Friday, June 28, 2013

The “Cork O’Connor” Series

The “Cork O’Connor” Series

Author: William Kent Krueger
Rating: 4/5 Stars (Series Average)
Reviewer: Robert

            Many years ago as a patron, a friendly Round Lake Library check-out clerk said to me, “Hey Robert, you like the U.P. a lot – here’s a guy who writes about northern Minnesota. You should give him a try.” And she handed me William Kent Krueger’s “Iron Lake.”
            I’ve been going back to Minnesota ever since.
            For mystery/crime books, location and setting can be pretty important, perhaps especially for a series of books. And I can honestly say I like Krueger’s setting: deep woods Northern Minnesota, thick woody pines and cedar scents, Canadian geese v-ing across a crystal twilight starry sky, clear glassy lakes and fresh running streams, all mostly barren of the trace of people once the ripples of their canoe paddles have stilled.
            Yet, it’s the people in these stories bringing me back. Main character Cork O’Connor is the town of Aurora’s ex-sheriff/sheriff (things change book-to-book). The small town is large enough to have political squabbles, and squabbles between the folks who’ve moved there, and the Native American Anishinaabe residents who live in and near the town. Cork, part Irish and part Anishinaabe, provides a link to all residents, who often try to play his own cultural heritage against himself.
            After spending time in Aurora, I find I care about Cork. I care about his wife, Lawyer Jo. I care about their marriage and their struggling/growing relationship, and I care about how their interactions affect their family and their three children. Author Krueger has created a true sense of a growing family, with relationships ebbing and flowing through the series.
            Cork (as well as I) also cares about the seemingly ancient Anishinaabe woods neighbor, Henry Meloux. Almost a native seer or shaman, it’s not spoiler to say, Henry walks and lives quietly through many of these tales, providing mystic wisdom and guidance, as well as walking into occasions of danger. There’s a real sense of harm’s way in many of these books, and a spirit of suspenseful hope that families won’t be destroyed.
            I’m afraid you’ll want to read this series in order, start to finish. Place a reserve request at the library for them if you need to. And while you’re there, don’t forget to chat with the clerk – you might get a wonderful suggestion.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Aliens On Vacation

Aliens on Vacation
By: Clete Barrett Smith
Audiobook read by Joshua Swanson
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Deb

Summary: Scrub has to spend the summer with his ex-hippie grandmother in Washington State (middle of nowhere).  When he arrives at her Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast he is not surprised to see it decorated like a Star Wars movie, but more surprised at the weird-looking guests.  He discovers his grandmother’s bed & breakfast is not for Star Wars fans, but for actual aliens on vacation.  Grandma employs Scrub for the summer to help with the ‘registration’ of guests and along the way he has some very interesting adventures.  He makes friends with the sheriff’s daughter who is a fan of the cosmos.  However, the sheriff would like to close down the b&b and watch closely for any strange events.  Of course there are some strange events and one that may prove to be bad news for grandma and the b&b.

Review: A fun listen, the voices were well done and I laughed quite often.  I’m glad that there are more adventures about this far out bed and breakfast, and the often bizarre characters visiting Earth.  This is one you do not want to miss.

Monday, June 24, 2013



By: Stephen Lawhead
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Liz$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:1562536/nonmodal


King Raven has brought hope to the oppressed people of Wales--and fear to their Norman overlords. Deceived by the self-serving King William and hunted by the treacherous Abbot Hugo and Sheriff de Glanville, Rhi Bran is forced again to take matters into his own hands as King Raven.

Along the way Friar Tuck has been the stalwart supporter of the man behind the legend--bringing Rhi Bran much-needed guidance, wit, and faithful companionship.

Aided by Tuck and his small but determined band of forest-dwelling outlaws, Rhi Bran ignites a rebellion that spreads through the Welsh valleys, forcing the wily monarch to marshal his army and march against little Elfael.


