Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall Giveaway Update + New Giveaway Title!

Guess what I found on my doorstep yesterday? St. Martin's Press sent me an Advance Reader's Copy of Jane Green's newest novel, Saving Grace, due for release on December 30, 2014!

Saving Grace seems to be a slight departure for this bestselling author of chicklit or women's and domestic fiction. This one veers into the territory of psychological suspense. Check out the back-cover copy:
Literary power couple Ted and Grace Chapman are the envy of all who know them. But beneath the surface lies Ted's temper and the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When they hire a new assistant, things begin to crumble, sending Grace on a dark journey that could cost her her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity.

From the New York times bestselling author of Tempting Fate, comes a searing and emotionally charged novel about one woman's search to find herself, and another woman's obsession to make her disappear.

The description certainly caught my attention, and I thought that several of you might want the chance to read this before the late December release. So I decided to add it to our 2014 Fall Giveaway! As a result,  I have also extended the contest entry deadline until 12:00 AM on Wednesday, October 29th. For those who have already entered but would like a chance to add Saving Grace to their prize wish list, please just add a new comment to the original  Fall Giveaway Event blog post using the same post name and relisting your choices. Good luck!

Enter the 2014 Fall Giveaway Event! »

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall 2014 Giveaway!

It's time for another giveaway! This time around, I have Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) of highly anticipated new releases, a few older ARCs, and several new,  finished copies of best-selling fiction titles.

As always, the rules of entry are at the end of the post. Please note that all prizes must be picked up at a BCPL location within two months of notification. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2014.   Update 10/15/14: Due to the addition of a new giveaway title, the contest has been extended until Wednesday, October 29, 2014!


So without further a do, here are our giveaways for Fall 2014:


Final Copies/Finished Publications:

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin
* Trade Paperback (2 copies available) *

A story inspired by the marriage between Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh traces the romance between a handsome young aviator and a shy ambassador's daughter whose relationship is marked by wild international acclaim. –NoveList

Blowing on Dandelions by Miralee Ferrell
Love Blossoms in Oregon #2

* Trade Paperback (2 copies available) *
Widow and single mother Katherine struggles to run her Oregon boarding house by herself, but she learns to find the faith, wisdom, and courage to transform her life and relationships when she meets widower Micah Jacobs. –NoveList


The Cove by Ron Rash
* Trade Paperback *

Living deep within a cove in the Appalachians of North Carolina during World War I, Laurel Shelton finally finds the happiness she deserves in Walter, a mysterious stranger who's mute, but their love can't protect them from a devastating secret. –NoveList


The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Cormoran Strike #1

* Trade Paperback (2 copies available) *

Private investigator Cormoran Strike has a day he'll not soon forget. The 35-year-old, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, spends the night in his bare-bones London office after a relationship-ending fight with his girlfriend. That morning, he sports a cut on his face (she threw an ashtray) as he rushes out the door, barreling into a new temp secretary he can't afford, almost sending her down a staircase. The forgiving temp, Robin, quickly proves useful when they get a case: a famous young model supposedly jumped from the top of her penthouse apartment, but her brother believes she was murdered. Entering the realm of the mega-rich, Strike and Robin question celebrities and fashionistas, trying to uncover the truth in a beautifully written book that was pseudonymously written by none other than J.K. Rowling.  –NoveList

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
* Hardcover *
A conflicted young woman seeks clarity about her impending marriage by remembering a childhood summer when she discovered a long-hidden secret while visiting her mother's ancestral home in an Indian village outside a mysterious jungle. –NoveList

The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes
Shad Mysteries #1

* Trade Paperback *

Working at the side of an American employer who would rebuild a Caribbean hotel, Shadrack, a bartender and amateur detective, encounters a woman on the run who is being targeted by a group of election riggers. By the author of Business Is Good.  –NoveList

