Posts Tagged ‘Eric’
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.
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.
Summary: Born to a poor farming family in the Indian countryside near Mumbai, Asha’s mother knows that her newborn baby girl will be seen as an unwanted drain on the family. Rather than watch her daughter be killed, she takes her to an orphanage. In America, doctors Krishnan and Somer are desperate to have a child, but cannot. They adopt Asha, and the fates of the two families become intertwined.
Review: This is by no means a perfect novel; the writing often feels a bit awkward, and the travails of Somer and Krishnan don’t come across as genuine. That said, Asha’s struggles are heartbreakingly real and the descriptions of Mumbai are lovingly rendered, and more than enough to carry the novel. Not perfect, but a touching and beautiful debut novel.
Read-a-likes: Fans of the Mumbai setting should take a look at the books of Thrity Umrigar. Those intrigued by the struggles of adoption and adoptive children should consider Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C.J. Box or Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book and an eBook. Click here to check on the status!
Review by Eric.
Posted August 23, 2011on:
Summary: In 1776, in the small but prosperous Dutch East Indies port of Saint Eustatius, an active trade in arms and munitions between the rebellious American colonies and the Dutch was already in full swing. When the brig Andrew Doria arrived, carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence for dissemination in Europe, she fired the traditional 11 gun salute to a foreign power when passing the harbor defenses. Unexpectedly, the islands governor, Johannes de Graaff, opted to fire a return salute, the first acknowledgement of the United States as a new nation. Through the lens of this incident, Tuchman unravels the American Revolution, its consequences in Europe and throughout the world.
Review: This is not, as a reader might first expect, truly a story of the Revolutionary War. In fact, it is much more a story of the consequential decisions made by France, The Netherlands, England, Spain and others in reaction to the American struggle for independence. The result is somewhat herky-jerky, and occasionally aimless, but very charming nonetheless. The end of the book manages to tie things together nicely, though, and Tuchman’s unique tale will reward those willing to stay the course.
Read-a-likes: For a fictional take on the American Revolution, and subsequent events, try Saratoga by David Garland or The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss. For further nonfiction, reader’s should consider 1776 by David McCullough or Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as an eAudiobook. Click here to request other formats via Interlibrary Loan.
Review by Eric.
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories (by Simon Winchester: Nonfiction) c.2010
Posted August 8, 2011on:
Summary: Using the seven ages of man from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Winchester plays out the story of man’s history on and around the Atlantic Ocean. The anecdotes follow explorers, warriors, scientists, fishermen and many others as they leave their mark on the Atlantic Ocean and it’s shores and are changed by it in turn.
Review: The gimmick of using Shakespeare’s seven ages to provide structure to the book generally works well, with Winchester lovingly crafting each anecdote and chapter. Ultimately, like most similar recent books and movies, Winchester has a strong message about the importance of learning to live with the sea rather than treating it as a dumping ground. He does not, however, get heavy handed with this message, as many others do. This readers only complaint about this otherwise charming novel was the blatant eurocentrism. Little is written about the non-European cultures bordering the Atlantic, and they are frequently dismissed by the author outright. The very British view of the United States as a bunch of brash Yankee merchants run amok also gets a fair amount of play. That parochialism aside, this is an informative and charming read, if not necessarily a complete picture. The audiobook is read by the author, and is particularly well done.
Read-a-likes: Simon Winchester has written a number of similarly lyrical nonfiction books, of which Krakatoa (in it’s focus on a natural feature with great import for humanity) is perhaps the most similar to Atlantic. For more on the history of the initial trans-Atlantic travelers, Fish on Friday by Brian Fagan and A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz are worth a peak. For more on the fate of the North Atlantic fisheries, Cod and The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky are worth a look. For those looking for nautical stories or fiction, look no further than the works of Clive Cussler, Linda Greenlaw and Herman Melville.
Availability: This item is available from the Lake Bluff Public Library as a book (in both regular and large print) and as an eAudiobook. Click here to check on the availability.
Review by Eric.