Category Archives: Book Reviews
The War that Killed Achilles: the true story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War By Caroline Alexander.
Ms. Alexander, the author of The Bounty; the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty and The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, has written another riveting account of an historical event, even though the Trojan War is often thought to be mythical. Alexander reveals the story part by part, giving historical background and quoting the epic in large chunks. She explains where Achilles came from, why he is the main character, and why after two millennia we still read and remember this epic poem. I would recommend this for those interested in ancient history, and even for those who are just trying to write a paper on the Trojan War. It kept my attention, and I even looked up some of the footnotes. It turns out there is evidence that Aeneas really did go to the Italian peninsula from Troy.
Fans of Elizabeth Moon’s books featuring the heroine Paksenarrion will rejoice, as I did, when I heard that the author will be continuing the story of Paks in another trilogy. The first trilogy tells the story of Paksenarrion, a girl who doesn’t want to be a shepherd, so she runs away to become a soldier. She joins a tightly run mercenary troop, learns how to fight, becomes an outstanding soldier, works her way up the ranks while the troop fights Orcs, magic and evil, is knighted and is called to be a paladin.
When the first volume came out, some reviewers said Moon was following in Tolkien’s footsteps. While it is true there are Orcs, Elves and Dwarves, these tale are usually about the world of men. Moon is a former Marine, and her experiences certainly help make the novels more realistic, in a fantasy milieu. The first trilogy is comprised of Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold. The first book in this new series is Oath of Fealty. I recommend these titles if you like high fantasy, with a developed world, full of battles, magic, gods and kings.
Finn doesn’t know who his parents are, or even if he ever had any. All he remembers is waking up inside the terrible prison of Incarceron, a prison so vast it seems to be a world all of itself. Finn doesn’t know how he came to the prison. The one thing he does know, is that he doesn’t belong here, and unlike all the other prisoners, he’s certain there was a time when he wasn’t inside Incarceron. And that he must escape. But there is no escape from Incarceron. The prison sees to that— because Incarceron is alive, with a mind of its own, and eyes that watch his every move, and powers that defy understanding.
Claudia knows who her parents are (or were). She knows where she is and who she is. She is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, the mysterious prison which no one has ever been to and no one can find, except the Warden. Claudia may not be imprisoned, but her life is far from free. Her entire future has been planned out for her, from birth on. She has been promised in marriage to the heir to the throne, to be the Queen of a rather odious future King, and the pawn of whatever power game her cold and sinister father is playing. Claudia’s desire to escape is every bit as strong as Finn’s—and to do it, she knows exactly what she needs to do: find Incarceron and fling wide its hidden, impenetrable doors, sparking a revolution.
But neither escaping from or finding Incarceron are going to be simple tasks; indeed, they may both be impossible. Because Incarceron is not what it seems to be, nor what it was meant to be, and the secrets behind it all are beyond either Finn or Claudia’s wildest imaginings.
Part fantasy, part science fiction, Incarceron is a grand adventure inside (and outside) a fantastic world unlike any other. Full of twists and turns and unexpected revelations, it’s a book that’s as hard to predict as it is to put down—you may guess some of Incarceron’s secrets, but you won’t guess them all. And unlike Finn, once you enter Incarceron, you won’t want to escape.
CALL NUMBER: YA F FIS
Recommended for all readers.
Advent draws you in slowly, starting with Dr. John Faust who delves into science (and magic) and makes his famous pact. He falls for a mysterious woman, but he also covets her magic and knowledge. When she mistakenly trusts him, he steals her gifts and disappears from time. In the modern world, Gavin, a fifteen year old boy, on his way to visit his aunt, realizes that the mysterious woman who is always around him, but invisible to others, actually exists. She tells him he is the one to succeed her. It takes a while for him to realize that with the succession magic has become real. Things become dicey for Gavin, his aunt and his new friends when magic is released and walks amongst the people of a small town in Cornwall. And Dr. John Faust returns, ready to finally use his magic—for the ill of all mankind.
We know a sequel is coming because loose ends remain, plus a there is a veiled hint from Corvo (a sometimes malevolent giant crow) that Gavin will need guidance. I enjoyed this novel; especially once I began to understand who the mysterious woman was. Linking her to Dr. Faust and the current world was an interesting idea. I haven’t felt so cold reading a book in a long time. I look forward to the next installment.
By Liz Arrambide, Children’s Department
In the Children’s Section in Franklin, whenever we are asked (and it’s often) “Do you have more fiction books about World War II?”, usually the class has been reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. So here are some great reads that feature different aspects of World War II:
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (JF LOW in the Newbery Medal Collection)
- In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis.
- Is it Night or Day? By Fern Schumer Chapman (JF CHA)
- In 1938, Edith Westerfeld, a young German Jew, is sent by her parents to Chicago, Illinois, where she lives with an aunt and uncle and tries to assimilate into American culture, while worrying about her parents and mourning the loss of everything she has ever known. Based on the author’s mother’s experience, includes an afterword about a little-known program that brought twelve hundred Jewish children to safety during World War II.
- The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone (JF STONE)
- During World War II, eleven-year-old Felicity is sent from London to Bottlebay, Maine, to live with her grandmother, aunt, uncle, and a reclusive boy who helps her decode mysterious letters that contain the truth about her missing parents.
- Romeo Blue by Phoebe Stone (JF STONE)
- During World War II, Felicity Bathburn is living in Bottlebay, Maine, with her eccentric relatives and their foster child Derek, whom she has grown to love, but when a man claiming to be Derek’s true father arrives and starts asking all sorts of strange questions Felicity becomes suspicious of his motives.
- I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor by Laura Tarshis (JF TAU)
- Sand flew up into Danny’s eyes. And then from behind him, a huge explosion seemed to shatter the world. The force lifted Danny off his feet and threw him onto the ground. And then Danny couldn’t hear anything at all.
- Blue by Joyce Hostetter (JF HOSTETTER)
- When teenager Ann Fay takes over as “man of the house” for her absent soldier father, she struggles to keep the family and herself together in the face of personal tragedy and the 1940s polio epidemic in North Carolina.
- Ted & Me by Dan Gutman (JF GUMAN)
- When Stosh travels back in time to 1941 in hopes of preventing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II, he meets Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Includes notes about Williams’ life and career.
- Jump into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall (JF PEARSALL)
- In 1945, thirteen-year-old Levi is sent to find the father he has not seen in three years, going from Chicago, to segregated North Carolina, and finally to Pendleton, Oregon, where he learns that his father’s unit, the all-Black 555th paratrooper battalion, will never see combat but finally has a mission. Includes historical notes.
- The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss (J 940.5315 REI)
- A Dutch Jewish girl describes the two-and-one-half years she spent in hiding in the upstairs bedroom of a farmer’s house during World War II.
- I survived the Nazi invasion, 1944 by Laura Tarshis (JF TARSHIS)
- In one of the darkest periods in history, one boy struggles to survive. In this gripping new addition to the bestselling I SURVIVED series, a young Jewish boy escapes the ghetto and finds a group of resistance fighters in the forests of Poland. Does he have what it takes to survive the Nazis — and fight back?
- A boy at war : a novel of Pearl Harbor by Harry Mazer (J F MAZ)
- While fishing with his friends off Honolulu on December 7, 1941, teenaged Adam is caught in the midst of the Japanese attack and through the chaos of the subsequent days tries to find his father, a naval officer who was serving on the U.S.S. Arizona when the bombs fell.
- Courage has no color : the true story of the Triple Nickles : America’s first Black paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone (J 940.541273 STO)
- Examines the role of African-Americans in the military through the history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought against attacks perpetrated on the American West by the Japanese during World War II.
- The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the impossible became possible on Schlinder’s List by Leon Leyson (J 92 LEYSON)
- This is an amazing story of a young boy who lived in Poland when the German Nazis invaded. The Nazies rounded up all the Jewish people and only let them live in certain areas of the cities. Leon and his father evemtually worked for a man named Schlinder. Leon was ten years old and the youngest person on the now famous Schlinder’s list. This is his true story.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
William Kamkwamba was born in 1987 and grew up in a rural village in Malawi. His family were farmers, generally making a little extra money with their crops of corn and tobacco, but often doing without. William had to drop out of elementary school because the family couldn’t afford the school fees. He missed going to school but was happier when he found the tiny local library (6 shelves of books, all donated from other countries.) The books Explaining Physics and Using Energy changed his world. With help from a friend and a dictionary he learned about science and invention. .He learned about wind mills and how they could generate electricity. He thought about how much electricity would help his family: his mother wouldn’t have to go two hours away for firewood if they had a way to heat water with electricity; his father could grow two crops using irrigation by pumping water with an electric pump and they could have lights in the house. He started experimenting–he built a small wind mill first. He started scrounging for materials in an abandoned lot. He often didn’t have money; sometimes his friends helped out, other times he had to work several days to be able to buy a certain parts. He finally built his first windmill at the age of 15 in 2002. Much of his village had doubts about his sanity, until he lit a car light bulb with the electricity from his windmill. Word spread quickly about his accomplishment. An article was written about him in 2006 in a Malawi newspaper and word spread quickly In 2009 he went to Ghana to talk about his windmill. He was then invited to go
By Robin Ebelt, Reference Department
I can’t imagine living in a world where birds no longer fly, plants and animals are difficult to keep alive and the weather is even more unpredictable than living in middle Tennessee! The Reestablishment has tried to fix things but they are not being too successful. Seventeen year old Juliette has been locked up in prison and is on the verge of starvation! Now the Reestablishment wants to use her as a secret weapon!
As the plot enfolds, this dystopian/romance definitely entertains. My favorite character is Adam, the love interest, because I love the background story that connects him to Juliette. What intrigues me about this novel is the clever style in which Tahereh Mafi wrote the book. I love the way she crosses out Juliette’s initial thoughts and follows them with a more vanilla version. It is a neat way to hear the truth see what the character is thinking. The book is packed with metaphors and imagery—perhaps a bit overboard but I survived.
I would have to say that I liked this book. I’m still not completely certain of what special “superhuman” power Juliette possesses. How did she get it? How will the Reestablishment try to use it? Why does it affect some people and not others? Will she learn to control it?
I guess that’s what the sequel is for. I just hope it doesn’t veer into the comic hero genre.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
Bee (Arabella Beatrice) received a frantic phone call from her mother—her sister Tess was missing. She took a leave of absence and flew back to England to help figure out what had happened. Bee knew her sister wouldn’t have left London being eight months pregnant. She knew something had happened to her. But no one could find a thing. She asked Tess’ married boyfriend, she found the photographer obsessed with Tess’ beauty and she found her friends. When Tess is found, the police pronounce it suicide. Bee knows that couldn’t be true and continues her investigation. The further she investigates, the more she believes her sister was murdered.
Ms. Lupton writes in the first person, which I find more direct and personal. I had to read this book for a book club, but I liked it more than I thought I would. It drew me in, kept drawing me in until I had to finish regardless of time.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
V I (Vic) Warshawski’s cousin, Petra, called her, asking her to find a group of girls in her book group who were meeting secretly in an abandoned cemetery for some sort of ceremony. Some of them were from prominent families, and Petra hoped Vic could find them and get them home safely. Everything was fine until one of the girls thought she saw a vampire, ran scared and nearly fell on a man impaled on a ledger stone. Who was the man and was it a coincidence that he was killed where the girls were? The connections spread out like a spider web, and if V I Warshawski didn’t take great care, she would be caught up in it.
I hadn’t read a Sara Paretsky detective novel in quite a while. I was intrigued by the plot. I wanted to know how the two major events connected. I thought I knew who did it, but there were a few loose ends that threw me. I’ll have to go back and read them in order now.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
My Mother was a Senior English teacher, so I learned the value of Shakespeare early on. I love the sonnets and enjoy seeing his plays, so I thought I knew a good deal about Shakespeare. I was wrong. Mr. Marche teaches Shakespeare; he must live and breathe it too. I learned so much more about the most famous of English authors. According to the author, most scholars believe he invented over 1700 words, which works out to be around ten percent of his entire vocabulary! He also invented the name Jessica. Who knew? And we have starlings in North America because of Shakespeare. Want to know why? Read the book.
I thoroughly enjoyed How Shakespeare Changed Everything. I even bought my own copy. I recommend this book to anyone who likes reading, literature, plays, language or trivia— actually, just about everyone.