Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman
A horrifying plague is spreading like wildfire all across the country. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it's Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with black and gold marks across their bodies-before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Infected nurse, Harper Grayson, must fight for her life and the life of her unborn child as the country begins to round up those with the 'scale. Helping her hide away from the self-appointed extermination gangs is a mysterious stranger called The Fireman, an infected man dressed in fire gear, who seems to have the ability to control the disease, and even use it to cause fires at will. As the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman's secrets before her life - and that of her unborn child - goes up in smoke.

The Fireman is one of the most thrilling, imaginative takes on an apocalyptic future, and will leave readers infected for more.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend's Exorcism
It’s 1988 in Charleston, South Carolina and sophomores Abby Rivers and Gretchen Lang have it all -- they’re popular, academically successful, and have a tight-knit group of friends. Most of all, they have each other. Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since the fourth grade, when their friendship bloomed against a backdrop of E.T., roller rinks, and Ms. Pac-Man. Now, as high schoolers, they are closer than ever and their friendship feels unshakable. 

Then, one night, Gretchen goes missing during a slumber party. Abby and the other girls find her in the woods hours later, but Abby knows something’s not quite right. Gretchen is withdrawn and acting weird, and Abby can’t seem to get through to her. Soon, everyone believes Gretchen is back to normal, but she’s still not the person Abby once knew. In fact, she’s becoming downright evil. Could she be possessed by the devil? And more importantly, is their friendship strong enough to survive what’s happening?

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a pitch-perfect mix of teen angst, ‘80s pop culture, horror and dark comedy. Best friend drama takes center stage, but there is no shortage of truly scary moments. Hendrix excels at creating an oppressive, claustrophobic atmosphere that only gets more spine-tingling as the pages turn.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Two for the Show by Jonathan Stone

Two for the Show
The main character, Chas, is a loner with no family or friends to speak of and a relationship to which he give very little of himself. Instead, his main focus in life is his job. It's a job that he has been devoted to for 20 years, but it's also a job that he can tell no one about. His life is one of secrets until one day when his life is thrown a curve ball. You see, Chas works for Archer Wallace, a.k.a. Wallace the Amazing. Wallace is a legendary performer in Las Vegas who can scan his audience, pick a person out at random, and tell him (or her) amazing details about his life. Things that would be impossible for the everyday person to know, but Wallace has the mental abilities to do this, at least that's what he says. In reality, he has an amazing memory, but Chas is the one supplying him with the amazing details. He scours the Internet and logs into private databases to cull as much information he can for his employer. Then, one day, Wallace calls on an audience member who throws the whole charade for a loop. That person isn't who he says he is. He knows it and so does Wallace, but what he wants is to force Wallace to pay him to keep quiet. Thus begins a roller coaster of events. With this interesting setup, the further you get into the story, the more you wonder how it's going to end.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky

Indemnity Only
V.I. Warshawski is a private investigator in Chicago. Late one night, a man comes to her office asking her to find two people, Anita Hill and Peter Thayer. However, it turns out that this man isn't who he says he is, and Warshawski isn't just looking for a missing person. This case becomes a race to find a killer in order to prevent more deaths from happening.

Indemnity Only keeps you turning the pages as one clue leads to the next. There never is a dull moment in Warshawski's investigation. One chapter builds on the next without need to digress or distract with unnecessary details. If you get caught up in Warshawski's sleuthing skills, then you can carry one with more of her investigations as Indemnity Only is the start of the seventeenth book in the "V.I. Warshawski" series so far. That said, the investigation in the story is nicely wrapped up by the end of this quick read.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How the Duke Was Won by Lenora Bell

How the Duke Was Won
The unacknowledged daughter of a wealthy earl, Charlene Beckett assists her mother managing a debt-ridden bawdy house and watches over her young and innocent half-sister. When Charlene is offered a large sum of money able to raise her family out of debt and on the path to a respectable life, she must pose as her legitimate half-sister, Lady Dorothea, and compete for the hand of a duke. James, the Duke of Harland, invites four of London society's most proper ladies to be considered for his wife. James is looking for a simple business arrangement, one that will recover his tattered reputation, but he is drawn to Lady Dorothea, despite her displaying the mos risqué behavior. Likewise, Charlene falls hard for the duke and debates giving up her charade and the money that goes with it to disclose her true identity.

Verdict Bell's talented debut is full of characters whose antics, from the clever to the ridiculous, will have readers laughing out loud. Charlene is smart and tough and easily steals the show with her gutsy nonconformity. Regency romance fans will delight in this expert start to a fun new series.

This review was originally published in Library Journal Xpress Reviews: Fiction, April 14, 2016.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The BFG by Roald Dahl

When you are young and little, the idea of a giant is an awesome conception, something even beyond words. That's where a good author makes a difference. One little girl, several extraordinary giants, and the magic of words all have roles in Roald Dahl's The BFG.

Sophie is a little girl who has been kidnapped by a giant and taken far away into a land of giants. Her kidnapper is a good giant. He is the BFG, the Big Friendly Giant.  He goes among neighborhoods at night, unseen, blowing dreams into the bedrooms of sleeping children. Unfortunately, Sophie has spotted him at work and he must now protect his secret, but in this land of giants there are others who would eat, and do eat, little children. Sophie, with the aid of the BFG, hatches a plan of action.

Dahl, who began writing children's books late in life, has an uncanny, unsentimental way of capturing the imaginations of young readers. He creates unique characters and situations, all in an environment that is fantasy and yet totally believable. Who wouldn't enjoy a story with a little girl among giants who fearlessly becomes a heroine? Who wouldn't care about a friendly giant who had no schoolin' and uses words like kidsnatched (kidnapped), human beans (human beings), and chiddlers (children)?

The BFG, first published in 1982, has taken its place among Roald Dahl's many other masterworks. It has even captured the imagination of that most remarkable of big screen dream weavers, Steven Spielberg. Spielberg's film version of The BFG will be released in the summer of 2016.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton may be the least known among our country's founding fathers. The two familiar facts of his reputation may be his presence on the ten dollar bill and the sad fact that he perished in a famous duel in 1804. Hamilton was born out of wedlock in the West Indies. There is uncertainty as to the identity of his father. Penniless, he migrated to New York, alone, in his mid-teens. Yet by the age of twenty-two he was the chief of staff to Washington during the American Revolution. He became an essential interpreter and promoter of the US Constitution in the first years of the republic. He was not only founder of the Federalist Party, the US Coast Guard and the New York Post, but as the first Treasury Secretary he implemented financial reforms and programs that secured the future of his young country.

Ron Chernow's biography is considered by many to be the best account of Hamilton's life. It is long and dense but, in the words of one critic, it is that happy rarity, "a popular biography that should also delight scholars." Hamilton's brilliance and foresight shine with dazzling effect in Chernow's storytelling and analyses. If we think that politics and the press are poisoned in our own time, we learn that the modern era may pale beside the vitriol of early America. It was not just reputations that were contested in such contentious times. The founding fathers argued over the direction of the country. There were fundamental differences over executive authority, the implied clause in the constitution, and federal precedence over states' rights  In short time, the two party system would emerge and dominate the politics of American culture. It is this background that leads to the fatal encounter between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in July of 1804.

In 2015, Chernow's biography became the inspiration for Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's blockbuster hip hop musical. Miranda read the book while on vacation in 2008. Seven years later, 700 people waited in line for lottery tickets for the opening night preview of his musical on Hamilton's life. While they waited they could have read the book.