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.

Garden & Gun Magazine

gardenandgunOne of my favorite magazines is Garden & Gun, and I am so happy that I can check out copies of it from our magazine area in TCPL! This southern culture magazine is great for those who hunt with bird dogs or like to fly fish, but as neither of these activities are hobbies of mine why would I like it? Well, first there are articles and ads featuring beautiful hunting dogs. For example, the Dec 2014/Jan 2015 issue’s cover is a picture of “Bo,” the winner of the 2014 and 2013 Bird Dog National Championships. He is a very handsome English setter, and what’s unique about him is that pointers are usually the top bird dogs at these contests, not setters. The same article showcases the top field guides in the country (one of the top fly fishing guides is female-yay!). There is also an article in this issue about a back country ranger who has just retired. His ranger duties covered 521,000 acres with more than 800 miles of trails in the Smoky Mountains, and his area of expertise was finding people who were lost. The last person he found before he retired was a little boy who had been lost for three days. Garden & Gun issues are chock full of articles about restaurants, travel, music, art, new products and book reviews. In addition, I really enjoy the regular short pieces written by contributor Roy Blount, Jr. And for some reason, I have always been a sucker for gorgeous ads for expensive products that I would never indulge in, and this magazine definitely has them. Almost makes me want to make a trip to the South!

Stacy W.


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El Deafo by Cece Bell

deafoWhen Cece was four, she became very sick. She had meningitis, which meant her brain was sick, too. Cece got better and was able to go home, but her hearing was affected; Cece had to wear hearing aids in order to hear, and even those did not work well all the time. She really didn’t mind all that much until she went to school. There, the fact that she wore hearing aids made her feel different and alone. Until one day, Cece realizes that her Phonic Ear hearing aid, a large device she wears strapped to her chest while the teacher wears a microphone, allows her to hear conversations and events all around the school. Cece, with her super-hearing, seems to have a superpower, and El Deafo is born.

El Deafo is told in a graphic novel format, and it is based on the life of the author/illustrator, Cece Bell. Ms. Bell illustrates some of the difficulties involved for a hearing-impaired person living in a hearing world, such as Cece can’t lip read her friends at sleepovers with the lights out, she can’t lip read cartoons, and many people, knowing she is hearing impaired, talk to her in over-exaggerated ways, which makes it harder for her to lip read them or hear them at all. However, Cece’s difficulties and her feelings of being different and alone are feelings that every child feels at one time or another. What Cece wants more than anything is to feel that she fits in and to have at least one true friend. By the end of the book, she gains an understanding of her own self-worth, as well as an understanding that others are struggling, too. She even finds her one true friend in Martha, but really, it is clear to the reader that Cece had many friends all along.

This is an excellent book for younger readers. It is a book that not only removes some of the mystery surrounding children with special needs, but also shows how we’re all the same, in spite of our many differences. This is a Newbery Honor book.

Annette G.


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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

schumacherI randomly came across Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher while browsing, and it was hilarious! Give it ten pages, and you will be hooked. The entire novel is basically letters of recommendation (LORs) that English Professor Jason Fitger has been asked to write. I never realized how much of a hassle this was for professors because I never really thought of the volume. Between current and former students trying to get awards, grants, jobs, or into grad school and colleagues wanting recommendations for awards or promotions, it seems like a ridiculous portion of the professor’s life is spent writing these LORs. I laughed out loud constantly with this book! I can imagine being in student services and the professor recommending a student for one of my available work study jobs by writing “the student has bona fide thoughts and knows how to apportion them into relatively grammatical sentences.” There is also a lot of “the office from hell” humor here: copy machines that never work right, constant construction on the floor above the English department, Professor Fitger’s office situated right next to the bathrooms with constantly flushing toilets when no one is in there, etc. Personally, one of my favorite letters was to the new head for the English Department advising against revising the department’s constitution. He recalls that the last time the department  worked on it, they argued for weeks about the location of a semicolon, and a couple of faculty members ended up crying. Fast and funny read.

Stacy W.


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