Staff Book Reviews

Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Janzen, Rhoda
4 stars = Really Good

I really loved this book and highly recommend it. I listened to it on CD, but Rhoda Janzen's writing style is just fantastic. She made me laugh and she gave me lots to think about. Even a Mennonite History Primer was funny, but I did learn a few facts about the Mennonites while laughing. I really loved the stories that involved her mom. Even though lots of the book was funny, it was also tough at times to hear how badly her ex-husband had treated her. Rhoda was very lucky she had her family to rely upon. The best line from the book is "I suddenly had the feeling you get when, after a long sea swim, you touch bottom and draw a breath of relief: you made it, land ho, sharks from this point on extremely unlikely." It made me think of some of my hard journeys in life and feeling that same sense of relief.

Book Review: Bond Girl
Duffy, Erin
3 stars = Pretty Good

I liked Bond Girl even if parts of it were formulaic. Erin Duffy did a great job at describing how Wall Street was right before the economy meltdown as well as what is like for a woman to break into the "good old boys network". At times I felt sorry for Alex how she was treated and at other times, I couldn't help but laugh. I do wish Erin Duffy had fleshed out Kate Katz a.k.a Cruella. I would have loved to know more about her. Overall I thought it was a good first effort and I do hope Erin Duffy has plans to write more books.

Book Review: Me Before You
Moyes, Jojo
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

*Me Before You* had thoughtful meditations on what constitutes a well lived life.

Book Review: Please Look After Mom: A Novel
Sin, Kyŏng-suk
3 stars = Pretty Good

The mom who had taken care of her family and given endless love was missing. She vanished in the crowd in the Seoul station. She was illiterate and elderly. She came to Seoul to celebrate her birthday to save her children's time and money. After her disappearance, the story starts with a view from each family member (daughter, son and husband). Each family member follows her trace to find her. While they are struggling to find her, they realize that the mom was ignored and neglected. For example, they found out about her stroke through their doctor, remaining unaware of her illness since then. In the end, they realize that she holds a crucial role in all of their lives. Her name was Park So-nye; like meaning of her name, she was an ordinary girl like all of us who had many dreams for her future. As time passes by, her name and her dreams were sacrificed for her to take the role of a mother without her children's knowledge. Each narrator describes how he or she saw the mother in their point of view. Throughout this book, we come to question the true meaning of family.

Hyun Sook
Book Review: Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Classic literature. This book deeply engages the issue of intellectual freedom.

Book Review: The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the America
Wade, Stephen
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Writer and musician Stephen Wade plumbs the deep river of American traditional music as he explores the back stories of 12 field recordings from the Library of Congress’ Archive of Folk Culture. Beginning in 1928, the Library of Congress established the Archive of American Folk Song with the goal of collecting “all the poems and melodies that have sprung from our soil or have been transplanted here, and have been handed down…from generation to generation as a precious possession of our folk.” Passionate collectors such as Robert Gordon, John and Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and many more, traveled the nation’s back roads, and beyond, with cumbersome recording equipment to capture the voices and music of everyday folk. In so doing, they created what is arguably the most valuable archive of the American experience.

In his book, Wade examines 12 musical performances, from among the Archive’s more than 150,000 sound recordings, tracing the stories of the performers and the songs, placing them in the social and cultural context of their time, and following the remarkable influence they have had on our modern culture. Using historical sources and well as recent interviews with family descendents and friends of the performers, Wade gives these largely unknown men, women, boys and girls the recognition they have so long deserved as bearers of real American culture. The lives of these performers often were tragic or bittersweet and the recordings they made in coal camps, prisons, churches, front porches and schoolyards both bear witness to the circumstances of their lives and transcend them. We are fortunate that these recordings were made in rural America during the 1920s-40s and that they have been diligently preserved in our national library. We are also fortunate that Stephen Wade has taken the time to dig deeply into the lives of these performers and write about what he has found.

The book is accompanied with a CD containing the performances captured in the original field recordings and discussed in the book’s 12 chapters.

Book Review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Wright, Lawrence
4 stars = Really Good

A fairly balanced look at Scientology, its founder, its impact on its adherents, and its influence on Hollywood and beyond. I think anyone who is tempted to investigate this religion further should take a look at the information contained herein.

