Have You Heard

Post date: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 1:00am

Have You Heard About... Steadfast

… the elemental magicians who work with creatures of earth, air, fire and water? Mercedes Lackey has written a new novel in this world, Steadfast.* Katie Langford thought that her abilities were limited to acrobatics and dance until her parents died. Without them to protect her, others in the circus that was their home start to take advantage of Katie. When she flees her abusive husband, she is guided to a seaside resort where her acrobatic abilities make her the perfect assistant for Lionel Hawkins, a stage magician in a music hall. Very quickly, she learns that some of his magic is real, done with the help of sylphs and other air elementals, rather than sleight of hand. Together with Jack Prescott, a fire magician, Lionel starts to teach Katie how to handle her own magical powers. All is going well, until the unthinkable happens.

The Elemental Masters novels are very good historical fantasies, with ties to folk tales and a strong helping of romance. (The title of this book is a hint to its tale; another is the fact that Jack is a veteran of the Boer Wars who is missing part of one leg.) Steadfast is set in England during the late 1800s, with a rare look at the lives of performers in music halls during the time period. It features a number of strong female characters who overcome the restrictions society places on them. The characters and settings are lushly detailed, the adventure is fast-paced, and the romance is sweet and subtle.

* The stories set in the world of the elemental masters stand alone, although some characters appear in more than one book. Works in this collection include The Serpent’s Shadow, The Gates of Sleep, Phoenix and Ashes, The Wizard of London, Reserved for the Cat, Unnatural Issue, Home from the Sea and Elemental Magic: All New Tales of the Elemental Masters.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 1:52am

Have You Heard About... Joyland

… the mystery surrounding the 1970’s carnival circuit? Stephen King departs from his usual horror-novel fare with Joyland – a mystery wrapped in a coming-of-age story that is sure to be at the top of everyone’s summer reading list.

Devin Jones comes to work at Joyland during the summer of 1973, where he falls in love with the carny lifestyle. A good portion of the story recounts his day-to-day routine in rich, nostalgic detail, but there are two main story threads that tie everything together: the legacy of a vicious murder that haunts the Tunnel of Terror and the fate of a dying child that Devin meets at the end of the summer. To give away more of the plot would mean giving away too much of the story, and at just under 300 pages, story is at a premium.

I’ll be honest – when I first heard about Joyland, I expected a much more horrific story…in my head, I was picturing a John Wayne Gacy-type of mystery, with a murderer who poses as a carnival clown. But this is a fantastic novel for people who still expect Stephen King to only write horror. The mystery is well-plotted, the ghost story is subtle yet haunting (pun partially intended!), and the coming-of-age story is as well written as anything King has ever published. And it’s an extremely fast read…I read the majority of it in 24 hours on the last leg of a family road trip.

Stephen King may be the King of Horror, but the publishing world really needs to alter this perception… Joyland proves that Stephen King should really be considered the King of Storytelling.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 1:28am

Have You Heard About... Paleofantasy

… the theory that because humans evolved for life in the Paleolithic Period, we should shape our modern lives around that? According to proponents of these theories, our DNA was shaped by what we ate, how we moved, our family lives, and more for hundreds of thousands of years. If we eat, move, and raise children like we did then, we will be happier, healthier, and more in tune with the dictates of our genes. Marlene Zuk does an excellent job of examining those theories and debunking many of them in Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live.

Professor Zuk covers genetics, anthropology, evolution, and more with a straightforward writing style that helps lay people understand the science behind both the claims and her refutation of them. While our genes were shaped by life in the Paleolithic Period, they were also shaped by the millions of years of life before that time and by the thousands of years since. Also, our environment changed as different groups of humans spread throughout the world, so there is no single time and place where we were perfectly situated for the world around us. New discoveries in archeology, anthropology, and primate research suggest that past assumptions about life in the past are not completely true as well. Check out this book if you’re interested in science and the history of humans, or just curious about the latest craze based on what’s “natural” for mankind.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 1:24am

Have You Heard About... Paper Towns

… Quentin Jacobsen’s journey to find love? John Green’s novel, Paper Towns, takes a common young adult theme (boy searches for girl) and turns it into a quirky, poignant, and hilarious mystery. The story is told from the perspective of Quentin Jacobsen, a high school senior in the last few weeks before graduation. One night, Margo Roth Spiegelman, the supremely adventurous girl Quentin has loved from afar, climbs into his window ninja-style and pulls him along to help her get revenge on several of her friends. (The quest itself is ingenious, involving a dead fish in the backseat of a car and some carefully placed Nair.)

After their all-nighter ends, Margo disappears, leaving a small trail of clues behind her. In his desperation to understand the enigma that is Margo, Quentin sets out after her with his best friends in tow. But as he moves down the disconnected path that Margo has set out for him, Quentin realizes that Margo is not the girl he knew.

Paper Towns was my first John Green novel, and it really has a lot to offer. The mystery itself is very well done without falling into the slightly cheesy trap of the teenager playing the amateur sleuth. And the writing is sharp and witty– I found myself literally laughing out loud, particularly when Margo and Quentin exact satisfying revenge on their classmates in the middle of the night.

This is one of those rare books that appeals to teens and adults, and it’s a welcome change from the plethora of apocalyptic and paranormal tales saturating the market.

