BookClique

Here we will post our musings on a wide variety of titles. You can comment on our posts and find the titles in our catalog.

Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb

ratscaliburOur adventure begins with 11-year-old Joey moving to the city. He didn’t want to, but Mom got a better job. As they are unpacking, Uncle Patrick arrives with a pet rat for him. This isn’t an ordinary rat, but Gondorff the Gray, a ragician from the low realm (man = magician, rat = ragician). Gondorff has failed his mission and needs an urgent message sent to King Uther, with a ragical bite on his finger Joey finds himself  turned into a rat. And, he’s off on his quest, upon reaching his destination Joey pulls a spork from a scone and the crowd starts cheering “Ratscalibur! Ratscalibur!” This is just the start of Joey’s journey in his quest to become a boy again and return to his mother. Ratscalibur by Josh Lieb is full of short chapters and action that keeps you turning the page. I look forward to the possibility of reading more about the low realm.

Polly R.


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Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, by Henry Marsh

Do no harmI don’t usually like to think about medical things since I’m a bit squeamish in nature. However, I was eager to read Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, because to me, those who perform surgery on the brain are great explorers on the same level as astronauts. Brain surgeons operate on people knowing they are cutting into their thoughts, their dreams, and their very personalities; yet, they control their fear of the process and try to improve the lives of their patients in spite of it. Henry Marsh is an expert in his field, a top British neurosurgeon, and his insights in this book are both wonderful and terrifying. He not only provides medical information about the successes and failures of his work, but also shares his personal insights into his own life and into the lives of his patients and their families. I found his insights to be the most fascinating part of this book. How do you break the news to a family that their loved one will likely die, or at best, be horribly impaired? How do you talk to a patient and their family after a routine surgery goes terribly wrong? When is surgery not the right option, and who should decide this, the surgeon or the family? How do you put past failures behind you so you can focus on the present day surgery? Henry Marsh lays out his struggles with such issues with extreme candor and humility. He also shares his trials and tribulations with the British medical system, where surgeries are often cancelled because patients will not have beds to recover in afterwards. In a time where management of our own medical system is a controversial topic, Dr. Marsh’s commentary is especially well-timed.

Annette G.


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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Roller GirlAstrid is twelve. It’s the summer before entering middle school. Everything starts with the latest “Evening of Cultural Enlightenment,” (there had been other not so successful outings, poetry readings, the opera, and to the modern art gallery) this line was full of strange-looking people, the building was huge, then the lights went out , ”Ladies and Gentlemen… are you read for some RRRR-OLLER DERBY?” After this “evening of cultural enlightenment” Astrid has found her passion and can’t wait to attend  Junior Roller Derby camp. As you know, twelve can be tough. Friends grow in different directions and as we grow we want to stretch our boundaries. I found myself rooting for Astrid both on the roller derby field and in her personal life. I am a fan of graphic novels and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a great addition to our collection.

Polly R.


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American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus

American GhostReaders who enjoy American and family history will appreciate this account of the author’s great-great grandmother Julia Schuster Staab and her descendants, who were among the early settlers of Santa Fe, New Mexico and who built the home that is still in use as the La Posada hotel — and is reputedly haunted.   The luxury hotel has been featured on Ghost Hunters and Unsolved Mysteries tv series, as the ghost of Julia, white-haired and in a long, black gown, has been reported as seen on the staircase, and blamed for various mischievous activities throughout the hotel, such as causing lights to flicker on and off and pulling blankets off guests as they sleep.

Based on online reviews, some readers of American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus were somewhat misled into expecting more emphasis on ghost hunting than the book delivers.  Rather, it is primarily an engaging exploration of the lives of Nordhaus’ ancestors, mainly Julia, who was whisked off to the American Southwest by her bridegroom immediately after her marriage in 1865 at age 21.  The account explores how the young woman, lacking physical
strength and a spirit of adventure, must gradually have been beaten down by her life in this inhospitable environment far from friends and family—a condition that may well have contributed to discontent in the afterlife that could result in a haunting.

Nordhaus is able to maintain a steady pace and focus while conveying details about various members of the family and life in New Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century.  Her journey to learn more about the life of Julia Schuster Staab takes her around the United States and to Germany.

Alison M.

 


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Death Wears a Beauty Mask: and Other Stories by Mary Higgins Clark

Death WearsDo you have a ‘trigger’ that alerts you NOT to choose a book to read? I do! I won’t read novels about missing children. As a result I haven’t read anything by Mary Higgins Clark in years, given that A Stranger is Watching, Hitched, Two Little Girls in Blue, and one of her Christmas sets feature missing children. With over 34 suspense novels written, Clark knows how to craft page turners which are perfect for summer reading. My summer started by dipping into latest, Death Wears a Beauty Mask: and Other Stories. Death Wears.. is a collection of short stories spanning Clark’s entire career and that’s what interested me. I love
carefully crafted short stories and think this genre is perfect for busy people. These stories were written between 1956 and 2009 and as such, they really reflect the social mores of the times. There’s quite a variety of settings in these 10 tales, ranging from the airline and fashion industry to rural Cape Cod and a prison. Aficionados of Clark’s other works are sure to find the seeds and themes of her novels herein.

Amy P.


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Circus Mirandus, by Cassie Beasley

circus-mirandusIt is a rare event when I read a book and know it will be an award winner, but Circus Mirandus by debut author Cassie Beasley is going to win awards. The last book I was so certain of winning acclaim was “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, and of course, it won the Newbery. In Circus Mirandus we meet Micah Tuttle. Micah’s grandfather, Ephraim Tuttle is very sick and Micah’s Great-Aunt Gertrudis has come to help care for them both. As her name suggests, Great-Aunt Gertrudis isn’t a very nice person, and Micah wants more
than anything for his grandfather to get well so she will leave. For years, his grandfather has told Micah about Circus Mirandus, a magical circus that he visited as a youth. The Man Who Bends Light at this circus owes his grandfather a miracle. Micah has hope that somehow, the magic circus is real, and the Lightbender’s miracle can save his grandfather.

This is an utterly charming tale, magical and yet with depth as Micah faces the death of his grandfather. Micah, Ephraim, and the Lightbender are complex, wonderful characters. The only negative comment I can make is that the book is too short. I hope that this author offers us a sequel, if only so I can see more of Chintzy, the cantankerous parrot. This book will appeal to younger readers who enjoyed Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Annette G.


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Gun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty

9781846689819-1When Adrian McKinty comes out with a new Sean Duffy mystery, it goes to the top of my stack of books to read.  They are so good!  His newest one, Gun Street Girl, is no exception.  This series (see my previous reviews) is set in 1980s Northern Ireland-Protestants and Catholics hating and killing each other right and left, constant rioting.  Police stations built like forts to try to withstand attacks.  Detective Duffy is a Catholic officer in a Protestant police force AND is the only Catholic on the street where he resides.  He is hated by some, barely tolerated by others, and must always be on guard in his house and car for assassination attempts.  In this book he is trying to solve several murders that were made to look like suicides, figure out who is stealing missiles from an arms factory, and decide whether he wants to throw in the towel and move on to a different career.  Part of me wants McKinty to churn out these faster and faster, part me would worry that the quality would drop.  Can’t say it enough, this series is not to be missed!

Stacy W.


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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce

stiefvaterPip Bartlett is a girl who can talk to magical creatures, and they can talk to her. The problem is that no one believes Pip has this wonderful talent. On career day at school, when Marisol Barrera’s family brings their unicorns as part of their career day display, Pip gets a chance to use her talent, and she uses it to ask the permission of a unicorn for a ride. Things go quickly awry, and career day becomes chaos day. What does Pip learn? She learns that unicorns like to be the center of attention, yes…but most importantly, she learns that they are bad listeners.

After the Unicorn Incident, Pip finds herself spending the summer with her Aunt Emma, a veterinarian for magical creatures. Pip is in heaven and soon finds herself conversing with Lilac-Horned Pomeranians, HobGrackles, and Silky Griffins.  She also meets a new friend named Tomas who is allergic to almost everything in the most interesting ways. Soon, Pip and Tomas are in a race to save the town of Cloverton from an invasion of Fuzzles. And since Fuzzles burst into flames when they are stressed, and Ms. Dreadbatch wants the Fuzzles exterminated, Pip and Tomas must find a way to save them too. Can they do it? Perhaps, with the help of some magical, wonderful creature friends.

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures is a juvenile fiction title that will appeal to younger readers. The action is fast, the creatures are fabulous, and there is a promise of more adventures in the future. A very fun read.

Annette G.


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Boy on Ice by John Branch

branchBoy on Ice by John Branch has to be one of the saddest books I have ever read. Branch chronicles the short life of Derek Boogaard, one of the National Hockey League’s most feared “enforcers.” I felt sorry for Derek as a child, wanting so badly to fit in with his classmates but being made fun of because he was always so much bigger than the other children. As with a lot of Canadian youngsters, Derek lived and breathed hockey, but he did not have grace or speed. Coaches appreciated his size, though, and from his teenage years on, used him in the role of enforcer. Almost every NHL enforcer the author interviewed would have done anything to be a regular hockey player instead of being the one who doesn’t get much playing time and always has to fight. However, if that was the only way they could play, they would do it.

Fighting is such a crowd-pleaser, but the cost is astronomical to the enforcer. I feel sad that I love hockey and have certainly sat in an audience cheering when brawls break out. I always had an idea in my head of the enforcer missing teeth but being okay other than that. I never really thought about the toll that season after season would take on these enforcers. How many concussions had Derek probably suffered by his mid-20s? And once he hit the majors, his hands were continually destroyed by punching other guys’ helmets. He reached the point where he could not extend his fingers, his mouth was full of false teeth, and his shoulders hurt so much that he could hardly get a t-shirt on and off. And although teams appreciate the role of enforcer, they do not show it financially. Even when Derek was one of the best in the NHL, he still had 19 other team members making significantly more than him. Inevitably, to keep him in games, doctors started shooting him up with pain killers. Then, he started abusing those drugs just to get through daily life. Lots of different doctors were willing to prescribe him pain pills, and none of them communicated with each other. Rehab was ordered a couple of times but did not take. Derek Boogaard passed away just trying to keep going while being the tough guy that his team, the NHL, and fans like me wanted him to be. Eye-opening book.

Stacy W.


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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

tahirLaia loves her brother, but she knows he is pushing the limits of their marginal life. She fears her brother is involved in the Resistance, a group that is actively trying to bring down the Empire. When Darin is arrested and her grandparents killed, Laia makes the decision to save her brother, no matter the cost. And the cost is that Laia must become a slave of the Empire, her role as a spy for the Resistance her only hope to free her brother. Elias is a son of the Empire. One of their elite, he is being trained to become a Mask, a ruthless fighter. Yet, Elias is as much a slave as Laia, for he hates how the Empire treats its people and how he is expected to kill without remorse for their purposes. His only hope is escape, his plan carefully thought out. Laia and Elias think they have different goals. But as their paths cross and their stories weave together, it seems they may not. Together, it seems, they may achieve something more. For change, they are told, is coming. It is foretold.

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

At first glance, you might think this is another retelling of a dystopian society story, such as The Hunger Games. In that, you would be wrong. This story is unique, the world built in the form of Rome, complete with swords and brutality and their own form of gladiators. The language is lyrical and compelling. The story builds slowly, but in such a gripping way that you can’t put it down. Laia is a strong female character, driven by her quest to free her brother, the only family she has left in the world. Elias has family, a mother who seems to hate Elias to the depths of her soul. Elias, a product of hate, sees the hate and violence around him, and tries to understand his place in it. His struggle gives him complexity, and you sense that he is the keystone to change the entire world.

I loved An Ember in the Ashes. I loved Laia and Elias, and the only thing I did not love was the book’s ending. While initial information at publication indicated that this might be a standalone title, it is clear that another book must follow. Elias Veturius must be allowed to burn and ravage and destroy. The story would not be complete without it.

Annette G.


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