Have You Heard
… Captain Trips, a devastating flu virus that wipes out 99% of the American population? This marks the beginning of Stephen King’s epic fantasy/horror novel, The Stand, and let me tell you, this one is a doozy. The uncut version is between 1100 and 1400 pages long, depending on which edition you read, but believe me when I say that this story is well worth the effort.
The basic story involves a flu virus that wipes out most of the American people. Only a few survivors are left in the deserted country, and slowly, they begin to band together. But at the heart of the apocalypse are two opposing forces: Mother Abagail, a 108-year-old black woman from Nebraska, and Randall Flagg, the “dark man” who haunts the dreams of the plague survivors. As the survivors are drawn towards either Mother Abagail or Randall Flagg, a great confrontation between good and evil begins to coalesce, bringing a small group of men into the desert to face the growing forces of Randall Flagg.
This is a really hard book to classify - on the one hand, it’s full of apocalyptic horror, and Randall Flagg is one of the best-developed villains in any of Stephen King’s works. On the other hand, the ultimate confrontation between good and evil, as well as the epic journey the characters must take, suggest elements of fantasy. And on the OTHER hand (yes, that’s three hands now), this is just a really well-told story that goes beyond known genres.
The main drawback to the book is its extraordinary length, but the characters are so well developed and the story is so interesting that it never feels slow or boring. In fact, I’d even go so far as to call this a FAST read…it certainly kept me turning the pages late at night.
Even if you’re not a fantasy or a horror fan, I highly, highly recommend this book. This is Stephen King at his best, and it’s a perfect example of why he’s considered one of the world’s premiere story-tellers.
Reviewed by Katie (staff)
…the retro/modern casserole cookbook that has something for everyone? In The Casserole Queens Cookbook by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock, you will find retro 50’s casserole recipes that will have you drooling as you recreate these iconic classics.
The first thirty-three pages are a must read. Not only are they informative, but they are funny as well. A dish towel apron pattern is even included. Once I had the supplies needed, it took me all of ten minutes to make, and it works like a charm. (You don’t need a sewing machine either.) Dressing the part, having an apron and listening to music are a must while you cook these casseroles. Page sixteen tells you so.
The part on freezing your creations is very helpful so you don’t end up with mush or a chipped tooth. There are two pages on how to cut calories and only three pages on how to use this cookbook – assumptions and techniques. There are little family stories at the start of some of the recipes, which I thought were interesting, and a few tidbits at the end of some of the recipes. The “Mandarin Meatloaf” was a new version of an old favorite. It was a hit at my house, and the leftovers reheated just fine. “Damn Skinny Yankee Pot Roast” was very easy to make, but don’t save the leftover potatoes for the freezer as they get kinda mushy when reheated. The “Frenchy Toast Casserole,” I made only half the recipe one Sunday morning, and it was delicious. I’m anxious to try the “Freakin’ Insane Chocolate-Chip Applesauce Quick Bread” next.
Reviewed by Terry (staff)
… the classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Six or the Dinosaur Cookbook? Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores is just what the title suggests, a compilation of anecdotes collected by Jen Campbell from her own experiences and stories shared by booksellers around the world. It has everything from misunderstood titles and people desperate for the latest in their favorite series, to a customer who wants her books delivered down the street because it’s raining.
Some of the stories involve innocent mistakes and people simply having a bad day. Others will show you the incredible depths of rudeness to which some people will sink. Can you imagine ordering a pizza to be delivered at the store where you are shopping, or wanting to return a book that had been dropped into a bathtub filled with water, or insisting every bookstore in the world stop carrying the book that gave your child nightmares? These are only some of the strange things people have done in shops. Fortunately, library patrons are much more sensible and kind than bookstore customers!
Reviewed by Fran (staff)
… the cute little baby chicks in the Children’s Department at the Waukegan Public Library? If you have already seen them, then The Natural History of the Chicken will be an extra treat. If you haven’t, you need to check out this DVD, ASAP.
You’ll cackle with delight as you watch some of the silly antics of people who make chickens pets. I especially liked the lady who put a diaper on her fluffy chicken so it wouldn’t make a mess in her house as it watched opera on TV. The story of the guy who raised roosters and drove his neighbors crazy with all of the cockle-doo-da-doodling is great. You’ll learn something about chicken farmers, chicken breeders and the conditions that chickens are forced to live in just to feed humans, and you’ll be amazed at how much chicken is consumed by the average person in one year.
