Archive for the ‘Eric’s Reviews’ Category
Summary: Despite the struggles of the small bookstore, Sempere and Son, that Daniel Sempere runs with his father in the 1957 Barcelona under Franco’s brutal rule, life is looking is looking up. He has married the beautiful Bea, fathered a beautiful son, and his best friend Fermin Romero de Torres is about to be married. Yet as Christmas draws near, a dark and tormented figure carrying a secret from two decades will alter the fates of Daniel and his family forever.
Review: The Shadow of the Wind, the first in what is currently a three book series, remains a work of atmospheric beauty. This third entry, like Ruiz Zafon’s second work The Angel’s Game, is lovingly translated by poet Robert Graves daughter Lucia Graves. Ruiz Zafon is one of the rare writers who could write an utterly enthralling telephone book. While set in the same fictional world, Ruiz Zafon’s previous two books were each captivatingly capable of standing alone. This third book, at half the length of either of the previous two entries, binds together the standalone tales of the previous books and injects a hearty dose of nitroglycerin into a series that hardly needed it. The caveat is of course that you need to have read the previous two books in the series; you’ll be lost (if happily so) otherwise. If you have read the previous two books, however, you will likely devour this latest entry in a single sitting and begin counting down the days until the next installment.
Read-a-likes:Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s books are difficult to compare. Reader’s interested in Spanish history might give Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones de Sierra or the Captain Alatriste novels of Arturo Perez-Reverte.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library currently owns this books as a book and audiobook. Click here to check on the availability.
Review by Eric.
Summary: Major Ernest Pettigrew, retired and widowed, leads a quiet life in a small town in the Southeast English village of St. Mary. Until, unexpectedly, the death of the Major’s brother ignites a friendship with local Pakistani shopkeeper Jasmina Ali. Finding that they have more in common than they could ever have imagined, friendship begins to blossom into something more. Can their rural English society, still holding onto the lingering traditions and prejudices of the past, accept this turn of events? And more importantly, can the Major himself?
Review: This is an excellent, and funny book. The characters are unique and well written, the English humor accessible to an American audience, and the issues (both personal and societal) are timely. While this will be most approachable to Anglophiles and fans of gentler reads, this is the rare title that I would recommend to almost any reader.
Read-a-likes: Other similar English titles, such as Old Filth by Jane Gardam or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, should be of interest to fans of Simonson’s work. But other titles dealing with older individuals adapting themselves to a new life and world, such as Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan are worth a look as well.
Review by Eric.
Posted May 31, 2012on:
Summary: In 480 BC, the great Persian King Xerxes led a vast army into Greece, intending to add the city states there to his empire. Squabbling among themselves even as Xerxes approached, the Greek polities mustered only a small contingent of 300 Spartan soldiers (supported by several thousand allies) to make a stand in the narrow pass of Thermopylae. The battle that followed, while a Persian victory tactically, would prove to be a rallying cry that would not only turn the war in the Greeks favors but echo down through history.
Review: Cartledge does a reasonable job summarizing the Greek and Persian worlds and world views in the first stages of his book. Beyond that, he falters. The description of the battle itself is woefully brief, and virtually no description of the effect of the battle on the rest of Greece or on the subsequent course of the war is offered. No more than a sentence on the great battles at Plataea and Salamis is offered. Instead, after the brief description of the battle, Cartledge offers many chapters following the effects of the battle on art, culture, and society throughout the world and through the ages. He thus provides excellent examples that the battle ‘changed the world’, while doing virtually nothing to document how or why this was the case. For readers interested in Greek history or the Persian Wars, there are much better and more balanced books available. The audio version of the book is, at least, beautifully read by John Lee.
Read-a-likes: For those more interested in action than strict fact, the movie 300 remains the most recent and popular portrayal of Thermopylae. For fiction readers, Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield is a stirring and largely accurate rendering of the battle. For those interested in a better examination of why the Greeks and Greek civilization echo through western history, I would recommend Sailing the Wine Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill.
Availability: This book is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as an eAudiobook, downloadable through My Media Mall.
Review by Eric.
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.
Summary: Young female celestial wizard Lucy is determined to join the powerful Fairy Tail wizard’s guild, but runs afoul of a lecherous magician instead. Her only hope is a strange fire eating young man named Natsu, who just might also be her ticket into Fairy Tail!
Review: First off, this is not a terribly original series, at least at the get go. The characters aren’t in any way unique (especially if you’ve read Mashima’s other series, Rave Master). In addition, the series is slow to introduce any kind of central mission for the characters (none is visible through at least the first three volumes). That said, Mashima always does a nice job of world building and this is no exception. And while the characters are not original, the writing is strong enough to pull you in and get you caring about them anyway. The end result doesn’t redefine the genre, but if you’re looking for a fun read then look no further.
Read-a-likes: Fans of Rave Master should obviously pick this up. Uses a lot of the same themes and character types? You bet, but I’ve come to feel like Mashima uses them better in this second go round. This will also appeal to readers of Bleach, Black Cat, Naruto and pretty much any other graphic novel featuring a broody uber-tough central character.
Review by Eric.
Summary: Retired to the country, Sherlock Holmes encounters a mind that, with the right training, could be his equal in deduction and perception. The trouble for the quintessentially smug and misogynistic Victorian gentleman Holmes is that the mind in question belongs to a woman, the teenaged Mary Russell. The joy of finding an equal, however, pushes him past his doubts and Mary is soon caught up in Holmes intermittent pursuit of the ‘Great Game’, with dire consequences that neither can foresee.
Review: Many an author has tried to capture the lightning in a bottle that is the Great Detective, and the result is generally poor. King’s series featuring Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell, of which this title is the first, get Holmes‘ unique style of sleuthing right. Purists will likely quibble at the liberties taken with the Holmes cannon and his personality, but those willing to accept the author’s premise of the same subject painted from a different angle and with a new brush are in for a treat.
Read-a-likes: Those looking for other Holmes homages should take a look at the books of Donald Thomas, The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr and the recently released (and authorized by the Holmes estate) The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. The Baker Street Letters books by Michael Robertson and the Holmes on the Range stories by Steve Hockensmith are worth a look as well, though they feature the Great Detective’s techniques and stories rather than the man himself.
Availability: The Lake Bluff Public Library owns this item as a book. Click here to check on the availability!
Review by Eric.
Paula McClain’s 2011 novel The Paris Wife chronicles Ernest Hemingway’s life in Paris from the perspective of his first wife, Hadley Richardson. The book, McClain’s second novel, has been a bestseller nationally and a runaway hit in Lake Bluff in particular. The five print copies of the book owned by the Lake Bluff Public Library have thus far been checked out 66 times, and the audiobook has circulated 14 times. And that doesn’t even include checkouts of eBooks and eAudiobooks!
While you may have noticed the popularity of The Paris Wife, did you know it also has a Lake Bluff connection? After her divorce from Ernest Hemingway in January of 1927, Hadley continued to live in Paris. In 1933, Hadley remarried to Paul Mowrer, a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. After leaving Paris in 1934 the couple moved around for several years, but settled in 1936 in a colonial house on six acres of land near Lake Bluff! According to Gioia Diliberto’s biography Hadley, “Both Hadley and Paul loved the outdoors, and they spent time hiking, bird watching, and working in their garden. Jack [Hadley and Ernest's only son] attended the Chicago Latin School and passed the weekends fishing in Lake Michigan with his parents.” Hadley and Paul sold the house in 1945, and returned to Paris after its liberation by the Allies. Hadley and Ernest’s only son, John (often called Jack or Bumby) Hemingway served as a member of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Working with the French resistance in October of 1944, he was wounded and captured by the Germans. He was kept at Mosberg Prison Camp until his release in April of 1945. His name appears among those of other Lake Bluff residents who have served in the military during wartime on a monument in the Lake Bluff village square.
Article by Eric Bailey.
Summary: Play as the wolf god incarnation of the Japanese sun god Amaterasu and channel your celestial powers through the divine paintbrush to restore beauty and order to a bleak world overrun by evil.
Review: Since its release in 2006, Okami has been the favorite poster child of proponents of video games as art. And while the game is 5 years old, this 2008 Nintendo Wii version is still absolutely lovely. The game play is fun and simple, and lends itself well to the retroactive adaptation of the Wii-mote. Mostly. There are a few brush moves that feel wonky, but it generally works.
Play-a-likes: Fans of the artistic elements here should check out the equally paint based Epic Mickey. At it’s heart this is a platformer, like the Mario and Zelda games. More innovative games in those series, like Paper Mario and Twilight Princess, will be particularly worth a look.
Availability: The library owns this game for the Nintendo Wii. Click here to check the availability!
Reviewed by Eric.