Thursday, December 26, 2013

Red Sky in Morning

Here's Red Sky in Morning, a novel of 275 pages that you won't be able to put down, so it feels right.  It comes in under 300 pages--just the right length of a winter read, with a glass of brandy at your side and a cat purring. It got a favorable review from Alan Cheuse on NPR, but for me it was the first paragraph that nailed it to the barn door--no, not paragraph--first sentence:  "Night sky was black and then there was blood, morning crack of light on the edge of the earth."
Right away, I knew I was in Seamus Heaney territory, with an Irish author named Paul Lynch who cared about every single utterance and probably read each one aloud--and I found out he did, in an interview, and that he composed, if you could call writing this shivery prose in long, breathless sentences composing, while listening to jazz.
But the plot, it was tight with rage (if I can steal one of his phrases). Set first in Donegal, 1832,bad things happen to a poor Irishman with family, but mostly to Coll's brother who's quickly caught by an evil bossman for a crime his Coll committed. Coll Coyle.  Even his name feels tight.  Like everything else that happens here, which I won't reveal.
Paul Lynch is a comer, splendid with his leafy prose scattering in every direction but always holding you to the page.
Read it.
--Russell Thorburn, Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Street Cat Named Bob

I started out as a dog person, getting my first dog when I was around eight years old. It wasn't until the late 1990's that we adopted our first cat. Since then it has been only cats in our house. I enjoy all animals, but especially dogs and cats because they have brought such joy to my life. I'd like to share one of the best cat books I have read, and I hope, as you read it, you enjoy it as much as I have.

A Street Cat Named Bob, and How He Saved My Life by James Bowen is the story of the author, a street musician struggling to make ends meet. Bob is a stray cat looking for somewhere warm to sleep. When James and Bob meet, they forge a never-to-be-forgotten friendship that has been charming readers from Thailand to Turkey. A Street Cat named Bob is an international sensation, landing on the bestseller list in England for fifty-two consecutive weeks and selling in twenty-six countries around the world. Now, James and Bob are ready to share their true story with readers in the United States.

When Bowen found an injured cat curled up in the hallway of his apartment building, he had no idea how much his life was about to change.Bowen  was living hand to mouth on the streets of London, barely making enough money to feed himself, and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet Bowen couldn't resist helping the strikingly intelligent, but very sick animal, whom he named Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining that he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas. This is a tale unlike any you've ever read, and Bob is a cat who possesses some kind of magic.


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

After arriving in New York City 1977 we meet Reno, a young and ambitious artist determined to turn her fascination with motorcycles and danger into art. Reno’s trial-by-fire story alternates provocatively with the gripping tale of Valera, an Italian who serves in a motorcycle battalion in WWI, manufactures motorcycles including the coveted Moto Valera, and makes a fortune in the rubber industry by oppressing Indian tappers in Brazil. These worlds collide when Reno moves in with Sandro Valera, a sculptor estranged from his wealthy family, and tries to make art by racing a Moto Valera on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Ultimately, Reno ends up in Italy, where militant workers protest against the Valeras. Embracing the worlds of motorcycle racing, art and radical politics, The Flamethrowers sweeps us into the swirl of life amid a memorable group of characters to reveal what it's like to live on the edge or aspire to do so.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peter Panzerfaust

I love reading; however, there are times when I crave a different kind of storytelling, one which melds text and pictures to create a lush world. This combination of words and drawings brings a new layer to the reading experience, opening up avenues for subtext, side plots, and story lines which are not be possible with traditional, linear storytelling. Books are often read because of their authors, the same is true for comic books. 

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite comic book artists available at the Peter White Public Library. Canadian team Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins breathes fresh air into J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan in their two-volume comic book Peter Panzerfaust. Self-proclaimed history buffs, Wiebe and Jenkins transport the Peter Pan story to Nazi occupied France where, along with a band of French orphans and the Darling children, teenaged Peter and the gang must work together to survive the darkest days of World War II. Jenkins’ art is subtle yet unique, the dark tones embrace the reader and remind them of how terrible the war was, yet never strays too far from the adventurous tone of the original story. The character’s expressions range from the sorrow of losing friends and family to the joy of a peaceful picnic. 

The art from Panzerfaust has been transformed to a new media, the motion comic, which has been released in the UK through the BBC. where the original artwork is animated and the characters are voiced by Elijah Wood, Summer Glau, and Ron Pearlman. Collection librarians at Peter White will be keeping on eye on availability in this country for our DVD collection. In the meantime, Panzerfaust is a must read for those who love history and the original Peter Pan story.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Temple Grandin

One of the most interesting books I've read this year can be found in the Juvenile Nonfiction section of the library. It's titled, Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery (2012) 148 pages.

Who hasn't found it hard to fit in with a crowd, been the target of bullies, or thought no one shared their interests? Add hypersensitivity to sound and touch and the inability to read emotions on faces, and you have Temple Grandin's particular challenges on the spectrum of autism. She had a father who didn't understand her and a mother who wouldn't give up on her. Her mother found a suitable boarding school that recognized Temple's abilities and encouraged her to build on her strengths. Temple's lifelong ability to relate to animals more easily than people eventually led her to become an expert in the humane treatment of cows. Since cows are usually raised to become part of the human food chain, her work concentrated on their living conditions and handling practices. Temple Grandin's amazing journey from a confusing childhood to becoming a university professor is chronicled with photos and sidebars of information on brain research and the farming industry.

Monday, January 21, 2013

City of Dark Magic

I've probably read some books in the last couple of years that are more literary or more more meaningful, but I'm not that I've read a book in that last five years that is more fun than the City of Dark Magic.  I am a middle-aged woman with a young child; I go to bed early.  I was up past 1 am one night just that eager to see what would happen next.  When I finished the story, I was digging around the Internet to see when the next book would be out. 

The author listed on the cover, Magnus Flyte, is the pen name of writing duo Meg Howrey ( a novelist) and Christina Lynch (a television writer).

The bulk of the story is set in modern day and not so modern day Prague.  Time becomes fluid in this story.  There are, as the title suggests, elements of dark magic.  The protagonist is a smart young doctoral student of musicology.  I learned a few things about Beethoven.  That's enough.  Read the book, have fun.