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Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Densely illustrated and narrated, Stuck Rubber Baby follows the life of Toland Polk, a white carpenter’s son living deep in the restless South during the 1960s. The story is introduced by the modern day Toland, who is gently amused as he recounts this stormy portion of his life. The ’60s were a time of electrifying change, both social and political, and it was an exhilarating time to be coming of age.

Toland has a deep love of music, which leads him to hang out at bars with other people from town around his age, black and white, male and female. Without really consciously intending to, Toland gets drawn into the fight for Civil Rights in his town, compelled by his friendships and his rejection of the inequality woven into the fabric of daily life in the South.

But Toland has a secret. His entire life he has known that he is attracted to men, but he also realizes how homosexuals get treated. He endeavors to either hide or convert his feelings if possible. He meets a girl named Ginger, who is even more forceful in her support of integration, and is able to nurture enough of a crush on her to start dating. The story draws an intricate parallel between society’s rejection of blacks and gays. Toland knows he’s lucky that he can appear to be part of the majority by putting up a false face and having a relationship with a woman, but his black friends don’t have that luxury. Those friends of his who are both black and gay face exponentially more animosity.

The adult Toland is unflinchingly honest about his past experiences. He knows how his battles against his personal demons caused him to be insincere to those around him, but he also realizes that he was forced into many of those deceptions by the expectations of a society that could not, would not accept him as he was. The story brings in a wide cast of characters as people come in and out of Toland’s life and shies away from caricatures. This makes for a rich world that believably portrays a turbulent time in our recent history without stooping to lecture or browbeat.

Recommended for readers of graphic novels, historical novels, and social history.

Search the catalog for Stuck Rubber Baby


Stuck Rubber Baby, by Howard Cruse

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Densely illustrated and narrated, Stuck Rubber Baby follows the life of Toland Polk, a white carpenter’s son living deep in the restless South during the 1960s. The story is introduced by the modern day Toland, who is gently amused as he recounts this stormy portion of his life. The ’60s were a time of electrifying change, both social and political, and it was an exhilarating time to be coming of age.

Toland has a deep love of music, which leads him to hang out at bars with other people from town around his age, black and white, male and female. Without really consciously intending to, Toland gets drawn into the fight for Civil Rights in his town, compelled by his friendships and his rejection of the inequality woven into the fabric of daily life in the South.

But Toland has a secret. His entire life he has known that he is attracted to men, but he also realizes how homosexuals get treated. He endeavors to either hide or convert his feelings if possible. He meets a girl named Ginger, who is even more forceful in her support of integration, and is able to nurture enough of a crush on her to start dating. The story draws an intricate parallel between society’s rejection of blacks and gays. Toland knows he’s lucky that he can appear to be part of the majority by putting up a false face and having a relationship with a woman, but his black friends don’t have that luxury. Those friends of his who are both black and gay face exponentially more animosity.

The adult Toland is unflinchingly honest about his past experiences. He knows how his battles against his personal demons caused him to be insincere to those around him, but he also realizes that he was forced into many of those deceptions by the expectations of a society that could not, would not accept him as he was. The story brings in a wide cast of characters as people come in and out of Toland’s life and shies away from caricatures. This makes for a rich world that believably portrays a turbulent time in our recent history without stooping to lecture or browbeat.

Recommended for readers of graphic novels, historical novels, and social history.

Search the catalog for Stuck Rubber Baby


Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers

Read This! - Mon, 2014-05-26 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Grave Mercy is the first of Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series.  It takes place in Brittany in the late 1400s.  The Duke has recently died, leaving 12-year-old Anne facing many suitors for her hand and her kingdom.

Ismae, the daughter of a turnip farmer, is unaware of the precarious situation in her country.  Her world is the small village where she grew up abandoned by her mother and brutalized by her father.  When her circumstances can get no worse, she finds salvation at the hands of strangers who secret her away to the convent of St. Mortain, the ancient god of Death.  Her days are spent learning swordfighting, poisons and their uses, hand-to-hand combat, and the “womanly arts” because as a handmaiden of Death, she must be ready to use any means necessary to fulfill Mortain’s will.

