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.

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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Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier

lehoullierIf you have any interest in gardening, Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier is a must-read.  The author discusses tomato history, leaders in breeding and heirloom seed saving, and his own journey from tomato-growing rookie to his job as tomato adviser to the Seed Savers Exchange. He has grown over 1200 different tomato varieties and has introduced many others (There are so many more out there than what is offered at your local store).  Even after growing tomatoes for 20 years and graduating from buying baby plants to growing from seeds, I learned so much from this book. There are large Q & A and problem-solving sections, tips about saving seeds, and even instructions on how to breed your own tomatoes. Of great interest to me were the descriptions of tomatoes (shape, size, season, growth, flavor) broken up by tomato colors: red, pink, purple, brown, yellow, orange, white, green, multi-colored and striped. Who is the publisher of such a wonderful book chock full of information? Storey Publishing, of course!

Stacy W.


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Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

larsonErik Larson has a proven record of chronicling history as it intersects with the lives of individuals, and his latest work is no exception. With his customary astuteness and storytelling aplomb, he describes the events that led up to the demise of the passenger liner Lusitania, which was torpedoed by a German U-Boat on May 7, 1915, off the coast of Ireland prior to America joining World War I. The tragedy cost 1,191 lives and immediately propelled the U.S. closer to war.

Dead Wake displays Larson’s ability to draw intimate portraits of key individuals with a minimum of description. American architect, Theodate Pope, and Lusitania captain, William Turner (both of whom survived the sinking), spring easily and memorably to life. In addition to stories of the ship’s crew and passengers, we learn of newly-widowed President’s Woodrow Wilson’s budding romance with Edith Galt (who became his second wife) and how at times, his feelings regarding that relationship may have influenced developing international events. His descriptions often include striking juxtapositions, such as “nine airships [zeppelins]…sending terrifying shadows scudding across the landscape of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice” (p. 81).  Larson captures the mood of this period at the close of the Gilded Age when submarine attacks on ships were increasing and World War I would change the world permanently.

Readers may be surprised to learn that many passengers were well aware of the threat of submarines and that gallows humor was the order of the day on board the vessel. And that the death toll could well have been higher (764 survived), had not the weather been warm and remarkably fine the afternoon of the sinking, facilitating survival and rescue.  As is usual with Larson, his legendary powers of description could benefit from the addition of some photographs of the scenes and people he describes, but it is not difficult to find companion books. Readers who enjoy history that has the qualities of entertaining and suspenseful fiction will enjoy this book.

Alison M.


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The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

mooreOdette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been friends since they were young,  and their favorite meeting spot is their table at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat diner. Labeled “The Supremes” by the folks of the town, the trio have grown up with the wise advice of Big Earl, who presides over the All-You-Can-Eat with wisdom, humor, and good food. The story begins with the death of Big Earl. His death sets the Supremes on a course to reflect on their 40-year friendship and on the choices they have made in their lives. Odette, the fearless one, has to face something fearful. Clarice must make peace with her marriage and her husband’s wandering ways. But it is Barbara Jean who must face the greatest challenge of all…she has to set right a wrong, track down a lost love, and find a way to ease the desperate grief she still carries over the death of her son.

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat unfolds gently, giving us glimpses of the past and the present as the heart of each of the Supremes is revealed. We meet the members of the Plainview, Indiana community and come to love them as the Supremes do. It is a story filled with warmth, friendship, humor, ghosts, tragedy, and hope. How the author is able to so capture the hearts and souls of the three central characters — who are aging, black women — is astonishing. This is a wonderful tale.

Edward Kelsey Moore was born in Indiana, and received a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. While he now lives in Chicago, his novel is filled with the essence of a small Indiana town. His website says he is working on his second book, and I am already looking forward to it.

Annette G.


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Tippecanoe County Public Library * 627 South Street * Lafayette, IN * 47901 * 765 429-0100