Monday, December 26, 2016

Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (continued)


This dark novel alternates between "then" and "now." The chapters called "then" deal with Laney's sixteenth summer. A New Yorker who recently lost her Mom, Laney instantly feels at home among the Roanokes. She thinks they are the family she always wanted.

The chapters that take place in the present hint at something dark and unnatural that occurs in the house. Cooper, Laney's on-again, off-again boyfriend often wonders what goes on in the Roanoke house.

Yates, the head of the Roanoke family, is possibly the most nefarious literary character ever invented. He preys upon the Roanoke girls' vulnerability. His charm and genuine love for them only make his actions worst.

Gran, though, is a close second. Her actions are almost incomprehensible.

Despite the fact that it is a thriller, the pace can be frustrating. Readers know pretty early on what is happening to Allegra, yet no one confronts Yates until near the end.

The clues are nicely placed. Allegra carves words into surfaces, a kind of diary for others to read.

In the end this is a gripping read but also extremely unsettling.

I requested a pre-publication copy of The Roanoke Girls from Netgalley and Crown Publishing. The novel's expected release date is March 7, 2017.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

"Roanoke girls never last long around here." She skipped along the hall, her voice growing fainter as she moved, like we were standing at opposite ends of a tunnel. "In the end, we either run or we die."

Allegra, The Roanoke Girls.

Disturbing and intriguing in equal measure, this novel has the power to haunt readers. Responding to a family crisis, Lane finds herself revisiting a dark corner of her adolescence, the summer she spent at her grandparents farm in Kansas.

continued

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Astray by Emma Donoghue

The impressive short stories in Astray are based on actual historical events. Donoghue, who wrote The Room, is able to get into the minds of countless people from a wide variety of historical periods.

"Man and Boy," which portrays the loving relationship between an elephant and his keeper is based on Wild Animals in Captivity. The story closely follows the actual removal of Jumbo's London Zoo to a circus and the uproar it caused.

"The Widow's Cruse" is loosely based on a journal entry from the Weekly Journal dated May 26, 1735. A widow hoodwinks a man who means to take her fortune.

Some of Donoghue's stories are inspired by her trip to the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona e.g. "Last Supper at Brown's" and the "The Long Way Home."

The narrator's dramatic dialogues gives readers a keyhole glimpse to history. Its just a keyhole glimpse; We don't see, for instance, the whole of the 
Revolutionary War, just the experience of one fifteen-year-old Hessian in "The Hunt" who decides to act villainously.

We don't see the whole slave experience in Texas; we're given instead the story of one man who kills his master and runs away with his mistress ("Last Supper at Brown's"). We're told the lamentable story of a bored daughter whose games and lies lead to the selling of a honest slave-girl, Milly ("Vanitas")


Astray is a powerhouse of a short story collection that is divided into three parts: Departures, In-Transit, Arrivals and Aftermaths.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Summerlong


In Summerlong, a girl called Lionness has uncanny abilities. She smells like meadows, enchants children and calms Orcas. She owns nothing of value and yet she lives rent-free in an older couple's garage. 

Abe thinks she looks like Botticelli's Primavera; Joanna, his live-in wife, agrees to let the girl stay in their garage. She worries, though, that her daughter, Lily, will fall in love with Lionnness.

Though they love each other, the couple's relationship is seriously strained when Lionness' husband comes looking for her at the restaurant where she works.

At this point, the novel makes a U-turn. Abe makes love to Lionness, though its never really clear why. He's in his sixties and she is presumably in her twenties but actually something non-human, Queen of the Underworld.

If Abe is unfaithful, Joanna, often called Delvechio, wants to do the same with Mr. Mardikian, who is really the God of the Underworld. First, though, she wants to shoot hoops.

Beagle combines the fantastic with the prosaic in such a superb way that none of it seems outlandish.

Peter Beagle wrote his best known work, The Last Unicorn, while in his twenties.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stranger Things (TV Series)


Set in the eighties, this nostalgic TV series is a horror drama starring Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine and Milly Bobby Brown.

When a local boy, Will, goes missing, his middle school friends poignantly launch their own investigation. Coincidently, A girl with no memories wanders down the same road, Mirkwood, where the local boy disappeared.

She is strong and vulnerable, an interesting contradiction. Mike, one of the kids looking for Will, shelters her in his basement.

Local police believe that Will has fallen into the quarry and accidently drowned. Joyce, the boy's mother, believes she can speak to him through a string of Christmas lights. Naturally, everyone surmises she's gone nuts with grief

For a plot like this, it would be easy for the series to fall into commonplace horror. The monster that chases them in the upside down is fairly classic horror--cobwebs, stickiness, facelessness.

Stranger Things doesn't descend, however, into comic book characterizations. Not all of the bad characters are entirely bad e.g. Steve, nor all of the heroes entirely good e.g. Hopper.

As in every work of horror, there is something terrible in the ordinary. Take nothing for granted, the genre seems to say.

Even the most polished, the most exemplary may be hiding a dark secret. Conversely, even the weakest or the most vulnerable may be strongest.





Creative work

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” Mary Oliver


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrande

In Some Kind of Happiness a young girl, Finley Hart, who is suffering from crippling anxiety, invents her own world, Everwood. She is surprised to find that Everwood is a real place, the woods behind her Grandparents’ house. While this could have been a simple story about magic, LeGrande’s story alternates between fantasy and Finley’s real-life traumas.

Finley has been sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer because her parents are having marital problems. Though Finley has never met her Dad’s family, she agrees to spend a summer with them.

Finley finds her Grandparents, Aunts and cousins, collectively known as The Harts, fascinating and intimidating at the same time. She longs  to be accepted by them because they seem to be the perfect family who are charitable, fun, and outgoing. They don’t have the anxiety problems that haunt her.

In her Everwood journal, Finley images herself to be an orphan girl who must keep the dark away from her precious woods. She wants to protect the Harts from the darkness but does not realize they are hiding their own dark secrets.

Brilliantly realized, this is a great story for young adults or middle schoolers.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrande

In Some Kind of Happiness a young girl, Finley Hart, who is suffering from crippling anxiety, invents her own world, Everwood. She is surprised to find that Everwood is a real place, the woods behind her Grandparents’ house. While this could have been a simple story about magic, LeGrande’s story alternates between fantasy and Finley’s real-life traumas.

Finley has been sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer because her parents are having marital problems. Though Finley has never met her Dad’s family, she agrees to spend a summer with them.

Finley finds her Grandparents, Aunts and cousins, collectively known as The Harts, fascinating and intimidating at the same time. She longs  to be accepted by them because they seem to be the perfect family who are charitable, fun, and outgoing. They don’t have the anxiety problems that haunt her.

In her Everwood journal, Finley images herself to be an orphan girl who must keep the dark away from her precious woods. She wants to protect the Harts from the darkness but does not realize they are hiding their own dark secrets.

Brilliantly realized, this is a great story for young adults or middle schoolers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

The Taxidermist's Daughter is a novel about storytelling. Connie Gifford finds herself among storytellers.

Connie knows that taxidermy is a form of storytelling. She says of her father, "Although I called him a taxidermist, he himself would use the old terminology. A stuffer of birds is how he would introduce himself. He thought 'taxidermist' was too fancy...it took away from what he was doing...[t]elling stories."

Harry Woolston, her suitor, identifies with this, since he, too, is an artist and storyteller.

Harry tells Connie, "When I'm working on a portrait, I'm always thinking about everything that made my sitter the person they are, not just what's visible on the canvas."

"That's it," Connie replied. "It's the sense that if the bird--jackdaw, magpie, rook...could talk, it would tell you its life story."

Unfortunately, Connie doesn't know her own story. She doesn't remember the older woman who cared for her or the person who taught her poetry as a child. She remembers hitting her head, an "accident" that no one talks about.

A secret group, the Corvid Club, has committed a heinous crime.
Many lives have been ruined by the actions of the Corvid Club.
That's why Connie Gifford desperately needs to illuminate the darkness. She needs know her own story, one that is riddled with "vanished days."

The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

The Taxidermist's Daughter is a novel about storytelling. Connie Gifford finds herself among storytellers. Her suitor, Mr. Woolston, asks her questions about her father and a mysterious figure, Cassie, in a critical scene. 

Connie says of her father, "Although I called him a taxidermist, he himself would use the old terminology. A stuffer of birds is how he would introduce himself. He thought 'taxidermist' was too fancy...it took away from what he was doing...[t]elling stories."

Mr. Woolston identifies with this, since he, too, is an artist and storyteller.

Harry tells Connie, "When I'm working on a portrait, I'm always thinking about everything that made my sitter the person they are, not just what's visible on the canvas."