During her trials to prove her readiness for service, she meets Gavriel Duval, one of the young duchess’ most trusted advisors.  Duval catches Ismae moments after she killed a traitor who was marked for death by the saint.  He follows Ismae to the convent where he tries to get the reverend mother to cooperate with his need to catch and question the traitors before they are killed.  The reverend mother neatly traps him into taking Ismae with him to court in Guerande so as to keep the convent better informed of the factions warring for the kingdom.

Viscount Crunard, chancellor of Brittany, and the reverend mother put another task to Ismae, keep Duval under surveillance to determine if he is the traitor working against the Duchess.

Now Ismae faces court intrigue, complex family dynamics and the unfamiliar feelings of falling in love.  But while out of her element, she doesn’t sit idly by and wait for orders from the Convent, nor does she follow every directive from Duval.  She shows spunk and an appealing independence.  Her training as an assassin and special talents as a follower of Mortain come in handy more than once.

And while Ismae grows impatient waiting for her saint to indicate who among the many suspects she should kill, time is running out for the young Duchess as France makes moves to invade.

Grave Mercy is a fast-paced story based on actual people and events.  While the first of a series, it neatly stands alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to read what comes next, but I wasn’t left unsatisfied after I read the last page.  I can see this book, and the rest of the series, appealing to adults as well as young adults.  The main characters are well-developed, and the supporting cast is interesting. And did I mention the falling in love part?  Well-written and satisfyingly believable.

I particularly enjoyed listening to the audiobook which was skillfully narrated by Erin Moon.  She did a terrific job changing her inflections for the different characters.  I especially liked hearing the correct pronunciation of the character and city names.  The audiobook is about 14 hours long.

Check the WRL catalog for Grave Mercy

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Grave Mercy


Categories: Read This

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Jessica shares this review:

This is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Stroud.  The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice, beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magicians study. Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so begins his summon of a powerful djinni, one who can help him to get retribution on the very magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, called Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined and his rival magician, Simon Lovelace is even more dangerous than he expected.  A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurks unseen threats and hidden perils. And worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do…he has lost control, not only of his djinni but everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.


Categories: Read This

An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler, illus. by Whitney Martin

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Our final conflict for the week is between the illustrator and the reader. In An Undone Fairy Tale the illustrator is a character named Ned. He’s really more of a set painter, costumer, hair and makeup artist, and prop man who is creating the illustrations for a typical fairy tale out of “real” objects. His troubles arise because we are reading the book entirely too fast. Ned never has time to prepare the illustrations for the next page before we turn to it. The narrator repeatedly tries to convince us to slow down and not turn the page yet. We, of course, do anyway.

The typical fairy tale we were expecting becomes decidedly atypical as Ned attempts to cobble together characters and scenes quickly enough to match the reader’s speed. This results in some quirky substitutions. For example, the king’s crown ends up being a donut. The knight’s horses aren’t ready in time, so Ned must replace them with fish. The only costumes ready for the knights are tutus.

The fairy tale becomes stranger and stranger until, finally, the narrator offers up a plea. “This is your final warning. The next page won’t be ready for four or five weeks. So put the book down and come back then. Okay? Pretty please?” Somehow I get the feeling that even if we did as he asked, the book still wouldn’t be ready.

Check the WRL catalog for An Undone Fairy Tale.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Maia Drazhar is an 18-year-old half-elf, half-goblin prince, living in exile with his embittered guardian, when a zeppelin accident (yes, the elves have zeppelins) takes out most of the royal line. Suddenly Maia is Emperor of the Elflands. As the fourth son of an unfavored and long-dead empress, he was never expected to rule. His guardian always punished him for talking too much, and now he’s expected to give speeches. No one has taught him even to dance, far less negotiate a divisive trade agreement… or investigate the treasonous sabotage of the previous Emperor’s airship.

This high fantasy follows Maia’s efforts to navigate his new position, as a bullied youth forced onto a very public stage, learning and choosing how to wield unexpected power. The charm of the story is that Maia is a thoroughly decent individual, winning readers to his side even as he alienates many of his courtiers. Hastily made over with new robes and crown jewels, Maia confounds the court with such gestures as attending the funerals of mere servants and asking daughters of royal houses who they would prefer to marry. (Not him, unfortunately.)

