New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

More new books this week, starting with A Scourge of Vipers by Bruce de Silva:

scourgeTo solve Rhode Island’s budget crisis, the state’s colorful governor, Attila the Nun, wants to legalize sports gambling; but her plan has unexpected consequences. Organized crime, professional sports leagues, and others who have a lot to lose–or gain–if gambling is made legal flood the state with money to buy the votes of state legislators.

Liam Mulligan, investigative reporter for The Providence Dispatch, wants to investigate, but his bottom-feeding corporate bosses at the dying newspaper have no interest in serious reporting. So Mulligan goes rogue, digging into the story on his own time. When a powerful state legislator turns up dead, an out-of-state bag man gets shot, and his cash-stuffed briefcase goes missing, Mulligan finds himself the target of shadowy forces who seek to derail his investigation by destroying his career, his reputation, and perhaps even his life.

Bruce DeSilva’s A Scourge of Vipers is at once a suspenseful crime story and a serious exploration of the hypocrisy surrounding sports gambling and the corrupting influence of big money on politics.

extreme foodI love survival books! They’re all part of my plan to be prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. And after reading Extreme Food: What to Eat When Your Life Depends on It by Bear Grylls, I know which bugs I can cook, which mushrooms to avoid, and that if the situation is ever so dire that my best food source is a saltwater crocodile, I’m doomed.

“There’s no getting away from it; I’ve eaten some pretty extreme things in my time—live tarantulas, raw goat testicles, elephant dung, you name it. In a situation when your life depends on it, you need to put your prejudices aside to keep your stomach filled and your strength up.”

This book is full of disclaimers, and rightly so; wilderness survival is something that takes years to learn. Anyone who thinks they can learn everything they need to know about foraging for mushrooms or stalking wild game from a book is probably too dumb to survive in the wild for very long anyway. But there are some tips here, and some ideas that will make you think about what’s really in the woods and wild spaces around you.

“The indigenous people of Alaska have a saying: when the tide is out, the table is set. It’s true. You might look at a wide expanse of beach after the tide has receded and think that it doesn’t offer much in the way of nourishment. But really you just need to know how and where to look. Wherever you are in the world, from the frozen wastes of the Arctic to the burning shores of Australasia, the seashore can be a life-giving source of ready nourishment.”

The one thing that really struck me as strange in this book is that even though the title talks about “when your life depends on it” – meaning extreme survival situations – Grylls often takes time out to remind readers to check local regulations to see if they need a fishing license and to familiarize themselves with wildlife that is endangered and therefore off limits for hunting. Personally, if I’m starving and I can catch it, I’m eating it, local regulations be damned, but it’s startling to think that you could be in a life and death survival situation in a place that requires a fishing license. It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to go too far into the wild to get yourself in trouble. Runing out of gas on a drive through the desert would probably be enough.

For me, this was a pretty entertaining read. I’m not an extreme camper and I tend to be pretty cautious, so unless I join the cast of The Walking Dead, I’m unlikely to find myself in a situation where I need these tips (although a few of them came in handy while playing Worst Case Scenario this weekend). Still, there are some good stories, the information is generally fun (if you find recipes for Frog Soup fun), and it’s a quick and pleasant read. If it were the only reference book I had while stranded on an uninhabited island, I might be in deep trouble, but I could probably use the tips on making a snare or building a homemade fishing hook. And let’s be honest, these books are far more fun when we don’t think we’ll ever need the information.

My copy of Extreme Food: What to Eat When Your Life Depends on It was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

Quotables

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By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

“Harry Potter isn’t real? Oh no! Wait, wait, what do you mean by real? Is this video blog real? Am I real if you can see me and hear me, but only through the internet? Are you real if I can read your comment but I don’t know who you are or what your name is or where you’re from or what you look like or how old you are? I know all of those things about Harry Potter. Maybe Harry Potter’s real and you’re not.”

– John Green, American author and vlogger

Haven’t we all felt that way sometimes about our favorite characters – as though they are more real than the people in our lives?

Hot Guys with Books

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By Lisa | Filed in Hot Guys with Books | No comments yet.

Another one not reading a book, I know, but how could I resist? Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond, hands down, and the one that most reminds me of the Bond in the books.

daniel craig

midwinterbloodI’ve been making the drive back and forth to our Cincinnati office the last two weeks (about 3.5 hours in good traffic) and audiobooks are the perfect entertainment. I can catch up on my reading while I drive and some books are just better on audio. This week, I managed to pick up two books with similar themes, although told in very different ways. The first, and definitely the better of the two, is Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.

This isn’t my usual reading fair – there’s more romance than I normally go for – but the premise is interesting. Seven interwoven stories, seven different time periods, three names that turn up again and again. Eric, Merle, and Tor appear over and over in these stories: Eric is a journalist in the near future, writing an investigative article on a mysterious island in the far north where residents seem to live forever. Tor and Merle are a married couple who rescue a wartime aviator who crashes on their property. Merle and Eric are brother and sister, living among the Vikings, and Tor is their uncle. The relationships change, the situations change, but these characters inhabit every story. As we move back in time, back to the beginning of their story, they are constantly reaching out to each other, circling around each other.

This reminded me a bit of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, one of my all-time favorite novels. It’s not in that class, but they cover some of the same territory: the idea that we are surrounded by people we know and love, throughout many lives and incarnations. In the ebb and flow of time and reincarnation, these people always come to the same place. They are always connected to one another.

I think what I enjoyed about this is the way that the stories differ. It is not as though these characters lead the same lives, fall in love in the same way, or even relate to each other the same way, time after time. Merle and Eric might be lovers, or they might be mother and son. It made the stories more interesting, as you watched the various connections unfold. I also liked watching for the small details that tied the stories together — the bit of wood in the grave, the painting, the hare. They give the reader something to discover, something to watch for in each story, and you get to wonder and speculate on how the details in each story will manifest as you move through the centuries.

Midwinterblood made for a very entertaining ride. The second novel I spoke of, which I hope to finish and review next week, isn’t faring nearly as well. This audiobook came to me through the Kent Free Libary.

New on the Shelves…

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | One comment

hanysaI am still trying to catch up on the backlog of new books I haven’t told you about! Today, it’s A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara:

Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement—and a great gift for its publisher.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

Quotables

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By Lisa | Filed in Quotables | No comments yet.

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages

– Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

Hot Guys with Books

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By Lisa | Filed in Hot Guys with Books | No comments yet.

McDreamy in leather, with a book.

patrick dempsey

ghostsThis was an odd one. I knew it would be odd as I sat trying to sort out the cover of the novel, a photo of a hallway turned sideways; it’s a great way to set the tone for the rest of the book. A Head Full of Ghostsby Paul Tremblay is the story of the Barrett family – Mom, Dad, and two daughters, Marjorie and Meredith. They were the subject of an early reality TV show, one that ended tragically; now, years later, Meredith is finally telling her story to an author for a memoir. Interspersed with her conversations with her ghostwriter are excerpts from a blog that recounts the TV episodes in great detail.

The Barretts were sadly typical. John Barrett lost his job at a local factory. Sarah Barrett was trying to keep the family afloat on bank teller salary. The girls appear oblivious, until fourteen year old Marjorie begins showing signs of schizophrenia. The doctors they consult are unable to help. Her sister, Merry, is terrified – Marjorie has stopped being her constant friend, her story-teller, her idol, and become someone entirely new and very frightening.

I told her to get out, to leave my room, to go away.

Skeleton-white hands came out from under the blanket and wrapped around her neck. They pulled the blanket down over her face, skin tight, and the blanket formed a shroud with dark valleys for eyes and mouth, her nose flattened against the unyielding cloth. Her mouth moved and choking growls came out. Those hands squeezed so the blanket pulled tighter and she shook her head, thrashed it around violently, and she gasped and pleaded with someone to stop or maybe she said she was trying to stop. Her hands were still closed around her own neck, and I’m sure it was some sort of optical illusion or a trick or kink of memory because her neck couldn’t have gotten as thin as I remember it getting…

Scary stuff for an eight year old. Is Marjorie going crazy? Or is it something more disturbing?

Eventually, John Barrett turns to his priest for help and advice. He is the only member of the family that is religious (his wife is openly scornful) and he and the priest decide that this might very well be a case of demonic possession. And somehow, the decision is made to turn the family’s struggles and Marjorie’s exorcism into a reality TV show, although Merry was too young to know the details. The show will certainly help the family’s financial problems. Sarah is clearly uncertain about turning the whole thing into a spectacle, but John convinces her. I can’t imagine that it was what any mother would have wanted for her family.

More sad for me than Marjorie’s illness was Merry’s friendship with Ken, one of the show’s writers. She seems so desperate for attention, so lost in the drama of her sister’s illness and the way her family is crumbling around her. The idea that she has latched on to this man who is part of a team of people who are profiting from her family’s horrible situation was just heartbreaking.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the ending – a nice way to finish a mystery. You know it’s going to be bad, everything is leading up to a terrible conclusion, but you’re not sure what kind of bad it will be. Will Marjorie turn out to be faking it all, exposed on national TV, leaving the family the laughingstock of their small town? Is that worse than finding out she’s possessed by demons or that their house is haunted? Or is something else stirring in that house? Could one of these girls be an evil genius? Marjorie seems lucid much of the time, and seems to be plotting something with Meredith, but is that the demon talking?  Right up to the end, even after you know how Marjorie’s story ended, there are hints that maybe, just maybe, there is more to the story. I love that – I want a book to keep me guessing, to let me sort out alternative endings on my own.

My copy of A Head Full of Ghosts was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.

New on the Shelves

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By Lisa | Filed in New Books | No comments yet.

And here’s an exciting new ARC from the folks at Tor/ForgeCollision by William S. Cohen:

collisionFormer Secretary of State William S. Cohen provides a Washington insider point of view in this new political thriller, Collision.

Sean Falcone, former National Security Adviser to the president of the United States, attacks a gunman during a mass killing at an elite Washington law firm. A second shooter flees with a laptop containing vital information about an asteroid being mined by an American billionaire and his secret Russian partner. The incident plunges Falcone into a Washington mystery involving the White House, NASA, corrupt Senators, an international crime lord . . . and the possible destruction of all humankind.