The story of the Headless Michael is touching. In the 1940s, Michael’s head was chopped off, and he lived for almost a year. He toured the world and was hand fed. Amazing, but true. The story of Liza is spiritual. She longed for baby chicks of her own and almost died to protect them. How about the story of Valerie? Her owner gave her mouth to beak resuscitation when she froze in a nor’easter and the owner thought she was dead. If you’ve ever had to kill a chicken for food and pluck it and then eat it like I have, you’ll understand that every creature has more than one purpose in life. You will never look at a chicken in the same way once you’ve seen this educational, funny and touching DVD. It’s a one-hour family film, but be sure to watch it with little kids in case they have questions.
Reviewed by Terry (staff)
… America being settled by witches? Born Wicked, the first book of Jessica Spotswood’s Cahill Witch Chronicles, is set at the end of the nineteenth century in an alternate history where America was founded by an organization of witches instead of pilgrims. The witches grew in power until they were overthrown by the Brotherhood, a group of misogynists who control every aspect of a woman’s life. When a young woman turns sixteen, she must either declare her intention to obey her husband forever or she must join the Sisterhood, the female arm of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood preaches the evils of womanhood in general and witches in particular.
Cate is the eldest of three sisters, all of whom are witches. Girls all over Cate’s town are being accused of witchcraft and hanged or sent to insane asylums, a fate considered worse than death. When Cate discovers that the three of them may fulfill a prophecy that promises to end the tyrannous reign of the Brotherhood, she must choose between keeping their secret or joining the secret band of witches bent on rebellion.
The plot is complicated by Cate’s inner struggle (she isn’t convinced that witchcraft isn’t wicked after all), the urgency of keeping family secrets, and the fact that the witch resistance doesn’t have the best interest of the Cahill sisters at heart. The next book in the series doesn’t release until June – I can’t wait!
Reviewed by Sara (staff)
… chocolate being addictive? The Chocolate Moose Motive* by JoAnna Carl is as addictive as chocolate; you won’t be able to put this book down. Set in Michigan, this book has a little bit of something for everyone. Chocolate – lusciously described, so you’ll be drooling as you read. Murder – did the wife, the father, or the best friend do the dastardly deed? With all of the twists & turns you’ll need to keep your chocolate close at hand. Dotty neighbors will have you laughing, but are they part of the murder or just nosy? More chocolate. An old hippie who’s not really into refined sugar. (This is totally unbelievable to us chocoholics.)
Lee McKinney Woodyard is the business manager at Ten Huis Chocolade (where each worker is allowed 2 free pieces of chocolate a day) in Warner Pier, Michigan. She’s also an amateur sleuth. When Lee hires Forsythia ‘Sissy’ Smith to work as an account at the shop, the gossip mongers of the town descend. Did Sissy really kill her hubby? Her father-in-law sure seems to think so, but Lee isn’t so sure when all kinds of crazy things start to happen, including another murder. Wildflower, Sissy’s mom, is the older hippie who now does taxidermy, and she swears that her daughter is totally innocent. Can Lee figure out “who dunnit” before someone else is killed? This is book number twelve in the series, but it has enough back story so you know who all of the main players are and how important chocolate is to each story line. It’s a must that you eat chocolate as you read these books! You won’t want to miss a single delicious one of them .
*Other books in the series include The Chocolate Cat Caper, The Chocolate Bear Burglary, The Chocolate Frog Frame-up, The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle, The Chocolate Mouse Trap, Chocolate to Die for (combines Puppy Puzzle and Mouse Trap), The Chocolate Bridal Bash, The Chocolate Jewel Case, The Chocolate Snowman Murders, The Chocolate Cupid Killings, The Chocolate Pirate Plot, and The Chocolate Castle Clue.
Reviewed by Terry (staff)
… the wizards in London? No, this isn’t a new Harry Potter book. Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot* is set in modern England, but its magic is much darker and grittier, and somehow more realistic, than J. K. Rowling’s style. Peter Grant is just finishing his training with London’s Metropolitan Police when he takes an eyewitness report from a ghost. That brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who takes him on as an apprentice and introduces him to the wonders and horrors of the magical world. Peter’s life will never be dull, or safe, again.