With a leisurely pace and old-fashioned speech, forsooth, this is a fantasy for readers who enjoy the complicated politics of historical novels but who aren’t in the mood for a George Martin-style slaughter of characters. It’s much like the court at Versailles, but with dirigibles, and an enemy is more likely to attack via a courier with a strongly worded letter than at swords’ point. As she’s shown in previous novels, the author is particularly dedicated to world-building, and that set dressing of costume, language, and protocol makes Maia’s Untheileneise Court come to life. Oh, and I thought I’d read enough fantasy not to be bothered by such things, but I do recommend that you read the appendix on names and forms of address before you start. I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble keeping track of character names and titles… oh, yes, it was Wolf Hall. At least the Tudors were all Tom, Dick, and Harry at home, not Edrehasivar, Varenechibel, and Cstheio Cairezhasan. Ai, Elbereth Gilthoniel!

Katherine Addison is a pen name; as Sarah Monette, she has written the delightful, Gothic tales of Kyle Murchison Booth, collected in The Bone Key, and an involving four-book fantasy series that begins with Mélusine.

Check the WRL catalog for The Goblin Emperor.


The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-23 01:01

Maia Drazhar is an 18-year-old half-elf, half-goblin prince, living in exile with his embittered guardian, when a zeppelin accident (yes, the elves have zeppelins) takes out most of the royal line. Suddenly Maia is Emperor of the Elflands. As the fourth son of an unfavored and long-dead empress, he was never expected to rule. His guardian always punished him for talking too much, and now he’s expected to give speeches. No one has taught him even to dance, far less negotiate a divisive trade agreement… or investigate the treasonous sabotage of the previous Emperor’s airship.

This high fantasy follows Maia’s efforts to navigate his new position, as a bullied youth forced onto a very public stage, learning and choosing how to wield unexpected power. The charm of the story is that Maia is a thoroughly decent individual, winning readers to his side even as he alienates many of his courtiers. Hastily made over with new robes and crown jewels, Maia confounds the court with such gestures as attending the funerals of mere servants and asking daughters of royal houses who they would prefer to marry. (Not him, unfortunately.)

With a leisurely pace and old-fashioned speech, forsooth, this is a fantasy for readers who enjoy the complicated politics of historical novels but who aren’t in the mood for a George Martin-style slaughter of characters. It’s much like the court at Versailles, but with dirigibles, and an enemy is more likely to attack via a courier with a strongly worded letter than at swords’ point. As she’s shown in previous novels, the author is particularly dedicated to world-building, and that set dressing of costume, language, and protocol makes Maia’s Untheileneise Court come to life. Oh, and I thought I’d read enough fantasy not to be bothered by such things, but I do recommend that you read the appendix on names and forms of address before you start. I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble keeping track of character names and titles… oh, yes, it was Wolf Hall. At least the Tudors were all Tom, Dick, and Harry at home, not Edrehasivar, Varenechibel, and Cstheio Cairezhasan. Ai, Elbereth Gilthoniel!

Katherine Addison is a pen name; as Sarah Monette, she has written the delightful, Gothic tales of Kyle Murchison Booth, collected in The Bone Key, and an involving four-book fantasy series that begins with Mélusine.

Check the WRL catalog for The Goblin Emperor.


Longmire: Season 1

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-22 01:01

There have been a couple of posts about Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire mystery series on this blog. A recent post referred to the A&E Show based on the series, Longmire, so I’m following up with a review of the TV show.

I’ve only read two or three books in Johnson’s Longmire series so far, but I really enjoyed them and was intrigued at what a TV show based on it would be like.

The role of the titular Absaroka County, Wyoming, sheriff is taken on by Australian actor Robert Taylor. He looks and speaks exactly how I imagine Longmire from the books would, and this is what drew me into the show: aging, a bit cranky, set in his ways, gruff manner covering a rather soft heart. However, his character is a bit darker and more angst-ridden than in the books. His past is also murkier, with some dark secrets driving a major plotline which is absent from the books. This plotline necessitates more of a sense of inner torment and greater recklessness in the TV show Walt. His relationship with his daughter, Cady (portrayed by Cassidy Freeman), is explored in both formats, though the TV show cannot resist infusing it with far more Sturm und Drang than in the books.

Longmire’s deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti, played by Katie Sackhoff, is in my mind quite similar to the character in the books. I haven’t gotten through all of the books, nor the rest of the TV show, but I’ll be interested to see how the relationship between Walt and Vic plays out and how it is treated in the show versus the books.

