Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book of the Week - The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Terrific middle school novel. Prosper feels like he is the ultimate outsider. He doesn't fit in with his wealthy, successful family headed by his icy cold terrifying grandmother. He has no friends having spent most of his life entertaining his seriously ill twin who has suddenly achieved health and started going to his exclusive private school where she becomes instantly popular. While their parent's are traveling for their charitable foundation their formidable grandmother makes plans and seems to be keeping him from talking to his parents. When he does momentarily talk to his father on the phone he is told to grab his sister and run. Before he can get away his grandmother comes at him with a knife and he flees by himself discovering that a long ago ancestor had made a deal with a malefactor, a demon who seems to be now dwelling in poor Prosper. Unless the person hosting the malefactor is killed by a certain deadline, the Redding family will lose all the prosperity and good fortune they have experienced for many generations. Finding, or being found by, his long lost uncle and his uncle's stepdaughter, a witch, Prosper, takes on a different name and identity, enrolling in a public school where his new temporary life is very different. When he sleeps, the demon takes over and traveling around in Prosper's body works toward fulfilling the curse.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book of the Week - Once a Rebel by Mary Jo Putney

The second book in Putney's Rogues Redeemed series is in a way, a love letter to Baltimore. Wait a minute, Regency romances are set in England, usually London or Bath, but all the same, much of this book is set in Washington and Baltimore and on top of it, the story starts in 1799 (a good decade before the Regency). Readers who love this era, will enjoy Putney's latest.

Catherine Callista Brook, age 16, facing a horrifying marriage to a man three times her age, seeks help from her best friend who she calls Richard to escape the forced marriage. Unfortunately the two teens are caught by their respective abusive fathers and to keep Richard from being beaten to death, Callie accepts marriage to the Jamaican planter who has fallen for her devilish red hair. Fast forward to 1814 and Richard, now called Gordon, a world wise adventurer accepts a contract to go to America and in the midst of the war of 1812, to find and bring  the widow of Matthias Audley back to England. Callie Audley fled to Washington, with her teenage step children and their grandparents after her husband died and the will, freeing the slaves on his plantations including his beloved children and made provision for their futures, disappeared. In Washington, the English born Callie makes a decent living as a seamstress but worries about the future of her mixed race step children. When an attack on Washington seems imminent she sends her family off to safety in Baltimore while remaining behind to protect her home and business. Richard arrives just in the nick of time to rescue her from British soldiers, intent on rape, have burned her house.  Thus begins a series of adventures and dangerous events involving the Battle of Baltimore that inspired The Star Spangled Banner, several murder attempts, a secret passage, and an exploding tower.

Callie and Richard are independent, resourceful, intelligent, and determined protagonists whose relationship begins with a powerful friendship and develops into a passionate love. The setting is fresh. One doesn't usually find much historical fiction about the War of 1812 and the danger and adventure just keep coming. Readers of the Lost Lords series will delight at a couple of cameo appearances of fondly remembered characters.

The dedication to the memory of Jo Beverley brought tears to my eyes and the Historical Notes at the end were well appreciated show Putney's research and respect for history.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book of the Week - A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey

Last year's Nothing Short of Dying was probably my favorite debut novel of the year. Colorado's Western Slope is kind of a small town even though area-wise it is larger than the 13 smallest states in the Union. If it were a state it would be the smallest in terms of population. So, when a local guy has a book come out that looks to be something my readers would like, I take notice.

Last year I was managing a library in Garfield County and trying to deal with a botched eye surgery which is why I figure I can't find the review I would have written about it. Anyway, I found it impossible to put down. It was set in places across the Western Slope from Grand Junction to the high country around Leadville. I booktalked it wherever and whenever I was booktalking for adults. I had wanted to bring Erik Storey to New Castle but with the larger libraries in Rifle (where there are some major scenes in the book) and Glenwood Springs they were more logical places for him to visit.

As I was reading this second Clyde Barr thriller, in which the kick-ass Billy Jack-like protagonist takes on an outlaw biker gang and terrorists when he finds a community on a Ute reservation under siege, I kept trying to figure out who I would cast in the movie because of its action movie feel and because I expect that if the Clyde Barr thrillers haven't yet been optioned for film they soon will be.

One of the things I love about Storey's books is the vivid depiction of the western landscape. I also enjoyed Lawana, a smart, resourceful, fierce, and educated Ute mother and physician. He treats his characters who are worthy of it with respect. Readers who love lots of action, flying lead, busted bones, blood, guts, and gore will revel in the carnage.