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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

 

 


Seen Art? by Jon Scieszka, illus. by Lane Smith

Pied Piper Pics - Fri, 2014-05-16 01:01

In Seen Art? a young boy’s quest to find his friend takes an unexpected turn. Standing on the corner of Fifth and Fifty-third in New York City, a boy waits for his friend, Art. When Art doesn’t arrive the boy begins asking people who pass by if they have “seen Art”. Everyone’s reply is the same: “MoMA?” Deciding this must be some kind of code word, the boy plays along and is directed to a building just down the street. Inside, people show him many works of art including van Gogh’s Starry Night, Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory, Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, and sculptures by Calder. While the boy finds all this very interesting, he isn’t any closer to finding his friend. His insistence that he must “find Art” is misinterpreted by the helpful museum-goers, as each tries to show him what art truly is. But none of their art is the Art he is looking for.

This is not your average picture book, and it is not one I would recommend for storytime. This is a great one-on-one book for older children with an interest in art. Scieszka’s story draws you in and showcases the works of art in a funny and whimsical fashion. Smith’s illustrations are built around images of the works I mentioned above as well as numerous others. Seen Art? would be especially enjoyable for a family preparing to visit an art museum like MoMA (aka the Museum of Modern Art).

Check the WRL catalog for Seen Art?


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

Kill Me Softly, by Sarah Cross

Read This! - Fri, 2014-05-16 01:01

 

Jennifer D. shares this review:

The town of Beau Rivage is filled with fairy tale characters.  There are princes and princesses, beasts and mermaids, fairies and wolves, huntsmen and match girls – but they all take the form of average citizens. All that would distinguish the teens in this tale from normal teens is a “märchen mark” or birthmark that identifies their role and destiny. Mira has a birthmark on her back that resembles a wheel, but never knew its meaning until she traveled to Beau Rivage, the town where she was born.

The only life Mira can remember is living with her extremely overprotective godmothers.  Her sixteenth birthday is only a week away and she is determined to spend it in her hometown and to find her parents’ graves.  Having concocted an elaborate plan to elude her godmothers, Mira arrives in Beau Rivage and quickly makes the acquaintance of two brothers, Felix and Blue Valentine.  While they couldn’t be more different (Felix is helpful and attentive, Blue is rude and obnoxious), Mira finds herself strangely drawn to both of them. Felix promises to help Mira find her parents’ graves, but Blue is focused on getting Mira out of town, and away from Felix, as fast as possible. Mira, however, will not be swayed from either her task or Felix’s attentions. It does seem strange, though, that no one will explain the meaning of the Valentine brothers’ heart-shaped märchen marks. What fairy tale roles do they play? What role will Mira play in their stories?

In Kill Me Softly, Sarah Cross puts a contemporary and highly entertaining spin on traditional fairy tales. Fans of the Grimms’ most gruesome stories will find much to enjoy in this modern mash-up of some of their greatest creations. While Mira’s story comes to a close in this book, the intricate mythology Cross has created for the town of Beau Rivage could potentially lend itself to a sequel.

Check the WRL catalog for Kill Me Softly.


Categories: Read This

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

Blogging for a Good Book - Thu, 2014-05-15 01:01

Orphan Train caught my eye on the New Books shelf. I had not heard about the orphan trains before and enjoyed gaining some insight through this story.

According to PBS’s The Orphan Trains, the Children’s Aid Society, a precursor to our modern-day foster care, arranged trips between 1854 and 1929 to relocate thousands of orphan children from the streets of New York to the Midwest.  The organizers believed that farmers could use these homeless children as laborers, but hoped they would also treat them as part of their family and make sure they got an education.

Kline’s story is told through Molly and Vivian.  Molly is an angry, misunderstood teen about to age out of the foster care system.  She is arrested for stealing a book from the library and has to perform community service or go to jail.  Her foster mother is fed up with her and doesn’t want to put any more effort into the relationship.  Molly’s boyfriend helps arrange a service project for an older woman, Vivian, who employs his mother.

Vivian has Molly help her downsize her belongings.  But as they open boxes in the attic, Vivian  is reminded of her past and the experiences she had losing her family and being relocated by the orphan trains.  As they talk, Molly and Vivian develop a strong bond from having had similar experiences trying to fit in with foster families.