How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
* Hardcover *

In the tradition of Emma Donoghue's Room and S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep, a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having visions that make her question everything she knows. Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife--as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector's aloof mother on their wedding day. But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can't recall. Visions of ablonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember--or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta's visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it's unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.  –Publisher's Description





Advance Reading Copies (ARCs), in order of publication:


Saving Grace by Jane Green
ARC - Book Release Date: December 2014

A literary power couple hides behind a carefree public face the painful realities of the husband's raging mood swings and the wife's past secrets until a too-good-to-be-true new assistant enters their lives, with dangerous consequences.
ADDED TO GIVEAWAY on 10/15/14

Wild Rover No More by L.A. Meyer
Bloody Jack Adventures #12

* ARC - Book Release Date: November 2014 *

In 1809, just when it looks like Jacky Faber and her beloved Jaimy will finally find their romance, Jacky is accused of treason and must flee Boston while her friends attempt to clear her name. Of course that means wild adventures for our fun-loving heroine, who manages to secure a job as a governess--and run away with the circus. –Publisher's Description

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
 *ARC -
Book Release Date: October 2014 *
Called to perform missionary work on a world light years away where the natives are fascinated by the concepts he introduces, man of faith Peter Leigh finds his beliefs tested when he learns of natural disasters that are tearing Earth apart.  –NoveList

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde
Chronicles of Kazan #3

* ARC - Book Release Date: October 2014 *

The Mighty Shandar returns to the Ununited Kingdoms and vows to eliminate the dragons once and for all -- unless sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange and her sidekicks from the Kazam house of enchantment can bring him a legendary jewel: The Eye of Zoltar.  –NoveList

I Stand Corrected by Eden Collingsworth
* ARC -
Book Release Date: October 2014 *
A fascinating fusion of memoir, manners, and cultural history from a successful businesswoman well-versed in the unique challenges of working in contemporary China. During the course of her long and successful business career, no country has fascinated Eden Collinsworth more than China. After numerous business experiences that might best be called "unusual" by Western standards, she had a crucial insight: despite the growing status of China as a world economy and the unprecedented range of Chinese investments overseas, businessmen in mainland China--well-educated and speaking English--were fundamentally uncomfortable in the company of their Western counterparts. This realization spawned a Western etiquette guide for Chinese businessmen, which went on to be a huge best seller in China and formed the basis for new curriculum supported by the Chinese Ministry of Education. In I Stand Corrected, Collinsworth tells the story of the year she spent writing that book, creating a counterpart that both explains Chinese practices and reveals much about our own Western culture. She explores topics including the non-negotiable issue of personal hygiene; the rules of the handshake; making sense of foreigners; and that which is considered universally rude. She also scrutinizes some of the Western etiquette that has guided her own business career, one which has unfolded in predominately male company. At the same time, I Stand Corrected is a retrospective journey, a wry but self-effacing reflection on the peripatetic career she led while single-handedly raising her son. Like all parents, she didn't always have answers, and here she details the many, often ludicrous, attempts to strike a balance that was right for both of them.  –NoveList

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
Companion to Elijah of Buxton

* ARC -
Book Release Date: September 2014 *
Even though it is now 1901, the people of Buxton, Canada (originally a settlement of runaway slaves) and Chatham, Canada are still haunted by two events of half a century before--the American Civil War, and the Irish potato famine, and the lasting damage those events caused to the survivors. 
–NoveList

The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Friends, Foes & Faux Friends by Megan McCafferty
Jessica Darling's It List #2

* ARC -
Book Release Date: September 2014 *
Twelve-year-old Jessica Darling receives another cryptic list from her older sister, Bethany. While hosting a slumber party and planning a Halloween costume, Jessica tries to navigate the seventh grade social scene, with mixed results.  –Publisher's Description



Greenglass House by Kate Milford
* ARC -
Book Release Date: August 2014 *
At Greenglass House, a smuggler's inn, twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers' adopted son, plans to spend his winter holidays relaxing but soon guests are arriving with strange stories about the house sending Milo and Meddy, the cook's daughter, on an adventure.  –NoveList

