Category Archives: book reviews

Our favorites from 2014 (part 1)

As we all prepare to gather with friends and family – eating black eye-peas, singing Auld Lang Syne and watching a glistening ball drop to ring in the New Year – we librarians though we’d reflect on the best parts of 2014. Most specifically, we thought we’d share our favorite books, movies, and other media that we added to the Pryor Public Library in 2014.

Marie’s List:

5) And Then There Were Nuns by Jane Christmas. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy this combination of humor and reflection. Jane decides to spend a year trying out the life of a nun in four different convents just as her long-time boyfriend proposes to her – will she choose a life of religious contemplation or the partnership of marriage?

4) Gulp by Mary Roach. Here’s a science writer who isn’t afraid to take on the tough questions, like: who taste-tests pet food? This is a book that’s both funny and informative, and answers questions you never would have even thought to ask.

3) The Ice Dragon by George R R Martin. Is this a fairytale, a children’s book, a fable…? I can’t figure it out and I don’t care. This is simply a lovely story of a young, sad girl and her impossible ice dragon. Although not directly related, it’s set in the same world as A Song of Ice and Fire, and it’s beautifully illustrated.

2) Personal by Lee Child.
“Action-packed” doesn’t even begin to describe the Jack Reacher series, and this latest book is no exception. I have to be careful when I start reading one of these books, because I know I won’t want to do anything else until it’s done!

1111_art-of-asking1) Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Maybe you know her from the Dresden Dolls. Maybe you know her as Neil Gaiman’s wife. Maybe you just know her as that lady with the drawn-on eyebrows who sometimes takes off her clothes in public. But I can guarantee that whatever you think you know about Amanda Palmer, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here she talks about her art, her marriage, and how she both longs for and fears asking for help.

Heather’s List:

5) Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman. Anne Hillerman has done a fascinating job in taking up her father’s pen and finding her own voice as a writer. The novel still features Officer Chee and Detective Leaphorn, but is told from the perspective of Officer Bernadette Manualito. A must read for Tony Hillerman fans, or anyone who likes plot-twisting mysteries with strong female protagonists.

4) Attack on Titan (manga written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama). I love this series because it pulls from post-apocalyptic science fiction and ancient Greek mythology. What a seemingly juxtaposed mash-up, right? The story focuses on three cadets, the Titans they set out to kill, and the scientific mystery that shrouds the Titans.

3) August Osage County (movie). I have to preface that I am a little biased, since this story takes place near my home. But I can also strongly attest that the film – based on the internationally acclaimed play by Tulsan playwright Tracy Letts – has totally got Osage County’s number. A broken family is brought together by the painfully offhanded suicide of their father. In their dysfunctional gathering, the family has to sort through the histories of the past and grapple with the honesty of the present. Meryl Streep and Julia Robert have astonishing mother-daughter chemistry on screen.

2) I’m a Frog! by Mo Willems. Just introduced to Mo Willems this year, I instantly fell in love with his clever and charming characters. His books can be enjoyed by parents as well as kids! In this book, Piggie uses her pluckiness and ample persistence to convince Gerald its okay to play and pretend. Memorable lines: Piggie: “Everyone pretends.” Gerald: “Even grown-up people?” Piggie: “All the time.”

111111) Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell. This book is an incredible jaunt that everyone should go on. Now! Tomorrow? It really doesn’t matter; time is subjectively objective, or objectively subjective. Part sci-fi, part post-apocalyptic fantasy—and all time travel—this book goes beyond blending genres and becomes something all its own. The protagonist, jaded from observing all of human history, discovers that his own life is a perplexing mystery – one that he will spend the rest of his life (or lives?) trying to unravel. Ferrell writes with the sharpness of Kurt Vonnegut and the foreboding of Cormack McCarthy. I’ve never read anything quite like this book.

