Category Archives: Fiction

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

In order to test overdrive ebooks on my Android smartphone, I wanted to download a book I knew would be available.  I quickly decided on Treasure Island, a book I last read when I was in the 4th grade.  I was able to download the book directly on my phone using the overdrive app.  There was a bit of work up front (making sure CCRLS was the indexed library, registering with Adobe, saving my library barcode) but subsequent downloaded titles have been an absolute breeze.

Set in the 18th Century, Treasure Island is a fantastic adventure story about the recovery of pirate treasure on an uncharted island in the Caribbean.  The story begins at a modest inn in a small southwestern England village.  Young Jim Hawkins’ discovery of the map leading to the infamous pirate captain Flint’s treasure sets the wheel of destiny in motion.  The local squire, the local magistrate, and Jim agree to charter a sailing ship to find the treasure.  The two officials will serve as overseers of the excursion and Jim will serve as the ship Hispaniola’s cabin boy. Only the officers of the crew know the ship is secretly destined for the hidden pirate booty. Among the crew, Jim meets the ship’s cook, Long John Silver, a one-legged veteran of England’s naval wars of a previous decade.  Silver is taken with Jim’s ability to quickly learn all of the necessary skills of sailing at sea and the two become friends.

Unfortunately for Jim and the officers, the Hispaniola’s secret destination was uncovered by Flint’s old pirate crew and they have signed-on as the ship’s crew.  There is a mutiny as the Hispaniola arrives to the island.  Swashbuckling, treachery, and valor all ensue.

There aren’t many stereotypical characters in the story.  Often in fiction characters have predictable roles: the hero, the fool, the coward, the effete snob, the evil-for-the-sake-of-evil villain.  Most of Treasure Island’s characters are much more nuanced.  This is especially the case with Long John Silver, who according to many literary historians is the first morally ambiguous character in juvenile literature.

There are many superb elements of the story.  Like many of today’s young protagonists, Jim is intelligent, brave and resourceful.  However, at times the reader might question the logic in some of Jim’s actions.  The narrator does not expressly tell the audience whether or not Jim’s decision was wise, nor will any of the characters.  The reader will have to let the action carry out and decide for him or herself.  Stevenson’s Treasure Island has been adapted to film 40 times between 1912 and 2012.  The story stands the test of time amidst a changing society and emerging technology – just as enjoyable on my phone as on paper.

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What season is it? (Books for enjoying Fall)

I was looking at this article on the Huffington Post website about great books for fall foliage, and that, naturally, got me thinking about fall. It seems that when it comes to the changing of the seasons, there are two camps of people. The first, which many of us may find ourselves caught up in, don’t notice it’s autumn until we glance at the calendar or suddenly find ourselves picking out sweaters to wear in the morning. The other group of people do notice. They’re the type most likely to go for long walks (or drives) with the specific desire to get out and observe the changing season. Fall is also a time of changing schedules, and it’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives. So I’ve compiled a list of books about the natural aspects of autumn, and some ideas about how to get out there and enjoy it.

  1. The colors of fall : a celebration of New England’s foliage season
  2. Leaf by Leaf: Autumn Poems
  3. Foliage: Astonishing Color and Texture Beyond Flowers
  4. The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook…
  5. A Day in the Woods
  6. Fall Foliage (for Kids) – a list of about 9 or so books from our catalog.
  7. Step-by-Step Crafts for Fall
  8. Autumn, A New England Journey
  9. Exploring Autumn: A season of science activities, puzzles and games
  10. Upland Autumn: Birds, Dogs, and Shotgun Shells
  11. Henry David Thoreau’s Walden
  12. Peace at Heart: An Oregon Country Life
  13. Hooray for Fall!
  14. Fallscaping: Extending your garden season into autumn
  15. The Garden in Autumn~Courtney

 

Books for all seasons

As the nights start to get chilly and the leaves begin to fall, I always think of one of my favorite books Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Maybe I first read it in the autumn or maybe the tone of the book just fits so nicely with the fading light or maybe  the morning fog reminds me of the man with the thistle-down hair. Similarly, I associate Pride and Prejudice with summer and Wuthering Heights with winter. But, I have read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell at least three times, so I must search for another book to suit the season.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields . “ Bittersweet, beautifully written . . . deliciously unclassifiable, blatantly intelligent and subtly subversive . . . The Stone Diaries chips away at our most cherished, comforting beliefs about the immutability of facts and fate.”
San Francisco Chronicle

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. “A page turner in the most expansive sense of the word: its gripping plot pushes readers forward…Chabon is a reader’s writer; with sentences so cozy they’ll wrap you up and kiss you goodnight.”—Chicago Tribune

The Seance by John Harwood. “Harwood’s spellbinding second novel…pays homage to such nineteenth-century suspense masters as Wilkie Collins and Sheridan Le Fanu…Harwood invokes the hoariest cliches of supernatural suspense, from stormy nights to haunted houses, and effortlessly makes them his own.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review )

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. “A compelling modern-day ghost story set in and around London’s atmospheric Highgate cemetery…An engrossing love story that crosses to the ‘other side,’ Symmetry offers an inventive take on sibling rivalry, personal identity and what it’s like to be dead.”– People (3 1/2 stars)

Poe’s Children: the new horror: an anthology edited by Peter Straub. “Revelatory. . . . A remarkably consistent, frequently unsettling book.” —The Washington Post

Happy autumnal reading!

