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.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

fountainI read the perfect novel at the perfect time. After listening to a news segment about the film The Interview and Americans’ feelings about war and terrorism,  I picked up my next book to read: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. Billy Lynn and his fellow soldiers in the Bravo squad are caught up in a fierce firefight that is caught on film by a news crew. The men fight heroically and without a thought to their own safety. Of course both the U.S. and Army administrations see this as a good public relations situation so they bring the boys home to tour the country and they exploit them mercilessly. These are very young (Billy Lynn is only 19) guys who have been living in hot, filthy conditions, and now that they have some down time, they just want to have fun. Instead they are paraded from function to function, rolled out to meet various important locals and constantly touched, quizzed, asked for autographs, and asked for pictures with the members of the public. They hear certain words so much they just run together: “terroRist”, “nina leven”, “dih-mock-cruh-see”, etc. Everyone has to tell them how proud they are of them; no one can just leave them be. Most of the novel takes place at a Dallas Cowboys football game. Instead of having a good time, they are constantly accosted by fans walking by wanting to meet them and put in their two cents about the war. Then, they are expected to do a military drill on the field during half time while fireworks are going off (how thoughtless!) which totally freaks them out. After the game they are supposed to redeploy to Iraq, which the Army is trying to keep quiet. Billy Lynn dislikes the Army but thinks he would otherwise be stuck in a minimum wage job so he figures he might as well take his chances. Outstanding book, very powerful, and I am going to buy it to add to my collection of books on war.

Stacy W.


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Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

martinRose Howard loves two things: homonyms and her dog, Rain. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. /Rose/ and /rows/ are homonyms, and Rain has two homonyms, /reign/ and /rein/. Rain, a yellow dog with seven white toes, is a gift from Rose’s father, Wesley Howard, who found the dog wandering lost in the rain. Rose and Rain become inseparable, as Rose’s dad is often away at work or down the street at the local bar, and Rose is lonely. Life is good for Rose; she has her homonyms, she has Rain, and she has visits from her favorite uncle, Weldon. Until one day, Hurricane Susan, the storm of the century, arrives, and Rose’s dad let’s Rain outside in the storm without her collar or tags. Rain is lost in the hurricane, and Rose is devastated. Rose devises a plan to find Rain, and when her plan goes into action, she finds that Rain may still belong to someone else who loves her. Rose will have to be especially brave to deal with the situation, and her life may never be the same.

Rain Reign is a story about a girl and a dog. While there are many stories out there about girls and dogs, this one is special because Rose is special. Rose is a high functioning autistic, and she has special challenges in her life. In addition to her unique way of experiencing the world, she also has a difficult home situation with a father who struggles to manage his own life, with little patience left over for Rose. The story, told from Rose’s perspective, shows you her challenges in dealing with life and let’s you see her wonderful, loving complexity. All I can say, without spoiling the story, is that Rose is possibly the bravest, most caring person I know (real or imagined). I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for a similar books aimed at adults, try The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This one also features an autistic protagonist. In this case, he solves a troubling mystery and at the same time, he learns more about his connection to his family and to the rest of the world.

Annette G.


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Mean Business on North Ganson Street by S. Craig Zahler

zahlerMean Business on North Ganson Street is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I read two to three books a week. The author, S. Craig Zahler, wrote a western (A Congregation of Jackals) several years back that I thought was top notch so I figured his latest, a mystery, would be good. Jules Bettinger is a by-the-book detective in Arizona who ticks off a politician and then has to move with his family to Missouri to be a detective in one of the worst crime-ridden cities in America. He makes sure that he installs his family in a nearby city so they won’t be around so much murder and rape. Then he goes about trying to be the same straight arrow detective he was before. He feels that a lot of the other detectives, including his new partner, either do not take their jobs seriously enough or are corrupt, but he soon finds out that everything is not simply right or wrong, black or white. When he hears what has happened prior to his arrival, some things start making sense. War is being fought on the streets of the city. When the whole police department is targeted with cops being ambushed and executed right and left, and his own family is targeted, Detective Bettinger realizes that unusual circumstances call for unusual justice. Extremely violent, stellar fiction.

Stacy W.


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In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

philbrickI don’t usually read non-fiction, and when I do, I don’t usually like it all that well. With In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, I’ll admit that I picked up the book because Ron Howard is directing a movie version, soon to be released, starring Chris Hemsworth. I also love sea adventures, having fallen in love with C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower books early in life. It didn’t hurt that the book won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2001. In the Heart of the Sea tells the tale of the whaling ship Essex, sailing out of Nantucket in 1819 for the seas west of South America. The tale is told from the point-of-view of Thomas Nickerson, who joined the ship as a 14-year-old cabin boy. Through Nickerson’s account, we are introduced to Captain George Pollard, first mate Owen Chase, and the rest of the intrepid crew. They set sail on what was to be a two-to-three year journey to hunt sperm whales for their oil. The voyage does not go as planned, and in 1820, the ship is sunk by an enraged sperm whale. The twenty-man crew is left stranded at sea in three small whaling boats, 2,000 miles west of the coast of South America. They spend 95 days at sea, and eight of the men survive.

This story is fascinating for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s true, and two first-hand accounts of the ordeal exist, written by Thomas Nickerson and Owen Chase. The Essex was the first whaling ship to be sunk by a whale; this act of aggression by a whale not only stunned the crew but stunned the rest of the whaling community as well, for no one thought that a whale would be capable of such a malicious act. Then, the choices the castaways make as they fight for survival are mesmerizing. They feared cannibals, yet they became cannibals. The personality dynamics in the three boats are very different, and this matters greatly on who survives the ordeal. There is hunger, thirst, madness, and execution. There is dedication, commitment, and the resolve to survive. And, of course, there are whales and the beautiful, yet merciless, sea.

I literally could not stop reading this book. Herman Melville was so entranced by the story that he was inspired to write his classic novel, Moby Dick. The tale is part horror story, part thriller, and part sea adventure, with commentary on environmental issues, religion and the lust for the almighty dollar. This is the best book I’ve read all year. Highly recommended.

Annette G.


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The Drop by Dennis Lehane

lehaneWow! Loved The Drop by Dennis Lehane. I had just finished another good (but really long) book so I picked this short book (around 200 pages) to read next and read it straight through. What a great story! Bob, a quiet guy who has a steady job and lives alone, is walking home from work  and hears whimpering coming from a trash can. After emptying out the stuff on top, he discovers a hurt pit bull puppy, and although he knows nothing about dogs, he gives his heart to the puppy and decides to keep it. His new friend Nadia helps him take care of it, and the puppy flourishes. Unfortunately, not too long afterwards, a thug named Eric shows up at Bob’s house and says the puppy is his, and even though Eric abused it, no one else is allowed to have it. There are other elements to this story:  Chechnyan mobsters, Bob’s boss’ criminal aspirations, and Eric’s criminal life, but of course I honed in on the animal part. Happily, the dog does not die, and almost everyone in the story underestimates Bob. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to those who do not think they have enough of an attention span to read longer novels.

Stacy W.


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City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

bennettOnce, the city of Bulikov was ruled by the powers of six gods, Divinities of unique and diverse abilities. With the guidance of the Divinities, Bulikov is able to dominate other countries, including the distant country of Saypuri, which has no Divinities of its own. Yet, a Saypuri named Kaj is able to kill the Bulikov Divinities and free his people using a mysterious new weapon. This act frees Saypuri and causes mass destruction in Bulikov as the powers of the Divinities, which supported the city, vanish. Whole portions of the city disappear, and parts are re-imagined in a catastrophe known as the Blink. The city lies in ruin, its people in desperate need of help. And the Saypuri, now free, offer help. But their help means that the citizens of Bulikov must forget their history and forget their gods. Then, a Saypuri historian is killed. Murdered. Enter Saypuri agent Shara and her secretary, Sigrud. They are in Bulikov to solve the murder, but they find that the death may only be a symptom of a deeper problem. The Divinities may not all be dead, it seems, and the citizens of Bulikov might not be so powerless as they appear.

In City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett has provided one of the most richly imagined fantasy worlds I’ve encountered in a long while. The ruined city of Bolikov is overflowing with mystery and tragedy, with glimpses of altered realities visible from the corner of one’s eye. Shara and Sigrud are vivid, wonderful characters. And while I won’t give away any of the plot, I urge you to make sure you get past the first scene in the book, which opens during a legal hearing. I almost put the book down at this point in the story, but I’m very glad I did not.

Annette G.


