Posts Tagged ‘books’
Grimes, Martha. Fadeaway Girl. Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Books. (February 7, 2012) ISBN-13: 978-0451235640. Written for adults. Litland.com recommends age 16+.
Watch out small town America: Emma Graham is back! Having read both The Belle Ruin and its sequel, Fadeaway Girl, I can understand why its author, Martha Grimes, says it isn’t a mystery. And yet it is, since at the core of the plot is a series of related, unsolved mysteries! However, it is simultaneously a character portrait in a historical fiction setting. Admittedly, at times in the Belle Ruin the irritating & ignorant dialogue with Delbert (the taxi driver), or Will & Mill (brother & friend) would go on longer than needed to build depth in the character. Or maybe it just seemed this to me since I was listening to the audio book version. Regardless, this is cleaned up in Fadeaway Girl. And otherwise both books are great historical fiction (and yes, mysteries too!).
This story has lots of colorful characters richly described and whose behaviors remain consistent with their personas throughout. Wiley and cunning, we see the world through Emma’s 12 year old eyes; sometimes her view is limited while at other times, more attentive than the adults. Added to that, the adults around her are painted with sufficient depth to permit us to imagine the care and concern behind their acts of kindness to Emma, and their affection for her. Ultimately that is a hallmark of good fiction, isn’t it? That the reader, being so able to understand the many characters, can imagine them beyond the pages? It certainly is of Fadeaway Girl.
Not a Catholic yet speaking often of the local parish priest, Fr. Freeman, Emma (with a vague belief in God but little respect for the priest) stops in the church in her moment of crisis. The story is otherwise absent of religious references. Given all other descriptions to set the scene and context of post-WWII small town America (Knee Hi Grape sodas, sprinkle donuts at the diner, drugstore with soda counter serving ice cream sodas, Perry Mason, Bing Crosby and others), the local church would have been part of that community culture and, so, an odd omission to not have one of its numerous characters attending a service in one of these two stories. On the other hand, as with other Martha Grimes novels, attention is paid to new age practices in this series. In Bell Ruine and continued into Fadeaway Girl, Emma is a regular customer for tarot card readings.
All in all, this portrait of Americana, enlarged with a kidnapping and murder, keeps the reader in constant motion with sufficient twists, people and settings to be is very enjoyable to the end! And since the Fadeaway Girl remains a mystery, perhaps we will see a 5th Emma Graham story in the future :>)
This is another example of a book written to adults, even though the protagonist is a 12 year old girl. It will be of interest to adult women. However, older teen girls who enjoy sharing cozy mysteries with their moms will also enjoy Belle Ruin & Fadeaway Girl. Mild profanity and use of God’s name throughout; some occult practices. Otherwise, a fairly clean story of suspense without gore, humourous reference to Emma’s not quite knowing about sex. Litland.com recommends age 16+. Get your copy to share!
Berry, Jedediah. (2009) The Manual of Detection. Penguin Group. ISBN-10: 0143116517. Litland.com recommends ages 14+ and acceptable for advanced readers.
Charles Unwine is a reluctant hero. He wants nothing more than to return to his desk performing his clerical work. Instead, he is pushed forward seeking truth by an underlying thread of virtue in his otherwise feeble personality. And by the unfortunate incident of stumbling upon a corpse.
And so the story begins with this clerk at a detective agency suddenly being promoted to rank of detective himself. Left to investigate the past cases of his esteemed predecessor, Travis Sivart, the situation is hilarious because of Berry’s tongue-in-cheek treatment of the agency bureaucracy. We are captured into a surreal existence which at times is touched with a Dick Tracy style while remaining quite unique all its own. As the story progresses, its plot joins the realm of sci-fi espionage complete with dream spies. Yet it never runs out of speed, twists, and motion to hold reader interest.
Berry’s writing style is colorful and the humor never ends. Each of Sivart’s past cases has a hilarious title like The Man Who Stole November 12; its characters suffer narcolepsy while “coincidentally” the town’s alarm clocks disappear. The numerous characters intertwine as one sub-plot builds onto another. And the rich dialogue and narrative capture the reader into another world.
