Thursday, May 26, 2011

Books By Theme: Murder in Bloom

"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."
~ H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), American author and satirist

book cover of All The Flowers Are Dying by Lawrence Block
All the Flowers Are Dying
by Lawrence Block

In a dark novel that alternates between alcoholic ex-cop Matthew Scudder's viewpoint and that of a ruthless serial killer, Scudder finds himself and those he loves the object of the cunning murderer's attention. Readers new to Scudder who want to watch him age over the course of the series will want to bypass this 16th entry and start with The Sins of the Fathers; Block fans who need a little something to tide them over while waiting to get their hands on A Drop of the Hard Stuff, Scudder's 17th novel that's due out next month, should try Robert B. Parker's Spenser books or J. A. Jance's J. P. Beaumont novels.

book cover of The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
The Last Kashmiri Rose
by Barbara Cleverly

After a stint with a police force in colonial India, Scotland Yard detective and WWI veteran Joe Sandilands thinks he's going home to England. He couldn't be more wrong. The governor of Bengal requests his aid when the wife of a British officer is found dead. It looks like suicide, but when Sandilands investigates, he discovers that several wives have died over the last decade and that there are strange coincidences between the deaths--like each woman dying via her greatest fear (burning, cobra bite, etc.). Golden-age mystery fans will especially enjoy Barbara Cleverly's vividly drawn, well-plotted, and "spellbinding debut" (New York Times Book Review), which is the 1st in a series that now numbers eight.

book cover of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose
by Umberto Eco

In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville is sent to investigate charges of heresy against Franciscan monks at a rich Italian abbey, but his priorities shift when several monks die in bizarre ways. With his apprentice Adso of Melk, William investigates the murders and explores the abbey's strange medieval library. Written by an Italian professor of semiotics, The Name of the Rose is something of a modern classic. Originally published in English in 1983, it has sold millions of copies in multiple languages and is beloved by many. If you're in the mood to savor words and complex ideas, check this one out.

book cover of Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
Queen of the Flowers: A Phryne Fisher Mystery
by Kerry Greenwood

Who is chosen as St. Kilda's Queen of the Flowers in 1928 Melbourne, Australia? The Honourable Phryne Fisher, of course! But the independent-minded, glamorous flapper and amateur sleuth finds herself dealing with more than her royal floral duties when one of her four young flower maidens vanishes. Phryne investigates, but more trouble occurs when Phyrne's own adopted daughter Ruth disappears. And then there's Phyrne's unexpected reunion with one of her many former lovers. Though this is the 14th book in this "consistently strong series" (Booklist), newcomers who like lighthearted tales peopled with witty, intriguing characters can start here.

book cover of Flower Net by Lisa See
Flower Net: A Red Princess Mystery
by Lisa See

Set largely in 1997 Beijing, Flower Net introduces Chinese detective Liu Hulan and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Stark. The two former lovers team up to solve two high-profile murders: the killings of both the son of the American ambassador to China and the son of one of China's elite. Though some readers may find this fast-paced, suspenseful novel to be less assured than Chinese-American author Lisa See's later books, those who enjoy learning about other cultures should check out this 1st in a trilogy (it's followed by The Interior and Dragon Bones). Fans who want to read more of See's writing about China but don't mind leaving murder behind should pick up one of her later, bestselling novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, or Shanghai Girls.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mailbox Monday- May 23

mailbox monday

Mailbox Monday is on tour at MariReads. I've been lazy with posting this month, so I'm just going to post a quick list of the books received. Be sure to visit the links to see the covers, summaries and videos!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Upper Elementary Edition

by Ursula Vernon
Dial Books, 2011


Danny Dragonbreath and Wendell travel to Mexico to visit Danny's bat specialist cousin, but when a giant bat monster kidnaps Danny, Wendell gets his chance to play hero and save his friend before the bat monster makes Danny a permanent addition to her bat family.

Why You'll Love It:
  • An appealing and accessible format that brims with kid appeal. Ursula Vernon has a real knack for fun and funny situations and dialogue, and she is skilled at integrating her prose and bold, graphic-novel-style illustrations.
  • Danny and Wendell are a great pair. Their contrasting personalities—Danny is always up for adventure, Wendell is a worrier—play off each other and make for humorous interactions. (When they’re going upriver in a rubber boat and find out there are piranhas in the water, Danny’s reaction is, “That is so cool!” while Wendell’s response is, “I’m going to die . . .”).
  • An effective combination of real and fantastical bat-related elements. Danny and Wendell find a hurt bat, and Vernon identifies some species and sprinkles facts throughout the book (she also includes an end note about these endangered creatures).The giant false-vampire-bat monster is a memorable character.
  • Readers who are familiar with the Dragonbreath books will be thrilled to see a new title. Those who are new to the series will have no problem following the plot.

by Marissa Moss
Abrams Books, 2011


Describes the life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, who disguised herself as a man, took the name Frank Thompson, joined a Michigan army regiment to fight in the Civil War, served as a nurse on the battlefield, and became a spy.

