Another book review blog?!?

Yes because people ask "Have you read anything good lately?" And I have. From a class ...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Small as an Elephant

Title: Small as an Elephant
Author: Jennifer Jacobson
Publication Date: 2011
Number of Pages: 275
Part of a Series: No
 
Subject Heading(s): 
Abandoned children -- Juvenile fiction
Mothers and sons -- Juvenile fiction
 Self-reliance -- Juvenile fiction
Survival -- Juvenile fiction
 Elephants -- Juvenile fiction
Geographical Setting/ Time Period:  Arcadia National Park, Maine campsite, now
 
Main Character(s): Jack, a small boy, abandoned by his mother
 
Plot Summary:

Jack’s mother has always been unpredictable but when Jack and his mom go on a camping trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, she abandons him with no way to contact her and very little money for food. Contacting authorities might get his mom in trouble and he might be placed in the custody of the state so Jack determines he must find his way back to his home in Boston with his only companion a small toy elephant. He loves his mom and she at times is loving and fun but other times she thinks and talks very fast and she forgets Jack. On the trip to Acadia Jack wanted to stop and see Lydia, the only elephant in Maine. His mom wouldn’t stop and Jack holds on to the hope he will yet see Lydia. Finding ways to survive and keep moving are an intense adventure. The author does an excellent job of describing Jack’s thought processes, explaining his fears and his past experiences with his mentally ill mother. The resolution is hopeful but realistic.

Appeal:

The book is appropriate for 5th through 8th grades and addresses in an unflinching way the difficulties of living with a mentally ill parent. Jack is a very compelling protagonist and the story holds the reader’s interest.
Brief quote: "Elephants can sense danger. They're able to detect an approaching tsunami or earthquake before it hits. Unfortunately, Jack did not have this talent. the day his life was turned completely upside down, he was caught unaware.
Prizes or Awards: Sequoyah
Reviewer=s Name: Denilyn Jordan
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.Chicago: ALA, 1997.

I Shall Wear Midnight

Title: I Shall Wear Midnight
Author: Pratchett, Terry 
Publication Date: 2010 
Number of Pages: 349
Part of a Series: Yes.  As of October 2010, the last book in the Discworld series, which began with The Color of Magic.  This is the fourth book featuring Tiffany Aching (the first is The Wee Free Men).

Subject Heading(s):      JW=Joy Woods; LT=LibraryThing; NL=NoveList; RA=Readers’ Advisory Online
Child Abuse (NL)
Miniature Persons (NL)
Fantasy (NL)
Persecution (JW)
Fairies (NL)
Teenage Witches (NL)
Good and Evil (NL)
Villains (NL)
Hate (NL)
Witch Burnings (JW)
Humorous fiction (NL)
Witches (JW)
Memory (NL) 
 
Geographical Setting/ Time Period:  Set in the Discworld, a flat world supported by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle, Great A’Tuin.  Takes place in the Chalk region (backcountry), and also briefly in the city of Ankh-Morpork.
 
Main Character(s):
Tiffany Aching, a capable, sarcastic young witch
Rob Anybody, leader of a group of drinking, fighting, stealing supernatural beings called the Nac Mac Feegle.
Jeannie the Kelda, Rob Anybody’s wife and the only female Kelda, she works magic.
Amber, an abused child with a mysterious connection to the Kelda.
Roland, stuffy new Baron of the Chalk, formerly Tiffany’s sweetheart.
Letitia, Roland’s beautiful, rich, silly fiancĂ©e.  Wishes she were a witch.
Preston, observant and philosophical guard.
 
Plot Summary: Tiffany Aching has finished her apprenticeship in the mountains and returned home to become the first witch of the Chalk.  When she travels to Ankh-Morpork to inform Roland that he is the new Baron, she finds herself accused of murder and theft.  The persecution she faces from familiar friends is only a symptom of an older, more sinister force determined to drive out witchcraft.

Appeal: Plot-driven novel with serious themes applicable to real world.  Although dark, the book has a humorous tone.  Characterization also an important aspect.  Includes appearances of popular characters from other Discworld books, including the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg.

Brief quote: “ ‘You hear people talk about witches being burned, but I don’t reckon many real witches ever did get burned unless they were tricked in some way; I think it was mostly poor old women.  Witches are mostly too soggy, and it was probably a waste of good timber.’” (page 136)

Prizes or Awards: I Shall Wear Midnight received a starred review in Kirkus. Terry Pratchett has won numerous awards for his writing, including: 2009   Writers' Guild Award (Outstanding Contribution to Children's Writing), 2004   WH Smith People's Choice Award   The Wee Free Men (features Tiffany Aching) 2007   British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year   (shortlist)   Wintersmith (features Tiffany Aching).