Book Review: In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing
Woodruff, Lee
4 stars = Really Good

This book chronicles the traumatic brain injury of Bob Woodruff, an ABC News Anchor, suffered from an I.E.D. when on patrol with our soldiers in Iraq in 2006. Lee describes the many surgeries and therapies her husband endured resulting in an amazing recovery! I feel this book offers much hope to families with loved ones who have a traumatic brain injury.

Delores O.
Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey
James, E. L.
4 stars = Really Good

You either like this book or you don’t. The people who don’t like it seem to criticize the writing style, story line, etc. Really people? This book isn’t popular because it’s a well written book. Personally, I liked it. I liked the story. I liked Anna. I liked Christian. He’s her first boyfriend. He’s hot. She’s naïve. Just go with the flow and read it for what it is.

Book Review: Roadside Picnic
Strugatskiĭ, Arkadiĭ Natanovich
4 stars = Really Good

Aliens have visited the Earth, and departed, leaving behind a number of artifacts of their incomprehensibly advanced technology. The places where such artifacts were left behind are areas of great danger, known as "Zones."
The Zones are laid out in a pattern which suggests that they resulted from the impact of an influence from space which struck repeatedly from the same direction, striking different places as the Earth rotated on its axis.

A frontier culture arises along the margins of these Zones, peopled by "stalkers" who risk their lives in illegal expeditions to recover these artifacts, which do not obey known physical laws. The one most sought after, the "golden sphere", is rumored to have the power to fulfill the deepest human wishes.

Written during the height of the Soviet rein of Russia, the Strugatsky brothers spin a tale that philosophically looks at what true freedom is and the price some are willing to pay for that freedom. One of the best sci-fi novels of its time and a true favorite of mine.

Dr. Badd
Book Review: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, his Agenda, and an
DiLorenzo, Thomas J.
3 stars = Pretty Good

For people wanting to learn more about teh 16th president, this is an eye opening book. Mr. DiLorenzo uses original sources to show the truth about Mr. Lincoln's worldview and agenda. Many people will be scratching their heads, wondering why the history of Lincoln has been so misrepresented.

The book is very readable, and engaging, causing the reader to want to see the whole extent of Lincoln's atrocities, from the suspension of habeus corpus to the destruction of newspapers critical of him and his war to prevent southern independence.

I highly recommend this book, especially for the defenders of Lincoln, as it will show them the truth about Abraham Lincoln.

Book Review: Butter in the Well: A Scandinavian Woman's Tale of Life on the Prai
Hubalek, Linda K.
3 stars = Pretty Good

It was an interesting look into the life of a woman who moved with her husband to the Kansas prairie to homestead land. The difficulties and hardships put a new perspective on life of a homesteader. When she first came she didn't even speak the language. Her and her husband lived in a dirt cave for the first year or so and eventually built a home. The story was written like a diary. Her great granddaughter wrote the book and included pictures of her great grandmother and other relatives. The writer actually grew up in the homestead.

Book Review: Once Upon Another Time
Sawatzki, Diane
4 stars = Really Good

This book mixes western, historical fiction, fantasy, adventure, and romance in a unique and exciting way. The main character gets transported to a different time and has to figure out a way to make it back, all while trying to stay alive. This author is also from Colorado and has based the story in the local area.

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood
Blake, Kendare
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I listened to this book on cd, and I loved it! Cas and his friends are a hodgepodge group who ban together. I just couldn't stop listening to this one and I can't wait until I am able to start the second one. The author did a great job telling a wild story involving ghosts and teens. I definitely think people should give this one a try! :)

Book Review: Tallgrass
Dallas, Sandra
4 stars = Really Good

I loved this book. It is a Historical Novel covering the period in US History after the start of World War II when the government gathered Japanese citizens living across America and placed them into camps. This is a sad time in our history. Japanese Americans were forced out of their homes and their businesses and had to live like Prisoners of War. Colorado had one of these such camps. This book covers the history of the camp and follows families through their horrible ordeal. The actual families are fictional but the history is true and a learning experience within a great read. This book led me to read other great historical fiction books or biographical fiction such as The Day the Falls Stood Still, and The Paris Wife, The Dressmaker, and Loving Frank. All great books that tell you historical truth with fictional characters or fictional conversation surrounding truth. A genre that I have discovered I love and it is all started with Tallgrass.