"That's it," Connie replied. "It's the sense that if the bird--jackdaw, magpie, rook...could talk, it would tell you its life story."

Unfortunately, Connie doesn't know her own story. She doesn't remember the older woman who cared for her or the person who taught her poetry as a child. She remembers hitting her head, an "accident" that no one talks about.

A secret group, the Corvid Club, has committed a heinous crime.
Many lives have been ruined by the actions of the Corvid Club.
That's why Connie Gifford desperately needs to illuminate the darkness. She needs know her own story, one that is riddled with "vanished days."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Writing advice from Brian Doyle

"We are all storytellers and story-attentive beings. Otherwise we would never be loved or have a country or a religion. You do not need a sabbatical or a grant to write a book. Write a little bit every day."

Brian Doyle in 
TheAmericanscholar.org






I like the phrase he uses here "story-attentive."

Brian Doyle's most recent work,

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ex Machina

Ava looks at parts of other AI machines.
I hestitated to watch a film that used what seemed to be a cliched, tired theme. A mad scientist creates a machine that turns nightmarish.

As it turns out, this movie was one of the better artificial intelligent films. Ava, the machine, is in the maze but so too is the viewer, as they are never sure what will happen.

After Caleb wins a prize, he's invited to visit a research facility in an isolated region. He is taken there by helicopter. 

He meets a stranger who says he has the opportunity to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the chance to take part in a Turing test and test an AI machine.

Caleb gives up free will and privacy, as his new employer spies on him constantly. His key card gives him limited access so certain areas are off limits to him. Caleb can, however, spy on the AI, Ava, by turning on the TV in his room.

The moment he meets the machine, Ava, is magical. Ava has that deer-in-the-headlights look as if she is perpetually scared, but her voice is flat and even confident. 

Will Ava, a machine, fall in love with him? She wasn't programmed to do that. Will he fall in love with her? Will they run off together, as the replicant and Rick Deckard do in Blade Runner?

Alex Garland, writer and director, has created a startling film that received, unfortunately, not enough attention. 

Ex Machina

Ava looks at parts of other AI machines.
I hestitated to watch a film that used what seemed to be a cliched, tired theme. A mad scientist creates a machine that turns nightmarish.

As it turns out, this movie was one of the better artificial intelligent films. Ava, the machine, is in the maze but so too is the viewer, as they are never sure what will happen.

After Caleb wins a prize, he's invited to visit a research facility in an isolated region. He is taken there by helicopter. 

He meets a stranger who says he has the opportunity to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the chance to take part in a Turing test and test an AI machine.

Caleb gives up free will and privacy, as his new employer spies on him constantly. His key card gives him limited access so certain areas are off limits to him. Caleb can, however, spy on the AI, Ava, by turning on the TV in his room.

The moment he meets the machine, Ava, is magical. Ava has that deer-in-the-headlights look as if she is perpetually scared, but her voice is flat and even confident. 

Will Ava, a machine, fall in love with him? She wasn't programmed to do that. Will he fall in love with her? Will they run off together, as the replicant and Rick Deckard do in Blade Runner?

Alex Garland, writer and director, has created a startling film that received, unfortunately, not enough attention. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

National Women's Business Week

National Business Women's Week is the 3rd week in October.

A great book to read for National Business Women's Week is In The Company of Women by Grace Bonney. 


Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Part 3)

Despite an impressive beginning, the novel ends on a more predictable note. 

Greed and the desire for revenge spur some of the Amsterdammers against the Brandts. The Brandt's secrets are exposed and even the miniaturist cannot prevent the ultimate outcome. 


Nella feels gratitude towards the miniaturist for opening doors while Cornelia has a more traditional view. Cornelia sees the miniaturist as a snoop and a witch.

With all that has happened, its surprising that Nella and Cornelia believe that Thea's life will be what she makes it.

Despite the ending, the novel is still richly imagined, bringing 17th century Amsterdam and all of its moral compunctions to life.

Part 2
Part 1 



The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Part 3)

Despite an impressive beginning, the novel ends on a more predictable note. 

Greed and the desire for revenge spur some of the Amsterdammers against the Brandts. The Brandt's secrets are exposed and even the miniaturist cannot prevent the ultimate outcome. 


Nella feels gratitude towards the miniaturist for opening doors while Cornelia has a more traditional view. Cornelia sees the miniaturist as a snoop and a witch.

With all that has happened, its surprising that Nella and Cornelia believe that Thea's life will be what she makes it.

