Sunday, April 29, 2012

THe Superhero Book By Gina Misiroglu

The Superhero Book by Gina Misiroglu is an encyclopedia of all the known superheroes.  At over four hundred pages, it is an exhaustive survey of this genre as well as being a colorful and accessible entry into the superhero world. 

Each superhero is given an entry that talks about the media (TV, comics, graphic novel, etc) as well as a full-color image.  The background of the hero is given, as well as their entire team if they work with someone else.  Supernatural powers are explored along with any moral code or any weaknesses.  A timeline of appearances is given, and if the hero was killed off, an explanation of their demise.  Superheros from Superman to The Powerpuff Girls are explored.

Gina Misirouglu, also known as The Taskmistress, has authored or edited more than three dozen books in the genres of popular culture, biography, American history, folklore and women's studies. 

Graphic novels are becoming more and more popular with the advent of the entire anime genre.  Superheroes are a constant in every time period; only the media used to tell their stories changes.  Humans need to believe that there is a balance in the world between good and evil, and that there are those who stand ready to right that balance when it is askew.  This book is recommended for readers who follow these heroes and anyone interested in learning more about them. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Return Of The White Deer by Robert Sells

The land of Mercia is uneasy.  It has been ruled for twenty years by a king, Cearl, who is cruel, caring nothing for his people.  Cearl is power-hungry and obsessed by thoughts of those who might try to take his place.  For Cearl doesn't possess the one thing that makes a Mercia king legitimate and beloved.  He was not chosen by The White Deer, a mythical creature who legend says appears when Mercia needs a new king to choose the man best suited.

Pen is a twelve year old boy raised on a farm in the countryside of Mercia.  He is drawn to two strange habits.  Pen can communicate with all types of animals, both the horses, cattle and sheep on the farm and the wild creatures of the forest.  He has even seen the White Deer, although he knows he must keep this a secret. He is also drawn to learn the skills of a soldier, how to use a sword, bow and knife.  He is lucky enough to find a skilled teacher in the nearby village, although he hides his lessons from his farmer father.

When Cearl learns of Pen's existence, he is determined to eliminate him, as he suspects that Pen may be the next Chosen One.  Pen is kidnapped and thrown into Cearl's dungeon after Cearl meets him and decides his suspicions are correct.  When Pen is rescued by his father and his friends, it sets up a situation where a battle will determine the fate of Mercia and who will lead it going forward.

Robert Sells has written an engaging, rollicking tale of fantasy.  The characters are interesting, and the action is brisk enough to move the plot along without dragging.  This book is recommended for readers of fantasy.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Quaker State Affair by Dan Romain

What would happen if the Chinese decided to write off their American debt and create a fiscal world pegged not to the American dollar but to a gold standard?  How long would it take American to implode without dollars, or the oil it buys?  Could we live without oil as an energy source?

These are the questions that Dan Romain explores in his explosive action thriller, The Quaker State Affair.  As the book opens, it becomes obvious to the American security forces that China is racketing up worldwide tension as a prelude to attempting to take over as the world's most powerful nation.  Reaction by the American President escalates the tension as he implies that America has an alternate energy source which would make oil obsolete. 

Patrick McDaniels, a Nobel winner for his work in physics, has in fact, been thinking about this issue.  In fact, he has done more than think about it, but he realises the risks that come along with such groundbreaking ideas.  The man who can harness cheap, renewable energy that will never run out will be rich beyond dreams, but also in enormous danger.  Nations would war over who controlled such energy or the mind that could conceive of it.  How can McDaniels give his thoughts to his chosen country without becoming a target?

Dan Romain has written an interesting book that is both a page-turning thriller and a book that gives the reader pause for thought.  Readers can see echoes of Romain's predictions in the news media and scientific articles.  Oil is the mainspring of the economy, leaving America in ransom to other countries that can produce it.  Scientists are pursuing alternate energy sources that would make the discovering country the new world leader for centuries.  Readers will finish this book and find their thoughts returning to it time and again, as they read the news and ponder what the average person can do to safeguard in the event some of these issues occur.  This book is recommended both for readers of thrillers and for readers interested in what may occur in the next few decades to our country and to the world.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

In Freedom, Jonathan Franzen has given the reader the quintessential Boomer novel. The novel tells the story of Patty and Walter Berglund. It picks up their story in college as they meet and fall in love. The reader learns about their backgrounds and how each person’s experiences growing up in their specific families and their parental and sibling relationships made them the person they were as an adult. It then follows them over the next thirty or so years, through two children, several moves, and the cycles that make up a marriage.

