Archive for January 2011
Summary: Wyman Ford, ex-CIA agent, is tapped once again tapped for a secret mission, this time to investigate a crater deep in the Cambodian jungle. Meanwhile, two young women set off to find a meteor that landed on an island somewhere off the coast of Maine. And at the National Propulsion Facility, suspicious gamma ray data detected by the Mars orbiter is being violently suppressed. Ford has sixty hours to piece it all together, or the consequences will be devastating.
Review: This is the second novel (after Blasphemy) to feature Wyman Ford exclusively. It does have a stronger and more interesting story to tell, and one that’s less likely to be banned by the Vatican. Unfortunately, the execution here lacks the chilling believability of Blasphemy. It’s a fun read, to be sure, but there are too many moments that strain credibility for it to be great.
Read-a-likes: As always, Preston is a great alternative for Michael Crichton readers. This book does trend a little bit more into science fiction territory, so fans of books that feature humanity taking the first tentative steps out into a larger universe should also be rewarded. This would include Pushing Ice by Alistair Reynolds and the works of Arthur C. Clarke and Ben Bova.
Availability: This item is available as a book and audiobook from the Lake Bluff Public Library. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Summary: Times are hard in 1893 Montana, and a cowboy takes any decent job he can. Which is how Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer end up working for the shady and secretive Bar-VR outfit, looking only for hard work, bad pay and the chance to relax now and again with a few Sherlock Holmes stories pulled from Harper’s Weekly. Things take a drastic turn, however, when another hand turns up dead in the outhouse. Old Red had long felt that, illiterate cowboy though he may be, he had a mind meant for something greater. And so, with his brother along for the ride, he sets out to solve the case using skills gleaned from his hero, the Great Detective himself.
Review: This is the first in what is currently a 5 book series, and a finalist in 2007 for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. And, with strong writing and likeable characters, it was certainly worthy of that consideration. Fair warning, this is not a mystery for everyone. Big Red, who narrates, does so with a sort of laconic Roy-Rogers-esque humor that will polarize readers. And while it has a humorous element, this is most definitely not a cozy. Readers of Carl Hiaasen and Donald Westlake, though, will probably be best rewarded here. Readers of westerns will likely find a lot to like as well.
Read-a-like: If you enjoyed this one, there are of course a further 4 titles in the Holmes on the Range series. While they are more comic thrillers, the works of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey may be worth a look as well. Donald Westlake is another mystery author well-known for deadpan comedy in his mysteries. Mystery writers with series in the contemporary west, such as Peter Bowen and Nevada Barr, may be worth a look as well. Larry McMurtry’s westerns would probably be worth a look for those that enjoyed the setting.
Availability: This title is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Library Assistant – Part time
The Lake Bluff Public Library is seeking two energetic and customer-focused individuals to work as Library Assistants. Duties include circulation services like checkout, renewals, reserves, and fine payment. Other duties include locating and recommending materials, providing assistance with computers, and preparing library materials for use.
Familiarity with basic computer operations (like word processing and Internet searching) is required. Two years of college is preferred. Previous library experience is not required, but will be considered favorably.
The library is seeking to fill the two shifts shown below. In your application, please indicate which shift(s) you would be willing to work.
Wednesdays 1:00-4:00 PM
Thursdays 2:00-6:00 PM
Fridays 2:15-6:15 PM
Mondays 6:00-9:00 PM
Thursdays 6:00-9:15 PM
Saturdays 10:00 AM – 4:15 PM
Applicants should submit a résumé to email@example.com or visit the library for an application.
Lake Bluff Public Library
123 E. Scranton Ave.
Lake Bluff, IL 60044
Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled. EOE.
Summary: Former CIA agent Wyman Ford, having given up on seeking internal peace at a monastery after his wife’s death, has hung out his shingle as a private investigator. After several months of no work, he is summoned by the President’s science advisor and offered a job; visit a state of the art supercollider in a remote corner of Arizona, and find out what has gone wrong. The machine is under the control of nobel laureate Gregory North Hazelius and his handpicked team of 12 scientists. The secret they are hiding, however, will have terrible consequences.
Review: Usually both Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, who write most of their books together, don’t fare as well in their individual efforts. Preston’s Wyman Ford series, of which this is the 3rd book (kind of), is gathering steam. The writing here is strong, the plotting and characters tighter than Preston usually manages on his own. The subject matter, which deals with highly sensitive religious matters, is well handled. Religiously sensitive readers might want to take a pass, but those with an interest in theology or looking for a good thriller should take a look.
