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.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

orendaJoseph Boyden burst on the Canadian literary scene with Three Day Road in 2005, a novel about two young Cree men who volunteer in the First World War, becoming snipers. It was followed up by Through Black Spruce, set in Moosonee Ontario and narrated by Will Bird and his niece Annie Bird with the narration switching between chapters. Will, a former bush pilot, is in a coma. Over the course of the novel, Will recounts the events of the previous year which led to him being in a coma to his nieces, Annie and Suzanne. Meanwhile, in the present day, Annie recounts the previous year of her life and her visits to Toronto, Montreal, and New York City to Will in an attempt to help revive him from his coma.

The Orenda, taking its title from the Huron cognate of Mohawk (orę́˙naʔ /inherent power or song), tells the story of indigenous rivalries and battles during the 17th century and the incursion of Jesuits into the situation. Boyden’s narrative is relatively simple: three characters take the reins, and the story unfolds more or less chronologically. In no particular order, the narrators are: Christophe, a Francophone Jesuit missionary; Snow Falls, an Iroquois teen of the Haudenosaunee nation kidnapped by the Wendats (a Huron nation); and Bird, a warrior mourning and avenging the deaths of his wife and two daughters at the hands of the Iroquois. This is a magnificent and complex novel of intercultural conflict. Readers are cautioned regarding graphic depictions of violence.

“Boyden utilizes the tripartite narrative to examine what all three characters learn about themselves and others — and, in turn, what we learn about ‘them’ and ‘us,’ then and now. The Orenda, over nearly 500 pages, is Boyden’s struggle — as a writer, a Canadian, and a human being — to reconcile the irreconcilable.” —Quill & Quire

Amy P.


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The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

farmIf you ever read Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 trilogy, you can expect his latest effort, The Farm, to be just as good although it is very different. Daniel’s parents have retired to a farm in Sweden which is his mother’s native country. Daniel wants to visit them someday but has been putting it off because he has been keeping the fact that he is a homosexual and in a serious relationship with someone a secret. One night he receives a panicky phone call from his father telling him his mother has been admitted to a hospital because of mental issues that have apparently been growing worse and worse. Daniel immediately makes plans to go to Sweden only to receive another call from his dad saying his mother has checked herself out of the hospital, and he doesn’t know where she is. Next his mother calls him and says she is on her way to London and tells him not to believe anything his father tells him. She says she has found out that his dad is involved in some bad things, and now he and his friends are trying to silence her. Most of the rest of the book is Daniel’s mom, Tilde, telling him everything and showing him her evidence. Together they hide from Daniel’s father who has followed Tilde to London. Daniel then travels to Sweden to discover the truth on his own. Fast paced with surprising twists and turns. Highly recommended.

Stacy W.


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The Alpine Christmas by Mary Daheim

alpinechristmasAs the holiday season freneticism descends, I always enjoy some light holiday reading, and The Alpine Christmas fits the bill. Written by Mary Daheim, this mystery takes place in timber country in Washington state. Its protagonist is Emma Lord, a weekly newspaper editor. Not only does the mystery take place at Christmas, but the holiday theme runs through as you get insights to how small town Protestants and Catholics celebrate the season…and each other. The plot centers on young women disappearing from Seattle and an exploration of their connections to this small community. The Alpine Christmas is one volume in the 25-volume Emma Lord series, so there’s lots more to keep you reading…all year.

Amy P.


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The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

bonesbeneathSettling into a new book in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series is like finally relaxing in your favorite chair after a hard day. In Billingham’s latest book, The Bones Beneath, Detective Thorne is assigned the mentally arduous task of accompanying one of the worst murderers he ever caught, serial killer Stuart Nicklin, to the supposed burial site of one of his victims. Thorne sees the danger of letting Nicklin lead them all around by the nose, but of course the police chief (or politician depending how you see it) orders him to do it to provide “closure” to the victim’s family. Nicklin loves being out of jail, even if temporarily, and loves having a captive audience to spout off to as Thorne and his colleagues journey with him to the remote island where the victim is buried. As Thorne predicted, Nicklin has other agendas besides leading the police to the burial site and does everything in his power to make the trip take as long as possible. Besides insisting that Thorne accompany the group, Nicklin also requests (and receives) another prisoner of his choosing to come along on the trip so that he feels more “safe”. Lots of layers and non-traditional endings are two characteristics I appreciate in Billingham’s stories, and both are present in this one. Great fiction and if you’re a true country music fan (the older stuff) like Detective Thorne, you’ll appreciate his playlist at the end of the book.

Stacy W.


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The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird

goodspyA good biography is hard to find, and The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames is one such rare tome. In 1983, a bomb exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. It marked the beginning of Hezbollah as a political force, but even more importantly, it eliminated America’s most influential and effective intelligence officer in the Middle East — CIA operative Robert Ames. Kai Bird’s fascinating biography examines Ames’ extraordinary ability to form deep, meaningful connections with key Arab intelligence figures. Some operatives relied on threats and subterfuge, but Ames worked by building friendships and emphasizing shared values — never more notably than with Yasir Arafat’s charismatic intelligence chief and heir apparent Ali Hassan Salameh (aka “The Red Prince”). Ames’ deepening relationship with Salameh held the potential for a lasting peace. Readers also learn about Ames’ personal life and formation and gain insights into the turbulent world of the Middle East. The Good Spy is an excellent complement to gaining knowledge about today’s Middle East divisiveness and America’s role in the region. Bird is the Pulitzer-winning co-author of American Prometheus.

Amy P.


