Have You Heard

Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 1:28am

Have You Heard About... Bittersweet

… the summer’s perfect beach novel? Summer may be several months away, but Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is definitely still worth a read.

Mabel is a Plain Jane college student who rooms with the gorgeous Ginevra Winslow. At first, Mabel believes that Ginevra only tolerates her presence, but then she suddenly invites Mabel up to her family’s private estate in Vermont for the summer. Delighted, Mabel wants nothing more than to be accepted by this beautiful group of people, until she starts uncovering dark secrets about the family.

All of the characters are deeply flawed, some of them bordering on unlikable…. Mabel is insecure as an outsider trying to escape her own horrible family life, Ginevra is spoiled and haughty, the Winslow parents are imperious and demanding, and the rest of the family comes across as greedy, and in some cases hopelessly sheltered. But they’re all COMPELLING characters, and I couldn’t help but keep turning the pages.

In my mind, this is the perfect summer novel: suspenseful, beautifully written, glamorous, gossipy, and ominous. The story describes an almost impossibly wealthy family from an outsider’s point of view, and I loved the thrill of “peeking behind the curtain” into the secret life of the Winslow family.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 1:41am

Have You Heard About... Lock in

… Haden’s syndrome, which prevents sufferers from making any voluntary movements, while leaving them fully conscious? This horrific condition is one of the key elements in John Scalzi’s Lock in. However, this is far from a horror novel. Technological advances designed to help people with Haden’s have given them access to a virtual reality called the Agora and to mechanical bodies called “threeps” that let them interact with the physical world. There are even a few people, “Integrators,” with the ability to let Hadens share their bodies when they need a more personal approach.

Lock in has horror aspects and plenty of science fiction, but at its heart, this is a mystery novel. A man is found dead in a Washington, DC, hotel room with a live Integrator who doesn’t remember what happened. New FBI agent Chris Shane (a Haden working through a threep) is assigned the case with Leslie Vann, an experienced agent and former Integrator. Their job is made more difficult because a new bill slashing federal funding to benefit Hadens is about to go into effect, and hundreds of people are flooding into the city to protest against it. More murders involving Hadens and Integrators follow, and Shane and Vann will need to work fast to find the people responsible before they end up on the list of victims.

John Scalzi is an excellent writer, adeptly blending humor, adventure, and suspense. Give this book a try!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - 1:51am

Have You Heard About... My Planet

Mary Roach’s short essays that were published in Reader’s Digest for several years? I’m quite familiar with her hilarious science writing, but these Reader’s Digest articles were a big surprise for me. And even though My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places doesn’t have the sophistication or the subject matter of her previous novels, I managed to LOL through this entire collection of Roach’s fabulous reflections on domestic life.

I’ve heard a couple of reviewers refer to this as bathroom reading - short essays designed to be read in the span of a few minutes - and that’s probably the best way to approach this book. Trying to read large chunks of the book can be a little exhausting, especially when you realize just how many essays are included, but two or three provides a perfectly sized dose of her trademark humor. Such as:

“Like any normal couple, we refused to accept each other’s differences and did whatever we could to annoy the other person.”


“A family is a collection of people who share the same genes but cannot agree on a place to pull over for lunch.”


“Not long ago, a mysterious Christmas card dropped through our mail slot. The envelope was addressed to a man named Raoul, who, I was relatively certain, did not live with us.”

Quite frankly, I don’t really care what Mary Roach writes. She’s just too darn funny for her own good.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 31, 2014 - 1:59am

Have You Heard About... The House of the Four Winds

… the twelve princesses of Swansgaarde? Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory begin a new series with The House of the Four Winds. The Duke and Duchess of Swansgaarde have only daughters until their thirteenth child is born. While they are glad to have a son, because only men can inherit the throne, they now have far more daughters than they can afford dowries for. Fortunately, each of the girls has been encouraged to study what they enjoy doing (in addition to getting a well-rounded general education), so they agree that they will go out to seek their fortunes once they turn eighteen.

The premise is, admittedly, a bit silly. However, the series gets off to a good start with the story of Clarice, the oldest daughter. She has strong skills with the sword and decides to travel for a while before settling somewhere as a teacher and Swordsmaster. Unfortunately for her, she ends up on a ship with a dreadfully cruel captain, and it seems like every time the crew’s situation starts to improve, another tragedy strikes. This is definitely a fantasy novel, however, not horror — while there is sorrow and loss, there is also plenty of humor, and the overall tone is relatively light. In the end, bravery, quick wit, and (of course!) true love save the day.

One Dozen Daughters is off to a great start as a fun fantasy series filled with adventures and strong female characters!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - 1:54am

Have You Heard About... Night Film

… the mystery surrounding cult horror film director Stanislas Cordova? In Night Film by Marisha Pessl, the story itself is a hardboiled mystery novel with strong horror elements. Scott McGrath, a publicly ridiculed journalist, sets out to revive his reputation by investigating an enigmatic horror film director with a large cult following named Stanislas Cordova. It was his previous investigation of this director that tarnished his image, but now Scott thinks he has a story that will reveal dark secrets about the director, his films, and his family.

I was FASCINATED by the depiction of the director’s fan base, which was depicted through a series of mock websites and forum posts scattered throughout the novel. Some critics claim that this device tries too hard to be clever, but I loved it. It added to the story without being intrusive, and it gave the book a distinctly modern feel. And for an even more modern touch, readers can download a free app that provides more backstory wherever Cordova’s symbol appears on the page. I didn’t download the app, but it’s an interesting literary device in this era of electronic reading.

Some of the characters refer to Cordova’s films as mind altering, life changing, gruesome, and disturbing, and some speculated that the violence in Cordova’s films was actually real. Other characters speculated that Cordova was involved with demonic worship. And deep down, a dark and disturbed part of me wished that I could see these transformative films for myself. This, to me, is the mark of a truly great novel – a story that has you so enthralled, you start to believe that it’s real. Anyone with a taste for dark and disturbing literature should definitely give Night Film a try


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 1:48am

Have You Heard About... Princeless

… the princess who rescued herself? The graphic novel Princeless brings us the story of Adrienne, second-youngest of the seven daughters of King and Queen Ash. Her father locked her in a tower with a mystical guardian, just like he did with her older sisters. However, Adrienne isn’t interested in waiting to be rescued by some man she will be forced to marry. Instead, she befriends her dragon, leaves the tower, and goes to free her sisters with the help of the dwarf blacksmith Bedelia.

Writer Jeremy Whitley gives us stories full of adventure and humor as Adrienne goes to take on the world with far more bravery and chutzpah than skill (or sense, on occasion). The slightly-cartoony styles of artists M. Goodwin and Emily Martin work well with the over-the-top action and fantasy magic. This is a fun series with strong female characters with very different interests and personalities. Book two introduces Adrienne’s oldest sister, who has a very different perspective on her captivity.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 - 1:39am

Have You Heard About... The Burn Palace

… the small Rhode Island town where a newborn baby was kidnapped and replaced with a gigantic snake? Talk about starting off your book with an attention-grabbing premise.

This marks the beginning of Stephen Dobyns’ newest novel, The Burn Palace, as well as the beginning of bizarre events that start happening all over town. Coyotes are out roaming the streets. Strange deaths seem to be linked with local witches and Satanists. And in the midst of this murder and seemingly-paranormal mayhem is a police force who is desperately trying to make sense of the seemingly-disjointed occurrences. In other words, it’s a strong mix of small-town horror and police procedural, with a little bit of experimental writing thrown in.

The small New England town setting, the gradual increase in horror and suspense, and the colorful characters all reminded me very strongly of the Horrormeister himself, Stephen King. And apparently he thought very highly of The Burn Palace as well, because he offered up this little gem: “It is, simply put, the embodiment of why we read stories, and why the novel will always be a better bang for the entertainment buck than movies or TV. Great story, great prose. You can’t ask for more than this book gives.” Well said. And I can’t wait to start suggesting this novel to the Stephen King fans who frequent the library!


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - 1:19am

Have You Heard About... This is a Moose

… the majestic moose, drinking from lakes, eating leaves, and dreaming of being an astronaut? In This is a Moose, a crew is filming a documentary on moose in the wild. Unfortunately, the director has a very specific idea of what moose do in the wild, and it does not include flying to the moon! The director gets more and more frustrated when the moose (and everyone around him) refuse to do what the director wants, until he forced to realize how unreasonable his expectations really are.

Author Richard T. Morris and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld teamed up to bring us a great children’s book about stereotypes and prejudice. The story gets very silly as more and more animals are shown outside their “natural” roles. The illustrations include wonderful background details and several hints to the eventual outcome. Check out this funny picture book with a gentle message!


Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 1:21am

Have You Heard About... The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

… the ten year old girl who solves a murder before the police do? C. Alan Bradley’s cozy mystery novel, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, introduces us to Flavia de Luce, one of the most precocious and inventive heroines in recent literary memory.

This was my first foray into the world of cozy mysteries, and Flavia, the book’s ten-year-old narrator and amateur sleuth, won me over from the first page. She has more spunk and personality than all of the other characters combined, and with her keen mind and penchant for chemistry and poisons, she is the perfect person to investigate the murder of a mysterious man in her family’s cucumber patch.

Since the story takes place in a sheltered, rural English town, Flavia has the freedom to travel all over the county with her trusted bike, Gladys, in order to solve the mystery. Her travels take her to the town library, an all-boys academy where her father and the murdered man were classmates, and to the jailhouse, where she visits her father who is being held under suspicion of murder.

Flavia’s voice really makes this story what it is, with her vivid imagination and her dry and surprising humor. The mystery itself was interesting enough (well plotted, but no big twists or surprises), but Flavia made me keep coming back for more. If the world had more ten-year-old girls like her, it would be a much more interesting place.


Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 12:48am

Have You Heard About... Otherbound

… the Dunelands and Alinean Islands in the Gray Sea? Neither has anyone else in Nolan’s world, but he can’t get away from them. Every time he closes his eyes — to sleep, to rest, even just to blink — he is transported from his own life in Arizona to that of Amara, a slave on another world. Nolan has no control over what Amara does or sees or thinks, but he shares her thoughts, sees through her eyes, and feels all of her pain and pleasure. He would do anything to be free of her, and she doesn’t even know that he exists.

This is the story of Corinne Duyvis’ Otherbound — two teenagers trapped together, neither with full control of their lives. Seeing two worlds is constantly distracting for Nolan, and when Amara is scared or hurt, it can be impossible for him not to be distracted by her world. Nolan’s family thinks he has a rare form of epilepsy, and his parents are doing everything they can to find the treatments that will help control his “seizures.”

Amara is a slave in service to the deposed princess, fleeing for their lives from the mages who want to kill her. Amara is forced to take on every punishment the princess might otherwise suffer because her own magic allows her to heal from almost any injury. Finally, one of the medications helps Nolan get some control over his connection to Amara, and they start to learn more about the mages of her world and the power that binds them together.

This is a fascinating fantasy adventure story with two teens caught up in circumstances (almost) beyond their control.


Reviewed by Fran (staff)