Read-a-likes: As always, Preston is an excellent choice for fans of the late Michael Crichton. The religious aspect here means that fans of Dan Brown (and the horde of imitators his success has spawned) may be rewarded as well. James Rollins Sigma Force novels might also be worth a look.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability!
Summary: Hiccup is a young Viking, a member of the northern island community of Berk. The village is locked in a constant struggle against pillaging dragons, and for a young Viking killing a dragon is everything. When he encounters a wounded dragon, however, Hiccup discovers that most of what his people know about dragons is wrong.
Review: This is probably the best movie I watched in 2010; I don’t watch many, so that may not be saying much. The story, which is packed with both humor and action, holds equal appeal to adults and kids. While it is entirely appropriate for kids (it’s rated PG), it is worth noting that this is not a Disney movie. At various points, the characters in the movie have to make hard choices, often resulting in very real sacrifices and consequences. While I acknowledge that some parents may be bothered by this (hence making it an individual judgment call), the movie is much, much stronger because of it. The animation is also lovely; it’s easy to see why this was a 3D IMAX movie.
View-a-likes: The wit and cross-generational appeal of How to Train Your Dragon is very reminiscent of the Shrek movies. If you enjoyed the dragons, you might pick up Eragon or Dragon Hunters, though both are better suited to a teen audience. And, of course, the movie is based on a series of books by Cressida Cowell.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library in both DVD and Blu-ray. Click here to check on the availability!
2010 was an eventful year for the Lake Bluff Library—we got a new director, said goodbye to two long-time staff members, expanded our collection to include digital formats, and made plans to move forward with building improvements in the coming year. And of course, there were books. The Lake Bluff Library staff would like to share some of our favorite books that we read in 2010.
Carlen’s Top Reads of 2010
Fordlandia by Greg Grandin (2009—Adult Nonfiction): Very well-received adult non-fiction! Great for guys!
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins (2010—Juvenile Fiction): Teen loses cell phone reception, disaster ensues.
Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill (2009—Teen Fiction): Crazy and humorous! Teen girl “Bug” finds out her car, a classic 1958 Cadillac, is actually owned by the Devil. It’s a literal wild ride to save Bug’s soul and to keep her car!
Stitches by David Small (2009—Teen Fiction): Perfect balance of striking artwork and a heart-wrenching story line. This would be a great read for people who have not read a graphic novel before. It’s also a great book for adults, even though we have it in teen. (See full review here).
Solomon’s Thieves by Jordan Mechner (2009—Teen Fiction): The Crusades meet the graphic novel. Good artwork, and not “girly.”
Fables by Bill Willingham (2003—Teen Fiction): All your favorite fairy tale characters now living in the present but unknown by regular humans (Mundys). The first book is a murder-mystery (exciting)! The storyline increases in depth and keeps the reader interested in the following novels.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009—Teen Fiction): A harrowing, realistic view of anorexia from the victim herself. Very well-written and captivating.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (2009—Adult Nonfiction): Marathon runner McDougall examines human evolution with regards to running. The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico can run for hundreds of miles. Also a good guy read!
Donna’s Top Reads of 2010
Stuff of Legend by Mike Raicht (2010—Juvenile Graphic Fiction): In 1944, a young boy is kidnapped by the Bogeyman who takes him to the realm of the Dark. His playthings join forces to rescue him. Outstanding graphics; its themes of camaraderie, betrayal, bitterness, and redemption make this a page turner for all ages. (Recommended: 5th grade and up).
Forever Friends by Carin Berger (2010—Juvenile Picture Book): In the spring, a bluebird wakes a rabbit and they play together every day until the fall comes and it’s time for the bird to fly south with a promise to return in the spring. (Recommended: preschool and up).
Chi’s Sweet Home series by Konami Kanata (2004—Juvenile Graphic Fiction): This series is for cat lovers and manga lovers. It shows the adventures of the most obnoxiously cute kitten ever who finds a new home with a loving family. (Recommended: 3rd grade and up).
We are in a Book by Mo Willems (2010—Juvenile Early Reader): The genius of Mo Willems shines through in his latest addition to the Piggy and Elephant series. The main characters come to life as the reader magically enters the book. (Recommended: kindergarten and up).
Eliza’s Top Reads of 2010
Enola Holmes and the Case of the Gypsy Goodbye by Nancy Springer (2010—Juvenile Fiction): The final installment of Enola Holmes, who solves the puzzles and ciphers around her mothers disappearance while trying to stay under the radar of her older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (1937—Juvenile Fiction)—Poirot is a really enjoyable character to follow through the classic beautifully wrought whodunits of Agatha Christie. Love triangles, jilted exes, follies of the rich and murder are on the menu for this one.
Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872—Adult Fiction)—Exquisite use of language and layered stories piled high with rich and extremely complex, flawed but sympathetically human characters. This story follows several families in a small town at a time of change.
At Home by Bill Bryson (2010—Adult Nonfiction): I would read anything this man writes, as he traces history’s footsteps through the house.
Eric’s Top Reads of 2010
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2010–Juvenile Fiction): Overcame the middle book slump of Catching Fire to provide a gripping conclusion that defied (rather than caved into) series expectations.
Slow Horses by Mitch Herron (2010–Adult Fiction): It’s that rare espionage thriller that gets the balance exactly right: the characters are allowed to be credibly intelligent spies and are given a credibly thorny problem that they unravel in a well paced and believable way. (See Eric’s full review here).
Echo by Jack McDevitt (2010–Adult Fiction): This is just a great series in general, with archeologists and collectors studying the history of a space traveling humankind 10,000 years from now. (For Eric’s full review, click here).
Work Song by Ivan Doig (2010–Adult Fiction): Okay, so this is the sequel to Whistling Season and if you’ve read that, you can’t pass on this. It stands on its own well enough, though, and Morris Morgan is a fantastic protagonist.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa (2009–Adult Fiction): This is a very hit-or-miss book, love or hate, but it worked for me. I liked the universality of the novel and the slow unfolding of the story in lovingly described everyday scenes. (See Eric’s review here; for Carlen’s review, click here).
Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems (2010–Juvenile Picture Book): Another book that not everyone loves, but it really worked for me. On the one hand, it’s a story about sharing and how in giving something away it’s possible to end up with more than you had ever imagined. It’s also a tale of growing up, putting away childhood things, and then finding them again when you have children of your own.
Martha’s Top Reads of 2010
The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson (1982—Teen Fiction): The wit and charm of the prose and the well-rounded ensemble of characters made this novel delightfully entertaining and really showcased Ibbotson’s talent with words.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (2009—Adult Fiction): Cherie Priest does incredible justice to an almost dangerously inventive premise. The characters are vivid and the alternate history is well executed and rather strangely realistic. (See full review here).
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2009—Adult Nonfiction): An intensely vivid account of a Syrian American business owner in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (2007—Adult Nonfiction): I came away from this book wanting to raise my own chickens and farm the front lawn. Highly recommended for fans of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009—Teen Fiction): Poignant, thoughtful, and utterly heartbreaking, If I Stay is a beautiful examination of family relationships. Break out the Kleenex box for this one. (See full review here).
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart (2005—Juvenile Fiction): Ruby Oliver is laugh-out-loud funny, intensely relatable, and a wonderfully well-drawn character. E. Lockhart is a talented author who effortlessly captures the spirit, diction, and drama of high school. (See full review here).
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater (2009—Teen Fiction): Sequel to Stiefvater’s Lament (see my review here). I loved Lament, but Ballad was even better. Stiefvater’s take on Celtic mythology is compelling and the narration is beautifully written and uniquely voiced.
Matt’s Top Reads of 2010
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris (2010—Adult Nonfiction)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (2010—Adult Fiction)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008—Juvenile Fiction)
The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins (2009—Adult Nonfiction)
Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (2010—Adult Fiction)
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003—Adult Nonfiction)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2010—Juvenile Fiction)
Regina’s Top Reads of 2010
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride (2010—Teen Fiction): Funniest horror story I’ve ever read; clever, suspenseful, and witty.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847—Adult Fiction): Brilliant! First Gothic romance of Western literature laced with proto-feminist ideals.
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (2010—Teen Fiction): For those who love a dark, truly creepy tale. (See full review here).
Bruiser by Neil Shusterman (2010—Teen Fiction): Raises compelling ethical questions of friendship and sacrifice. (See full review here).
Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland (2009—Juvenile Picture Book): Laugh-out-loud illustrations accompany gentle message.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (2009—Juvenile Fiction): Gentle, thoughtful rendering of life of 12 year old Callie at the turn of the last century.
Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka (2010—Juvenile Fiction): Compilation of short stories written by guys for guys. Will appeal to anyone who is a brother, has a brother, been a father, mother, or grandparent, or has male friend—in other words, everyone!
Dr. De Soto by William Steig (1982—Juvenile Picture Book): Classic about the clever mice who out-fox the fox!
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger (1961—Adult Fiction): Salinger’s classic about two members of the gifted Glass family explores themes of Zen Buddhism, Christianity, modern psychology, and spiritual growth.
Let’s Do Nothing! by Tony Fucile (2009—Juvenile Picture Book): two boys attempt to “do nothing” but their imaginations get in the way.
List compiled by Martha
The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors : The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy’s Finest Hour (by James D. Hornfischer : by James Hornfischer) c. 2004
Posted January 6, 2011on:
Summary: In October of 1944 the United States returned to the Philippines, two massive fleets protecting and supporting the invasion beach head on Leyte Island. The Japanese, with their carrier fleet and air superiority broken irreparably, hatched an implausible plan to sacrifice their remaining surface ships in a desperate bid to crush the beach head and deal the United States a blow that would keep Japan in the war. And, against all odds, the plan worked. The battleships and fleet carriers of Admirals Halsey and Kinkaid, aided by miscommunication, headed north and south in pursuit of two Japanese fleets thrown out as bait. The way was clear for Admiral Kurita, with 4 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 15 destroyers to assault the packed beach head and loaded landing craft at Leyte. Only a collection of light support ships commanded by Admiral Clifton Sprague, a task force dubbed ‘Taffy 3′, stood in his way. With 3 destroyers, 4 destroyer escorts and 6 escort carriers, Taffy 3 would engage in a desperate two-hour long running battle that capped the epic Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval engagement of World War II.
Review: The Battle of Leyte Gulf has always had, of course, the appeal of David taking on Goliath and winning against all odds. What Hornfischer does here to recommend his account over others is to provide sound reasons for what happened rather than simply retelling the story. And while disparities in air power and new advances in technology by the United States do help make sense of the battle and it’s outcome, the author never takes away from the heroism and sacrifice of the sailors on both sides of the fight. A peek at the legacy of the battle within United States Naval tradition provides a fitting, and very moving, finale to the book.
Read-a-likes: Fans of James Bradley’s Flyboys and Flags of Our Fathers will be particularly rewarded for picking up this one. Those looking for more on Leyte Gulf should check out The Battle of Leyte Gulf : The Last Fleet Action by H.P. Willmott. Reader’s looking for a novel set in similar waters should take a look at The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk or Broken Jewel by David L. Robbins.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library owns this title as a book. Click here to check on the availability.
Review by Eric.
Summary: Basilisk Station is the rug under which the Royal Manticoran Navy sweeps it’s incompetents, fools and washouts. The experimental armament of Commander Honor Harrington’s new command, the light cruiser Fearless, is intrinsically flawed; rather than admit that the costly renovation of the aged warship has left it largely defenseless, powerful forces in the navy arrange for Honor and her crew to be shunted aside to Basilisk. Once on station, an old enemy of Honor’s arranges for Fearless to be abandoned as the only ship monitoring the busy post, with the hope of watching her fail. Honor’s determination to meet all of Fearless’ assigned duties, no matter how impossible that seems to be, puts her and her ship squarely in the path of the People’s Republic of Haven, which has its eyes set on seizing control of the star system.
Review: Since it’s release in 1993, the Honor Harrington Series (currently at 12 books) has become one of the most essential military science fiction series available. Putting a future Horatio Hornblower/Admiral Nelson at the center of epic space battles, Weber writes tales of political, strategic and tactical maneuvering on a rarefied level. This first entry is very good; the next entry in the series, The Honor of the Queen, is superlative. The audio for the book is solidly done, as well. There’s nothing about the reader (Allyson Johnson) to write home about, but neither does she get in the way of enjoying the tale.
Read-a-likes: Other military science fiction authors, such as David Drake and Elizabeth Moon, are worthy read-a-likes. Fans of the seafaring stories of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian may be rewarded here as well. Weber rewrites their classic tales of wooden ships and iron men with panache here.
Review by Eric.