to hell, taking tea with demons to ransom souls back to the living. (I notice that most summaries of this story focus on the beautiful young girl, cursed with silence lest she kill anyone who hears her voice, and the young man who falls in love with her. But young couples in love always get the headlines. Old ladies who take tea in hell: that’s what I’m talking about.)
In “Hatchling,” a brown-eyed girl wakes up with one blue eye and her mother freaks. Taylor unfurls the story of the mother’s past in a fantastically-detailed mountain eyrie court, ruled by a heartless queen who keeps children as pets and feeds her cats to bridge trolls. This involving story is something like watching Narnia’s White Witch get a second chance.
Taylor’s prose is lushly descriptive, but among her poetic similes are also short, pointed, painful sentences, like thorns among roses. She’s a fantastic storyteller. Readers of folk and fairy tales will recognize elements of Orpheus, Sleeping Beauty, Andersen’s Little Mermaid and other motifs. These stories incline to the darker side, full of blood and menace, and will appeal to older teens. Each of the stories is introduced by a wordless mini-graphic-novel by illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, setting the scene in fine gothic style.
Check the WRL catalog for Lips Touch: Three Times.
The 1930s crime fiction of Friedrich Glauser seems to me to be the dark bedrock from which the immensely popular body of Scandinavian crime fiction springs. In four years, Glauser, a depressive, morphine-addicted writer, who was once committed to an insane asylum, and who died at the age of forty two, published five detective novels featuring the Swiss Sergeant Studer.
Now being published for the first time in English by Bitter Lemon Press, Glauser’s novels will appeal to a wide range of crime fiction readers. Glauser is often referred to as the “Swiss Simenon,” and like Simenon, his novels focus more on the psychology of both the detective and the criminal than on fast-paced action. There is a lot of talking here, and the Austrian-born Swiss Glauser seems to share an interest in psychology with his compatriots, Freud and Jung. It is through conversation that Sgt. Studer most frequently comes to the solution of the crime. Glauser’s novels explore the dark side of human nature as it is played out in families, schools, and in one case, an asylum.
Glauser also shares with Simenon an interest in food, and there is a lot of eating and drinking going on in these stories. Sgt. Studer is a fascinating character. Once a promising detective, Studer was somehow compromised in a bank investigation, and his career was derailed. He now finds himself a pariah to most of his colleagues and supervisors, and he is the man who is sent out on hopeless cases. While Studer is not always quick to see connections, his relentlessness and his commitment to the truth eventually lead him to the solution.
Fans of Simenon should find these novels interesting, but they will also appeal to readers who enjoy more contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction. Thumbprint is a good starting point for exploring this forgotten master of police fiction.
Check the WRL catalog for Thumbprint.
This story begins with one little bee minding its own business. When he discovers a brown bear is following him, he knows it will be trouble. I thought of the book Rosie’s Walk while enjoying the antics of brown bear. He soon has a following of animals with their own agendas. When yellow bee arrives home, things become very interesting for brown bear and company. Readers will enjoy the comical animal and nature pictures in this book. Young children will love the onomatopoeiac element as well.
Check the WRL catalog for Where There’s a Bear, There’s Trouble!
Those six words were all it took to bump this science fiction debut to the top of my list. Also, although I try not to read detailed reviews of books until I’ve finished them myself, I couldn’t help but notice that the reviews I wasn’t reading had lots of ALL CAPS and exclamation marks.
So, One Esk—sometimes she calls herself Breq—used to be a ship. The narrator of this twisty space opera is an ancillary: one body, one segment, of a twenty-bodied corps of soldiers that share a single consciousness, tied into the artificial intelligence of an orbiting warship. Her life as a troop carrier, the Justice of Toren, unfolds in flashbacks to the military government of the latest planet annexed by the Radchaii empire and the events that provoke One Esk’s present-day mission of single-minded, and single-bodied, revenge. Who is she now, without her ship or a captain or the other 19 ancillaries, and what is she up to on a frozen backwater planet, following her own agenda?
The narrator’s unusual point of view(s), sometimes individual, sometimes corporate, is (are) the first cool thing about this book. Like a janissary, One Esk serves now in the military of the empire that conquered her people. Her body(ies) are human, but her awareness is not; she judges human emotions by temperature and heartbeat fluctuations and has a lot of trouble figuring out gender. The second cool thing about this book is trying to figure out who is actually male or female and who is referred to as “she” just because One Esk doesn’t feel like dealing with pronouns.
For all her dispassionate narration and history of shooting people, One Esk is a thoughtful and sympathetic character. Deliberately paced and well worth the attention you have to pay, her story reminded me strongly of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels. Leckie creates a fascinating universe, layered with convincing details of different cultures, classes, and religions, and leaving plenty of big ideas to play with in the next books of what is planned to be a loose trilogy.
Check the WRL catalog for Ancillary Justice.
You can read the first chapter online at Orbit Books.