Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Kingdom by Amanda Stevens

Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town.

My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I've been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I'm coming to think I have another purpose here. Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I've discovered in the woods?

Something is eating away at the soul of this town — this withering kingdom — and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

My take: 3 looks
I enjoyed the first in this Graveyard Queen series so much that I immediately went to the next one. The Kingdom was not quite as good as the first, but I think it's for the simple reason that the premise was no longer new for me.

The Kingdom's story was engaging, but there is starting to be a touch too much paranormal for me. For example, what exactly did she experience in the crypt at the mausoleum? What really happened to Emelyn's body? Why was Freya really killed? This one left me with a lot of unanswered questions.

Also, the fact that Amelia gets unexpectedly and paranormally sexually drawn to a man in the last two restorations is a bit unbelievable. This one was particular hard to swallow because of the very sensual nature of the attraction. I can only assume that, since she is seeing the same vision here as the last book, book three may wrap it up and explain it more. For Amelia to be so conservative, reserved and steeped in southern tradition, she seems to be a bit of a tart.

Overall, it's a fun read, and a nice diversion. Recommended.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on. By the time Taylor arrives in Tucson, Arizona, she has acquired a completely unexpected child, a three-year-old American Indian girl named Turtle, and must somehow come to terms with both motherhood and the necessity for putting down roots. Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places. Available for the first time in mass-market, this edition of Barbara Kingsolver's bestselling novel, The Bean Trees, will be in stores everywhere in September. With two different but equally handsome covers, this book is a fine addition to your Kingsolver library.

My take: 3 looks
I really needed a light and funny read after some of the heavy and gothic books I have been reading. This fit the bill perfectly. I had read this book so many years ago that I can't remember when, so it was like reading a fresh story for me.

The first sentence sets the tone for this novel perfectly: "I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign." How can you not fall totally in love with a book with an opening like that? The characters are sassy, down-to-earth, eccentric, and very, very real. While this one probably won't change your life, it will tug at your heart strings and make you laugh. It should also make you run to another Kingsolver book!


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

My name is Amelia Gray. I'm a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I've always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.

My take: 3 looks
Very entertaining first of four in The Graveyard Queen series. I've never considered the profession of "graveyard restorer", but I can see how this would be a very specialized field for cities steeped in history. The twist is that this graveyard restorer, Amelia Gray, can also see ghosts.

The murder mystery left me a little flat in that there were several loose ends, and lots of unanswered questions. To avoid spoilers, I will not state them here, but this is the first in the series, so I hope to return to these issues in subsequent books. It did, however, do what every author must strive for: I scrambled for the next book!


Today in Literary History: Howl

On this day in literary history, the U.S. Customs Department confiscates 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg's book Howl, which had been printed in England. Officials alleged that the book was obscene.

City Lights, a publishing company and bookstore in San Francisco owned by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, proceeded to publish the book in the fall of 1956. The publication led to Ferlinghetti's arrest o

n obscenity charges. Ferlinghetti was bailed out by the American Civil Liberties Union, which led the legal defense. Nine literary experts testified at the trial that the poem was not obscene, and Ferlinghetti was found not guilty.

Howl, which created a literary earthquake among the literary community when Ginsberg first read the poem in 1955, still stands as an important monument to the countercultural fervor of the late 1950s and '60s.

Ginsberg stayed at the forefront of numerous liberal movements throughout his life and became a well-loved lecturer at universities around the country. He continued to write and read poetry until his death from liver cancer in 1997.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year

My friend Debbie tells me that she loves that I choose books with odd titles. Well, the books I have read have nothing to brag about next to the winner of this year's Diagram Prize.

But let me back up. The Diagram Prize celebrates its 35th year in 2013, after first being founded as a way to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. Bruce Robinson, the founder of the Diagram Group, a publishing solutions firm, established the first prize in 1978, with the crown going to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. (from The Bookseller website.)

