Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (295 pgs.)

Book One in the Magisterium Series

On the surface, the book is following a safe, popular formula.  Kids around age 12 have to be tested for entrance in the Magisterium.  Many don't even know that they are being tested for magical ability.  We end up following a group of 3 -- 2 boys and a girl -- through trials of the first year.  Magic school is in a secret location (Virginia, USA,  apparently) and Master Mages teach the apprentices.  There are personal problems, varying relationships between students with each other and with their families, and dangers and fascinations.  There is battle and even war against what might be called good and evil.

However, this book did not have a Harry Potter like feel to me.  It was also more intense than I expected (granting that I am a light weight in this matter).  I think I would not have been able to handle it as a juvenile reader.  Good writing and I am curious to see how the series plays out.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Maze Runner by James Dashner, 375 pages

I'm sure this crazy popular book has been reviewed before so I will only give my response to it. I devoured every word, it was very well paced, well written and super exciting. However, the surprise ending led the book in an interesting direction that I am not sure I am to keen to follow at this point. Therefore, the series ends here for me as of right now. But, I did love this book and am interested to see how it plays out on the movie. I am #12 on the hold list right now :)

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, 352 pages

This is the third (and I believe final) book to Stephanie Perkins' trilogy of separate but interconnected novels featuring awkward teenage girls finding love: Anna and the French Kiss being the first, followed by Lola and the Boy Next Door. These are total fluff, but always written in such a genuine way, with such glowing and likeable characters, that I really did enjoy them all as a break from the grim apocalyptic books I usually read. This one was also very cute but probably my least favorite.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott, 411 pages

I don't even remember where I'd seen this mentioned to pique my interest but I finally got around to reading it. Basically, a plane crashes at an air show and a 13-year-old girl heals her best friend that is severely injured. Afterwards, her life is never to be the same. The question comes, how much can Ava protect herself and how much must she give of herself to help others? This was a well-done read, I was very touched at the end.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (30 of 247 pgs.)

This book is the first in a series.  I had read a review of book 3, I believe and the story sounded interesting, so I hunted up "Gilead" so as to start at the beginning.  Two hours of slogging through later, I gave up on page 30.

I cannot tell if there is a good story under the writing or not.  The writing style is killing me.  As far as I can tell, it is the story of man who is telling about his past and present to be read by his son in the future.  It is very train-of-thought and meanders to the point where I cannot follow what is going on.

One paragraph uses "walked", "would have been", and "is doing" all in describing one specific event.  As I read and re-read the paragraph, I can't tell if it is something that he did recently, is doing right now, or did a long time ago.  Maybe the writer doesn't know either. 

Anyhow, this series is off my to read list.

Walking on Water by Richard Paul Evans, 305 pages

I LOVED the first four books, this one was good, it just seemed to end a little flat. But I still whole-heartedly recommend the series.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans, 279 pages

I picked up the first book in this series, The Walk, because of my book club. I would have never read them otherwise, in fact, I was dreading reading the first book because I thought it would be saccharine and blah. I was surprised to find myself completely immersed in the book and I plowed through it in 90 minutes. I am one book from the end and I'll be sorry to see this series come to an end.

The Fig Eater by Jody Shields, 311 pages

The latest book club book. I would not have picked this one up on my own, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. I finished the book almost as confused as when I started it.

The Counterfeit Lady by Kate Parker, 312 pages

This is an okay series, just not my favorite mystery series.

Archie 1000 Page Comics Jamboree, 1000 pages

The last one I had checked out, what will I read before bedtime now?

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein (396 pgs.)

The story is told from the perspective of a 14 year old boy, but there are clues in the writing to let you know that it is a remembering and not the present. 

The boy, Trevor, is made to go with his father to his childhood home...a place that he has never seen and there meet an aunt and a grandfather that he has barely heard of let alone met.  There, at the North Estate, the past runs into the present.  It is up to Trevor to help direct the future with the help or hindrance of his family and the ghost of an ancestor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay, 327 pages

This book was a Daddy Long-legs love letter to Jane Austen, the Brontes and other fabulous writers. I LOVED this book, I even found myself sitting it back down to stop and savor what I had just read and to keep it from ending too soon. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Archie 1000 Page Comics Digest, 1000 pages

Another big collection of Archie comics.

Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim (252 pages)

My book club's February selection.  I loved it!  I kept expecting tragedy, but thankfully, it had an uplifting ending and message (though I admit it is probably unrealistic for the times). 

Amazon synopsis:
"Moments after Lisbeth is born, she’s taken from her mother and handed over to an enslaved wet nurse, Mattie, a young mother separated from her own infant son in order to care for her tiny charge. Thus begins an intense relationship that will shape both of their lives for decades to come. Though Lisbeth leads a life of privilege, she finds nothing but loneliness in the company of her overwhelmed mother and her distant, slave-owning father. As she grows older, Mattie becomes more like family to Lisbeth than her own kin and the girl’s visits to the slaves’ quarters—and their lively and loving community—bring them closer together than ever. But can two women in such disparate circumstances form a bond like theirs without consequence? This deeply moving tale of unlikely love traces the journey of these very different women as each searches for freedom and dignity."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Trinity, 206 pages

Another patron had this book via inter-library loan and I had to read it myself. The story of how Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman met, how could I not read it. I loved how Batman and Wonder Woman did not hit it off, but Batman totally wanted an invisible jet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mrs. Hudson's Diaries by Barry Cryer & Bob Cryer, 187 pages

As a Sherlock fanatic I'm always pleased to discover a new entry in the Holmes canon. This promised to be from Mrs. Hudson's viewpoint. Unfortunately, it wasn't as good as promised from the reviews. I felt like it was disjointed and gave very little of a cohesive story.

Timmy Failure We Meet Again by Stephan Pastis, 258 pages

Stephan Pastis also does the strip Pearls Before Swine so you know this book is going to be funny and odd. I'm the only one in my family who reads these, but I haven't missed one yet. Lots of fun, and the humor is layered for both kids and adults.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, 140 pages

This serves as a prequel to the Fables series. Fantastic, I loved getting to see the origin story for some of my favorite characters.

The Best of Archie Comics Book 2, 415 pages

There is something very relaxing about curling up with Archie comics before bed. I especially liked the KISS mashup.

Mr. Bones by Paul Theroux, 359 pages

This collection of short stories was highly recommended somewhere else (I can't remember where) so I wanted to give it a go. While I thought one or two were pretty good, the others made me feel like I wasn't smart or sophisticated enough to "get" them. If I wanted that feeling, I'd go back and take a college English class.
Not something I really enjoyed, I don't think I'll pick up more by this author.

The Enemy Among Us: POWs in Missouri During World War II by David Feidler, 466 pages

Working at the Circulation desk gives me the chance to see many interesting books come across the counter. Many times a patron will check out something that I know I’ll want to read when it comes back. “The Enemy Among Us: POWs in Missouri During World War II” by David Feidler was one such book.

I pride myself on being a history buff but I hadn’t realized that we had held prisoners of war in the United States, much less in Missouri, during World War II. In World War I, America held about 5,000 German sailors captured from ships, but that was all. But in WWII, after Pearl Harbor, America was in the middle of the war, for the long haul.

 No one was thinking about POWs at first, but Great Britain’s resources had become strained from their prolonged time in WWII and the amount of war prisoners they were already holding. The United States agreed to help hold POWs, and it was decided that it would be more efficient to keep them in America. Transporting POWs once was cheaper than transporting supplies to the war zone to keep the prison camps stocked, and it reduced chances for escape with prisoners rejoining the war.  

Almost half a million POWs consisting of mainly Italian and German soldiers, with a small number of Japanese, were held in America. Almost 15,000 were housed in Missouri in 30 different camps. There were four main camps, including Camp Clark in Nevada and Camp Crowder in Neosho, six boat camps and a variety of branch camps close to work sites.

Camps were set up not only with housing barracks, but also mess halls, latrines, and recreation areas. The compounds also had POW canteens for the prisoners to buy not only necessities but also luxuries such as cigarettes, sodas, toiletries, chocolate and even beer.

Canteens were part of the guaranteed treatment of prisoners under the Geneva Convention. Prisoners received a $3 monthly allowance -- the same allowance given to enlisted American soldiers -- and could also earn 80 cents a day working. The U.S. Army prided itself on their treatment of POWs not only because of the Geneva Convention, but because they wanted to ensure fair treatment of American POWs and give returning German and Italian prisoners a positive outlook of democracy and the American lifestyle. At times, there was backlash from the American public and media over the perceived lush lifestyle of POWs, especially when the everyday person in American was facing rationing.

The German and Italian soldiers were used as labor during the war, helping fill a need for manpower with so many American men serving overseas. They were used to help staff positions in the prison camps, including laundry, kitchen and maintenance duties, and also filled labor needs off-camp as well. POWs detassled corn, picked potatoes, sorted shoes, as well as many other jobs. While the laborers were paid only 80 cents a day, the Army charged the going labor rate for them, resulting in the Army earning millions dollars from the internee labor program.

One of the most interesting facts that I learned from this book was that at the end of the war, the POWs were not immediately shipped back home and released. It took over a year after the end of the war for the last German soldier to be shipped back overseas. Once returned to Europe, the Germans were required to work in Great Britain, France and five other countries to help rebuild their economy and infrastructure, and to punish the Nazis. America finally had to put pressure on France in April 1947 to release the POWs they were still holding as laborers.

I was also fascinated to learn that prisoners of war were treated much nicer and more humanely than the Japanese-Americans held in U.S. internment camps during this same time period. Because the Japanese-Americans were citizens and not POWs, the Geneva Convention rules of treatment did not apply to them. While America can be proud of our treatment of prisoners of war, our treatment of our own citizens was shameful.

