Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Winner of the 2015 Newbery Award

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Teen Fiction

A book for middle grade readers (age 9 - 13) , written in verse, about basketball players?  Not much about that description would put this book on most adult’s “to read” list.  I picked it up after learning that it was the 2015 Newbery Award winner. It took about five minutes to realize why this book was chosen as the most distinguished of the year. It is a exceptional novel for young teens and adult readers.

"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering."  

This is not your fusty old classic written in iambic pentameter.  Twelve-year-old Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan have the moves and the attitude to be big stars on the basketball court. Raised by their father, a former Olympian and pro turned stay-at-home dad, and their mother, an assistant principal, the boys have a stable and loving family watching their backs. They are inseparable until Jordan starts to show increasing interest in the lovely female friend Josh calls “Miss Sweet Tea.” Worried about his dad’s health, confused and frustrated with his brother, Josh starts to butt heads with those around him and ultimately lashes out and has to deal with the consequences.

The verse styles range all over from musical to blank verse to concrete poems and more. The poetry is an important part of the feel of the novel and the marvel is that it never seems forced or false and it lends Josh’s voice a real sense of authenticity and personality. The pitch and pace of the novel is just right, effectively transmitting the strong emotions of the characters and building the story. Told over the space of several months in their 7th grade year, this novel deals with issues that all people can relate to - growing up, family loyalty, independence, self respect, pride, anger, fear, regret. Forgiveness.

This book is recommended for all ages.  While it is a great choice for reluctant readers, don’t stop there.  Read it yourself and share it with any young teen in your life.

Review by Amy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Modern Scholar: How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value
Book on CD Review:  How To Think:  The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value:  Michael D. C Drout
In How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value, Professor Michael D. C. Drout give an impassioned defense and celebration of the value of the liberal arts.  Charting the evolution of the liberal arts from their roots in the educational system of Ancient Rome through the Middle Ages and to the present day, Drout shows how the liberal arts have consistently been” the tools to rule” essential to the education of the leaders of society.  Offering a reasoned defense of their continuing value, Drout also provides suggestions for improving the state of the liberal arts in contemporary society.     
This is an excellent program.  Professor Drout has a gift for making all the parts and parcels of knowledge accumulated over a time period come together in a cogent and interesting way.  His love of the liberal arts, literature, grammar and other disciplines shines through in all his recorded books offerings but none in such a way as this offering!  Please pick this up! It will engage your mind and lead you on a great journey.

Reviewed by Karen   

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Interested in Alternate History Books?

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Patricia has three children. Or does she have four?  Is she a housewife who’s rarely left Britain or a travel writer who loves all things Italian? 

Spending her last days in the dementia ward of a nursing home, ninety year old Patricia is used to forgetting things.  She forgets small things, such as the day of the week or where she left her glasses, and she forgets very big things as when she forgets her grandson’s recent death.  However, something is different.  She is certain that she remembers two distinct lives with very different paths all based on one fateful decision. Yes or No?  Now or Never?   

Based on the idea that a decision can literally change the whole world, this novel of alternative history will appeal to readers of domestic literature who don’t mind a little fantasy/science fiction thread woven in. 

For fans of Life After Life (Atkinson) and  The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Review by Amy

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Kind Worth Killing

It’s become quite the fashion to label each new suspense novel “the next Gone Girl.”  In this case, I think fans of that novel will really enjoy The Kind Worth Killing.  It is a dark, psychological thriller which also features plot twists and rather unlikeable characters. 

An homage to Patricia Highsmith’s classic Strangers on a Train, Swanson’s book opens in an airport bar where Ted Severson meets the beautiful Lily Kitner while waiting on their delayed plane. Telling him that they are just playing a game, Lily encourages Ted to tell her a secret. Ted, more than a little drunk and stinging from the recent discovery that his attractive young wife Miranda is having an affair, confides that he would really like to kill his wife.  Said out of frustration and pain rather than a declaration of intent, Ted’s a bit taken aback when Lily encourages him to go ahead and do it. Telling Ted that she believes that some people are simply toxic and that eliminating them does the world a service, she offers to help right the wrong done to him by joining him in figuring out a way to get away with killing Miranda. Moving forward and backward in time, the novel twists and turns, hides then reveals. 

Are some people really worth killing?  Don’t start it before bed or you’ll be up all night trying to find out.

Review by Amy

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Order of Things

Book Review:  The Order of Things by Lynne Hinton

Andreas Jay Hackett, is a university Librarian who enjoys keeping things in order.  This summer however, she is missing her passion for the students their queries, her life itself.  Summer times in the past have been times when the butterflies would migrate down from the mountain signifying life and renewal.  This year the butterflies have not migrated and the landscape of her home is brown, taut and seemingly as lifeless as she is.  When her supervisor suggests she visit the infirmary because her work is slipping and her colleagues are tired of covering for her.  Andreas checks herself into a Holly Pines metal hospital with the goal of getting help.  Help and clarity comes through a series of conversations through a vent in the wall with a prison inmate who is housed next to her.  Gradually, as her pain lifts, she and Lathin, also a prisoner of old pain, are able to shock each other into life once again through poignant exchanges that open doors to renewal and hope.   

A slow starter, this book is so touching and real that  it brought tears to my eyes in sections.  The power of the past and the importance of examining it, sharing insights and moving forward is a universal need of mankind.

Reviewed by Karen  

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens

The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens: Thomas Hauser

This story recounts the final years of Charles Dickens life but begins with his telling of the most haunting series of events in his life.

The story begins with Dickens explaining his early years of grinding poverty due to his father’s spendthrift ways and the harsh class system of 19th Century England.   The story he shares is a shocking heart breaker mainly because of the murder of a man and disfigurement of a woman.  The greed and evil of the proflagrant nemesis is interlaced with Dickens’s coming of age and early beginnings of his writing career.    

The story continues over some years and illustrates how many of Dickens most memorable books were written including The Old Curiosity Shop;  Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzelwitt and the Pickwick Papers.   The reader travels with Dickens to American twice; first as a little known author, and then as a renowned storyteller sought after across the land.   As his life wanes her recalls many of the memorable people he met along the way, notably the wife of the nemesis, the beautiful Amanda Wingate. 

This story begins as memoir, evolves into a murder mystery …and ends on a poignant and satisfying note.

Worth picking up….

Reviewed by Karen     

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Glass Kitchen

Book Review:  The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee
Portia Cuthcart leaves Texas after her marriage fails due to her husband’s betrayal.  She has always wanted to operate The Glass Kitchen, a restaurant established by her Grandmother.  When she relocates to Manhattan her only desire is to never cook again because a gift she inherited from her Grandmother, “the knowing” is the engine of her creativity and way she knew what food would heal her customers appears to result in her Grandmother’s death. 

Once relocated due to financial hardships of her sisters and herself Portia resurrects her dream of the Glass Kitchen.   When she moves into the run down brownstone bequeathed to her by her great Aunt Eve, she meets Ariel, her sister Miranda and their father Gabriel who have purchased the upper levels of the brownstone.  Sparks fly between Portia and Gabriel, and coupled with facing into her fear of the knowing Portia must deal with old fears which stand in the way of her creativity, her desire for love and family and realizing her dream magic with food.

This was a delightful very engaging read!  The characters, and plot line the complexity of relationships begun through a leap of faith ring true to life.  

Please pick up if you are looking for a light romance with a little something extra

Reviewed by Karen H.