Craig Johnson’s character of Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s best friend and oft-times liaison to the Cheyenne Indian reservation’s law enforcement and citizens, is happily present and accounted for here. His speech, mannerisms and stoic nature from the books are intact in the show, for which I’m grateful. He plays an important part in every episode. He is portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips who I think does an outstanding job.

Lucian Connally is the former sheriff who preceded Walt, and he plays a bigger part in the books than he does on the show. I’ve gotten through Season 1 and only seen him in one episode, but he was relatively true to life in his reckless cantankery. His nephew, Branch Connally, is Walt’s competitive deputy on the show, but this character does not appear in the books. His presence provides several storylines which were not possible in the books, but certainly add to the show’s dramatic and sexual appeal.

Fortunately for the book lovers, major themes of the books are revisited honestly and regularly by the TV series: the ever-present tension between the Cheyenne on the reservation and the local Absaroke County residents; a sense of social justice attained or denied; man versus nature.

Some of the plotlines are recognizable from the books, but much liberty is taken with them. I actually don’t mind this – for me this show can co-exist quite happily independent of the book series. One “character” I do miss from the books is the sense of mysticism surrounding Cheyenne legends and beliefs. Although each television episode has had a small element of it, the books dwell much more on Walt’s spirituality as a part of his character; in the TV shows it’s more of a simple plot device, although perhaps this will be explored further in future episodes.

On the whole, I’d say if you enjoy the books you will enjoy the series, if you don’t mind major plot deviations. Enough of the essential elements of appeal are present: characters, atmosphere, and setting. Craig Johnson seems to have nothing but good things to say about the show, and the TV series has boosted circulation of Johnson’s books. On his blog Johnson reports that the same folks who are “binge-watching” the series on A&E are going on to buy and “binge-read” the books in his series, and this must be very gratifying.

Give Longmire a shot! And check out Johnsons’ newest entry in the Walt Longmire series, Any Other Name.


Longmire: Season 1

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-22 01:01

There have been a couple of posts about Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire mystery series on this blog. A recent post referred to the A&E Show based on the series, Longmire, so I’m following up with a review of the TV show.

I’ve only read two or three books in Johnson’s Longmire series so far, but I really enjoyed them and was intrigued at what a TV show based on it would be like.

The role of the titular Absaroka County, Wyoming, sheriff is taken on by Australian actor Robert Taylor. He looks and speaks exactly how I imagine Longmire from the books would, and this is what drew me into the show: aging, a bit cranky, set in his ways, gruff manner covering a rather soft heart. However, his character is a bit darker and more angst-ridden than in the books. His past is also murkier, with some dark secrets driving a major plotline which is absent from the books. This plotline necessitates more of a sense of inner torment and greater recklessness in the TV show Walt. His relationship with his daughter, Cady (portrayed by Cassidy Freeman), is explored in both formats, though the TV show cannot resist infusing it with far more Sturm und Drang than in the books.

Longmire’s deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti, played by Katie Sackhoff, is in my mind quite similar to the character in the books. I haven’t gotten through all of the books, nor the rest of the TV show, but I’ll be interested to see how the relationship between Walt and Vic plays out and how it is treated in the show versus the books.

Craig Johnson’s character of Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s best friend and oft-times liaison to the Cheyenne Indian reservation’s law enforcement and citizens, is happily present and accounted for here. His speech, mannerisms and stoic nature from the books are intact in the show, for which I’m grateful. He plays an important part in every episode. He is portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips who I think does an outstanding job.

Lucian Connally is the former sheriff who preceded Walt, and he plays a bigger part in the books than he does on the show. I’ve gotten through Season 1 and only seen him in one episode, but he was relatively true to life in his reckless cantankery. His nephew, Branch Connally, is Walt’s competitive deputy on the show, but this character does not appear in the books. His presence provides several storylines which were not possible in the books, but certainly add to the show’s dramatic and sexual appeal.

Fortunately for the book lovers, major themes of the books are revisited honestly and regularly by the TV series: the ever-present tension between the Cheyenne on the reservation and the local Absaroke County residents; a sense of social justice attained or denied; man versus nature.

