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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Heads You Lose

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

Lisa Lutz, author of the Spellman Files series (which you should pick up if you haven’t) teams up with an unlikely partner for her latest novel: David Hayward, a poet she dated briefly in the 90s.  The resulting book is described by Lutz as “a real crime novel with a dead body and all” – but also eschews as many traditional elements of crime novels as it upholds.

This wacky journey begins when Lacey and Paul, two orphaned siblings in their 20s, find a headless body in their backyard.  Except they can’t call the cops to their home due to the marijuana crop growing in the basement.  The brother and sister decide to investigate on their own, though these investigations manifest themselves very differently and often lead them in opposite directions.

Having two authors with dueling styles and plot development was a bit frustrating for me at first, but as the book found its rhythm a few chapters in I began to enjoy the ride.  Included after each chapter are email exchanges between the authors that shed light on the actions of their characters.  By the end of the book, it is virtually a tug of war between Lutz and Hayward, to the point I wasn’t convinced there was any way to salvage what was left of the plot, clues, and suspect list to form a cohesive ending.  Luckily, I was proven wrong as the loose ends were tied up expertly for a clean finish.

Recommended for anyone who likes serious crime fiction, but isn’t afraid to have some fun with it!

EDIT: I meant to include this video in my post.  It should give you an idea of the back-and-forth that drives this book.

This book was reviewed from an advance copy sent by the author/publisher.

 

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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is one of those books that customers have been recommending to me for years, but I’ve been never felt much of an urge to read myself.  With the movie coming out I figured I would give it a shot, not that I have any particular plans to see the movie, but just to see what all the fuss is about.

We’ll start with the good: Gruen obviously did a lot of research on Depression-era train circuses. She does a good job describing what life on tour with working men, performers, sideshow freaks, and a menagerie of animals might be like.  It’s a very quick, easy read (I read it in two sittings) that moves along at a decent clip.

Some problems I had:

1) Jacob, the protagonist, is debilitatingly passive throughout the story.  He constantly finds himself in circumstances where others take control from him, and he does nothing to stop them.  Other characters make almost all his decisions for him, which is frustrating beyond belief.  For instance, he makes a vow to himself not to let any of the animals be harmed again – but then stands idly by as the elephant is tortured with a hook.  Multiple times.

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Firmin by Sam Savage

Firmin by Sam SavageI bought this book because it had a giant bite taken out of it, and it said it was about a rat who grew up in the basement of a bookstore.  What’s not to like?  (Well, okay, I kind of have a rat phobia, but I was willing to give it a try.)

Firmin is born in a nest made of a shredded copy of Finnegan’s Wake, in the basement of a 1960s-era Boston used bookstore.  He’s the runt of the litter and often gets shorted at feeding time.  As a result, he turns to the books surrounding him for something to chew on and finds that he can’t stop.

Like many things that start as small, illicit pleasures, paper chewing soon became an imperative, and then an addiction, a mortal hunger whose satisfaction was so delightful that I would often hesitate to pounce on the first free tit. (17)

In this way, Firmin becomes a literal consumer of literature.  After a while, however, he learns to read what is written on the pages, and switches to only chewing on the margins.  Soon he is better read than most humans, and he migrates to the ceiling where he watches the bookstore below.  I love his description of what he observes, because it reminds me of the joy inherent in having a bricks-and-mortar bookstore to visit:

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The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes by Du Bose Heyward

Written in 1939 for his daughter, this is a very feminist tale.

In a world where there are 5 Easter Bunnies a little girl rabbit says “Some day I shall grow up to be an Easter Bunny – you wait and see!” But soon she has 21 babies. She teaches them life skills and teamwork, so when it’s time to pick a new Easter Bunny she goes out for the job. She proves that her children are self sufficient and will be fine for one night without her.

This is a story every girl should have. It has an important message that you can do it all…… just not all at the same time.

 

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Spotty by Margret Rey, pictures by H.A. Rey

Margret and H.A. Rey escaped Nazi Germany on their bicycles and in their belongings was the first draft of Curious George. Then, in 1945, Spotty was written. Often only available around Easter, this book is not about Easter bunnies but the intolerance of difference that exists in our world.

Spotty is a spotted rabbit born into a white rabbit family. Because he is different he is left out home while his family goes to Grandpa’s Birthday party. Grandpa would not approve of a spotted rabbit. Sad and alone Spotty runs away. In the woods he meets a spotted rabbit who brings him home to his spotted family. There in the corner is an all white rabbit. Like Spotty She did not fit into her family. He explains how his family is all white and he is the different one. The families meet and the story ends with a message of tolerance and acceptance.

 

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The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

The Grimm Legacy

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

The Grimm Legacy begins as a tale of an ordinary life: Elizabeth Rew is adjusting to her mother’s death, her father’s remarriage, and switching to public school so her father can help pay tuition for her two new stepsisters.  She has nobody to sit with at lunch time and feels lonely and virtually invisible.  After writing her term paper on the Grimm brothers, her friendly (if eccentric) history teacher offers her an after school job, which she accepts gratefully.

Elizabeth soon learns, however, that this is no ordinary job.  She has been hired as a page at the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a sort of library for objects.  The repository stores and lends out everything from china tea sets to Marie Antoinette’s wig.  But what really surprises our fair heroine is when she learns that the basement of the repository houses the Grimm Collection – magical objects bequeathed to the repository straight out of fairy tales and folklore.

I love this premise for a young adult title, because not only does it make the mundane magical (how many high school students wish their after school job was a bit more glamorous?), it also takes the enchanted and makes it ordinary.  Though apprehensive of these items at first, by the end of the book all the young repository pages have used magical objects in their everyday lives, with varying degrees of success and many unforeseen consequences.

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Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino

Every FridayThis is a sweet slice of life story. Every Friday a father and son spend the morning together. They slowly walk down the street taking in everything around them until they reach the local diner. They eat pancakes, talk about anything and watch people walk by. Such a simple tradition can lead to a life rich with memories and a special bond between parent and child. This book makes you want to give the gift of time and ritual to the ones you love.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Book Reviews, Children's

 

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