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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review ... Nope

Ah well.
The problem is I won't review a book I haven't finished.  It just doesn't seem fair.  And the book I've been reading I didn't finish, and I never will.  I just couldn't get into it.  Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy is a Historical Mystery based on a true story.  And you might love it, but I couldn't get into it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Belgariad

The Belgariad
By David Eddings

Technically, The Belgariad is not a book.  It is five books.  The first one was published in 1982.

Pawn of Prophecy
Queen of Sorcery
Magician's Gambit
Castle of Wizardry
Enchanter's End Game

This is one of my favorite stories.  I've read it a dozen times, at least.  I've shared it with friends, I've read the books aloud to my children.  I've warn out paperback copies.  But, frankly, as a librarian, this isn't something I'd recommend everyday, because they're just not on the library shelves anymore.  But if you can find them and you love a good epic fantasy.  You should try this.

The story begins with young Garion living on a farm with his Aunt Pol, who cooks for the farmer and his large staff of workers.  One day the old storyteller shows up and Garion's life is turned upside down.   And Garion slowly comes to realize that the storyteller, Aunt Pol, and even Garion himself are not who he thought they were and that they have a task to perform that will change the world.

Great characters, lots of humor, knights, thieves, magic, villains, and even a dragon make their way across the pages of Eddings' epic adventure.  And if you can't get enough, Garion's adventures continue in The Mallorean (another five book series).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Digital Footprint Webinar

I just watched an informative webinar and found a great resource for more library education. Win Win.  The webinar was Your Digital Footprint.  Brought to us by the Nebraska Library Commission.  The link takes you to their list of offerings, including their archive of recorded webinars. The Nebraska Library Commission sponsors NCompass broadcasts live every Wednesday at 10 AM Central Time with topics of interest to librarians.  I will be back.
Today's webinar discussed the digital footprint we all leave behind on the Internet and offered strategies we can use to minimize our footprint and keep our data secure.  The webinar also offered strategies for presenting this information to library patrons young and old.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Review Friday: Saint's Gate

Saint's Gate: A Novel of Suspense
Bu Carla Neggers

Heron’s Cove is a beautiful, scenic town on the coast of Maine.  Home to scenic overlooks, trendy boutiques, and the Convent of the Sisters of the Joyful Heart.  It is also the longtime home of Emma Sharpe, whose family owns the world renowned Sharpe Fine Art Recovery firm, specializing in solving high end art thefts.  Emma was once a postulant at the convent, but left before taking her final vows.  Now she works for the FBI.  A call from Sister Joan at the convent draws Emma into a mystery surrounding a painting and then Sister Joan is murdered and the painting disappears.

Half an hour up the Maine coast is tiny village of Rock Point.  Lobstermen make their home here. And so do the Donovans, four rugged, independent brothers and their parents.   Colin Donovan is one of the FBI’s most valuable deep cover assets.  Home recuperating from a dangerous mission, Colin gets drawn into the mystery at the convent. 

Emma and Colin, highly trained, independent, and wary, must learn to trust one another as they work together to catch a killer and find the missing painting before anyone else dies.

Saint’s Gate is the first book in Carla Neggers’ FBI series, featuring Agents Sharpe and Donovan.  The sparks fly as these two strong, complicated characters solve crimes and fall in love.  Neggers’ narrative provides beautiful descriptions of the Maine coast as well as Ireland.  The mystery is intriguing and the suspense builds to a surprising twist of an ending.  The romance that blossoms between Emma and Colin is no surprise, but their complex pasts add just enough tension to keep the relationship interesting. 

I read Saint's Gate, but listened to Heron's Cove.  I recommend skipping the audio versions.  The narrator wasn't the best and Neggers' prose is not well suited to reading aloud. 

Hot as opposed to steamy, I could recommend this romantic suspense series to my mother without blushing. 

Other books in the Sharpe And Donovan Series
Heron’s Cove

Declan’s Cross

Harbor Island

Keeper’s Reach

If you like Carla Neggers’ Sharpe and Donovan Series you may like:
The Callahan & McLane series by Kendra Elliot
The Buchanan novels by Julie Garwood
The Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle

And books by:

J. D. Robb
Sandra Brown
Christine Feehan
Jennifer Crusie
Amanda Quick
Iris Johansen
Linda Howard

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review Friday: Heat Wave

Heat Wave
By Richard Castle

It took a while for me to finally get around to reading one of Richard Castle's books.  I knew about the phenomenon, but my TBR pile is just so high ... but finally this summer I really needed something different ... boy did I find it.

