Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Matched Trilogy

If you have girls of a certain age in your house, and they loved The Hunger Games, then you should introduce them to The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie.  They will thank you for it.

Matched is the first book in the series, and in it we meet Cassia. She has a loving mother and father, a younger brother, and all the security that she could ever ask for. What she doesn't have is choices. The Society makes all of her choices for her and the other citizens of Mapletree Borough, including what art, poems and music she will enjoy, who she will be matched with and how she will die on her 80th birthday. You see, they have collected and sorted all the pertinent data, so the Society knows best how to keep everyone optimally safe and healthy. That is, if you are a Citizen. If you are classified as an Aberration or an Anomaly, things don't turn out so great for you. But the data is not always correct, for even though Cassia is matched to her handsome, life-long friend Xander, it is an Aberration that she truly loves.  Crossed takes Cassia into the world of the Carving, the place where she learns about the Rising and the people who live outside of the Society.  It is a stark and beautiful place, filled with danger and obstacles both physical and mental, but it is in the final book Reached that Cassie is finally able to make her own choices. Will they be the right ones? You'll just have to read the books to find out.

The Matched Trilogy reminded me a little of Logan's Run, although with longer lives and a lot less debauchery. (Did I just date myself of WHAT?!) My daughter loved the books, and I enjoyed reading them, but I'll let you DECIDE for yourself!  TBC

The Bookman's Tale

Charlie Lovett's recipe for a great book:

~one part history
~one part mystery
~one and a half parts love story
~a pinch of thievery mixed with greed
~season with centuries-old family feud
~throw in spicy and complex characters

Mix well with undying love until beautifully bound, and sprinkle with plenty of twists.
Read, read and read again, or until your literary appetite has been satisfied.

Some authors just know how to get their audiences' attention, and what better way to get a book lover's attention than to write about books? The Bookman's Tale is the story of Peter Byerly, a socially anxious student at a small college in North Carolina who finds his escape and passion in the rare book collection of his school.  Miraculously, the school's library also leads him to another passion, Amanda, the love of his life. Her love of Victorian art and his of Elizabethan literature leads them to England where they eventually buy a cottage in the small village of Kingham.  It is to this cottage that Peter retreats after Amanda tragically dies.  Grieving Peter is barely existing when a chance encounter with a mysterious watercolor leads him into an unparalleled opportunity to finally answer a question scholars have debated for generations:  Who wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare? But first he must navigate around desperate book sellers and pig-headed academics, discovering for himself what is original or merely brilliantly forged.  Reputations and millions of dollars are at stake, and all is not polite cups of tea in the world of antiquarian books.

In The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett, the author has cooked up one of the best stories I've read this year.  I absolutely loved it and hated to reach its end.  I hope he writes another book for dessert...soon!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

His Majesty's Hope

Maggie Hope is back in His Majesty's Hope, and she's better than ever.

Susan Elia MacNeal's third Maggie Hope Mystery takes our heroine into the heart of Nazi Germany.  Not that the Nazis had a heart, but they did have Berlin. Maggie is the first female spy to be dropped behind enemy lines, and she is uniquely suited to this job, for it is her recently discovered relative in the German spy machine that she is targeting.  Once inside the lair of the beast, she is given an opportunity she cannot refuse and extends her mission against the wishes of her handlers.  What she discovers proves the immense evil that lurks in Germany and just how far the Nazis are willing to go to purify their "race".  It is an experience that changes Maggie forever.

His Majesty's Hope is by far my favorite book in this series. I now can't wait for the next one, The Prime Minister's Secret Agent.  Thank you, Ms. MacNeal!  Keep on writing!!

By the Great Horn Spoon!

If you live in California and have children, you have probably heard of this book.  It was required fourth grade reading for my children, the year they study California history.  I usually read everything my children do, (Except 1984. Sorry Mr. Orwell.) but somehow I missed out on this one.  It's never too late for a great book, even one meant for fourth graders!

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman tells the story of twelve-year-old Jack and his butler Praiseworthy who have joined the 1849 gold rush to California. They are determined to make their fortune in order to save the family home in Boston.  Along the way they run into adventures and dilemmas, using their noggins and positive attitudes to solve every problem.  A little bit of luck helps, too. The book is filled with fantastic characters and outrageous situations, but all of it is based on real history.  In other words, you learn a lot and have fun doing it!

I recommend By the Great Horn Spoon! to everyone, but especially if you live in California.  It is a fascinating time in our history, and the beginning of our great state.  There's a 1967 Disney movie based on the book called The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, starring Roddy McDowall and Suzanne Pleshette. You can rent it on Amazon for 1.99.  I think I'll stake my claim on that tonight!  (Wa, wa, wa....) TBC

The House at Riverton

I absolutely LOVED The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, so I thought I'd give The House at Riverton a try. It's pretty darn good!

Kate Morton's debut novel is set at beautiful Riverton House, the country estate of Lord Ashbury, Lady Violet and the extended Hartford family.  Born at the turn of the century, Grace Bradley moves from her mother's tiny home in the village to work downstairs at Riverton.  It's still the era before WWI, when one's place in society and loyalty to the gentry were not questioned.  Grace soon becomes enthralled with the Hartford grandchildren, Hannah, Emmeline and David.  Beautiful, eccentric and about her age, Grace becomes their caretaker and lifelong secret keeper when she discovers the great secret of her own life.  But maybe some truths are meant to remain hidden.

The secrets of The House at Riverton are told though the voice and memories of Grace, living out the end of the 20th Century at a nursing home in the village where she grew up.  Kate Morton expertly weaves the story of Grace and the Hartfords between the tragic days of WWI, the glamorous twenties and present day (sort of!) England.  She really is a terrific writer, and I am excited to read all of her books.  I hope you agree!  TBC