Despite the ending, the novel is still richly imagined, bringing 17th century Amsterdam and all of its moral compunctions to life. 



The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Part 3)

Despite an impressive beginning, the novel ends on a more predictable note. 

Greed and the desire for revenge spur some of the Amsterdammers against the Brandts. The Brandt's secrets are exposed and even the miniaturist cannot prevent the ultimate outcome. 


Nella feels gratitude towards the miniaturist for opening doors while Cornelia has a more traditional view. Cornelia sees the miniaturist as a snoop and a witch.

With all that has happened, its surprising that Nella and Cornelia believe that Thea's life will be what she makes it.

Despite the ending, the novel is still richly imagined, bringing 17th century Amsterdam and all of its moral compunctions to life. 



Thursday, October 20, 2016

Miniaturist by Jessie Burton part 2

Interestingly enough, the sister-in-law in The Miniaturist acts as the requisite mean stepmother. She wears black, forbids sugar, and excesses of any kind, yet she harbors a dark secret. 

 Nella has been invited into a sumptuous world--the house of a wealthy Dutch tradesman. In exchange, though, she must keep the family's secrets, something which makes Nella uncomfortable. 

Johannes has freed the slave Otto and educated him. There is good in Johannes, yet he has married Nella under false pretenses. 

Nella is childlike and powerless in the marriage which explains why she is drawn to the miniaturist's guidance and mesmerizing control.   

Go to Part 1 for the first part of the review. Part 1

Miniaturist by Jessie Burton part 2

Interestingly enough, the sister-in-law in The Miniaturist acts as the requisite mean stepmother. She wears black, forbids sugar, and excesses of any kind, yet she harbors a dark secret. 

 Nella has been invited into a sumptuous world--the house of a wealthy Dutch tradesman. In exchange, though, she must keep the family's secrets, something which makes Nella uncomfortable. 

Johannes has freed the slave Otto and educated him. There is good in Johannes, yet he has married Nella under false pretenses. 

Nella is childlike and powerless in the marriage which explains why she is drawn to the miniaturist's guidance and mesmerizing control.   


Part 1

Miniaturist by Jessie Burton part 2

Interestingly enough, the sister-in-law in The Miniaturist acts as the requisite mean stepmother. She wears black, forbids sugar, and excesses of any kind, yet she harbors a dark secret. 

 Nella has been invited into a sumptuous world--the house of a wealthy Dutch tradesman. In exchange, though, she must keep the family's secrets, something which makes Nella uncomfortable. 

Johannes has freed the slave Otto and educated him. There is good in Johannes, yet he has married Nella under false pretenses. 

Nella is childlike and powerless in the marriage which explains why she is drawn to the miniaturist's guidance and mesmerizing control.   


Part 1

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Conversation With My Father," by Grace Paley

A woman and her 86-year-old father argue about short stories, life, and tragedy. She had always let him have the last word because of his health issues but this time she doesn't back down. 

This is one of my favorite stories because it's a story about storytelling--two people arguing about the right way to tell a story. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton


In this 2014 novel, Jessie Burton captures the life of a Dutch wife during the seventeenth century. Petronella has just married and feels belittled by her husband who ignores her.  In keeping with the times, its an arranged marriage.

Burton records the many ways someone can make someone else feel insignificant. Marin and Cornelia, the housekeeper, know how to make Petronella feel invisible. 

Her husband, Johannes, buys her a dress that is way too big and give her a wedding gift that bewilders her, a cabinet-house. The cabinet-house mirrors the rooms that she and him inhabit. Jessie Burton writes about it:

 "The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed. The nine rooms, from the working kitchen, the salon, up to the loft where the peat and firewood are stored away from damp, are perfect replicas."


Go to Part 2 for the second part of the review

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

There are many ways someone can someone else feel insignificant. Marin and Cornelia, the housekeeper, know how to make Petronella feel invisible. 

Her husband, whom she barely knows, also belittles her. He buys her a dress that is way too big and give her a gift that bewilders her, a cabinet-house. The cabinet-house the rooms that she and him inhabit. Jessie Burton writes about it:

 "The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed. The nine rooms, from the working kitchen, the salon, up to the loft where the peat and firewood are stored away from damp, are perfect replicas."

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

There are many ways someone can someone else feel insignificant. Marin and Cornelia, the housekeeper, know how to make Petronella feel invisible. 

Her husband, whom she barely knows, also belittles her. He buys her a dress that is way too big and give her a gift that bewilders her, a cabinet-house. The cabinet-house the rooms that she and him inhabit. Jessie Burton writes about it:

 "The accuracy of the cabinet is eerie, as if the real house has been shrunk, its body sliced in two and its organs revealed. The nine rooms, from the working kitchen, the salon, up to the loft where the peat and firewood are stored away from damp, are perfect replicas."

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

There are several things to love about this novel. I love a book where literature is lauded. The Count's life is saved on account of a poem he wrote, which some thought had a revolutionary message.

Count Alexander Rostov nevertheless finds himself under house arrest in his favorite hotel, The Metropol. He has become in the eyes of the state a "non-person" for the sole crime of having been born a Count.

He loses his grand rooms and is forced to take rooms in the attic where the wait staff live. The Count still considers himself the luckiest man in all of Russia. He is able to keep his desk and its secret stash of gold coins.

No matter how well-educated and well-informed the Count may think he is, life and the people who populate it, never fail to surprise him.

The Count forms, for instance, forms an unexpected friendship with a handyman and he has a love affair with a woman, an actress, who is nothing like she seems.
 
The Count's odd friendship with Nina, a precocious eleven-year-old and daughter of a party leader, results in her sending him Sofia. This girl becomes his adopted daughter, his world, and his greatest accomplishment.

All of these scenes are ironic and comic rather than lugubrious such as the time that Nina goes off to work for a collective farm. Count Alexander knows that "life" will find her.
 
While the novel moves at the pace of an art film, there are wonderful comic moments. This is especially true with the Count's conflict with a waiter-turned-manager that he calls "the Bishop."
 
With sly humor, Towles traces the subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in Russia's changing political landscape.
 

Monday, October 3, 2016

"Ghosts couldn't hurt you directly. They couldn't push you off a cliff, but the could lead you off one, if you were stupid enough to follow..." Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier. 
"Ghosts couldn't hurt you directly. They couldn't push you off a cliff, but the could lead you off one, if you were stupid enough to follow..." Razorhurst, Justine Larbalestier. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Writing Tips for Librarians

From Library Journal's John N. Berry III's  "Skills Librarian Need to Survive: Learn to Write."

1)  Delete the first two paragraphs of an essay to see if a better beginning has been discovered.

2)  Do the same for the conclusion of the essay. 

3) Avoid rhetorical questions.

4) Avoid words ending in "ly.
Writing skills are needed more than ever, John Berry explains in "Blatantberry" because it will take "powerful prose" to prove that libraries are not obsolete. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This epic story that  reads like a fairytale at times is the story of a Boyar, Pyotr, his sons, Sasha and Kolya and his strange daughter Vasilia. Before his wife died, she told him that Vasilia would be most like her mother who had the "gift."




Vasilia was born with  the ability to see the creatures that populate Russian airytale creatures--the rusalka, the vazila, domonvoi, vodianoy, leshy and the Frost King, Mozorko. While its commonplace to her, others are terrified of her abilities. Much of the town, and her stepmother, call Vasilia ("Vasya") a demon or a witch. 

Ironically, Vasya's stepmother, Anna, also has the ability to see these household spirits and cheyerti of the forest. Anna, however, denigrates what she sees as "demons" or manifestations of her madness. 

Konstantine, a priest sent by Prince Ivan to the wilds of Rus, terrifies the town by labeling the old village ways "demonic." Their fears only multiply the existing dangers. An old rivalry between two supernatural forces is renewed as the terrible Bear of the fairytales is released from his bindings. 










Friday, September 9, 2016

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

Women in Science includes great information about little known women scientists who made incredible advances in science. 

Illustrations by Rachel Ignotofsky are adequate but lack color. Each scientist is assigned a single neon color. For instance, illustrations for Maria Sibylla Merian who observed and painted the metamorphoses of butterflies are each some shade of bright blue against a charcoal gray background. Marie Cure's illustrations are neon green and so on. 

Interesting facts can be found in the margins. The entry for Ada Lovelace, for instance, relates in the margins that Lovelace signed each of her letters to Charles Baggage as "lady fairy." In another entry (for Rosalind Franklin) we learn that Franklin, who took the first photo of DNA's double helix structure, also created a huge sculpture of the tobacco mosaic virus for the World's Fair. 


Ignotofsky's Women in Science is a wonderful starting place for those writing biographies on scientists. Since the entries or so short, though, most students will need to consult more resources. 

