Monday, January 31, 2011

Save Our Libraries!

Phil Bradley has manipulated a wonderful set of vintage war-time posters to express a pro-library message. I particularly like this one:

I have worked in public and academic libraries for ten years.  I still believe that public libraries are one of the few great equalizers left.  Anyone can use the public library. They are our contemporary agoras. It pains me to see library budgets being slashed at a time when so many people need the resources that these institutions provide.  (I feel the same way about community colleges.)

Take a moment and check out this wonderful set of posters.

Friday, January 28, 2011

THE ORACLE OF STAMBOUL by Michael David Lukas

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I am a sucker for book that include magical realism and whimsy and this book has a touch of both.  Eleonora Cohen is born in Constanta in 1877 during the decline of the Ottoman Empire.  Her birth is accompanied by the arrival of a group of purple and white birds called hoopoes. These birds never leave Eleonora's side.  The birds aren't the only unusual thing about this young girl.  As she gets older, her father Yakob discovers that she has an enormous capacity for learning. When Yakob leaves for Stamboul on a business trip,. Eleonora sneaks onto the boat with him.  In the house of her father's business partner, Moncef Bey, Eleonora finds a whole new world where her intelligence if valued and cultivated.  Even the sultan takes an interest in what she has to say. When tragedy strikes, however, Eleonora's world is turned upside down and she must decide where her destiny will lead her.

I know this is a very short summary but I don't want to give anything away.  This is a really charming and sweet book that asks whether we can ever escape our destinies. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book as I knew little about the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire during this time period.  And Eleonora is such an intriguing character. I only wish there had been more!!!  I mentioned to my co-worker that this book reminded me of OF BEES AND MIST by Erick Setiawan not so much in content but in style.

BOTTOM LINE: HIGHLY recommended.  A sweet story set in an exotic and fascinating moment in time.  The book demonstrates how one person can have a profound effect on the world.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Better Book Titles

(image source)

My husband sent me a link to this website.  People submit better book titles for famous books.  Some are hilarious although some are downright cringe-worthy.

Find Better Book Titles here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Arrivals

Here are some of the recent books to hit my doorstep:


THE ILLUMINATION by Kevin Brockmeier

SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell

THE UNION QUILTERS by Jennifer Chiaverini

THE UNCOUPLING by Meg Wolitzer

13, RUE THERESE by Elena Mauli Shapiro

KAT, INCORRIGIBLE by Stephanie Burgis  (Young Reader title)

Isn't it wonderful to come home to books on your porch?

Friday, January 21, 2011

THREE SECONDS by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Many writers are currently being touted as the next Stieg Larsson. These writers are no exception. Many librarians are struggling with what to recommend to readers who want more in the style of Larsson's Millenium trilogy. I'm not sure that this book qualifies.

Piet Hoffman is a devoted husband and father but he hides a secret. He is also an ex-con who has been working undercover as a mole for the Stockholm police for the last nine years.  Hoffman has risen through the ranks of the Polish mafia and is selected to head up the mafia's new attempt to take over the methamphetamine trade in the Swedish prisons. In order to accomplish his objective, Hoffman must get himself arrested and placed in a maxium security prison where he will set up the new drug trafficking trade. However, he will have no contact with his police handler and will be completely on his own. If he is found out as a mole, his life will be in jeopardy.

The first half of this book lays the groundwork for the story. It explains how Hoffman came to be a mole, how the undercover agent operation works and what Hoffman's work inside the prison will entail. There is A LOT of setup.  I was confused for a good portion of the book because the writers waited to explain that the police use female code names for their informants. It wasn't clear to me that "Paula" was the same person as Piet.  The book didn't really pick up for me until about halfway through when Hoffman begins his prison operation. The last half was very good.  Once I found out what the title of the book was referencing, I really got hooked.

Many readers may get bored and/or frustrated by the first half of the book. It moves pretty slowly and the number of characters can be confusing. However, the second half really redeems the book.  Since one of the writers is an ex-con himself, he really gives us an accurate view into how the whole police/prison system works.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. If you can get past the first half of the book, you will be rewarded by fast-paced and gripping story with a clever twist at the end.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

In an effort to protect her daughter, single mother Yasuko accidentally kills her abusive ex-husband. When her neighbor, brilliant mathematician Ishigami, offers to help her conceal the body and the crime, Yasuko accepts in a moment of desperation.  When the body is found, the head investigator finds flaws in Yasuko's story and determinedly begins to investigate her and everyone around her. The story follows the investigation and relationship between Yasuko and Ishigami and reveals Ishigami ultimate motives for helping.

At first glance, this seems to be a fairly simple premise.  A murder takes place, the perpetrators attempt to cover it up and a suspenseful investigation takes place. Will they be found it?  Will the police figure out what really happened?  However, there is much deeper psychological element to this story that I found surprising.  The story was a bit slow to get going but really picked up about halfway through the book. There is even a surprising twist at the end that I never saw coming.  The book is much more of a psychological study than a suspense novel and manages to rise above the typical cliched crime novel.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  This is a quietly effective psychological crime novel that finds a new way to surprise the reader.  While the beginning is slow, the payout at the end makes it all worth it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

LBC Best Books of 2010

The review aren't quite finished yet but I have the list. 

Drum roll please....

Life By Candlelight's BEST Books of 2010

10. ETERNAL ON THE WATER by Joseph Monninger  Some people might find this book a bit hokey but something about it just worked for me. 

9. NOBODIES ALBUM  by Carolyn Parkhurst  This is not a mystery but a mother-son relationships story. I've been really attracted to those type of stories this year.  Wonder why?

8. THE SWIMMING POOL by Holly LeCraw This story includes one of the best portrayals of Post-Partum Depression I have ever seen.

7. RED HOOK ROAD by Ayelet Waldman A very moving book with wonderfully complex characters.

6. MARROWBONE MARBLE COMPANY by Glenn Taylor This book isn't for everyone but I thought it was really really well done.

5. THE TOWER, THE ZOO AND THE TORTOISE by Julia Stuart  Absolutely charming!!!

4.  UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand What a great story!!! This non-fiction book reads like fiction and I learned so much about WWII Pacific POWs.

3. MATTERHORN by Karl Marlantes  A poweful novel of the Vietnam war.  I could not put it down.

2. THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton  I am quickly becoming a Kate Morton fan.  I loved her previous book, THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, but this one was even better.  It had the feel of JANE EYRE with a dash of AS Byatt.

And the Grand Prize winner for BEST BOOK OF 2010:

1.  ROOM by Emma Donoghue  I loved this book. I am almost ready to read it again. It was so powerful.  I worry that people will be put off by the subject matter and plot description but please don't let it deter you from reading this book.  It is ultimately the story of a the power of a mother's love for her child.  Amazing amazing stuff. 

Looking forward to seeing what 2011 brings!!!