Archive for December 2011
Description: It’s the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O’Rourke’s mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie. Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road-from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it’s an unexpected secret from Raine’s own life that changes her forever.
Review: Without any explanation, Raine and her mother, Molly, move for the summer from Milwaukee to an artist retreat called Sparrow Road, which overlooks Lake Michigan. Raine is understandable upset by her mother’s impulsive move. She leaves her beloved Grandpa Mac behind and is unsure why her mother took the job of a housekeeper and cook at a mysterious resort.
Always in the mood to solve a mystery, Raine wonders about the relationship between her mother and the Sparrow Road caretaker Viktor, who greets her with strict rules about no noise before 5:00 PM and leave the artists alone among others; and why her mother (and seemingly the other adults) never allows her to be alone, especially outside of the manor.
Though the book is written for a younger audience, many adults are featured in the story. Diego, the friendly and warm artist who enjoys making collages, befriends and encourages Raine to dream and write down her questions, which he says will help her figure out the answers. The charismatic and flamboyant Josie tells her about the orphanage that was once here. I loved all the characters in Sparrow Road. All of them were fully and well developed and each had a distinct voice and personality, but they never overshadowed Raine. I also love the relationship between Raine and her mother. The adults nurture but do not smother her, which allowed Raine to discover herself, her family and her own artistry freely. Readers discover Raine’s past and secrets as she learns about dark revelations about her family. Though the issues that O’Connor brings up are serious, they are not preachy and glossed over. The author makes Raine deal with it maturely deals with them maturely and realistically.
Readalikes: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo or Summer of May by Cecilia Galante
Posted December 20, 2011on:
Summary: Author Roach provides an overview of the science of life in zero G, along with a history of the research by space organizations around the world to determine what is and is not possible for humans in space. In examining what effect this ‘Final Frontier’ has upon us, she illuminates much of what it means to be human.
Review: The stories included, most of which have never been widely circulated, provide an amazing picture of what it means to live without gravity. Roach is, as always, a gripping and fearless storyteller. Highly recommended.
Read-a-likes: Obviously this will be a must for fans of Roach’s first two, Bonk and Stiff. Fans of stories steeped in the grittier side of space travel, such as The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, should take a look as well.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library owns this book as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Summary: Ankh-Morpork, the foremost city of Discworld, is on the verge of chaos thanks to warring factions of dwarves and trolls. The anniversary of the battle of Koom Valley, source of hundreds of years of animosity, is drawing near, and a dwarf newly arrived in the city is determined to see the conflict reenacted in the city streets. Can Commander of the City Watch Sir Samuel Vimes prevent violence from sweeping through the city, and solve the mystery of Koom Valley?
Review: There is, simply put, no one who manages the balance of humor, insight, compassion and fantastic setting of Pratchett. Gaiman, who collaborated with Pratchett on Good Omens, comes close on occasion. Vimes remains a likable series mainstay, and Discworld continues to be fresh and funny after 39 books (this is the 34th). The volumes also stand alone extremely well.
Availability: This book is owned by the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Description: A fictionalized biographical account of the lives of the Bronte family. From the death of the mother Mia to the death of Charlotte Bronte, who died at the age of 38 and outlived all of her siblings.
Review: The title of the book is misleading. The novel doesn’t focus on the two leading sisters, Charlotte and Emily, but rather the entire family. Branwell, their egocentric brother whom their father, the Rev. Patrick Bronte, doted upon is a complex character. At times I couldn’t help but like his charm, but my opinions of him definitely changed by the end. There is also a keen observation of the talented youngest sibling, Anne, who can’t help but be in the shadow of her elder sisters. The two eldest sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom died after falling ill at a nightmarish girl’s school, are also included in the tale.
Charlotte’s personality of constantly seeking approval and love is shown quite nicely. Branwell’s hubris can be a bit much, but I could see glimpses of the male characters in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in him. I wonder if he inspired his sisters while they were writing. Emily was a fascinating character. She doesn’t speak much, but when she does it usually profound. I also really liked strong, but silent Anne. Now I have a desire to read her books too.
I wasn’t aware that there were two older Bronte sisters before Charlotte, so that was a treat to learn about them too. Despite relentless struggles and early deaths, the Bronte sisters are rightfully memorable and celebrated.
Morgan stays pretty close to the real biographical facts of the Bronte family. She deftly shows the struggles of each individual as well as the evolution of great, female writers. Her writing is excellent. The language is extremely descriptive and detailed. When reading the novel, I could totally picture myself at Halworth and observe what is going on, but also know what the characters are feeling. Though the pacing is a bit off at times, I found The Brontes a thoroughly enjoyable novel.
Readalikes: Passions by Jude Morgan or Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael