Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What We're Reading: Tracy

The Dark Secret of Weatherend, by John Bellairs.

John Bellairs wrote several wonderful series of cozy supernatural mysteries for children, including the classic The House With a Clock in Its Walls. His stories were inspired by his hometown, historic Marshall, Michigan, filled with spooky old mansions, tree-lined streets, and plenty of interesting places for a curious boy to explore.

In The Dark Secret of Weatherend, Bellairs created a similarly historic town, Hoosac, Minnesota, that is just bursting with eerie goings-on beneath its homey surface. Anthony Monday and his friend Miss Eells, the town librarian, discover a plot by an evil magician to cover the whole world with unending blizzards. At first, it seems like a joke, until the snow starts falling...and keeps falling, and falling, and falling. It's up to Anthony and Miss Eells to use both their research skills and their brave investigative abilities to save the day.

Check it out today: it's the perfect read for a winter that seems like it will never end!

Monday, February 21, 2011

What We're Watching: Jan

Winter's Bone

Directed by Debra Granik. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.

This 2011 Oscar nominee for Best Picture tells the story of family being held together in the midst of disappointment and danger but also strength and resilience. The backdrop is the Missouri Ozark Mountains, home to the Dolly family. It is a bleak and gray environment of hardship. The 17-year-old daughter, Ree, takes care of her mentally ill mother and two young siblings with the aid of welfare and the generosity of neighbors. She finds out that her father, a meth dealer, has jumped bail and put the family house, poor as it is, up as bond. If he can’t be found, the house will be lost. Ree decides that will not happen and sets out to find her father amid the criminal element of the meth world and family members in the mountains who don’t want their secrets exposed. The determination of Ree and her search creates a great deal of suspense and exposes the viewer to the pervasive feeling that violence can come at any turn. The film is gritty and in-your-face, all the while showing courage and heart. We learn that this mountain girl has her own dreams but will sacrifice all to hang on to her home and family - family who survive due to her toughness and love.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What We're Reading: Edward

Empire: the novel of Imperial Rome
by Steven Saylor
Interest in Rome seems to be eternal. Witness the Spartacus, Blood and Sand cable series and the upcoming movie Eagle about a Roman legion in Caledonia. Saylor is back with the continuation of his historical novel, Roma. Empire tells the story of Rome through the eyes of the Pinarius family. The Pinarii are related to Augustus but supported the other side in the Civil War. Augustus nominates Lucius Pinarius to become an Augur. He is installed in the office with his cousin, Claudius. The Pinarii are on the way up. Generations of the Pinarii survive the whims of the Emperors. They witness the burning of Rome, the destruction of Pompeii, the building of Roman monuments and the persecution of Jews and Christians. May their lineage continue. For as always, OMNIA VINCIT ROME!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What We're Reading: Cathy

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

Bess Crawford is a nurse with the British Army in WWI. While in London, she witnesses a scene between a very distraught woman and a seemingly uncaring officer. She recognizes the woman as the wife of one of the soldiers she just escorted home from France. Later, she finds out that the woman was murdered that same day. Even though Scotland Yard is investigating the crime, Bess is curious about the woman and begins asking questions herself. Things become even more serious when a man is arrested for the murder and is scheduled to hang for it. Bess doesn't believe he did it and so must try to find the real murderer before she is sent back to France. This is the second in the Bess Crawford mystery series.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

What We're Reading: Edward

Hard Rain: a thriller
by David Rollins
Major Vin Cooper is still nursing a broken arm from his last case, when he is sent to investigate the death of an Air Force Colonel in Turkey. Colonel Portman was the Air Attache to Turkey. He was overseeing a contract for the replacement of jet engines. Portman's body was found hacked to pieces with a dozen missing bones. Vin and his partner, Anna Masters, work the case. Was Portman's death related to the jet engine contract? Then Portman's missing bones are found at the sites of more murders. Is this all the work of a deranged serial killer? When Vin discovers a sample of radioactive water from Southern Iraq, the case takes on a more sinister turn. Will Vin and Masters solve Portman's murder?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What We're Reading: Cathy

The Attenbury Emeralds by Jill Paton Walsh.
It begins with Lord Peter Wimsey telling Helen, his wife, about his first case back in 1921 - the recovery of the Attenbury emeralds. The case comes back to haunt him when, 30 years later, the newest Lord Attenbury (his father has just died) comes to ask for Lord Peter's help with the emeralds once again. With Bunter's help the Wimsey's try to trace the jewels and find that more than one murder has occurred because of them. Are the jewels cursed or is it the family? Jill Paton Walsh has done a very nice job of taking Dorothy Sayers characters and continuing their sleuthing careers.

What We're Reading: Cathy

All Clear by Connie Willis.
This is the last in Willis' time travel series. Oxford historians Michael Davies, Merope Ward, and Polly Churchill realize that something has gone wrong with the time travel mechanism and they are stuck in 1940 at least for the time being. Each of them worries whether something they did has altered time and maybe even lost the war for Britain. They struggle through the Blitz and the aftermath of Dunkirk, taking nightly shelter in Underground stations or church basements. Each of them struggles with things like ration coupons, clothing, housing, and fuel shortages, bombing raids, and making some kind of living just like the rest of the population. This is a marvelous look at what living through the war in England must have been like. (I hadn't realized that St. Paul's was damaged in the Blitz until I read this.) Alf and Binnie show up again causing chaos as usual. Back in 2060 Oxford, Mr. Dunworthy and Colin are desperately trying to figure out what's gone wrong and to get the historians back. If you haven't read "Blackout" yet, read it first. This one picks up right where "Blackout" leaves off. And if you haven't read the others in the series ("Doomsday" and "To Say Nothing About the Dog") - do it.