Thursday, September 24, 2009
206 Bones by Kathy Reichs is the most recent addition to the annals of the adventures and misadventures of Dr. Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist. This is a must read for die-hard fans of the series. From the gripping, frightening, heart pounding opening lines, the tension is thick and the suspense is high.
In this installment the stakes are much higher than in previous Brennan novels. 206 Bones is not just about catching a brutal murderer of elderly women; the integrity and credibility of the Montreal medical examiner's office is also at stake as well as Brennan's own reputation, credibility, career, and eventually her life.
Brennan awakens in pitch black darkness and cold without any memory of how she got there or the past several days. She is unsure of how long she has been unconscious or how much time she has spent in captivity. Instead Brennan focuses on passing the time by working to free herself from her terrifying, dark tomb while reconstructing her memories of the events of the past few weeks in hopes of sussing out her captors.
In the previous weeks Detective Ryan and Dr. Brennan accompany a body to Chicago where Brennan is accused of mishandling the autopsy by an anonymous call made to the powerfully connected next of kin to the elderly female victim. Upon return to Montreal, more elderly female murder victims turn up and before long it is clear that not only is someone targeting Brennan's credibility, but that person is also targeting the reputations of other pathologists' in the office. On top of this issue is the suddenly toxic working atmosphere of the office thanks to an ambitious recent addition to the staff. Ryan and Brennan race to put a murderer behind bars while Brennan races to put together the pieces of the mystery of who is sabotaging work in the office and how it all connects to her current predicament of captivity.
Fans of both mystery thriller/suspense and the Brennan series will eagerly devour this gripping, suspenseful, frightening, high stakes page turner of a novel. It is available at the Matthews Public Library and upon request from Annville Free Library, Myerstown Community Library, Palmyra Public Library, and Richland Community Library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
"I feel apart from everything and a part of everything ... I wish this pain would go," he muttered. "But it's getting worse ... It's like walking with a shadow you can't shake off. And now this new vision. I can't make sense of it. All I know is it's..." He breathed heavily out. "It's something to do with the light. Something not many people can see. But you can see it. You think your biggest mystery's Josh. But it isn't. It's this other thing." from page 78
Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler simmers with crackling, heart pounding suspense right from the start as the story breathlessly sweeps you up and along in its momentum.
The story opens with a frightening phone call from a mysterious and strange boy who wants to die and who knows things about Dusty that only her long disappeared brother Josh would know. For this reason Dusty thinks the boy knows more about her brother's disappearance and fate than the boy admits. The promise of getting to the boy, saving him and finding out what he knows about Josh lures Dusty out into the cold and snowy night. As she tracks the boy to a nearby park, she is confronted and chased by a trio of menacing men--a father and his two sons--who also chase the boy for far more sinister purposes. The men threaten Dusty and everyone she loves in an effort to coerce her into revealing her perceived connection to the boy and to exploit this connection in order to entrap the boy. Though Dusty doesn't even know the strange boy, she protects what little she does know of him and just how they have connected, in order to give herself a chance to track him down to find out what he knows about her brother.
When the boy contacts Dusty again over the phone, it's clear he is not a normal boy, but what or who exactly is he and what does the strange light he speaks of and that Dusty sees as well mean for her, for him and for her small village? Unfortunately, while the author excels in the suspense and thrills department, he does not excel in the department of answering questions for these are never fully resolved by book's end.
Ultimately made an outcast in her town and targeted by the bands of vigilantes bent on bringing the strange boy to justice for crimes he allegedly committed, Dusty is just as determined to shield him from police and angry mob alike. The mysterious turmoil brought about by the boy's presence and very existence steadily and wildly spins out of control as the story whips through one frightening confrontation between the angry mob of vigilantes and Dusty after another until the final frightening, breath taking showdown.
The lack of answered questions as to the boy's name and nature and what his presence means detracts considerably from the ending's impact potential. While the boy and Dusty are both clearly on journeys of their own that parallel and intersect, the story is mainly Dusty's as she seeks answers and healing for herself and her shattered family as she struggles to grasp the greater meaning of the lessons in the boy's predicament. Ultimately, Dusty receives a heartbreaking and harrowing resolution to the questions she had about her brother's disappearance and who he was as a person.
This book is available in the young adult fiction section of the Matthews Public Library and also upon request from Richland Community Library.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
First of all, as a person who has always been interested in names and their origins and meanings, I'd just like to say that the name Deliverance Dane is awesome. Truly awesome--and according to the author's note at the end of the book, it belonged to a real person involved in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in Massachusetts. Deliverance Dane. I love that name.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is the debut novel of Katherine Howe, a doctoral candidate in American and New England Studies. In 1991, Connie, a Harvard graduate student just beginning her doctoral dissertation research in American colonial history and culture, is coerced by her mother into cleaning up her grandmother's ancient house in Marblehead, Massachusetts. When Connie arrives, the house is in near ruins, having stood empty for about twenty years, the yard's herb and vegetable gardens are overgrown and the house lacks a phone and electricity. One evening Connie happens across an old key hidden in a family bible; the key is labelled with ancient parchment as belonging to one Deliverance Dane. Thus begins Connie's search for the identity of this woman; Connie's early research yeilds the name of Deliverance Dane on a 1692 list of excommunicated persons from the Salem church. She knows what this means: Dane was caught up in the tragedy and terror of the Salem Witch Trials of that year. But who was she and why was her name purged from history? Connie, plagued by puzzling, frightening visions, becomes determined to answer these questions. Interwoven with this story are chapters hearkening back to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that reveal the very beginnings of Dane's ordeal in the decade preceding the panic that spawned the witch trials, the trials, and Dane's trial's aftermath on the generations of Dane women immediately descended from Deliverance. How does Dane's story connect to Connie's present? Connie utilizes all her skills as a historian to trace the whereabouts of Dane's spellbook as it is passed down the generations mother to daughter.
