Wednesday, January 18, 2012

American Girl fan that I am, I recognized the name Kathleen Ernst from the many historical fiction novels she has written about Molly, Kirsten, Josefina, Kaya, Kit and others. Ms. Ernst is a Wisconsin resident and has now begun a series about a young woman who is hired as the curator of collections at Old World Wisconsin. The new series is called the “Chloe Ellefson Mystery Series”. Old World Wisconsin is an actual place – a settlement reconstructed from historic houses, barns and sheds brought from Norwegian, German, Swedish, Polish, Danish, & Irish farms. Historical interpreters make history come to life throughout the 600 acre site – which is the largest outdoor museum of rural life in the United States.
(Enough of touting OWW – click this link to learn more after you read the rest of this post:
Kathleen Ernst knows history… and she obviously has some insights into historical preservation as well. I was enthralled with the setting and the details of the first in the series, “Old World Murder”. Chloe Ellefson, the protagonist, isn’t a perfect person nor does she have anything close to Hercule Poirot’s “little gray cells”, but the mystery moves along and she is swept up in the need for closure on the missing historical artifact that is the catalyst for two deaths. There is also a romance brewing as well as clues about someone in her past. I’ll look forward to reading Chloe’s second mystery: “Heirloom Murders” as soon as possible.
If you are a Wisconsinite, enjoy history and love mysteries, keep your antennae tuned to Kathleen Ernst!

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Suzanne Collins has done it again… I thought that her first novel, “Hunger Games” was compelling, but I have been totally immersed in its sequel “Catching Fire”. Even as I sit down to write about it, I have already started on the final book in the series, “Mockingjay”. For the past two years these books have not been available in the library, because the minute one is returned by a patron it is on its way into the hands of the next person on the hold list. Adults and young adults are loving them!
The story takes place in the future. Following a terrible environmental problem (not detailed) the country of Panem (United States?) is divided into 12 districts and is ruled by a tyrannical government. Every year each territory is forced to send two children as gladiators to fight to the death in an arena created and manipulated by the evil “Capital”. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta (the baker’s soft son) are chosen from District Twelve. While Katniss is contemplating how soon to kill him off, Peeta declares that he has loved her since he was five. So, Collins has set up a romance (actually a triangle), a thriller, commentary on governments and the need for people to be involved, and characters the reader can identify with and care for. The movie will be released on March 23rd and I will be hosting a “Hunger Games” competition that evening at the Hartland Community Center. Hopefully it will be all fun and no bloodshed!

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Books as gifts – what could be better! For Christmas and my recent birthday I received three new books, none of which a “normal” adult would purchase for herself, yet real keepsakes that I put on my wish list for Santa. I know I will enjoy them and pass them along to my grandchildren eventually.
• Harry Potter Poster Book: Inside the Magical World – Ultimate Collector’s Edition
• Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey
• Encyclopedia Mythologica: Fairies and Magical Creatures Pop-Up
I’m in heaven! The pop-up is another of the extremely creative, artistic and architectural wonders from Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda – the masters of pop-up books.
The poster book is going to be desecrated as I remove the posters to use with the kids who come to my library programs, but I’ll try to hang on to some of them for the grands.
The Filmmaking Journey book is 540 pages and weighs 7.5 lbs! I don’t recommend buying it online ‘cause the shipping charge would be really ‘weighty’! I sat and leafed through this book looking at the photos and barely reading any of the text for about two hours last evening and only got about halfway through it! It will keep me (and any other HP fan) busy for many hours!


Friday, January 06, 2012

Blessings by Anna Quindlen
This book provides an inside look at the residents of a secluded pastoral estate somewhere outside of New York City. The name of the owner is Lydia Blessing; the name of the estate is “Blessings”; the theme of the story is coming to an understanding of the blessings of life. Lydia is an octogenarian who definitely needs to learn how to let go of the regrets and hurts that have prevented her from appreciating her many blessings. Through the unusual circumstance of her young male grounds-keeper who takes on the parenting of an abandoned infant girl, Lydia finds happiness and contentment and a renewed connection to her own daughter.
Without going into details, I will say that this book does not have the happy conclusion that I imagined when I was about 2/3 of the way through. That would have made the novel feel contrived, I suppose, and critics would not have given it such glowing reviews. My overall feeling as I finished the book was that it concluded in such as way that the reader still has hope for the future of the young man… and the baby. But it was not a fairytale ending by a long shot.
Great characterizations – I felt as if I had met Skip and Lydia and Nadine. Interesting writing style – not chronological, but snippets of Lydia’s past are revealed throughout the text, fleshing out her background and the events that shaped her personality.

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