Honestly, I chose to read this book because its description used the word “gumshoe”. I figured any book with a gumshoe couldn’t be too profane. With only a few instances of mild profanity, no unnecessary sexuality or gore, this book is pure enjoyment. It is an optimistic portrayal of an underdog persevering to the end, relying upon his strengths and virtue to outsmart the bad guys. Yet the story is stylistically unique. Written to adults, it will also hold the imagination of teens and even younger advanced readers. Highly recommended for class, homeschooling, and family book clubs! Check out our review against character education guidelines and pick up your own copy in our bookstore!
Manno, Mike (2010) End of the Line: A Parker Noble Mystery. Five Star Publishing of Gale, Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1594148637. Litland recommends of interest to adults, acceptable for older teens.
Publisher description: When former banker R. J. Butler is found murdered on a city transit bus, police take little time making a connection with the embezzlement at his former bank. But is that the motive for his murder? State police detective Sergeant Jerome Stankowski and his persnickety “partner,” Parker Noble, are called to investigate and run into a host of possibilities including a trophy wife on drugs and an ex-wife desperately needing a church annulment R. J. was blocking..
The second installment of the Parker Noble series, End of the Line, is a fun yet engaging, quick-paced detective mystery. Parker Noble may be the genius who solves the crimes, but it is Detective “Stan” Stankowski’s antics both on and off the job that lighten the story. Truly a man’s man, Stankowski enjoys girl watching while being easily manipulated by his somewhat-girlfriend Buffy the reporter. He tries to juggle dating 3 girls at the same time, each end up having a role in solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the contrast of Parker’s rigidly-ordered life to Stan’s adds color, and both humor and clues surface throughout the story just often enough to keep the reader alert. My favorite dialogue pertains to Parker’s dog, Buckwheat Bob the basset hound, who listens to talk radio while Parker is at work:
(Stan) “I take it that the human voice is soothing for him?”…(Parker) ”Not really, he likes to listen to the political talk”…”You don’t think he understands all of that, do you?”…”Don’t know, Stanley. All I can tell you is that he’s turned into quite a Republican.” LOL!
A cozy mystery written for adults, it would probably have a PG rating if a movie: use of the bird finger; one suspect referred to as tramp, hussy, nude model; Buffy pressuring Stan into taking a vacation together. However, Stan remains chaste in his girl-chasing and the story is focused on the relationships between all the characters, which adds depth, interest and a few chuckles along the way. A fun story available in the Litland.com Bookstore.
Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!
Publisher’s description: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)
Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…
As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play. We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!
And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!
Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…
The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.
I admit to being envious of the author’s creative writing talent and assume he must be a killer competitor in Scrabble!
If this were a movie (and I wish it were!), it would likely be PG. We have a tasteful treatment of unwed traveling companions and their pregnancy. Rather than being addressed in direct and vulgar manner, the author has Flavia make a correlation of their relationship to one in Oliver Twist. Her attempt to learn about the birds and the bees is thwarted by the well-meaning adults in her life. Very few instances of slang profanity. See our review against character education guidelines for the first book in the series for more detail http://www.litland.com/reviews_15up/Sweetnessbottomofpie.html
Ultimately, the reader is left with a smile on her face, and moving the next story in the series (A Red Herring Without Mustard) to the top of her reading to-do list. Excellent read! Grab your copy at the Litland.com bookstore.
Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.
Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.
This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!
Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures. But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift. I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.
Brown, Bea (2011) Wally the Cockeyed Cricket. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61777-106-4. Recommended age 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: When Wally the Cockeyed Cricket finds himself trapped in Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen, he sings a sad song and Mrs. Grumpydee’s locks Wally in a jar. When the jar is knocked over and shatters, Wally the Cockeyed Cricket sings a different tune.
Read it—see it—listen to it! The great thing about books from Tate Publishing is that you do not need to choose between print and audio formats because books have a code that permits you to download the audio version on MP3 too! The print version has beautifully captivating illustrations. Yet the young man (ok, he sounds young to this old reviewer!) reading the audio does an excellent job at it. A great enhancement to teach reading to little ones :>)
Of course, the most important reason to consider adding this book to your child’s bookshelf is because they will enjoy the story! As evidenced by its title, Wally looks a little different than most crickets. He doesn’t think anything of this difference and is happy as can be. Until, that is, he unfortunately wanders into Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen! Captured, bullied and made a public spectacle, Wally never loses courage or confidence. Helped with the aid of a complete stranger, he is rescued and makes a new friend. Virtues exhibited are courage, justice and friendship. A feel-good story where the good guys win! Great parent-child sharing, Pre-3rd grade class or homeschool, bedtime reading, gift giving, therapy use, and family book club! Grab your copy at the Litland.com Bookstore.
Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: Any day can be a lucky day. Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life?
Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!
Nordhielm Wooldridge, Connie. (2011) Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek of Boyds Mill Press. ISBN 978-1-59078-710-6. (26 pgs) Author recommends grades 4-6; Litland adds excellent for younger advanced readers.
Publisher’s Description: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Woolbridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz’s gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.
What a great overview of American history focused on transportation! Told in a folky style, the narrator’s storytelling voice reminds us of sitting on the front porch and listening to elders of the family recount the same stories over and over again. And even though we already knew the story, we enjoyed hearing it once more. Only for 8-11 year olds, these stories will be new :>)
Just Fine the Way They Are has lots of potential uses:
* reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find an easy and entertaining style holding their attention.
* a discussion tool for talking about feelings or conflict, making it great for family book clubs or class discussions.
* illustrations are brilliantly eye-catching—I was sitting in a diner reading this, and the waitress walked over saying “What a cute book!”. As such, it would surely keep the students’ attention if read to the class, whether reading to a traditional classroom or homeschool kids around the dining table.
* While intended for 4th, 5th & 6th grades, it also would be great for accelerated students writing their first book report.
An added touch: it comes complete with a historic timeline, bibliography, and list of relevant websites. Plus the author (a former elementary school librarian) has lesson plans on her website too (see http://conniewooldridge.com/ )! This is one of those unique books that provide diversity on the bookshelf, catching the eye of the reader looking for something a bit different, and being enjoyed many times over :>) Pick up a copy at our Litland.com Bookstore!
Beckett, Bernard. (2006) Genesis. London: Quercus Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84724-930-2. Author age: young adult. Litland recommends age 14+.
The island Republic has emerged from a ruined world. Its citizens are safe but not free. Until a man named Adam Forde rescues a girl from the sea. Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s sat facing three Examiners and her five-hour examination has just begun. The subject is close to her heart: Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. In a series of startling twists, Anax discovers new things about Adam and her people that question everything she holds sacred. But why is the Academy allowing her to open up the enigma at its heart? Bernard Beckett has written a strikingly original novel that weaves dazzling ideas into a truly moving story about a young girl on the brink of her future.
Irregardless of whether you are an evolutionist or creationist, if you like intellectual sci-fi you’ll love this book. How refreshing to read a story free from hidden agendas and attempts to indoctrinate its reader into a politically-correct mindset. And while set in a post-apocalyptic era, the world portrayed is one in which inhabitants have been freed from the very things that sets humans apart from all other creation, including man-made. Once engulfed in the story, the reader is drawn into an intellectual battle over this “difference” between man and man-made intelligence. The will to kill; the existence of evil. A new look at original sin. And a plot twist at the end that shifts the paradigm of the entire story.
Borrowing from the American movie rating scale, this story would be a PG. Just a few instances of profanity, it is a thought-provoking read intended for mature readers already established in their values and beliefs, and who would not make the error of interpreting the story to hold any religious metaphors. The “myth” of Adam and Art, original sin and the genesis of this new world is merely a structure familiar to readers, not a message. The reader is then free to fully imagine this new world without the constraints of their own real life while still within the constraints of their own value system.
This book is highly recommended for book clubs, high school book lists, high school/college philosophy or literature class, youth/college ministries, and other situations involving discussion of the story’s meaning.
Genesis is moderately short but very quick paced, and hard to put down once you’ve started! Thus it is not surprising to see the accolades and awards accumulated by Beckett’s book. The author, a New Zealand high school teacher instructing in Drama, English and Mathematics, completed a fellowship study on DNA mutations as well. This combination of strengths gives Genesis its intrigue as well as complexity. Yet it is never too theoretical as to exclude its reader. See our review against character education criteria at Litland.com’s teen book review section. And pick up your own copy in our bookstore!
Doman, Regina. (2007) Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-981-93184-5. Author recommended age: 16 +. Litland.com also recommends 16+. See author explanation for parents at http://www.fairytalenovels.com/page.cfm/cat/116//
Publisher’s description: Ever since he rescued her from Certain Death, Rose Brier has had a crush on Ben Denniston, otherwise known as Fish. But Fish, struggling with problems of his own, thinks that Rose should go looking elsewhere for a knight in shining armor. Trying to forget him, Rose goes to college, takes up with a sword-wielding band of brothers, and starts an investigation into her family’s past that proves increasingly mysterious. Then a tragic accident occurs, and Fish, assisted by Rose’s new friends, finds himself drawn into a search through a tangle of revenge and corruption that might be threatening Rose’s very life. The climax is a crucible of fear, fight, and fire that Fish must pass through to reach Rose and conquer his dragons.
It is difficult to capture the essence of this story coherently because it touches upon so many aspects of life. There is the mystery, of course, and continuing depth of family loyalty amongst the Briers. The craziness of those first years experienced when young adults leave their nest and venture into the outer world of college life, whether as newbie freshmen or advanced graduate students. Unlikely friendships as the strong nurture the weak with Kateri mentoring Donna in her mental illness, and Rose guiding Fish through abuse recovery. Fish’s loyalty to Rose, taken to the extreme, becomes unforgiving. But then self-denigration turns into enlightenment and hope.
And after all of that is said, we are left with the relationship of Fish and Rose finally reaching a neat and tidy conclusion :>)
The girls have progressed in the series to young adults. Blanche just married Bear and Rose is off to college. Fish continues in his college program too. Doman shows us the challenges young adults face when they first enter the world on their own, particularly in making friends and exploring crushes. We can imagine ourselves engaged in the chit chat and horseplay typical in budding relationships. Important also is the picture implanted in our mind of courtship.
Throughout the story, we can see the existence of three pillars: faith, family and friends. Whenever one of these pillars is weakened, internal conflict and unsafe situations arise. Maintaining the balance, we see Rose’s keen ability for discernment that has been honed as a result of consistency in faith life, family home “culture, and choice of friends. Her discernment is key to good decisions, keeping safe, etc.
Going beyond stereotypes, the dialogue paints a clear picture of the perceptions held by non-Christians against Christians, countered with a realistic portrayal of the passionate young Christian student. Previous books portrayed accurately the Catholic culture as the context within which the mysteries took place. This book is less of a cultural portrayal and, instead, draws us into the issue-filled, and often polarized, setting of college life. Woven therein are pieces of logic to help the reader refrain from being “sucked into” an erroneous view, such as when Fish points out to the doctors and faculty that campus-based pro-life activism isn’t any different from the environmental activism occuring on other campuses—leaving the implication in our mind of the unfair treatment received by pro-life advocates over other college groups. In a world of entertainment—especially literature—filled with strong agendas forming the minds of readers, these implications serve to train the brain into common-sensed reasoning.
In the midst of all this is a very timely and realistic mystery too! Transferring back and forth between His thoughts (Fish) and Hers (Rose), as well as their shared banter, readers of classic poetry and Shakespeare will continue to be entertained with the intellectual discourse.
And we see how a person, by an early age, can already be exhausted by life’s challenges when victimized again and again. Fish is told that “the world hasn’t stopped being evil just because you’ve stopped fighting it”, and eventually he regains reason and desire to fight again.
Not to be overlooked is the interesting contrast of public activism to protect life at conception, to the private vigil held by Rose’s family and friends to protect her well being at what could possibly be the end of her life. We are reminded of the need to treasure life until its natural end.
By far more intense than the previous two books of the series, Waking Rose deals with mental illness, inter-relational tension, physical and sexual abuse and the resulting gender identity conflict, healing same-sex attraction and developing healthy authentic relationships. All of this is taken within the context of arson, stalking, kidnapping, assault, and attempted murder, with each character’s strengths overcoming their weaknesses. Stylistically, the entire book is presented in back-and-forth fashion between His and Her views, making it appealing to young men and women alike. Rather than a romance novel, it is a realistic portrayal of the breadth and depth of emotions commonly experienced amongst the college-aged today.
Given the above, Litland.com does not recommend the story for younger advanced readers. However, teens and adults will find it moving and enjoyable. Taking this a step further, fiction such as this is necessary to combating the myths and hidden agendas forming the minds and hearts of kids and young adults today. It is especially good material for book club and youth or college ministry discussions, as well as homeschool or classroom literature courses at the high school and early college levels. Of course, it is highly recommended just for good reading too! See our review against character education criteria at Litland.com.