 

Reviewed by Katie (staff)

Post date: Thursday, July 4, 2013 - 1:05am

Have You Heard About... The Shambling Guide to New York City

… the monsters who live among humans? Actually, they prefer to be called “coterie” in Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City. If you were really desperate for a job, would you work with vampires, zombies, an incubus, a death goddess and other non-humans? That is the situation that Zoe Norris finds when she applies for an editing job with Underground Publishing. Fortunately, not all of her co-workers consider her a potential food source. In fact, it will probably be safer than her previous job, where she was having a relationship with her boss until she found out that he was already married to a local police officer. At least, it will be until her old boss and his wife come to town.

Mur Lafferty does a great job of keeping the action moving as Zoe adjusts to life with the coterie. Articles from the book on which Zoe is working – a travel guide to NYC for non-humans – start each chapter and help to give a little background and atmosphere. Readers also learn about the magic side of this world along with Zoe as she encounters different races and situations. Despite the dangers of this world, it doesn’t seem overly dark. Action is more the focus than horror, although there is some gore as Zoe deals with brain-eating zombies and a construct who is oddly familiar (well, parts of him are familiar). You’ll see the Big Apple through new eyes with The Shambling Guide to New York City.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 1:02am

Have You Heard About... Discoveries … America. Indiana

… the familiar and not so familiar places in the state of Indiana? In the Discoveries … America. Indiana DVD you will learn about some interesting places and fun facts of this neighboring state. Indianapolis is the crossroads of America. Did you know that the state of Indiana is the largest popcorn growing producer in America? In the northern part of the state is where the third-largest Amish population lives. A lot of the Amish work in the RV and motor home factories, and you guessed it, Indiana makes the most RVs and motor homes in America. There is even a museum of these wonderful homes on wheels that you won’t want to miss if you decide to visit.

The Indiana Dunes and Shipshewana, and of course the “Brickyard,” home of the Indy 500 auto race are the most popular, but you won’t want to miss the Tell City pretzel factory or the powered parachutes either. How about a visit to the Mid America Windmills or the Corner Prairie Living History Museum where you can become part of the daily life of the past? If that isn’t incentive enough to visit, consider the Tri-State Memorial Bluegrass Festival. This is not just good music but wonderful food and crafts too.

The Discoveries …America series is 51 DVDs, each about one hour long, of all of the states (plus Washington, DC) and the famous and not-so-famous things to see and do in each state. They will give you lots of things to learn or ideas to incorporate into your next vacation.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 1:32am

Have You Heard About... Hello Goodbye Hello

… when Rudyard Kipling met Mark Twain? In Hello Goodbye Hello, Craig Brown shares brief accounts of meetings between two famous or historically-important people. Each entry is just a few pages long and focuses on a place and time when these people came together, although many of the stories also cover the history and earlier or later interactions between them.

More than a collection of anecdotes, this book is actually a great loop of interconnectedness. Rudyard Kipling meets Mark Twain in one account, while the next features Mark Twain and Helen Keller. The following story covers Helen Keller and Martha Graham, then Martha Graham and Madonna, Madonna and Michael Jackson, and so on. The book loops through 101 meetings across many decades and covers a wide variety of politicians, authors, actors, artists, royalty, and musicians. It is a fascinating look at snippets of history and events in the lives of people who changed the world.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 1:24am

Have You Heard About... Hollywood Singing and Dancing

… how to get your movie musical fix in just one fantastic DVD? Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History has little snippets of the great musicals of our times. Actress Shirley Jones narrates how some of these movies came to be. There are the classic old black-and-whites of the Busby Berkeley era like Gold Diggers of 1935.

Go through the 1940’s with the extravagant musicals that cheered up our troops in World War II. The 1950’s had Singin’ in the Rain, Oklahoma and Carousel. The 1960’s brought us The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. Everyone knows the songs of the 1970’s thanks to Saturday Night Fever. Who hasn’t been to a midnight showing of the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Dreamgirls with newcomer Jennifer Hudson and Oscar winner Chicago are also hits. Relive some of your favorites with a big bowl of popcorn at you side.

Disc two has a wonderful, nearly two hour, question-and-answer session with Shirley Jones as she tells a lot of the behind-the-scenes goings on during the making of many of these films. This is a must see for movie musical fanatics or just a small taste of wonderful movies you might never have seen before.

 

Reviewed by Terry (staff)

Post date: Thursday, June 20, 2013 - 1:54am

Have You Heard About... Queen Victoria's Book of Spells

… the joys (and horrors) of gaslamp fantasy? Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells is an excellent anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Gaslamp stories have a magical element that are set in the Regency, Queen Victoria’s reign, and sometimes the early Edwardian era. Usually, they focus on Great Britain, but current and former British colonies are also fair game.

This collection features a mix of lighthearted, spooky, and even tragic tales from a variety of authors. Many of the big names of fantasy and horror are represented, including Elizabeth Bear, Tanith Lee, Gregory Maguire and Jane Yolen. In addition to magical terrors, they look at the real-life problems of spousal abuse, the treatment of women, and the horrific lives of many factory workers. From the elite to the well-off to the down-trodden, this collection covers all walks of life during this time period in a rich variety of writing styles. It is a fascinating look at a time of great wonders and great horrors, both real and imagined.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)

Post date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 1:50am

Have You Heard About... An Invisible Thread

… the woman who took a chance on a little boy? An Invisible Thread is the true story of an eleven-year-old boy panhandler, Maurice Maczyk, and a busy sales executive woman, Laura Schroff, who was living and working in Manhattan. This is an incredible, wonderful and remarkable story.

In the beginning, Laura Schroff didn’t understand what is about that kid that makes her feel that he is different from other kids. However, once she started meeting with him weekly, she started to notice the similarities in their lives.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read non-fiction books. This book is so good and sentimental that by the end of it I was crying.

 

Reviewed by Esmeralda (staff)