Similar Works:  Reviewer recommends the following books as humorous young adult fantasy adventures with capable female heroines, similar to Tiffany:  Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede (begins with Dealing with Dragons).
Reviewer=s Name: Joy Woods
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd. Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Women Who Eat Reading List

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
A fictional account of a mental handicap caused by a trauma sustained during a car accident.
Novelist gives it 4 stars.
Left Neglected

Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
Locals gather in a piano repair shop to discuss music, love and life.
NoveList gives it four stars.
Piano Shop on the Left Bank

Tulipomania: the story of the world's most covet flower and the extraordinary passions it aroused
by Mike Dash
Non-fiction account of the plant's history and its journey from East to West.
NoveList gives it 3 stars.
Tulipomania: the story of the world's most coveted flower and the extraordinary passions it aroused 

Hotel on Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
This book is about what happens when Japanese artifacts are found during the renovation of a Seattle hotel.
Historical fiction, character driven. Good Reads gives it 4 stars.


Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
Three generations of Chinese women experience the modern world.
Non-fiction. Novelist gives it 5 stars.


  Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
A history of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London.
Non-fiction. both Novelist and GoodReads give it 4 stars. Suggested by Susannah.


Good Evening Mrs.Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes by Mollie Panter-Downes.
English short stories printed in in the New Yorker between 1939 and 1944.
GoodReads gives it 4 stars. Suggested by Ellie.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Some Kind of Fairy Tale

Annotation for Adult Fiction: Psychological fiction, urban fantasy

Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Author: Graham Joyce

Title: Some Kind of Fairy Tale

Publication Date: 2012    Number of Pages: 310   Part of a Series: No

Subject Headings:
  • Urban fantasy
  • Missing persons
  • Fairy tales
  • English small towns
  • Memory
  • Ancient woods
Geographical Setting/Time Period: Suburban/small town Great Britain, current time

Main Character(s):
  • Tara - a sixteen year old girl who goes missing for 20 years and then returns home.
  • Richie - Tara's boyfriend at the time of the disappearance. He is a musician who never seemed to make it in the search for fame and fortune.
  • Peter - Tara's brother and friends with Richie. They haven't spoken since Tara went missing
Plot Summary: A conflicted teenager acting on impulse loses herself in a local forest. Although a search is made, the girl has disappeared. Twenty years pass before she turns up on her parents' doorstep. No one believes her tale of abduction or description of the place that she has been.

Characterization: The story is melancholic and reflective.

Storyline: Character-driven and leisurely paced with lots of description and character development

Writing style: The author is engaging and readable.

Brief quote: "Oh yes, the bluebells were out in May. Do you remember how they were? Their perfume stole the sense right out of your head." p.38

Prizes or Awards: Library Journal Top 10, 2012

Similar Works: Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan. This is another story about a teenager who goes missing and the people who search for her.

Reviewer’s Name: Nancy Rimassa

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Passage


Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

Author:  Justin Cronin
Title:  The Passage  
Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 766
Part of a Series: the first in a triology
Subject Heading(s): Science fiction, literary fantasy
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: western United States, the near future and following 100 years
Main Character(s): 
  • Amy - a six year old abandoned child who is deliberately infected with an experimental virus by the US military
  • Peter - a survivor of the collapse of American civilization
  • Alicia - a survivor of the collapse but by temperament and training, an advocate of the military establishment
  • The 12 - survivors of the experiment who are the instigators of the collapse
Plot Summary: This is another apocolyptic novel of the American future. Poor choices are made in regard to gene manipulations and experimentation. Containment fails and chaos ensues. A savior emerges 100 years later with a cure for the horrifying virus.

Appeal: The storyline is character-driven and often bleak. The reader may feel the exhaustion and depression that the characters exhibit. The author is able to generate suspense with his compelling style.

Prizes or Awards: The book received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. It made it to Library Journals Top 10 List for 2010.

Similar Works: Similar works include Stephen King's Cell and Dan Simmo' Carrion Comfort.