In a spectacular ride from page one to the end of the book “Tuck” is the perfect ending to the King Raven trilogy. It has daring do-s, deception, romance, and great battles. Not to mention no shortage of beautifully inspiring speeches from Bran, which are almost reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “Once more onto the Breach,” and the St. Crispin Day speech. The new tale of Robin Hood could not have ended on a better note.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Etiquette & Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage

Author: Gail Carriger
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Todd

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.

Taking place in the same world, if not the same time, as The Parasol Protectorate series, Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in the new Finishing School series by Gail Carrier. It’s a good start for the same world we’ve seen before, and more importantly, it doesn’t carry any large overt spoilers from The Parasol Protectorate, making it safe to read without spoiling the story.

The story itself is about Sophronia Temminnick, a fourteen year old girl who is forced by her family to attend a finishing school, which slowly changes as she learns Mademoiselle Geraldine’s finishing school isn’t the typical finishing school. It’s one where the girls learn more than just how to do household management and manners. They also learn the arts such as poisoning, diversion and defense when you can’t have a gentleman do it for you. Along the way of enjoying her new education Sophronia gains friends in high and low places, makes an enemy out of a senior whose plans get botched during their first meeting, and having to deal with flyway men and one of the dreaded Pickle Men stalking and assaulting the school. Thrust into this new world, Sophronia strives to keep her head during her lessons and use them in her attempts to learn about the plot she’s stumbled upon, but to quote one of her teachers, “No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

American Pop: Hit Makers, Superstars, and Dance Revolutionaries

American Pop: Hit Makers, Superstars, and Dance Revolutionaries
By: Arie Kaplan
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Reviewer: Denise$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:2184664/nonmodal
Summary:This non-fiction book introduces young readers to the world of pop music, from the beginning to its presence. Explaining how pop music began, author Arie Kaplan describes the influences and evolution of pop music and how it came to be the way it is today. Includes information on well-known artists of the past and present such as Elvis, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. Also provides information on how radio, MTV, and the Internet changed pop music throughout the decades.

Review: Any music lover, young and old, will appreciate this American Music Milestones series. In American Pop: Hit Makers, Superstars, and Dance Revolutionaries, readers are informed in a fun, interesting, and educational way of their favorite musical genre. Pictures of America’s favorite musicians are showcased next to important facts that are in simple chronological order. This would be a perfect book for a young student who needs to write a book report on the subject of music because it would be a valuable resource for an assignment, and at the same time fun to read. Extra resources and suggested sources are presented towards the back of the book, while a “Must Download Playlist” with song titles and artists from the chapter are listed so the reader may listen to the songs they never heard. If you are interested in other musical genres, the Round Lake Library also has the books American Rock and American Latin Music from the series.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The “Alex McKnight” Series

The “Alex McKnight” Series

Author: Steve Hamilton
Rating: 4/5 Stars (Series Average)
Reviewer: Robert

Michigan may be the only state where a day’s car travel can take you from Hell (Livingston County) to Paradise (Chippewa County). Once in Paradise, past the town’s only crossroad, you’ll hit a crisscross of old lumber trails leading darkly into the Upper Peninsula’s deep woods. Had you kept going north, you’d soon get to Lake Superior, where the Edmund Fitzgerald foundered in 1975.
But don’t go to the lake. Take one of those rutted side roads. Take the one that leads you to Alex McKnight’s cabins. Rent one. Maybe he’ll tell you of his life, and how he’s fared since leaving the Detroit police force with a bullet near his heart. If you’re lucky, and it’s not winter there (September through June most years), you can walk with him to his friend Vinnie’s cabin, and hear how he and Vinnie have bonded, helping to save each other’s lives, and learn of his native Ojibwa family.
Maybe you can share a truck ride to the Glasgow Inn, have a cold Canadian by the fire. You may even ride all the way to Sault Ste. Marie; it’s a small big town, a border town, given to border smuggling and nasty cops. It’s a cold town. So is Paradise. But it often heats up when Alex’s police instincts kick in, and he comes across evil men as cold as the town.
Can’t make the trip today? Maybe you can. Steve Hamilton has penned a set of award winning books about Alex. I’d suggest you read ‘em in order. Get to know Alex, and get to know his friends and their histories, much as Alex does. I wouldn’t be surprised if you bonded with them.
And besides, who doesn’t want to go to Paradise?

