Though we have been on this blog for years we have finally changed our website to be able to handle the blog directly on our webpages now.

Please go to our main library page – www.joplinpubliclibrary.org and you will see so much more and still be able to see our book review blogs from 2018 and on.

We will not be posting any new book reviews on here. Please go to our website to keep seeing what has been reviewed.

If you want to bookmark just the book reviews portion of our website – http://www.joplinpubliclibrary.org/book-reviews/

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Everland

“Everland” by Wendy Spinale

EVERLAND was one of those books I got sucked into before I realized what it was about.  I downloaded it in audiobook format from an online summer reading program for teens that I belong to.  (Yes, I realize I am a very old teen, but I frequently enjoy Young Adult novels.)

As I began listening to the story, I kept thinking, “This feels familiar.  It sounds like a mixture of PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie and NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman, along with some steampunk thrown in.”

London is in chaos.  It has been destroyed in a blitzkrieg of bombs and disease.  During the bombing of the city, a deadly virus that has no antidote has been released.  Fast-acting, it kills everyone, leaving children, however, to a slower but still certain death.

Gwen and her two siblings, Joanna and Mikey, are some of the survivors trying just to exist.  Gwen must scavenge for food while avoiding the German Marauders who steal any child they can to take them to Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretchmer, who is looking for a cure for the virus he released.

In her foraging for food, Gwen runs into two other teens named Pete and Bella, who help her escape the Marauders by diverting the Marauders’ attention from Gwen to them, allowing her to run away.

This is when things began to click for me – Gwen/Wendy, Bella/Tinkerbell, Pete/Peter, and Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretchmer, known by his initials, HOOK.

Gwen’s sister, Joanna, is snatched while Gwen is out searching for food.  Gwen knows that once a child is snatched, they never come back, so she decides to stop at nothing to get her sister back.

Pete and Gwen’s paths cross again, with Gwen finding out there is a whole civilization of Lost Boys living beneath the city of London.  She joins the Lost Children, and convinces them to join her cause to rescue her sister.

They join forces, but at what price?  Will they succeed in their quest?  Will the virus kill them?  Is Gwen “The Immune”?

I’m “hooked” by now and hang on through the end of the book, hopeful for resolution.  Then, I realized this was the first book in a trilogy, with UMBERLAND and OZLAND finishing out the story.  While there is a bit of closure at the end of EVERLAND, it will take the whole trilogy for what I hope is a satisfying conclusion.

Joplin Public Library did not have this trilogy, but now does.  It is available in the New Book section of the Teen Department – or at least will be available for check out after I finish the last two books!

 

What are you wearing? Plaid (tartan)? Paisley? How about stripes or polka dots? Perhaps a fleur-de-lis pin graces your lapel? Regardless, these motifs and patterns and more have fascinating associations and histories as told by Jude Stewart in his book Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage, and Other Graphic Patterns.

In addition to content, the book itself is somewhat unconventional by design, both physically and stylistically. Titles found in the adult nonfiction collection tend to be large and heavy, whereas Patternalia is small and lightweight. Stylistically, Patternalia defies the typical beginning, middle, end formula for telling such stories. The text is dotted with cross-references so readers may develop an alternate storyline. It’s also embellished with quotes and bold graphics throughout.

Stewart starts us on our journey with a crash course in patterns and pattern lingo as well as an explanation of how our brains perceive “symmetry, orderliness, and simplicity”–basically, a pattern–and how we define and process this into what we see. He discusses ‘pareidolia,’ “the process of seeing imaginary forms, especially faces, in random stimuli,” such as outlets, and ‘apophenia,’ which is the perception of pattern where there is none, which may be either visual or conceptual. A conceptual example of apophenia is that of “gambler’s fallacy.”

Before we delve into particular patterns proper, we learn a bit about the history of patterns and the textile industry. The gist is that as production became increasingly industrialized, patterned textiles became cheaper, easily portable, and shareable across cultures. As patterns and patterned textiles crossed national borders, their meanings could change or evolve, such as with popular “African print” textiles. (Why? Read the book!)

As pattern and textile technology continued to advance, patterns were able to be printed directly onto textiles, which led to disposable fashions. Think Paper Caper dresses and such. Imagine wearing your clothes a few times and throwing them into the trash can rather than the laundry basket. These sorts of disposable fashions didn’t fall out of fashion until the rise of environmental consciousness. (Thank goodness for environmental consciousness!)  

But what about the patterns? I dare say we take them for granted, no doubt due to their ubiquitousness–they’re everywhere! Patterns hold histories and connotations, whether we realize it or not. Take polka dots, for example. According to Stewart, dots and spots–polka dots–gained popularity “from an extended craze for polka music” that overtook Europe in the mid-1800s. But in Medieval Europe, polka dots were reminiscent of disease and death. Specifically, syphilis, bubonic plague, measles, and more. Yet we enjoy polka dot patterns on an array of items, from notebooks to scrapbooking paper, t-shirts to bathing suits, bedding to curtains, and so on, without considering their history. Not to mention the parallel Stewart draws between dot art and activism–bravo!

Overall, Stewart’s Patternalia is as charming as it is interesting. My only criticism is that it ends rather abruptly, not unlike this review. As for the other patterns–plaid, paisley, stripes, fleur-de-lis, checkered, houndstooth, etc.–you’ll have to check it out for yourself. I leave you with this anonymous quote: “Even a small dot can stop a big sentence, but a few more dots can give a continuity…”

As always, happy reading.

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In “THERE, THERE,” by TOMMY ORANGE, 12 strangers make plans to attend the Big Oakland Powwow in Oakland, California.

Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, who has raised her sister’s three grandchildren, hopes to catch a glimpse of her oldest nephew in full regalia dancing for the first time. Her sister, Jacquie Red Feather, is newly sober and driving from New Mexico with the man who first got her pregnant as a teenager on Alcatraz Island. Tony, a young man with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which he calls “the Drome,” gets mixed in with Calvin, Charles, Carlos and Octavio, a group of men planning to rob the powwow to make up a drug deal debt. One character, Dene Oxendene, plans to attend the powwow as a voyeur, hoping to document people’s stories and how their stories fit into the story of the urban Native American. These are just a small handful of the characters in Orange’s debut novel.

The degrees of separation could be difficult to follow if crafted by a less-skilled writer, but Orange deftly threads the stories together with the skill of a spider weaving a web. The reader may find him or herself flipping back and forth among stories and marveling at the seemingly inconsequential role one person plays in several other stories before making an appearance in their own, often heartbreaking, accounts.

What does it mean to be an urban Native American? What does it mean to be half-Native but raised by your white mom? This fleeting identity is at the center of Orange’s novel; it begins with a searing look at the United States’ treatment of Native Americans that serves as an entry point to these answers, as told through each character’s story.

In the prologue, Orange writes, “We (Urban Indians) know the sound of the freeway better than we do the rivers, the howl of distant trains better than wolf howls” and that “being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere or nowhere.” Few of the characters know who they are as individuals, much less who they are in the context of the history of their culture. But maybe that is what Orange is positing with “There There;” there is not one way to be a good or authentic Native American. Maybe Native heritage is more dependent on this country’s treatment of Native tribes and nations, and the bearing of centuries of abuse and torture on the psyche. Orange’s use of epigraphs is extraordinary, but the following by James Baldwin feels especially representative of the entire novel: “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”

Overall, “There There” is an exceptional and well-developed novel. My chief complaint is that I wanted more of each character. The conclusion, however is spectacular. To avoid spoilers, I will only note that the conclusion is electrifying, spectacular and worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy.

lightningReviewed by Tammie Benham

At age eight, Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning.  She survived however, the strike left her genius level Math skills, an inability to cope with germs, and the ability to recite the numbers of pi to infinity.  Over the years Lucy has developed coping mechanisms to ensure the numbers of pi don’t overtake her life.  She only allows the numbers of pi to be recited to the 314th decimal point, and apping her toe three times interrupts the number invasion in her head when she’s uncomfortable.  Lucy realizes some of her behaviors may seem odd to others but her intuitive self tells her people will get used to them over time.