Some of the plotlines are recognizable from the books, but much liberty is taken with them. I actually don’t mind this – for me this show can co-exist quite happily independent of the book series. One “character” I do miss from the books is the sense of mysticism surrounding Cheyenne legends and beliefs. Although each television episode has had a small element of it, the books dwell much more on Walt’s spirituality as a part of his character; in the TV shows it’s more of a simple plot device, although perhaps this will be explored further in future episodes.

On the whole, I’d say if you enjoy the books you will enjoy the series, if you don’t mind major plot deviations. Enough of the essential elements of appeal are present: characters, atmosphere, and setting. Craig Johnson seems to have nothing but good things to say about the show, and the TV series has boosted circulation of Johnson’s books. On his blog Johnson reports that the same folks who are “binge-watching” the series on A&E are going on to buy and “binge-read” the books in his series, and this must be very gratifying.

Give Longmire a shot! And check out Johnsons’ newest entry in the Walt Longmire series, Any Other Name.


Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Read This! - Wed, 2014-05-21 01:01

Laura shares this review:

On the surface, this is a familiar story: teenage angst about life intertwined with a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Gloria “Glory” Fleming is a teenage piano prodigy who is dealing with the pressures created by her talent and her career while still trying to cope with the loss of her mother several years before. She meets and falls in love with Frank Mendoza, a teen from Argentina who has recently moved in next door. Their relationship intensifies as their respective lives crumble. At the start of the book you find out that Glory has disappeared after slipping away from a rest home for musicians. The reader then traces back over the previous 18 months to find clues to where she went and why.

The actual process of reading the book is in itself a unique experience. That Chopsticks is bound like a book is indisputable but there are few words contained on the pages. Nor is it presented like a graphic novel with blocks of drawings and pops of dialogue. Instead we are asked to flip through a collection of concert programs, wine bottle labels, screenshots of IM conversations, album covers, newspaper clippings, photos, school progress reports, paintings, and more. The narrative more closely follows flipping through a stranger’s scrapbooked diary.  It is intimate but incomplete, as the characters are not asked to explain themselves or put their words into the context in which they were meant to be taken.  Are the angry words just flashes of emotion stemming from the frustration of existing in a world where you are supposed to be either an adult or a child, but not both?  Or do they expose some deeper trouble within the teenager’s psyche?

The voyeuristic view into the character’s private thoughts is slightly uncomfortable yet fascinating. There are no answers here, or at least none that are tidy or even concrete.  Individual readers will find different answers to the plot questions based on their own interpretation of the evidence presented. I found myself going back over sections multiple times after I had initially completed the book, seeing how my own view changed over time.  The only thing I knew for sure is that Glory had disappeared, and I was left with the extraordinary ache created by the human-shaped hole left behind.

Any reader, but especially those interested in the complexities of  both teens and human relationships and who don’t mind the ambiguity will be richly rewarded by investigating this book.

Check the WRL catalog for Chopsticks.


Categories: Read This

Wait! No Paint!, by Bruce Whatley

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-05-21 01:01

In the book Wait! No Paint! author/illustrator Bruce Whatley takes the familiar story of The Three Little Pigs and throws a wrench in the works. Everything is chugging along as usual (the pigs move out, build their own homes, the wolf comes to visit) until the illustrator, referred to initially as “a Voice from nowhere in particular”, interrupts the action. While illustrating the book, he spills his orange juice on the page. His actions affect the course of the story, as the first little pig’s house is now “soggy and sticky”. Then the illustrator pops in to announce that he must redo the wolf’s nose and suddenly we see a paintbrush, pencil, and eraser enter the scene. These interruptions culminate with the announcement that he has run out of red paint. As we all know, red paint is used to make pink paint, and pigs are pink.

Whatley tries making the pigs green, but that makes them queasy, he makes them flower-patterned, but they blend into the chair cushions. All the while, the wolf is advancing on the third pig’s chimney. Children familiar with the original version of The Three Little Pigs will know that it is the fire in the fireplace that ultimately does the wolf in. Without red, the illustrator can’t make the fire. What can be done to save the pigs?! You’ll never guess what solution Whatley thinks up.

Children love to hear twists on familiar stories, and this one is fun and humorous with a great ending. Readers will enjoy the blurring of the wall between the pig’s story and the illustrator’s world.

Check the WRL catalog for Wait! No Paint!


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The Big Miracle (2012)

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-05-21 01:01

I’m usually a sucker for animal rescue stories and films (just look at some of my previous posts, including this one.).  While vacationing at the beach last week, I was presented with the opportunity to watch this movie, and I hesitated, wondering if I wanted to spend my valuable beach time watching yet another movie about animals that need to be rescued.  Well, I was glad I did, because The Big Miracle is exceptional for several reasons:

One extremely cute family of three whales, including an adorable baby whale, that get trapped in the ice five miles from the shoreline near Barrow, Alaska, in 1988. Their desperate calls for help are very moving.

Some extremely hazardous weather conditions,  including temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit , high winds, blizzards, and treacherous ice, mean that their chances of survival are slim, and make for exciting drama.

An extremely unlikely group of people join together to help these poor whales, including a Greenpeace activist (Drew Barrymore), a wealthy oil tycoon (Ted Danson), a local TV news reporter (John Krasinski), and a local Inuit tribal elder (John Pingayak).  A typical movie like this pits the good-guy activist against the bad-guy industrialist, so it’s refreshing to see them all working together for once, even if they have ulterior motives for helping.

The actions of this group bring about some amazing results.  The local TV news reporter, who first discovers the whales, does a feature report about their plight for the local Anchorage news. The story is picked up by the national news, and quickly goes international. Before long, thousands of reporters from all over the world are descending on little Barrow, Alaska.

More importantly, the news reports bring people to the town who think that they can help in the rescue operation, including two brothers from Minnesota who have invented a de-icing machine.

The situation on the ground quickly becomes desperate, as the rescuers race around the clock and face crisis after crisis to save these whales.  I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that it involves a lot of ingenuity on the ground and help from the Alaska National Guard and an icy neighbor of the United States. And I won’t say if all three of these whales make it out alive (oops, maybe I have said too much).

This exciting, feel-good movie is based on true events in 1988 as set forth in Thomas Rose’s book Freeing the Whales.  The acting is top-rate, and I especially enjoyed Drew Barrymore as the Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer.  In one scene she dives under water to check on the health of the whales, which I found to be very memorable and sad.

I also enjoyed watching media clips from 1988 of Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings when they were still in their prime. This gives the movie a sense of authenticity (reminding viewers that this was a real story) as well as a sense of nostalgia for older viewers like myself who remember watching these famous TV news anchors.

The Big Miracle is an exciting movie that I highly recommended watching, on or off the beach.


The Big Miracle (2012)

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-05-21 01:01

I’m usually a sucker for animal rescue stories and films (just look at some of my previous posts, including this one.).  While vacationing at the beach last week, I was presented with the opportunity to watch this movie, and I hesitated, wondering if I wanted to spend my valuable beach time watching yet another movie about animals that need to be rescued.  Well, I was glad I did, because The Big Miracle is exceptional for several reasons:

One extremely cute family of three whales, including an adorable baby whale, that get trapped in the ice five miles from the shoreline near Barrow, Alaska, in 1988. Their desperate calls for help are very moving.

Some extremely hazardous weather conditions,  including temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit , high winds, blizzards, and treacherous ice, mean that their chances of survival are slim, and make for exciting drama.

An extremely unlikely group of people join together to help these poor whales, including a Greenpeace activist (Drew Barrymore), a wealthy oil tycoon (Ted Danson), a local TV news reporter (John Krasinski), and a local Inuit tribal elder (John Pingayak).  A typical movie like this pits the good-guy activist against the bad-guy industrialist, so it’s refreshing to see them all working together for once, even if they have ulterior motives for helping.

The actions of this group bring about some amazing results.  The local TV news reporter, who first discovers the whales, does a feature report about their plight for the local Anchorage news. The story is picked up by the national news, and quickly goes international. Before long, thousands of reporters from all over the world are descending on little Barrow, Alaska.

More importantly, the news reports bring people to the town who think that they can help in the rescue operation, including two brothers from Minnesota who have invented a de-icing machine.

The situation on the ground quickly becomes desperate, as the rescuers race around the clock and face crisis after crisis to save these whales.  I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that it involves a lot of ingenuity on the ground and help from the Alaska National Guard and an icy neighbor of the United States. And I won’t say if all three of these whales make it out alive (oops, maybe I have said too much).

