Thursday, November 17, 2016

Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Donald Spoto opens his 2010 biography of Hollywood legend Joan Crawford by recounting his happy memory of writing Crawford a fan letter as an 11-year old and receiving a signed personal reply from the actress.  This anecdote sets the tone for Spoto's sympathetic effort to humanize a woman who has frequently been caricatured as the vicious "Mommy Dearest" of daughter Christine's infamous memoir and the 1981 film starring Faye Dunaway.  The real Joan Crawford was much more complicated and fascinating.  She rose from a troubled working-class background in the Midwest to Hollywood royalty with her 1929 marriage to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.  This first of four marriages did not last, however.  As Spoto quotes Crawford, “I was always an outsider.  I was never good enough—not for the Fairbanks tribe, not for Mayer; not for his so-called film society.”  Joan Crawford used this sense of inferiority to constantly drive herself to improve as an actress, as a self-taught student of the arts, and as a mother of four adopted children.  Yet late in her life Crawford admitted that she had not been an ideal mother:  “You wanted to be a mother, but there just wasn’t time for it.”

What I Thought: I am a fan of Joan Crawford, although I will concede that her overcharged performances—especially in weaker films—often teeter on the brink of campy melodrama.  Donald Spoto does a fine job of guiding the reader through Crawford’s long, prolific career, pointing out high and low points along the way.  He gives examples of Crawford’s on-set behavior that confirm her reputation of being difficult and demanding, but he also shares reflections of costars and directors who spoke fondly of her support and loyalty.  Even Bette Davis—an alleged hated rival—discounted the infamous “feud” that supposedly played out during the filming of “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”:  “In three weeks of filming together, nothing bad happened between us.”  Donald Spoto defends Joan Crawford against the charges of her daughter Christine, but he doesn’t devote much space to Joan’s home life.  He does discuss her four marriages and numerous love affairs.  Interestingly, she remained close and friendly with most of these men long after the romances ended—particularly with Clark Gable.  Overall, I found Donald Spoto’s biography of Joan Crawford to be quite enjoyable and informative.  I would also recommend these Joan Crawford movies which can be found in the library’s DVD collection:  “The Women” (1939), “Mildred Pierce” (1945), and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” (1962).

Readalikes: Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov; Clark Gable: A Biography by Warren Harris

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Mercedes Lackey's post-apocalyptic science fiction mixes magic and technology and a view of society 250 years after a series of catastrophes call the “Diseray”. Millions died and creatures once a part of legends and folktales came into the world to terrorize those who were unprotected. Some were terrors ripped from our collective imaginations, remnants of every mythology across the world. And some were like nothing anyone had ever dreamed up, even in their worst nightmares. Monsters.

Long ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and it’s taken centuries to bring back civilization in the wake of the catastrophe. Now, the luckiest Cits (Civilians) live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the hideous creatures fighting to break through. Others are not so lucky. To Joyeaux Charmand, who has been a Hunter in her tight-knit mountain community since she was a child, every Cit without magic deserves her protection from dangerous Othersiders. Then she is called to Apex City, where the best Hunters are kept to protect the most important people.

Joy soon realizes that the city’s powerful leaders care more about luring Cits into a false sense of security than protecting them. More and more monsters are getting through the barriers, and the close calls are becoming too frequent to ignore. Yet the Cits have no sense of how much danger they’re in—to them, Joy and her corps of fellow Hunters are just action stars they watch on TV. When an act of sabotage against Joy takes an unbearable toll, she uncovers a terrifying conspiracy in the city. There is something much worse than the usual monsters infiltrating Apex.

What I Thought: Where should I start… Ah, although the book is set for adults, it should be noted that the book would have been better served for a young adult or transitioning teen reader. The friendships, relationships, and interactions between characters have an innocence to them that you don’t generally find in adult relationships.

Just remember that there are no bad books, just poorly written ones.

I have to say that Mercedes Lackey did not do a good job writing to build or create this new post-apocalyptic world. This may be why our library hadn’t picked up the book and series until 2016 even though it was released in 2015 as a paperback. There might have been revisions and changes for the rerelease to warrant buying it.

I know I may be ostracized for saying this, but I wish authors wouldn’t base their stories in the same type as hunger games or another series just because it is successful. Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar Series, is better constructed and well written, where Hunter was slow and painful to read. Initially, the book was hard to understand and the background of the character is barely touched upon throughout the first 25% of the book. When looking on Goodreads, I found that many readers did not finish the book at this point and gave up. I however didn’t let this daunt me, so I continued to plug away and read through.

Once again, it seems this book was written for a younger audience. The story does eventually pick up and actually start moving forward at about the halfway point. I believe if Mercedes Lackey had provided a little more information about the society and how people live, it would have given me a better understanding and made it easier to follow. Joy did learn about Cit customs and society, but these interactions were limited to semi intimate dates and interviews with Apex News reporters with Hunters. This was the reader’s only window to society and how it worked. I wish shed had fleshed out the story and built the world a little bit better.

The second half of Hunter took a complete turn back to the story and its objective. Lackey introduced the conflict and hidden side of society Hunter Joy found alarming. The conflict with other Hunters pushes the story to the true problem of society and what it was doing to the Cits and how it treats the people within and without Apex.

Hunter is not a new type of novel and despite its obvious weaknesses in the first half of the book and throughout, it is not a bad read. The content of the first book is set up to change and grow with the second book Elite. My hope is that the content will mature and become a cohesive whole to the greater issue at hand instead of smaller disputes and political maneuvering going on in Hunter. I recommend this series for younger readers more interested in following a character, learning again about fairy tales, and following the action of the Hunters. It gets better at the end so keep with it, even though it is barely compelling in the beginning.

Readalikes: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Elia Juarez

What I Read: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Ever since her parents died, 17-year old Emmerson can see ghosts just about everywhere she goes. The problem is, no one believes her, and her older brother has sent her to psychiatrists, psychologists, and hospitals trying to “help” her but the only thing that seems to help is heavy doses of medication that leave Emmerson feeling like a zombie. As a last ditch hope, Emmerson’s brother hires a man from an organization known as “Hourglass,” which claims to be experts in this sort of thing. That’s when Emmerson begins to the dangerous truth about what she’s really seeing, what she really is, and why this is all happening to her. 

What I Thought: Though it has an interesting premise and includes elements of both fantasy and science-fiction, this is pretty typical teen fare. Everyone is impossibly beautiful, impossibly rich and impossibly brilliant (even though none of them are even old enough to legally drink yet) and of course, there’s a kind of love triangle that starts to emerge by the end.

However, this is part of a series, and because of that, lots of strings are left loose, and frankly some of what happens here makes very little sense. Still, I want to give it the benefit of the doubt BECAUSE it is only book 1 of 3 and I am hoping a lot of my unanswered questions get answered before the series is over (book 2 is Timepiece and book 3 is Infinityglass). I did like the uniqueness of the premise, but too many characters seemed one dimensional. And the time travel elements just sort of seem scientifically unsound.

Readalikes: Possess by Gretchen McNeil

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Now 70 years old, singer Carly Simon reflects on the first half of her life in Boys in the Trees: A Memoir.  The book is so brave and revealing that perhaps another Carly Simon song title would have been more fitting: We Have No Secrets.  

Thanks to an astonishing memory for details—aided by a lifetime of diary writing—Simon recounts incidents from her childhood up to the end of her marriage to singer James Taylor in 1981.  Far from her image as a spoiled rich girl—her father was the Simon of Simon and Schuster publishing—Carly Simon’s youth was scarred by her parents’ unhappy marriage and her own poor self-image.  As a pre-teen, Simon was physically molested by a family acquaintance.  She suffered for years with a stuttering impediment, and she has been treated for depression throughout her life.

Her success as a singer, originally as a duo with sister Lucy, seems to have taken Carly by surprise, and given her lifelong stage fright, Simon’s fame was a mixed blessing.  Her stardom did bring her in contact with others in the entertainment industry, and much of the book details romantic encounters with familiar icons such as Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Mick Jagger, and Cat Stevens.  And, yes, the mystery inspiration of Simon’s “You’re So Vain” is at least partially answered: Warren Beatty inspired one of the verses.  The latter part of the book details the decade-long marriage to James Taylor, a brilliant musician who was plagued by a heroin addiction throughout his years with Carly Simon.

What I Thought: Since this is not a “breezy” show business memoir, it does not always make for easy reading.  Carly Simon shares painful and unflattering episodes from her life, along with personal and professional joys and successes.  There were times when I would have preferred fewer intimate details (e.g. the description of her 1981 onstage panic attack in Pittsburgh), but overall I came away admiring Simon’s honesty and perseverance.  As a baby boomer who closely followed the music of Carly Simon and James Taylor at the height of their popularity, I would have liked more behind the scenes accounts of that musical era.  Although that was not the primary focus of Simon’s book, I did enjoy the musical anecdotes that were included.  And I look forward to reading the sequel.  

Readalikes: Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller; Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines: The Life and Music of James Taylor by Mark Ribowsky

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: This book is volume 4 in a projected 5-volume military fantasy series set in a world similar to Europe in the Napoleonic era. In previous books, the more "fantastic" elements of the story (mostly people who have gained powers by speaking the names of various demons) have balanced themselves with the reality of life on the march in a large army. This volume ratchets up the magical action, however, as tactical genius Janus bet Vhalnich sends his army to defeat the "Priests of the Black" he believes have been threatening the world from the shadows. But their country is not so easily taken, and even within Janus's army, not everyone is sure he's trustworthy - not even his own Queen.

What I Thought: In previous volumes of this series, I'd figured out fairly quickly that Wexler was retelling French history in a fantasy world: previous plot points include a brilliant general, a domestic Reign of Terror, and an immensely successful campaign against a desert country. The previous volume had also ended with Janus assuming more power than any general had in his nation's history. I thought, therefore, that I knew where this story was going.

But if a story draws its cues from actual history, it's easy to surprise the audience by diverging from that history. That's exactly what happens here. And it's excellent.

With The Guns of Empire, Wexler takes his story completely on its own path, making clever use of the magical elements that separate his world from ours. He's already toyed with history in various ways - his Queen character is unlike anyone in the French aristocracy, and not just because she happens to be immortal - but here he both nods to historical fact (do not invade Russia in the winter, for example) and points out all the ways magic subverts it (if they have demons on their side, it does not matter what time of year you invade Russia). Wexler using my expectations against me made reading this book a delight.

He also ties up most of the subplots he's included in previous books so that the final volume can focus on the main conflict. While this does make this book serve as setup for the finale, it's also very satisfying. Like George R.R. Martin's popular A Song of Ice and Fire, Wexler switches between multiple characters' points of view when telling his story. Each of those characters has their own story and motivations and desires, and in The Guns of Empire, many of those stories are concluded (though not necessarily with death). Having followed these characters through several long volumes, I was happy to see their stories resolved. Wexler is very good at creating flawed people it's still easy to root for, with an emphasis on talented yet complicated female characters.

His best character, however, is absolutely Winter Ihernglass, the young woman who'd disguised herself as a man to join the army and now serves as one of Janus's generals. She's also the closest thing this series has to an actual main character, and so it's fitting that of all the stories in this series, hers is the one most closely tied to the conflict he's set up for Book 5. She also, I was happy to note, gets to start a new romance in this book - normally I don't really care for too much romance, but Winter prefers women. A lesbian whose previous relationship ends badly, and then is allowed the chance to be happy with someone new, is a rare duck indeed in fiction (unfortunately). I am rooting for Winter to save the world, get the girl, and maybe finally let her old flame go. They care for each other, but they just aren't compatible anymore.

If Wexler manages to bend history to his will some more in the meantime, however, I will not say no.

Readalikes: Cold Iron by Stina Leicht, for more "flintlock fantasy"

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Train Go Sorry by Leah Hager Cohen

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: José Beltrán

What I Read: Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World by Leah Hager Cohen

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Leah was one of the first hearing children who attended the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens, New York. She felt she had missed the boat to belonging to the deaf. “I’m so hearing,” she lamented. She so wanted to share in their intimacy. Her parents were engrossed in the school: her Jewish father, Oscar, was principal then director and her Protestant mother was a nursery school teacher. Oscar was a CODA (hearing child of deaf adults).

Leah’s family was also a cultural microcosm of religions, races, hearing, and deaf. Her parents were hearing. Her grandparents Sam and Fanny Cohen were deaf. Had Sam’s deafness been detected at Ellis Island, he would not have been allowed to enter the USA. In 1916 they were called Deaf-Mutes, more familiarly Deaf Dumb. The insensitivity of the past is erased as cultures and societies evolve. The personal tragedy of the Cohen family was that the hospital did not provide an interpreter to Sam or his wife Fanny, or allow their bicultural son to communicate with the doctors after Sam’s heart attack.

What I Thought: “Train go sorry” is a Deaf idiom for “missing the boat, missed connections, lost opportunities”. This book is an impassioned plea for the civil rights of Deaf culture. The Deaf should be the ones to decide what is best for them instead of being expected to conform to hearing culture or communicating like hearing people. About 1 in 20 Americans are Deaf or hard of hearing (deaf). There are over 4 million Deaf people in the United States. Sign language is used by about 70 million people worldwide and is the fourth most used language. ASL is accepted by many schools for fulfillment of foreign language requirements.

Still many Deaf people feel isolated! Deaf Melissa testified that she had first attended a hearing school then transferred to a deaf school. At the hearing school she was isolated, shy, and passive, unable to participate. In the deaf school, her participation soared as cheerleader, peer counselor, choreographer, and as the lead in the Deaf school play.

The Deaf like all people yearn for connection. But they find themselves confined to the small world of those who know ASL. You can make the world of the Deaf larger by learning ASL. The Yuma County Library District have books and DVDs for learning ASL. Look at the eyes! Use peripheral vision for the hands. Join a Deaf Club!

Readalikes: Deaf Again, Children of a Lesser God, The Mask of Benevolence: Disabling the Deaf Community, When the Mind Hears

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Elia Juarez

What I Read: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: This book really tells two separate but intertwined stories. The first is a murder mystery, while the second tells the story of the earliest days of the Mormon church in the United States.

The murder mystery goes like this: a young man who was raised in a Fundamentalist Mormon family that practices polygamy is kicked out of his home as a child. Many years later, as an adult, he learns that his mother (who is wife #19 of MANY) has been arrested for the murder of his father, and he must decide whether he wants to return home to help her.

At the same time, we slowly learn the story of Anne Eliza Young, one of famed prophet Ann Eliza Young, who was also a 19th wife. Through her eyes, we learn about the beginnings of the church in America, and get some background on why the polygamist practices of the fundamentalists, were outlawed by the mainstream church.

What I Thought: I found the book to be interesting and engrossing, but I found myself getting much more sucked in by the Anne Eliza Young side of the story, and not as much by the modern-day mystery of the murder. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I tend to read a lot of historical fiction, or maybe it’s because I knew so little about the history of the Mormon church before I started this book, but I found myself wanting to rush through the chapters set in the present to return to the 1800s and Anne Eliza’s story.

The wrap-up of the murder mystery also seemed a bit rushed to me.

Still, I definitely enjoyed the book and would most certainly recommend it.

Readalikes: The Sister Wife by Dianne Noble, Wife No. 19 by Anne Eliza Young

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Grand Tour by Rich Kienzle

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Grand Tour: the Life and Music of George Jones by Rich Kienzle

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: When George Jones died in 2013 at the age of 81, he was widely acclaimed as the greatest country music singer ever.  More importantly, in his later years he had finally conquered most of his personal demons and addictions with the loving support of his wife Nancy Sepulvado.  George Jones’ recovery did not come easily, however.  His life story is full of the pathos and melodrama of his greatest songs, and Rich Kienzle recounts these personal struggles in the context of Jones’ legendary musical career.  Alcoholism destroyed the first two marriages, while the infamous third marriage to singer Tammy Wynette had the added burdens of Jones’ cocaine habit and Wynette’s personal and physical problems.  Due to poor financial management—including several attempts at establishing country music theme parks—Jones faced financial ruin on numerous occasions.  At the darkest point in the late 1970s, Jones was living in his car and was unable to get concert bookings due to his “No Show Jones” reputation.  Astonishingly, he recorded his masterpiece, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” during this period of his life.

What I Thought: I have read numerous articles and liner notes by Rich Kienzle, so I approached this book with an appreciation for the author’s expertise and critical acumen.  The temptation in writing a George Jones biography is to dwell on the well-known sordid and sensational episodes, such as the time he rode his lawn mower to the liquor store after his second wife took away his car keys.  Kienzle shares this story and other painful, unflattering ones, but he balances these with his masterful descriptions of George Jones’ music.  By tracing Jones’ long recording career with numerous record companies and producers, Kienzle does an admirable job of explaining why so many of Jones’ peers rank him as the greatest county singer.  Detailed explanations are given of specific songs, songwriters, session musicians, and duet partners.  These sections of the book were particularly enlightening to me—and they even prompted me to go back and give a fresh listen to the great music of George Jones.

Readalikes: He Stopped Loving Her Today : George Jones, Billy Sherrill, and the Pretty-much Totally True story of the Making of the Greatest Country Record of All Time by Jack Isenhour; Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Talia is a member of the Valdemar citizenry who live along the eastern border called Holderfolk. Holderfolk keep to themselves living in a patriarchal family system with women subjugated by the men in their lives. They live day to day following orders and completing tasks of their fathers and his wives.

When confronted by her family at the age of 13 that she is to begin the process of marriage, Talia is terrified. Her only other option is to be cloistered, giving up her own livelihood to prayer and the church. So Talia does what any youth in her situation would do with only unfavorably options given in their future. She becomes a runaway and seeks solitude from her family and others while she thinks about where she will take her life next.

Talia, while hiding, is confronted by a Companion. Companions are mystical creatures linked throughout Valdemar history to Heralds. She soon finds herself bareback riding the Companion back to the capital in hopes to return it for some kind of compensation. Instead she is made a Herald at the royal court after she rescues the Companion and trained as a Herald. During her training she soon uncovers a plot to seize the throne and Talia must use her newly trained empathic powers to save the queen.

What I Thought: This is the first of the Valdemar books written by Mercedes Lackey. It sets the tone and flow for every other Kingdom of Valdemar book in publication by Mercedes Lackey and does a good job of presenting and summarizing the basics for any reader of her books. The Kingdom of Valdemar is a complex communal system of checks and balances run by a King or Queen (who has to be a Herald) and Heralds and their Companions who ride circuits around the kingdom working with its citizenry.

I didn’t start with Arrows of the Queen in the Valdemar books and had to learn through 5-6 novels the ins and outs of how Valdemar society works and was shaped by its complex history. I recommend starting from the beginning and working your way forward so you don’t have to backtrack in the readings. There are many concepts and ideologies associated with the books and the functions of its many characters. If you don’t start from the beginning I would suggest a healthy dose of Medieval European history and a lot of high fantasy novels with a focus on magic or pscionics a.k.a. mind magic. Just flexing my inner geek for you.

Mercedes Lackey loves to tackle social norms and controversial topics in today’s society. One of the things I like to see in her writing is how she approaches clashes between characters in relation to something like controversial family relationships and governance, same sex relations, and things we still take for granted 19 years later.

One thing I can tell you about the book is that Talia is your typical female protagonist for a fantasy. She has her own set of social and emotional cuts she tries to hide from others. The traumas from her past life and the expectations she has for her every action shapes and defines her character and personality. She is difficult to get to like sometimes but that’s part of her struggle and the life she once had. Relationships come hard to her and reaching out even harder. It takes the character a long time to open out and accept new emotions and feelings, but when she does it opens up a new talent within her to connect with others. This is a very strong and encouraging aspect of Arrows of the Queen and helps progress the story.

If you like violence and conflict this book isn’t for you. The message and execution is a subtle thing that drives this series. There are times when description is vivid but it is done in a tasteful fashion.

I recommend this for High Fantasy readers and older teenagers who find that there isn’t enough substance in YA novels. Enjoy!

Readalikes: Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne; based on characters by J.K. Rowling

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Albus Potter, son of Harry Potter, is miserable. He doesn't feel his famous father understands him, he got sorted into Slytherin - a House he hates - and his only friend Scorpius is rumored to be the son of the Dark Lord. When the two boys hear of something they can do to try and change their world for the better, they seize the moment, but may in fact be making things worse...

What I Thought: Despite being the eighth installment in the Harry Potter series, this screenplay would have worked better as a standalone story about a boy growing up with a famous father. As-is, it's written itself into a corner: the plot hinges on young Albus Potter's frustrations at living in his father's shadow, but it's not allowed to ever fully become Albus's story - the title isn't Albus Potter and the Cursed Child for good reason. The climax of the story hinges completely on Harry's personal trauma, and events from Harry's life are frequently revisited (sometimes physically) by the characters.

The plot and many of the characterizations also read like fan fiction: full of cameos, trivia, full redemption arcs for fan-favorite characters, and a villainness with a completely unbelievable backstory. The moral of the story, that "anyone can become anything if circumstances were different", also flies completely in the face of the Harry Potter novels' focus on personal choice. This is not a Harry Potter story. It's an anti-Harry Potter story starring the cast of Harry Potter.

All of which is unfortunate, because the two new protagonists, Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy, are delightful. Both sound very believably like teenagers - their banter is great - and the "anyone can become anything" theme isn't a bad idea in and of itself, just one at odds with the world of Harry Potter in the novels. The screenplay is also very good at "show, don't tell" for evoking how miserable Albus is: its use of short vignettes to show time passing is very powerful, as incident upon incident piles on Albus until he reaches a breaking point. I would very, very happily read a seven-novel series about Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy. Just maybe not one with this plot. Or where Albus's dad still manages to get his name in the title.

Recommended, ironically enough, more for casual fans of Harry Potter than diehard ones.

Readalikes: The Magicians by Lev Grossman, for more "gritty" fantasy; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, for a pair of main characters that should appeal to fans of Albus and Scorpius.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Arena by Holly Jennings

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Arena by Holly Jennings

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The year is 2054, and virtual gaming (eSports) has overtaken traditional sporting events worldwide. Millions of viewers tune in worldwide to get a glimpse of arena death matches featuring gamer turned athletes. Team Defiance is one such team, led by Kali Ling, who are fighting in the RAGE Tournaments to be this year’s champions. Gamers live every day dying and coming back to life like gods to appease viewers and sponsors alike. Every player is a modern digital gladiator wielding weapons and wearing armor.

The pain is real and the brutality extreme, and has made the public numb to outrageous acts of violence. Kali Ling is an exceptional fighter. Coined ‘The Warrior’, she is the first female captain to lead a team in the RAGE tournament. Is the task before her to difficult? Can she deal with the realities of the sport? When a tragic event happens during the tournament, can Kali find herself again in time to get herself and her team back into competitive form? Virtual gaming is much more than it appears, the truth is being hidden and not everything is as it seems for those not involved with the fighting.

What I Thought: This is Holly Jennings's debut novel as a writer. Both the concept and subject reflect current trends popping up in our society and changes affecting our culture as we move on from the age of millennial gamers into the 21st century. Virtual Reality gaming has just hit the markets and a story about its use is well planned for a writer. As a new writer, Jennings is just getting into the industry and has some lacking elements in her work as she explores her possible future in the story. The evolution of her characters and their interactions are well established and you can relate to their shortcomings and personalities when describing an avid gamer or athlete. She does a great job of blending the two together for the purpose of the story.

The action on the other hand is lacking. Jennings touches on the combat and brutality of the sport but never goes into full detail of the situation. When someone cuts into someone else, is there sensation, is there a change in personality, what else can happen to those involved? In Arena the characters in a sense become numb to the violence. There is little difference or variation between one gamer and another as they compete. I would have liked to see her delve deeper into what happens because of sport and the violence. Even with what is expected of gamers for sponsors and the fans, the addition of drinking and drug use just blurs the differences between reality and the virtual world. I would have also liked her to go a little bit more into the aspect of the combat, the styles, tactics, and uses of each. Combat in the tournament matches was extremely fast and was overshadowed by the challenges of Kali and the team. So much so that at times it was forgotten and I had to go back and read them again to remember what happened.

A bright spot in the story was Kali’s interactions with her team and the challenge that is the sport and the image she is being forced to play by her boss and sponsors. The conflict hits close to home and some of the more controversial aspects of professional sports we see today in Boxing and MMA when fighters interact with media and the spotlight.

This is one of my first science fiction titles that I have read with a focus on sports and virtual reality. The conflict is there but more background and research into the effects of gaming and violent sports would have made the story more convincing. I liked the concept and the approach, but I think it needed more detailed information for the reader to push them closer to the problem and message. The romance was light and has teenage tones of relationship which was good. I don’t like romance in books to overshadow the conflict that the main character is facing and the focus of the book.

Recommend for older teens and adult readers who actively read science fiction. Once again this story has a strong female character which the story revolves around and I think it help move and shape events. Enjoy!

Readalikes: This is Not a Game by Williams, Walter Jon

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Elia Juarez

What I Read: Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Gated tells the story of Lyla, a 17-year-old who has been living in a doomsday cult known as the Community since she was 5 years old. The cult’s leader, Pioneer, came into her family’s life shortly after Lyla’s little sister Karen was kidnapped and convinced her emotionally vulnerable parents that the world was soon to end, and the only way to be saved is to move to the Community and prepare for the arrival of “The Bretheren,” a race of aliens who came to Pioneer in visions and foretold the end times.

12 years later, the Community’s members have been stockpiling weapons, food and other provisions inside of a huge underground silo, where they plan to move on the day Pioneer believes the earth will begin to end. Shortly before this happens, though, Lyla meets some people from the outside world – a local sheriff and his son Cody, who begin to raise doubts in her mind about the things Pioneer has been preaching all this time, which of course does NOT make Pioneer or the other members of the community happy.

What I Thought: I found the book quite entertaining. It’s outside of the realm of what I normally like to read, since it is realistic fiction and I like to read mostly fantasy and dystopia. Still, it was an interesting enough premise to keep me reading. Because it’s told from the point of view of someone living inside of a cult situation, you get a unique understanding of why otherwise seemingly normal and intelligent people would let themselves get sucked in to something so bizarre, as well as getting the perspective of someone who didn’t really have the choice to join, since her parents brought her into this lifestyle before she was old enough to know any better.

Look this book up on NoveList!

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 6

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Wow! We have a bumper crop of new reviews for the last week of the 2016 Summer Reading Program! Thanks to everyone for sending in their reviews. We will contact the winner of the last $10 gift card later this week. 

Here are the last patron reviews of SRP 2016!

Reviewed By: Mary H.
What I ReadWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Find It @ YCLDHere!

What I ThoughtBased in Seattle, about a mom dealing with a nervous breakdown. Very funny read.

Reviewed By: Jeanette W.
What I ReadThe Sackett Brand by Louis L'Amour
Find It @ YCLDHere!

What I ThoughtWhat a great book! Tell Sackett is heading west with his new bride when he is attacked, his wife murdered, and his outfit burned. He is a hunted man as he sets out to find the man who killed his wife. I love that this is a clean book with no foul language or sex. I for sure want to read more about the Sacketts.

Reviewed By: Linda P.
What I Read: Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI enjoyed this book. It was a good mystery. I can't imagine what I would do if my child could not be found in the chaos of a shooting.

Reviewed By: Linda P.
What I Read: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtAt first you think Ove is just an old, cranky, man who complains about everything and everyone, but by the end of the book you will wish that you could be more like Ove.

Reviewed By: Linda P.
What I Read: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI enjoyed this book but when I was nearing the end I couldn't help feel a sense of relief to have finished the book.

Reviewed By: Tom B.
What I Read: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtThis book was laugh out loud funny. By going on a journey through the main historical events of the 20th century, Allan Karlsson has certainly lived an eventful, out of the ordinary, crazy life.

Reviewed By: Tom B.
What I Read: The Smoke Is Rising by Mahesh Rao

What I ThoughtI was disappointed with this. I didn't think this went together as a novel. The parts telling the story of a few main characters were fragmented, but well written. But the parts that were involved with the local 'politics' were tedious.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI think it's interesting that the main character, Rachel, challenges us to think about how much we assume about--and pre-judge--other people based on our limited knowledge of them. To feel pity, disgust, frustration, compassion, and so much more for one character is a rare thing.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought I found this book superficial and, at times, even boring.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI found it to be jumpy and often disjointed. I am not a fan of the current trend of devoting one chapter to one character and the next to another and flipping back and forth.

Reviewed By: Joann B.
What I Read: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought It was a good book but, I found the orphan trains to be an interesting and horrifying time in our history.

Reviewed By: Sue H.
What I Read: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtI loved this book! It gave me a lot of information that I did not know.

Reviewed By: Sue H.
What I Read: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtThis is a great book. It is one of those that make a person ponder what they would do in such a situation.

Reviewed By: Deb D.
What I Read: Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone by Terry Greene Stirling
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I ThoughtThis book was written in 2010. I found it interesting that the immigration debate is still going on now in Arizona. It clearly showed the struggles of the people on both sides of the story. It was a very personal book because the stories were about real people who were interviewed by the writer. It shared stories about the lives of people in Mexico, crossing the border, their stays in Phoenix and Arizona and the return home by some either by choice or deportation.

Reviewed By: Wendy P.
What I Read: Hidden Talent by Blanca D'Arc

What I ThoughtIn this Sci-fi romance life changes drastically for the main character when she is found hidden in a colony of alien horse trainers. Psychic abilities are unleashed and desires are unbelievable in this alien culture.

Reviewed By: Tammy T.
What I Read: 39 Clues: Nowhere to Run by Jude Watson
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: Just when Dan and Amy thought their life would return to normal, a new enemy has discovered the serum. He's trying to become the President while eliminating the kids. This was a great way to extend the series. It was a page turner and I had a hard time putting it down.

Reviewed By: Jenice H.
What I Read: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: I was surprise how different it was from the movie. It did have some same parts but in different places. I liked it, it was like picturing another movie in my head.

Reviewed By: Jenice H.
What I Read: Under Their Sky by Margaret Peterson Haddix

What I Thought: I liked so much that I can't wait for the second book to come out. It was mysterious, adventurous, surprised me every time, wouldn't expect what would come out next.

Reviewed By: Charlotte M.
What I Read: The Martian by Andy Weir
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: Very easy read. It was funny & kept me interested. There was a good amount of science to it, but it was written in a way that was easy to follow & understand.

Reviewed By: Sandra C.
What I Read: In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Find It @ YCLD: Here!

What I Thought: Great literature! This book made me get my confidence back as a stay-at-home mom. Made me realize the importance of my presence for my family. My role as a stay-at-home mom is more valuable than any amount of money I can get at a job. I am my

Thanks again to everyone for sending in reviews this summer; having multiple perspectives on some of the same books this week was especially fun. Keep reading the Staff Picks blog all year round, and we'll open it up to patron submissions again next year!

0 comments:

Monday, July 11, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 5

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


There's one more week to participate in the Adult Summer Reading Program at the Yuma County Library District! Sign up at any library to receive a Reading Log. Read three books (or attend library programs) to be entered in a drawing to win a Kindle Fire. Complete a Reading Championship Challenge for another shot at the prize. Or write a book review for a chance at a gift card! Here's this week's entries:

Reviewed By: Mary H.
What I Read: That Summer by Lauren Willig
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: This book was about a young woman as just pieces together her past. It was a light read for me and I enjoyed it.

Reviewed By: Wendy P.
What I Read: Rena Drake by Liliana Hart
What I ThoughtThis book has a strong main character. Action packed with a reluctant love interest and internal conflicts from distinctional family members definitely keeps you turning pages. Oh by the way did I mention the main characters are dragons?!

Reviewed By: Wendy P.
What I Read: The Dragon and the Princess by Jo Beverley
What I ThoughtA joy to read. A very creative blend of Renascence type settings mixed with the authors own dragon creation. Great read with minimal sex scenes and a focus on honoring one's commitments to the greater good of others verses self.

A big "thank you" to everyone who's sent a review thus far. How many can we get for our last week?

0 comments:

Monday, July 4, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 4

Posted by Rebecca Brendel



















Happy Fourth of July! This is also the fourth week of Summer Reading, and we've received quite a few reviews this week. Thanks to everyone who's send a review in thus far! Don't forget - you can submit as many as you'd like for multiple entries into our weekly raffle.

Reviewed by: Whitney K.
What I Read: Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: This is the first book of the Drake Chronicles. It is about the preparation of 16-year-old Solage Drake's Blood Change. This is when she will join her parents & brothers as vampires. Solage & her best friend Lucy are always getting into dangerous situations. There is a prophecy that says after the Blood Change Solage will be the vampire queen. Because of this many want to kill Solage or marry her. This book is a page turner & leaves you looking for more.

Reviewed by: Wendy U.
What I Read: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: Speak was about a teenage girl who was friendless because she called the police to a party. A year passed until the truth was "spoken". She had been raped at the party and was too afraid to tell.
This is an excellent book for teens or women of any age. It may help the reader understand that letting your voice be heard is the first step in dealing with the crime and starting the healing process. It's ending helps her realize she was not alone and voices needed to be heard for a change to occur and the predator to pay.

Reviewed by: Celina L.
What I Read: Tinker Bell & the Pirate Fairy by Tea Orsi
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: Zarina got in trouble for misusing the pixie dust. Zarina tried one last experiment and the results don't disappoint her at all. The pixie dust turns change. She shares her experiment with Tinker Bell. She flew away and left Pixie Hole behind. One year past. And every fairy gathered to celebrate the Four Seasons Festival and a fairy entered through the back.

Reviewed by: Wendy P.
What I Read: Dominated by Maya Banks
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I ThoughtThis book is a sequel to Mastered. I was enthralled by the characters. Evangeline is a well thought out character. I even cried on her behalf. This book is erotic fiction and not for the easily offended.

Did you spend any of your Independence Day with a good book? Let us know!

0 comments:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Week 3

Posted by Rebecca Brendel



Thanks to Ailyn G. for this week's review! Don't forget - you can submit your own review here for a chance to win a gift card. Every week there's a different winner!

Reviewed by: Ailyn G.
What I Read: Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Find It @ YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: This book details the lives of two twins that are victims of child abuse. It appears a bit sadistic at first, but it actually serves as a great eye-opener to the struggles of child abuse and mental illness. The second time I read this narrative, it was easier to see the brutality of this mental illness and how it forms part of someone's life without anyone noticing the damage it causes if left untreated.

There's still plenty of time to sign up for the Adult Summer Reading Program - reading three books, attending three library programs, or any combination of both earns you a chance to win a Kindle Fire. Plus take our "Reading Championship Challenge" for another shot at the prize. We'd love to see all of Yuma "exercising their minds" this summer by reading!



0 comments:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Patron Picks! Summer Reading 2016 - Weeks 1 & 2

Posted by Rebecca Brendel



Summer Reading is well underway in Yuma!  Don't forget - you can submit your own reviews for a chance to win a gift card. There's a different winner every week! Just fill in the form here or ask for a book review log at any Information Desk.

Here's our first book review of the summer:

Reviewed by: Wendy P.
What I Read: Lord Sunday by Garth Nix
Find it at YCLD: Here!
What I Thought: This was the final book in the keys to the kingdom series. I was taken in by the authors fantasy of how creation was brought about and the workers behind the scenes however the end result of a creator bent on suicide for lack of a better term left me with a feeling of being let down not only because of how it ended but saddened to know Whether while trying to help all was tricked into immortality.

Thanks, Wendy! Keep checking the Yuma Staff Picks blog all summer for more patron reviews.

0 comments:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Portrait of a Teacher by Ruth Leedy Gordon

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: Portrait of a Teacher: Mary Elizabeth Post 1841-1934 by Ruth Leedy Gordon

Find It @YCLD: Here!

Note: On June 17 at 11:00 a.m., the Main Library will host a celebration of Mary Elizabeth Post’s 175th birthday.  Local historian Carol Brooks will be the presenter.

What It's About:  Mary Elizabeth Post was a significant pioneer in Yuma’s history due to her forty-plus year teaching career and her lifelong community involvement in civic and church affairs.  When she died at the age of 93, she was still a member of the library board of trustees!

Author Ruth Gordon was a registered nurse who moved to Yuma in 1921.  She befriended Mary Elizabeth Post during the retired teacher’s final years.  Over the course of these 13 years, Gordon compiled notes from her countless conversations with Miss Post in preparation for writing a biography.  In 1938 the author presented her completed manuscript to the University of Arizona library.  However, the book was not published until 1990 when Ruth Gordon’s daughter Janet edited and published the version which is now held by the Yuma County Library District.

Portrait of a Teacher tracks Mary Elizabeth Post’s westward relocation from Vermont—first to Iowa for a few years, and then on to Arizona.  The account of Miss Post’s grueling trip by stage from San Diego to Ehrenberg is particularly colorful, as are the stories of the young Eastern teacher’s adjustments to her overwhelming culture shock.  For example, unlike most Yuma women at that time, Miss Post was a follower of the latest fashions and was particularly fond of fine hats.  She was a talented seamstress, and she eventually taught many local women to sew from patterns.

The book is not only a biography of Mary Elizabeth Post, but also an informal history of Yuma’s early growth—as remembered by an elderly, longtime resident.  Some of the topics addressed include the coming of the railroad, the building of roads and bridges, floods, newspaper rivalries, lively election campaigns, and, of course, the growth of Yuma’s schools.  Ruth Gordon recounts such events within the context of Mary Elizabeth Post’s life.  The author’s affection and admiration for her subject come through clearly, even when she pokes gentle fun at Miss Post’s “precise and sometimes obstinate manner.”

What I Thought:  Although Ruth Gordon was not a polished, professional author, she produced a biography of her friend Mary Elizabeth Post that is pleasantly readable and full of charming anecdotes about Miss Post and early Yuma.  Some of Gordon’s depictions of ethnic groups are not politically correct by today’s standards, but with that caveat, I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Yuma’s early history.

Readalikes:  Early Yuma by Rosalie Crowe; Vanished Arizona by Martha Summerhayes

Or look this book up on NoveList!

0 comments:

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Blameless by Gail Carriger

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Blameless by Gail Carriger

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Lady Alexia Maccon is a "preternatural", a woman born without a soul who can turn supernatural creatures mortal just by touching them. This is the third book of her adventures in a tongue-in-cheek, alternate version of the Victorian era, centering primarily upon an announcement of her pregnancy in the London gossip columns. Such rumormongering would be embarrassing enough on its own - Alexia shouldn't be capable of having a child with her husband, a werewolf, who refuses to believe the child is his - but the vampires of London fear what powers the baby might possess and are, as a result, out to kill her. Alexia may even have to flee as far as Italy, where she hears they drink (horror upon horrors!) coffee instead of tea.

What I Thought: In case the summary doesn't make it clear enough, this is not a book - or a universe - that takes itself seriously. Characters stand on propriety even when engaged in the most outlandishly swashbuckling feats, a carriage is attacked by a swarm of homicidal mechanical ladybugs, and a running gag develops where Alexia discovers a fondness for pesto (which is useful for repelling both vampires and werewolves - the garlic for the vampires, the basil for the werewolves). The humor is also, however, the primary reason to read the book: the dissonance between being placed in mortal peril and wishing one's opponents would politely state their murderous intentions, for example, makes action scenes laugh-out-loud funny instead of just thrilling, and everyone's fixation on tea is a fun parody of what's come to be seen as Victorian mores and manners. The characters also endear themselves immediately if you're in the mood for whimsy - Alexia is a thickset woman who wields a modified parasol as her weapon of choice, for example. There's a lot to like here if you're looking for beach reading.

Unfortunately, though everyone is amusing and charismatic, they're also (by and large) stereotypes. The foppish gay vampire may be hiding a brilliant mind behind that ridiculous facade, and may care deeply for each of the young men he's cultivated as "drones", but he's still both flamboyant and polygamous; the German scientist who studies preternaturals like Alexia may own a ridiculous, yappy, tiny dog, but he's still ultimately a mad scientist who treats his subjects as specimens and not as people. Carriger does a good enough job of making everybody likable (even the villains, usually through the use of more well-timed humor) for this not to grate as much as it might in other books, but it's present. A few notable characters buck conventions, however: Lord Maccon may be the brawny, proud Alpha of his werewolf pack, but his Beta is a compassionate, diplomatic "professor" who breeds sheep in his spare time. Overall, I'd recommend this book to fans of historical and comedic fantasy - especially those who prefer their supernatural creatures banding witty quips about instead of brooding.

Readalikes: The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, for more humorous fantasy; the Immortal Empire series by Kate Locke, for more funny (if more gruesome) supernatural antics in Victorian England.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

0 comments:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Orion Plan by Mark Alpert

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: The Orion Plan by Mark Alpert

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: “Scientists thought we were safe from invasion. The distance between stars is so great that it seemed impossible for even the most advanced civilizations to send a large spaceship from one star system to another. But now, a species - a planet - other than our own has found a way.

An unassuming probe from another star system lands in an empty corner of New York City and drills into the ground underneath, drawing electricity from the power lines to jumpstart its automated expansion. When it's discovered, it injects nanodevices into those people unlucky enough to come near it. The devices migrate to the brains of the victims and influence their behavior, forcing them to perform tasks that will assist the probe as it prepares for an alien colonization. When the government proves slow to react, a NASA scientist realizes he must lead the effort to stop the probe before it becomes too powerful.”  – From the Publisher

What I Thought: I have to tell you first that I haven’t read many science fiction thrillers in the past. So, I have very little background knowledge I can use to judge this book based on what I have read in other titles.

The Orion Plan piqued my interest because of the real science research the author used to write the material around his story. I enjoy reading stories that use and twist real historical events to weave a tale either mundane or fantastical. The author does a very good job of sticking to the science used in the novel and applying it to the events that unfold. However, in doing so, the story does tend to drag in parts to provide an explanation of what is being discussed. When the action does start, the start moves quickly.

I wouldn’t call this book a thriller so much as an urban contemporary science fiction story with elements of history. General thrillers are sinister and dark and suck you into the conflict that is unfolding one piece of the puzzle at a time. The Orion Plan does propel you forward and guide you along a journey but it never truly sucks you in for the ride.

The adventure and dialogue are interesting and well put-together. The characters are believable and show the many faults of humanity and how we cope with both our everyday stresses and how people respond to insurmountable obstacles.