With a gripping story firmly rooted in research the intriguing, fascinating and heartbreaking history of the Salem Witch Trials is intermingled with several historical, cultural, anthropological and societal theories explaining the panic that gripped such a small town. The page turning suspense carries the reader quickly toward a heartpounding climax in which Connie realizes that both her history and her future are far more intertwined than she ever could have imagined.
This book is available here at the Matthews Public Library and also upon request from the Annville Free Library. I highly recommend that history buffs, family genealogical enthusiasts, or mystery lovers check it out.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Let me tell you a girl of eleven is capable of far more than is dreamt of in most universes ... a girl of eleven is more than the sum of her age. Although it is not often stated, she is already living in her twelfth year; she has entered into the future. From pages 4-5
I told him stories are the way you look at the world. That stories are your salvation. Stories are your salvation. From page 228
There may be no one [my mother] loves more than me, but every time she looks at me she sees my sister ... Warring ghosts fight each other inside my mother's heart, and the battles have made her stern and strong. From page 229
I have a lot to say about this book, and I suppose that means it had more of an impact on me than I initially thought. When I was reading one of the last chapters I was thinking about how I was disappointed in this book... mostly because I felt that nothing really "happened" in it. Upon further reflection I've realized that this is not really true. Perhaps the reason I felt like this is because it's a quiet kind of book that sneaks up on you and also because it is largely a book that depicts the very colorful inner life, internal thoughts, and vivid imagination of an eleven year old girl. Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee is a coming of age story; it is very much a story about how Clara winter (spelled with a lower case 'w'--she has profound reasoning behind this quirk) sees others and the world around her. This is also very much a book about a reader and a lover of words.
Clara loves reading; she loves words--one of her favorite words is ingenuous because it's "perfect ... the way the 'g' slides into the 'enuous.'" She is also fascinated by pioneer history, and she hates the dark and the cold and the desolation of the winter season and what it took from her all those years ago, and that is why her last name is spelled with a lower case 'w.' Clara is an unusually precocious, eccentric eleven year old with an extremely vivid imagination, and one winter she decides to befriend an old man in her town named Georg. Clara likes to make up stories and sometimes she forgets what she's made up and what is the truth; at first I thought she was an unreliable narrator. However, Clara has no trouble realizing or remembering what is part of a story she made up and what is fact. The novel is as much about Clara and the year she puts away childish things as it is about her made up stories and how she uses them to fill in the blanks of her history--namely, the absence of her father, grandfather, and twin sister--that her mother refuses to talk about and to cope with these painful absences. In the short months long friendship between Clara and Georg, she learns a lot from the old man; specifically Clara learns how to see the possibility of both beauty and usefulness in the discarded detritus of others' daily lives. She is forever changed by her friendship with the old man.
This quiet kind of beautiful story with its beautiful writing is meant to be read slowly--to be savored and reflected upon as one reads. This wasn't how I read most of the book and in some ways I regret not taking the time to appreciate the story for what it is-- a coming of age story of a young girl and the account of the year that demarcates where her childhood ended and her adulthood began.
This book is available upon request from Lebanon Community Library. I recommend that you check it out the next time you visit.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Session 9 stars Peter Mullan, David Caruso and Josh Lucas, who, let's be honest, is the whole reason I stumbled upon and watched the movie. It's too bad Lucas plays an insensitive jerk, but I guess it's good for his career not to be cast as the romantic lead/hero in every movie he's in. At the end of this movie, I thought "Whoa. Wait a minute. What just happened?" And apparently the catalyst behind what happens in this film is up to much debate and interpretation in the cyberuniverse where the ultimate consensus is that it is in the eye of the viewer as to which interpretation one believes. I will say that while I expected this movie to go in one direction --that is, the supernatural/horror path--it really went in an altogether different direction for me. One bit of advice for viewing this movie: watch closely because there little details that will clue the viewer into what is happening.
Jeff, Mike, Hank, Phil and Gordon make up the hazardous materials clean up crew hired by the city to clean up the Danvers State Mental Hospital building so that the structure can then be converted into city government office space. The crew has just a week to finish the job if they want to collect the $10,000 bonus that's been offered to them. The guys undertake the job in the creepy hospital, and it quickly becomes apparant that stress and tension threaten to endanger both the team and the job. Are the cracks that threaten the team's cohesiveness the result of something more sinister at work that's preying upon the men's psyches and fears? Or are the cracks the result of various outside stressors occurring in the men's outside lives to create a perfect storm of infighting and tensions on the job site? Gordon has tension at home, Hank is a jerk, Phil starts having doubts about Gordon's leadership, Jeff fears the dark, and Mike becomes obsessed with a box of old session tapes that may or may not reveal the dark secret the hospital harbors. There are nine session tapes in all and it is from the ninth tape that the movie takes its title. How does the story related in the session tapes parallel what's happening in the movie's present?
Wicked scary, creepily freaky more than adequately describe this film, a psychological thriller in every sense of the word; you'll be viewing it from the edge of your seat by the end of the movie. After the movie's over, you'll wander if it was something supernatural that lingered in the hospital or was it the residual effects of treating so many mental illnesses for so many years in one building that haunted the team.
I highly recommend you check out this movie the next time you visit the library. It is coming soon to the Matthews Public Library's DVD section.
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie