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.

Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

be frankAlice Whitley has loved “Pitched,” a book by reclusive writer M. M. Banning, for years.  The book is the author’s singular and much lauded title, a modern classic in the same way “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic. Alice, who works for M. M. (Mimi) Banning’s agent, is sent to help the author as she works on a new book–the first one she’s written in years. When Alice arrives, she is immediately put in charge of Frank, Mimi’s son. Frank is nine years old, but inside, he’s an old soul who loves old movies, dresses in old movie fashions, and is smarter than almost everyone else. What Frank can’t do is get along in public schools, handle his reactions when people don’t follow his rules, and understand normal, everyday situations. As Alice begins to understand more about Frank, she begins to wonder about Frank’s father, and she also begins to wonder if Mimi, who types like a fanatic every day in her room, is actually writing a novel. When a handsome, mysterious man named Xander arrives in the household, Alice becomes more deeply involved with the family. Can Alice help Frank adjust to school, figure out how Xander fits into the picture, and help Mimi finish her book, all before Mimi’s finances run out? She is certainly determined to try, at the same time, she hopes to satisfy her insatiable curiosity about the secrets of Mimi and Frank’s life.

This is a marvelous book. At first, it seems like a breezy, light tale, full of comedic antics, mostly performed by Frank. But the story has hidden depth as we come to understand Frank and Mimi, and fully realize the dynamics of their relationship. This story is less about Alice’s growth as a character, and more about her learning to appreciate the personalities and needs of others. And if you don’t fall in love with Frank while you read this book, there is something seriously wrong with you. Be Frank With Me is a funny, charming tale, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Annette G.


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The Tudors : The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty by G. J. Meyer

tudorsThe Tudors : The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty is what I believe they call “history for the general reader.”  The book reads as if it were fiction, but it’s chock full of facts and stories on each member of the Tudor dynasty starting with Henry VII and ending with Elizabeth I.

I really felt like I learned a lot of things I hadn’t known before, especially about Mary and Elizabeth.  For those of you who want to hear something new, you won’t be disappointed!  G. J. Meyer seems to make a point of approaching his subjects in ways most historians do not.  I cannot stress enough how much G. J. Meyer packs into his books.  You’ll learn so much and it’s presented in such a natural tone that you should really enjoy this if you love Tudor history.

Michael W.


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The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

killing lessonIf you are in the habit of leaving your doors unlocked, you might turn over a new leaf after reading the first couple chapters of The Killing Lessons by Saul Black.  Rowena Cooper and her kids Nell and Josh live out in the middle of nowhere in Colorado.  Rowena’s baking cookies, Josh is upstairs with headphones on and Nell is outside by the woods feeding wildlife.  Rowena walks out of her kitchen to find two men in her hallway and they are not there to burglarize the house-in fact they have no interest in theft unless it’s the theft of life and dignity.  When Nell comes inside, Rowena ‘s life is slipping away but she is able to whisper “run” to her daughter.  Fortunately, Xander, the alpha killer, is upstairs busy with Josh and his accomplice Paulie is the only one who sees Nell.  He takes off after her but is unsuccessful and is too scared to tell Xander that there is someone they missed.  The Cooper family is not the only victims of these ruthless killers who roam the West.  Detective Valerie Hart and her team have been on the case for a long time and are not really making progress.  An FBI agent is brought in to help and she comes with a secret hatred of Valerie.  Meanwhile Nell makes it to a hermit’s cabin and he does his best to help but he has back problems that make him have to crawl on the ground.  He has no phone or electricity.  Did I mention the raging snowstorms going on or that the hermit’s cabin lies across a deep ravine whose bridge fell after Nell crossed?  And that Nell herself is suffering from broken bones?  The tension just keeps ratcheting up and Nell is not safe staying where she is.  Great debut novel – would love to read more from Saul Black.

Stacy W.


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George by Alex Gino

George-200x300George is a boy with a secret: on the inside, George is a girl. She manages to hide her secret most of the time, but it makes her miserable. Her class is planning a play of the classic story, Charlotte’s Web, and George wants nothing more than to audition for the part. She loves Charlotte, feeling a special connection to the character. But the role of Charlotte is a girl’s part, and George isn’t even sure she will be considered. Family, friends, classmates, teachers, and school administrators all play a role in the drama that is George’s life as she tries to become a part of the class play. This is a beautiful story, delicately told from George’s point of view. The message is not heavy handed or preachy, rather, this story is like any other story of a young person trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. Which, I believe, is exactly the point.

George by Alex Gino is a book on a sensitive subject, but it is very well handled. Suitable for grades 4 and up, this is a book I highly recommend.

Annette G.


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In the Evil Day by Richard Adams Carey

evilIf you are despondent about all the bad publicity you’ve seen this year about police officers, read In the Evil Day by Richard Adams Carey and you will be reminded of the thousands and thousands of officers who protect and serve us every day and what would happen to you and I if they were not there ready and willing to lay down their lives for ours.  In August 1997, an unstable man named Carl Drega went on a rampage in the small town of Colebrook NH.  Drega felt like he was  “picked on” by town officials because of code violations (which in reality he was cut a lot of slack) and was a thorn in their sides, always showing up at meetings and refusing to leave, asking for years old minutes of meetings and becoming enraged when they were not instantaneously available.  But he seemed to be just a pest.  Mix in the death of his wife and the availability of guns and bomb making materials to him and it was only a matter of time before he blew up.  When his rampage ended state troopers were dead, the newspaper editor was dead, a judge was dead.  Other officers were badly wounded.  Conservation officers, state police, and town police officers were all involved in trying to stop Drega – a lot of them weren’t even on duty, they just heard everything start over the scanner and everyone dropped whatever they were doing to go see how they could help their fellow officers.  Oh, and by the way, Colbrook police officer pay was so low at that time that officers qualified for food stamps!  This book is so sad on so many levels but should be required reading.

Stacy W


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The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Claire

ironCallum Hunt has been warned by his father to stay away from magic, but on his 12th birthday, Callum has no choice but to take the entrance exam for the Magisterium, as his family is known for their magical powers. Callum tries valiantly to fail the test, but still he is chosen to attend the magical school. Now, cut off from his father, Callum tries to learn to use his powers and make friends. He studies under Master Rufus, the most esteemed mage at the school, along with two other promising students, Tamara and Aaron. While Callum learns such exciting things as how to move grains of sand with the power of his magic, he learns more about the school, the students, and ongoing magical war that killed his mother. Soon, Callum will learn enough about himself and his powers to be pulled deep into the heart of the magical war. The stakes continue rise as Callum, Master Rufus, Tamara, and Aaron face off against their enemy in the war: The Enemy of Death!

While the magical school setting may cause readers to compare this to the Harry Potter series, The Iron Trial has its magical merits and would be the perfect book to offer an eight-year old. The maze-like underground setting of the magic school is cool, and Callum is a likeable kid. The mages of the school know more than they are saying about the magical war, and the mystery of that knowledge keeps the pages flying as readers try to figure out what is going on. The world building suffers a little in comparison to books like Harry Potter, but overall, the fast pace and sympathetic characters make for an enjoyable read. Book 2, the The Copper Gauntlet, is out now.

Annette G.


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Van Halen Rising by Greg Renoff

ironWhen I grew up in the 1980s, I didn’t like dance/pop music like Prince and Madonna I liked music like Motley Crue and Van Halen.  Every guy I knew wanted to play guitar like Eddie Van Halen.  Unfortunately, they also wanted to do a lot of other things and as Greg Renoff’s new book Van Halen Rising demonstrates, Eddie Van Halen did little else when he was a teenager except practice playing guitar.  That total obsession made him into one of the most admired musicians ever and coupled with his brother Alex on drums, the duo were unstoppable even when they were young.  The Van Halen parents had immersed them in classical music training from when they were tiny and they let the brothers play rock as long as they got their piano practices in first.  When the brothers were teenagers and started putting on performances, Eddie sang and played guitar.  Alex was on drums and they went through a few different people on bass.  They played under a few different band names but all the while Eddie hated singing and wanted to just play guitar-enter David Lee Roth.  The Van Halen brothers were poor, Roth had money, rock star aspirations, and nagged them relentlessly to let him be their lead singer.  You know how musicians and celebrities always claim they were nerds or ugly in school-not Roth.  His classmates said he was always Mr. Popular and was being swarmed by women even when he was in high school.  And probably most important of all he had confidence just oozing out of his pores. Finally stage equipment problems got the Van Halen brothers to give Roth a second glance (he had good equipment they could use).  Van Halen was now on their way because although Eddie Van Halen was a world class musician, he was not the self-promoter Roth was and he was just as happy playing a song that went on for 10 minutes and looking like a lumberjack while he did it.  Roth understood that he had to get them to look better on stage and he had to get them to whittle down their songs to lengths that radio stations would play.  This book was interesting-lots of name dropping and music controversies to sink your teeth into.  Regardless, Van Halen with David Lee Roth (not Sammy Hagar) will always be one of my favorites.

Stacy W


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Alice by Christina Henry

aliceWhile Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is considered to be a children’s story, I have always found it to be an odd, non-nonsensical tale with more than its fair share of darkness. The Tim Burton movie version is closer to how I see this story, as many of the characters clearly show more of their unsavory inner selves on-screen. Author Christina Henry, with her version of the story, simply titled Alice, may have written my favorite Alice story to-date. But let me be clear…this is not a children’s story. This is not even a young adult story. This is an adult story full of adult themes and will appeal to those readers who like horror, magic, and the justice meted out with blood and guns in old Western stories.

When the story opens, Alice has been held in an asylum for the insane for ten long years. Her only persistent memory is of a vicious rabbit with a missing eye. When the asylum catches fire, she is helped to escape by fellow resident Hatcher, and as they run through the Old City seeking safety, they realize that something escaped with them–the Jabberwock is also free. (Beware the jaws that bite, the claws that catch!) The Jabberwock brings death, and Alice and Hatcher must try to stop it. And down the rabbit hole we go, into the depths of Old City, a place full of violence, evil, fear, magic, and just the faintest bit of hope. Hope in the form of mad Alice, axe-killer Hatcher, the cunning Chesire, and the assortment of desperate folks they meet along the way, including a giant, vindictive rabbit named Pipkin. Will the Jabberwock meet his end? Will the Vorpal blade go snicker-snack? Read, and find out. The second book in this series, Red Queen, comes out next year. Not for the faint of heart, and meant only for adults, this is still highly recommended.

Annette G.


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Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

RosemaryRosemary Kennedy (1918-2005) eldest daughter of Joseph P. & Rose, spent her life paying for the mistakes of others, starting with a birth botched by an attendant that resulted in intellectual disability, and later a fateful decision by her father to use experimental surgery to “correct” his eldest daughter’s unpredictable mood swings and behavior.  The Kennedy family was an inhospitable place for an “underachiever,”  despite that she had grown into a lovely and loving young woman (illustrated by never-before-published photographs),  and a disastrous lobotomy at age 23 resulted in her being hidden away  for years.  Only after the patriarch’s death did other family members begin finding their way back to her.

Rosemary:  The Hidden Kennedy Daughter details that, despite the faulty decisions made on Rosemary’s behalf, her parents did explore many avenues of possible educational help for her.   Unfortunately, there was no “cure” for the damage done, and the attempt to mitigate it caused far more grave disability.  Yet Rosemary remained loved by her family and was of particular inspiration to younger sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who worked tirelessly on behalf of the mentally disabled until her own death.

The author brings the book to an effective conclusion by stressing the likelihood that it was the family’s love of Rosemary combined with knowledge of the misunderstandings, treatment and trials she suffered, that contributed to their efforts toward improved perceptions, conditions and treatment for the mentally ill and intellectually disabled in our country and in the world.    Despite Rosemary Kennedy’s tragedy, her suffering served as inspiration for such institutions as the Special Olympics, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the many other strides in treatment and attitudes toward the mentally challenged.

Alison M.


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The Searcher by Simon Toyne

searcherA plane crashes near the town of Redemption, in the Arizona desert, and out of the smoke walks a bare-footed albino without any memory of who he is. The only clue to his identity is a label in the back of his jacket giving the name of Solomon Creed. His only possession is a memoir of the Redemption’s town founder, Jack Cassidy. Uninjured from the crash, Solomon is filled with a sense of urgency to save James Coronado; a man he finds out is already dead. Undeterred, Solomon turns his attention to Coronado’s widow Holly, whose home has been burglarized. The plane crash, it seems, has started a whirlwind of events that come together to form a firestorm, one that soon centers on Solomon and Holly. The past and present tie together as Solomon comes to understand how Jack Cassidy’s life from the past ties in with James Coronado’s in the present. The tensions mount as Solomon faces a final battle for Holly’s life, and for the life of the town.

The Searcher is the first book of a new series, and Solomon Creed is a fascinating character. He is an unknown, but clearly he has abilities beyond those of mortal men. He is smart, and filled with almost endless knowledge. He has heightened senses, and seems to know how future events may play out. The story is a straight-up mystery/thriller, but hint of the supernatural adds a nice bit of spice. Very enjoyable, and I will definitely read the second book in this series.

Annette G.


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