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Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Didn't Fall for This Book

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black  (aka John Baneville)

It's 1950s Dublin and Christine Falls is dead.  Dublin pathologist, Quirke, in a somewhat inebriated state, stumbles upon his brother-in-law rewriting the file for this dead woman, who is due for an autopsy the next day.  The next day, her body is missing with no trace of its ever being in the morgue.  The search for the truth will bring this brooding and depressed pathologist as far as away as Boston and as close as the secret affairs of his own family and Church. 

This is a very dark mystery with a protagonist who is not perfect, but doesn't even seem to try to be half-way decent.  It was hard for me to root for him because he seemed so ambivalent about his downward spiral, but yet he was driven to discover the truth of this mystery.  I didn't understand why he wanted to find the truth out so badly until the end of the book, but I wonder why he even started in the first place.  Though there are some priests and nuns portrayed as evil people, I didn't object to this as I do sometimes.  Other books I've had a problem with presented the religious as evil or hypocritical, etc. simply as a jab at the Church, but I don't feel that was the case in this plot. 

There were several times when I thought I had things figured out and then would realise I definitely didn't.  But the overall dark tone to the story just didn't appeal to me.  There are also several instances of casual sex that didn't seem necessary to me or even to make a whole lot of sense of why they happened.

If you like mysteries and especially dark mysteries, you may very well like this book.  Those who enjoy family secrets and intrigue would also have a good read with this book.  If you think you might be interested in this book, it is available as an ebook at for only $2.99 right now.

Rick Riordan Is At It Again

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
All the man does is write entertaining, high quality books for kids, young adults and 30 somethings who are recapturing their childhood.  In The Throne of Fire we are once again reading the transcript of a recording made by Carter and Sadie Kane.  Carter and Sadie are descendants of the Egyptian Pharaohs, in fact, 2 of the most powerful Pharaohs, and they are also magicians.  The problem is, other magicians think they are outlaws because their father released trapped Egyptian gods back into the world.  He did this to save the world from the return of Apophis, the most evil of all the ancient gods.  Carter and Sadie believe that their father is right, that the old gods of Egypt are the solution to stopping the rise of Apophis, and they are bent on seeing this mission through.  This time they have the help of a few other junior magicians who answered the call they put out with their first message in The Red Pyramid.

The Throne of Fire is another masterfully crafted story from Rick Riordan, who is my favorite author.  As this is the 2nd book in The Kane Chronicles series, we have already met our narrators, Carter and Sadie.  Each character tells about 2 chapters before "switching" with the other narrator.  Riordan varies the storytelling style enough that you really believe you are reading 2 different views of the events.  It's a really cool way to read a story.

At first, I wasn't thrilled with this book.  It took me a while to remember what I read in The Red Pyramid, which is the problem with only releasing 1 book per year.  Once it all came back to me though, I thoroughly enjoyed the 450ish pages of this book and really look forward to the final book, due out next year.  If you haven't picked up The Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan yet, give these books a shot.  I think you'll really enjoy them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Illuminating Story

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

A very rare illuminated haggadah (illustrated Jewish book) was rescued from the bombings in wartorn Sarajevo.  Now, Dr. Hanna Heath has been asked to restore/conserve the book so it can be put on display.  Dr. Heath finds some artifacts in the pages of the book, including a hair, a salt grain, a wine stain, and a butterfly wing.  The story of Dr. Heath's work with the book and the resulting activities in her life is broken up by explanations of the artifacts' origins, allowing the reader to learn the truth of the book's journey and how the book was created. 

Like the Sarajevo Haggadah, Geraldine Brooks, a pulizter-prize winning author (March), has created a masterpiece.  The short stories of the haggadah's travels and creation had me emotionally involved so soon into the story.  And, there are unexpected twists and turns in Dr. Heath's part of the book's story as well.  Simply put, it is an engrossing read, especially if you love history or short stories.