The winner this year: Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop

The full shortlist and their share of the vote:
1) Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop by Reginald Bakeley (Conari Press) 38%
2) How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior (Murdoch Books) 31%
3) God's Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis by Tom Hickman (Square Peg) 14%
4) How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (Melville House) 13%
5) Was Hitler Ill? by Hans-Joachim Neumann and Henrik Eberle (Polity Press) 3%
6) Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts by Jerry Gagne (Foy's Pet Supplies) 1%

The rules are pretty loose:
People cannot nominate their own works, nor can they select books they publish themselves. Titles which are deliberately created to be funny are normally rejected. Following two occasions in 1987 and 1991 when no prize was given due to a lack of odd titles, The Bookseller opened suggestions to the readers of the magazine. In 2000, the winner was voted for by the public instead of being decided by administrator Horrace Bent. In 2009, online submissions sent on Twitter were accepted. This resulted in the highest number of submissions for the prize in its history, with 90 books being submitted (50 from Twitter), almost three times the number from the previous year (32). However, Bent also expressed his annoyance at people who gave submissions that broke the rules, with some of the books mentioned being published as far back as 1880.

All-in-all, none of the titles appeal to me, but I supposed there is a readership for everyone.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellen Bache

She was the thread that wove their tapestry together.

With a group of women as diverse as the ladies from Brightwood Trace, you might not think them to be close. There's Julianne, a nurse with an unsettling psychic ability that allows her to literally feel what her patients feel, Andrea, a strong fortress sheltering a faltering core, Ginger, a mother torn between being a stay-at-home mom or following her career aspirations, and Iona, the oldest, whose feisty, no-nonsense attitude disarms even toughest of the tough. Not exactly the ingredients for the most cohesive cocktail . . . Until you add Paisley, the liveliest and friendliest of the clan, who breathed life into them all.

But when their glowing leader falls ill with cancer, it's up to these women to do what Paisley has done for them since the beginning: lift her up. Overcoming and accepting the inevitability of loss, the women draw closer than ever; finding together the strength to embrace and cherish their lives with acceptance, gratitude and most importantly, love. Finally living with the vigor that Paisley has shown them from the start, they are able to see their lives in a new light, while learning to say goodbye to the brightest star they've ever known. Over the course of just three months, these four women will undergo a magnificent transformation that leaves nobody unchanged.

My take: 3 looks
Not a real pick-me-up, but it was easy to read, interesting and engaging. Reminiscent of "The Wednesday Sisters" by

Monday, March 18, 2013

June Bug by Chris Fabry

June Bug believed everything her daddy told her. That is, until she walked into Wal-Mart and saw her face on a list of missing children. The discovery begins a quest for the truth about her father, the mother he rarely speaks about, and ultimately herself. A modern interpretation of Les Miserables , the story follows a dilapidated RV rambling cross-country with June Bug and her father, a man running from a haunted past. Forces beyond their control draw them back to Dogwood, West Virginia, down a winding path that will change their lives forever.

My take: 3 looks
A modern interpretation of Les Miserables? Only in the loosest sense of a comparison. With that off my chest...

This is the best of Christian fiction: a good story with good people trying hard to do the right thing in a world which is badly fallen from grace. Belief in and worship of God is a daily thing, part of everyday life, and there is no huge evangelistic push here.

This is part mystery, part family tale, and all love story - between a father and a child. The characters are all likable, from the hard-nosed and pushy journalist Bentley to the always-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time Graham. The only character who earns and deserves my dislike is Dana, mother to the child loved by all.

This is the second Dogwood book I have read (thanks, Judy!), and there is another in the wings, waiting on its turn in my book club. If you like light, well-written Christian fiction, I recommend this.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

"I Am The Messenger" is a book about mystery, friends, and the social life of an accidental hero. Ed Kennedy, a big-city cab driver, has been chosen by an unknown source to save people from their trapped life. Different victims create a different puzzle for Ed to figure out. From a lonely woman to a runner who needs bare feet, Ed finds what is missing from their life and seals that gap. He creates good by doing the bad.

In between each task he receives, Ed plays a nightly game of poker at his best friend Marv's house. Ed's four friends, Marv, Audrey, Ritchie, and the Doorman (Ed's dog), support Ed to their fullest extent. Audrey, Ed's shoulder to cry on, is also Ed not-so-secret crush. Marv, Ed's drinking buddy, lives with his parents and never spends a cent of his money. Ritchie, Ed's silent friend, has a tattoo of Jimi Hendrix that looks like Richard Pryor. Then there is the Doorman. Doorman is Ed's pride and joy. The Doorman is a coffee-drinking, smelly, overweight dog. Throughout this novel, Ed discovers that he can be a silent hero, he fixes what others turn away from.

My take: 3 looks
After reading Zusak's The Book Thief, I clamored to get this one. It was no "Book Thief", but it was an interesting and engaging story. The harshness of poverty-riddled, modern-day life in Australia was apparent in the language and descriptions of familial relationships. I was tempted to feel that the harshness was manufactured somewhat, but as I got to know these characters and their environment, I agree with the style and the reasons for Zusak using this literary tool.

The story is an intriguing one, with one character receiving "messages" on how to make a strong and lasting change in someone's life. Changes that seem to be small and without much cost or effort on the part of the protagonist. As expected, the "messenger" changes and grows with each person/family he helps.

We find in the end who the instigator is, and I was torn as I neared the finale as to whether or not I wanted to know. It would have been fitting for this person to remain anonymous, I think. The statement that I cannot easily dismiss or understand is that the man behind all of this "instructed that man to brutalize his wife." Why would he do that? Just to make a point? Was the man abusive already? Was money exchanged? Out of all of the situations, he merely acted on what was already in play. In this case, however, he caused the action, and I am not sure I can forgive that; especially since a child was witness. This revelation almost ruins the book for me. How on earth can someone who wants to right wrongs himself instigate a wrong simply to enable it to be rectified. There must be more to the story that was either edited out, or that I missed. In any event, this heinous sentence demonized the otherwise altruistic man, and turns this into something I don't think Zusak intended.

Overall, I recommend.

Friday, March 15, 2013

How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale

Two cats are better than one... First in an adorable new series! A deceased uncle and a surprising inheritance propel a woman and her two very curious cats into the mystery surrounding his death. An investigation that starts amid the curios and novelties of a San Francisco antiques shop follows a twisted trail of dangerous deception that leads all the way back to the days of the Gold Rush itself.

My take: 2 looks
Whether it's the first book from the author, or the first in the series, a seasoned reader can always tell. This, unfortunately, is both. The characters are gratingly eccentric. Not just one, not just two, but many of them are virtually caricatures of people. Their eccentricities do not make them endearing, either. I found myself putting the book down numerous times because one of the main players was so irritating that I could no longer take it.

The mystery was okay, but the San Francisco tunnels, gold rush history, paintings, disguises and ever present tulips were very, very, very overdone, leaving me flat as a pane of glass at the end.

I had to force myself to finish it, would not have if it had been much longer, and will more than likely not read another until I have had time to forgive Hale for this waste of my precious reading time.

Not recommended.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

My take: 2 looks
Well, maybe 2.5 looks. After all, I didn't dislike it so much as I just didn't like it. It is said to be a sort of autobiographical book, but I didn't get the point. If the point was friendship, it was lacking. If the point was the power of literature, it was stunted. If the point was social and cultural repression, it was boring.

This novel was made into a movie, which I can't understand, either. I don't see enough material in the184 pages to make a movie.

Getting to the title, which is what caused me to purchase the book, Balzac is Honoré de Balzac, a French novelist and playwright. With no real legacy in the United States, his most famous claim to fame to me is his influence on Charles Dickens. With that being said, the English reader is much more familiar with this author, as BBC miniseries' would suggest.

The little Chinese seamstress played a supporting roll, but no more than Four-Eyes or the headman. Again, her significance in the novel is not immediately evident to me. Unless she represents the effect of literature on a person. However, I would argue that her unplanned pregnancy may have contributed to her life change in a more substantial way than Luo's verbal renditions of the written contraband.

I cannot recommend this one.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak re-read

I read this book for the first time February 2011. Here is my review at that time:
  • Very interesting premise. Death narrates the story of a small town in Germany during WWII. The characters are well-developed and the story is compelling. I'm not sure what I would change in order to make this a favorite, but I found it easy to put down at the end of the day. I doubt I will think of the book in the coming days, as it makes it way through me, as I do with those listed as my favorites. Nevertheless, I would most definitely recommend it.
What a short and concise, very non-emotional response to this book.

After reading it this time, I am struck. Or perhaps I should say ... stricken ... Posted on my Shelfari group:
I just finished The Book Thief and my heart is so heavy that I am simply going to have to go to bed and dream of feather hair, Jesse Owens, accordion players and the humanity of death.

My review this time: 5 looks and a heart

First of all, the narrator. Death is omnipresent and the most reliable of storytellers. I would call Death a "he" in that I read his words with a masculine voice, for some reason. He is deeply affected by human, by humanity and by The Book Thief, in particular. His statements are true, profound, amusing and utterly heart-gripping. He moves through WWII with a heavy heart, if that is possible. He is delicate and gentle with the souls he takes. He correlates the color of the sky as he takes soul after soul. He doesn't look at the people left behind, but busies himself with other sights, because those left behind haunt him. This is Death.

Next is Liesel, The Book Thief.  A young girl who is intimate with death, loss, love, fear ... far too many emotions for an eleven-year-old. Suffice it to say that she has lost everything she has ever loved.

The supporting characters are few, and very richly drawn. The first 400 pages of the book draws you into their lives and gives the reader the feeling of spending two years with them as Germany finally starts its fall. Some may find this slow-moving, but I felt that the superb writing and emotions elicited in the last third of the book make the detail well worth it. The reader truly becomes a character, as well.

Please, read this book. Buy it so you can read it again and again. Highlight passages and make notes. Buy it for a friend and invite them to do the same. It is deeply affecting and highly recommended.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sale...

Okay. So. The Friends of the Library .25 book sale was today. It opened at 9am, and I had a soccer player to drop off at 8 am nearby, so I waited in the parking lot for the doors to open. I had a cup of coffee before leaving the house at 7:15, and a travel mug on the way. I left the soccer fields at 8:10ish, feeling fine.

I got a great parking spot at the library, but there was already a line consisting of about 25 people at the door. Around 8:30, I had to tinkle. Not a big deal, but I knew that I would have to go directly to the ladies bathroom as soon as the doors opened in 1/2 hour.

8:40am: I feel the first gut-wrench. Not a good sign.

8:50am: I start to wonder if the Checkers Hamburgers is open. However, I do NOT want to lose my parking space.

8:55am: The first bead of cold sweat pops out on my forehead and my gut now starts making noise.

9:00am: I hear the First Baptist Church bells toll the hour and fully expect to see the line start to move. No movement. And the line now reaches across the parking lot.

9:05am: I am counting the minutes and doing my Lamaze breathing.

9:07am: Movement in the line! I know that I have just enough time to make it to the bathroom stall, so I wait until the line is almost gone before I get out of the car. Then I see a member of my book club, Rochelle. I am happy to see her, but I know that I am going to have to chat with her, which will be difficult with my teeth gritted and all of my energies routed to keeping my sphincter in line.

Rochelle has to go to the bathroom, too. That means that I have to wait a few minutes longer for a bit of privacy. Finally, alone at last, I find full and sweet relief. I reach over to the toilet paper dispenser to find that they are stocked with two rolls of empty cardboard.

I am not making this up.

So, I give a courtesy flush and wait a few minutes for the sound of the door and ask the lady for toilet paper. I'm sure she "sensed" that I needed a whole handful, and I am thankful that she was not stingy. I will have to remember this when I am next asked for toilet paper from stall-to-stall.

So ends my Bathroom Peril at the Friends of the Library sale.

Oh, and I bought 40 books.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

On this day in 1923, my favorite poem of all time was published.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost 1874–1963
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

It is so beautifully simple, yet stylistically so incredibly complicated. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter. Each verse (save the last) follows an a-a-b-a rhyming scheme, with the following verse's a's rhyming with that verse's b, which is a chain rhyme (another example is the terza rima used in Dante's Inferno.) Overall, the rhyme scheme is AABA-BBCB-CCDC-DDDD.

A lovely explanation and commentary found at SparkNotes: Within the four lines of each stanza, the first, second, and fourth lines rhyme. The third line does not, but it sets up the rhymes for the next stanza. For example, in the third stanza, queer, near, and year all rhyme, but lake rhymes with shake, mistake, and flake in the following stanza.

The notable exception to this pattern comes in the final stanza, where the third line rhymes with the previous two and is repeated as the fourth line.

Do not be fooled by the simple words and the easiness of the rhymes; this is a very difficult form to achieve in English without debilitating a poem’s content with forced rhymes.

This is a poem to be marveled at and taken for granted. Like a big stone, like a body of water, like a strong economy, however it was forged it seems that, once made, it has always been there. Frost claimed that he wrote it in a single nighttime sitting; it just came to him. Perhaps one hot, sustained burst is the only way to cast such a complete object, in which form and content, shape and meaning, are alloyed inextricably. One is tempted to read it, nod quietly in recognition of its splendor and multivalent meaning, and just move on.

<sigh> This is a most beautiful poem.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Planned Reading

Here was my February list:
  • Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris - 3 looks
  • My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young - 4 looks
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - 3 looks
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia - 3 looks
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - 4 looks
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker - 3 looks
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - didn't read this one
  • Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris - didn't read this one
Instead of the two above that I didn't read, I read
  • The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann - 2 looks
  • Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner - 3 looks
  • The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer - 3 looks
Nine books for February - not bad!

Here is what I have planned for March:
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Firmin by Sam Savage
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (this is a re-read) - F2F Book Club
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker - Online Book Club
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier - Online Book Club
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver - F2F Book Club
Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson - Love the title!
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer - If I can stand it!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Firmin by Sam Savage

"I had always imagined that my life story...would have a great first line: something like Nabokov's 'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins;' or if I could not do lyric, then something sweeping like Tolstoy's 'All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'... When it comes to openers, though, the best in my view has to be the first line of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier : 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard.'"

So begins the remarkable tale of Firmin the rat. Born in a bookstore in a blighted 1960's Boston neighborhood, Firmin miraculously learns how to read by digesting his nest of books. Alienated from his family and unable to communicate with the humans he loves, Firmin quickly realizes that a literate rat is a lonely rat. Following a harrowing misunderstanding with his hero, the bookseller, Firmin begins to risk the dangers of Scollay Square, finding solace in the Lovelies of the burlesque cinema.

Finally adopted by a down-on-his-luck science fiction writer, the tide begins to turn, but soon they both face homelessness when the wrecking ball of urban renewal arrives. In a series of misadventures, Firmin is ultimately led deep into his own imaginative soul-a place where Ginger Rogers can hold him tight and tattered books, storied neighborhoods, and down-and-out rats can find people who adore them.

My take: 2.5 to 3 looks
I am a sucker for books whose main character is a member of the Muroidea superfamily of Rodentia. The protagonist, Firmin, shot this book to 3 looks on merit alone. However, I take issue with the writing of the book, most specifically the use of various and random vulgarities. It is completely unnecessary,and it feels that the author is doing it just to move his novel out of YA and into a more mature audience. It doesn't serve him well. I found this is be very distracting, adding no value to the story or voice of Firmin.

With that said, I have read many reviews that state that it is a sad novel. I didn't find it so at all. I felt that Firmin had an excellent life (lest we forget he is, after all, a rat). He had an excellent home, learned to read and understand books, made a friend, and was able to find fairly good meals. The fact that he settles down in the end to await his fate is not sad, but poignant. All his life, he has tried to rise above what he is. Finally, he comes to terms with the fact that he is not a man, not an author, not a dancer or pianist, but a rat. I found it to be rather fitting.

Despite the author's sophomoric style with his use of vulgarities, I found his writing to be witty and smart. I highlighted several words, and would consider this a word-building book. I would recommend it, but not if you are easily offended.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Today in Literary History: The Old Man and the Sea

On this day in 1952, Ernest Hemingway finished his novella "The Old Man and the Sea". At only 127 pages, it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954, with the following citation: "for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style."

The story summary:
The old man of the novella’s title, Santiago is a Cuban fisherman who has had an extended run of bad luck. Despite his expertise, he has been unable to catch a fish for eighty-four days. He is humble, yet exhibits a justified pride in his abilities. His knowledge of the sea and its creatures, and of his craft, is unparalleled and helps him preserve a sense of hope regardless of circumstance. Throughout his life, Santiago has been presented with contests to test his strength and endurance. The marlin with which he struggles for three days represents his greatest challenge.

Many see this as a parallel to Hemingway's life. Before this publication, he had never reached the level of fame other expats in his social circle had achieved. I am sure it was difficult to dine with the like of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound when you share their profession. His marriages seemed to garner more interest than his writing. Until this one, that is.

Unfortunately, this would be Hemingway's last work before committing suicide, as his father before him, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As one reviewer states: It is about dreams fulfilled but at a cost. It is about a man's struggle with adversity. So close to reality.

This work was put to the screen twice, once with the main character played by Spencer Tracy; the other by Anthony Quinn. To honor Ernest Hemingway today, I think I will read this book.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

It's 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows - a fascinating boy who's not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin's father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary's sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies - Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

My take: 3 looks
A thoroughly enjoyable YA book, with just enough romance, action and fantasy to entice the youngest of young adults.

The characters are very likable and the plot, even though it involves kids turning into birds to get away from Russian spies intent on destroying the world, seems downright plausible.

The story is fulfilling, the ending satisfying and I sincerely hope this is a series!

Highly recommended for a fun, light read.