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North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

personCea Sunrise Person spent her childhood and adolescence as part of a free-spirited family who left California to spend their nomadic life in a series of teepees and makeshift housing in Canada during the 1970s in the sunset of the counterculture movement, moving in and out of relationships, living off the land, doing drugs. Family dynamics are the most fascinating part of North of Normal, and Person’s yearning for a more normal life and a relationship with her absent biological father will resonate with readers. Almost incredibly, the author is modeling in Paris by her early teens and succeeds by the end of the book in achieving her lifelong goal of a stable family, even belatedly establishing a relationship with her father. Everything may seem to come together a little too neatly by the conclusion, but this book is more about the journey. Both readers who shared similar backgrounds and those who grew up in more traditional homes will enjoy accompanying the author from a semi-idyllic childhood through an uneasy adolescence marked by a lack of stability and her steadfast love for her mother, who loves her as well but whose main focus is on the series of unreliable men who pass in and out of her life.

Alison M.


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Shots Fired by C.J. Box

boxI am not a huge fan of short story collections, but every once in a while one comes along that I like (see Crimes in Southern Indiana). C.J. Box’s Shots Fired is one that I would definitely recommend. Not all of the stories feature game warden Joe Pickett, but they’re all good. “Blood Knot” is very short and features a teenage girl who loves her family’s annual trip to visit her outdoorsy grandpa at his fishing lodge. No one else in the family enjoys it though, and she even hears her parents complaining about it (just because there’s no wi-fi!) when they think she is asleep. However, she is the one who ends up benefiting in the end. In “Master Falconer,” we get to see one of my favorite characters from the Joe Pickett series, Nate Romanowski, get one over on an extremely wealthy man who thinks everyone can be bought. And in “Pronghorns of the Third Reich,” a ne’er do well is constantly complaining about his family being cheated long ago out of a ranch that would have made them all rich, but his story is so ludicrous that everyone just dismisses him. He even goes to court to try to get the ranch back but loses. He then cooks up a violent vendetta against the lawyer who beat him in court. These are just a few of the ten stories included in this collection. Nice, easy reading.

Stacy W.


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Savage Harvest:A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman

hoffmanAt the dawn of the ‘60s, Michael Rockefeller, a golden son of the Rockefeller dynasty traveled to remote New Guinea. A child of privilege, the trip was an opportunity to experience new and mysterious cultures, to work on a documentary film, and to prove himself a serious collector of primitive art, which interest he shared with his famous father, Nelson Rockefeller. He recorded observations and thoughts regarding his journey to obtain items for a new collection before his disappearance in 1961. Stranded on a capsized boat in November 1961, he attempted to swim for shore and was never seen again.

Author Carl Hoffman alternates between narrating the events of 1961 (some documented, some conjecture) and the details of his own investigations among the Asmat tribes in 2012. He explores the natives’ complex world view and their culture of reciprocal violence acted out through headhunting and cannibalism. His theory is that Rockefeller swam to shore that day in November 1961 and was ceremonially killed and eaten by the Asmat natives in part as revenge for an attack by Dutch explorers a few years before.

Savage Harvest takes the reader into a little-known area of the world; it did seem to be a bit overly detailed and repetitious regarding details of the Asmat culture and practices. It may have gained by substituting more details about Michael Rockefeller’s life before the fateful trip, especially for a younger generation of readers, and exploring in more depth the factors that led to his final mission. This would give a better grasp of what was lost through his haunting disappearance. Probably the most exciting moment in the author’s quest is when he believes he is about to buy Rockefeller’s eyeglasses from the natives and winds up getting “a pair of ‘90s-style wrap around sunglasses” instead.

The book makes a substantial case for the possibility of Rockefeller’s having died in this manner; however, genuine proof still eludes us. The book’s main strength is its portrayal of a little-known civilization and its description of the complex ritual involved in its practice of headhunting and cannibalism.

Alison M.


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In the Neighborhood by Peter Lovenheim

lovenheim In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim tells the unusual true life story of Lovenheim’s journey deep into his street, sleeping over at and spending a day with those of his neighbors who would welcome him. It’s an unusual approach to a popular topic in today’s society — that of personal disengagement. Lovenheim’s project was triggered by a tragedy — a murder/suicide on his street. He wondered if that event could have been prevented by closer neighborhood relationships and/or mitigated by trust in neighbors. Of course neither Lovenheim nor the reader can answer that question. We can however enjoy the transformation of his neighborhood by the project and consider its relevance to our own communities.

Amy P.


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