Monday, September 26, 2011

LBC on Hiatus

Hello fellow Bibliophiles!

You may have been following my life drama over on my creative blog.  To summarize:

1. Husband out of work for over a year now
2. Received a "Notice to Vacate" at the beginning of September

So, we are scrambling to find a new home before the end of October.  Life continues to get complicated and it's a challenge sometimes to keep that Stiff Upper Lip.  My reading has dropped off a bit and I have hesitated requesting new ARCs because I'm not sure where to have them mailed. I am currently finishing up a few books and will post reviews for them but it may take a few weeks to get settled and start receiving new ARCs again.  I hope to be back at full speed by the beginning of November.

So, please bear with me during these turbulent times!  I'm not going anywhere. Posting will just be more sporadic than usual.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

And the winner of the Tom Perrotta Audiobook giveaway is......



Melissa--E-mail me your mailing address and I'll send it to you right away. Hope you like it. It's one of my favorites this year!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

NIGHT STRANGERS by Christopher Bohjalian

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

I have long had a love/hate relationship with Chris Bohjalian.  On the one hand, he is a gifted writer and storyteller. On the other, I often want to throw the books across the room once I have finished them. I found THE DOUBLE BIND particularly disturbing and troublesome.  So, it was with great trepidation that I picked up his latest book, THE NIGHT STRANGERS.

Chip Linton is a seasoned airline pilot with a perfect flying record, the perfect wife and the perfect twin girls. When the plane he is piloting crash lands in Lake Champlain due to a mid-air collision with birds, his life is changed forever. As one of the few survivors of the plane, Chip must deal with his survivor's guilt. In an effort to rebuild his life and family, the Lintons buy a large Victorian home in a small White Mountain town.  The house seems like a dream come true except for the creepy basement with the door that is bolted closed with 39 bolts.  Chip becomes obsessed with the door and what may lie behind it.  As Chip struggles with his demons, his wife and daughters are befriended by the local eccentrics, a group of herbalists all named for various herbs and plants.  Emily Linton finds herself drawn in by this group even as they show an almost unnatural interest in her twin daughters, Hallie and Garnet.  Does something sinister lie within the house itself?  Or within the cultlike group of plant enthusiasts?

This book is incredibly creepy without being explicit.  For me, it had the feel of ROSEMARY'S BABY or THE WICKER MAN.  The story was thoroughly engrossing and I loved how the storyline and its outcome wasn't completely obvious.  I am anxiously awaiting others to read the book so we can discuss the ending.  This was a great read for fall and a very effective suspense novel for those who don't care for gore but like to be spooked!

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  A terrific read with just the right amount of creepiness. Bohjalian really won me over with this one.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

WHEN SHE WOKE by Hilary Jordan

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

I love my dystopian cautionary tales and this one fits right into that genre.  I would describe this book when doing reader advisory as THE SCARLET LETTER meets THE HANDMAID'S TALE. Hannah Payne (a not-so-subtle play on Hester Prynne)  awakens to find herself red.  Fire engine red from head to toe. Hannah has done the unthinkable.  She aborted her baby.  Now society demands that she pay by having her skin color genetically altered so that everyone will know her shame. In this society of the not-so-distant future, non-violent criminals have their skin color genetically altered for a predetermined length of time and are released back into society after an initial 30 day incarceration where their every move is recorded and televised so the whole world can see how they are dealing with their new lives. These "Chromes" carry a visible statement of their crime wherever they go and have become a new ghettoized class of people.   Because Hannah chose not to reveal the father of her child (a famous pastor of a mega-church), her sentence will last for fifteen years. 

Hilary Jordan has come up with a truly original take on crime and punishment. In some ways, the idea of publicly shaming people this way instead of incarcerating them seems attractive.  However, Jordan brings to light a variety of problems with this approach as Hannah attempts to reintegrate into society as a Chrome.  Her relationship with her conservative Christian family and her lover is complex and layered.  I found Hannah's struggles interesting and poignant.  The only real problem I had with this book was Jordan's inclusion of a more action-packed twist towards the end of the book. Hannah's struggles as a Chrome and the effect it has on her relationships are the most interesting part.  The rest is just filler.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. I think this would make a great book club pick. It is a quick interesting read that can generate a lot of discussion about crime and punishment.  I just wish Jordan had skipped the unnecessary plot additions toward the end of the book.

Monday, September 05, 2011

ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach

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

At first glance, ART OF FIELDING looks like your standard baseball novel. Since I am not a huge fan of baseball, I was a little cautious about approaching this book. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.

Baseball provides the framework of a story about five people at a small Eastern college. Henry Skrimshander has made a religion out of being a flawless shortstop. His ambition ends there until he is discovered by college player Mike Schwartz. Schwartz convinces Henry to dream bigger and encourages him to come and play at Westish College. This fateful meeting sets loose a chain of events that will affect a number of people including Henry's gay college roommate Owen, the President of the University, Guert Affenlight and Affenlight's directionless daughter Pella. When Henry makes a fateful error during a Westish game, their lives are all changed forever.

What makes this story successful are how authentic and real the characters are. They are flawed, complex human beings and Harbach takes the time to really flesh out the characters. Each one is likeable in his/her own way and yet each of them struggles to overcome his/her near tragic flaws. I couldn't help but get caught up in their stories. Harbach does some referencing of MOBY DICK in this story and baseball becomes the white whale of several of the characters.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. While some of the prose comes off as a bit silly, this is an excellent freshman effort. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to seeing what Harbach offers next.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern

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

I am a fan of magical realism and whimsy.  I'll take it in any form I can find it.  When I started hearing the buzz about Erin Morgenstern's NIGHT CIRCUS, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy.  While the book may not fall directly into the magical realist category, it IS filled with lots of magic and beauty.

A mystery circus rolls into town that is only open at night.  Everything about the circus from its costumes to its tents are black and white.  Instead of entering one large tent and viewing a standard three-ring show, visitors are encouraged to wander through many small tents in order to explore the many wonders the circus has to offer. The visitors, however, are not aware of the true purpose of this wonderful attraction.  The circus is actually a traveling venue for a magical competition between two powerful magicians who were designated opponents when they were children.  Celia is the daughter of a well-known magician and Marco is an orphan taken in by a mysterious man in grey.  Both children have been trained since childhood for the express purpose of engaging in this mysterious and fierce competition.  As the game continues over the years, Celia and Marco fall in love and their forbidden relationship has dangerous consequences both for themselves and the Circus.

To me, the love story and competition were the least interesting parts of the book.  I was most intrigued by the marvelous details about the Circus itself.  It seemed like such a wonderful place and, as each tent is revealed, I became more and more drawn into its magic.  Morgenstern is marvelously creative in crafting this circus and its many wonders.  It is filled with such beauty and wonder and the people in and around it are as intriguing as its offerings.  When the story returned to Celia and Marco, I often became bored and impatient.  While their story is important in terms of moving the action along, I was far more interested in the day-to-day operations of the Circus.  I was excited to see what new wonders each chapter would reveal. 

I didn't really believe in Marco and Celia's love and I found the competition a bit confusing.  I wish Morgenstern had gone into greater detail about the reasons behind the competition and the mysterious men behind it.  However, the details about the circus redeemed the whole story for me.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A wonderful and whimsical tale about magic and love that is most satisfying in its little details. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Picture Book Pause---THE MAN IN THE MOON by William Joyce

We're going to take a break from our regularly scheduled contemporary adult literature book reviews to stop and ponder a new picture book.  Today's book is the first picture book in William Joyce's new GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD series--THE MAN IN THE MOON.

This gorgeously illustrated book tells the origin story of the Man in the Moon or MiM.  We learn how MiM used to sail the night sky with his parents in ship called the Moon Clipper as he was watched over by his friend and protector Nightlight.  When the evil King of Nightmares, Pitch, attempts to kidnap MiM, his life and the lives of the children on Earth are changed forever.

Joyce cleverly weaves in other origin tales in this short story including how the Earth got its moon, why the moon glows, where lost balloons end up and how the Guardians of Childhood came to be.  The whole tale is wonderfully whimsical and there is plenty for adults to enjoy and appreciate in the book as well as children.

Although this is picture book, it is long and fairly complex.  It will probably work best for children 5 and up.  The King of Nightmares is a bit frightening and there is a scary battles scene but it isn't TOO scary.  Much of the outcome of the battle is suggested rather than explicitly spelled out so adults have the opportunity to explain more to the child if necessary.

I absolutely loved this book!  It hits all the right notes and sets up the series perfectly.  I cannot wait for the next picture book and will also be looking for the Young Reader editions of the books in the series.