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Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman

ruinfallsIn Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman, Liz Daniels is living a happy life juggling a mini organic farm and business, two kids, and a husband, Paul, who is a professor at the local college. Liz is all for sustainable living and does her best to follow her beliefs 90% of the time, but her husband is very rigid about it. He subjects the entire family to his rules along with lectures about the evils of modern farming methods and food if he so much as sees anyone have a piece of gum. (Oddly enough, though, as concerned as the family is with Mother Earth, they still have computers and cell phones.) He decides to take the family on vacation to visit his estranged parents and on the way, the children are kidnapped.  The police become involved, and then Paul disappears.  The police write off the kidnapping and assume that Paul has taken the kids so therefore, there is no crime.  Is Paul involved in taking their kids, or is he a victim? Liz starts digging and discovers along the way that she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did and that she spent her whole marriage letting her husband make all the decisions. Above all, she is in a race against time to get her children back, but she also becomes a stronger, more assertive individual along the way. Good, fast read.

Stacy W.


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The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland

transcriptionistAmy Rowland’s The Transcriptionist is a small and delightful novel about the power of language, changing technologies, media ethics, and human relationships. The protagonist, Lena, is one of the few remaining transcriptionists at the thinly veiled Record (aka the New York Times). As a refuge from the academy, Lena spouts quotations instead of repartee, forms stunted relationships with the reporters she serves and enters a surprising friendship with a quirky old man in the morgue (newspaper archives). When Lena becomes obsessed with the suicide of a blind woman she has met on the bus, her desire for truth contrasts with the daily journalism with which she interacts. Rowland makes Lena real, and it’s the reader’s identification with Lena that makes this novel so good. Amy Rowland has spent more than a decade at the New York Times, where she worked, notably, as a transcriptionist before moving to the Book Review. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Smart Set, and the Utne Reader. I will be waiting for Rowland’s next foray into fiction.

Amy P.


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Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

fortunespawnDeviana Morris has one goal: to become a Devastator, an armored guard and fighter under the direct command of the Sainted King of Paradox. But to become a Devastator, a girl has to get a serious reputation, so Devi sets out to do just that. With her own Lady Gray armor, Devi can kick ass better than just about anyone. She joins Captain Cardwell’s ship, The Glorious Fool, because he has a reputation for finding himself in the deepest of trouble, and overcoming trouble will help Devi achieve her goal. At first, Devi is sure she’s made a mistake, as her first days on the ship are boring, without a hint of trouble in sight. But then, trouble arrives, and in spades. Devi soon finds herself dealing with angry aliens, mysterious missions, invisible creatures, and muddled memories. And to top it all off, Devi finds the most confounding trouble of all: Devi finds love with the hunky ship’s cook, Rupert. Can Devi manage all of the drama and turmoil and stay alive to become a Devastator? Can she and Rupert be happy in spite of it all? Devi is sure going to give it her best effort, but even her best effort may not be good enough.

I loved this book! Fortune’s Pawn is a space opera with interesting aliens, love, and lots and lots of fighting. This was the type of story that made me fall in love with science fiction stories in the first place. As I read, I had that giddy, happy feeling that I felt while reading my favorite Andre Norton books when I was younger. I look forward to more titles from Ms. Bach. I’ve already read the second book in this series, titled Honor’s Knight. It’s just as good, and I’m ready to dive into the third book, Heaven’s Queen. Very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Annette G.


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Two Emily Dickinson Titles

emily1I enjoy fiction about literary persons so I was intrigued by the reviews of two juvenile titles involving Emily Dickinson. See those New York Times reviews here: http://nyti.ms/1guT188.

Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli is written for the 9-12 female audience, featuring the spunky Suzy, a tween who loves to read, is passionate about Phillies’ baseball, and just might be interested in her first boyfriend. Written in free verse, the novel captures the wonderful human relationships in the neighborhood, the frustrations of sibling rivalry and gently looks at race relations. When Suzy becomes Emily for several days, those relationships are challenged and Suzy learns more about Emily Dickinson…and herself. Illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff add to this book’s enjoyment.

emily2Miss Emily, written by Burleigh Mutén and illustrated by Matt Phelan, is also a verse novel. It takes as its premise that Miss Dickinson invites several Amherst children to sneak out at midnight and watch a circus train arrive. She assumes the name Prosperina, “Queen of the Night”; the children become Gypsies; adventures ensue. The plot line may be appealing to young boys as well as girls, providing an opportunity to introduce the K-3 set to Miss Dickinson’s naturalistic and minimalist verse.

Both of these titles along with Dickinson’s selected poems would be suitable for both the classroom and an adult book discussion. Highly recommended.

Amy P.


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Lock In by John Scalzi

lockinIn the near distant future, a new virus takes its place on the world stage; the majority of those who are infected suffer flu like symptoms, and a smaller percent suffer meningitis-like symptoms. While many of the smaller group die, a few survive and find that they are “locked in” to their own body, fully aware but unable to move or respond to their surroundings. While the numbers of those locked in are small comparative to the total population, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. alone must deal with this condition. Technology comes to the rescue, creating a new “virtual” environment called the Agora, where lock in’s can interact with each other and with those in the real world. This technology also allows lock ins to put themselves into robotic bodies called “threeps,” (after C3PO, natch!) so they can interact with the physical world. A few virus survivors, called integrators, have the new ability to allow lock ins to “borrow” their human body and use it as their own, for a price. Enter Chris Shane, an FBI agent and a lock in who works his job both via a threep and via the Agora. His partner, Louise Vann, is one of the rare individuals who can allow lock ins to borrow her body. When integrators start dying and a major medical research firm is blown up, the FBI fears a deeper conspiracy. Someone, it seems, is trying to use the lock ins and their special needs for their own profit or gain. It’s up to Shane and Vann to figure out whom, before the conflict escalates beyond repair. Lock In is an excellent sci-fi thriller, with great pacing, snappy dialogue, and a thought-provoking plot. I highly recommend it.

Annette G.


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