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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fresh Finds for June and July

Staff Review of New Releases

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephensen (publication date 6/13/17)


Goodreads Summary:

When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, accidentally meets military intelligence operator Tristan Lyons in a hallway at Harvard University, it is the beginning of a chain of events that will alter their lives and human history itself. The young man from a shadowy government entity approaches Mel, a low-level faculty member, with an incredible offer. The only condition: she must sign a nondisclosure agreement in return for the rather large sum of money.Tristan needs Mel to translate some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth-shattering. They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries. But the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners. Magic stopped working altogether in 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace—the world’s fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce. Something about the modern world "jams" the "frequencies" used by magic, and it’s up to Tristan to find out why.


Katherine's Review

(3 out of 5 stars) A very creative sci-fi time travel book. I loved the addition of the linguistic and historic details to the time traveling adventures. I did feel like the varieties of narration type (diaries, first person narrative, letters, etc.) made it difficult to ever get very invested in the characters and some major issues brought up in one section were not picked up again in later parts of the book.

Runnin' with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen by Noel Monk (publication date 6/13/17)

Goodreads Summary:

The manager who shepherded Van Halen from obscurity to rock stardom goes behind the scenes to tell the complete, unadulterated story of David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, and the legendary band that changed rock music.

Van Halen’s rise in the 1980s was one of the most thrilling the music world had ever seen—their mythos an epic party, a sweaty, sexy, never-ending rock extravaganza. During this unparalleled run of success, debauchery, and drama, no one was closer to the band than Noel Monk. A man who’d worked with some of rock’s biggest and most notorious names, Monk spent seven years with Van Halen, serving first as their tour manger then as their personal manager until 1985, when both he and David Lee Roth exited as controversy, backstabbing, and disappointment consumed the band.


Mason's Review

(3.5 out of 5) I read "Runnin' With the Devil" by Joesph Layden and Noel Monk, because musician biographies are my go-to "light" reading. I can't say I learned anything new, but it was consistently fun.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle (publication date 6/13/17)


Goodreads Summary:

Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.


Jill's Review:

(3 out of 5 stars) The Changeling has received a Kirkus star and many good reviews, and I was intrigued by the description as “a smart and knotty merger of horror, fantasy, and realism” .  The beginning was quite interesting and unusual but as the story progressed, the merging of the magical realism/fairy-tale atmosphere with the modern day setting & technology was too difficult to believe.  I felt like there were many good ideas here, but possibly too many all thrown in together.

The Waking Land by Callie Bates (publication date 6/27/17)


Goodreads Summary:

Lady Elanna Valtai is fiercely devoted to the King who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder and must flee for her life.
Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition powers that suddenly stir within her.
But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.


Katherine's Review

(3 out of 5 stars) As someone who loves to get her hands in the dirt, I was enthralled by the premise of this book. The main character, Elanna, is very connected to the land and can use her magic to make trees move and even see through the eyes of animals. I really enjoyed the way Callie Bates has built this world. Unfortunately I was also frustrated that I didn't feel more connected to her characters. I wanted to really like Elanna and Jahan but I found myself getting annoyed at them. There were a few points in the story where I thought the story could be veering into something very interesting but it didn't. This debut novel has a lot of potential and I'll definitely be watching for future books by Callie Bates 

The Stargazer's Embassy by Eleanor Lerman (publication date 7/18/17) 


Goodreads Summary:

The Stargazer’s Embassy explores the frightening phenomenon of alien abduction from a different point of view: in this story, it is the aliens who seem fearful of Julia Glazer, the woman they are desperately trying to make contact with. Violent and despairing after the murder of the one person she loved, a psychiatrist who was studying abductees, Julia continues to rebuff the aliens until her relationships with others who have met “the things,” as she calls them, including a tattoo artist, a strange man who can take photographs with the power of his mind, and an abductee locked up in a mental hospital, force Julia deeper into direct alien contact and a confrontation about what death means to humans and aliens alike.


Katherine's Review

(3 out of 5 stars) An overall enjoyable, well-written book. Not what I expected, but a unique and at times, hard-to-put-down story. I did have some issues with the slow pace and I was thrown off at the end of the first section and the jump forward in time. I enjoyed reading the story arc in the first section and had trouble getting interested in the story again in the second section. The character development was excellent and I loved the writing. I'll be watching for other books by Eleanor Lerman. 

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