Friday, December 18, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Burglar in the Library


The Burglar in the Library
By Lawrence Block

I never read Lawrence Block before and since he's so popular with my library patrons I thought I should give him a try.

This tale comes late in the Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery series.  Burglar and bookseller Bernie, his friend Carolyn, and Bernie's cat Raffles leave NYC for a weekend in the country at the very British Cuttleford House.  Bernie's just interested in tracking down a rare book, but when bodies start dropping like flies and the snow drifts have the house cut off from the outside world, it's up to Bernie to catch a killer.    This was fun twist on the classic locked room mystery.  Great characters and a few surprising twists and turns kept me turning the pages.  Metaphorically speaking, that is,since I downloaded the eBook from my library.

Although I jumped into the middle of the series and loved it, for a better picture of Bernie Rhodenbarr and what makes him tick, start with the first book in the series Burglars Can't be Choosers.  And if you decide you like Lawrence Block's style he's got a long list of titles to keep you reading for a while.  Check out the complete list on his page at Fantastic Fiction.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Aeronaut's Windlass


The Aeronaut's Windlass
The Cinder Spires Series
By Jim Butcher

This book clocked in at 630 pages long.  Now you know why it's been two weeks since I posted a review.  It took awhile to read this one.  And it was worth every minute.

The Aeronaut's Windlass is a Steampunk Fantasy, set in a world where everyone lives in mile high towers built ages ago and the surface of the earth is a mist covered land filled with fantastic and dangerous beasts.  The various spires are governed by ruling houses (along the lines of the British aristocracy) and alternately do business with and war against one another.  The main mode of transport from spire to spire is the airship.  They are powered by electricity which is generated from crystals that can channel the etheric energy that courses around and through the world.

That's the world, the characters that live in it are amazing.  Francis Madison Grimm, drummed out of the Spire Albion Fleet for cowardice now captains a merchant vessel named Predator.   When his ship is damaged in an altercation with the flag ship from Spire Aurora, Captain Grimm is at a loss as to how to replace the damaged crystals he needs to power his vessel, until the Spirearch of Albion makes him an offer he can't refuse.  Grimm finds himself on a mission to transport the Spirearch's agents on a mission to track down an enemy who threatens the safety of everyone in the Spire. But there is more to their enemies than meets the eye and surviving this mission may be a cakewalk compared to what lies in store.

Jim Butcher is a master of writing battle scenes both on the ground and in the air.  His characters are well developed, and are by turns fascinating, frightening, sympathetic and infuriating.  My only complaint is that since the book was just released this month I have to wait at least a year for the next installment of The Cinder Spires. I can only hope it doesn't take Mr. Butcher as long to write a novel as it does George R. R. Martin.

I listened to the audio book read by Euan Morton. He does an excellent job with all the voices and accents of the various characters and he keeps the action moving along.   In point of fact, the story was so compelling I couldn't wait for my next commute to finish, so I borrowed the book as well.  But I'm still finishing the audio, even though I know how it ends.

Jim Butcher is the author of the Dresden Files Series, start with Storm Front
 and the Codex Alera Series, start with Furies of Calderon

If you like The Aeronaut's Windlass, you make like these books (according to Novelist Plus)
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers
Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Review Friday: Dead Wake


Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
By Erik Larson

I thought I knew about the Lusitania.  Heck, we all learned about it in school, didn't we?  Now I know better.   Even though I knew the outcome I was caught up in Erik Larson's narrative. Told from the varying perspectives of the passengers and crew of the Lusitania, the German captain of the u-boat that fired the fateful torpedo, and the movers and shakers in the British, German, and United States governments, Larson does an amazing job of pulling all the facts together and weaving a tale of thrills and suspense out of an historic event.   I listened to the audio book narrated by Scott Brick, he was an excellent narrator.