This exciting, feel-good movie is based on true events in 1988 as set forth in Thomas Rose’s book Freeing the Whales.  The acting is top-rate, and I especially enjoyed Drew Barrymore as the Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer.  In one scene she dives under water to check on the health of the whales, which I found to be very memorable and sad.

I also enjoyed watching media clips from 1988 of Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings when they were still in their prime. This gives the movie a sense of authenticity (reminding viewers that this was a real story) as well as a sense of nostalgia for older viewers like myself who remember watching these famous TV news anchors.

The Big Miracle is an exciting movie that I highly recommended watching, on or off the beach.


Witchstruck, by Victoria Lamb

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-05-20 01:01

“If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged.”

Fantasy blends with historical fiction and romance in this first novel of the Tudor Witch Trilogy. The story is set in England in 1554, in the time of Princess Elizabeth, who has been sent into exile at Woodstock Palace by her half-sister Queen Mary. Political tensions are running high and there is talk of treason.

Just months ago, young Princess Elizabeth found herself a prisoner in the Tower of London after being accused of conspiring to overthrow the Queen. As no true evidence can be found she is instead sent faraway to crumbling Woodstock Palace. This sets the scene for Meg Lytton, the Princess’s newest hand maiden. Meg has a powerful gift, one she must hide from all. She comes from a long line of witches and is very much one herself. But there is no room for witches in Catholic England, and should she be discovered she would be hanged.

Meg soon finds that the Princess has her own interest in the Craft, and often calls on Meg and her aunt to help her see into the future and answer the always pressing question, “Will I ever be Queen?” But Meg and her aunt must exercise extreme caution, as the famed witch hunter Marcus Dent has taken an intense interest in Meg and wishes for her hand in marriage.

Things only get worse when Meg learns that her own family is conspiring against the Queen. Meg’s association with the Princess puts Elizabeth in further danger. When it seems all is going wrong and there is no one Meg can trust, in walks Spanish priest-in-training Alejandro de Castillo.  Suddenly everything is beginning to look a little better and a whole lot more dangerous…

Check the WRL catalog for Witchstruck


Witchstruck, by Victoria Lamb

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-05-20 01:01

“If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged.”

Fantasy blends with historical fiction and romance in this first novel of the Tudor Witch Trilogy. The story is set in England in 1554, in the time of Princess Elizabeth, who has been sent into exile at Woodstock Palace by her half-sister Queen Mary. Political tensions are running high and there is talk of treason.

Just months ago, young Princess Elizabeth found herself a prisoner in the Tower of London after being accused of conspiring to overthrow the Queen. As no true evidence can be found she is instead sent faraway to crumbling Woodstock Palace. This sets the scene for Meg Lytton, the Princess’s newest hand maiden. Meg has a powerful gift, one she must hide from all. She comes from a long line of witches and is very much one herself. But there is no room for witches in Catholic England, and should she be discovered she would be hanged.

Meg soon finds that the Princess has her own interest in the Craft, and often calls on Meg and her aunt to help her see into the future and answer the always pressing question, “Will I ever be Queen?” But Meg and her aunt must exercise extreme caution, as the famed witch hunter Marcus Dent has taken an intense interest in Meg and wishes for her hand in marriage.

Things only get worse when Meg learns that her own family is conspiring against the Queen. Meg’s association with the Princess puts Elizabeth in further danger. When it seems all is going wrong and there is no one Meg can trust, in walks Spanish priest-in-training Alejandro de Castillo.  Suddenly everything is beginning to look a little better and a whole lot more dangerous…

Check the WRL catalog for Witchstruck


False Memory, by Dan Krokos

Read This! - Mon, 2014-05-19 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Here’s a good fast-paced young adult novel to try.  The main character is a warrior girl, but instead of living in the time of knights and ladies, this story takes place closer to modern or near future times.

Miranda finds herself in a mall, with no memory of anything beyond her name.  When she asks the mall cop for help, he thinks she’s just playing games with him.  As she tries to explain, her head begins to hurt until at last the pain radiates outward.  She is horrified to see people flee in fear.  Unsure what’s going on, she scans the panicking crowd until she sees  a guy her age just watching her.