Book Review: The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat
Moore, Edward Kelsey
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

I absolutely loved this book. This is one of those novels where you wish you could just jump right in and sit next to this group of women at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. Also possibly one of the funniest weddings ever written! Definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

Book Review: Micro
Crichton, Michael
4 stars = Really Good

This was the book Crichton was working on at the time of his death. Preston is known for such books as The Hot Zone, a non-fiction thriller. The premise of this book is the ability to shrink humans down to half an inch in size to do research in rain forest conditions to find new medications. A group of graduate students from New England is invited to tour the facility. They fall victim to the owner of the corporation funding the research , who has ulterior motives and uses his technology for other purposes. A long book, but suspenseful and skillfully executed.

Book Review: The Art Forger: A Novel
Shapiro, Barbara A.
4 stars = Really Good

This is a wonderful story that mixes mystery and romance with the world of art and artists. What I found especially interesting were the details about the forgery of paintings and the inner workings of art galleries and museums.

Book Review: Girl with a Pearl Earring
Chevalier, Tracy
4 stars = Really Good

This book captured my attention from the very first page.
Chevalier's first-person style and descriptive writing made for an easy and enjoyable read! The idea that the "girl with a pearl earring" in Vermeer's famous painting was employed in the household as a maid was very intriguing. Chevalier obviously did her research, since her descriptions of Delft in the 17th century coincides with historical accounts/writings. This is a must-read for historical fiction lovers!

Missy H.
Book Review: The End of Your Life Book Club
Schwalbe, Will
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

A poignant telling of the connection between a mother and son facing a terminal illness. Their love of books and their loving discussions validate the power of books in our lives.

Book Review: Life After Death
Echols, Damien
4 stars = Really Good

Do you believe that in America it would be impossible for you to legally be put to death for a crime you did not commit? Read this shocking book.
Damien Echols, the author of "Life After Death" was falsely accused and convicted at the age of 18 (along with 2 of his friends) of murdering three 8 year old boys in Arkansas in 1993.
After watching the 3 documentaries about this crime, "Paradise Lost", which the library does own, I wanted to know more about this murder case and shocking miscarriage of justice.
Damien Echols was imprisoned on death row for 18 years of his life and in his book shares with his readers his life story. From his early years of extreme poverty in the south to the abuse he suffered from prison guards and wardens, he tells of the spirituality and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated.
Does it have a happy ending? You'll have to read it to find out.

Book Review: Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker: A Novel
Chiaverini, Jennifer
4 stars = Really Good

Elizabeth Keckley is a former slave who becomes a dressmaker to the elite women in Washingon D.C. She becomes not only Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker but also a friend. She is a first hand witness to the historical lives of Mary and Abraham Lincoln and supports Mary throught the death of her son and husband. Elizabeth writes her memories in a book "Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House".

Book Review: A Young Wife: A Novel
Lewis, Pam
3 stars = Pretty Good

This is a quick semi-historical fiction read set at the turn of the century. The main character has a series of significant ups and downs as she travels from her home in Denmark to Argentina and then New York. Although very loosely based on actual events the author appears to have done some research about the areas and times protrayed making it an interesting read for history buffs.

Book Review: Short Nights Of The Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Phot
Egan, Timothy
4 stars = Really Good

I recently read Timothy Egan's latest book, "Short Nights of the Shadowcathcher," a biography of Edward S. Curtis, famous for his photos of Native Americans at the turn of the century. Although I was familiar with his photos, I didn't realize he also recorded languages on wax cylinders and filmed disappearing Native American ceremonies, which tribes later used to recreate their languages and cultures. With partial funding from JP Morgan, and the moral support of Teddy Roosevelt, he published 20 volumes on the North American Indian, a task that consumed his life. I also did not realize that in 1914, he produced a motion picture using members of the Kwakiutls tribe on Vancouver Island. After positive reviews, the film was tied up in litigation with the distributor and disappeared into storage. The last remaining copy was found in 1972 and carefully restored. On a whim, I looked for the film in the library and, to my amazement, learned that Pikes Peak Library District has a copy on DVD. Amazing what you can find at our libraries!!!!

Book Review: The Hole in our Holiness
DeYoung, Kevin
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Kevin DeYoung encourages, convicts, and motivates Christians to, by grace, conform themselves to be more like Christ. He urges Christians to become more holy without ignoring the Gospel grace nor embracing grace by works. DeYoung carefully balances legalism with total freedom to form a modest Christian liberty. This was an absolutely great read, and I recommend it everyone to read it.