For those few who don't already know, there is no Richard Castle.  The books are ghost written as a tie-in to the Castle TV series that airs on ABC.  The premise is simple.  A successful writer uses his leverage with the mayor of New York to allow him to shadow a New York City homicide detective in order to research a new book.  In the process sparks fly between author Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett and the Nikki Heat novel series is born.   The TV series is fun and engaging.  And so are the novels.

Heat Wave introduces the character of detective Nikki Heat and her temporary sidekick, journalist Jameson Rook.  Together with Detective Heat's team of investigators they work a homicide case as Rook prepares to write an article about one of NYPD's best detectives.  The book has a slightly Chandleresque noir feel to it, dark and witty with undercurrents of sexual tension and violence.  There are lots of subtle and, some not so subtle, wisecracks.  Fast paced with a definite tension between the two main characters culminating in steamy, but not graphic love scenes.  It's a well written story with interesting characters and lots of plot twists making for a satisfying mystery.

A few random thoughts on the books:  I've done a binge read of the the Nikki Heat series this summer, which starts with Heat Wave.   Because of how quickly I've read them I've noticed some subtle changes in technique and style from book to book and I think I'm safe in saying that there is no one person ghost writing this series. Also, for maximum effect, watch the series while reading the novels, the better to catch the inside jokes and see the clever way plot elements from the TV show are woven into the novels.  It wouldn't hurt to catch up on the reruns of Firefly, too, as references to Castle star Nathan Fillion's previous role show up on screen and in print.

Books in the Nikki Heat series:
Heat Wave
Naked Heat
Heat Rises
Frozen Heat
Deadly Heat
Raging Heat
Driving Heat

Other books by Richard Castle:
A Brewing Storm
A Raging Storm
A Bloody Storm
Storm Front
Wild Storm

If you like Richard Castle's books, you may like these authors:

Lawrence Block
James Patterson
Michael Connolly
Stephen J. Cannell
Dennis Lehane
Sue Grafton
Tess Gerritsen

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review Friday: Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes
By Laura Dave

 Just days before her wedding Georgia Ford discovers that her handsome, British fiancé, Ben has been keeping something from her … something big.  Reeling from the shock, Georgia heads home to her family’s vineyard in the Sonoma Valley, hoping for solace and peace, but things are never as simple as they seem.  Georgia returns home to discover that her personal drama may be the least of her worries.  As she tries to cope with a rapid fire series of revelations from her parents, her brothers, and her fiancé, Georgia learns that life is all about choices: what you choose and what you choose to leave behind.
Author Laura Dave’s story is told in a witty, breezy style with well-drawn characters facing a myriad of life’s little complications.  My only problem with the story is that instead of being told in a straight linear fashion, there are multiple flashbacks told from differing points of view, which became somewhat bewildering. But the story resolutions are strong and upbeat without becoming clichéd. Eight Hundred Grapes is a story about love, resilience and the strength of families.  

Other books by Laura Dave
The First Husband
 The Divorce Party

If you like Eight Hundred Grapes you may like:
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher
The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant

By Kazuo Ishiguro

 After reading a great “conversation” between authors Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman (you can find it here), I just had to read this book.  I loved it.  Not exactly a fantasy adventure, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant is a work of literary fiction told with elements of fantasy and allegory.  This is the story of Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple living in old Briton.  They set out on a journey to find their son, a son they only hazily remember, and on the way they have a variety of strange adventures and encounter several interesting characters including a Saxon warrior, an orphaned boy, and a knight each seeking his own path through the mists that cover the land.  Memories are uncovered and secrets are revealed as the paths of these five individuals converge.  This leisurely-paced, detailed book is a fascinating story of love, loss, and the tricks memory and time can play, all blended into a tale of dragons and ogres in the age of King Arthur. 

For more great stories with fantasy elements try:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
The Mermaid's Child by Jo Baker

Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins

Out of control and out of work, Rachel still rides her commuter train everyday looking for some semblance of normal in her life.  She finds it in the windows of Jess and Jason’s house. She sees them every day as the train goes by.  She doesn’t know their real names or who they really are.  But she knows they have the perfect life.  The life she always wanted.  Then one afternoon Rachel sees something shocking.  And then something goes horribly wrong.  The police say she’s an unreliable witness on account of her drinking.  But Rachel can’t rest until she figures out what she forgot on that terrible night when everything went wrong.
The Girl on the Train is an amazing thrill ride.  Strap yourself in for this commuter special. Rachel’s story twists and turns in shocking ways.  I couldn’t put this one down.

If you liked The Girl on the Train, you might like:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Losing You by Nicci French
In Fidelity by M J Rose
The Collector by Nora Roberts
The Other Woman's House by Sophie Hannah