Monday, October 26, 2015

Who Are You Gonna Call?

Here are a two non fiction books to get you in the mood for Halloween.

"The dark-eyed woman first appeared in the 1970s, standing near a fireplace in a long black gown. She was sad and translucent, present and absent at once. Strange things began to happen in the Santa Fe hotel where she was seen. Gas fireplaces turned off and on without anyone touching a switch. Vases of flowers appeared in new locations. Glasses flew from shelves. And in one second-floor suite with a canopy bed and arched windows looking out to the mountains, guests reported alarming events: blankets ripped off while they slept, the room temperature plummeting, disembodied breathing, dancing balls of light. La Posada--"place of rest"--had been a grand Santa Fe home before it was converted to a hotel. The room with the canopy bed had belonged to Julia Schuster Staab, the wife of the home's original owner. She died in 1896, nearly a century before the hauntings were first reported. 

In American Ghost, Hannah Nordhaus traces the life, death, and unsettled afterlife of her great-great-grandmother Julia and her family, from Julia's childhood in Germany to her years in the American West with her Jewish merchant husband, to the spas and seance rooms of the late nineteenth century, to World War II and beyond. In her search to find and understand her troubled ancestor, Nordhaus travels across America and Europe, and unearths family diaries, photographs, and newspaper clippings; meets with historians, genealogists, psychics, and ghost hunters; and learns along the way some unexpected lessons about living. American Ghost is a touching journey of roots and memory, a story of pioneer women and immigrants, villains and visionaries, frontier fortitude and mental illness, imagination and lore. As she follows the strands of Julia's life, Nordhaus discovers a larger tale of how a true-life story becomes a ghost story--and how difficult it can be to separate history from myth."-- 

Summary provided by publisher.

Step into the mysterious world of haunted plantations, where you'll meet the restless spirits of soldiers, slaves, and owners who roam the antiquated halls. Presenting majestic homes from seven southern states, this remarkable guide contains dramatic history and true stories from the days before and during the Civil War. Join paranormal expert Richard Southall on an awe-inspiring journey through each plantation, exploring grand houses and their ghastly ghouls. 'Haunted Plantations of the South' presents fascinating research, in-depth interviews with ghost hunters, and unforgettable encounters full of paranormal activity and evidence. Discover the phantom casket of the Sweetwater Plantation, the Man in Black who haunts Bellamy Mansion, and many more compelling ghost stories along the way."-

Summary provided by publisher 

Friday, October 9, 2015


Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This fantasy novel is reminiscent of a cross between a dark version of Beauty and the Beast  and the Harry Potter series.  Agnieszka, our heroine, is plucked from obscurity and thrown into confusion, loneliness and chaos before discovering how to use her magic.

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.”  As the story starts, the reader learns they are waiting for a reaping. Every ten years, the Dragon takes a seventeen-year-old girl off to his tower for a decade of servitude.  The girls are released after their time in the Tower but they are always subtly changed from the simple girls they once were. The Dragon is what they call the local wizard who protects their valley. The valley is a lovely and green place, but all there are endangered by the rapidly encroaching Woods, a malevolent forest which literally eats people to sustain itself. The people of the valley have become resigned to the reaping as the only way to protect their homes and families.

The whole village of Dvernik has always known that when their turn comes, the Dragon will choose the beautiful and fearless Kasia. Instead, he chooses her best friend, Agnieszka, which confuses and dismays everyone. Agnieszka is clumsy and plain. She can’t cook, can’t stay clean for even five minutes, and is notoriously casual about following directions. What possible use can she be to the Dragon?  What will happen to her now? What will happen to the people of the valley?

Educating herself by reading the books she finds in the Dragon’s library, Agnieszka realizes that she has a strong and intuitive magic of her own.  The plot unwinds slowly but steadily as she learns more of magic, and the Dragon, and the world beyond her small valley.

This book has an original setting and characters that are charming, flawed, and thoroughly likeable. Agnieszka has an inherent kindness and a resilient spirit.  Her loyalty to her friends, her family and her home make her an admirable character.  The Dragon is, like the Beast, both more and less than what the village gossips say.  The plot builds slowly but steadily and there is real momentum and horror in the last third of the story. The resolution is satisfying and just open-ended enough to leave the reader wanting more.

For teens and adults who are secretly hoping for an acceptance letter to Hogwarts.

Review by Amy

Monday, October 5, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Book Review:  Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is a thought provoking portrait of a time that is important to remember because  the events it portrays underscore longstanding but not always easily recognized influences on American Ideology. Jean Louise, aka "Scout" Finch has come back to Maycomb Alabama to visit her father Atticus, her former best friend/beau Henry and other citizens of the town. Initially content with poignant reminisces of her childhood with Henry about times shared with her deceased brother Jem, she begins to see a culture that has not changed since the jury trial in which her father, Atticus served as the defense attorney decades ago. Disappointed with what she believes is Atticus's betrayal of his values at a council hall meeting and after a searing argument with him she is catapulted into adulthood by her wise uncle. Uncle Jack assists Jean Louise in setting her own interior "watchman" or conscience. This book starts out slowly but builds to a powerful conclusion from Part VII onward. Part VII exquisitely portrays Scout's difficult coming of age during a time when right and wrong blur with the passage of years. A book for our times, the fact that it was published now is very important. It is worth exploration by readers who look for ways to face truths that can be obscurred by what seems to be virtue during dark times.      

Review by Karen