Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Unbroken Read-Alikes

Have you read the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand or heard about the new Unbroken movie directed by Angelina Jolie coming out December 25th? Have you read about the same book being nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize or seen the headlines about Louis Zamperini passing away in May at the ripe old age of 97?

If you haven't then you are truly missing out.

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been an incorrigible delinquent.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, with a talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when war had come, he became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and the unknown. 

This book is for you if you like World War II history, are interested in the Olympic Games, like competitive running, or love a hero who can't be held down.  This is a book about war so it can be harsh and even brutal but it is also a book about hope and you will be really glad you read it.

Now if you have read the book and loved it like I did, then try some of the following similar titles:

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown--the story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.

No Ordinary Joes: the Extraordinary True Story... by Larry Colton--in 1943, the crew of the USS Grenadier rushed to save their submarine after a torpedo sent it to the ocean floor. Miraculously, they were able to bring it back to the surface, only to be captured by the Japanese. This is the story of four of the Grenadier’s crew.

The Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers by James D. Hornfischer--on October 25, 1944, off the Island of Samar, the USS Samuel B. Roberts and other small ships of a tiny fleet were the only thing standing between MacArthur’s vulnerable invasion force and the might of the Japanese Navy.

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder--A story about the heroism inherent in ordinary people and a life based on hope.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer--When journalist Krakauer barely crawled back from the summit in a storm on May 10, 1996, six of his fellow climbers hadn't made it back and were urgently struggling for their lives. This is a true account of the deadliest season on Mount Everest.

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson--in 1991, two deep wreck divers found a WWII German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey.  No identifying marks were found and no historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. Over the next six years, an elite team embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. 

Double Cross: the True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre--It saved thousands of lives and secured the most critical victory of the war and it is told from the viewpoints of the key players in the most successful spy operation of WWII.

Ghost Soldiers: the Epic Account... by Hampton Sides--On January 28, 1945, 121 6th Army Rangers slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POW's including the last survivors of the Bataan Death March.

No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi... by Fritz Stern and Elisabeth Sifton--A theologian and a lawyer who fought against Hitler’s policies and paid the ultimate price.  

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff--the untold story of an extraordinary WWII rescue mission, where a plane crash in the South Pacific plunged 3 U.S. fliers into the impenetrable jungles of New Guinea.

Paradise Road (DVD)--based on a true story, in 1942 a group Western women are captured by the Japanese. Over the rest of the war they suffer the horrors of being POW's and they rise above their circumstances by creating a vocal orchestra.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Enter Wellington Book, Esquire (or Welly as Eliza prefers to say) is an archivist, content in his case files and seeming encyclopedic knowledge. His new partner is Eliza D Braun, a New Zealander field agent with a preference for bullet-proof fashion and a penchant for clever devices, preferably those that explode in some manner. Together they must discern why Londoners have been disappearing only to return minus blood, bone, or skin and what this has to do with a nefarious secret society (aren’t the all) called the Phoenix Society.

Steampunk as a genre has been ending towards formulaic over the past few years, so it is especially wonderful to see a story that provides an excellent tale within that framework. The story itself has a nice little mystery with some interesting character development and more than enough explosions and gun fights to keep things exciting.

I would also suggest finding this on audio. James Langton narrates the story and does an excellent job with the various accents that occur. As a side note, I think it is an unwritten law that a librarian has to enjoy a character that is a librarian whose name is books. Thankfully Ballantine and Morris make it very easy to obey this law.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December's In the Queue

It's cold and blustery but you can warm up with these great books from December's In the Queue.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant
An unforgettable novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism which is told through the eyes of a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

You Know Who Killed Me by Loren D. Estleman
Amos Walker is shadowed by government operatives, at odds with the sheriff and struggling with his own addiction. Can he solve this murder case when everyone involved in the case is lying to him? 

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
The game is once again afoot in this thrilling mystery sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate. This novel explores what really happened when Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis, Moriarty tumbled to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls. 

Woman with a Gun: A Novel by Phillip Margolin
A haunting thriller inspired by an unforgettable photograph. Stacey Kim is a photographer obsessed with finding answers.  When she discovers Megan Cahill is the woman holding a gun behind her back in her wedding photograph she's dying to know what happened. 

A String of Beads by Thomas Perry
This is an addictive, fast paced thriller about how abandoning the past can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, even when your life-and the life of those you love depends on it.

No Fortunate Son by Brad Taylor
How much is a single life worth? Unless the Taskforce can decipher the web of lies devised by their enemies, the United States is about to find out.

Dogwood Hill by Sherryl Woods
The strength of teh beloved O'Briens is tested when Aidan Mitchell moves to Chesapeake Shore. Can love and family triumph despite hidden secrets?

New Releases from Best Selling Authors

The Empty Throne by Bernard Cornwell
Cane and Abe by James Grippando
Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney
The Assassination Option by W.E.B. Griffin
Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
Robert B. Parker's The Bridge by Robert Knott
Trust No One by Jayne Anne Krentz
The Sacrifice by Joyce Carole Oates
The Rosie Effect by Graeme C. Simsion
Private Vegas by James Patterson
Insatiable Appetites by Stuart Woods


Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou by Maya Angelou
This is a treasured keepsake as well as a beautiful triubte to a woman who touches so many. Rainbow in the Cloud reminds us that "If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within."

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: My Life 
by Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren shares vivid memories of work, love and family with her winning candor. Her wise voice speaks from the pages with riveting detail and her sharp humor.

The Burn: Why Your Scale is Stuck and What to Eat About It by Haylie Pomroy
Haylie Pomroy, creates a food-based, supercharged weight-loss plan for those who have hit a plateau and need to microrepair their metabolic function.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mystery Award Winners 2014!

The 2014 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention was held last month in Long Beach, CA.  This is the top dog of mystery conventions because it gives out some of the most prestigious literary mystery awards. 

The big winner of the night was William Kent Krueger who won 3 out of the 4.

Ordinary Grace
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family-which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother-he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. 

Here are some of the other talented winners:

--The Anthony Awards--for mystery writers and presented since 1986. The awards are named for Anthony Boucher (1911–1968), one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America

Best Mystery Novel: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Best First Mystery: Yesterday's Echo by Matt Coyle
Best Paperback Original: As She Left It by Catriona McPherson
Best Critical/Non-Fiction Work: The Hour of Peril: the Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower
Best Audio Book: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, read by Robert Glenister

--The Barry Awards--crime literary prize awarded annually since 1997 by the editors of Deadly Pleasures, an American crime fiction publication. The prize is named after Barry Gardner, an American critic. 

Best Novel: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Best First Mystery Novel: Japantown by Barry Lancet
Best Thriller: The Doll by Taylor Stevens

--The Macavity Awards--annual literary award for mystery writers. Nominated and voted upon by the members of the Mystery Readers International and named for the "mystery cat" of T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Best Mystery Novel: Ordinary Grace by Wiliam Kent Krueger
Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award: Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

--The Shamus Awards--awarded by the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) and recognizes outstanding achievement in private eye/detective fiction. 

Best P.I. Novel: The Good Cop by Brad Parks
Best P.I. Paperback Original: Heart of Ice by P. J. Parrish
Best First P.I. Novel: Bear is Broken by Lachlan Smith

Full list of winners and nominees

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss’s Slow Regard of Silent Things is, to say the least an odd book. I have seen it classified as “Epic Fantasy” because it’s book 2.5 of the Kingkiller Chronicles, but it weighs in at only 159 pages. There is a solid chapters worth on a soap making adventure. Rothfuss himself warns people away from the book, an odd move to say the least. But to be fair, this is the story of a fascinating, but exceptionally strange character in his Kingkiller chronicles. 

The story follows Auri, who lives below the University in what she calls the Underthing. You could call it a character expose, following Auri over the course of a handful of days as she explores the secrets of her world, lives, and prepares to meet Kvothe. Patrick brings the same poetic style as Name of the Wind, but condensed and with all the brilliant action and snarky dialogue thrown right out the window. What is left is strange, but extremely fitting to both the character and the world Rothfuss has created, a brief but excellent tale.

