Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Motion of Puppets

by Keith Donohue
August 23, 2017

This book was on a horror display in the library. Of course the title and cover art caught my eye.  A big slow moving at first, but the story was compelling and as I got further in I couldn't stop.

Kay and Theo are living temporarily in Quebec while she works for a street circus and he translates a biography of Edweard Muybridge.   The old city is charming, especially its old buildings and shops.  One in particular, The Quatre Mains, fascinates Kay.  It is full of puppets and old toys.  Kay visits every day to see the old aboriginal puppet in the window.   But the store is never open, so all she can do is peer through the window into the darkness of the shop.  One night, while walking home from the circus, Kay notices a light on in the shop.  She is delighted to find the door open and enters to explore.  She is never seen again.  The book alternates between Theo's quest to find his missing wife and Kay's new consciousness as one of the Quatre Mains puppets.

The book is categorized as horror; occult fiction; and supernatural fiction.  I find that it's hard to pin down so easily.  It's a love story, a fantasy, at times a macabre story, supernatural, gothic, occult, and only a bit horrifying.   It is a horror novel in the same way that Ray Bradbury's books are horror.  To me it had a little bit of a Bradbury vibe.

I enjoyed this immensely.  It's kind of funny - the chapters dealing with the life of the puppets reminded me of books I used to read as a child - Five Dolls in a House or Five Dolls and the Duke  - in a macabre way.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Big Dark

by Rodman Philbrack
January 2016

The Big DarkThe Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a disaster book - one of the type I usually call "end-of-the-world" books. That description doesn't completely fit this book, but the characters experience the end of the world as they know it.
Because of a massive solar flare all electricity on the planet failed. Even flashlights and oil powered generators are dead. The magnetic field of the earth has been thrown off by the flare. So this is the story of how a small town in New Hampshire deals with the crisis. I enjoyed this. It was a quick read and one that kids in middle school and up will like. Rodman Philbrick has written two Newbery Honor books (Freak the Mighty and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg ). I didn't feel that The Big Dark was award worthy. But, still an enjoyable kid's science fiction book.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

The Red Sun

by Alane Adams
November, 2015

Alane Adams is a first time author and philanthropist and her The Red Sun is first in a series called Legends of Orkney, published by Spark Press.

"SparkPress is an independent boutique publisher delivering high-quality, entertaining, and engaging content that enhances readers’ lives, with a special focus on female-driven work."

My library came to purchase this book because of personal contact with the author. She is an advocate of literacy and has agreed to present programs for us in Lexington. One of the exciting features of partnering with the author on this book is the related game BattleKasters. It is a virtual card game. Players download an app to their devices. Each time a player finds one of the game beacons (strategically located in various places around town) he can access a new card. Cards can be used to cast spells, defend, provide wisdom and other things needed for completing the adventure. I don't know what the goal actually is - we cannot play until we get the beacons and set them up this summer. Such a great idea.

The book itself is ok. It's a familiar storyline - a boy has lived to his adolescence without knowing that he is descended from a line of magical beings. In this case it's twelve year old Sam who is a descendant of Odin and a witch. Good and Evil wars within his mind and heart. Once the witches discover that he has been living in Midgard, they work to bring him back to Orkney and to his destiny as a witch. But Sam is also a Son of Odin and he knows that this is his true destiny. But the power of the evil witches is attractive and causes a war in Sam's mind.

Although some have called The Red Sun a Harry Potter type story, the front cover blurb calls this book a Percy-Jackson-meets-Norse-Mythology. That's a good description, for it's more similar to Percy than to Harry. The writing is fine, but nothing special. The characters are fairly wooden and typical. Still, this ends up being an exciting story and will interest kids.

My main objection is the two young female characters. They are pretty worthless and are often described as being saved or carried by one of the guys. The Legends of Orkney needs a little Hermione.

A Christmas Homecoming

by Anne Perry
December 4, 2015

Each year I choose a couple of Anne Perry's Christmas mysteries to read.  They are novellas and feature peripheral characters from the Monk and the Pitt series.  They're usually simple little mysteries and often take place in a "locked room" situation.  In this case the characters are snowed in at a country estate. No one can leave and the police can't come in to solve the crime.

This year's choice was actually a blind pick. I closed my eyes and just pointed to one on the shelf.  Turns out, it's centered around the novel Dracula!

Joshua and Caroline Fielding, from the Pitt series and the rest of a company of actors have arrived at an estate in Whitby to produce and present a play based on the "new book" by Bram Stoker.
The playwright is an amateur - Alice Netherington, the daughter of a wealthy benefactor of the theatre.  None of the actors relish the task and all consider the play to be poorly written.  But in order to receive funding for the next season in London, it must be done.  A small production simply for an audience of friends and neighbors. Even so, it's a little unrealistic that Joshua and Co. plan to learn the script, rehearse the play and design lighting and sets in a week's time.

Still, I really enjoyed the Dracula theme.  The mystery itself is almost inconsequential. It's the setting and season that drive these Christmas mysteries.  A Christmas trifle.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Name of the Star

by Maureen Johnson
Februrary 5, 2015

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this book was published in 2011 I had not really noticed it. Finally, several days ago,I noticed the subject tracing in the library's catalog:  Boarding Schools; London; Murder; Ghosts. What? How could this have escaped me all these years.

Rory Deveaux moves with her parents to England from Louisiana and enrolls in London's Wexford boarding school. Around this same time strange murders begin to happen in the area around the school.  The victims have all been murdered in the same manner as the victims of Jack the Ripper.

The book reminded me a little bit of Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood & Co. series. What a fun read. I look forward to the next two: "The Madness Underneath" and "Shadow Cabinet."

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

by Karen Foxlee
January 4, 2015

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoyOphelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such an enjoyable book. I just picked it off the shelf fairly randomly.  It was the second choice of two books I checked out that day.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to get drawn in so easily to the magical plot of this book.  The Snow Queen is a major presence in the book and the story takes place in a museum that comes to life on occasion. That's why you'll hear some people call this Frozen meets Night At the Museum.  But while you will be reminded of these two movies, this is a different story altogether.  I'm doing the 2015 Reading Challenge so this one fits the category of "A Book With Magic."  This didn't get 5 stars simply because I thought the book ended a little bit too quickly and left some questions unanswered.

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Brown Girl Dreaming

by Jacqueline Woodson
January 6, 2015

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jacqueline Woodson's memoir in verse form.  A strong contender for the Newbery Medal.  This has been on many Best of 2014 lists.  Such a beautiful, enjoyable, touching book.

In the 2015 Reading Challenge this is "A book with a color in the title."
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