This book will please everyone but its especially written for young readers, grade 2 through 5. 






Sunday, August 28, 2016

Louisiana Flooded

More than 60,000 Louisiana homes were damaged in the flood (the week of Aug 12). My family members who live there were affected; it's hard to understand how this so called 1,000 year flood (chances of happening are 1 in a 1,000 per year) could have happened.

Right now, it feels a little surreal because though the nightmare is very real, it scarcely gets a mention in the news. Everyone is quick to say that Louisianans are taking care of themselves but that hasn't really happened in my family's case. Everyone that has helped them has also charged them. I think they got one free case of drinking water. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

He's Gone by Deb Caletti

Dani's second husband has gone missing. The two of them share an ostensibly fairy tale life. After he rescues her from an abusive husband, they move to a houseboat, far from the gossip of the suburbs. 

All, however, is not as it seems. Dani comes to realize how little she knows about Ian.

Unfortunately, Dani took two Vicodins the night her husband disappeared, leaving her with memory gaps. She remembers arguing with him at the party but very little else. 

Ian appears to have taken none of his clothes or other personal effects. His car was left in its usual parking spot.

Some additional details come to light. Nathan, a partner in the company, offered to buy Ian's share of the high tech start-up. This betrayal, Dani realizes, may have pushed him over the edge.

The missing person case gives Dani some clarity. She realizes her missing husband has been overly critical of her. After years of abuse from Mark, Dani has fallen from someone who wanted to rescue her. Only his rescue feels more like a trap. 

Ian often demanded she do exactly as he wanted. His hobby is collecting insects and what he says about a curious trait of butterflies is particularly disturbing.


Readers wonder if Ian's family will ever find him but another thread in the narrative concerns Dani. Will she ever find the self-confidence she needs?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

The author of middle grade novel, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, has also written a non-fiction book for adults, Haunted Inns of the Southeast. 

Writing tip: Write a non-fiction essay or book and then create a work of fiction based on the facts you've learned. 

Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage

The author of middle grade novel, Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, has also written a non-fiction book for adults, Haunted Inns of the Southeast. 

Writing tip: Write a non-fiction essay or book and then create a work of fiction based on the facts you've learned. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

American cover of Plain Kate
Everyone calls Kate by her nickname "Plain Kate." As a female woodcarver, she's an outsider. After her father dies, Kate becomes even more of an outcast.

English cover of Plain Kate
To make matters worst, an albino witch convinces Kate to give him her shadow. Kate foolishly agrees to give Linay her shadow in exchange for fish hooks and supplies. She does not realize the full implications of losing her shadow.

Since Kate and Taggle, her cat, cannot survive on their own, they tentatively finds a place among the roamers. The roamers (Roma) are a group that travels by caravan. Daj and Drina protect Kate though some of the roamers are fearful of outsiders. 

When Drina learns Kate's secret--her hasty bargain with Linay-- she becomes determined to help her. Drina's own mother was a healer who was tragically burned as a witch. 

In Toila, all of Drina's efforts, however, backfire. Instead of rescuing her friend from the false charge of witchcraft, the town accuses Drina of witchcraft. The girls barely escape with their lives. 

Bow's prose is poetic yet the action moves swiftly. The characters are strongly delineated against a backdrop of fear and suspicion. Kate is a heroine in the truest sense and strong role-model for girls.




Monday, July 18, 2016

Songs for the Missing by Nan O'Stewart

When Kim goes missing, her parents search frantically for her. They don't know the secret that their daughter's boyfriend and Kim's best friend is hiding from them.

Nan O'Stewart was inspired to write this book because of his own memories of searching for a missing person when he was seventeen. According to novelist M.J. Rose's blog, Backstory, that pivotal event informed several of his novels--Snow Angels and Wish You Were Here.  

This is psychological exploration of the emotions searchers feel as they learn to cope with the loss of loved one. 

The tone of the novel is staid; it's not a suspense thriller. Even if its the work of a skilled writer, it lacks some closure. Some questions about Kim's disappearance are never answered. 






Read more:
M.J. Rose's Backstory in which Nan O'Stewart discusses a continuing motif in his work:
http://mjroseblog.typepad.com/backstory/2008/11/stewart-onans-backstory.html

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Uses for Antarctic sea sponges

Dendrilla membranosa


This type of Antarctic sea sponge, Dendrilla Membranosa, could save humans from infections like the drug-resistant bacteria like MSRA. Scientists have isolated the compound, Darwinolide, from the sponge which has the abilitiy to kill 98% of MSRA.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What She Knew By Gilly Macmillan


Rachel deeply regrets letting her eight-year-old  run ahead of her while walking in the woods. Ben Finch disappears, leaving almost no clues except his clothing, which was found near a pond. 

Britain's CID know this case is serious after a detective finds the child's clothing. Macmillan details the police procedure expertly and poignantly sifts the mother's sorrow.

Jim, who is assigned the case by a hard-nosed boss, really wants to move up the ranks of the CID; this case, if its handled right, could help him do that. 

Unfortunately for him, the press conference at the start of the investigation is a disaster. Rachel, the boy's mother, goes off message. She unwittingly does everything under the sun to make herself look guilty.

Macmillan spends a great deal of effort making other key players look suspicious. Rachel's sister, Nicky, seems unstable as does the teaching assistant at Ben's school. Someone despises Rachel enough to send bricks through her windows and smash her milk bottles on her front step. But is this the person who took Ben? 

Rachel was trying to allow Ben independence when she let him run ahead on their walk. Now, Rachel finds herself rethinking that decision--as well as everything in her life--because nothing is as it seems. 





Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Technological scavenger hunts

Lexington Public Library will host a technological scavenger hunt called BattleKasters. Youth will be able to use their smartphones to visit beacons throughout the city. The game is based on Alane Adam's book, The Red Sun

The book is aimed at middle school readers. What a terrific way to encourage literacy!

Adams' book features a twelve-year-old hero and Norse gods. 


http://www.hypable.com/alane-adams-red-sun-battlekasters-interview/

Sunday, May 29, 2016

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

People in crisis mode are interesting. Jenna, the protagonist of this debut novel, is definitely in trouble. She has just lost her five-year-old son in a hit-in-run accident. In response, Jenna attempts to restart her life by moving to a remote village in Wales.


Two detectives, Ray and Kate, are slipping in a maelstrom of their own making. Both want to find the hit-and-run-driver who killed Jenna's child, even if they solve the crime off the books. Though each are seeing other people, they are increasingly drawn to each other.

Kate remind Ray of his old self, the kind that cared more about getting the bad guy than getting promoted. Meanwhile, in remote Penfach, Wales, Jenna and Patrick, a local veterinarian, fall in love. 

Jenna's life seems to be improving until she finds a strange message in the sandy beach near her cottage.

Not to give anything away, but Part 2 of the novel is completely startling. In a rush, readers are given a new point-of-view and a new version of events. 

Jenna's sad history unfolds revealing a different picture of the accident. Ian's cruel manipulation of Jenna and her quiet aquiescence is painful to watch.  

A thriller of first rate quality ensues as Jenna struggles to free herself from Ian's cruelty.

Random House has sent me an advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.




Thursday, May 12, 2016

Firebird by Susana Kearsley


Though she wants to hide her supernatural gifts, Nicola finds that increasingly difficult to do. When a woman tries to sell a Russian relic in the art and antiquities gallery where she works, Nicola feels motivated to use her psychometric abilities.

Holding the relic in her hands, Nicola knows the woman's story is true; the relic has been a gift from the Empress Catherine of Russia handed down through generations of the woman's family. 

Proving the provenance of the wooden object, however, is much more of a challenge. Nicola contacts an old boyfriend, Rob, who has even more sophisticated psychic abilities. He can see past events in his mind merely by visiting a place. 

Working together, Rob and Nicola learn Anna's story, the woman who had originally been gifted with the firebird. 

What they witness is startling and heart-breaking. When the English force the Jacobites to flee Scotland, Anna's relatives send her to a convent in Ypres for safekeeping. Betrayed by a girl she befriended a the convent, Anna flees to Calais where she faces even more spies.

In St. Petersburg, Anna is adopted by a kind man to whom she has never revealed her true identity. She becomes Anna Niktovna ("Nobody")  to protect her Scottish relatives. 

After Anna takes a job in St. Petersburg, as a lady's companion. At this new household, Anna becomes intrigued by rakish Mr. Edmund O'Leary, a relative of her employer.

Kearsley relates an epic, powerful love story about the courage to assert one's own identity in the midst of political turmoil. 

This novel is well-researched and employs fully developed characters.


If you enjoy The Firebird, you may also enjoy Paullina Simon's The Bronze Horseman.