~ Diane

Some popular titles are worth the wait…

There are books that seem to scope me up on page one and transport me immediately into their world. These books make me neglect my work and allow the children to watch more television than I normally would. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer is one of those books.

The novel tells the story of the residents of Guernsey, the small island in the English Channel that was captured by German troops in 1940 and occupied until 1945. Their story is told in retrospect after the end of the war in a series of letters between the islanders and a young journalist, Juliet. The friendships that develop as Juliet delves into their tales of life during the occupation drive the book forward with the wit, the joy and the heartbreak of their lives.  Their letters are so entertaining and filled with life that it make one quite ashamed of the state of modern day correspondence.

Almost as compelling as the novel it’s self is the story of one of the authors, Mary Ann Shaffer. Shaffer, who had once visited Guernsey on a whim, worked for many years to fulfill her dream of writing a novel. Shortly after the novel was accepted by publishers around the world, Ms. Shaffer’s health quickly declined and she asked her niece, Anne Barrows, to help her finish the novel. Ms. Shaffer died in February of 2008.

Links:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Website

Potato Peel Pie Recipe (if you dare)

Information on Guernsey

Looking for a similar book?

84 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff which was also made into a movie:

84 Charing Cross Road (the movie) with Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench.

~Diane

Summer is for reading

Ah, summer: swimming, s’mores and… lots of reading.  It does not come as a great surprise to me that I find myself telling my 8 year old daughter  “At least go outside and read.” In fact, I felt a bit of a time warp, as her grandmothers had said the same thing to her Dad and I.  One of the great pleasures of summer vacation is time- time to play, time to read , even time to get bored.

It’s an odd assemblage, but here is our family’s current reading list:

After reading an essay by Nancy Bachrach, I decided that Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann would be my oddball read for this summer (last year it was Casino Royal by Ian Fleming). Valley of the Dolls fits the bill for good pool side reading: glamorous, gritty and not too taxing on the brain. I’m finding the book oddly compelling- like a slightly dirty window into a slice of showbiz cultural history.

Thanks to my sister, I am also reading The Mitfords: letters between six sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley. Covering their whole life, the book explores that colorful existence of the Mitford sisters through their correspondence to each other. From Nancy (an author of several books such as In Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate – favorites of mine) to Diana ( a lifelong fascist who spent most of World War Two interned in prison) to Deborah (who married the Duke of Devonshire), the sisters’ letters show complex and intelligent  personalities.

Recommended by a friend, hubby is reading Wine and War: the French, the Nazis and the battle for France’s greatest treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup. While Adolf Hitler may have had no taste for wine, others in the Third Reich must have because when Germany occupied France during World War Two they appropriated vast amounts of the countries wines. Some vintners in subtle and daring ways committed acts of resistance to save the grape and part of the essence of what it is to be French.

Having recently finished reading the final Harry Potter, my daughter was mopping around about not having anything good to read. Suddenly, books were “too short”.  We just started reading The Amulet of  Samarkand book one in the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud and are loving it. It’s witty, smart and presents a strangely compelling magical world (it reminds me of one of my favorite books Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell ).

Happy reading!

~Diane

Food for Werewolf Fans

Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow.

An ancient race of lycanthropes has survived to the present day, and its numbers are growing as the initiated convince L.A.’s down and out to join their pack. Paying no heed to moons, full or otherwise, they change from human to canine at will–and they’re bent on domination at any cost. Caught in the middle are Anthony, a kind-hearted, besotted dogcatcher, and the girl he loves, a female werewolf who has abandoned her pack. Anthony has no idea that she’s more than she seems, and she wants to keep it that way. But her efforts to protect her secret lead to murderous results.

Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar.

Teenage werewolf Kalix MacRinnalch is pursued through the streets of London by hunters armed with silver bullets, while her sister, the Werewolf Enchantress, is busy designing clothes for the Fire Queen and, in the Scottish Highlands, a feud is brewing.

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin.

A novel about a fifteen-year-old prostitute who is actually a 2,000-year old werefox who seduces men with her tail and drains them of their sexual power. She falls in love with a KGB officer who is actually a werewolf.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause.

Having fallen for a human boy, a beautiful teenage werewolf must battle both her packmates and the fear of the townspeople to decide where she belongs and with whom.

The Accidental Werewolf by Dakota Cassidy

When Mary Andrews gets bitten by a mangy mutt, her hair darkens, the hair on her legs starts growing at an alarming rate, and her mood swings jeopardize her job. Then a drool-worthy man shows up claiming that he accidentally bit her because he’s a werewolf–and now she is, too.

Bad Blood by L.A. Banks.

A member of an elite group of werewolf attack survivors trained as Special Ops soldiers, Sasha Trudeau returns from a solo mission to find her team missing. Sasha soon uncovers government conspiracies, double-dealing vampires, and stunning revelations about her true identity.

Find even more here!

Enjoy!

~Diane

Vampires everywhere!

Still can’t get enough of novels about vampires? Given the sucess of the Twilight Series, it’s not surprising that there are a lot of books out- mostly in the Young Adult section- about vampires. Here are some that you an find at your library:

Vampire Academy (series) by Richelle Mead

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

In the Forest of the Night by Amelia Atwater- Rhodes.

Evernight by Claudia Gray.

My Sword Hand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick.

Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer.

From the Adult fiction:

Aunt Dimity: vampire hunter by Nancy Atherton.

Fangland by John Marks

Baltimore,or, The steadfast tin soldier and the vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.

~Diane