Frida & Diego by Catherine Reef
* ARC -
Book Release Date: August 2014 *
A biography exploring the tumultuous lives, marriage, and work of the artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is illustrated with archival photos and full-color reproductions.  –NoveList

The Saint by Tiffany Reisz
The Original Sinners #5

* ARC -
Book Release Date: July 2014 *
Eleanor is determined to break from her Catholic upbringing, but when her life is saved by a priest she offers him complete obedience and enters into a world of desire as he reveals his deepest secrets to her.  –NoveList

The Beekeeper's Ball by Susan Wiggs
Bella Vista #2

* ARC -
Book Release Date: June 2014 *
While transforming Bella Vista, her childhood home, into a destination cooking school, chef Isabel Johansen finds her plans interrupted by war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill who has arrived to dig up old history.  –NoveList

Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan
* ARC -
Book Release Date: June 2014 *
Mistaken for one another when they are sent to the grand English country estate of Starkers on the brink of World War II, Hannah, a distant relative hoping to be welcomed by the family, and Anna, sent to spy for the Nazis, both unexpectedly fall in love.  –NoveList

Glorious: A Novel of the American West by Jeff Gunn
* ARC -
Book Release Date: May 2014 *
Rising to a life of influence and wealth after a hard-luck youth in late 19th-century Arizona Territory, Cash McLendon flees in the wake of a tragedy and tries to win back the heart from a woman from his past only to be targeted by his former father-in-law.  –NoveList

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
* ARC -
Book Release Date: May 2014 *
When Alek's high-achieving, Armenian-American parents send him to summer school, he thinks his summer is ruined. But then he meets Ethan, who opens his world in a series of truly unexpected ways.  –NoveList

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey
* ARC - Book Release Date: May 2014 *
Seventeen-year-old Millie joins forces with her classmate, gorgeous but mysterious Chase Colton, to try to uncover who murdered head football coach "Hollerin' Hank" Killdare--and why.  –NoveList

Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft
* ARC - Book Release Date: April 2014 *
Seventeen year-old dirt-bike-riding daredevil Arlo Santiago catches the eye of the U.S. military with his first-place ranking on a video game featuring drone warfare, and must reconcile the work they want him to do with the emotional scars he has suffered following a violent death in his family.  –Publisher's Description

Silver People by Margarita Engle
* ARC - Book Release Date: March 2014 *
Fourteen-year-old Mateo and other Caribbean islanders face discrimination, segregation, and harsh working conditions when American recruiters lure them to the Panamanian rain forest in 1906 to build the great canal.  –NoveList

Crossover by Kwame Alexander
* ARC - Book Release Date: March 2014 *
Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.  –NoveList

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
* ARC - Book Release Date: January 2014 *
Ophelia, a timid eleven-year-old girl grieving her mother, suspends her disbelief in things non-scientific when a boy locked in the museum where her father is working asks her to help him complete an age-old mission.  –NoveList



Rules of Entry

1. To enter the drawing, you must complete two tasks
First, you must leave a comment at the bottom of this post stating which ARCs you would like to receive. If you do not leave a comment at the bottom of the post, I will not know which prize(s) to give you if you win the drawing. You may choose up to ten titles; you are not guaranteed to win your top choices, but I do my best. Second, you must log in to the Rafflecopter Widget with your e-mail address or Facebook account and Click "+1" and "Enter" on the widget only after you have posted your comment below. After completing the first task, you can also earn bonus entries by following the directions in the widget.


2.  All ARCs must be picked up at a Bullitt County Public Library location. Contest ends at 12:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2014. Updated 10/15/14: October 29, 2014. Winners will be notified via e-mail and will be posted on this blog. Winners will have up to two months from the time of notification to colllect their prizes.