Susan, our director, focused a lot on Young Adult literature this Year. Here is her Top Five for Teens List:

5)  Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick.  Music fans everywhere are going to appreciate this time travel young adult novel, especially when the time travel includes going back to Woodstock!  Rich pulls out a guitar that has been hidden from him (he thinks it’s because of its extreme value) and plays it in defiance.  It could be that Rich will meet not only his father as a young man, but the great guitar player of his father’s era:  Jimmy Hendrix!  Not for the meek and merry, but this book brings another look at the great historical concert from a different perspective.

4)  Cinder by Marissa Meyer Cinder does to Cinderella Tales what Twilight did to Vampire stories in this true science fiction book.  Like Twilight, Cinder is the first in a series and the characters are unbelievably attractive even though the horror exists and surrounds them.  Like Twilight the moment I finished the first (and the second) book, I wanted to begin the next.  I’m not saying that only people who like Twilight will love Cinder!  No, not at all!  Even those die-hard vampire fans will want to put down their wanna-be Twilight novels and read about Cinder the cyborg mechanic.

3) Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge.  Written in prose, Walker offers up prayers to Jesus because he questions why his brother, Noah, died.  Interestingly enough, Jesus answers in this controversial book that will have adults frowning.  I expect this one to enter the banned books for the upcoming season.

2) Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers.  Loved this Britain 15th-century historical fiction about a female assassin who must fight her way though deadly palace deceptions, sickening sexual servitude, and baffling assignments.  Action packed seat-burner and nail-biter. Those who love King Arthur books will enjoy this as well.

111) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.  This is the perfect love story.  There is no place to sit when Eleanor steps onto the bus on her first day of school. No one will let her sit.  Just as she’s about to think she has to stand for the trip, Park slides over to let her sit with him.  This book has all the components and I’m guessing they are scrambling to make the movie!  It’s not about perfect people by no means, but this one is not to miss.

Basically, 2014 was full of awesome! What were your favorites this year?

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Happy Birthday to Pride & Prejudice!

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Jane Austen

Pride & Prejudice turns 200 today, and we think it’s looking pretty good for its age! Filled with Jane Austen’s razor-sharp wit and keen eye for the absurd, it remains as well-loved today as it ever was, spawning adaptations ranging from the stage to film … and now a webseries! There are even Jane Austen graphic novels and Jane Austen zombie mash-ups. Below are just a few of our favorites.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: In this webseries adaptation, Lizzie Bennet is a vlogging grad student, living with her sisters Jane and Lydia, her marriage-obsessed mother and mostly absent father. Told mostly in 4-6 minute episodes and accompanied by real-time character tweets and other social media activity, it has a huge fanbase and has been attracting lots of positive press. (Check out this article from The Guardian!) Start with the first episode:

 

ImagePride & Prejudice & Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith: The first line of this clever mashup says it all: it is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Now doesn’t that make you want to read more?

 

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Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World, by Claire Harman: a thoughtful look at Austen’s impact on the world, focusing more on Jane the author than on the biographical details covered so well in other sources.

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January 28, 2013 · 11:17 pm

Book review: The Future of Us

ImageThe Future of Us

by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

Young adult fiction

What if your teenage self could have seen what your life would be like as an adult? What if the future you saw was unhappy … would you try to change your destiny?

Popular young adult authors Asher and Mackler team up to create a book almost irresistible in its premise: it’s 1995, and teens Emma and Josh are exploring the internet for the first time when they run into something they’ve never heard of … something that hasn’t even been created yet. It’s Facebook, and it’s showing them their lives 15 years in the future. Who they’re married to, how many children they have, where they vacation, whether they’re happy or unhappy.

Josh is thrilled by his future with the hottest girl at school, but Emma’s future doesn’t look so rosy. When the pair discover that every choice they make in the real world has the potential to change their futures, Emma tries to see if she can improve her future self’s chance at happiness.

But it’s not that easy, and it’s driving Josh away. Is Emma willing to pay that price?