While no numbers have been tallied, quite a few Italian and German POWs returned to America to live after the end of the war because of the positive impression they gained from their time as prisoners. Many others wrote back and forth with not only their guards but other Americans they became friends with during their internment. There have been POWs reunions with prisoners returning to see the camps they called home during WWII.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who would like to learn more about the Italians and Germans who lived and worked in Missouri as POWs. David Fiedler has done a great job researching this topic and has included some wonderful pictures that bring the time period alive. You can find this book at the Joplin Public Library in our new nonfiction section.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts, 181 pages

I'd seen this on a list of classic childrens/teen books you should read and gave it a go. Girl has telekinesis but has to hide it from everyone. It was a good read, I'm just sad that I couldn't get my daughter to read it.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (240 pages)

This book slayed me.  It was that good and I was SO blindsided by the ending.  Read it, listen to it, just don't miss it.

Updated: 3/17/15 (submitted for Joplin Globe book review on March 22nd)

Cadence Sinclair Eastman comes from a seemingly perfect, wealthy family.  Hers is a family where appearances matter more than individual feelings or even the truth.  Her grandfather, Harris Sinclair, is the patriarch of the beautiful Sinclair family, and he and his wife own a secluded, private island—Beechwood—off of Cape Cod.  Each summer, Cadence’s family—her grandparents, her mother, her two aunts, and her cousins—vacation on Beechwood.    

Since the age of eight, she, her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and their friend Gat have all been inseparable.  She looks forward to seeing them all year and has affectionately dubbed them her “Liars”.

During summertime, the “Liars” hang out on the beach, play board games, discuss their futures and, once in awhile, thanks to Gat’s less-than-privileged-perspective, have an argument about what is important in the greater scheme of things.  However, during the summer of her fifteenth year, Cadence has an accident that causes her to be unable to remember most of what transpired that summer. 

Over the course of the next two years, during the time the book is set, her amnesia never abates, and she has frequent headaches and bouts of debilitating pain that cause her to consume prescription painkillers like they were candy.  It is in this hazy fog that she spends the majority of her time trying to figure out what happened during summer fifteen. 

While she missed her sixteenth summer on the island, due to her mother sending her off on a European trip with her father, she is adamant that she will not miss another.  In her heart, she feels that if she is allowed to return to Beechwood, she will be able to piece together the mystery that surrounds her accident.  So after much pleading, she finally gets her mother to agree to let her return to the island the summer of her seventeenth year. 

This book broadsided me.  I had no idea where Lockhart was headed and her decision to tell the story from Cadence’s viewpoint and alternate from past to present tense was brilliant. The conclusion was clever, raw, so real, and completely heartbreaking. 

A review from Jenny Berggren, from School Library Journal, described the ending as “a stunner that will haunt readers for a long time to come” and that is exactly how I felt upon finishing the story.  I finished it several months ago and I still find myself thinking about it at random times.  It is one of those titles that you immediately want to start reading again just to see how you missed all the important clues during your first reading.  If you are looking for a fast-pasted, character-driven story, add this one to your must read list.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, 637 pages

Jacque had mentioned she was getting ready to read this because she'd heard great things about it. I gave it a look and was intrigued. It was an outstanding read. I loved how the two stories were told via different mediums, one through words and one through pictures. I highly recommend this book.

The Best of Archie Comics, 415 pages

Another great Archie collection, showcasing how he's changed but still stayed entertaining over the many years.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, New Rules (134 pages).

by Christos Gage, Nicholas Brendon, and Rebekah Isaacs.

If you didn't know, Buffy didn't end with season 7 of the TV kept going in comics and they are now (12 years later) in season 10.

The Buffy comics have had their suuuuuper-weird moments, but this book brought everything back to a place of familiarity I can easily imagine as part of the series as a whole. Each page is enjoyable and I'm re-invigorated to stay up to date on the comics again.

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe by Alexander McCall Smith, 371 pages

I really enjoy the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Each one continues to be a solid read, and the character development is wonderful. I'd never really cared that much for Charlie before, but he's really starting to grow on me after this book. All in all, a great read.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

This is Your Captain Speaking by Gavin MacLeod with Mark Dagostino, 261 pages

I admit it, I'm a sucker for the Love Boat. I'm working my way through the series again in fact. So when I saw that Captain Stubing, aka Gavin MacLeod wrote a book about his life I had to read it. Unfortunately, it was okay but not fantastic. But I'm glad to know that the actor seems to be as nice in life as the character he plays on the Love Boat.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Best of Archie Comics, Book #3, 416 pages

It was interesting to see how much Archie has changed over the past 70 years, while still staying true to itself. The comics are just good, clean fun.

Cookie Dough or Die by Virgina Lowell, 295 pages

I'd gotten this book for my husband because the mystery series features a store that sells cookies and cookie cutters. Unfortunately, it didn't include any recipes or really center that much on cookies I felt like. While it wasn't a bad series,
I won't be getting any more for my husband.

Archie 1000 Page Comics Extravaganza, 1000 pages

I've been an Archie's fan for many, many years now. It was entertaining to read some old favorites and see some of the strips I'd missed over the years.