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Archive for the ‘Readers’ Advisory’ Category

Glass DemonBook Review:  The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

“Teenager Lin Fox is a stranger in a strange land — Germany, where her father has come on a quixotic quest to locate a priceless artifact. The medieval (and possibly mythical) Allerheiligen stained glass is believed by some to be lost, by others to have been destroyed, and by virtually all to be haunted. A mysterious letter persuades Dr. Oliver Fox that he can be the one to find it — but someone else is determined to ensure that the glass stays hidden forever.

First, an elderly stranger is found dead in an orchard, then one of Oliver’s contacts is mysteriously drowned — both bodies inexplicably surrounded by shards of colored glass. As dark superstitions simmer, Lin embarks on her own search to find the glass. As her life comes to resemble the grimmest of fairy tales, she realizes that what she must find is not only the truth about the legendary glass but a way to save the lives of those she loves.”  Book description.

A suspenseful blend of legend, mystery, and horror – Grant certainly demonstrates a deft touch in her storytelling.  I loved the legend of the Allerheiligen stained glass, as well as the Gothic setting with its crumbling ruins, dark forests, and brooding priests.  Claustrophobic, eerie, and nicely plotted, the only aspect of the book that didn’t quite convince me was the relationship between Lin and Michael; it was a bit jumpy, but it didn’t detract from the story.  I must add that I desperately wanted to see the Allerheiligen stained glass for myself – I’ll have to settle for googling images of the Steinfeld stained glass windows from which Grant drew inspiration for the story.  Looking forward to reading her first book, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden!

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adas-rulesBook Review:  Ada’s Rules by Alice Randall

When she receives an invitation to her 25 year college reunion, signed with a wink by her first love, Ada starts comparing her life then and now.  For years she’s been taking care of everyone but herself: her husband, his congregation, her daycare, her parents, her daughters.  She’s gained 100 pounds or so since her college days and she’s lost 3 sisters to diabetes; she also suspects her husband is cheating on her.  Ada decides it’s time for a health and beauty revival and starts listing some rules, the first being Don’t Keep Doing What You’ve Always Been Doing.

The grammar drove me nuts at times but I adore Ada.  It was all too easy for me to identify with her sense of having somehow lost herself over the years.  It was also all too easy for me to identify with her body image/health concerns.  I loved witnessing her journey as she sets goals for herself, makes progress, stumbles, and gets right back on track.  I loved that her transformation wasn’t simply about weight; it was really more about learning to make herself a priority and learning to assert herself.  Part Fiction, part Self Help, Ada’s Rules is an inspirational look at one woman’s year of self-discovery.

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LiesBook Review:  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The island city of Camorr is adorned with shimmering towers, thrilling bridges and lovely sculpture gardens made of indestructible elderglass, the only remnants of a mysterious, long-lost civilization.  The physical beauty of the city stands in contrast to the vast criminal underworld which operates in its midst.

Among the criminals, one particular band stands out for its sheer audacity:  the Gentlemen Bastards, led by the brazen Locke Lamora.  While assassinations of gang leaders are carried out by the unidentifiable Gray King, and underworld leader Capa Barsarvi lashes out in paranoia, and rumors circulate of a secret police force led by the mysterious Spider, Lamora forges ahead with his most daring heist to date.

Lamora and his crew may be thieves, but they are a likeable lot, guided by a sincere if rubbery set of ethics.  The product description calls it one part Robin Hood, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling . . . and I agree.  The history revealed so far of Locke Lamora’s rise from a quick-witted orphan to an enterprising thief is intriguing but with at least six books to go in the series, there’s more to be discovered.  I hope there’s also some tie-in with the mysterious makers of the elderglass.

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ivy-treeBook Review:  The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart A young woman is relaxing and daydreaming with her back against Hadrian’s wall in scenic Northumberland when her peaceful afternoon is shattered by an angry young man who yells the name Annabel and proceeds to threaten her.  She manages to convince him that she is not the cousin who ran away eight years ago, and his anger transitions into careful consideration.  The resemblance is so uncanny and their meeting so timely that he rapidly forms a plan, which he assures her will benefit both of them while hurting no one.

Mary allows herself to be persuaded. Mary’s conscience threatens the perfect plan, almost from the start.  She finds that what she agreed to is much harder to do once she’s among the people Annabel cared about — and who cared about Annabel.  Why did Annabel run away?  And how far will Con go to keep Mary in line?

There’s more than one mystery afoot in this novel and I can promise you that if you read it, you’ll do exactly what I’m doing now — re-read it to fully appreciate Stewart’s subtlety.  I love it when an author can legitimately surprise me.  For the most part, Stewart gives the reader everything needed to see the whole picture — for the most part.  She did cheat, just a bit, I think with one scene and slipped in another.  But the bulk of it is right there, if one is quick enough to spot it.  And it’s beautifully written — Stewart has an easy narrative style, and a gift with description.  Atmospheric suspense at its best.  Highly recommended.

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Book Review:  Steelheart by Brandon SandersonSteelheart

~Contributed by Ian, Young Adults’ Services

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Thirteen years ago, the Calamity happened, and people began to manifest extraordinary abilities — superpowers. People call them Epics. But there are no Epic heroes … everyone who has these powers turned out to be evil. Governments couldn’t stand against the Epics. Steelheart, a “high Epic” in the language of those who study them, has proclaimed himself Emperor of Chicago.
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But David Charleston knows something about Steelheart that no one else knows. Every Epic has a weakness, and David has devoted his life to figuring out their weaknesses. His goal is to join up with the Reckoners — an organization that attempts to fight back against the evil Epics. And then he’s going to take down Steelheart.
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This book was published as Young Adult fiction, but I think it has a huge amount of crossover/general appeal.  It’s a world of super-villains with no superheroes to fight them!  And it’s a different take on superpowers.  I mean, sure, every Young Adult book out there has teens with superpowers — but, in this series, most of the Epics are adults, and the teen protagonist doesn’t have special powers.  Lots of fun to read!  Steelheart is the first book in The Reckoners series.  The second book, Firefight is already out, and the third book, Calamity, is still in the works.

 

 

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simon-said1Book Review:  Simon Said by Sarah Shaber

An archaeological dig uncovers the body of a woman shot in the head  70 years ago and buried with care under the old kitchen of Bloodworth House.  Historian Simon Shaw is an expert on the history of the site and he identifies the victim as Anne Bloodworth, an heiress who disappeared in 1926.  Why would someone want her dead?  And why did they bury her with reverence?  When discovered, her arms were crossed demurely over her chest and she was neatly shrouded in a quilt.

Puzzling as those questions are, Professor Shaw has more immediate concerns.  Just as he’s pulling himself out of an emotional nosedive following his divorce, a colleague tries to discredit him.  Is the colleague also behind the recent attempts on Shaw’s life?  Attempts which are staged to appear like suicide?  Who else would have motive to want this popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning professor out of the way — permanently?

Simon Said is the first entry in the Simon Shaw series.  Described by his love interest as “small, bookish, and unambitious,” Shaw has a certain charm.  A 30-something unexpectedly finding himself single and quite uncertain about dating the second time around, Shaw’s personal situation is easy to relate to — as is his apparent caffeine addiction (do not read this book if you are trying to kick the soda habit).  I like the fact that he teaches where he feels at home rather than seeking a position at a more prestigious university.  I like that he surrounds himself with heirlooms from his family.  I like that he has a cat and for a first date, he took his love interest to a baseball game.  Yes, he has a certain charm.  🙂

I also liked both mysteries, past and present.  My only quibbles would be that Shaber has a tendency to spell everything out and yet somehow allow our characters to miss the obvious.  While most of the story is told from Shaw’s viewpoint, we are given glimpses of other characters’ viewpoints as well, particularly regarding their feelings toward Shaw.  So, there’s not much excitement there, because we know that no one who counts believes he’s suicidal.  There were too many obvious clues that intelligent characters should not have missed — and, as good as Shaber’s characterization of Shaw was, some details seemed to suddenly emerge when needed.  Still, it’s a cozy read with a strong atmosphere of small-town life in the South and I will definitely give the next book in the series a go.  Looking forward to Snipe Hunt!

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discoverysettlem00fils_0010Book Review:  The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke by John Filson.

~Contributed by Jeff, Internet Archive

Written in 1784, this book’s an oldie but a goodie!  While not part of ACPL’s print collection, we digitized it, and it can be read online by clicking the title or the cover image.

The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke  came to us from the University of Pittsburgh’s Darlington Collection.  One of the many fascinating things about this book is that a previously unknown letter written by Daniel Boone was discovered inside this volume when we digitized it!

This book is a fascinating account of Daniel Boone’s adventures, his dealings with the Indians including his capture and his escape, and his impressions of their lifestyle and culture.  Click here to skip ahead to a brief mention of the “Mawmee” Indians.

If you like regional history, this book’s definitely worth a read!  And if you’re interested in an overview of the Internet Archive itself, click here.

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