If you liked Dead Wake you might like:

Lusitania: Triumph, Tragedy and the End of the Victorian Age by Greg King and Penny Wilson
Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy by John P. Easton

Also by Erik Larson:
Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin

Friday, October 23, 2015

Book Review Friday: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore


Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan

I finished Wednesday.  The book discussion was Thursday.  That's good.  The discussion was great.  Not too many attendees, but everyone loved the book and thanked me for recommending it.  Is there higher praise for a librarian?  I don't think so.

Anyway ...

Clay Jannon is a suddenly downsized computer programmer desperately looking for gainful employment when he stumbles upon Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  Clay soon learns that Penumbra's is unlike any other bookstore he's ever seen and though he's been warned not to snoop, his curiosity gets the best of him.  Mr. Penumbra's shop holds the key to a mystery that people have been trying to solve for centuries and Clay thinks he might just have a new way to find the answer.

The story is an homage to books and the printed word and at the same time relies heavily on technology and all things Interwebs.   In a real life mirror of his favorite fantasy adventure novels, Clay calls in his friends to help him use the power of computers and 21st century technology on his quest to help Mr. Penumbra and solve the mystery.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore won the 2013 Alex award from YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association).  The award is given to adult books that have a special appeal to young adults.

If you like this book, you may like:

Ready Player One by  Ernest Cline
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Speaking of Genealogy

Were we speaking about genealogy?  I do it all the time.  But I'm crazy like that.  I love it when folks come into the library with a genealogy question.  And I make pathfinders to help folks get started on their genealogy projects.  And now I've got something new to share. I just found this great post about writing your personal history. 

Now writing a personal history is a project that most genealogists:
 a) wish their ancestors had done
b) dread doing themselves

And now the lovely folks at Family Search have created a list called 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing about Your Life Has Never Been Easier I love it.

But will I do it?   Will you do it?  Your descendants will thank you for it. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday ... again

Do you know what happens when you try to read three books at once?  Especially when one of them is for the book discussion you're leading next week?

You don't finish any of them by Friday. 

I"m reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan for our book discussion next week.  I'm loving it.  But I wonder how the group will like it's techie view of the world.  I'll find out next Thursday and let you know.

In the car I'm listening to Dead Wake by Erik Larson.  How can a book, when you already know the ending be so darned thrilling?  I'll tell you.  Erik Larson is a genius at building suspense.  Chapters are going round robin, from the Lusitania to the U20 (German U-Boat), to the Room 40 (Code room in London intercepting German messages to its submarines), and to the various politicians at the head of the governments involved (especially Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson).  Larson is painting a picture and with each stroke of his pen it becomes more detailed and clear.  Can you guess how I feel about this book so far?

On my eReader I've got Lawrence Block's Burglar in the Library.  I haven't actually started it.  But it's waiting for me as soon as I finish Penumbra, which might be today, depending on how energetic I'm feeling about getting the housework done.  And since I've got a wicked cold, that's not very energetic at all.

Ah well, stay tuned, more book reviews are on their way.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Book of Speculation

The Book of Speculation
By Erika Swyler

Long Island librarian Simon Watson receives a mysterious book in the mail that seems to explain his family’s history.  It’s a history of mermaids, women who work in carnivals as swimmers and breathe holders, women who die before they’re thirty by drowning and always on July 24th.  And now his sister is coming home in July and Simon is desperate to keep history from repeating itself.
Swyler tells two stories, that of Simon, a confused, depressed young man trying to cope with his own personal tragedies; and his ancestors who worked in traveling carnivals and had tragedies of their own.  The pace and the tension build as the stories converge.  The author uses elements of magical realism to tell her tale of carnivals, tarot, and most important the ties that bind families together.
The details of Long Island locales were great except that Swyler's view of how libraries in Suffolk County are run is more imagination than reality.  And as a librarian in Suffolk County I'm in a position to know.  But once I decided to suspend disbelief over that little detail I enjoyed the story very much.  I listened to the audio narrated by Ari Fliakos.  He did a great job.  If you like audiobooks give this one a try.

For more stories with touches of magic you may like:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

For more books about librarians, you may like:

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Murder Past Due by Miranda James

For books set on Long Island try:

The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra