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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Box Trolls

Did you know the Box Trolls is based on the book, Here Be Monsters, by Alan Snow? Elizabeth Cody Kimmel has written a novelization of the movie and its available from Scholastic. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Everybody Paints: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin

Everybody Paints may be for young readers but adults will also enjoy this wonderful biography about this remarkable artistic family (the Wyeths). 

The book begins with pathfinder Newell Conver's story. His father thought art was nonsense yet Newell Conver Wyeth (better known as N.C. Wyeth) persisted, studied the craft, and became one of the most successful illustrators of his time.

Wyeth traveled West, wrote and illustrated "A Day with the Roundup" for Scribner's magazine, and married his sweetheart in 1906. Most people know Wyeth, however, for his illustrations of British stories:Treasure IslandKidnappedRobin Hood, and King Arthur.

Though all of his children were artistic, Andrew was the one who followed in his father's footsteps. Andrew is perhaps best known for the paintings "Braids" and "Christina's World" that use a technique called tempera on panel.

Andrew's son, James, became the third generation of Wyeths to take up painting. Jamie painted with combined mediums and had made portraits of the Kennedys, Andy Warhol, his wife and friends. Like his grandfather, James also illustrates children's books. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

Prepare to fall in love with Rasmussen's characters in this wonderful novel about small-town life in Spring Green, Wisconsin. At the heart of the story are two sisters who have devoted their lives to each other.

In a novel that deftly moves back and forth in time, Rasmussen introduces us to two versions of the sisters: as they were in their teens and as they are as elderly ladies.

Twiss, who is adventurous and mischievous, wants to be an explorer and a scientist. Good as gold, Milly, wants to get married and have children. Things do not exactly go as planned, especially since they have an eccentric father and a stoic mother.

After losing his golf prowess, Milly and Twiss' father is never quite the same. He loses his job as golf instructor and his passion for life. He and the girls' mother never officially separate, yet he takes up residence in the barn, hanging his silk shirts from the rafters.

Rasmussen enlivens a heartbreaking situation with a quirky cast of characters. Spring Green is populated with people like lonely Mrs. Bettle whose only love is her pet parrot and nosy and fearless Bett who talks non-stop about her life in Dead Water, Wisconsin.

We also find characters like Father Rice who leaves his congregation to take a trip to Mexico and have a margarita. The bird sisters and the town work tirelessly to help him return when he runs into trouble.

For Father Rice, Twiss creates her happiness tonic which she tries to sell at the fair. Twiss arrives in a lacy dress in order to prove how much the tonic can transform a person. Twiss normally hates dresses.

What I like best about this novel is the terrific, comic scenes which also offer irony. When Margaret wins a bean-counting contest at the fair, her prize is a trip in a small airplane. 

The pilot asks her where she lives so he can fly over her house and barn. For Margaret, its a chance to fly over her life. Significantly, right after she flies over life, she comes to some startling revelations. 

As humorous as it is, the novel is also a deeply moving testament to the strength of sisterhood. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

The Last Dead Girl features amateur detective David Malone who, in this novel, is still a home inspector in Rome, NY. Dolan's latest novel gives David's back story; it serves as a prequel to Bad Things Happen (2009) and Very Bad Men (2011). 

Though he is engaged to be married, David finds himself traveling down a dark trail that leads to Jana Fletcher. After a brief romance with Jana, she is killed by an unknown assailant. The reluctant hero finds himself chasing down leads. 

Detective Frank Moretti thinks Jana's murderer is local thug, Simon Lansky. David incurs the wrath of Rome lead detective, Frank Moretti, when he develops a completely different theory about Jana's killer. 

Moretti wants Malone to "stop playing detective," but his motives may not be as pure he pretends. David suspects the detective has framed an innocent person and may be hiding even darker secrets.

Dolan alternately illuminates and obscures the facts of the case for dramatic effect. Plot twists and time shifts add tension to this fast-paced, thrilling amateur detective story.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Were Liars by e.Lockart

Cady's family enjoys idyllic summers on a private island each summer. She has a crush on Gat, a family friend, who joins them at Beechwood each summer. The four of them, Mirren, Johnny, Gat, and Cady are the Liars. Sitting atop Cuddledown's roof, one of the summer houses, Cady feels invincible.

The four of us Liars, we have always been. We always will be.
No matter what happens as we go to college, grow old, build lives
for ourselves; no matter if Gat and I are together or not. No matter where we go, we will always be able to line up on the roof of Cuddledown and gaze at the sea. The island is our. Here, in some way, we are young forever.

A horrible accident, though, during summer 15, leaves Cady critically injured. She was found on the beach with a head injury and hazy memories. Will Cady's memories of summer 15 ever return?

During summer 17, Cady turns her room into an incident room, meticulously recording what she remembers on graph paper and post-it notes above her bed. She is still in love with Gat but something pivotal has happened that has changed their relationship.

Gat, the only non-Sinclair in the group, is the one who first opens Cady's eyes to social issues. Not every family, he says, owns a private island. He is of Indian descent, like his Uncle Ed, who has developed a relationship with Cady's Aunt Carrie. 

Lockhart skillfully interweaves fairy tales in the novel that foreshadows  the surprising twist in Cady's story. Gat, the outsider, is the mouse in many of these fairy tales.

Gradually, readers learn that Harris, Cady's Grandfather, has tried to manipulate his daugthers and grandchildren. Though he's not a bad man, not crooked, he is entitled and reckless with his money. He is prejudiced against Ed and Gat; he pretends to accept them when he actually cannot abide them.

Gat is the first to caution Cady that Harris does not want the two of them to date. The Aunts begins fighting over belongings. Cady, whose motto is to do what she she most fears, undertakes a daring plan to rectify their idyll. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Burning Air by Erin Kelly

A home schooled boy bears a grudge against the family he believes destroyed his future. Darcy Kellaway's vicious act against head master Ronan McBride's son, Felix, could have resulted in prison time. Instead, he avoids detection, rebuilds his life, and entraps an innocent girl in a foul plot to exact revenge.

Kelly's novel is a complicated revenge plot. The McBrides are an affable, accomplished family, yet Mrs. McBride's diary hides a secret. After her death, Darcy infiltrates their home away from home--the Far Barn in Devon.

Things come to a dramatic climax on Bonfire night--a family tradition that nearly goes horribly wrong. Felix's girlfriend may have kidnapped Sophie's baby while the family enjoyed the bonfire.

Kelly's nuanced depiction of Kerry is particularly well-crafted. She is a victim, in more ways than one, yet she seems surprisingly strong and level-headed.  

This thriller will have readers constantly guessing what the outcome will be. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Badlands Canyons

Speech after long silence,
It is right,
Just as right,
as lightning hitting dead air,
or an army of wildflowers--
Scorpionweed and beeplant,
creeping into position,
like soldiers,
in cracked and bald canyons.

Pictures courtesy of,