Midnight Riot beautifully melds police procedurals with urban fantasy. Aaronovitch guides us through the dark side of London, where an evil spirit takes over people to commit murder and spread chaos. Along the way, he introduces us to a number of neighborhoods and institutions, filled with surprising amounts of history about both the city and police work. The result is an enthralling, beautifully-detailed book filled with rich characters and an amazing mix of humor and horror.
Reviewed by Fran (staff)
… a very simple method to beat these hard economic times, called UWMW? In Money Secrets of the Amish, by Lorilee Craker, you can learn what not only the Amish, but millions of others already know. UWMW – Use it up, Wear it out, Make do or do Without. We waste a lot of money simply because we want instant gratification. Everything we buy nowadays seems to end up on a debit or credit card. What’s the matter with good old-fashioned cash? Yes, it’s dangerous to carry around a lot of cash. Solution: plan ahead what you want to buy and where to get it and only carry that amount of cash. It seems to have worked for the Amish for the past 250 years and for a lot of the people who grew up during the Depression of the 1930s and 1940s. It can work for you, too.
Start simple. Going to the movies is a good example of instant gratification. Why spend $60 or more for a family of four to see a movie and get munchies, too? All good things come to those who wait. Invest in a hot air popper for about $15-$30, or better yet use a heavy bottom kettle with a lid, and buy popping corn for about $1.10 for a two-pound bag. This is definitely cheaper than microwave popcorn in the long run. So far, you’ve only spent half of the money of going out just one time. The movie itself is even cheaper. You might have to wait a little while, but with your Waukegan Public Library card you can check out up to six DVDs at one time for FREE and have yourself a movie marathon.
Another simple start is second-hand shopping. Clothes, dishes, even furniture can be found if you are willing to spend a little bit of time looking. Learn to barter, use coupons, go together with a friend and buy in bulk, and always read the unit price on the shelf sticker when shopping.
A lot of this book is just plain common sense. This is also a funny read, and that is a good motivator in getting you started on the path to saving some of your money.
Reviewed by Terry (staff)
…the supernatural insurance company that uses death threats to coerce you into buying more insurance? Sounds a bit ridiculous, right? But in Bentley Little’s book, The Policy, this is an altogether believable and horrifying premise that plays upon our everyday, adult fears.
The story centers around Hunt Jackson, who has moved back home to Phoenix following a bitter divorce. Almost immediately, he runs into issues with his insurance - vandalism, harassment from his agent - until he receives an offer from a door-to-door insurance salesman who promises to take care of all his problems. But then the salesman keeps showing up, promising more and more outrageous insurance coverage, and the price of NOT accepting his offer gets steeper and steeper.
There is a sense of helplessness as the characters are drawn further and further into this nightmare, with seemingly no chance to escape the almighty force that has taken control of their lives. It’s like being strapped to an out-of-control roller coaster that’s becoming increasingly dangerous and erratic. His straightforward writing is very effective in pulling the reader directly into the heart of the story, and let me tell you, this story goes by FAST. Really, really fast.
Stephen King has praised Bentley Little’s work over the years, and for good reason: this guy writes some really scary stuff. This is a great author to try if you’re looking for a fast read to scare the pants off of you. You won’t be disappointed.
Reviewed by Katie (staff)
… the disfigured, grumpy guy who hates Christmas and doesn’t care much for chocolate either? In my book that would make him an alien, but in Loree Lough’s book, Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska, you meet the grump himself, Bryce Stone, a former marine who was hurt during the Afghan was. He thinks that Christmas is too commercial, but he’s the owner of a kitschy Christmas shop that his parents left him. His aunt Olive runs the place, and she’s something of a mind reader. Samantha Sinclair came to North Pole, Alaska, for a job as a chef in a fancy restaurant, but when the job falls through, she ends up working for Bryce and his aunt. Aunt Olive has a secret of her own and sees in Sam something that Bryce desperately needs – a special understanding of his problems in dealing with how the war affected him and his lack of faith in God.
See how Sam gets Bryce to stop feeling sorry for himself. Sam grew up with seven older brothers, and she’s spunky and spontaneous. She knows how guys think. Can Sam and Bryce see eye to eye on running the shop, a tragedy and new found love? You won’t want to put this funny, endearing book down, so be sure to have a lot of time to just sit and read.
North Pole, Alaska is a real place, and the town is open with Christmas spirit 365 days a week, 24 hours a day.
*Love Finds You in North Pole Alaska, is part of the Love Finds You series of unconnected inspirational romance novels.
Reviewed by Terry (staff)