Category Archives: Book Reviews

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian

349347Shadow Moon, just released from prison, accepts a job from a shady character named Mr. Wednesday, and becomes involved in a battle for America. The gods from the old world, who came to America with emigrants from all over the globe, are fighting for prominence against the new gods of technology, which they see as ruling over American life. As Shadow gets pulled further into the struggle, he ends up on a very strange road trip, meeting gods from all over, trying to figure out what is really going on.

American Gods is an interestingly layered book with the battle of the Gods theme utilized to tell multiple shorter stories as Shadow travels in America on his job. There are several vignettes and short stories of varying lengths about the deities as they have coped with the changing times that will delight readers with humor and chills. Shadow has his own story as the hero of the book who goes from tragedy to triumph.

Mr. Gaiman, who now lives in the United States, won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for this novel. Last year he received the Newbery, Carnegie, Audie, and Hugo Awards for his novel The Graveyard Book.

 

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Bird Appreciation Books 101 for Children—Starters

By Lance Hickerson, Reference Assistant

My fourth grade elementary school teacher was an avid bird watcher, even when she was teaching class. We might be in the middle of multiplication tables, when a rare bird at the class feeder would turn our attention from the wall-to-wall chalk board to the windows behind us. I had no idea at the time how I was being taught a love of nature in general and of birds in particular. Bird watching has been a highly rewarding hobby ever since.   Since it is only natural to want to pass on a love of nature and birds to the next generation, I am always on the lookout for books in the library that might instill, and maybe even ignite, aviary wonder.

Among the many good books out there, here are a few I came across.

I.   Starting for K-2nd grade:

  1. Feathers For Lunch

Feathers for Lunchby Lois Ehlert (Harcourt, Inc.: 1990, 36 pages)

Storyline: A housecat escapes to the outdoors and encounters twelve species of birds, but is unable to catch even one. Along the way the cat and the reader learn something about each bird, from its appearance to song.

Sideline: The birds are shown by effective cut-paper illustrations. Along with the birds are cut-paper plants common to the bird’s environment.  So a plant book as well as an animal book.

Bonus: Several back pages contain more information on each cut-paper bird

  1. BirdsongsBirdsongs 2

by Betsy Franco and Steve Jenkins {illustrator} (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007, 40 pages) Caldecott Honor Medalist

Storyline: The book begins early one morning and goes through to the end of the day identifying some 11 birds and their sounds. The illustrations sport a dimensional appearance due to being refined cut paper designs.

Sideline: There is a counting theme throughout as the birds call out their songs a given number of times. In addition to bird sounds, children can practice counting.

Bonus: The last few pages tell interesting “feathery facts” about the birds.

  1. Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalogue and Instruction Manual

Aviary Wondersby Kate Samworth {author and illustrator} (Clarion Books: 2014, 32 pages)

Storyline: This wonderfully illustrated book is an imaginary and futuristic catalogue that permits readers to design their own birds. There is more to the bird than most imagine as choices include types of beaks, tails, legs, wings, flight patterns, and colors.

Sideline: The reader learns about various extinct birds in our history. There is an environmental, conservationist theme throughout.

Bonus: By involving the imagination in applying bird anatomy, the reader becomes aware of many various markers that are important for understanding and identifying birds.

  1. Birds: A Guide to Familiar American Birds  A Golden Guide - Birds

by Herbert Zim and Ira Gabrielson {illustrated by James Gordon Irving} (Golden Press: 1987, 160 pages)

Storyline: No story but rather a straightforward and simple guide to 129 birds commonly seen in America. Each bird has its own page and is illustrated by colorful and accurate drawings. The simplicity of this now classic book makes it a wonderful beginner’s guide. It is important to supplement the many photo books available today with artful drawings like here, for the drawings can emphasize significant markings of the bird that photos often do not. For instance, because I had seen the Wood Thrush painting in this book, I was able to recognize a real Wood Thrush in nature several years later.

  1. The New Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America: Peterson Field Guides

A New Birder's Guideby Bill Thompson III {illustrations by Julie Zickefoose and Michael Digiorgio} (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 368 pages)

Storyline: No story but a wonderful new beginner’s bird guide to common birds in America. Carefully selected photos and drawings help in positive identification. There is just enough information to make it interesting and useful. It’s the best new beginning bird book to bring into the field with children. It might well become a classic in its own right.

Bonus: Wow Facts are given for each bird disclosing interesting and significant information

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bl10942400edsoe, is an urban fantasy set in rural Eastern Tennessee.  The mysterious community of Tufa is about to be in the spotlight now that wild child Bronwyn has returned home on leave to recuperate from captivity and war wounds.  She has to deal with the strained relations with her parents, the town and her siblings.  She has to find her music again, so essential for all Tufa.  Her ex-boyfriend wants to pick up where they left off , then there’s the haint that is trying to get her attention… All this while being hounded by the media and keeping her secretive community private.  It’s just too much for one person to handle.

