Monday, October 28, 2013

The House of Secrets

Things are not going well for the Walker family.  Dr. Walker has lost his job due to "the incident" at work, and the family finances are suffering.  So when their real estate agent shows them a beautiful old, but recently renovated, Victorian home on the waterfront, it seems too good to be true.  The fact that the homes former owner, Denver Kristoff, was a writer, and the library is full of his books is a bonus for the oldest Walker child, Cordelia.

Almost immediately upon moving in, the Walker encounter the Wind Witch, an ancient hag with terrible powers whose father owned the house.  Dahlia Kristoff, AKA the Wind Witch, seriously injures the parents and send the kids into a dangerous fantasy world which the quickly discover is a strange combination of Denver Kristoff's books.

Not only do the Walker kids have to face off against the Wind Witch, but they are challenged by deadly pirates whose captain enjoys live dissections and a band of warriors who would rather kill first and ask questions later.  That's not to mention the sharks!

Will the Walkers stay true to themselves and their family, or will they lose this battle?  Read Chris Columbus's new book to find out.  FYI, this book has a blurb from J.K. Rowling on the cover!  Columbus is the director of Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets!

Friday, October 18, 2013


This is the amazing true story of the birth of the atomic bomb that began in 1939 with the discovery that uranium plus radioactivity equals fission.  This discovery was made in Germany as WWII was was simmering, and scientists were desperate to convince Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States, of the danger of this discovery.  It would take the urging of one of the most famous scientists in history, Albert Einstein, to convince him of America's need to begin a nuclear program.

With that decision, a team of scientists, headed by Robert Oppenheimer, was assembled to begin testing and development.  It would be a process filled with trial and error until eventual success.

Meanwhile, the Soviet Union (now Russia) was an American ally during WWII, but relations between America and Russia had never been friendly.  Once the war was over, Roosevelt knew we would be enemies again.  Therefore, America, Russia, and Germany began a secret race to develop the atomic bomb.

It wasn't a fair race.  All the sides had spies and saboteurs, and it was clear to the Allied Powers that Germany could not be allowed to develop the bomb.  At this time, Russian spies known as KGB agents were working to collect Communist sympathizers in the US to help develop their own weapon.

This book is a story of spies and science, elation and horror.  Steve Sheinkin's new book is a fast-paced must read thriller.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Young Dorothy's life in Kansas is gray and boring until she is swept up in a cyclone that deposits her and her dog, Toto, in the wonderful land of Oz.  She lands among the munchkins who are grateful to her for killing their greatest enemy, the Wicked Witch of the East, even if it was just an accident.  Despite the excitement of this new land, Dorothy quickly begins to long for home, so she heads off to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard hoping he will have the power to send her back to Kansas.

Along the way, she will meet a scarecrow longing for brains, a tin man longing for a heart, and a lion who wishes for courage.  These companions will discover wonders and face dangers in the hopes of having their wishes granted.

I've seen the moving too many times to count, but I am a little embarrassed to admit this is the first time I've read the book.  It is of course similar to the movie, but there are some core differences that were startling.  For example, rather than the constant enemy and villain she is in the movie, the Wicked Witch of the West doesn't appear until about two thirds of the way through the book!  All in all, L. Frank Baum's classic tale is definitely worth a read in its own right and as the inspiration for all the popular culture that it inspired.

Just for kicks, here is the trailer created for the 75th anniversary of the film:

Far Far Away

I am cheating a little because we don't actually have this book in the library yet.  It is on it's way, I promise!  Despite this, I had to write my review while it is still fresh in my mind because I loved this book!  It is the perfect blend of realism, fairy tale, mystery, and horror.  In fact, I'm not quite sure what section to put it in.  I should just make a section called "Awesome Books That Defy Categorization."

Jeremy Johnson Johnson hears voices, one voice in particular.  It's Jacob Grimm.  Yes, that Jacob Grimm, collector of fairy tales.  Jacob is stuck as a ghost because he has left something, he doesn't know what, undone.  He wondered the earth searching in vain for his brother Wilhelm  until he heard about the boy who could hear ghosts.  Since that time, he has been Jeremy's best friend in the small town of Never Better.

Jacob hopes that protecting Jeremy from a mysterious person known as The Finder of Occasions will help him pass on.  The only problem?  He doesn't know who this person is, only that he is a threat to Jeremy.

Aside from his friendship with a ghost, Jeremy leads a fairly lonely existence.  When his mother left years ago, his father hid away from the world in a deep depression, and Jeremy was left to fend for himself.  Now in addition to the looming specter of the Finder of Occasions, the Johnson home is in foreclosure, and Jeremy may soon be homeless.

Jeremy's life will take a turn for the interesting one day when flame-haired beauty, Ginger Boultinghouse, takes an interest in him.  Ginger starts to break loner Jeremy out of shell.  Even as Jeremy starts to feel real happiness, danger creeps ever closer.

You must read Tom McNeal's new book.  It is just so wonderful and charming and complex and steeped in the ancient world of fairy tales.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Cassie was born on the same day her town was drowned.  Old Lower Grange became a lake, and the new version of Lower Grange is shiny and new.  Even though Cassie can't remember Old Lower Grange, she feels the weight of the lost history there.  Twelve years later she still thinks about it.

Because she was born eight weeks premature, Cassie's lungs were underdeveloped, so she swims laps to help strengthen them.  One day she's had enough of the chaos of the town swimming pool and even the designated swimming area at the lake is too crowded.  Cassie decides to swim in the restricted area of the lake--the part where no one is supposed to go.

The town's long time mayor, Finkle, says it's dangerous.  There are too many places to get snagged.  But the more Cassie swims there, the more she realizes that just isn't true.  Soon she and Liam, who carries the scars of a long ago accident are meeting there to swim everyday.

The more they discover of the underwater town, the more Cassie starts to question what everyone else seems to take at face value.  Someone has a secret buried under all that water, and Cassie is determined to find the truth.

I really enjoyed this book!  Meg McKinlay manages to create an atmosphere of suspense at every turn in this book about truth and perception.  I was hooked all the way to the end!