Alex McKnight
1. A Cold Day in Paradise (1998)
2. Winter of the Wolf Moon (2000)
3. The Hunting Wind (2001)
4. North of Nowhere (2002)
5. Blood Is The Sky (2003)
6. Ice Run (2004)
7. A Stolen Season (2006)
8. Misery Bay (2011)
9. Die a Stranger (2012)
(Coming in July) 10. Let It Burn (2013)

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle

Author: Jeannette Walls
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Lydia$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:942176/nonmodal
“I was on fire.”

So begins The Glass Castle, a novel that is riveting and repulsive in equal measure. This autobiography was on the New York Times Bestseller List for weeks, and the beautiful writing and the stunning, if sometimes improbable-seeming story, live up to the hype.

The Glass Castle is a memoir in which Walls recounts her childhood of extreme and abject poverty—a childhood made all the more bittersweet because it could have been easily avoided. Her parents were nomads who despised normal nine-to-five jobs and everyday familial responsibilities. They lived in decrepit houses—if they even had a house at all—they didn’t attend public schools, they didn’t receive proper nutrition and medical care, and they lived in a constant state of danger and depravity.

There are many graphic scenes throughout the novel which involve children. For example, the book begins with the quote above when Jeanette is cooking by herself at three years old and ends up on fire. What ensues is a humorous, albeit horrific, escapade involving the Walls and the local hospital. This humorous streak continues throughout the book, even as Jeannette recalls how she resorted to eating food with maggots in it and how her brother had to put a tarp over his bunk bed in order to avoid being rained on from the hole in the ceiling.

What surprised me the most about this book is the way in which Jeannette forgives her parents, one of whom is deceased, despite everything that had happened to her and her siblings. As written in the story, Jeannette managed to make her way to New York City, attend an elite school, and become a famous writing living on Park Avenue (of all places!). This irony is explained better in the book. All in all, this memoir reads more like a fictional tale, and Walls’ writing style is descriptive and gorgeous, even as she recounts a life filled with much pain and sadness. Walls opens the reader’s eyes to the startling and glaring truth of poverty in twenty-first century America.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Running Dream

The Running Dream
By: Wendelin Van Draanen
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer: Sue

Summary: Jessica, a high school track star, loses part of her leg in a tragic bus accident on the way home from a track meet.  The Running Dream is a book about the challenges, emotions, pain, and social aspects that Jessica goes through as she comes to deal with her new situation.  All Jessica wants to do is run (and she is good!), so when they tell her she will be able to walk again, it is definitely not what she wants to hear.  With the support of family, friends, a coach, and her track teammates, Jessica may actually be able to run again.  But now she has a new goal. She wants to push her new friend Rosa’s wheelchair across the finish line.  It is important that everyone sees Rosa as a person, and not just see her disability. Winner of the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award.

Review: The Running Dream is a very inspirational book.  It makes you think about what Jessica is going through, how others react to the new Jessica, and how Jessica must rethink her personal dreams.  I found this book hard to put down.  While the subject could have been depressing, this is really an upbeat book. 

Monday, June 10, 2013



By: Stephen Lawhead
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Liz$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:1425529/nonmodal

After losing everything he owns, forester Will Scarlet embarks on a search for none other than King Raven, whose exploits have already become legendary. After fulfilling his quest--and proving himself a skilled and loyal companion--Will joins the heroic archer and his men.

Now, however, Will is in prison for a crime he did not commit. His sentence is death by hanging--unless he delivers King Raven and his band of cohorts.

That, of course, he will never do.

Wales is slowly falling under the control of the invading Normans, and King William the Red has given his ruthless barons control of the land. In desperation, the people turn to King Raven and his men for justice and survival in the face of the ever-growing onslaught.

From deep in the forest they form a daring plan for deliverance, knowing that failure means death for them all.


A great way to keep things fresh by changing perspective on the story, Scarlet picks up some time after “Hood” ends. Will recounts what happened in the in-between time, and he has a magical way of weaving a story.