Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery by Mary Amato

An illegal ash-burying brings a new, modern soul into a closed, historic cemetery - the famous Baltimore Hall and Burying Ground where Edgar Allan Poe's remains reside. Once Lacy adjusts to what's happened, she's determined to make the most of her afterlife.

This is a fun book intended for teens, but it has cross-over appeal. Lacy's a modern poetry-loving dramatic teen and her adjustment to the mostly Victorian-era spirit society adds to the fish-out-of-water story. There's an unusual "mean girl" twist to the story, and the main drama is in winning over and conquering the clique that is the ruling class of the cemetery.

The book is structured like a play, and I think it could actually almost be performed as such, with a few dramatic special effects. If you don't know much about Poe you'll learn it, but the more you know the more laughs you'll find. The Raven is a great silent narrator - the only character that can cross over to communicate with both the living to the dead.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

The Disc's first female wizard was created nine years ago, accidentally, and now Granny Weatherwax is fighting to get Esk the instruction necessary to control her magic. With untrained magic, anything can (and does) happen.

This one's prime Pratchett, as he knocks tradition sideways with a new world order built around a strong, determined girl wizard and her tenacious witch mentor. Esk also befriends Simon, another wizard-to-be who's also got special talents.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

On his way to visit his father in the Canadian oil fields, the small plane carrying 13-year-old Brian veers off course and crashes. Up until that point, his parents' divorce was the biggest problem the "city slicker" boy had endured. Now, he must figure out how to survive.

I chose this one off The Great American Read list for the library's book discussion group. I'd never read it, and I had to do the audiobook because HELLO PETER COYOTE!

It's short - it's a juvenile book that checks in at about 200 pages and 3 hours of audio - but I was surprised by how quickly the ending snuck up on me. I got so used to survival mode that, like Brian, I maybe forgot that rescue was an option.

South of the Big Four by Don Kurtz

Arthur was an Indiana farm kid turned Great Lakes sailor, now grounded by a shipping slump. There's a deafening indifference to his hometown return, but he finds a job - then a mentor and friend - when he's hired by grain farmer Gerry Maars.

This novel reminded me of Kent Haruf's books - small stories under a big sky, where tough men work the earth. The continuity of fieldwork keeps Arthur in perpetual motion: picking, planting, plowing. But he's going nowhere, working the same spots over and over. The rest of his life is just as small.

Gerry's a gentleman farmer, councilman, community do-er and general man about town. But he's maybe not as important as he thinks he is (a big fish in a very small pond), and he's maybe not as smart as he believes, either. In Arthur, he finds solid help and an easy listener. Somebody to nod along and let him rant.

It's a story about the contrast between the two men, neither exactly what you expect at first glance. I enjoyed the gentle rhythm of the story and the beautiful writing. The bit of drama at the end surprised me, in a good way.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

An Irish Doctor in Love and At Sea by Patrick Taylor

I'm ten books into this series, but this one is my favorite in a while. 

While we revisit some of the same old haunts, in this book we get our first real look at the wartime love story of young Dr. Fingal O'Reilly and his nurse Diedre. We learn a lot about why the old doctor sometimes acts the way he does, and also that it may still be possible for personal growth.

There's a lot of the war in this book, and I didn't mind it at all. I always think it's interesting to get a non-American view of the European action, and the HMS Warspite sees some action that keeps the doctor hopping.

In the modern story arc, brother Lars gets a job that seems to be leaning into a fresh angle for future books, and there's a new Donald Donnelly dog scheme (and as they would say, it's a real corker!). Barry spends most of the book lurking darkly about the periphery, stewing about his absent fiance.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor

Since I just read Reservoir 13, I had to check this one out too - it's a continuation of the story, in the form of chapters interviewing specific community members about what they remember.

These are mostly characters we met in the novel, but now they each get to stretch out over an entire chapter each, telling their stories. Each is a stand-alone, but together they link up and tell us more about the community and the girl that went missing.

Without having read Reservoir 13, I think you can enjoy this as a series of short stories. With the previous book, it acts as an expansion and enhancement of a place you already know.