Amazingly, the Sarajevo Haggadah, actually does exist.  A short synopsis of the haggadah's history is given at the end of book.  It explains what parts of the story are based on fact and which Brooks has imagined.  It's just incredible.  Unfortunately, I don't know much about the war/s in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia.  It was interesting to learn a little more about that area of the world and it's history from reading this book.

I will definitely be reading more of Geraldine Brooks' works.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Sisters Grimm Makes Me Grin

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
I love LOVE love this series.  When I was shelving at work several years ago, I noticed a book that had a cloth cover--truly a trade cloth cover.  So, I picked it up and looked at it.  It was about two sisters whose parents vanished in a bazaar accident.  They are sent to live with a grandmother they knew nothing of and learn from her they are related to the Brothers Grimm, who did not record folktales, but recorded historical events people became to believe were fanciful tales.  After trouble between humans and the Everafters (fairy tale characters), the Brothers Grimm hoped to avoid a war by trapping the Everafters in Ferryport, where they must stay until there are no Grimm descendants living in the town.  This makes some Everafters quite upset with the Grimm Family, but the Grimms do still have some friends in the Everafter population.

Each book has it's own story and mysteries the sisters must face while the overall mystery of what happened to their parents continues and intensifies throughout each book.  I started to read the first one, then put it down and didn't pick it up again for a long time.  I found the orphanage lady annoying, but afterwards, I realized she's not a big part of the story, so if you feel the same way as I did just keep's gets great!!!  While the books have a seamless overall story arc, each book has it's own uniqueness.  One book has a court room drama, one has time travel, another is like a war novel, and one is like the twilight zone!  I was hoping the final book in the series, book #9, would be out this month, but I've got no word at work when it is due out.

Samantha and Daphne are strong girl characters.  (Goal accomplished by Michael Buckley, who said at a talk I attended it seemed to him all girl characters were either rescued by a prince or own a horse.)  The other characters in this series are extremely likeable.  I also found it so fun to see what Mr. Buckley would do with different fairy tale characters.  As an example, one of the three little pigs who wasn't good at construction like his brothers, went into law enforcement and Snow White teaches self-defense classes.  Can you guess what occupation Prince Charming might have or Robin Hood?  There are so many twists and surprises throughout the series.  You never know what's going to happen!!  No one I have recommended this series to has come back to me without rave reviews.  You've just got to read this series.  The audio editions of the books are also very good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

You Should Re-Read This Book Until it is Tattooed on Your Heart

TATTOOS ON YOUR HEART: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Fr. Gregory Boyle

I noticed this book last month on a display at work.  One of the best parts of my job as a bookseller is being exposed to so many books through different displays, receiving books in, shelving them, sorting them, and so on.  As is often the case, the book's cover caught my eye.  I have a special fondness for Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is pictured on the candles on the cover of the book.  Then I noticed the word tattoos and I like tattoos, so I figured I'd better pick up this book and see what's it's about.  Well, thank goodness for that display because it lead me to a great book.

The author, Gregory Boyle, is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries.  All proceeds from the sale of this book go to Homeboy Industries, an organization providing training, tattoo removal, jobs, and more to those formerly involved in gangs or who are at-risk.  Fr. Boyle works in a Los Angeles parish with the highest concentration of gang activity in America.  But Father brings his compassion and persistence to the young people in this area to show them they are valued, they have a choice, there is a different future.  I think Fr. Boyle is a hero.

And...he has written a fantastic book.  Each chapter has a theme.  Father Boyle expounds on each theme by telling us of different experiences he has had working with gang members and their families.  Some stories make you laugh, some make you cry, some make you smile, some make you sigh.  All of them make you think.  Fr. Boyle deftly combines these stories together to exemplify or guide you toward the chapter's theme.  There is much wisdom to be found in this book. 

It's so interesting I wanted to just speed right through the book, yet some of the insights it gave me forced me to pause and contemplate what I had just read.  This is definitely a book I will have to read again and again so I can be sure to get all from it that I can.  I do so wish I could tattoo these pieces of wisdom onto my heart, to be able to recall them at once anytime.  They may not be on my heart permanently, but I know for sure a deep impression is definitely there.

To learn more about Homeboy Industries go to .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Magical Series

THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas

So far, there are three books in the Magic Thief Series: The Magic Thief, Lost, and Found.  (As of Sept. 2010, I believe five books are planned for the series.)  I really like this series.  We meet, Conn, a young orphan surviving on the streets of Wellmet by his slight of hand as a pickpocket, until he pickpockets a wizard--then things begin to change for Conn.  Eventually, Conn becomes his apprentice.  Conn must learn to read in runes, memorize spells, and locate a locus magicalicus--a stone that enables a wizard to perform magic.  Conn must also face a force of dark magic looming over the city.

Ms. Prineas has carefully constructed this wonderful fantasy with it's own history and culture.  And, her story is full of interesting and compelling characters.  Conn is bright and honest.  His wizard mentor, Nevery Flinglas, seems harsh and cold, but we learn he actually cares a great deal about Conn.  I especially enjoyed the wizard's journal entries, "reproduced" periodically throughout the book.  This gives us a unique insight into his thoughts and feelings. 

When I read these books, I become immersed in the world of Wellmet.  This is a sure pick for those who enjoyed Harry Potter or any fantasy fan.  My children and I actually listened to the first one as an audio book.  It was very well done.  I didn't want to stop driving.  We liked the book so much, we went to a talk by the author.  We were the first in line to meet her.  She autographed a book for each of us and wrote a message in Rune for us to decipher using the tranlation page in the books.  The book's website may also be of interest to readers.

I've only read the first two and I can't wait to open up the third!!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Real Story of Alyss in Wonderland


The Looking Glass Wars (Looking Glass Wars #1)
Seeing Redd (Looking Glass Wars Series #2)So, apparently Lewis Carroll totally botched it.  Luckily, Frank Beddor figured it out and now tells us the real story of Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland Throne, who ended up stranded on earth for a few years and told her story to Carroll, who twisted it into a children's story.

In The Looking Glass Wars, we meet 7 year old Alyss, just before her evil aunt Redd takes control of Wonderland.  The women of the Heart family are gifted with a powerful imagination, so powerful that they are able to imagine objects into being.  As Redd is attacking, the Queen's bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, takes Alyss through the pool of tears to earth.  They become separated and Alyss is eventually adopted by the Liddell family and comes to think of her prior life in Wonderland as nothing more than a dream.  That is, until she reaches 20 and it is learned she is alive on Earth.  Queen Redd promptly sends assassins to kill her niece, but her allies in Wonderland save her, and they hatch a plot to retake Wonderland.

I won't give away much of the follow-on books, "Seeing Redd" and "Arch Enemy" except to say that "Seeing Redd" was the weakest of the 3 books.  Overall, I really enjoyed these books.  I found them to be a fairly light read and books that I could easily put down and come back to later.  This series isn't on the level of "Harry Potter" or "Percy Jackson", but is a good, quick, entertaining read, that you don't have to really focus on to enjoy.

ArchEnemy (Looking Glass Wars Series #3)One complaint I do have is that there seemed to be quite a few typos in "Arch Enemy", and I thought the editing in the final book was a little off.  Basically, things resolve themselves too quickly...almost as if they had to hit 370ish pages, so the author and editor made some weird choices to end it on time.  Still though, these books were worth the time I took to read them, and I'll never be able to look at "Alice in Wonderland" the same way again.
There is also a graphic novel available for at least the first book, The Looking Glass Wars.  I also think Frank Beddor is a really nice person, not just a good author so I would encourage people to read this unique fun series.

Also, if you've never read the orignal Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, you really should.  I think they are such fun books.  Many people read Wonderland but not the Looking Glass.  I think the Looking Glass is definitely the best of the two books.  If you've seen Disney's animated Alice in Wonderland, you'll find some of the characters actually come from Through the Looking Glass.  I think you would enjoy Frank Beddor's series even more if you knew the orginal tales.