I picked up this book for the East Tennessee location, but was drawn into Bronwyn’s world.  An unusual story by the author of the Eddie LaCrosse novels and the Firefly Witch series, The Hum and the Shiver quietly involves you.  When you finish you will start looking for a sequel (there are two so far) and wondering if there are Tufa in remote forests in the Eastern U.S.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

By Robin Ebelt, Reference Department

hushhushI love a good young adult trilogy, so several of my librarian friends encouraged me to read Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. This weekend, I finally plowed through it although I felt like I was reading Twilight again. I understand that Hush Hush is a book about the paranormal but this one didn’t do it for me.

Nora Grey, a sixteen year old sophomore, lives pretty much alone. Her father was murdered last year but we are given no details about that. Nora’s mother is on the road with her job leaving her teenaged daughter at home for days at a time. Sure she has a housekeeper/cook throughout the day, but she’s alone at night. Really?

In biology class, the teacher pairs her with the dark mysterious “fallen angel” Patch who literally gets in her head. Thus ensues the reluctant romantic relationship between Patch and Nora. Another creepy guy, Elliot, shows her some interest and hostility without a clear purpose. Even Nora’s best friend, Vee, gets swept along with the excitement of some attention from the new guys at school.

I have to admit that while I didn’t feel connected with the book, I was intrigued enough to finish it. I had to read on to find out who really was the bad guy and I needed some resolution to the weird things that were happening in Nora’s life. I wonder if Nora’s father’s murder might be connected to some of the paranormal activity in this book. I guess I’ll have to read the sequel to find out.

The Martian by Andy Weir

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian

The Martian

Six members of an exploratory mission land on Mars for a three month stay.  They are advised to abort the mission soon after, as soon as NASA notices a giant sand storm heading their way.  They are packing up to leave when a piece of equipment blows away, taking  crewman Mark Watney with it.  He is presumed lost.

Imagine NASA’s surprise when satellite imagery show changes in the Martian landscape!  Now what?  How do you rescue one stranded crew member on a distant planet?  How do you set up communication that many light years away? Meanwhile, Watney is keeping a log; charting his days and figuring out how to survive.

This is a classic science fiction novel – no alien monsters, just a man trying to survive on Mars.  The tension builds nicely and the problems Watney daces sometimes seem unsurmountable.  This is Weir’s first book and I agree with all the praise being showered upon him.  I do hope he will write much more.

What to Read after “The Fault in Our Stars”

By Howard Shirley, Teen Library Assistant

Did the release of The Fault in Our Stars get you craving more quirky teenage love stories?

Here are five more titles you might enjoy…

Eleaneleanor and parkor & Park by Rainbow Rowell [YA F ROWELL]

This 2013 release beautifully tells the story of two high school misfits who develop a surprising mutual affection during their bus rides to and from school in 1980’s-era Omaha. Though the description may sound trite, Rowell’s writing elevates a familiar story to must-read status.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson [YA F MAT]amy and roger's epic detour

Matson’s debut novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is an ode to traveling and new experiences—a love story just happens to pop up along the way. Like in The Fault in Our Stars, dealing with mortality is a theme of this book, though less directly. It’s an entertaining read that will make you appreciate little bits of Americana along the characters’ road trip.

Dash & Ldash and lily's book of daresily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan [YA F COH]

The same duo who paired up for Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist team up again in this fun back-and-forth story of two bibliophiles who exchange thoughts via a notebook in a bookstore. Of course, the suspense and excitement leading up to their potential real-life meeting is the central purpose of the book, but these two authors know how to keep the pages turning throughout.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler [YA F ASH]the future of us

A teenage romance with a slight sci-fi bent, The Future of Us tells the story of two teens in the nineties who happen to discover their future Facebook accounts when they access the internet for the first time. The future they discover on Facebook is not the one they envision for themselves, which leads to an interesting pursuit of how to reconcile the past, present, and future.

Stargirl stargirlby Jerry Spinelli [YA F SPI]

Stargirl is aimed at a slightly younger set, but it remains an elegant story of the ups and downs of high school popularity and teenage love. Spinelli draws you in and doesn’t let you go as he writes about two very different people who are nonetheless drawn to one another. It’s a quick-read, but it’s worth checking out for the quintessential quirky character, Stargirl herself.

Red Shirts by John Scalzi

Redshirts by John Scalzi

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian

Anyone who likes science fiction shows, in particular Star Trek, knows about “red shirts.” Fans of the show began noticing that those with red shirts in “away teams” always died. They were usually guest stars or extras. In the book Redshirts, Mr. Scalzi plays on this idea.

The Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union, continually replaces its lower ranked crew members, especially after away missions. Ensign Dahl, newly assigned to the Intrepid, begins to realize that whenever an away crew is sent on a mission, at least one crew member doesn’t come back. The three officers—the captain, the science officer, and the pilot Kerensky always survive. Kerensky is almost always injured but recovers extremely fast. No one knows why. Ensign Dahl has to investigate; he has been on one away mission already, and he lost two friends. Luckily for him, he knows a man inside who just might have a way to stop the deaths…

Mr. Scalzi is a science fiction author known for his wry humor. He has a popular blog and hangs out with other popular SF authors and Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: Next Generation fame. (Mr. Wheaton also narrated the audiobook version of Redshirts.) His book Old Man’s War was well received and was nominated for the prestigious Hugo Award. It is also a very good book, in my opinion.

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