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Book review: I’ve Got Your Number

I’ve Got Your Number
by Sophie Kinsella
Adult Fiction

Poppy has a problem – more than one, actually. First, she’s lost her cell phone. And the phone she nicked (well, not exactly nicked – it was in the garbage bin, after all, isn’t that practically fate?) belongs to businessman Sam Roxton, and he wants it back now. And third and worst of all, she’s lost her engagement ring on the very same day her fiance’s parents are arriving.

Poppy is so busy juggling wedding plans, fielding the never-ending texts and calls coming in on her ‘borrowed’ phone, and keeping her left hand hidden from her fiance and his parents that she never notices that the surprise of her life is headed her way.

What we thought: sure, it’s a little far-fetched, but that’s why we think it makes a perfect summer stay-inside-out-of-the-heat read: fun, not too serious, and sure to make you smile. (And if you like this book, try the Shopaholic series by the same author!)

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Book review: Code Name Verity

ImageWe’ve neglected this blog over the busy summer, but we’re back now and we have plenty to share! Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting about some of our favorite books from this summer, starting with one that absolutely blew us away: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein.

Librarians don’t like to tell people they have to read something – reading is a highly personal endeavour, after all, and the book that makes one person swoon may make another want to throw something. Our motto is: a good book is a book you enjoy. If you’re not enjoying it, it’s not the book for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect book for someone else.

But occasionally, a book comes along that makes us want to break this rule.

So this is why we’re daring to respectfully suggest that perhaps, maybe, possibly you might wish to consider reading Code Name Verity.

Why? What makes this book so special?

That’s a hard question to answer, because almost anything we could say about this book could be a spoiler, and this is a book where spoilers matter – really matter.

Here’s what we can tell you:

Code Name Verity is a story about the incredible bravery and indomitable spirits of a girl spy and a girl pilot during World War II. It’s about friendship and loyalty, sacrifice and love. It’s about enemies and unexpected allies, deception and truth wrapped so tightly together it’s hard to tell which is which. And if you’re anything like us, it will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, terrified for the fate of the characters but unable to stop reading.

This is a story that may cause tears, but I for one wouldn’t take even one of them back.

“But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.”

―  Code Name Verity

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Book Review: the Linen Queen

The Linen Queen

by Patricia Falvey

Adult Fiction

Like Emma Woodhouse or Scarlett O’Hara, Sheila McGee starts out as a character who’s hard to love.

It’s true, she’s had a rough life: abandoned by her father, neglected by her unstable mother, and trapped working long hours at the local mill while dreaming of a glamorous life in London or America… only to come home to fight off her uncle’s wandering hands. Is it any wonder Sheila can’t wait to shake the dust of Northern Ireland off her feet?

It’s World War II that provides the catalyst for change, as Sheila transforms from a girl who can’t wait  to leave into a woman who finally realizes that home is where she’s been all along.

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Books about books

It’s no surprise that people who read books often like to read books about books. We certainly do! Here are some bookworm-friendly titles we’re highlighting this month:

Dog Loves Books, by Louise Yates … and he loves having his own bookstore!

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke Maggie is twelve years old when she discovers that her father has the magical ability to read fictional characters to life.

The Thirteenth tale, by Diane Setterfield Mysterious author Vida Winter has woven story after fantastic story about her life – but now she’s ready to let Margaret dig deep enough to discover the truth… a truth that may be more outlandish than all her made-up tales.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak Death is our narrator, telling us the story of Liesel, a German girl who discovers the power of words and she and her family hide a Jewish man.

The Know-It-All : one man’s humble quest to become the smartest person in the world, by A. J. Jacobs Yes, he really did read all thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And then he wrote a book about it.

Austenland, Shannon Hale Jane Hayes is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, so she’s thrilled at the chance to spend time at a Jane Austen-themed resort in England.

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her, by Melanie Rehak The real story behind the famous girl detective.

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