Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 12:24am

Have You Heard About... The Girl in the Leaves

… the real-life thriller that reads like a novel? I just got finished with Robert Scott’s The Girl in the Leaves. This really crazy guy breaks into a house, kills three people and kidnaps the daughter. It has lots of twists and turns you don’t see coming.

There is a lot of good police work in this story. Every time you think you know what is going to happen, it doesn’t. The girl in the book is a very strong character. All the way through, you have to root for her. I liked it because she was strong. She never stopped believing she was going to be saved. The Girl in the Leaves keeps you on the edge of your seat. I like books like this, where you can’t put them down.

 

Reviewed by Jean (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - 12:53am

Have You Heard About... Hidden Treasures

… what you can find behind the scenes in museums? Around the country, museums have far more items in their collections than they could ever display at one time. Harriet Baskas gives us a quick look at some of them in Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You. Each of the more than fifty chapters gives a quick overview of an institution, then describes an item that is not on display to the general public, with a photograph if possible. In some cases, the materials are displayed as part of special exhibits or were displayed in the past but have been put into storage, but everything in the book is not available as part of a permanent exhibit.

The museums vary greatly, from small, specialized institutions to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and divisions of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The reasons an item is not on display are equally broad. In some cases, size is a problem — either too small to be easily viewed (like a pin with President Truman’s face etched on the head) or too large to fit in a gallery (like a flying pig from a Pink Floyd concert). Other materials are too dangerous (like a notebook of research in battery development, complete with chemical samples) or too fragile (like Neil Armstrong’s space suit). Some items are no longer available to the museum; they were stolen from the institution or returned to someone with a legitimate claim. Still others are restricted due to controversies, real or potential, about religious symbolism, nudity, cultural insensitivity, or other concerns. In some cases, a museum simply has more than it can display at one time, and staff must make decisions about what is on permanent display and what is kept in storage.

Whatever the reason, these items are fascinating, and we are lucky to learn more about them. The next time you’re in a museum, admire what is on display, but also think about all of the treasures that might be hidden in offices, back rooms, and storage facilities.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 12:55am

Have You Heard About... We Were Liars

… the young adult novel that everyone’s reading, but no one is talking about? We Were Liars by E. Lockhart has generated a lot of attention over the last couple months, but the first thing you notice when you open the book is a note from the publisher asking to keep the plot a secret.

The story includes a privileged family, a terrible event that no one will talk about, a destructive friendship, and lies upon lies upon lies, but that’s all I’m going to say.

Prepare to scrape your jaw off the floor. And if anyone asks you how the book ends, LIE.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 12:44am

Have You Heard About... Games Creatures Play

… the ways ghosts, werewolves, and other monsters keep themselves amused? Check out Games Creatures Play, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner, to find out! The stories in this anthology feature psychics watching softball, a horrific game of hide and seek, ghosts who trash a supermarket playing baseball, an elf who races a bootlegger, and much more. They’re brought to you by some of the stars of fantasy and horror, including Joe R. Lansdale, Mercedes Lackey, Brandon Sanderson and Seanan McGuire.

This book includes a wonderful variety of stories, with tones ranging from light fantasy to dark humor to outright horror. Some of the “creatures” are protagonists or help the hero of their story, while others are definitely the bad guys (and girls). The writing styles are nicely varied, with something for pretty much every taste. The games may be the focus of the story or simply a background element, but all are worked in well and make a good theme for the collection. Give this book a try if you like fantasy and horror short stories — you’ll definitely find something you enjoy.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 12:21am

Have You Heard About... Mind of Winter

… the thing that followed a family home from Russia?

First rule of reading Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke: DO NOT LOOK AT THE LAST PAGE! Thankfully, I managed to avoid the temptation, although I wasn’t sure how one page could theoretically ruin everything. But it’s true. Don’t look at it!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…The story takes place on Christmas Day, when Holly Judge and her adopted daughter, Tatty, are snowed in by themselves. Holly, a poet with a massive case of writer’s block, wakes up in the morning with this thought running through her head: Something had followed them home from Russia. This thought crops up repeatedly as Holly thinks back on her visit to Russia years ago to adopt Tatty, and as she analyzes her daughter’s behavior and inconsistencies throughout the day. And as the day wears on, Holly’s thoughts become increasingly frantic as she realizes that she no longer recognizes her daughter.

This is one of those rare books where the last page makes or breaks the entire novel. If you aren’t sure if this story is for you, keep reading until you get to the last page. (It’s short enough to where this shouldn’t be a major sacrifice.) One of the blurbs on the back of the book described this story as a set of Russian matryoshka nesting dolls - everything carefully constructed to fit neatly inside one another, until you uncover the secret hiding in the middle. The story fits SO WELL with the ending that after I scraped my jaw off the floor, I wanted to turn to the front and read everything again to pick up on the things I had missed before.

This is a shocking little gem of a suspense story, and if you’re able to keep temptation at bay and avoid reading the last page, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 - 12:50am

Have You Heard About... Dial H

… the incredible power of some rotary phones? Instead of 9-1-1, Dial H-E-R-O to become a superhero! The power has a few quirks, however. The dialer becomes a random hero — anyone from Boy Chimney to Captain Lachrymose to Baroness Resin — all of his or her powers and weaknesses, down to the costume, but only for a limited time. Also, someone else is after the dial, someone who might not want to use the powers for good.

