Good Books and the Random Movie

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27 October 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger (Goldscryer #1)

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is the first book in her Goldscryer series - a historical fiction series of the California Gold Rush in which the main character can sense gold around her.

Leah Westfall, 15, lives with her parents in Dalhonega, Georgia. She helps her father work the land, search for gold and hunt for their food. While most of the jobs she does are not what the other girls in town would do, she is happy with her family - and her best friend Jefferson McCauley.

Before school, Jefferson comes up to her with a flyer. Gold has been discovered in California - enough gold to report across the nation. And Jefferson wants to go make his fortune. He lives with his father who is more concerned with drinking than raising a son. Jeff has been keeping the homestead and finding them food, but wants to strike out on his own.

When Leah's parents are murdered, there is nothing keeping her in town. Nothing except an uncle who hints that he has uses for her. He is the only one left who knows that she can feel the gold in the ground. Leah gets a bad feeling from him and plans her escape. If she can catch up to Jefferson by Independence, Missouri the will travel together.

Carson has written a novel that feels a bit like the Grapes of Wrath, but set in an earlier time period. Leah's magic plays little role in the first book in the series, but will likely come more into play if she reaches California. In the mean time, this is a great historical novel of a time of change in American history when thousands of people headed west toward a vague promise of gold. Great start to the series!

Carson, Rae. (2015). Walk on Earth a Stranger. New York: Greenwillow Books.

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25 October 2015

To Hold the Bridge (Old Kingdom / Abhorsen)

To Hold the Bridge: An Old Kingdom Novella and Other Tales by Garth Nix includes an addition to his amazing Abhorsen or Old Kingdom series, which now includes four books and two short novellas.

Morghan has very little of value. His parents recently died and left him the clothes on his back and a piece of paper from his great grandfather. The piece of paper, however, while potentially worth some money is also a way to apply to one of the most well funded companies in the Old Kingdom.

On the northern edge of the Old Kingdom there is a large river - the Greenwash - that is difficult to cross. Just north of the river there is a market at the change of each season - a chance for those of the Old Kingdom to trade with the nomadic tribes to the north. Years ago a company was founded to build a bridge across the river - the Greenwash Bridge Company. People bought shares that would mature over the building of the bridge.

Morghan is not sure why his parents had not sold the share - as they had anything else of value. But he has spent the only and last of his money on passage to the bridge. The share gives him the opportunity to apply to be a cadet in the Bridge Company. If he succeeds, along with hard work, he will gain food and shelter for the coming years.

Nix has written a novella about a different part of the Old Kingdom. In the past we have learned about the Wall at the southern edge of the Old Kingdom, but the far north is new territory. With the Abhrosen series continuing (yeah!) reader will hope to see more of Morghan and the stories of the Bridge Company (please, please, please!). If you are not familiar with the Old Kingdom books - start Sabriel today! This is one of the best fantasy series ever created!

Nix, Garth. (2015). To Hold the Bridge. New York: Harper.

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21 October 2015

The Edge (Peak #2)

The Edge by Roland Smith is the sequel to his book Peak - about a kid who climbed Everest in an attempt to become the youngest person to summit.

Peak Marcello still loves to climb mountains and rocks, but is happy escorting his younger twin sisters around New York City for the summer.

When the film crew who documented his climb of Everest show up, Peak is read to say no to what ever they are asking. And a climb sponsored by the billionaire Sebastian Plank, were 200 under 18 year-olds climb on the same day for peace sounds terrible. Peak prefers to climb alone. But his friends will not get the job filming if he does not agree to climb.

So it is decided that he and his mother, a world class climber in her own right, will join the team. At the last minute they learn their destination - the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. And when they arrive, the camp does not look big enough for 200 climbers.

Teams of five young climbers will be climbing mountains all over the world - all caught on film to make a documentary about peace that will air on television. Peaks team includes a climber from Japan, Ukraine, Australia and France. The two he notices are from Australia - because the guy is obviously more talk that skill - and France - because she is really cute and a great climber.

But before the day of the big climb, Peak awakes from a nap after a long afternoon of filming to find everyone missing. Two guards who were their to protect them are dead and the only other climber still in camp looks like he fell to his near-death from the wall. Peak's mother and the other climbers and crew have been kidnapped.Peak will do whatever it takes to follow their trail and find his mother and friends.

Smith has written a great sequel that could be read on its own. This is a great adventure book with enough technical detail to make the story come alive but not enough to overwhelm readers who do not climb. If you like adventure, suspense, mystery, or survival books - this is for you.

Smith, Roland. (2015). The Edge. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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20 October 2015

Half a War (Shattered Sea #3)

Half a War by Joe Abercrombie is the third book in his Shattered Sea series.

The kingdoms around the Shattered Sea are at war. The war has been coming for a while as the High King and his Ministers try to control more and more of what goes on within the different kingdoms.

The kings of Gettland and Vansterland have promised help in defending Throvenland from the High King's army - but that help has not arrived. King Fynn has had to make a deal with the High King. But the High King has betrayed the agreement. Bright Yilling, the king's champion, has destroyed the city and killed most of the royal family of Throvenland.

Princess Skara is disguised and escapes with the pirate Blue Jenner. She is taken to Gettland, to Queen Laithan - her cousin. But Skara vows to see herself back in her family's land. She will do what she must to save her kingdom.

Abercrombie has created a great fantasy series. There is a twist to the story that I will not give away, but please read it so we can discuss the hidden with  the story!

Abercrombie, Joe. (2015). Half a War. New York: Del Rey Books.

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19 October 2015

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1)

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn is the first book in her Veronica Speedwell mystery series.

Veronica Speedwell grew up is an orphan who grew up with her two aunts. Now her second aunt has passed away. While she Veronica should feel sad her thoughts keep drifting to the fact that she will be free to do as she pleases - which in her case is go on expeditions and catch butterflies. Having moved every few years growing up, she does not feel attached to the village she happens to be living in at the moment.

Veronica is a lepidopterist. She has been on quite a few expeditions and has sold butterflies to fund future travels. And she is ready to be off on a new adventure, but when she returns to the cottage after her aunt's funeral, there is a man searching the place. Assuming it is someone who read the death notice in the paper and is looking for valuables, Veronica scares him off. A baron helps her chase the intruder away.

Convinced Veronica is in danger and unwilling to leave her alone, the baron offers her a ride to London. Because it will save her the train fare, Veronica agrees. Once in London, the baron hands her over to Mr. Stoker for safe keeping. Mr. Stoker is in the midst of trying to stuff an elephant for a wealthy client. While Veronica does not believe she is in danger, she humors the baron. So begins her argumentative relationship with Stoker, a natural history scientist as well. When the baron is killed, Veronica and Stoker decide to find out who killed him.

Raybourn has created a wonderful new mystery series which begins in the year 1887. Fans of Maisie Dobbs will likely enjoy this series, thought the books have a different feel and are set years apart. I am very much looking forward to Veronica and Stoker's future adventures.

Raybourn, Deanna. (2015). A Curious Beginning. New York: New American Library.

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13 October 2015

Torn Away

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown is the story of surviving a natural disaster and its aftermath.

Jersey Cameron has always lived in the Midwest. She grew up loving storms, even with the tornado drills they had to do at school. She loves dancing in the summer rain.

Now, a couple of weeks before the end of her junior year, all she wants to do is be lazy. When her little sister asks to teach her the East Coast Swing that she learned in dance class, Jersey says no. When her mother and sister leave for dance class, Jersey finally drags herself off of the couch to do chores and get dinner ready.

Just as she starts cooking a tornado warning siren goes off. She considers ignoring it. There are so many false alarms. Then she decides she should go to the basement where she spend the most terrifying fifteen minutes of her life.

When she emerges from under the pool table, bruised and battered, but alive, she is surprised to find that most of her house is missing. She has no cell phone service, and she doesn't know where her mom and sister are, or her step-father.

Brown has written the story of a girl whose life is ripped away from her. She has to grieve while also learning how to survive. She is sent to live with family who might as well be strangers - people her mother warned her about.

Brown is a great writer who tackles tough issues with amazing characters. Her books are strong and her stories thought provoking and sometimes heart wrenching. Check one out today.

Brown, Jennifer. (2014). Torn Away. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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07 October 2015

Half the World (Shattered Sea #2)

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie is the second book in his Shattered Sea series.

Thorn Bathu is one test away from becoming a warrior. Each year of study runs more girls out of the program until she is the last one. Now Thorn is the last. But something goes wrong during her last fight and a classmate is killed. Her teacher, who never wanted to pass her, accuses her of murder.

Brand watched Thorn's last test. It was unfair as she was set against three classmates. Brand tries to be good, but did not speak up at the unfairness of it. But when she is sentenced to the full impact of the law - which may include stoning to death - Brand has to speak up. He talks to Father Yarvi, the King's Minister, and doing so loses his place as a warrior himself.

Father Yarvi has use for both Thorn and Brand. He is about to leave on a mission to find allies in the ever changing political climate. The High King is exerting pressure on the kings of the land, as if he wants to usurp their power with his own. Yarvi and his crew will travel half around the world, fighting their way for the opportunity to have a few worlds with rulers who may stand at their side should war come.

Abercrobie's trilogy is a great work of fantasy fiction. His characters are compelling and readers will become fans quickly. Read this series!

Abercrombie, Joe. (2015). Half the World. New York: Del Rey.

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04 October 2015

The 7th Woman (Paris Homicide Mystery #1)

The 7th Woman by Frederique Molay is the first book in her Paris Homicide Mystery series - set in Paris around the Chief of Police Nico Sirsky.

Nico Sirsky is the head of the Paris Criminal Investigation Division, the famous Brigade Criminelle, tasked with catching the worst criminals in Paris. Working with teams of detectives and the medical examiner, Nico will have to find a serial killer.

When the first body appears, they don't know it is a serial killer, so they start looking at the family and friends of the victim. When the second woman if found, a note tells them that there will be seven bodies in seven days.

Molay's novel gives readers a look inside detective work in France - which is much different from the process here in the US. Her detective is competent and surrounded by helpful coworkers. Her killer is sadistic and likes to play games with the police. If you are a fan of France or mysteries, read it.

Molay, Frederique. (2012). The 7th Woman. New York: Le French Book.

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