In the end, I definitely would recommend this book; however, I would also suggest that you first read The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear to get a sense of the Rothfuss, the story, and of Auri. I realize that this exceeds 1500 pages, but if you are a fan of fantasy, every last page is worth it. The only down side is that Rothfuss is still in the process of writing the last book of the trilogy, but be patient, he will get it done.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Best Comfort Food Cookbooks

It's the time of year when snow is falling. The roads are slushy and not many people want to go out in the cold. Even the people who love snow end up longing for some nice hot soup or a home cooked meal to warm them up when they come inside. When your desire for something warm strikes open one of these great cookbooks for some wonderful recipes. You and your family are sure to love these delicious home cooked meals.  

Comfort Food Cookbooks

Bake Until Bubbly The name says it all. Visions of creamy, tender casseroles with a crust that is a bit crunchy and bubbling with flavor. These are simple one dish meals that will definitely warm you up! 

Comfort Food These are family favorites that have been passed down from generations. The beautiful color photography and great tales about each recipe will have you craving them before you are done reading the recipe. 

300 Sensational Soups This is the definitive collection of recipes for soup lovers everywhere.

The Italian Slow Cooker Finally a book that combines the fresh exuberant flavors of Italian food with the ease and comfort of slow cooking. 

Fix It and Forget It Christmas Cookbook 600 delicious recipes from home cooks across the country who want to feast with their loved ones without being exhausted, frazzled or getting stuck in the kitchen all day.

The Ultimate Slow Cooker Cookbook You'll never run out of flavorful meals with this massive photo filled compendium of delicious recipes.  

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow These recipes are affordable, delicious and nutritious gluten-free recipes which will please the whole family. 

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook This comprehensive collection of 350 recipes combines the ease of slow cooking with the fresh, wholesome ingredients and exciting flavor's of today's kitchen.

Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook 200 recipes that show you how to make delicious comfort food with little fuss.

Taste of Home Comfort Food Cookbook Diet A common sense approach to healthy and happy living. These recipes are nutritious and delicious!

The Gourmet Slow Cooker Regional Comfort Food Classics
Fall in love with your slow cooker again. These are sophisticated easy to prepare recipes that focus on comfort food across America.

If you have a favorite comfort food cookbook, which I did not list, tell me what it is, I'd love to give it a try.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Man-Made Disasters: Environmental, Nuclear, and Terror

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
Since September 11th was the 13th anniversary of one of America's greatest  tragedies, I thought I'd highlight the books and authors that are part of a genre called disaster books.  The definition according to Wikipedia is:

"Disaster books are a literary genre involving detailed descriptions of major historical disasters, often based on the historical records or personal testimonies of survivors. Since reportage of both natural disasters and man-made disasters is commonplace, authors tend to be journalists who develop their news reports into books."

This final week we will be covering more man-made disasters.  


Bhopal Chemical Leak--Bhopal, India--Dec 3, 1984--3, 828 dead--worst industrial accident in history--around 1 am at the Union Carbide plant, forty tons of deadly MIC gas was released in a cloud that spread over 15 square miles, killing victims in their sleep--lies, misinformation, and under equipped medical facilities led to even more deaths--today it is estimated that 10-15 people die each day from chemical exposure in the areas surrounding the plant.

--Chemical Accident by Alex Woolf

--Catastrophe: the 100 Greatest Disasters of All Time by Stephen J. Spignesi

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill--Prince William Sound, Alaska--March 24, 1989--after running aground on a reef, 10.8 million gallons of oil spread over 11,000 square miles--$3-$8 billion in losses--it is considered one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters in history--25 years later, marine life is still dying and Exxon still owes Alaska $92 million in settlement money.

--The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill by Peter Benoit

--Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill by Riki Ott

Gulf Oil Disaster/Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill--Gulf of Mexico near the Mississippi River Delta, USA--Apr 20, 2010-Jul 15, 2010--a gas explosion killed 11 crew and spilled 210 million gallons of oil over 68,000 square miles--dolphins and marine life are still dying in record numbers--health consequences for marine life and humans may last generations--as of Sep 2014, BP was found primarily negligent and reckless--with billions owed in settlements and fines, the company's future remains unknown.

--Fire on the Horizon: the Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by John Konrad

--Run to Failure: BP and the Making of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster by Abraham Lustgarten


Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident--Middletown, PA--Mar 28, 1979--$1.1 billion in damages--the worst nuclear power plant accident in US history--radiation was released into the air but caused no deaths--took 11 years and $973 million to clean up--it is still to early to know the full impact on the environment and population in the surrounding areas.

--Three Mile Island: Thirty Minutes to Meltdown by Daniel F. Ford

--Three Mile Island: a Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective by J. Samuel Walker

--Atomic Accidents: a History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters... by James Mahaffey

Chernobyl Nuclear Accident--Chernobyl, The Ukraine, USSR--Apr 26, 1986--31 dead, 335,000 evacuated--the worst nuclear accident of all time--an explosion in the power plant blew radioactive gasses and debris almost a mile into the air--2 workers were killed instantly and 29 died of radiation poisoning over the next few weeks--the radiation exposure is expected to cause hundreds of thousands of new cancers and tens of thousands of deaths in the future.

--Visit Sunny Chernobyl: and Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell

--Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and Kate Brown

--Zones of Exclusion: Pripyat and Chernobyl by Robert Polidori

--Heavy Water: a Film for Chernobyl (DVD)


The Oklahoma City Bombing--Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma--April 19, 1995--168 dead--before 9/11 it was the single worst act of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States--it was carried out by 27-year-old American in retaliation for the raid on the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, TX two years earlier--he was executed in 2001--on the site of the bombing is a memorial park with 168 chairs for the victims, including nineteen small chairs for each child that was killed.

--The Third Terrorist: the Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing by Jayna Davis

--In Their Name: Dedicated to the Brave and the Innocent... ed. by Clive Irving

--American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck

--One of Ours: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing by Richard A. Serrano

The September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks--New York City, Washington, DC, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania--2996 dead--the worst terrorist attack on American soil--carried out by Al Qaeda terrorists--3 high-jacked planes were flown into both towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--the 4th plane was taken over by passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania--a large amount of fatalities occurred when the towers collapsed--411 emergency service people died after rushing to help--over 6000 people injured.
American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the WTF (92 dead plus approx 1600 at the tower)
United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the WTF (65 dead plus approx 900 at the tower)
American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon (64 dead plus 125 at the Pentagon)
United Airlines flight 93 was heading towards Washington DC but passengers and crew fought back and the plane crashed in a field in PA (all 44 on board died)

--Dog Heroes of September 11th: a Tribute to America's Search and Rescue Dogs by Nona Kilgore Bauer

--Tower Stories: an Oral History of 9/11 ed. by Damon DiMarco

9/11 Pentagon Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery

--Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11 by Patrick Creed

9/11 Flight 93 Memorial
--Flight 93: The Story... by Tom McMillan

Mumbai Terrorist Attacks (Taj Hotel)--Mumbai, India--Nov 26, 2008-Nov 29, 2008--164 killed and over 600 wounded--twelve coordinated attacks including shootings, bombings, and hostage taking--carried out by Pakistani members of an Islamist terrorist group--10 attackers killed, 1 tried and executed--the attacks drew widespread global condemnation.

--The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

Victims of the Boston Terror Attacks
The Boston Marathon Terror Attacks--Boston, Massachusetts--April 15 and April 18-19, 2013--2 pressure cooker bombs are detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon--3 people killed--2 brothers of Chechen-Avar descent are suspected--a MIT policeman is murdered--shootouts with police end with the death of the older suspect--the wounded younger suspect is later captured--at least 280 were injured--the remaining suspect will go to trial in 2015

--Stronger: Fighting Back after the Boston Marathon Bombing by Jeff Bauman

This is dedicated to all the victims. May we never forget your names.