Attica Locke’s novel, “The Cutting Season” September 11, 2012Posted by Galaxy in book review, Book Reviews.
Tags: fiction, mystery, staff picks
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Locke’s novel is a superb, multilayered, historical/mystrey/thriller. If you like female heroes, courageous but troubled single mothers, African-American history, Louisiana and the trouble caused by the discovery of a dead body, you will love this book. The story protagonist, Caren Gray is a law school drop-out who returns to the sugar plantation-turned tourist attraction where her mother worked and where she spent her childhood. Branded as a failure by the father of her nine year old daughter, Caren is not so much a quitter as she is a person that wants to impose her will on her own life story instead being subject to the wills of others. Her troubles are compounded when the body of a latina migrant worker is found in a ditch alongside the road that divides the ancient plantation grounds from the cane fields. It is also rumored that the slave quarters that still stand are haunted by the ghosts of her ancestors. I highly recommend this book.
Book Review: We, The Drowned February 15, 2011Posted by Galaxy in Book Reviews.
Tags: Carsten Jensen, epic literature, fiction, reviews, We The Drowned
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This is a rare book in this age, and is all the more spellbinding for that. Spanning one hundred years in the life of a small town in Denmark, this extraordinary novel chronicles the lives of the people of Marstal who are all in some way bound to the sea. The story begins in the age of sail, and carries the reader through time to the day the Germans surrender to end World War Two. Each character introduced to the story is more powerful than the last, and events and places also come marvelously to life on every page of this nearly 700 page novel. Whether it is the life of schoolboys in Marstal, sailors unloading salt cod in Portugal, women managing their shipping companies, or a young Danish sailor looking for his father in the South Pacific, readers will be enthralled by these characters and their adventures as they come to life in this epic novel.
Book review round-up July 30, 2010Posted by Galaxy in Book Reviews.
Tags: Book Reviews, fiction, non-fiction, not yet released, summer reading
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As I mentioned last post, I have been reading some excellent books recently, and today I’ve got a blurb for each.
I’ll start with Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, which is likely to be my favorite book of the summer, if not the year. Little Bee isn’t brand new–it was first published in the States last year–but it took me a while to get to it. I am so glad I finally did. Cleave’s writing is simply brilliant, and Little Bee is a heartbreaking and beautiful character. Little Bee is a 16 year old Nigerian refugee whose escape to the UK awarded her a two year stay in a detention center. She speaks to the reader as if over a cup of tea, with candor and with patience for all that you do not understand about the world. Her story is one that you will not soon forget.
Having struggled through The City & the City last year, only to realize as I closed the book that I really liked it, I was excited to read China Mieville’s new novel, Kraken. This is a novel for fantasy readers, certainly. Reminiscent of books like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, our Everyman in this story is Billy Harrow, a curator at the London Museum of Natural History. The museum has recently acquired an enormous giant squid specimen that has been getting a great deal of attention from the public. When the squid mysteriously vanishes–tank and all–Billy is sucked into a strange layer of London life that encompasses cults of all descriptions (including, naturally, a group of squid worshipers), gods, monsters, angels, an evil tattoo, and two especially horrifying assassins. It’s a chaotic ride, but a fun one, full of literary references and Mieville’s playful use of language.
I found The Tale of Halcyon Crane, by Wendy Webb, to be a perfectly delicious ghost story with a splash of romance. Halcyon lost her mother in a fire when she was young but had a perfectly happy childhood with her loving father. It comes as a shock to receive a letter informing her that her estranged mother died a few weeks ago. Hallie’s grief and confusion are compounded when her father passes away soon after. Determined to unearth the mystery of her own past, Hallie travels to the island where her mother had been living and where–though she has no memory of it–she spent her earliest years. Just creepy enough for a few shivers without being the stuff of nightmares, The Tale of Halcyon Crane is a light, cool breeze of a book, perfect for summer reading.
Currently, I’m in the middle of two books by authors on our summer schedule: Imperfect Endings, by Zoe Carter, and The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want, by Garret Keizer. Carter’s book is an honest and intimate memoir of her mother’s decision to end her life after a long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. Keizer writes about the history of noise and its often overlooked consequences. While very different in style and subject, both books are excellently written and captivating.
To wrap up, a teaser for three books that will be published in the coming months. Dennis Lehane fans will be thrilled to learn that he is bringing back Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro for his new mystery, Moonlight Mile (November). Revisiting the case that tore them apart twelve years before, Kenzie and Gennaro’s investigations put their lives and the life of the girl they’re searching for in grave danger. Though I felt this was missing some of the grittiness of previous books in the series, it’s good to be back on the case with these two Boston detectives.
I was privileged to have dinner with Joyce Hinnefeld a couple of years ago, when her novel In Hovering Flight was published. She is a lovely woman, and I was delighted to receive an advance copy of her new book, Stranger Here Below (October). In it, Hinnefeld introduces three generations of women, their individual strengths and fragility, and explores the sometimes tenuous bonds of friendship. This is an excellent book to share among sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends.
Finally, one for the YA crowd (though I highly recommend these books for adults, as well.) The Chaos Walking trilogy is the series I most expect and hope will get a big boost from the end of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (the final installment, Mockingjay, arrives August 24). It shares some similar elements–a corrupted world, far removed from our own, in which two teenagers may be the last hope for humanity’s redemption–but is completely original in its characters and style. Beginning with The Knife of Never Letting Go, the reader journeys with Todd and Viola in search of hope. Todd was born on the planet called “New World,” and has grown up in a village where men’s (and animals’) thoughts are always “heard” by everyone around them and all of the women died long ago. Viola is a newcomer to the planet, ejected from a scout ship that preceded a larger ship bringing a new group of colonists to New World. Together, they are pitted against the cruel Mayor, who has plans to conquer New World and reshape society to his own wishes. You will quickly find yourself caring deeply about the characters that Patrick Ness has created and his pacing will put you on the edge of your seat as they battle against the Mayor as well as with their changing understanding of themselves and their world. The final installment, Monsters of Men, will be on shelves at the end of September, which means that if you haven’t had a chance to check out this series yet, you’ll be able to race through the books back to back, all the way to the thrilling conclusion.
Book Review: Graceling August 28, 2009Posted by Sandy in Book Reviews.
Tags: book review, fiction, YA
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Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
On the back cover of Graceling, you’ll read a snippet of a review comparing the book to Twilight, and of course the publisher would want to appeal to the legion of Twilight fans who are hungry for something new to read, now that Stephenie Meyers’ series is finished. If I were to compare this book to anything in the pop culture consciousness, however, I’d lean towards Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, it is a fantasy novel with a romantic vein, but this is above all a book about a young woman who is strong and independent and who wants to empower other girls to take care of themselves.
Gracelings are indentifiable by their eyes, which are of two different colors, and each Graceling has his or her own unique abilities. Some are more mundane than others–they can range from an affinity for cooking to psychic knowledge of weather patterns. Katsa’s Grace manifested itself when, at eight years old, she killed an uncle who was making inappropriate advances toward her. Since then, Katsa has been employed by another uncle, King Randa of the Midlunds, as his personal assasin and enforcer. She has trained and honed her superhuman skill for killing and maiming until she can take out an army of men on her own.
Although she is forced to deliver horrible and often unfair punishments to her uncle’s subjects, the injustices Katsa sees all around her lead her to form a secret Council that works to save victims of tyranny and abuses of all kinds. On one such mission, rescuing an elderly prince from the dungeons of a neighboring kingdom, Katsa meets a stranger who will change her life and everything she believes about herself and her Grace.
Prince Po of the island kingdom of Lienid is also Graced with fighting abilities, and he is searching for his grandfather–the same prince that Katsa helped to rescue from prison. Together, Po and Katsa seek to discover who kidnapped the elder Lienid prince and for what dark purpose.
I was thrilled to read this book, with a heroine whose strength and independent spirit does not give way at the entrance of a handsome, romantic young man. Though she doesn’t always understand it, Katsa embraces her strength, protecting others and teaching them to protect themselves. The men she allows close to her are not intimidated by her power but respect and love her for that very strength. This is a book I am very happy to recommend to young women–and young men–looking for a story full of action, adventure, and romance, with characters they can cheer for and admire.
[Note: Graceling has just been published in paperback. Fans will be eager to read Cashore's next book, Fire, which is about different characters, but still set in Katsa's world.]
[Note, part II: Check out Kristin Cashore's website and blog for more information about the author and her books and books-in-progress!]
We’ve got ‘em, signed! August 7, 2009Posted by Galaxy in Book news.
Tags: autographed books, fiction, friday already?, Richard Russo
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Wow, Friday just snuck up on me–which is why this post is so late…and brief.
The wonderful Richard Russo very generously agreed to stop by The Galaxy Bookshop today to sign books for us! We have many autographed copies of his new (and very enjoyable) book, That Old Cape Magic, available now. Call (802-472-5533) or email us if you’d like to reserve a copy! We also have signed copies of some of his previous books, including Empire Falls and Bridge of Sighs.
The Washington Post printed a great review of the book (I think it sums up everything I thought about it, in better words than I could have found.)
Review: All Other Nights June 5, 2009Posted by Galaxy in Book Reviews.
Tags: fiction, review
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Written by Sandy (I’d meant to post this over a month ago, when the book was first published, but it got lost in the shuffle. Time to dust it off–this book could be a great vacation read!)
All Other Nights, by Dara Horn
All Other Nights is the story of Jacob Rappaport, a young Jewish solder who is forced to decide whether to betray his country or betray his family when he is ordered to murder his uncle, who is suspected of plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. Telling himself that it is the right thing to do for his country, Jacob follows orders, fully expecting some reward or recognition for his dedication. Instead, upon returning to his regiment, he is sent on another undercover mission, this time to infiltrate a family of female spies by winning the confidence and love of their supposed ringleader, Eugenia. Despite himself, Jacob learns to care deeply for Eugenia, and is once again trapped between his country and the people he loves. Whatever his choice, he may never be able to redeem himself to the ones he betrays.
By exploring the roles of Jewish Americans in the Civil War, Dara Horn offers a fresh take on this well documented period in history. Jacob is a witness to anti-Semitism in his own life, through thinly veiled comments of his peers and superiors. He sees blame placed on all Jews for the actions of individuals like his uncle and Judah Benjamin, the Secretary of State of the Confederacy. Intolerance and hypocrisy is rampant, as men who claim to fight for freedom do not believe in the same freedoms for every person, and people whose ancestors escaped from slavery now keep slaves of their own.
I enjoyed Dara Horn’s previous book, The World to Come, but it was certainly a more challenging read. All Other Nights is, I believe, a much more accessible book, and should win Horn many new fans. Her writing is engaging and thoughtful, her characters intriguing and relatable. Whether you’re looking for history, suspense, or romance, this is a book that will satisfy from the first page to the last.
Visit the author’s website.
Review: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet May 8, 2009Posted by Sandy in Book Reviews.
Tags: fiction, review
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen
Want the short review? I’m fairly confident in calling this my favorite novel of the year. You should read it–you’ll love it, too.
Want the longer version? Here it is:
Tecumseh Sparrow “T.S.” Spivet is always making maps. He maps water tables, bird migrations, his room, his home state of Montana, the paths of dreams and conversations, and the motions of his sister shucking corn. His maps have won him the attention of the Smithsonian Institution and the prestigious Baird Award. The only problem with this is that T.S. is only 12 years old and doesn’t have a way to get from Montana to Washington, D.C. to accept the award. Well, there is one way, which is to hop a train, like the hobos he’s learned about in school.
During his journey, T.S. reflects on his life’s work and on his family, from whom he feels distanced. His mother is withdrawn into her scientific studies, his tough and practical rancher father can’t understand the bookish T.S., his older sister is more sympathetic but often self-centered in a teenage, can’t-wait-to-get-out-of-here way. Then, there’s Layton, T.S.’s beloved younger brother, whose death constantly hovers in T.S.’s thoughts.
In T.S., Reif Larsen (who apparently made quite the stir in the publishing world with his debut) has created a character with a wholly original and memorable voice. I loved that, even though he is a tremendously intelligent child, Larsen stops short of the unbelievably precocious by retaining T.S.’s childish sense of wonder, excitement, and fear. This was a character I was willing to follow, wherever he decided to take me, which included many stops in the margins, where a good deal of the story is told. This is what makes the book truly unique—the margins are full of T.S.’s maps, drawings, and explanatory notes. The author describes these as “exploded hyper text,” but my initial comparison (suggested by the boy’s destination) was to descriptive plaques in a museum, offering the deeper story behind the scene or object in front of you.
It is a story beautifully told and also beautifully presented—the book is slightly oversized, with a gorgeous dust jacket and embossed cover (plus all of the marginal illustrations inside)–it’s the kind of book that makes you want to run your hands over it, pore over the illustrations, and maybe give it a hug. (Yes, I did those things when I took it out of the box. You might be able to guess that I haven’t become an e-book convert.)
So, there it is–favorite book of the year; buy a copy–buy two, because once you’re finished, you’ll want to share it (but you won’t want to give up your copy).
I recommend visiting the book’s very cool interactive website. Be sure to give yourself some time to explore!
Hardwick Book Group Picks Pulitzer Prize Winner April 21, 2009Posted by Galaxy in Book news.
Tags: fiction, prize winner
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Just last week, we had a rush of orders for Olive Kitteridge, a novel by Elizabeth Strout that was chosen by a local teachers’ book club. Yesterday, Olive Kitteridge was announced as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Coincidence? Well, you can decide.*
*Okay, yes, it’s probably a coincidence, but we have to say, these teachers have great taste in books!
Review: Blueberry Girl April 3, 2009Posted by Sandy in Book Reviews.
Tags: fiction, picture books, reviews
Blueberry Girl, by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Charles Vess
First of all, I will admit that I’m biased: I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman, so I’m predisposed to like just about anything he writes. (Not everything, though. I’m not fond of many comic book/graphic novels, so after struggling through Preludes & Nocturnes, I gave up hope of reading the whole Sandman series.) That being said, I absolutely fell in love with Blueberry Girl the moment I held it in my hands.
Gaiman and Charles Vess have teamed up before, for a couple of the Sandman comics, and for an illustrated version of Stardust. They are a perfect combination for this project, which is a picture book version of a poem Gaiman wrote for his friend Tori Amos when she was pregnant with her daughter.
Blueberry Girl is written as a prayer to the Fates to give the child a life that will make her strong, wise, and beautiful in all ways. Gaiman’s rhythmic rhyme entreats the Fates (portrayed as all-seeing women who are as often fickle and mysterious as they are loving and generous in their ways) to protect the girl: “Keep her from spindles and sleeps at sixteen, let her stay waking and wise,” but also acknowledges the necessity of hard times: “Her joys must be high as her sorrows are deep,” and “Help her to help herself, help her to stand, help her to lose and to find.”
This sweet poem is gorgeously complemented by the illustrations. Vess has painted a series of adventurous young girls playing in wild settings, surrounded by plants and animals, sky and water. His illustrations are graceful and lovely, but also vibrant and full of movement. The birds, animals, and girls found here are ready to fly, run, swim, and jump off of the pages.
Together, Gaiman and Vess have created a book that is sure to be a treasured gift for expectant mothers, newborn daughters, and girls and women of all ages.