Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Escape Clause by John Sandford

Escape Clause is the ninth Virgil Flowers novel by John Sandford.  I have previously reviewed the first eight installments of this series here on the blogs.  Here's a link to the last one: Deadline.  And you can click on the John Sandford tag or search John Sandford on the blog to find the others.  In this installment Flowers takes on a wild case that quickly escalates from thievery/catnapping to murder.

When two rare, endangered tigers are catnapped from the state zoo, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension puts their best investigator on the case that could become a public relations nightmare if the tigers turn up dead.  Unfortunately scant clues and even less evidence leads to few leads for Flowers to follow up.  So he does what he does best: he starts asking questions, gathering information, and learning the local players in the illegal animal poaching and traditional medicine communities.  Eventually he bumps up against a name, Winston Peck, M.D., a shady character in the traditional medicine community in Minnesota; however, little actually ties Peck to the theft of the tigers.  A stray print at the crime scene yields another name, Hamlet Simonian, a small time criminal with a long rap sheet.  After Simonian's name and photo are released to the press, Peck's carefully controlled operation begins its slow but steady spin out of his control.  To clean up loose ends, Peck kills Simonian as well as some of the other players in the tiger-napping ring.

Flowers' investigation, taking heat from the media when hours turn to days with no tigers in sight, is unexpectedly complicated when an RV full of Simonians turns up in Minnesota; its occupants determined to find out what's being done to bring Hamlet's killer to justice and to conduct their own clandestine investigation to exact vengeance in the form of a pound of flesh.  Little does Peck know that the cops are the least of his problems.  If the tiger doesn't eat him first, the Simonians will kill him and no doubt feed the corpse to the tiger unless Flowers can roll him up first.

Meanwhile Flowers' girlfriend, Frankie, gets beat up in a case of mistaken identity.  After her sister Sparkle turns up to research the shady employment of undocumented workers at a shady, local factory for her dissertation, both women become targets of the factory's hired goons.  This turns out to be more distraction than threat in terms of Flowers' investigation, and nothing really comes of Sparkle's research (yet).

This is a page turning, highly readable thriller shot through with the subtle humor for which the Flowers novels have become known.  Fans of Sandford and especially the Flowers novels will enjoy this installment.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is a British writer; if I counted correctly on her website, this is her nineteenth novel.  I previously read about half of Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan, and then stopped because classes started.  I never picked it back up and haven't finished it.  The Bookshop on the Corner follows a similar plot from Little Beach Street Bakery and at least one other of Colgan's novels: a woman must leave most everything behind and start over again in a location where she finds a new home, love, and friends.  The Bookshop on the Corner is Colgan's love letter to readers and book lovers everywhere (she says so in the foreword of the book).  And the main character is very much a reader and lover of books.

When Nina's library is downsized and closed, the book loving librarian loses her job.  But her misfortune presents Nina with the perfect opportunity to chase her dream of opening a small bookshop.  And that's exactly what she does.  She finds a van for sale online;unfortunately, it's in rural Scotland.  However, Nina purchases the van and stocks it with her personal library of books as well as the liquidated stock from the library closure, and she pours everything she has into making her mobile bookshop a reality.

Luckily for Nina the book starved Scottish countryside (its libraries and bookshops have all closed) embraces both her and her bookshop.  And Nina falls in love with the community, the countryside, and its people.  She also hopes she might find some Scottish romance and in a place where the men outnumber the women, the odds are in her favor.  This is a heartwarming, humorous story of what it takes to start over in a place you don't know when your life falls apart.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit is the author of 15 books, among them Men Explain Things to Me, as well as essays and atlases.  The tagline on the home page of her website describes Solnit as "writer, historian, and activist."  Men Explain Things to Me is a slim volume of essays including the essay that lends its title to the volume.  I don't remember where or how I first came across Men Explain Things to Me, but it has been on my to-read list for quite a while.  It begins with the essay of the same title which is a deep exploration of the phenomenon now popularly referred to as "mansplaining."