What is it about? It would be more accurate to ask, what isn’t it about? Freedom is about love, envy, jealousy, betrayal, steadfastness. It is about the relationships between parents and children, between adult friends, the balance between work and home. It contrasts liberalism and conservatism, a focus on business vs. a focus on the environment, the value of old friendships vs. the power of letting new people into one’s life. It is about how we wound each other and how we can heal these wounds. It talks of the dilemma of raising strong independent children who then as adults have little need for their parents. It talks of the difficulty of keeping love strong for decades, and how old hurts can rear up time and time again, sometimes destroying the love that still endures beneath the surface.

Franzen is one of the country’s strongest novelists, and this book enforces that accolade. The writing is dense and detailed, as one would need to reveal someone else’s entire life, motivations and joys. The reader is unable to tear themselves away from this story of two people whose lives and struggles exemplify an entire generation. Franzen shows that no matter how much each generation hopes to be different from the one before it, members come to realize that human nature is fairly fixed, and the same big forces control all of our lives, no matter when we lived. This book is a masterpiece, and the reader will close the last page, satisfied, hopeful and feeling more accepting of their own struggles. This book is recommended for all readers interested in human nature and how we live our lives among other people.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Best Science And Nature Writing, Edited by Mary Roach and Tim Folger

Each year, a series of best of writing books are released in various categories such as travel, short stories, mystery, etc.  This year's edition of the science and nature writing genre was edited by Mary Roach and Tim Folger.  Mary Roach has made the focal point of her writing life in the science field, popularizing the research into fields such as sex, death and various other topics.  Tim Folger is a contributing editor at Discover magazine and is familiar with a wide range of scientific fields.

The articles range across many scientific fields of inquiry.  There are articles about the problem of space debris, the emergence of bears as pest animals into residential areas with the disappearance of their natural habitats, the issue of organ transplants.  There are more difficult articles such as ones on the space-time continuum and discoveries in that area.  Introduced species that later become predators, crowding out the native animals, get an article, focusing on a species of fish that nature scientists are trying to prevent from reaching the Great Lakes.  There is an interesting article on face-blindness, a condition in which people never become familiar with the faces around them daily and who don't recognize people they deal with daily. 

The series is well done.  The articles are written to educate but the reading level is such that anyone can read and understand the concepts.  There are a wide range of topics, spanning the various areas of scientific inquiry.  This is an anthology that can be dipped into for food for thought, a way to expand understanding of the natural world around us.  This book is recommended for readers interested in how the world works and the discoveries made by scientists.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Meerkat Wars by H.S. Toshack

The Meerkat Wars is the third adventure in this series about Sheena, a little black and white cat who lives in Africa with her family.  In this book, the family is going on vacation, camping on the great African plains.  Sheena goes along as a stowaway.  She is stranded away from her family and on her way back to the campground, encounters her next big adventure.

Sheena makes the acquaintance of a colony of meerkats, the Duwara, after helping one of their members who was stung by a scorpion.  She stays with the colony for a few days, learning about their ways.  She is there when another Meerkat colony, the Utongo, raid the Duwara tunnels and kidnap their pups.  As Sheena talks to both colonies, it becomes apparent that they are divided not by any reasonable event, but by their belief that each colony is living under the One True Sun.  Meerkats start their day standing and basking in the sun, so the sun is the prime event in their world.  Those who doubt the supremacy of the sun are enemies.  Can Sheena bring the two groups together in the realization that there is one sun that shines for all?

This is a children's book, skillfully educating while entertaining.  Several of the animals of the African plain are introduced along with their habitats, feeding habits and general behavior.  In addition to the meerkats, there are seval cats porcupines, chameleons, water buffaloes and elephants.  The underlying point, that we are all more similar than we are different, and that our separateness is often just self-generated, is brought home without a preachy tone.  This book is recommended for middle school readers and for parents interested in getting good books for their children.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dirt by David Vann

Galen is twenty-two and still living at home without a job, totally dependant on his mother. His only interest is philosophy and he considers himself an 'old soul', without much evidence to back up his assessment. His mother's interest is in keeping Galen dependant on her. To that end, she dribbles out a meager allowance but tells him there is no money for college or anything that would encourage him to make a life on his own.

Mother and son live alone on a walnut farm in California, the family farm and the basis of the financial trust that keeps them going. Galen's grandmother is still alive, but his mother has moved her to an assisted living home. Galen's aunt and teenage cousin live close and visit, but only to try to extract money from the mother. Galen, with no other exposure to women, develops an unhealthy attraction to his cousin, Jennifer.

The family endures day after dreary day, the same arguments and history revisions visited daily. Things change, however, when all five, grandmother, mother, aunt, cousin and Galen, go together to a cabin for a weekend. Things occur there that change the relationships and bring old resentments to the fore. As Galen makes a final attempt to break free from his family, he learns the extent to which he will go, and the actions he is capable of.

David Vann has received a lot of positive attention for his writing. He is the winner of multiple literary prizes, a Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, and a professor at the University of San Francisco. Dirt is another success in his string of novels such as Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, A Mile Down and Last Day On Earth. This book is written in sparse, compelling language as the action alternates between Galen's view of himself as a higher being and the base actions he actually performs. Readers should be aware of graphic violence and sexual matter. This book is recommended for readers interested in family relationships and what the human spirit is capable of. It is a harrowing tale not easily forgotten.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Author Event for In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long

In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long is an upcoming review.  Here's a quick blurb:

The Tyler family had the perfect life - until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn't want to be perfect anymore. While Leah's parents fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah's younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake. Will this family survive? What happens when love just isn't enough?  Jodi Picoult fans will love In Leah's Wake - a heartbreaking, ultimately redemptive story about family, connection and our responsibility to those we love.

The author is having a Book Club Event Week in late April.  Below is an outline of what will take place:


Terri shares a candid introduction to the book and her success so far and talks about the role of book bloggers and reviewers in boosting In Leah’s Wake up the charts


Terri invites readers and bloggers to share their thoughts on their favorite characters within In Leah’s Wake and talk about the moments they loved most.  In the evening enjoy a live Q&A session with two pivotal characters from the novel: Zoe and her daughter, Leah.


An interview with Terri looks into the story behind the story: how Terri came to write In Leah’s Wake and how it came to be the “little indie book that could” selling over 100,000 copies so far!


Answering questions by submitted book clubs, readers’ groups, readers and bloggers, Terri will share her thoughts on the novel, the writing process and what lies ahead. 
In the evening enjoy a Q&A session with Terri Giuliano Long and the chance to put forward your questions live

Share your views on some of the discussion topics raised in the In Leah’s Wake reading guide. We’ll be publishing your thoughts along with any new discussion topics you suggest.


Terri shares her thoughts on her upcoming novel, Nowhere to Run, and talks about what it’s like to work on a very different kind of story.

Booksie's Blog readers are invited to attend.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Daddy's Home by A.K. Alexander

Detective Holly Jennings of the San Diego Police Department has worked on a lot of murder cases, but this one is getting to her.  A serial killer is kidnapping single mothers along with their children, and killing both.  That scenario hits home to Holly, as it describes her situation.  Her husband was killed in the line of duty when Holly was pregnant, so it has been her and her seven year old daughter, Chloe, ever since.

The killer is escalating, and it's up to the police to determine his motivation in order to stop him.  Holly believes that the killer is attempting to build a family of his own, and then killing the victims when his fantasy of them loving and accepting him is revealed as a mere dream.  This kind of core drive means that he won't stop until Holly and her team can stop him.  Things devolve when it becomes apparent that the killer has his sights on Holly and Chloe as his next chance at a perfect family.  Can she bring this killer to justice before he takes away everything she has?

A.K. Alexander has written a suspenseful novel that will keep the reader turning the pages.  Holly is a strong, resourceful woman who has the reader cheering for her.  The killer, "The Family Man", is a chilling depiction of evil.  The plot has a great pace and the finale is excellent.  This book is recommended for mystery fans.