 

Since the lightning strike, Lucy has been mainly homeschooled by her Nana.  However, things are about to change.  When Nana decides Lucy needs to attend Middle School and enter a world of her peers, Lucy is less than thrilled.  Thinking she should be in college, not Middle School, and with the brain power to succeed in such an advanced setting, Lucy tentatively gives in to her Nana’s demands-she must join an activity, read a book that’s not a Math textbook, and make a friend.  She finds the new environment as challenging as she had anticipated.

 

With the help of a like-minded teacher, a germy dog who steals her heart, and a boy who has the knack of seeing things from a different perspective, Lucy might just be able to survive seventh grade.

 

Lucy’s experiences while making friends with Windy (NOT Wendy) and Levi, serve as the backdrop for this middle grade novel.  Lessons of trust, friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness permeate the storyline.  Lucy’s character states she is diagnosed with Acquired Savant Syndrome, which explains her behaviors and abilities.  However, the characteristics Lucy exhibits may be familiar and help children identify with the story.

When the last written page of a book concludes and you find yourself wanting more, it’s always a good thing.  Stacy McAnulty’s debut novel ends in just such a way.  Here’s hoping the story of Lucy Callahan continues.  Written for grades 3-9, the story contains some bullying.

 

 

 

 

51C+Vo2AZbL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_     First graders huddled in a closet listening to the pop, pop, pop of gunfire in the hall is the stuff of nightmares. It is also the beginning of Rhiannon Navin’s novel Only Child. Navin’s first book is a heart-wrenching tale of trauma and loss told through the mind and heart of a child.

Six-year-old Zach Taylor, his classmates and teacher, Miss Russell, have been in the closet before during a lockdown drill. They weren’t in there long before Charlie, the security guard, came to unlock the hall door and tell them to come out. This time though Charlie doesn’t come and the pops keep going and getting louder.

When the door finally opens it’s the police. The class is led through the bloody scene in the hall out into the rain to a nearby church. When Zach’s mom, Melissa, is finally let in to find him, the first thing she asks is “Zach, where’s your brother?”

Andy is not in the church nor at the hospital when they go there. Finding Andy is Melissa’s singular focus and when she learns that Andy is one of the 19 fatalities she collapses and is hospitalized.

His mom has always been Zach’s main caregiver. They did projects together, she made his meals and put him to bed. They read together each night then sang a special song together before he slept. All of that goes away with Andy’s death. As Zach sees it his mommy got changed into another person at the hospital.

His family was strained before this tragedy. Andy had oppositional defiant disorder and his behavioral problems caused dissension between his parents who also had other issues. Instead of coming together as a family Zach’s parents isolate themselves with their grief and he is mostly left to deal with his fear, confusion and grief alone.

He doesn’t understand why people bring food and have a party when Andy has just died. He worries about what happened to Andy – where is his body and is his soul safe in heaven? Zach’s nightmares start the very first night but the adults seem almost dismissive of his fears and questions.

Zach is drawn into Andy’s room and each day he checks the top bunk to see if Andy is there and maybe he just had a bad dream. He first goes into Andy’s closet to hide but finds he can quiet himself in there and make bad thoughts go into his ’brain safe’ so he won’t be afraid.

Andy’s closet becomes his safe haven and secret hideaway.  It is there that he realizes that the red he just painted on a page is like the red his face gets when people look at him and he is embarrassed. He decides to give each of his feelings a color so they won’t be all mixed up inside him.

He brings a picture of himself with Andy to the hideaway and he starts to talk to Andy. He doesn’t let Andy off the hook because he died and lets him know he was a jerk to Zach. But as life outside the closet worsens and Zach has to deal with his own uncontrollable feelings he begins to see Andy in a new light and remembers the good.

He reads aloud to Andy from the Magic Tree House books. The books were Andy’s but became Zach’s when Andy outgrew them. The main characters are brother and sister Jack and Annie which sounds like Zach and Andy. When he reads it’s like all 4 of them go on the adventure together.

But the comfort Andy feels in his hideaway is lost outside the closet. He doesn’t understand why he has started wetting the bed or why he suddenly gets so angry and can’t make it stop. His mom has become determined to make the parents of the gunman pay and has little time or patience for Zach. His dad, Zach’s only real support, has gone back to work and his parents fighting grows worse. Zach has gone from a family of 4 to feeling like he is alone. Can Zach find a way to help his family heal or is the loss of Andy too much to overcome?

Navin has written a gripping novel and stayed true to Zach’s voice. But the raw emotion and subject matter makes this a very tough read – I almost quit after the first few chapters. But Zach drew me back and I’m glad. The library has this title in regular, large print, and ebook editions.

begone I don’t usually read true-crime books. The genre has never really appealed to me. The ways in which human beings can be awful leaves me lying awake at night as it is. But, as the internet makes the world ever more connected, it seems like these sorts of stories pop up on every form of social media I use. So, of course I heard about Michelle McNamara’s book. With rave reviews from the likes of Stephen King and an introduction written by Gillian Flynn, I decided to brave I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK.

There are two stories in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. One is the story of the Golden State Killer. The second, the story of Michelle McNamara. When she was a teenager, a girl in her neighborhood was killed. The murder went unsolved and McNamara was troubled by the idea that the killer was somewhere out there, unpunished. McNamara became a crime blogger, using TrueCrimeDiary.com to explore cold cases alongside other online amateur sleuths. When she came upon the story of the Golden State Killer, an obsession was born.

From 1974 through 1986, the Golden State Killer (GSK; the term was coined by McNamara) terrorized neighborhoods in Northern California, primarily Sacramento county. For years, law enforcement believed that there were three distinct criminals operating in the area: the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, and the Original Night Stalker (not to be confused with Night Stalker Richard Ramirez). The truth, however, was that these were all the crimes of one man: the Golden State Killer.

The connection between these crimes would not be discovered until the invention of DNA testing. When samples from the seemingly unconnected offenses were entered into CODIS, the federal DNA database, the full range of GSK’s crimes became apparent. A particular genetic peculiarity made the DNA samples easy to connect. His offenses had, over the years, escalated from mere break-ins to rape and murder.

The Golden State Killer was meticulous in his planning. He would survey not just individuals, but entire neighborhoods for weeks at a time before striking. Often, he would call potential victims in what were assumed to be prank calls. He operated on terror, often taking hours to complete his intrusions. Even years later, he would call his living victims and whisper threats to them. Police had very few clues to go on.

I don’t want to write too much about the individual events described in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. In many ways, the actions of the Golden State Killer aren’t the focus of the story that McNamara tells. McNamara’s writing breathes life into the places and people associated with GSK. She spends more time discussing the lives of the victims than the actual crimes, which makes them feel less like characters in a gruesome play and more like the people they were.

While McNamara doesn’t go into extreme detail about the offenses committed by GSK, the overall tone of the book is haunting. In fact, one night after I had gone to bed, one of my cats shoved open the bedroom door to join me. A fairly common occurrence, to be sure, but this time I had to choke back a scream. For an instant, I was sure that the Golden State Killer had burst into the room. I laid awake for a long while.

McNamara shares the histories of the places and people involved, building the world of Northern California so that it almost becomes a character on its own. As with many true-crime books, there are pictures included. But these are not grisly procedural shots. Instead, McNamara included pictures of some of the GSK victims and law enforcement professionals associated with the case. These portraits help preserve the dignity of those affected by these horrific crimes.

On April 24, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department arrested Joseph James DeAngelo for the GSK CRIMEs. You can find plenty of news stories about him with a quick Internet search. The most shocking aspect of DeAngelo’s arrest? He had worked as a police officer. More details will surely be forthcoming, but it seems likely that GSK has in fact been caught.

Sadly, McNamara passed away before her book was published, but her husband, actor Patton Oswalt, helped see her dream come true. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is masterfully written, tying together the author’s life and the series of horrific crimes committed by the Golden State Killer. Gripping but not gruesome, McNamara’s book is one I would recommend for true-crime lightweights like myself.