Rafflecopter Widget: Enter the Giveaway Drawing Here

(Don't forget to leave your comment in the Comments section below!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 11, 2014

GUEST REVIEW: The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls

Tonight we have a special guest review from a new library employee! But Donna isn't new to Book News & Reviews; in 2012, when we Donna was simply a library patron, she contributed reviews of Home at Last by Bonnie Leon and Siobhan Fallon's linked short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone. Glad to have you back, Donna!

Donna's Rating:4/5 Stars
Genre: Mainstream Fiction/Love Story
Audience: Adult

Summary: Thirty-something Bess Gray despairs of ever finding "the one." Then she meets a charming Irish musician and becomes instantly smitten. After a couple of months of dating he proposes. The problem? Rory has already been married EIGHT times before. Before deciding whether to follow her heart and leap all in, Bess embarks on a journey to meet each of the past wives and learn where Rory's past marriages went wrong.

Donna's Review:
It took a little bit to get used to the jumping back and forth from the his and her viewpoints during the reading of this book. Once I got past that, the story did stick its fangs into me. It kept me coming back for more. I wanted to know all about the hows and whys of Rory’s eight wives. How in the world did he end up being married that many times? More than one is not that uncommon in modern times, but eight?

I liked getting to see Rory mature with each of his wives, what could have been just relationships if not for his very giving and romantic nature. I also liked seeing how Bess came to terms with each of them, as she definitely wanted to know about each of them. As we women all do, she wanted to see if each one was prettier than her, smarter than her, etc. Bess’s grandparents and gay friend, Cricket, liven up the main story line.They show the  reader there are always different shades of gray in relationships.

I think the end could have gone either way, or any way, and I don’t want to spoil it for you! The whole story, and for me, Bess’s thoughts, were something that any woman would want to think about. Every woman wants to know about her predecessors and sometimes ends up finding out too much about them. This book might change the way some women think about finding out too much information. In my opinion, this book is a 4-star read. It is funny, sad, and has much romance to offer while showing the loneliness and vulnerability of people, whether single or in a relationship.


Are you interested in contributing a guest review to Book News & Reviews?
  • We encourage BCPL patrons and members of the community to share thoughts on what they are reading and welcome guest reviews. Find details here.  
  • Or, if you would like to share your favorite recent reads but think writing a full review is too much trouble, join our What Do You Recommend? collaborative board on Pinterest!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

REVIEW: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Series: Lumatere Chronicles #1
Format: Audiobook/Book on CD
Genre: High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult/Adult Crossover

Summary: Exiled from his homeland after the royal family was slaughtered and a dying woman cursed the land, Finnikin is determined to find a new home for his people. He was only a child at the time of the murders of his friend Prince Balthazar and the rest of the royal family, but Finnikin struggles with feelings of guilt related to a cryptic prophecy. Then he meets a young novice who goes by the name of Evanjalin who says the prince lives and there is hope of reclaiming Lumitare from the impostor king who butchered the royal family. Finnikin is skeptical, but Evanjalin remains stubbornly committed to her course and the two set off on a mission that take them across kingdoms, collecting allies and exiles along the way back to Lumitare.

First Line: "When it finally appeared in the distance, Finnikin wondered if it was some phantom half-imagined in this soulless kingdom at the end of the world."

Tracy's Thoughts:
This novel has been on my to-read list since its publication in 2010, and I'm kicking myself now for not reading it sooner. Of course, having waited, I have the added benefit of not having to wait a year for each of the sequels to be released. So if I look at it that way, perhaps I did myself a favor because now I can't wait to begin Froi of the Exiles!

I listened to this book on audio, and initially I thought I would never get through it. The novel jumps straight into the action and provides key back story right away, and all of the places, characters, and relationships were a little overwhelming. Unlike with a traditional book, it wasn't easy to flip back several pages as a reference point. I think this is a recurring issue for me with rich fantasy series like this one or Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, but at least with A Game of Thrones I had the TV show to orient myself (yes, I was late to the game there too). Here I was on my own, but within the first few chapters I was utterly hooked and gradually the pieces came together. Of course, there were still plenty of intentional plot twists and turns to keep me guessing. I usually listen to my audiobooks in the car, and more than once I sat in my driveway listening long after arriving home, absorbed in a particularly well-written passage.

In Finnikin of the Rock, Marchetta introduces a world rich with intrigue and secrets, where characters are far more than they first appear. Most of them are wonderfully complicated, both light and dark. Take the secondary character of Froi, for example. Froi is a young thief with a bad attitude and no outward compassion or loyalty toward his fellow man. He is crude and mocking, and yet he also gradually shows redeeming qualities that make readers care about him even as they are appalled by his actions. Marchetta does an excellent job showing the toll Lumatere's terrible history (aka the Five Days of the Unspeakable) and subsequent curse has taken on its people, and no one embodies this better than Froi, although the story of Finnikin's father Trevanion and Lady Beatrice is heartwrenching.

Though the novel is published as YA and does not have any particularly graphic scenes, it has a very adult sensibility in that it deals frankly with issues like violence, rape, and sex. The violence of war is neither glossed over nor glorified, and the characters act like real people rather than one-dimensional archetypes. Marchetta's world-building is well done and the various kingdoms and their history have me intrigued to learn more. Like A Song of Ice and Fire, the series has a historical-style setting with hints of magic, but this is a fantasy series that will appeal even to readers who generally don't like fantasy. The magic here is more mystical than fantastical, and the storytelling is wonderfully compelling.

For readers like me, it may take a bit of patience to become acclimated to the world of Finnikin and Evanjalin—not to mention sorting out all the different characters. But the effort is well worth it. I can't wait to visit Lumitare and its inhabitants once again and am looking forward to discovering more about the treacherous kingdom of Charyn, which, like Marchetta's characters, will likely be far more nuanced and surprising than we might expect.

Monday, July 28, 2014

2-for-1 REVIEW: The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden and The Redemption of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen

So, lately I've been on a New Adult reading kick. A patron request for college-age romances prompted me to create a new board on our Pinterest site all about New Adult fiction (and a handful of memoirs), and then I decided to see what all the fuss was about for myself. I had already read Jamie McGuire's Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster and Tammara Webber's Easy, all key titles in the newly popular category and all books that I enjoyed. But there were lots of other notable New Adult authors that I hadn't read, and I felt it would be a good idea to expand my knowledge a bit. Hence the recent reading spree. Jessica Sorensen's Coincidence series is just one of my new finds, but be assured I have more to share about New Adult fiction in another upcoming post.


Tracy's Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre:
New Adult/Realistic Fiction/Contemporary Romance
Audience:
New Adults (older YAs/twentysomethings)
Series: Coincidence #1

First Lines: "Life is full of luck, like getting dealt a good hand or simply being in the right place at the right time. Some people get luck handed to them, a second chance, a save. It can happen heroically, or by a simple coincidence, but there are those who don't get luck on a shiny platter, who end up at the wrong place at the wrong time, who don't get saved."


Tracy's Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre:
New Adult/Realistic Fiction/Contemporary Romance
Audience:
New Adults (older YAs/twentysomethings)
Series: Coincidence #1

First Lines: "I want to breathe."






Tracy's Thoughts:
First off, these books are in desperate need of the services of a good copyeditor. Initially, I thought the punctuation errors and unfortunate uses of "one's" in place of what should be a simple plural construction "ones" would drive me to tear my hair out. And that's only the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes. But despite the flaws, Jessica Sorensen's saga of Callie and Kayden is compulsively readable.

Callie is a loner with a dark secret and a fear of being touched by others. When she was younger, she suddenly chopped off all her hair and started wearing baggy clothes. At least her family found the transformation sudden and inexplicable, and now, years later, they continue to be puzzled by her "difficult" behavior and social isolation. To outsiders, Kayden is the all-American boy, a football jock with decent grades, a tendency to party, and a hot cheerleader girlfriend. But, like Callie, he has secrets.