If you would like an interesting story involving science fiction themes, a good plot, and characters you can almost relate to, then this is your read. I would give the book three stars for the story and the breakdown of the content, but I could never really get into the characters and how the author used them in the story. I did find it to be a quick read and enjoyable to the end. Make your own assumptions about the book and enjoy the adventure.

Readalikes: Prey by Michael Crichton 

Or look this book up on NoveList!

0 comments:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Laurie Boone

What I Read: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: An unnamed young man is interviewing the vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac. The vampire recounts the story of his life before, during and after he was made a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt in 1791 New Orleans.

What I Thought: I wanted to re-read this before reading the latest book in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Prince Lestat. This May 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Interview with the Vampire. I’m so glad I read it again because now I’m psyched to read the remaining four leading up to Prince Lestat. I have missed this kind of complex and gothic, yet luxurious style of horror writing. The vampires of the fiction sub-genre of paranormal romance have got nothing on Louis, Lestat, and Armand as they grapple with the nature of good and evil.

Readalikes: Luckily there are five books in the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. Also add Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, which has been made into two movies and a London stage production.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

0 comments:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Legends Club by John Feinstein

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry by John Feinstein

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Although John Feinstein’s career began with a classic basketball book, A Season on the Brink, these days the Golf Channel contributor more frequently writes about golf.  In The Legends Club, Feinstein returns to his roots with a nostalgic, bittersweet look back at the glory days of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball in the 1980s and beyond.

When Jim Valvano and “Coach K” took their head coaching positions at North Carolina State and Duke in 1980, Dean Smith had already established the North Carolina program as a perennial NCAA powerhouse.  Valvano and Krzyzewski had the ability and audacity to take on Dean Smith, but their early experiences were not very successful.  In fact, Coach K came very close to getting fired in his second year with the Blue Devils.  Today he’s still at Duke as the winningest coach in Division One history.

In addition to retracing Coach K’s journey to that pinnacle of coaching achievement, The Legends Club also includes many exciting game and tournament accounts, as well as fascinating stories about the sometimes contentious interactions among the three coaches.  John Feinstein is a Duke graduate and a personal friend of Mike Krzyzewski.  He openly admits a Duke “bias,” but he also writes movingly of Coach Valvano’s 1983 national championship, as well as his brave, public battle with cancer ten years later.  And he writes admiringly of Coach Smith’s brilliant basketball innovations and his unwavering loyalty to his players.

What I Thought:  Although John Feinstein’s The Legends Club is a very enjoyable sports book, readers should not expect an expose of big-time college basketball.  Feinstein points out personal quirks and foibles of the three coaches, but he is clearly an admirer of all three men, as well as being a fan of ACC basketball.  The book does drag a bit after Valvano and Smith exit the story—due to Valvano’s death and to Smith’s retirement and later death from Alzheimer’s complications.  The final few chapters recount recent Duke basketball history in a fairly perfunctory narrative that lacks the drama of the earlier chapters.  Overall, however, Feinstein gives the reader fine portrayals of these three legendary coaches and the high-stakes environment in which they competed so successfully.

Readalikes: Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein;  Glory Road: My Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship by Don Haskins.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

0 comments:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The D'Artigo sisters are half-human and half-Faerie operatives from the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But their mixed-blood heritage short-circuits their talents at all the wrong times.  One sister, Delilah, is a shapeshifter who can turn into a tabby cat. Another, Menolly, is a vampire who's still trying to get the hang of being undead.  And the last sister is Camille--a witch.  Except her magic is as unpredictable as the weather, which her enemies soon find out the hard way...

What I Thought: Being a fan almost exclusively of high fantasy or urban fantasy contemporary fiction, when I first got introduced to this series I was skeptical whether I would like it at all. As with all series of books, the first always has a lot of character and worldbuilding involved to set the tone and pace. Galenorn does a great job of fleshing out each sister’s personality, starting with Camille in the first book. She’s sexy and flirtatious but has a sharp edge to her personality and relationships. This is an urban contemporary fiction but has strong romantic tones and distinctly different character types. One of the best themes included with each character is the inclusion of flaws and quirks that make them unique or stand out. It contrasts well with the three sisters because they are inherently flawed from the start due to their dual natures.

The action is fast-paced and hits hard on the emotional side of the conflict in which Camille and her sisters become involved. If you like mystery or thriller themed books, Witchling has elements of each as the story progresses. However, the actual description of the fights can lack at times or be very brief with more emphasis on the end result and the condition of the characters afterwards.

If you like a story with strong ties between the characters you will certainly enjoy the interaction as the first book unfolds and in later books of the “Otherworld Series”. As I mentioned before there are strong romantic scenes in this book and later on in the series. If you are looking for a light romance or Christian romance this is not the book for you. There are adult themes throughout and the content and language matches these themes. There are also themes not commonly talked about or viewed as normal in the series related to relationships and archetypes in families; sometimes it can be hard to like the characters if you don’t have an open mind.

I really enjoy these books as a contrast to other series I read that either have strong negative tones or dark content. Whichling and the following books, even if they can be emotional at times, leave you refreshed or excited to read the next book in the series. I recommend this series for adult readers.

Readalikes: The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Or look this book up on NoveList!

1 comments:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Verbal Judo by George J. Thompson, Ph. D & Jerry B. Jenkins

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: José Beltrán

What I Read: Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion by George J. Thompson, Ph.D & Jerry B. Jenkins

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The power of the word! Effective communication is so much more than what you say. The messenger is more likely to be killed for the way the message is delivered than for the actual message. The tone of your voice, your pace, pitch and body language, your sincerity, and your caring matters. Angry words spoken in haste cause wounds that fester and may never heal. You can avoid becoming part of the problem! Judo means the gentle way. Do not resist, keep calm, and redirect the negative energy. The purpose of Verbal Judo (martial art of mind and mouth) is to help you build and maintain your relationships with your family, friends and strangers.

What I Thought: This book demonstrates how to be a communications warrior. It shows how to redirect negative energy in order to keep you calm by deflecting verbal abuse through giving empathy. “Look good, sound good, or no good.” This book is most definitely not about humiliating and putting people down.

Readalikes: Tongue Fu! How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict. The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work

Or look this book up on NoveList!

0 comments:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Luz and Ray are squatting in an abandoned mansion in Southern California after a natural disaster has wiped out most of the water supply. They're free yet aimless, and when they find themselves responsible for a toddler they've rescued from an abusive situation, staying put no longer seems feasible. Yet many obstacles - natural, man-made, and internal - stand between them and a better, wetter world...

What I Thought: Gold Fame Citrus is a book you read for its words and its world - surreal and mythological, punctuated by short stories that flesh out the mysterious sea of sand encroaching on what had been Los Angeles. The barren beauty of the prose matches the setting well, and the book's metaphorical components work both as symbols and as fun bits of weirdness in and of themselves. Watkins' two main characters also feel pleasingly real; I could relate to both Luz and Ray even when they succumbed to their own individual weaknesses.

The second half of the book, however, is much weaker than the first, relying more heavily on cliches and tropes from post-apocalyptic fiction. Watkins has done an amazing job setting up her world, but once she gets down to populating it with people other than her central trio (Luz, Ray, and baby "Ig") she doesn't seem quite certain where to go from there. That impression might be my own expectations betraying me, however - I was expecting more of a travel story/Odyssey once Luz and Ray set out on their journey, and when the second half of the book ended up centering around just one stop, in a cult headed by a mystic who claims to be a dowser capable of finding water in the sand dunes, I was disappointed. Gold Fame Citrus did a terrific job at evoking a mood, however, and for that I still recommend it to anyone who wants to be transported to a world both strange and familiar.

Readalikes: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block, for more survivors of a ruined, poetic world; The Water Knife by Paolo Bachigalupi, for more fiction about the Southwest and its coming water crisis

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The Winning of Barbara Worth is a bestselling novel from 1911. Author Harold Bell Wright was living in the Imperial Valley when he researched and wrote the novel.  Its subject is the “taming of the West,” and its setting and plot were based on actual contemporary events surrounding the reclamation of the Imperial Valley desert via the damming of the Colorado River.  (Rubio City of Wright’s novel is based on Yuma, Arizona.)  The novel contains a love story in which Barbara Worth will be “won” by either Abe Lee, an uneducated but hard-working Western surveyor, or by Willard Holmes, an educated but soft Eastern engineer.  It also contains a showdown between Jefferson Worth, an honorable Western banker, and James Greenfield, an amoral Eastern speculator.

What I Thought: Wright’s novels were not critically acclaimed when they were released, and they have been largely forgotten today.  They have often been dismissed as being didactic and sentimental.  By containing characters meant to “represent” good and bad aspects of human nature, Wright’s writing is particularly open to complaints about wooden and unrealistic characters.  Wright was a former Disciples of Christ pastor whose vocation shifted from the pulpit to what he called “the ministry of print.”  He unapologetically aimed to provide his readers with moral lessons that upheld traditional (and rural) values in the face of an increasingly urban, modern society.  As America’s most popular writer in the decade between 1910 and 1920, Wright tapped into a widespread longing for the values and ideals espoused in his books.  I enjoyed reading this old fashioned, dated novel, not only because of the Yuma connection, but because the events of the novel unfold in an entertaining, dramatic fashion.  The Winning of Barbara Worth is not a literary classic, but primarily for historical interest, it is well worth reading.

The Winning of Barbara Worth was one of the Yuma Carnegie Library’s most popular titles when the library first opened 95 years ago.  For this reason, the Heritage Library will host a discussion program about the novel and its author on March 31 at 10:30 a.m. Please join us!

Readalikes: The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright; Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Book 1 of the Iron Druid Chronicles)

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Atticus O'Sullivan, the last of the Druids, finds his peaceful life in Arizona shattered by the arrival of an angry Celtic god. He will stop at nothing to take an ancient magical sword from Atticus's possession.  A looming battle forces Atticus to call upon some unlikely allies for help. The battle pulls Atticus back into the spotlight of others' forces he was avoiding or running from for hundreds of years.

What I Thought: I didn’t know what to expect with this series.  Two of my friends had read it a while back so I thought I would give it a try.  If you’re a fan of urban contemporary fantasy fiction like I am, then this book is for you. The writing is similar to Jim Butcher with a little more emphasis on the history and mythological aspects of our world.  Everything involving the character or provided for the reader in the story is done in a way that is easy to understand.  This is done through concepts that explain how he interacts with others, fights, and uses his own talents.

You can tell by reading the books there is real effort by the author to pull both fact and fiction to make the story realistic and alive.  Hounded and all of the proceeding books in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles are packed with wit and action.  Every action taken by Atticus entwines him further and further with his enemies and a past he was trying to avoid. Atticus’s actions and the consequences of his efforts add complexity to the story and his later interactions.

My favorite character in the series so far in Atticus’s dog and trusty sidekick, Oberon. He gives a new meaning to the word man’s best friend.

Readalikes: Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Music of the Stanley Brothers by Gary B. Reid

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Music of the Stanley Brothers by Gary B. Reid

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: As the title indicates, this book is about the music of the legendary bluegrass artists Carter and Ralph Stanley.  The fascinating lives of the Stanleys are illuminated throughout the book, but mostly as background information to the detailed descriptions of the group’s numerous recording sessions held between 1946 and 1966.  Carter Stanley’s alcohol-related death at the age of 41 in 1966 forced “little brother” Ralph to embark on a solo career that spanned nearly 50 additional years!

Gary Reid’s book does not cover Ralph Stanley’s solo recordings, but he exhaustively documents the various eras of the brothers’ recorded output—eras that can be neatly broken down by the music companies that recorded the Stanley Brothers through the years.  The earliest recordings on Rich-R-Tone and Columbia found the brothers singing and playing in an “old-time” country music style reminiscent of the Monroe Brothers.  The Mercury Records years (1953-1958) are generally considered the artistic peak of the Stanley Brothers’ career for a number of reasons:  the high volume of classic original compositions by Carter, the emergence of Ralph’s hard-driving banjo style, and the talented musical support of fiddler Art Stamper and bassist/vocalist George Shuffler.

The last phase of the Stanley Brothers' career was 1958-1966 when they recorded for Starday and King Records.  This period is sometimes discounted by fans and critics due to King’s reputation as a second-rate company and due to the excessive number of non-original and novelty songs that the brothers were forced to record at King.  While it is true that Carter Stanley’s songwriting did decline during this period, as did the richness of his legendary singing voice, many great Stanley Brothers recordings were produced during the King years—particularly in the bluegrass gospel genre.  While not an original composition, the Stanley Brothers’ 1960 version of Albert Brumley’s “Rank Stranger” has been acclaimed as one of the finest recordings in bluegrass history.

What I Thought: In February 2016 Gary Reid presented his one man show, “A Life of Sorrow: The Life and Times of Carter Stanley” at the Yuma Library.  I enjoyed meeting Gary, and I found his performance moving and informative.  Mr. Reid is acknowledged as the leading authority on the music of the Stanley Brothers.  That expertise is plainly evident in this academic study of their recording career.  The many pages of recording session notes and discographies may be intimidating (or boring) to readers who are not familiar (or obsessed) with bluegrass music.  However, the book is well-written in an accessible style, and by skimming through the recording session charts and focusing on the narrative sections of the book, bluegrass fans and anyone who attended Mr. Reid’s library program will rewarded with many interesting stories behind the songs of this great musical group.

Readalikes: Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe by Richard D. Smith

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Friday, March 11, 2016

All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Laurie Boone

What I Read: All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Kache used to be a musician with big dreams, but upon the death of his parents and brother, his grief drove him to give up everything and move to Texas. At the urging of his aunt Snag, Kache returns to Alaska after ten years away. His life takes a fateful turn when he goes out to check on his family’s old homestead and finds that a strange Russian woman has been living there, totally isolated, for ten years. Her name is Nadia, and she has her own painful realities to deal with.

What I Thought: This was a relaxing, diverting story of redemptive love between two quirky, solitary people. Right away I fell into easy step with the interesting supporting cast, and the Alaskan landscape was a character in itself, too.

Readalikes: John Straley’s books, like Cold Storage for quirky people in Alaska, and Annie Proulx’s book The Shipping News for the leisurely pace and the remote Newfoundland fishing village, its antics and atmosphere.

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