Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I am half sick of shadows by Alan Bradley



I am a fan of Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce series.  I have talked about these quirky mysteries featuring a pre-teen Flavia De Luce before.  The last book in the series so far, is # 4 I am half sick of shadows, and it is a Christmas-themed mystery.  I read this book a year ago when it first came out, and really enjoyed it.

In this novel, eleven-year-old chemistry whiz, Flavia de Luce, has whipped up an ingenious plan to ensnare St. Nick on Christmas Eve.  However, her father has agreed to rent out the crumbling manor house to a film crew.  The movie stars a famous diva and when the entire village assembles at the manor to watch her perform they get more than they expect.  Before the evening is over, there is a murder, and the raging blizzard outside prevents anyone from getting in or out.  Flavia must use every means available to her to catch the murderer among them.

If you are not a fan of the usual Christmas titles, you might give this one a try.  But I would suggest reading numbers 1, 2, and 3 first in order to get an understanding of the characters.  What I especially enjoyed about this installment in the series is how Flavia’s relationship with her sisters changes; and that feels like a Christmas present for fans.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham



This week’s OFF THE SHELF comes from the SCRLreads page on the website.  When I needed a Christmas item, Mary, our head librarian, came through, and she writes:

“This is not your usual Grisham novel.  There are no lawyers or bad guys.  This is a “feel good” Christmas story.  The Krank’s only daughter has gone off to Peru with the Peace Corps to teach primitive children how to read.  They decide to “skip” Christmas and spend the money on a Caribbean cruise, which leaves on Christmas Day.  They soon discover that it’s not that easy to “skip” Christmas.  Hemlock Street is a very Christmassy neighbourhood.  The Kranks won’t be participating in the neighborhood Christmas decorating theme.  They won’t be having their turn at the annual Christmas Eve bash.  They aren’t even putting up a tree.  All their neighbours become very concerned.  Are they ill?  Is something wrong?  And then, at the last minute, their daughter announces she’ll be home for Christmas after all.”

The library has a sizable collection of Christmas-themed fiction for anyone wanting to put a little Christmas spirit into their reading.  The brochure “Holiday Fiction” is available on the website, so have a look.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone, and keep reading in 2013.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Far from the tree by Andrew Solomon



We’ve all heard the old saying “The Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”  The context in which we hear it, is not usually positive.  I’m guessing that it’s from this old saying that Andrew Solomon takes the title of his new book, Far From the Tree: Parents, children, and the search for identity.  In this new bestseller, Solomon tackles the issue of parenting exceptional children.

Solomon begins with an analysis of the parent/child relationship, and how those roles have evolved.  In the following chapters he offers keen observations and analysis of the relationship between parent and child, when this relationship is tested.   Solomon eloquently writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender.  Solomon looks at how the wider community views these parents and children.  

Drawn from forty thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than three hundred families, the stories in this book are heartbreaking, but many are inspirational, all are revealing; especially when we look into our own hearts.  Booklist magazine states, “Solomon focuses on the creative and often desperate ways in which families manage to tear down prejudices and preconceived fears and reassemble their lives around the life of a child who alters their view of the world.

To listen to Michael Enright's interview with Andrew Solomon, please click here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair



This week's OFF THE SHELF novel is also listed in the SCRLreads blog.
 
Have you been to Cuba recently?  Shortly, thousands of Canadians will visit that country, but I would suggest that very few will get an appreciation for what life is like for its residents.  Peggy Blair, in The Beggar’s Opera, tells us about a side of Cuba that tourists rarely see.

In the novel, Mike Ellis, a Canadian detective, is visiting old Havana.  He hopes that a few weeks of relaxation will save his troubled marriage.  While walking down the Malecon with his wife, he gives a few pecos to a boy begging in the street.  Unbeknownst to Mike, this small kindness sets in motion a series of events that has him facing murder charges, prison, and the death penalty.    The lead inspector is the very likeable Ricardo Ramirez; a good man trying to do his job without the basic resources that we take for granted (like gasoline, and pencils).   He and the forensic pathologist become caught up in a case that has more twists and turns than a Havana back alley.

In the novel, Celia Jones, a Canadian lawyer, points out that “Havana had two faces: the one the tourists saw and the real one.”  Blair exposes the stifling bureaucracy, shortages, and depravity, all the while preserving the dignity of the citizens. Celia Jones also observes, “There was great kindness in this country”.

To listen to Shelagh Rogers' interview with Peggy Blair, click here.