When Callie accidentally witnesses Kayden at his lowest and steps out of her self-imposed isolation to save him, Kayden realizes there is more to the high-school "freak" than he imagined. And Callie sees that Kayden apparently has his own demons, though at that point she has only the barest hint of the full truth. In the moment that Callie saves Kayden and in those that follow immediately after, they forge a a strange connection, though neither chooses to pursue it. But when they meet again on their new college campus, Kayden is determined to discover more about the girl who saved him and—perhaps—changed him forever. For her part, Callie remains skittish, although a recent friendship has given her the courage to take chances (for Callie, even small things like wearing the color red and growing out her hair are a hurdle) that would have seemed impossible before.

There is little mystery for the reader about Callie's and Kayden's secrets, but it was fascinating to see how these two damaged characters were able to build the trust necessary to confide in one another. That isn't to say that everything is neatly wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow. Love doesn't suddenly make all of Callie and Kayden's problems go away; it simply makes them more confident and thus more able to cope with their respective troubles. But even then, there are setbacks. In fact, the cliffhanger ending of the first book may mangle the expectations of more than one happily-ever-after romantic.

This is an angsty, emotional read that may veer too close to melodrama for some readers, but for those who like love stories with LOTS of baggage (even Callie and Kayden's friends have some serious baggage of their own, though it remains in the background through both of these novels), this series may be perfect. That is, if the reader can overlook the comma splices, typos, and grammatical errors on every other page or so. I'm a bit of a grammar stickler, but the emotional intensity and occasionally striking imagery went a long way toward calming my irritation. For example, something about the description of one character's fight-bruised face as a "lumpy blueberry" struck me as absolutely perfect.

So if you are a fan of college-age stories like A Beautiful Disaster and don't mind iffy proofreading and heavy doses of angst, then I suggest you give Callie and Kayden's story a try. A third book focusing on the duo, The Resolution of Callie & Kayden, is expected to be released on September 30th.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

GUEST REVIEWS: Picture Book Flash Reviews

We have a couple of firsts for you today at Book News & Reviews! Today we are featuring our first reviews from BCPL's very own Ms. Cheryl as well as our first child-submitted review. Five-year-old Tabitha Beck is a soon-to-be first grader, a HUGE Dora fan, and a patron at our Lebanon Junction Library location. She graciously chose to share her thoughts with us about one of her favorite books, which she has read many times.
 

Charlie Goes to School
by Ree Drummond

Reviewer: Ms. Cheryl
Ms. Cheryl's Rating: 5/5 Stars
Audience: Ages 4–8
I am a big fan of Ree Drummond and couldn’t wait to read her children’s book. Charlie is the main character and is a Bassett Hound. The book is written from his perspective. Charlie starts off the story at the beginning of his day with how he “helps” out all the human family members. Then he discovers school and wants to have a school for all the animals on the farm. Things do not go well, and Charlie eventually gives up and takes a much needed nap. The author writes a very fun and engaging story and the illustrator did a fantastic job of illustrating the book. I really enjoyed looking at the pages and all the little characters on each page.


The Worst Princess
by Anna Kemp

Reviewer: Ms. Cheryl
Ms. Cheryl's Rating: 4/5 Stars
Audience: Ages 3–7
This book was a quick and fun read. It has rhyming words and a funny twist to the typical “Happily Ever After” princess story. The princess is a bit more adventurous than your average princess, so she is very excited when her brave and wonderful prince finally comes along. Only this prince wants his princess at home being happy with her clothes and castle. Throw in a naughty dragon that comes to the princess’s rescue, and you have a great read.