The essays in this collection explore a number of ideas that share a common theme: society's silencing of women in a multitude of ways.  There is the silencing of women's voices through social mores ingrained in women from childhood through adulthood that condition the devaluation of the female voice.  Solnit also traces much of the violence that men commit against women to the patriarchy's need to control women in that violence and murder are the ultimate silencing of women.  Solnit also writes that although the root of violence is gendered (i.e. perpetrated overwhelmingly by men), this fact is often overlooked and seldom studied.  If a major risk factor for violence is not even acknowledged, how can society as a whole address it in an effective manner so as to eradicate it?

Solnit's essays are well-researched with statistics and facts to back up her positions.  And this collection is a thought provoking and empowering volume.  It is deeply engrossing and highly readable.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Miss Shayne returns this week with the review for the second installment of the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore.  Read on for her thoughts about Fire by Kristin Cashore!

As I mentioned in my blog post reviewing Graceling by Kristin Cashore, I wasn’t expecting another book in this series. However, this book is a partner to Graceling. It is set in an area adjacent to the realm where Graceling takes place. However, the areas (somehow) don’t know of one another and the superhuman phenomenon is different. In this land, instead of people being graced with abilities, there are monsters in the shape of animals and humans. For example, there are regular raptors and there are monster raptors that come in a variety of colors. These monsters are so enchanting; they can lure people to their deaths.

Fire (appropriately named because her hair is like fire) is the last of the human monsters. She is beautiful and has the ability to manipulate people’s thoughts. Her father was also a human monster, and he wasn’t the best influence on the king. It is his fault that the previous king became corrupt and eventually died. Fire learned from her father’s mistakes and understands that he was a horrible person, and this leads her to believe that because she is a monster, she is horrible as well. Because she is capable of manipulating other people’s thoughts, she believes that she is just like her father. She also believes that the human monsters should end with her.

But wait—that’s not all! In addition to Fire’s internal struggle, there’s a war brewing between the royal family and the powers of the North and the South. The North and South have teamed up in order to take the power from the royal family. Naturally, this is a problem, and the royal family is not going down without a fight. At the request of the royal family, Fire goes to the King’s city to use her ability to question possible enemies to try and learn of the enemies’ moves.

Though there were a few jaw- dropping moments, I found myself becoming less and less interested as this book progressed. The main conflict was kind of boring to me. Tensions are growing between the royal family and the Northern and Southern powers, and there is about to be a war for control. Even though this was the climax of the book, it was still made out to be less important than Fire’s problems with people finding her beautiful. We get it. Everyone wants Fire because she is so beautiful. I don’t know who’s sicker of this: her or me! To me, beauty isn’t an issue when the kingdom is on the line.
And why shouldn’t the royal family give up control? Besides looking scary, what reason are we given for the Northern and Southern powers to be an ill fit for ruling the land? Maybe they’d do it better. We aren’t given any reasons why they are corrupt. And they are justified in their desire to take over because the previous king was corrupt. Maybe they believe his son won’t be any different. Maybe I just didn’t understand this part of the book, or maybe it was poorly explained.

Spoiler Alert:

Another detail that kept me up at night is how did this land and the land from Graceling never discover each other? There is only a mountain range separating these two lands! The only person that is aware of both of these lands is a Graced boy who kidnaps Fire in this book, and later becomes a corrupt king in the first book. (Yes, the first book, because the second one goes back in time.) Anyway, these two lands are vastly different, but they’ve never met. Both lands need to round up some explorers for an expedition!

I really wanted to like this book; the reviews I read made it sound like the kind of book I would love, but I found myself skimming the boring parts, and there were a lot of them. Even though I’ll likely never read this book again, and I clearly had some issues with it, it still kept me occupied on the couch for hours at a time (at least in the beginning).  Interpret that how you will.

--Reviewed by Miss Shayne

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Miss Cherrie's Staff Picks 2016

This is the last post for the Staff Picks of 2016, and this week Miss Cherrie shares her favorite reads from the past year.  It's about a month into 2017, and we're already reading here at the library (who are we kidding?  We never stop reading here!).   Ms. Angie and the rest of the staff can't wait for the great books, movies, and music the rest of the year will bring!

Miss Cherrie's two favorite books from 2016 are:

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf