We’ve Moved!!

Update your bookmarks, everyone! The Readers’ Blog, now renamed the Bibliofiles, has a new home!  You can visit us there for all our new book reviews. But the archive of our older posts will remain at this current URL for your convenience!

Add comment May 14th, 2011

Just a Thought…Cinematic vs Spine-Tingling Horror

I’ve read plenty of horror fiction, running the range from spine-tingling to horrifyingly gory. What I want in my horror is a sympathetic character with whom I can identify in some way who has been drawn into a paranormal situation over which he or she has no control. I want the suspense to build. I want to be compelled to look over my shoulder as I’m reading it. It seems that so many horror novels that have come out recently have a cinematic edge to them. The descriptions are endless where a creak or squeak would do. Unlike the more artful work of authors like Peter Straub or Joe Hill, I’m finding that rather than fleshing out characters, creating suspense, and letting me stew on it, that the action is often non-stop, and the ending is a crescendo of supernatural activities that even as described are difficult to imagine and ruin the chill. Perhaps it is just harder to frighten me after years of reading and watching horror. What do you think? Who are the best contemporary horror novelists out there? Which authors cause you to look under the bed?

Add comment April 24th, 2011

Lansens, Lori. The Girls

This is a story about sisters, who like many siblings, have very distinct and different personalities, likes and dislikes, goals, and levels of ambition. Unlike most siblings, the sisters Rose and Ruby are conjoined twins. Rose, the writer, is determined to tell her (their) story and so she coerces the very reticent Ruby to help her by writing some of the chapters. The only rule that Rose sets forth is that they are not to read each other’s chapters.

The Girls is their story, and although it’s a novel, you might be inclined to want to believe it’s a biography, or more correctly, a pair of biographies. Lansens brings us a most unusual coming-of-age story about sisters who truly love each other and about the small circle of people who inhabit their small town life.

Find The Girls in our catalog.

Add comment April 21st, 2011

Howard, Linda. Veil of Night

Jaclyn Wilde and her mother own a successful and highly regarded event planning business. They have both had their share of difficult customers and bridezillas, and nearly meet their match in bride-to-be Carrie Edwards who makes being obnoxious an art form. Edwards has alienated every vendor in her path on her way to the altar, and Jaclyn cannot wait for the wedding to be over.

In addition to her work, divorcee Jaclyn has recently met sexy detective Eric Wilder, with whom she shared a steamy night. After years of not dating, Jaclyn thinks he just may be worth the effort if she can commit some time away from her work to have a personal life again. When the current bridezilla is found dead, and Jaclyn is pronounced as the last person to see her, Eric puts his professional ethics first, and backs away from the relationship just as Jaclyn may need him the most.

Linda Howard has written an entertaining novel with characters you’ll care about as they find their way through a complicated tangle of crime and passion. Recommended for fans of romantic suspense.

Find Veil of Night in our catalog.

Add comment April 18th, 2011

Howard, Jonathan L. Johannes Cabal the Detective

When last we encountered haughty necromancer Johannes Cabal, he was running a diabolical carnival in an attempt to win his soul back from Lucifer. (“Johannes Cabal the Necromancer,” 2008.) That task accomplished, he sets his sights on acquiring a particular rare book of the necromantic arts. Unfortunately, things do not go to plan, and he finds himself captured and pressed into service reviving the corpse of a small militant country’s dictator for one last rousing speech. Unfortunately, the revived dictator’s prodigious appetites now lean toward human flesh. Managing to flee the scene of the debacle, Johannes dons the persona of a self-important bureaucrat and embarks upon the first aeroship out of town. Again, unfortunately, Johannes has managed to end up not only sharing passenger space with a young woman who knows him for who and what he is, but with a murderer. His investigations of the murder, at first undertaken from idle curiosity, begin to take a more personal turn—Johannes’s own life is threatened!—and he begins to discover the downside of a returned soul—that pesky conscience!—as he finds himself embroiled in a nest of political espionage.

Wickedly humorous, with touches of steampunk, mystery, and the supernatural, Johannes Cabal the Detective is a rollicking good time.

Find Johannes Cabal the Detective in our catalog.

Add comment April 15th, 2011

Wolfe, Gene. Home Fires

Skip Grison has been a lawyer for almost twenty years and is wealthy and successful. Returning soldier Chelle Sea Blue, Skip’s contracta (a neologism indicating the female partner in a civil union), has been away from the planet for a matter of months, fighting the alien species known only as the Os, but due to the relativistic effects of time travel is now twenty years younger than Skip. As Skip prepares for Chelle’s return, wondering what she will make of her youthful sweetheart turned middle-aged man, he chooses to download her dead mother Vanessa’s electronically recorded personality into a new body as a gift to Chelle. He also books the two of them onto a luxurious Caribbean cruise. Chelle, however, is quite literally a new person as well. Having been severely injured during her tour of duty, she was patched up with donor body parts and may well harbor a split personality. As the three of them attempt to put their lives back together and find a balance between old and new, darker happenings…including a hijacking, a bomb, mercenaries, and several attempted or accomplished murders…hint that someone, or something, isn’t done with Chelle. Or possibly they want Vanessa. Or Skip. Or something else altogether.

Genre-bending elements such as the multiple red herrings, fast-paced plot, layer upon layer of psychological and narrative complexity, and mistaken or hidden identities make this a good choice for those who don’t usually read science fiction. This title should have broad appeal for anyone who enjoys teasing open a particularly knotty plot.

Find Home Fires in our catalog.

Add comment April 12th, 2011

McDonald, Sandra. Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories

McDonald’s collection of stories, most of which are interrelated in one way or another, defy simple description. “Improbable” is a good word, but does not fully convey the sense of wonder, hope, and simple humanity with which the collection as a whole leaves the reader. Set in a world much like our own, the stories weave together the lives and experiences of a motley cast of characters, Diana Comet herself foremost among them. Many of the characters, Diana Comet included, are gay or transgender in a world not much more friendly to such than our own, and struggling to find love and acceptance. In various stories, other improbable elements—from talking statuary longing for release to ghost stories come horribly to life to alien invaders seeking to control humanity’s morality—make themselves known, and always, McDonald’s vibrant protagonists fight to make things right.

Find Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories in our catalog.

Add comment April 8th, 2011

Just a thought…Favorite Nonfiction Authors

I read a lot of nonfiction on a variety of topics. Some of these authors have caught my attention so much that I read nearly everything they write because I know that they create books that will interest and inform me and even as I’m learning, I’ll be captivated by the topic and the artful way it’s presented. My chosen writers include a variety of biographers, journalists, essayists, and historians. Here are some of the nonfiction authors I’ve found I can rely on:

Caroline Alexander
Bill Bryson
Joseph Ellis
Malcolm Gladwell
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Laura Hillenbrand
Walter Isaacson
Sebastian Junger
Jon Krakauer
Mark Kurlansky
Ben Mezrich
Nathaniel Philbrick
Mary Roach
Ann Rule
Hampton Sides
Paul Theroux
Alison Weir
Simon Winchester

Have I missed your favorites? Which nonfiction writers do you rely on?

Add comment April 4th, 2011

Schiff, Stacy. Cleopatra: A Life

I waited awhile to read this biography because I wasn’t certain how interested I was in the subject. Still, overwhelmingly positive reviews continued to come in, so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

Stacy Schiff sorts through lots of primary source material and from the writers of Cleopatra’s day, and pieces together a detailed portrait of a woman who has long been vilified. Schiff shows us the motivations of those who wrote about Cleopatra either glowingly or deprecatingly and draws reasonable conclusions about what is true about Cleopatra, what may be exaggerated, and what material was likely fabricated. Now that I’ve read the book, I’m glad I hadn’t read much prior material about her. I doubt it could stand up to Schiff’s portrait of a strong, determined, intelligent and insightful woman who was able to hold her own against the mostly male rulers of the day.

I recommend this biography for fans of ancient history, and those interested in the the real story of Cleopatra and her impact on the ancient world.

Find Cleopatra:A Life in our catalog.

Add comment March 30th, 2011

Just a Thought…Memorable Book Jackets

At times, readers come in looking for a book, and they don’t quite remember the title or the author but they remember what the book jacket looks like. Sometimes, for those books with truly memorable cover design, it’s enough information to help us to find the book! While we don’t necessarily recommend this method for finding a particular title, we remember the cover designs of some books because we’ve seen them often, found the covers eye-catching, or because they’re among our favorites. Just for fun, here is a list of some of our more memorable book jacket requests:

The gold cover–The Help
The book with the rainboots on the cover–Belong to Me
Turquoise and orange–The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
The striped cover–Water for Elephants
The cover with the door knob on it–Come Closer
Green with flowers on it–Snowflower and the Secret Fan
The children running on the cover–Sarah’s key
Mona Lisa is on the cover–The Da Vinci Code
It has an upside down dog on the cover–The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

Add comment March 27th, 2011

Bear, Elizabeth. Undertow

Andre Deschenes is a very good assassin—one of the best—but he wants to branch out into the field of “conjuring;” that is, manipulating events by calculating probabilities. He thinks he has the gift, but he can’t find an experienced conjurer willing to take him on as a pupil. Novo Haven, a floating city on the planet of Greene’s World, is the kind of frontier town where people go to hide. The city, and the planet itself, are controlled by the ruthless Charter Trade Company, who have their closely-guarded secrets: the lucrative mineral they’re mining may not be entirely natural, the mining operation itself is on the verge of destroying the planet, and the ranids (the native population species the Company uses as a labor force) are much smarter and more civilized than anyone gives them official credit for being. Meanwhile, Andre Deschenes accepts one last contract against Lucienne Spivak, one of the guerilla operatives attempting to free the ranids from the Company’s control. Unfortunately for Andre, Lucienne was not only the lover of one of the greatest conjurers in the known worlds, but was the best friend of Andre’s own lover. But Lucienne’s death sets into motion events of far greater importance than a few domestic squabbles and Andre and the others find themselves fighting on the same side, attempting to save the world before the Charter Trade Company can destroy it all.

Elizabeth Bear has a wonderful way of writing straightforwardly complex plots. Nothing is intentionally obscure or ambiguous, and yet a reader must pay close attention as the story unfolds and develops. A delightful challenge!

Find Undertow in our catalog.

Add comment March 25th, 2011

Allende, Isabel. Island Beneath the Sea

Zarité, known as Tété, was born into slavery in the colony of Saint-Domingue on the island that is now Haiti.  Enslaved Africans and people of mixed race, like Tété, were often worked to death in a matter of months on the brutal sugarcane plantations of Saint-Domingue. Tété, however, was lucky. She was purchased by Toulouse Valmorain to care for his insane wife and their young son, not to work the fields. And all she had to put up with was Valmorain’s unwanted sexual attentions. Valmorain, conflicted about slavery, comes to rely deeply on Tété while never quite accepting her as his equal, or even as quite human. When the slave uprising that will eventually give birth to the first free black republic of Haiti breaks out, Tété is instrumental in saving the lives of Valmorain, his legitimate son Maurice, and their illegitimate quadroon daughter Rosette. The family flees first to Cuba, and, later, relocates to the bustling, vibrant city of New Orleans, where Tété seeks freedom for herself and the beautiful, though spoiled, Rosette.

Well-researched, detailed, and vivid, Island Beneath the Sea is a far-reaching tale of a way of life that, though ended, still has repercussions today.

Find Island Beneath the Sea in our catalog.

Add comment March 22nd, 2011

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