Show Me Your Smile:
A Visit to the Dentist

by Christine Ricci

Reviewer: Tabitha Beck
Tabitha's Rating: (Rating not provided, but we're guessing Tabitha gives it a 5 out of 5!)
Audience: Everyone (Publisher recommends ages 3–5)
This is a Dora book and I love Dora, the Explorer. In this book Dora goes to the dentist and I learned that it's not that scary. I would recommend this book to anyone to read. It's good to go to the dentist because if you don't take care of your teeth, you won't be able to eat. The dentist helps you keep your teeth healthy and keep your smile beautiful. I love this book.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

REVIEW: Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Suspense/Crime Fiction
Audience: Adult

Summary: Recently widowed and still haunted by the death of his son decades ago in Vietnam, Sheldon Horowitz is an impatient and crotchety old man. He's a little depressed and feels alone now that all of his friends and family are dead except for his granddaughter Rhea. Believing her grandfather suffers from dementia, Rhea has convinced Sheldon to move to Oslo to live with her and her Norwegian husband. Sheldon finds the laid-back attitude of the Norwegian people incomprehensible and persists in sharing his oddball philosophical musings, thus calling his mental state into further question. Then he witnesses the murder of his Serbian neighbor and goes on the lam with her young son, believing it is the only way to protect the boy from Kosovar gangsters. Rhea and the police inspector, Sigrid Ødegård, think Sheldon has suffered a mental break, but could Sheldon's unusual actions be more wily than anyone could guess?

First Lines:
"It is summer and luminous. Sheldon Horowitz sits on a folding director's chair, high above the picnic and out of reach of the food, in a shaded enclave in Oslo's Frogner Park."

Tracy's Thoughts:
In his debut novel, Miller offers a completely different take on the Scandinavian crime fiction wave popularized by authors like Larsson, Mankell, Nesbø, Fossum, and Läckberg. Critically acclaimed but under the radar of most readers, Norwegian by Night was named by both Kirkus Reviews and The Guardian as one of the best crime novels of 2013. It's not your typically plot-centered crime novel—though there are some definite machinations and exciting bits. Instead, its focus is on Sheldon's inner thoughts and his path to redemption. Now that he has taken responsibility for this young boy, Sheldon is reminded more than ever of his son and sees this "final mission" as a way to do something that matters again and to atone for what he sees as his own culpability in his son's death.

You see, Sheldon was a marine sniper in Korea and has felt useless ever since. That is, if you believe Sheldon's latest story. On previous occasions, he always told his late wife and granddaughter a different story of his time in Korea. Sheldon, with his visions and inconsistent stories, is a bit of an unreliable narrator. Both reader and the characters in the book are left to wonder whether Sheldon is truly senile or if he's just crazy sharp, with a unique way of looking at the world. In a way, despite the fact that the protagonist is 82 years old, Norwegian by Night could be considered a coming of age novel—or perhaps a coming to terms with age novel.

Sheldon is a fascinating and insightful character, with plenty of foibles and flaws to add interest. And his journey is incredibly relatable despite the unusual circumstances. Though some of the other characters—Rhea and her husband Lars, for example—could do with some fleshing out, some of the secondary characters are also quite intriguing. Sigrid serves as a wonderful contrast to Sheldon, and some of her conversations also provide unexpected humor to the largely reflective narrative. Take this dryly comical phone conversation with her father:
     "Have you met a nice man yet?"
     Sigrid nods. "I'd been meaning to tell you. I got married and had three sons."
    "That's wonderful news."
    "Huey, Dewey, and Louie. They're delightful, but have speech impediments and very short legs."
Some of the scenes with Sigrid were my absolute favorites in the novel, particularly the Psycho bit (saying anything more could prove too much of a spoiler). And although the crime plot was somewhat understated, I was fascinated (and appalled) by some of the insight into Serbian/Kosovar hostilities and the cycle of violence. The contrast of different nationalities and ethnicities—Norwegian, American, Jewish, Serbian, Kosovar—and their effects on various characters' way of life and way of thinking elevate a simple plot into something far more.

Norwegian by Night is a a quiet thriller with literary bones. Despite a few lengthy expositions and a somewhat ambiguous ending, it offers something different and interesting to the crime fiction genre as it addresses a number of important issues—war, personal and ethnic identity, and aging—with compassion, insight, and humor.
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