China Mieville, Mateus Santolouco, and the other artists do an incredible job on this remake of a DC comic from the 1960s (and the 1980s and 2000s). The basic concept is the same, but they bring their own dark, gritty, oddly funny feel. Even the main characters are, frankly, not very nice people, although they try their best to become the heroes that their world needs.

This compilation of Dial H collects the first six issues of the 2012 series, plus its issue 0. In addition to the main story arc, it has a nice follow-up where the characters discuss their responsibilities and which heroes they are not willing to be. (Would you want to be “saved” by Kid Torture?) There is also a short story explaining where the powers come from.

Not just a fun read, this one will make you think.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 12:33am

Have You Heard About... Just Listen

… the rise and fall of popular high school student Annabel Greene? Sarah Dessen’s extremely popular novel, Just Listen, follows Annabel, who is a high school student, a local model, and a pariah at school because of an incident that happened at a party earlier that summer. When she meets Owen, a fellow outcast with a love of experimental music and a surprisingly honest personality, she is forced to confront the situations that she’s been avoiding for the last several months - her apathy towards modeling, her sister’s eating disorder, and the truth about what actually happened last summer.

In my quest to become more familiar with YA fiction, I turned to my coworkers who suggested that I read Sarah Dessen, specifically this novel. Contemporary YA can be hit-or-miss for me, but this book surprised me. I really, really enjoyed it. In fact, I read it over the course of two days and at times had to physically pull myself away from the book because, oh, you know…I had to eat. Or sleep. Or whatever.

There are a ton of appeal factors that make Just Listen a great suggestion for a wide range of readers: writing that does not feel dated, a significant subplot revolving around eating disorders, an honest portrayal of friendship during the high school years, romance, a positive ending, and a universal message about conflict and honesty. In fact, this book has the makings of a classic, one that teen readers will continue to check out years in the future. If you liked Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I definitely suggest giving this refreshingly honest book a try.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 12:46am

Have You Heard About... Humans of New York

… the people who live, work and play in one of the biggest cities on earth? Brandon Stanton took pictures from his popular blog, Humans of New York, to make a book of the same name. At its heart, it is just that — photographs of people somewhere in New York — but it is also much more.

These are people from all walks of life — old and young, male and female (and some where it’s hard to tell), every race and ethnicity you can imagine, long-time residents and new immigrants and tourists, crowds and small groups and individuals and close-up shots that only show part of the person. Many of the pictures are simply captioned by location, “Seen in Crown Heights, Brooklyn,” or “Seen in the Meatpacking District.” Others have simple comments by the photographer or his subject, “Two ages, same beauty,” and “I’m a time traveler.” A few have longer explanations or discussions with the people being photographed. One picture is accompanied by the caption, “Some days I worry that I won’t find anyone to photograph. Then I turn the corner and see a giant tree man.”

This is a fascinating book. Some parts are wonderfully funny or moving, and others are very sad or distressing. Above all, though, it is a book about people and everything that makes us human.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 12:46am

Have You Heard About... Dark Places

… the Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas? This horrific event forms the basis for Gillian Flynn’s aptly named second novel, Dark Places.

In the nineteen eighties, Libby Day survived what was eventually dubbed “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas,” when her older brother was convicted for murdering his mother and two of his sisters. Over twenty years later, Libby is broke, mean-spirited, and struggling with the scars left over from the murder. She still firmly believes that her brother is guilty, but there are many followers of the case who believe otherwise. In order to make some extra money, Libby agrees to talk to some of her old acquaintances and try to determine exactly what happened that awful night.

I’ve noticed in all three of her books, Gillian Flynn focuses a lot on how a single event can be interpreted in multiple ways, and how these misunderstandings can have devastating consequences. I loved how as I learned more about what actually happened that night, and as I learned more about the characters, light bulbs suddenly started going off in my head and everything started to make sense.

I have now read each of Gillian Flynn’s novels twice, and I am still in awe of her writing and her ability to craft some of the darkest, nastiest stories I’ve ever read. I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered an author who was able to provoke such a strong, visceral reaction in me. And as bleak as these novels are, I can’t stop reading them. They’re awe-inspiring in a slightly frightening way. Ultimately, this is a very satisfying and realistic story, despite the gruesome overtones, and I will once again mention how incredibly anxious I am for her to release a new novel. This book is just spectacular!

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 12:39am

Have You Heard About... Over the Wall

… the demons who will eat your name and your memory? They live in the city, Over the Wall, in Peter Wartman’s graphic novel. Years ago, demons and humans worked together to build the beautiful city. What happened to change that depends on which side you ask. However, the end result is the demons trapped in the city, with the humans living outside. Once a year, the boys who came of age that year must go into the city for a day. If they return by nightfall, they are safe. If a boy does not return, a demon has eaten his name, and he will quickly fade from everyone’s memory.

However, this year, a girl goes in search of her missing brother. She can’t remember his name. She can’t even remember what he looks like, but she is determined to find him and bring him home. Inside the city, she must confront (and befriend) demons as she tries to rescue her brother and get them both out safely. If she fails, they will both die, fading away as their parents forget that they even existed. If she succeeds, it may be the first step in healing the rift between demons and humans.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)