I enjoyed Vivian’s saga, though my heart ached for all the ups and downs of her life. I especially liked the way Molly’s present-day life and Vivian’s past were similar.  The story was an enjoyable, quick read for me.  My only criticism of the book is the ending — and I love happy endings!  I just felt that everything tied up too neatly.

This book seems to be a popular selection for book groups; in fact, we have the title available as a Gab Bag.  If you want to use it for your own discussion, questions can be found on Christina Baker Kline’s web site. In talking with others who had read the book, we all agreed that it inspired us to look into the real-life events of the orphan trains.  Tying the historical fact to the fictional story would make good talking points.

Check the WRL catalog for Orphan Train


Perfectly Percy, by Paul Schmid

Pied Piper Pics - Wed, 2014-05-14 01:01

Percy the porcupine loves balloons more than anything. The problem is, “Happy little porcupines with balloons are soon SAD little porcupines.” Percy’s quills always get in the way, and the balloons pop. Unable to think of a solution by himself, Percy asks his big sister, Pearl, for advice. Her suggestion involves sticking a marshmallow on the end of each of Percy’s quills. They give it a try, but it’s not particularly effective. Still, Percy refuses to give up. There must be a way for him to play with his beloved balloons. He just needs to keep thinking.

Percy’s story is simple and sweet, and perfect for a preschool storytime. His perseverance teaches a great lesson and he’s an adorable character kids will relate to and find funny. Schmid’s illustrations are large and clearly drawn in colorful pastels. Perfectly Percy is a follow-up to Schmid’s Hugs from Pearl.

Check the WRL catalog for Perfectly Percy.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics

The American Heiress, by Daisy Goodwin

Blogging for a Good Book - Wed, 2014-05-14 01:01

 

I have to send a thank you to the library user who recommended this book to me.  I don’t know her name, but we had a nice chat about romance books — and she came back to the Reference desk to make sure I had the title correct.  She said she thoroughly enjoyed it.  I did, too!

The story takes place in the late 1800s.  Cora Cash is one of those rich, eligible, young women whose father makes more money than they can spend.  Her mother aspires to have the status of the Vanderbilts or Astors, and has set her sights on a titled husband for her daughter.

While riding in an English fox hunt, Cora breaks away from the pack and falls from her horse.  The handsome man who finds her and brings her to his drafty ancestral home is none other than the Ninth Duke of Wareham. Cora’s mother could not possibly object when the Duke declares his love for Cora and asks for her hand.

The marriage is less of a fairy tale.

Ivo, as the Duke is called by friends, seems to care for Cora.  But his emotions get tied up in knots over how things look.  It is not just the social customs that must be maintained, but he is also struggling to make sure that Cora is nothing like his own mother.

For her part, Cora loves the Duke.  She tries to please him by fixing up his family home, but in doing so she only fuels rumors that the Duke married the rich heiress for her money.  In addition to walking a fine line with his pride, Cora has to adjust to living in a foreign country and learning to cope with her domineering mother-in-law.  Her troubles seem especially poignant at the Duke’s home, where the servants are civil to her face, but unlikely to follow any requests that aren’t deemed “proper” (like removing the many pictures of Ivo’s mother and her former lover, the Prince of Wales, from the bedrooms).

Instead of talking to one another, the couple struggle with misconceptions that might break them apart.

While the story has opportunities to go gothic, it doesn’t.  The old home is certainly drafty, but Goodwin resisted the tired “dark and stormy night” scenarios.  Cora is surprisingly sympathetic as well.  She easily could have turned out to be spoiled and heartless, but she isn’t.  Spoiled, for sure, but she doesn’t turn out to be the shrew.  Snappy dialogue and interesting secondary characters also kept me turning the pages.  I especially liked Bertha, Cora’s maid from South Carolina.  It is through Bertha’s eyes that the book shows the “downstairs” portion of the social classes.

Goodwin’s book provides lots of details of the Gilded Age: the extravagant parties, the fashionable clothing, the social expectations.  She notes in the Acknowledgements that “When it comes to the Gilded Age, the more fantastical the circumstance, the more likely it is to be true.”

I would recommend this as a good read-alike for fans of Downton Abbey or even The Great Gatsby.

Check the WRL catalog for The American Heiress


Alanna, The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce

Read This! - Wed, 2014-05-14 01:01

Melissa shares this review:

Tamora Pierce is an award-winning and bestselling fantasy author of young adult literature.  She has written stand alone books and short stories as well as multiple series.  Her first young adult novel, published in 1983, was Alanna, the First Adventure.

