Category: Staff Recommendations

THE WOOODCUTTER

thewoodcutterWho this book would appeal to:
Lovers of mysticism, magic, intrigue, poetic imagery, and good vs. evil

Who this book would not appeal to:
Chronic realists (those who look for real-world examples and applications) and general haters of beautiful fairy tales.
I wasn’t sure what to think of this book when I first picked it up. It was
recommended to me by a website, and when the internet tells you that you’ll like something, the results are a mixed bag. Mostly a mixed bag of poo. Poo that wastes your time. Pleasantly, however, I enjoyed this wonder-filled tale from page one.

The Woodcutter was in one word … charming. I’m not talking about the book (well, the book too) but the main character: The Woodcutter. He is of the fables that I read when I was little, made of faithfulness, discipline, honesty and meaning. Those traits, and more, were required throughout his adventures. The reader follows him through ballrooms, kingdoms on clouds, and haunted (in every sense
of the word) houses. Each decision he makes has the ability to devastate the woods that so many call home.

After I finished the entire book I flipped back thorough to each introduction to a new character. Almost every one of them is from a Grimm or Andersen or other famous story. Cinderella? Check. Red Riding Hood? Check. Evil Queen? Check. But knowing this doesn’t spoil a thing. All of these beloved characters are a familiarly-different reincarnation. All are part of something bigger.

After reading so many stories, a side-effect of “oh I know what’s going to happen now” starts to occur. I can say I had no clue where this Woodcutter was about go. The only hints you get are the only ones you know (Cinderella had glass shoes, “magic” beanstalks come from “magic” beans…) and the tales are so intermixed that all the reader can do is watch. And, in some ways, learn something new from tales you’ve heard so many times.

Point being, if you are looking for an adventure to sweep you off your feet and whisk you away to a magical ballroom of pretty words and not-so-well-intentioned monarchs, this is the one book you have to read.

Also, the cover is beautiful.

DON’T DUMP THE DOG

6061104en I was young, I thought there was nothing more annoying than small yappy rat dogs who wouldn’t shut their yappy little mouths. Fast forward to today, I am the proud(?) owner of a shih-tzu mix with said infamous super power: Sonic Bark.

So occasionally I wander over the dog training section. Dog training books tend to be very similar to textbooks:

Problem: solve for x
Solution: x + y = 0

Cool. Not riveting, but helpful.

Don’t Dump the Dog is more:

Problem: A man comes in with an X. He’s awfully whiny about it (considering
he’s the one that committed in the first place) and wishes to give the teacher
said X. He wants it solved for him and, if unsolvable, wishes the teacher to
make the problem disappear. The teacher curbs his initial reaction (throwing the X right back at the man, followed up by a punch to the gonads) and instead
addresses the entire class (all of them waiting to give the teacher their X)
“x + y = 0. Stop being stupid and lazy”.

Along with very realistic solutions to the most common dog problems, this book offers a kind of self-deprecating, extremely entertaining, somewhat people-aggressive humor that had me reading the entire thing. Did I really need to know what to do when my dog continually “sees a man about about a horse” (book joke, read it!)? No, thank the Lord. But the stories alone put enough in perspective that by the end, I realized that although I can improve on my doggie, he’s pretty well behaved.

THE DRAFTER

the drafterI was distraught, DISTRAUGHT, when Kim Harrison’s Hollows series came to a close last year. Like I put off reading the last book for months until I was okay (or as okay as I was going to get about it) with it being the last time Rachel, Trent, Jenks, Ivy Et al. would grace the pages of a new story. There were tears, people.

Then I waited. And waited some more. AND THEN this book came out and I jumped at the chance to read it. I knocked it out in just over 24 hours (my superpower is speed reading, what’s yours?). It was fast paced. Intriguing. Full of twists (not all of which I couldn’t see coming). All in all it was a rather enjoyable read. It had a familiar feel to it – the same vibe that I got when reading anything in the Hollows series. Kim has a gift for getting your blood pumping a bit faster as you barrel full tilt down a danger filled hallway with her.

This series centers around Peri – a drafter. Meaning she can rewrite time WITH HER MIND. She works for the U.S. Government and alters time (though she can’t remember anything than the current timeline … and can lose months of her life to a draft) for the greater good … or does she? What happens when she finds out the agency she works for is corrupt, that she might be corrupt? Can she remember what she needs to know in order to save herself?

I have high hopes for this series; I can’t wait to see what shenanigans Peri gets into next.

KILLING JESUS

Killing_JesusI listened to “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard on audio. My first thought for this review is, “does it really belong in Non-Fiction”? To say this is not a religious book is right on, but I also have to question whether it’s a completely accurate historical book. In the book, Bill reads that Jesus is thirty-six years old at the time He dies. On page 21 he explains that the number of years Jesus lived is widely debated. For me, having been taught that Jesus was 33 at His death, this one “debatable” fact made the rest of the book questionable for Biblical accuracy. Jesus’ whole reason for being here was not even discussed. Where was the scripture from John chapter 3 verse 16 mentioned? As I recall, never. Jesus’ history means nothing if you don’t include his purpose for being here in the first place. Having to listen to Bill read it was also a distraction, as (in my opinion) he inflects on the wrong syllables in sentences. While there is a lot of history to be gleaned from this book I feel it should be read for just the pure enjoyment of reading. I would also caution the reader to check out the facts for themselves.

For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then, we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together to be with him in the clouds. And so shall we ever be with the Lord.  -1 Thessalonians 4:16

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY

it's kind of a funny storyThis young adult novel focuses on the “crash and re-building” of Craig Gilner, a NYC teenager striving to achieve success, or in his view perfection. Dedicating all his time to studying in order to gain entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, Craig comes to find that his acceptance there places him in an atmosphere where he feels insignificant compared to every other brilliant student.

The fear of not being able to reach all his goals in life becomes a heavy burden of stress for Craig. Depressed, he struggles to eat and sleep. Craig’s journey takes a turn when he admits himself into a hospital after nearly killing himself. Although the psychiatric hospital is full of exciting characters, each grappling with their own burdens, the simplicity and routine Craig finds there allows him to escape the pressures of the outside world.

By using his own experiences in a psychiatric hospital, Ned Vizzini beautifully creates a story to which any person can relate. Within a turn of a page, I both laughed out loud and cried. If you’re looking for a new storyline and open to be shown a new perspective, I highly suggest this book.

Note: Ned Vizzini, who wrote numerous young adult novels focusing on teenage anxiety and depression, took his own life in 2013 at the age of 32.

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

The Golden CompassThis adventurous young adult novel is the first in the trilogy by Phillip Pullman, “His Dark Materials”. The main character is a strong and fiery young girl named Lyra Belacqua. She lives in a world where the human soul is manifested into a spirit animal companion called a daemon. Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon live a wild and free life on Oxford University campus until she gets mixed up in more worldly matters and is sent on an adventure to save a friend and stop the Magisterium.

The Subtle Knife (book two) and the Amber Spyglass (book three) continue Lyra’s adventures into new worlds with twists and turns around every corner. This series is full of suspense, struggle and wonder. I recommend this series to anyone looking for an exciting escape into a whole new world.

Note: The Magisterium is a version of the church and is depicted as the antagonist in this novel. Throughout the trilogy the church increasingly becomes the enemy.

THE GOSPEL OF LOKI

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. HarrisHistory is written by the victors; the heroes. But what if we were to examine history from the side of those who lost the battle; the villains? How would the story differ?

The best and most intriguing part about Loki as the sole narrator of this tale is the fact that we as the reader know enough about him to KNOW he’s not reliable (I mean … hello, Trickster God / God of Mischief); he’s the ultimate unreliable narrator, and yet … as a reader you pull for him to get out of the scrapes he gets into.

The novel follows Loki from his recruitment from Chaos to the fall of Asgard (Ragnarok) and along with way we learn the rules by which he lives his life: Lokabrenna (roughly translates to The Gospel of Loki). This is, as Loki tells the reader in the forward, a mystery aka “my story” … he promises to tell us the “truth” or, at the very least, provide us with a more entertaining story than those that have come before him and painted him in such an unflattering way (looking at you Odin).

Masterfully done, if you’re looking for a fun read I suggest diving into this novel.

Note: fans of Mavel’s Loki (either from the comics or the movies) will enjoy this book. Loki will feel terribly familiar (he is still the ultimate sass-master), even though the differences will make themselves known and known quickly.