Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: During a time similar to our own but with the existence of magic and the supernatural in more evidence, Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack... and became one herself. Once turned, she found herself trapped and hounded in a new family, trying to pick up the pieces left of her life. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she's learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then one day something went wrong with the pack's mate and Charles Cornick, the enforcer--and son--of the leader of the North American werewolves, gets involved with her pack and her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. Right after Anna’s transition to Charles father’s pack in the Montana Valley, attacks matching a werewolf’s description start to pop up in the Cabinet Mountains. And it is Anna's inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf--a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all the pack...

What I Thought: True to the genres I like the read, Patricia Briggs's Cry Wolf is set in a urban contemporary world similar to our own. I would suggest reading her Mercy Thompson series before this one to get a grasp on the characters and content of the Alpha & Omega series due to how she traces back to key points and background information to explain situations and reasons for certain behavior. Even though the Mercy Thompson series follows a skinwalker and her life, there is a lot of information provided about werewolves and the forces surrounding them.

Cry Wolf was similar in writing to Briggs's other series in tone and direction. Most of her novels are fast-paced and involve a strong female protagonist facing long odds and difficult situations. Briggs's characters aren’t don’t whine, which I find refreshing, since most authors tend to portray the women involved with kid gloves or as damsels-in-distress.

Scenes and character back history can be pretty graphic for readers. The main character survives being assaulted and worse and the author uses those experiences as the basis for the character's personality. Additionally, the strong male characters portray excessive behaviors that would be on the extreme side of a normal individual.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and have since read the rest of the series. If you want complex back history, fun characters with contrasting personalities, and non-stop action, then this is the book for you. Briggs does tend to include some romance in her novels, but who doesn’t? If you do decide to pick up this book, I hope you enjoy it and continue reading.

Readalikes: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson Series) by Patricia Briggs or Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows Series) by Kim Harrison

Or look this book up on NoveList!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I ReadTy Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About:  Ty Cobb, who played from 1905 to 1928, was inducted into the inaugural class of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.  His contemporaries considered him the greatest player of his era due to his unrivaled hitting prowess and baserunning ability.  He won 12 batting championships and stole 892 bases in his career.  History has not been kind to Cobb, however.  His many detractors counter his accomplishments with his perceived character flaws.  He has been portrayed as being mean, physically violent, and racist—a nasty ballplayer and a wretched human being.  Several Cobb stories have been repeated ad nauseam in baseball books:  Cobb filing the spikes of his baseball shoes to create baserunning weapons of intimidation; Cobb running into the stands to attack a “crippled” heckler; and Cobb dying as a lonely and friendless recluse.  Leerhsen provides ample documentation for his rebuttals of these stories, and he also challenges numerous accusations and statements from previous biographies written by Charles Alexander and Al Stump.  Leerhsen’s Cobb is indeed highly competitive, overly sensitive, and capable of lashing out in anger and violence.  However, his Cobb is also a devoted family man, an intellectually curious man who loved to read, a financially savvy man who died a millionaire, and a generally well-liked man who dined (and golfed) with celebrities and politicians.  And, although a southerner, he was an early advocate of racial integration in baseball.  These unknown sides of Cobb have been rescued by Charles Leerhsen’s research.

What I Thought:  After getting over my initial shock at the author’s contemporary writing style and frequent pop culture references—Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump are both listed in the index—I found myself greatly enjoying this unique look at Ty Cobb’s life and career.  It is unique because Leerhsen presents Ty Cobb as a multi-dimensional human being, not the caricatured demon of previous Cobb biographies.  As someone who has read dozens of baseball biographies, I can attest that many are plagued by an overabundance of trite sports clichés or by a stuffy and overly reverential tone.  Fortunately, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, suffers from neither of these failings.  It is well-researched and smartly written, and for a 400+ page biography, it was a fast and entertaining read. 

Readalikes: Connie Mack and the Early Years of Baseball by Norman Macht
Baseball: An Illustrated History by Geoffrey C. Ward

Or look this book up on NoveList!


Thursday, February 11, 2016

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: L. Boone

What I ReadAll the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

Find It @YCLD: Here! 

What It's About: After years of separation, Henry and Celia meet up for dinner at a cozy restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Six years earlier, while both were CIA agents in Vienna, a horrible terrorist hijacking occurred on their watch. It could have been prevented if an agent onboard the plane had not been compromised by some unknown source inside the U.S. Embassy. Six years later, Henry is ostensibly conducting an internal investigation, and casts suspicion on Celia.

What I Thought:  The audiobook narrator, Ari Fliakos, has the perfect voice for this Hitchcockian story of old lovers and spies who seem to be having a friendly dinner to discuss an old case that ended tragically. The book’s author, Olen Steinhauer, is known for his excellent espionage thrillers and this one may be his best so far. This is amazing, considering most of the book consists of Celia and Henry discussing the events leading up to and surrounding the hijacking. Through their rich, cerebral dialogue, the story becomes unbearably suspenseful.  It leads to a thrilling, twisted ending right before the dessert is served…

Readalikes: Everything by Olen Steinhauer and The Dinner by Herman Koch.

Or look this book up on NoveList!


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss

Posted by Rebecca Brendel

Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: 19-year-old Bud Frazer moves to California after a family tragedy to try his hand at stunt riding in the heyday of Western movies. But although he knows a lot about horses, he has no experience with the less glamorous world behind the cameras, where spurs are made of rubber but plenty of dangers await both horses and the men atop them. Falling from Horses is the One Book Yuma selection for 2016; author Molly Gloss will be visiting Yuma on March 3 & 4.

What I Thought: Falling from Horses is a novel that reads like a memoir. Most of the book is told from Bud's point of view, and his first-person narration feels very natural; as you read, you get the sense that you're sitting there alongside a much older Bud, listening to him telling his life's story. (Listen to the author read an excerpt of Bud's narration here!) Other portions of the book are told in third person and detail the lives of Bud's parents, to better provide context for some of the events Bud talks about in his story, but the switch between the two voices never seems jarring.

The story, entertaining in its own right as both a coming of age and a "fish out of water" story, also provides a look "behind the scenes" during an era before moviemakers had to guarantee that no animals were harmed in the making of their films. Bud's adventures and misadventures in the film industry are sometimes amusing and sometimes extremely difficult to read - directors and handlers alike could be hard on horses (and actors), with plenty of animals dying in pursuit of the perfect shot.

It's this cruelty (among other things) that drives Bud away from the movies, but during his time in California he also fosters a friendship with an aspiring screenwriter, Lily, who teaches him film theory and thinks critically about the pictures that Bud, until he came to work for them, had taken for granted. Falling from Horses is therefore both an expose of and love letter to the old-time film industry, for those interested in the history of movies, horrors and all.

It's also a lovely bildungsroman, so please don't hesitate: check out a copy of Falling from Horses at your local library and come see Molly Gloss when she visits Yuma next month!