Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lovey: A Very Special Child

I found an unexpected reading treasure this week in Lovey: A Very Special Child. This is a true story written in 1976 about Mary MacCracken, a special education teacher, and her students.  Lovey tells the story of Hannah, a child who is fat, dirty and behavior-ridden.  No school wants to keep her. No child wants to play with her, and Hannah seems unable to speak. She yells, cries and acts out, but she does not speak.

Mary is not excited about having Hannah in her class. She has three other students who are on their way to being well adjusted. Hannah is another matter altogether. Mary isn't sure where to begin to help Hannah. Mary is a teacher who has no official certification, but she has worked as a teacher for six years. Her experience allows her to find Lovey, the child who is hidden under Hannah’s anger, loneliness and fear. Once Mary finds Lovey, she works to help her reach her full potential.

I firmly believe every teacher needs to read this beautiful story.  Hannah's new life begins when she tells her teacher: "Call me Lovey... nobody say that before." Mary MacCracken reaches Lovey with her unconditional love, her determination to make a difference and her inability to take "no" for an answer.

Mary, although an unofficial teacher, finds a way to reach Lovey and gives his child the possibility to reach her full potential and offers her something she never had before, hope. 

I wish that all teachers had Mary's wonderful ability and compassion.  For those of you who possess this talent, my hat is off to you.  Thanks for helping our children become the people they are meant to be.

If you are a teacher or know a teacher, please make time to read this book. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickson

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickson

Any summary I try to write cannot do justice the layered intricacy that is Baru Cormorant. It is a story of individuals struggling against the might of nations, done in a refreshing way. It is a fantasy novel without dragons, magic, or even anything more odd that a foreign currency. There is but one large battle and eventually, you realize even that was just secondary to other movements that were going on.

The story follows the titular Bar Cormorant as a young girl on the island of Taranoke who loves to tally the birds and the stars. But with the trade winds comes the Empire of Masks from Falcrest. The Masquerade conquers using economy and rules, progress and lies. They rename things and outlaw local customs and turn the people into good servants of the empire. Baru watches as her islands way of life is destroyed, as one of her fathers is murdered and he people devastated by plague. She realizes that she hates the Empire of Masks and that it cannot be destroyed from the outside. Once she is identified as a prodigy and a savant with numbers and is groomed to be integrated into the highest rungs of the Masquerade’s power, she sees her chance to end the Masquerade from within. In order to help her people, she must cover her hate and tackle the Empire’s test, bringing order to the rebellious Aurdwynn nation. It is a land full of shifting loyalties, sedition, rebels, and treachery. Baru must find a way to rule this unrulable country in the name of an empire she hates.

Baru Cormorant is an amazing, layered story, well-crafted and well plotted out. Despite the fantasy setting, her struggles generate empathy and she develops from a simple, very smart girl into a richly complex character that, despite her flaws, you find tourself rooting for, to the very end.

On a side note, I am perfectly willing to trust anything that is blurbed by Kameron Hurley as being “Smart. Brutal”, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November's In the Queue

November's In the Queue is filled with thrillers, magic, and a touch of the dramatic! Sit back and relax with these great novels.  

The Japanese Lover: A Novel by Isabelle Allende
This is the impossible romance which bloomed between a Polish World War II survivor and a Japanese gardener's son. Theirs is a forbidden love after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Decades later, Alma's caregiver discovers love letters which span seventy years. Then she investigates this forbidden love. 

Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Thirteenth century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a young woman. Especially if you are as odd as Mouse.  This gripping and remarkable debut novel is the story of Mouse's quest to uncover her past and find her destiny with the help of King Ottakar.

New Books by Best-Selling Authors

The Guest Room: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian
House of the Rising Son: a Novel by James Lee Burke
The Promise: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel by Craig Crais
The Pharaoh's Secret: A Novel by Clive Cussler
The Mistletoe Inn: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans
Commander-in-Chief by Mark Greaney
Avenue of Mysteries: A Novel by John Irving
Born of Betrayal by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Secret Sisters by Jayne Anne Krentz
After She's Gone by Lisa Jackson
Private Paris by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry
See Me by Nicholas Sparks
Scandalous Behavior by Stuart Woods


Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship by Daniel de Vise
Features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to these two men and a powerful biography that celebrates the real-life friendship between Andy Griffiths and Don Knotts.

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade
This pop-history narrative tells of a lesser known confrontation between the third president of the United States and Pasha, the Tripoli pirate who challenged his authority by attacking American ships.

But Enough About Me by Burt Reynolds
A no-holds-barred memoir that traces one of America's favorite actors from adolescence and the accident that led to his acting career.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Spy Thrillers Part Two

Last month we celebrated spy novelist John le Carre's 84th birthday by highlighting some classic novels and intriguing female spies.  This week we will be focusing on some historical novels and some more modern and tech-savvy spies.

Adam Brookes--Night Heron introduces us to journalist Philip Mangan who becomes entangled in a British Secret Intelligence Service operation--the latest is Spy Games.

Richard A. Clarke--the author is a notable counter-terrorism expert and brings this experience to his novels.  His newest is Pinnacle Event. Also, try The Sting of the Drone.

Jeremy Duns--Free Agent is the first in the historical Paul Dark series.  Paul Dark is a MI-6 double agent.

Alan Furst--Midnight in Europe is the latest in the Night Soldiers series--he writes some of the best historical novels out there with just a touch a romance.

Terry Hayes--a former journalist and a longtime screenwriter, the author thrills us with I Am Pilgrim--in which a retired CIA spy connects a murder mystery with a possible biological nightmare in the U. S.

Mischa Hiller--Shake Off--romance, action, where Middle East meets West--his latest is Disengaged--a small software company is caught between Israeli and Iranian intelligence.

Joseph Kanon--from war-torn Europe to McCarthy-era America, his historical novels will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Leaving Berlin is his latest.

Charles McCarry--considered by many to be the best modern spy author--try his two latest Shanghai Factor and The Mulberry Bush--or start with The Miernik Dossier, the first in his Paul Christopher series.

James McGee--The Blooding is the latest in the Matthew Hawkwood series--start with Ratcatcher--Hawkwood is a British spy in 1812 Albany, NY trying to get to Canada.

Do you have a favorite spy?

Try SearchOhio for any titles not available at the library.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Sparrow Sisters: An Amazing Debut Novel

Prepare to fall in love with the Sparrow sisters and the town that loves them. The Sparrow family is as much a part of Granite Point, Cape Cod as the sand that fills the beach.  The Sparrow sisters each possess a special gift that has benefited the entire town. Patience's gift is especially beneficial. She knows how to heal people just by looking at them. She knows what plants to use to make them better.  Henry Carlyle is the new doctor in town and does not believe in these 'folk remedies' and is determined to make Patience stop. When the townspeople tell him in no uncertain terms to leave the Sparrow sisters alone, especially Patience. He knows he should listen, but he does not seem able to stop himself from confronting her.  When he learns she is aiding an autistic child when the father forgets to give his son his medication he gets angry.  He talks with Patience and realizes she has not been causing the child harm. At least he believes this until Matty dies unexpectedly. 

As the boy's drunken father's rantings turn the town against the Sparrow's. The town becomes besieged by terrible weather and Granite Point begins to fall apart. Can the Nettie and Sorrel do anything to save the town and their beloved sister?  Is there a chance for Patience and her sister's to find love and happiness?  Well you'll just have to read this mesmerizing tale to find out.  A fantastic debut novel you won't want to miss. It's filled with hints of magic, love, loss and sacrifice. A beautifully written story that if you are like me and like a bit of romance with a mixture of the unexplained and magical you will love this book. I cannot wait for Ellen Herrick to write another novel with a focus perhaps on Nettie or Sorrel. Either one or better yet both!  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fates and Furies: A National Book Award Finalist

Lauren Groff’s third novel, Fates and Furies, is making headlines. Just released in September, this book has caught the attention of several reviewers and was recently announced as a finalist for the National Book Awards.

Groff’s novel tells the epic love and marriage of Mathilde and Lotto. The story is very much their own and doesn’t claim to be the typical marriage. Lotto, from the time of birth, has been gifted with money, charisma, and passion—an artist’s fuel. Mathilde is more mysterious. Her life seems to be a void as we see her through Lotto’s eyes in the first half of the book. She is good and Lotto is unworthy, as he perceives it. The second half of the book is the same story, but from Mathilde’s perspective and not at all the same story in the end. Mathilde is much more complex than Lotto ever knew.

The book is compulsively readable. Groff’s writing is beautiful, just as the reviews state. However, I struggled with the story for the entire first part of the book. It felt contrived and predictable. I had that “this has all been done before” feeling, but when I moved over to Mathilde’s perspective things changed drastically. Perhaps it was just Lotto who was predictable, but Mathilde was the grease that allowed his predictability to stay in motion through sacrifice and strong will. After initially feeling deceived by reviewers, I started to feel like I needed to read the book again. And take notes. Lots of notes. There’s more to the book than you initially expect. 

The National Book Awards will be announced on November 18th. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Happy Birthday John Le Carre'--The Espionage Thriller Master

Monday was spy master novelist John le Carre's 84th birthday.  In the exact opposite of Ian Fleming's James Bond character, le Carre's spies are world-weary, grizzled veterans.  Even though the spy thriller has changed from mostly English, male authors writing about the Cold War, John le Carre' is still popular and still relevant to today's readers. His The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is considered by many to be the greatest spy novel ever written.  He has reinvented his novels over the last 40 plus years and brought them into the 21st century, most recently with A Delicate Truth, featuring jihadist terrorists.  So, to honor this fantastic author, we will be highlighting spy thrillers for the next few weeks.  This week we will be focusing on the classics and female authors and spies.

The Classics

Len Deighton--The Ipcress File--number one in the Harry Palmer series--cool sixties spy.

Ian Fleming--Casino Royale--First in the James Bond series--dashing British agent.

Frederick Forsyth--The Kill List--latest stand-alone features an American agent.

Graham Greene--Our Man in Havana--MI6 operative in Cuba.

John le Carre'--The Spy Who Came in from the Cold--Alec Leamas is a British agent in early Cold War Berlin.

The Ladies

Charles Cumming--A Foreign Country--number one in the Amelia Levene series--head of British Intelligence--latest is A Colder War.

Gayle Lynds--Masquerade--number one in the Liz Sansborough series--CIA operative--latest is a stand-alone The Assassins.

Jason Matthews--Red Sparrow--number one in the Dominika Egorova series--Russian agent--latest is Palace of Treason.

Charlie Newton--Traitor's Gate--a pre-WWII historical thriller featuring Saba, an idealistic Palestinian woman and Eddie, an American chemical engineer.

Stella Rimington--At Risk--number one in the Liz Carlyle series--British MI5 operative--latest is Close Call.  The author is a former head of MI5.

Olen Steinhauer--The Cairo Affair--a stand-alone featuring Sophie, a murdered diplomat's wife in Egypt--latest is All the Old Knives--a stand-alone featuring Celia, a former CIA agent.

Elizabeth Wein--Code Name Verity--a British POW is forced by the Gestapo to write about her plane crash and her country's war plans. A fantastic young adult book that also appeals to adults.

Who is your favorite espionage author?

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