Books & More
"Whatever the theologians might say about Heaven being a state of union with God, I knew it consisted of an infinite library; and eternity...was simply what enabled one to read uninterruptedly forever."
— Dervla Murphy
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Real & fantastic
Title: Hilda and the Midnight Giant
By: Luke Pearson
As Americans, we like to think of England as the bustling city of London surrounded by the rolling green hills of the countryside. The reality is different, of course, but it is easy to disconnect from that reality when we live an ocean and the width of a continent away — and just as easy to imagine that fairies might exist in those enchanted hills. The Hilda series* takes advantage of these notions, and introduces readers to a world almost exactly like our own, but where the presence of fairies and otherworldly creatures is part of everyday life. One day you could open your door to go out, and a Wood Man might walk in, causing you to say, "Hey! You have your own house, go home!" Alas, to no avail, as he simply ignores you and makes himself at home by the fireplace. Incidents like this are par for the course for this world, and so Hilda and her mother just roll with it — except for rare occasions when dangerous creatures like trolls, giants, and large black hounds must be dealt with.
The whimsy of this world is given to the reader so straight that at first you question it, thinking that maybe the character is having a dream. But then you find that the world is just like that, and it works out wonderfully. Hilda is a character who shows us that while this world may be a little dangerous, with caring and kindness (and perhaps a little help from some friends), you can get along just fine. A fantastic read that readers of all ages are sure to enjoy.
*SCPL also owns Hilda and the Troll, Hilda and the Bird Parade, & Hilda and the Black Hound
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Title: Torn Away
By: Jennifer Brown
Life can change in an instant. Growing up in Elizabeth, Missouri, Jersey Cameron is used to frequent tornado warnings. When a tornado rips through her hometown, destroying her house and killing her mother and sister, Jersey is left with nothing. Before long, her stepfather sends her to live with her biological father, whom she doesn’t know. Racked with loneliness and guilt, Jersey doesn’t know how to go on with her life. When it becomes clear that her father doesn’t want her to live with him, Jersey ends up with her mother’s parents, who supposedly had disowned her mother years before. Jersey soon learns that her grandparents are not the people she expected them to be, but can she learn to trust them enough to be able to overcome all the emptiness that the tornado left behind?
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Title: The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air
By: Joaquim Dos Santos
Rare is the sequel that can equal the original, yet The Legend of Korra continues and deepens the alchemy of Eastern mythology, intriguing characters and spiritual adventure that made its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender perhaps the greatest show of all time. As the avatar, headstrong Korra must bring about balance between the spirit and material worlds, and within herself. Sublime entertainment that aspires not only to diversion, but to wonder.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Clarity and wit
Title: Pawn Structure Chess
By: Andy Soltis
In 1749, Philidor called pawns "the soul of chess." Andy Soltis heeded this wisdom and organized his book not around the bewildering variety of openings, but around the handful of pawn structures that the openings reach at the mid-game. Here are archetypal positions to suit many temperaments: pugilist, assassin, architect, spy. Other writers on the subject have invented their own peculiar terminology for each pawn; there’s no such willful obfuscation here. What's more, Soltis's study is no mere list of moves with the relief of an occasional diagram. He delights and instructs with his reliable clarity and wit. A classic of the genre.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
A helluva summer
Title: One summer: America, 1927
By: Bill Bryson
Bryson has done it again; a masterpiece of research and fun.
One Summer: America 1927 doesn't have the belly laughs of A Walk in the Woods, but with his wry communication of the delightfully absurd, nonsensical, or totally awesome, he brings four months in our history under the microscope and asks us to share with him the eccentricities, the foibles, and the seminal events that made us, US. It is a robust nation he depicts, in its hero worship, its fears, its hates, and its obsessions.
Charles Lindbergh's remarkable flight led the summer off. While America had a few barnstorming acrobats, Europeans dominated the air. This untaught natural flyer decided to fly across the Atlantic to Paris, thus moving into hero status far beyond the dreams of any modern day rock star. Millions of fans, both here and abroad, swarmed his appearances and made this bashful hero's life in the ensuing months a relative nightmare. But his tour across America that summer did more to advance American aviation than his flight to Paris.
It was also the summer of Sacco and Vanzetti and the anarchists, the murder and trial of the husband killers (later filmed as Double Indemnity), and an eminently forgettable do-nothing President Coolidge. It was the summer of baseball heroes: Babe Ruth with his voracious appetites and his off- and -on buddy Lou Gehrig, bashful and preternaturally attached to his mother. Prohibition was at its height, and Al Capone and Charles Ponzi were hard at work with their illegal machinations. The greatest financial minds of two continents made the fatal decision that set in motion the Great Depression. It was the golden age of picture palaces; over 800 feature films were released from Hollywood that year. Sadly, it was also the age of loathing: bigotry and the Ku Klux Klan were rampant, and eugenics a newfound "science."
Bill Bryson must keep a team of fact checkers employed, or else he doesn't sleep much. We know from At Home, A Short History of Nearly Everything, and Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words that his keen mind is profoundly curious. His writing enlivens the most obscure details, this time of a vigorous nation with occasional inglorious moments. Bryson writes, "It was a helluva summer." This is a must read for anyone interested in our history.
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