Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

WWII Brooklyn.  The Brooklyn Navy Yard has begun to employ women, and Anna Kerrigan has a job measuring tiny ship parts.  Once she becomes aware of the divers repairing ships underwater, her job seems boring and she wants with all her being to become a diver -- something women aren't allowed to do.  How will she convince Lt. Axel to give her a chance?

Egan paints a vivid picture of wartime New York City.  The Navy Yard is humming with activity, as are the nightclubs.  Anna, in green silk dress or 200 lb diving suit, takes the reader through all of it.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh by Kathryn Aalto

Winnie the Pooh Day was January 18. This title is found in our adult non-fiction and I picked it for Pooh's special day. Inside you will find an incredible amount of detailed information suitable for Pooh fans to devour. It mostly shows where the stories were written. You will see pictures and statues of Christopher Robin and his beloved stuffed animals, the woods where they played and where the stories were inspired. You will learn about the flora and fauna as well as see the bridge where they dreamed, the holes in the trees and mounds of dirt where the animals had their homes. It is still a place you can visit today if you ever happen to travel to England. A fun book to peruse and read.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Great Halifax Explosion by John U. Bacon

   With "The Great Halifax Explosion" John Bacon has given us an in-depth look at a little known, but violent, flash of early 20th century history.
   On December 6, 1917, a French freighter that had left New York City with over 3,000 tons of TNT on board, along with other explosives, was involved in a collision with another ship in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The freighter would catch fire, then explode. In 1/15 of second, 325 acres were flattened, 11,000 people became casualties, and over 25,000 residents were left homeless. It was the largest explosion against mankind ever recorded, outside of the atomic blasts that ended World War II. A tsunami would follow the explosion, and on the heels of the massive destruction, a major snowstorm would hit, adding misery to those affected by the blast.
   Bacon does a masterful job describing the event and many of its participants. He places the explosion in its proper framework along with the destruction that was taking place during World War I. He also explores how the incident would improve Canadian/US relations, particularly with residents of the city of Boston.
   This major event in North American history is little-known today, but "The Great Halifax Explosion" should go a long way toward enlightening its 21st century audience. The book is well written and a fast read as Bacon works well is presenting both his subjects and the overall situation.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dragon Master Series #1: Rise of the Earth Dragon by Tracey West

Juvenile Fiction
Rise of the Earth Dragon is the first of nine book in the Dragon Masters series, thus far. Drake is an 8 year-old boy taken away from his family to live in King Roland's castle.  He soon discovers he will be trained as a Dragon Master. He is joined by Ana, Rori, and Bo, who are also in training.  They must meet and connect with their dragon so they can uncover its special powers. This series is high interest and fast-paced.  There are illustrations on nearly every page which will also appeal to newly independent readers.  I recommend reading in order, if possible, as new characters are introduced throughout the series.



Monday, January 8, 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Dr. Anna Fox, a child psychologist, hasn’t left her home in nearly a year because she suffers from agoraphobia. She self-medicates with a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol, and fills her days by watching classic suspense films, playing chess online, talking to her husband and daughter (from whom she is separated), and looking through her camera lens at the neighbors.

One afternoon, while spying on the family who lives across the park from her, Anna witnesses a horrific crime. Or did she? The police and her neighbors think that she is a delusional drunk who imagined the entire incident. Anna even begins to doubt herself. And, as more strange things happen, Anna wonders if she might be losing her mind. Anna’s own story gradually unfolds throughout the book, and I found myself sympathizing with her, and rooting for her too, as she struggled to put the pieces together.

Reminiscent of both the Hitchcock film Rear Window and the contemporary book and movie The Girl on the Train, this intense, fast-paced psychological thriller kept me guessing until the very end.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic by the British Library

Just in case you couldn’t get enough… here comes an amazing ‘companion to a unique exhibition’ in honor of 20 years of Harry Potter.  J.K. Rowling along with the publisher Bloomsbury joined forces to create an exhibition at the British Library which examined the depth and persistent historical connections of Rowling’s work in the Harry Potter world.  Everything is covered, from potions to alchemy, to divination and herbology.  Though Rowling’s work is fiction, a surprising amount of it comes from real-life historical persons, documents, and events, as well as legends and myth.  It’s not possible to describe this book in such a small space, but it is richly illustrated with full color photographs of many of the exhibit pieces, as well as anecdotes and descriptions.  There is also a companion work about this exhibition, HARRY POTTER: A JOURNEY THROUGH A HISTORY OF MAGIC which is intended for a children’s audience.  It is just as well done.  Verdict: a sorely-needed historical guide to Harry Potter, and an awesome book just to look at and in which to get lost for hours.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

How do people respond to other's expectations?  How do people respond to their own expectations?  That's what this book is about.  Rubin separates people into 4 main types -- Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels.  (You can take a quiz about which type you are.)  Chapters are then devoted to each one, describing strengths and weaknesses, as well as strategies that might help you deal with yourself or others. 

This is an interesting book.  I think Rubin does a good job with personality insights.  Your "type" isn't the entire magic answer to all of life's problems, but if you're looking for some tips on why you struggle to keep your own resolutions, how to work with someone who doesn't do what you ask, or how to encourage someone to follow good advice, "The Four Tendencies" might offer some new ideas.