And the three winners of a copy of Dracula in Love by Karen Essex are:
With Hallowe'en not too far off, A Zombie Ate My Cupcake by Lily Jones (aka Lily Vanilli) caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner.
From Cico Books:
"Cupcakes are getting their revenge! After being banished for so long to the land of the pretty and identical, the domestic and the twee, cupcakes are biting back. Here, Lily Vanilli shows how you can take inspiration from anywhere, insects, roadkill, zombies and recreate it in cake, but always with a delicious result. This book is an introduction to making cakes that look weird, ugly, and even grotesque but that taste divine! There are amazing materials for making edible sculptures and hundreds of things you can do with natural ingredients. Give guests a shock with revoltingly realistic Marzipan Beetles, or add a crunch to your desserts with Morbid Meringue Bones, dipped in raspberry blood sauce. Try out a black cherry Dracula's Bite red velvet cupcake with cream cheese, eat your way through heavenly Fallen Angel Cakes, or go for indulgent and truly dark chocolate Devils Delight Cupcakes. If Ozzy Osbourne made cupcakes, these are the ones he'd want to eat."
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)
Ami McKay's first novel The Birth House was a phenomenal success. I have no doubt that her newly released second novel - The Virgin Cure - will also be bestseller. And, it's one of my favourite reads for 2011.
I was hooked from the opening line..."I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."
And so begins the story of Moth, born into the slums of Manhattan in New York City. In 1871 Moth's mother sells her - to a wealthy woman looking for a young servant. When that situation becomes untenable, Moth runs away and finds herself alone on the streets with no prospects. Until the owner of a brothel in the Bowery that 'caters to men looking for young companions who are 'willing and clean' takes her in. In Miss Everett's "Infant School", the most desirous of all are virgins, for it is said that a virgin can cure a man of that most scurrilous of diseases - syphilis.
One bright light in Moth's life is Doctor Sadie, one of the first female physicians in New York City, who attends the girls at Miss Everett's establishment. The idea for the Virgin Cure was based on McKay's search into her own roots. Her great-great grandmother was a physician in New York City.
What did I love so much about this book? Well, everything! McKay's characterizations are rich, detailed and believable. I became so invested in Moth and Dr. Sadie, sharing their fears and dreams. Both of these characters are strong, strong female leads, staying true to themselves despite the obstacles put before them.
The setting is just as much of a player in the novel. McKay's depiction of 1870's New York conjured up vivid scenes crackling with detail. McKay includes historical side notes, newspaper articles, pictures and more throughout the book. I found myself on the Internet many times following up with the history she presented.
Ultimately - it's a book that is so engrossing, so readable, so fascinating that I wish I could give it six stars. I just can't seem to articulate what a great read this is from such a skilled Canadian story teller. Highly, highly recommended! Check out The Pear Tree Planchette for excerpts and ephemera. You can find Ami McKay on Facebook and on Twitter.
I originally thought I would feature The Oxford Project in my regular Over the Counter post on Thursdays. But as I started glancing through it, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop, so I signed it out and took it home. And I was right - I sat and read it in one sitting.
What is The Oxford Project? Photographer Peter Feldstein moved to tiny Oxford, Iowa in 1965. In 1984, he had the idea to photograph every person living in Oxford. (population 693) And twenty years later he photographed them again. (population 705) Writer Stephen G. Bloom interviewed about 100 of the townsfolk and their stories are included with their 'then' and 'now' shots.
The photographs are raw and untouched as are the stories told. Honest and real. I felt privileged to be let into someones life in such an intimate fashion. The collection of photos and stories paints a vivid picture of a town and the people living within its boundaries. Just everyday people getting on with life.
I think that Bloom says it very well: " Despite its withered exterior, Oxford, and the countless towns like it across the United States, continue to hold fiercely to their roots. They remain, in many ways, like large protective families, insulated and untouched by the energy and vulgarity of urban America. Peter's portraits of the residents of Oxford and their own deeply felt words combine to create a national portrait of over-looked triumphs and travails. In the faces and voices of these strangers, we grow to understand ourselves better. They remind us of who we dreamed we would become, and who we turned out to be."
I found myself thinking of the residents of Oxford long after I turned the last page. Just a fantastic idea and book. Loved it.
What caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner? Steampunk. Lots and lots of steampunk. Some of you may be scratching your head, saying "What the heck is Steampunk?"
From Wikipedia: "Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne." And it's popular enough that this week I have three books to share.
We haven't heard from resident guest blogger Julia in awhile, but she's back today with two great reviews! The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt and Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones.
"I joined the 50 Book Challenge this year, and I am almost there! #45 and #46 were The Sisters Brothers, and Hand Me Down World, respectively.
Both books are about a person on a journey, although the journeys are taken by very different people and for different reasons. I read The Sisters Brothers on my iPad, and loved being able to highlight and make notes along the way. Hand Me Down World was a good, old-fashioned paper book.
First, the Sisters Brothers. To quote from the book: “Here was the picture of moral negligence”. This tale of two hapless brothers, Charlie and Eli, making their way across the American Wild West in the mid-1800s, leaving murder and mayhem in their wake, is indeed a story of two men who appear to have no morals. They are called “serial killers” and need only invoke their names to bring fear to the people around them. The narrator, Eli tells the story and indeed the reader comes to understand some of his motivation and why things turn out as they do for him. Charlie is clearly the leader, Eli the follower. Yet in some ways Eli is the more thoughtful and perhaps wise brother.
The book is full of quirky characters, including a prospector named Hermann Warm and a horse named Tub. There is bloody, gory mindless killing for sure, but the reader has some sympathy when Eli tells Warm about their childhood. Eli has a poetic streak in him, which makes the telling of the story colourful and always entertaining. For example, when they come upon a fellow reduced to brewing dirt for coffee, Eli says “It would seem to me that the solitude of working in the wilds is not healthy for any man.” Indeed. This is story about two desperados, but with a twist. Not your “normal” cowboy story for sure! Read an excerpt.
The other book about travels, Hand Me Down World, is equally as complex and blurs the lines between good and evil, black and white. This is the story of a black woman (and her colour is important to the story) working in a resort hotel, who gets involved with a guest, and has his baby. This is not a romance novel, so the story does not end happily there. The man confiscates the baby and flees home to Berlin, Germany.
The story is about the woman, and for most of the story we think her name is Ines, travelling to Germany, finding the baby, and then doing what she must to see the little boy, as he is by then. The story is told through the eyes of all the people she comes in contact with through the journey, both to and within Berlin. The Blind Man, The French Man, The Truck Driver. Finally we hear her heartbreaking story, and then the story of the wife of the man.
Again, this woman does some not very nice things to achieve her goals. We sympathize with her, but we do not always like her. As with The Sisters Brothers, the reader is forced to look at humanity from many different sides. Everyone has a story that makes them who they are and makes them do the things they do.
If you read Jones’ book, Mr. Pip, you will know he writes about the dark side of humanity. The story of a woman searching for her child is of one of our most basic instincts, but this story is combined with other human emotions and actions, some lovely and some not so.
I loved both of these books and would recommend them to anyone who likes reading books with complex characters!" Read an excerpt.
As always, thanks Julia for such thoughtful, well written reviews!
Resident teen blogger Ella is back to school and back to work at the library, but has lots to share on what she read this summer. And we're glad to have her back - her take on books is fun and unique.
First up is Blood Red Road by Moira Young.
"First, let me say how refreshing it was to have a truly selfish protagonist. Paragons of virtue are all very well and good, but every once in a while it's nice to read about someone who has less than any interest in being a hero. Saba's twin brother has been kidnapped and her father murdered, so she starts an epic journey across the dusty wasteland of their dystopian world to get him back. They have a little sister that Saba truly harbors nothing but jealousy and anger towards (which was nice while it lasted) who insists on tagging along. Gladiator-style cage matches, slavery, a drug empire, an attractive young man named Jack and some truly cool warrior girls all come included. The book is divided into parts, which I found made it slightly disconnected, like a series of novellas in one book, but it was still pretty good, despite Saba's disappointing sudden growth of a conscience. More of a library read than a addition to a personal collection is my advice." Read an excerpt of Blood Red Road.