He tells her his name is Peter, and that he knows her.  Because he says he can explain what just happened, Miranda follows him to an underground bunker in the forest.

She discovers that she is part of a team of four genetically engineered kids who are being trained as “crowd control weapons.”  One of the side effects of the gene therapy is memory loss, which is countered by taking medicine.  She was taken off the medicine without her knowledge by one of her teammates, Noah.  Noah and the fourth member of their team, Olive, have gone missing.

Miranda and Peter must locate their missing comrades and bring them back to the facility.  But in the process they uncover the lies they have been told about their true purpose and how they came to exist.  Lots of twists and turns and double-crosses keep the action moving.  And the fight sequences are engaging and detailed.

Check the WRL catalog for False Memory


Categories: Read This

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-19 01:01

This is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy. The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magician’s study.

Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel, but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so he summons a powerful djinni to help him get retribution on the magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined, while his rival magician, Simon Lovelace, is even more dangerous than he expected.

A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurk unseen threats and hidden perils. Worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do: he has lost control, not only of his djinni but of everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.


The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Blogging for a Good Book - Mon, 2014-05-19 01:01

This is the first installment in The Bartimaeus Trilogy. The story focuses on young Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice beginning his training in the art of magic. From the very beginning he shows incredible promise but is unfortunately paired with a sub-par and rather boring instructor. Out of boredom and internal motivation, Nathaniel begins his own private studies, quickly gobbling up book after book in the old magician’s study.

Things would have continued slow and steady for Nathaniel, but a fateful and humiliating event leaves him burning with rage and a desire for revenge. And so he summons a powerful djinni to help him get retribution on the magician who caused him so much hurt. But the djinni, Bartimaeus, is more formidable and cunning than Nathaniel could have imagined, while his rival magician, Simon Lovelace, is even more dangerous than he expected.

A simple plan turns into a catastrophic ordeal when Nathaniel orders Bartimaeus to steal a priceless token from Lovelace, the Amulet of Samarkand. Now, around every corner lurk unseen threats and hidden perils. Worst of all, Nathaniel has done the one thing a true magician is never supposed to do: he has lost control, not only of his djinni but of everything around him.

Check the WRL catalog for The Amulet of Samarkand.


Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam Rex

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-05-19 01:01

This week’s theme is “illustrator conflicts”. In today’s title, we have a fictional conflict between the author and illustrator. In Chloe and the Lion author Mac Barnett is dissatisfied with the artistic license illustrator Adam Rex’s has taken with the titular lion’s depiction. Specifically, Rex thinks “a dragon would be cooler”. Their argument leads to some artistic shenanigans until Barnett finally fires Rex and replaces him with another illustrator. This illustrator is willing to draw a lion, only it still doesn’t look quite right. Barnett then attempts to draw his own illustrations for his story, with less than stellar results. On the verge of giving up, it is the book’s heroine, Chloe, who convinces Barnett to keep at it. But the problem still remains, who will be the illustrator?

Mac Barnett’s books are typically filled with humor, and Chloe and the Lion is no exception. This book takes a humorous look at the various ways different illustrators interpret the same text. It includes the simultaneous use of several illustrative techniques including clay sculpting, painting, model making, and photography.

Check the WRL catalog for Chloe and the Lion.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

One Big Happy Family, by Lisa Rogak

Blogging for a Good Book - Fri, 2014-05-16 01:01

Dogs cuddling with goats?  An owl raising a goose? A cat caring for a litter of bunnies?  So much cuteness in one book!

One Big Happy Family is a quick read that will put a smile on your face.

Author Lisa Rogak has compiled 50 examples of cross-species friendships.  She explains that the parenting instinct in these cases defied the animals’ natural predator instincts. And whether the relationship lasted a lifetime or just a few weeks, when the young animal needed assistance most the adult animal stepped up to the plate.  As Rogak writes, “in doing so they serve as an inspiration.”

The pictures are the real draw for this nonfiction book. Every few pages there are darling photos of animals.  Brief narratives describe the origins of the relationship.  These can be quickly zipped through so you can “oooh” and “aww” your way to the next picture.

In fact, let’s just show a couple of images that will convince you of the appeal more than any number of words I can use.

 

Check the WRL catalog for One Big Happy Family