Reviewer’s Name: Nancy Rimassa

The Passage

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sufficient Grace


Product DetailsAuthor: Darnell Arnoult 

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 299

Part of a Series: No
 
Subject Heading(s):
Aging
Mental health -                                                                                                    Sufficient Grace
Artists - Fiction
Family fiction
Female self-expression
Interracial relationships
Missing persons
Southern stories about loss
Schizophrenics
family
Widows
Southern states
Women (any adjective you can think of)
Geographical Setting/Time Period: North Carolina and Virginia/Recent past
Main Character(s):  
Gracie Hollaman, a woman of middle age who begins to hear voices, discovers a talent for drawing and leaves her husband of 30+ years.
Ed Hollaman, a man who cannot boil an egg left to fend for himself discovers how to cook when he grows bored with TV dinners
Mama Toot Riley, an elderly woman of color and matriarch in her Virginia farmhouse
Mattie Riley, a grieving widow, amazing cook and reluctant step-grandmother, she is Toot’s daughter-in-law
Plot Summary: Gracie leaves home, commanded by the voice of God. She wrecks her car and is later found, asleep on a grave. Her finders interpret her presence as a sign from the Lord and move her to their home. A search for the missing woman is unsuccessful until Gracie is recognized. Her therapy and subsequent care provide the rest of the story.
Appeal:                     
Pacing is relaxed but interest is kept high by switching to different character viewpoints
Characterization is typical for this genre. Lots of women, each with a story, and a couple of men to add conflict, make the reading move along. Individual personalities tangle around each other, weaving a family of caring. In the end all the problems are resolved. The issue of women as caregivers who want to create rather than respond is the core issue.
The frame alternates between the urban home of Ed and Gracie and the rural farmhouse and community of Toot and Mattie. Although the story is told in third person, the reader is privy to a great deal of interior dialogue.
Brief quote: “It’s not enough to paint Jesus and all these Bible characters on fenders and hoods and steering wheels,” Sammy says. “She’s painting fairies all over them, too. I think she’s crazy as a bat.” (103)
Prizes or Awards: Starred review, Publishers’ Weekly
Similar Works: Black Mountain Breakdown by Lee Smith. Story of a southern woman who struggles to find a role that fits her best, returns to scene of childhood comfort (Novelist)
Reviewer’s Name: Nancy Rimassa



Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.

 

 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Night Circus - Adult Fiction

Author: Erin Morgenstern. This is a debut novel.

Publication Date: 2011 Number of Pages: 387  Part of a Series: No.

Subject Heading(s):
 Fantasy fiction
Magic
Magicians
Competition
Circus
Games
Circus performers
Good and evil 

Geographical Setting/Time Period: London and Boston in the 19th century although the rest of the world is involved in the circus's travels. 

Main Character(s):
Celia Brown: one of the game-players. She is six years old when the story begins. Her father is her trainer.
Marco: the second game-player. He is rescued from a London orphanage and trained in the ways of the game by his benefactor.
Secondary but important characters:
Prospero: a magician, father of Celia.
Alexander: also a magician, benefactor and trainer of Marco.
Widget and Poppet: twins born on opening night of the circus
Bailey Alden Clarke: a dreamer and contemporary of Widget and Poppet. He loves the circus and Poppet as well.
Chandresh Lefevre: an organizer of lavish events, inordinately lucky with returns on his dollar.

Plot Summary:
Two ancient magicians wager on the skills of two young people whom they train especially for the game. The venue for the challenge is a circus. Romance, intrigue and details describing the circus acts push the story through the time of telling. The players grow weary of the game and must struggle for a solution. 

Appeal:
The tone of the book is romantic but not maudlin. There is mystery and delight in the lush descriptions of both the characters and the settings. 

Brief quote:
Twelve of the fire performers quietly enter the courtyard with small platforms that they set up along the perimeter like numbers on a clock. Precisely one minute before the hour, they each ascend their respective platforms and pull from their backs shimmering black bows and arrows. At thirty seconds before midnight, they light the tips their arrows with small dancing yellow flames. Those in the crowd who had not noticed them previously now watch in wonder. At ten seconds before the hour, they raise their bows and aim the flaming arrows at the waiting well of curling iron. As the clock begins to chime near the gates, the first archer lets his arrow fly, soaring over the crowd and hitting its mark in a shower of sparks. (p. 93) 

Prizes or Awards:
Starred reviews in Booklist, Library Journal, Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus. Novelist gives it a blue ribbon which I assume means First Prize! 

Similar Works:
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. A cast of eccentric characters, unconventional stories and the circus as a setting ties these two titles together. Nights at the Circus is not quite as dark in tone as The Night Circus but does have a similar feel. (Novelist) 

Reviewer’s Name: Nancy Rimassa 
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd.  Chicago: ALA, 1997.