This story opens with Alanna and her twin brother Thom unhappy about their father’s decision to send them away for school.  It’s not that they don’t want to leave home and have new experiences, it’s that they wish their father would consider what they want to do.

Alanna doesn’t want to go to a convent and learn all the boring necessities of being a lady.  She wants to be a knight, a warrior maiden.  And Thom really doesn’t enjoy sword fighting and battle strategy, he’d rather be a great sorcerer.

The two decide to take their fates into their own hands and switch places.  With the help of two dedicated servants, Alanna heads to Duke Gareth of Naxen as “Alan of Trebond” to serve as a page while Thom goes to the City of Gods to study magic.  Their negligent father is none the wiser.

Alanna pays attention and learns her lessons well.  She also shows she has a strong character and doesn’t let others fight her battles.  Mixed in with the lessons and sword fights are court politics, sorcery, and the continual stress of hiding her true nature from her friends.  I kept expecting her secret to be revealed at every new scene — how long would the boys believe that “Alan” was just a small-framed boy with a fear of swimming with the group?

Alanna is a great role model — she embodies all the good qualities of a knight — but the book ends before she completes her training.  You’ll have to keep reading the series!  And don’t think just because Alanna has the makings of a hero that she’s boring.  There is plenty of mischief to keep the story clipping along.

Check the WRL catalog for Alanna, the First Adventure


Categories: Read This

Striking Distance, by Pamela Clare

Blogging for a Good Book - Tue, 2014-05-13 01:01

Laura Nilsson is slowly rebuilding her life after being rescued from eighteen months of captivity in the Middle East. No longer interested in being in front of the camera, Laura works as a newspaper investigative journalist in Denver. Life is not perfect, but Laura is slowly putting the pieces back together, regaining her professional confidence and trying to regain her confidence as a woman. Javier Corbray hasn’t forgotten his brief and intense weekend getting to know Laura in Dubai before her kidnapping. In fact, she is never far from his thoughts, but he keeps his distance out of respect for her trauma.

While visiting friends in Denver, Javier is surprised, but thrilled, to see Laura at a friend’s barbeque. Laura is happy to see Javier but is less certain about picking up where they left off before her kidnapping. Laura longs to be the confidant woman Javier once knew, but she has secrets that she can’t share for her and her daughter’s safety. Javier won’t be deterred; he values Laura as a friend and a woman, and when she is targeted by a bomb he makes a point to be there to protect her.

Striking Distance is a great combination of character, romance, and suspense. Laura and Javier are both adults dealing with life’s harsh realities. They respect each other as people and take the time to get to know each other. They don’t deny their sexual attraction but neither do they overlook Laura’s trauma. Instead, the focus is on romance and creating a relationship based on trust and respect. Javier is a Navy SEAL, so you’ll have to suspend a little bit of disbelief over the action sequences. Just know the action never overshadows the story nor is it way over the top. The suspense is a great counterbalance to Javier’s and Laura’s budding relationship.

Striking Distance is a part of a series and previous characters appear, but it can be read independently and is one of the best in the series. Pamela Clare is a great writer and creates characters and romance that only make the genre better.

Check the WRL catalog for Striking Distance


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illus. by Oliver Jeffers

Pied Piper Pics - Mon, 2014-05-12 01:01

Duncan’s crayons have had enough. They’ve decided to quit. Some of them, like red, blue, and gray feel they are overworked. Others, like beige, white, and pink are underutilized. Black is tired of outlining things, and orange and yellow are in a head-to-head battle over which one should be the color of the sun. Purple is a bit of a neatnik and desperately wants Duncan to color inside the lines. Peach’s wrapper got peeled off and now he’s embarrassed to leave the box. Green is just upset that his friends are so upset. Who knew crayons were this disgruntled?

Each crayon expresses its concerns to Duncan in a letter written in their particular color, which makes up the text of the story. Oliver Jeffers’ illustrations serve to augment the crayon’s arguments while also perfectly representing what a young boy might draw. The crayons each have their own voice and their anthropomorphization is very funny. The thought of using a book of letters in storytime might seem a bit daunting, but the premise will keep your audience hooked. This would also be a great book for one-on-one use.

Check the WRL catalog for The Day the Crayons Quit.


Categories: Pied Piper Pics