Why You'll Love It:
  • A fascinating story, engagingly presented. Readers will be inspired by Sarah Emma Edmonds’s grit and determination as she sees action on the battlefield, tends wounded soldiers, and spies for the Union Army.
  • Marissa Moss writes eloquently about the harsh realities of war: “One bloody battle followed another. Sometimes the North won, sometimes the South, but always the soldiers lost, thousands of them dying or maimed.”
  • John Hendrix’s distinctive illustrations—done predominantly in a palette of blues, oranges, and beiges—are striking and atmospheric. Characters practically leap off the page at times, and bold hand-drawn lettering—using a poster motif that evokes the Civil War era—splashes across spreads.
  • Excellent bookmaking, with a striking cover and an appealing design from start to finish. The backmatter includes author’s and artist’s notes that provide further context and lead to a deeper appreciation of the book.

by Jennifer Holm
Random House, 2011


While working on a school science fair project, Babymouse discovers Squish, a new species of amoeba that talks and eats cupcakes.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Babymouse is a smart, funny character, to whom readers will easily relate. This installment will delight both fans of the series and newcomers.
  • The way daydreams and reality constantly interrupt each other is both amusing and realistic, and keeps the narrative enjoyable and interesting.
  • Vibrant illustrations, mostly in black and white, with pink to suggest the imagined passages, have fluid lines and an improvised feel.
  • The science-based jokes are fun, as is Babymouse’s ingenious solution to her science project dilemma. Her project also introduces a new character—who is the star of the new series Squish.

book cover of Max Quick by Mark JeffreyMax Quick: The Pocket and the Pendant
by Mark Jeffrey
Harper Collins, 2011


Young Max, a troubled boy with a mysterious past, joins two other youths unaffected when the rest of the world was frozen in time on a journey across America--and time itself--seeking the source of the "Time-stop."

Why You'll Love It:

  • Immediately hooks readers with a captivating premise: time has stopped for everyone but a few kids, who now have free reign over the world.
  • Mark Jeffrey has created a vivid and inventive world. Rich descriptions leap off the page, for example: “[e]clipse-bitten red sunlight sprayed the jagged rocks along the roadside with the colors of sawdust and rust.”
  • Max’s and Casey’s outsider status—Max, because he’s an orphan, and Casey, because she’s impoverished—makes them sympathetic underdogs. Readers will admire the teens’ compassion, loyalty, and bravery in the face of (literally) alien circumstances.

book cover of Dino-Basketball by Lisa Wheeler
by Lisa Wheeler
Carolrhoda Books, 2011


The meat-eating dinosaurs play against the plant-eating dinosaurs in a fast-paced basketball game.

Why You'll Love It:

  •  The commentary is fast paced and exciting, the illustrations highlight basketball tradition and culture (cutting down the net, an audience showing team spirit), and the end is inspiring.
  • Gott's vividly colored illustrations are filled with energy-almost like sitting courtside. 
  • Wheeler's staccato rhyming verse mimics both the play-by-play announcement and the action of a basketball game, making readers feel a part of the excitement. "Allo answers off the dribble. / Diplo takes it up the middle- / -T. rex charges from behind. / Steals the ball. It's Meaty time!"

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

book cover of The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
The Peach Keeper
by Sarah Addison Allen
Random House, March 2011
Fiction (Chick-Lit)
Copy Provided by TLC Book Tours


Thirty-year-old Willa Jackson is reunited with Paxton Osgood, an old classmate from a prominent family, when he makes plans to restore the manor built by Willa's great-great grandfather, but construction unearths a skeleton and long-kept secrets, and Willa and Paxton bond during their search for the truth.

My Thoughts:

I've read reviews for all of Allen's books as they've come out over the years, and I've heard great things about her novels, particularly Garden Spells. When The Peach Keeper's 'blurb' mentioned the words 'Southern gothic mystery with a touch of magical realism,' I couldn't help but dive right in.

Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed in Allen's delivery. The premise is fantastic, right down to the dark and dirty side of the womens' society clubs of the South. A murder, a secret kept for decades, and a charismatic traveling salesman round out a recipe for a great read. The writing, however, often comes across as wooden and stilted. Some plot lines seem half-finished, as well as the development of most of the characters. I would love to read the same story written by a different author. Don't take my word for it, though. I am definitely in the minority!

Check out these other reviews:

Wednesday, April 13th:  Knowing the Difference
Friday, April 15th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, April 18th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, April 19th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Wednesday, April 20th:  A Few More Pages
Thursday, April 21st:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, April 22nd:  Life in Review
Monday, April 25th:  The Broke and the Bookish
Tuesday, April 26th:  Life in the Thumb
Wednesday, April 27th:  Crazy for Books
Friday, April 29th:  A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Monday, May 2nd:  Fizzy Thoughts
Tuesday, May 3rd:  Coffee and a Book Chick
Wednesday, May 4th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 5th:  Alison’s Book Marks
Friday, May 6th:  Bookfoolery and Babble
Monday, May 9th:  A Library of My Own
Tuesday, May 10th:  Teresa’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, May 11th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, May 16th:  A Bookshelf Monstrosity
Wednesday, May 18th:  Two Kids and Tired
Friday, May 20th:  In the Next Room

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Libraries in the News

BOOKS. Keep them. Yes, e-readers are amazing, and yes, they will probably become a more dominant reading platform over time, but consider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost. It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries.

~Sam Grobart, "Gadgets You Should Get Rid Of (or Not)", New York Times Personal Tech blog, March 23.

Where novels go to die
A bit like the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV series, Parmly Billings Library’s basement is where neglected works of fiction—castaways, rarities, and ones that aren’t popular anymore—often wind up. Called the Montana Last Copy Fiction Depository, it houses nearly 70,000 fiction volumes, some of which are more than 100 years old, from libraries around Montana and other northwestern states. But plans for a new library in Billings do not include it....
Billings (Mont.) Gazette, Apr. 24

goodreads logo
Top 20 Facebook apps for book lovers
Jason Boog writes: “Not all Facebook apps are dedicated to Farmville-style social games. Goodreads has the most popular book-related app on Facebook, counting more than 150,700 monthly active users. To celebrate 3,000 new friends on our GalleyCat Facebook page, we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 book-focused apps on Facebook and ranked them in order of monthly active users.”...
GalleyCat, Apr. 24

New York Public Library Lion
NYPL lions (and their building) turn 100
Will Patience (right) have the patience to make it to 100? Will Fortitude have the fortitude? The lions in front of the New York Public Library (and the Stephen A. Schwarzman building that they guard) will be a century old on May 23. The library is planning a gala that will celebrate the building’s history, but did not want to forget the lions. So they have commissioned artist Nathan Sawaya to create a playful homage to them in Legos....
New York Times: City Room, Apr. 21

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Elementary Edition

book cover of The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood
The Loud Book
by Deborah Underwood
Houghton Mifflin, 2011


From the blare of an alarm clock in the morning to snores and crickets in the evening, simple text explores the many loud noises one might hear during the course of a day.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Deborah Underwood invites young readers to think about sound in intriguing ways. Her catalog of loud moments includes things that sound loud (alarm clocks, fire truck sirens), as well as things that feel loud (burps during quiet time, a mother’s disapproval).
  • The book’s world feels cozy and lived-in, thanks to Renata Liwska’s adorable animals and soft color palette.
  • Readers will have fun comparing The Loud Book to The Quiet Book, which shares the same playful sensibility and appealing cast of characters.
  • Children may be inspired to think about the different kinds of moments that make up their days.

book cover of Owly and Wormy, Friends All Aflutter by Andy Runton
Owly and Wormy, Friends All Aflutter!
by Andy Runton
Athenum, 2011


Good friends Owly and Wormy are disappointed when their new plant attracts fat, green, bug-like things, instead of butterflies, until a metamorphosis occurs.

Why You'll Love It:
  • Andy Runton conveys his story entirely through illustrations; even the characters’ “speech” bubbles contain only images and easily recognizable symbols. This approachable format will attract pre-readers, beginning readers, and reluctant readers.
  • The simple tale is full of heartwarming details and subtle humor, such as the nuanced expressions on Owly’s face and the appearance of a compact fluorescent lightbulb over his head when he has an idea.
  • Cute characters and saturated backgrounds give the bold artwork wide appeal. The design will also draw in lovers of comic books and the existing Owly graphic novels.
  • Attentive readers may notice cocoons gradually getting bigger on Owly’s plant. When Owly learns the relationship between caterpillars and butterflies, readers will, too. Or, if they already know the connection, they’ll have the joy of solving the mystery of the green bugs’ disappearance before Owly does. 

    book cover of Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg
    Queen of the Falls
    by Chris Van Allsburg
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
    Genre: Biography


    Recounts the stunt performed by sixty-two-year-old retired charm school instructor Annie Edson Taylor, who went over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel in an effort to gain fame and fortune.

    Why You'll Love It:
    • It's Chris Van Allsburg! He's back! Do you really need any other reasons??? 

      book cover of What's For Dinner by Katherine B. Hauth
      What's For Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World
      by Katherine B. Hauth
      Charlesbridge, 2011
      Genre: Poetry


      A collection of illustrated poems for children that explore the dietary preferences of animals, describing the menus of turkey vultures, archer fish, baby wasps, and more.

      Why You'll Love It:
      • Biology, verse, and colorful cartoons make a fun combination in this collection of 29 poems in which the wordplay is sometimes as gruesome as the science.
      • Delectable poetic lessons on the food chain designed to help young readers rather literally digest the natural world. 
      • Ink-and-watercolor images balance grotesque or absurd touches (think bulging eyes, sharp teeth, lolling tongues) with bright colors and attractive details.
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