Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For February, we’re looking at a 19th century tale of adventure on the road out West, a fictional look at one of the more infamous members of the British Royal Family, and a biography of a beloved TV star.
Jack and Wynn have been best friends since their college freshmen orientation. In many ways, they couldn’t be more different–the former an engineering major, more pragmatic, raised on a Colorado ranch; the latter an art major, more optimistic, raised in a comfortable, well-to-do Vermont home. Still, they’re bonded by a love of the outdoors, of canoeing, of fishing, and of reading.
It’s no surprise that they decide to spend August on a canoe trip in northern Canada–their goal a small village on Hudson Bay after an approximately 150 mile-long trip. Things take an unexpected turn when they realize a large wildfire rages near the river. Then, they hear a couple arguing one day in the fog. The next day, a lone man paddles up the river. . . .
We’ve been focusing on schools this month, but not everything worth knowing is learned in school. Sometimes the school of hard knocks delivers more memorable lessons. . . .
Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan have decided that the 1880s British Empire does not appreciate their talents. And the two former British army sergeants do have a point. They feel like they’ve contributed more to building the Empire than administrators and British authorities, who are less than appreciative of their military exploits or how they have occupied themselves once they were discharged. Specifically, the powers that be are not pleased with Danny and Peachy leaving a trail of blackmail, fraud, and smuggling, among other things, in their wake.
They know that going home to England would mean menial work, which doesn’t seem very enticing given their adventures in India. But they also realize that further prospects in India are now limited, as well.
The two friends, thus, decide that they will go away to the remote, mysterious kingdom of Kafiristan. Once there, they will use their martial skills to serve as mercenaries and ingratiate themselves with a local chief as a stepping stone for them staging a coup, setting themselves up as rulers, and robbing the locals of their wealth. It’s not a retirement plan endorsed by most financial planners, but Danny and Peachy are pretty sure it will work out marvelously for them. What’s the worst that could happen?
Keeping to the theme of going back to school, here’s a review of a book meant for those still having to find their desks quickly once that bell rings!
For the most part, nine year-old Trille has an idyllic childhood in rural Norway. His life is a series of never-ending adventures with his neighbor and best friend Lena. She’s far more daring and impulsive, but that doesn’t stop Trille from joining in on the fun. From snarfing down waffles to pretending to be spies to using, ahem, creative license in crafting a bonfire decoration to sledding with a chicken, they never lack for a good time. Trille can’t imagine life without Lena causing mayhem and mischief at every turn. Still, Trille harbors a disheartening suspicion that Lena is far more indifferent to him. She is his best friend, but is he her best friend?
It’s one of the great mysteries of 20th century exploration: what happened to Percy Fawcett?
The British military officer, surveyer, and explorer was one of the key figures in mapping and exploring the Amazon. He had become obsessed with the belief that, contrary to what other experts claimed, a large, sophisticated civilization had once existed in the dense jungle. He named that mysterious place “Z,” and he very badly wanted to find it.
In his late 50s, the undaunted Fawcett, his eldest son, and his son’s best friend plunged into Amazonia in 1925, determined to prove the world wrong. They were never seen again.
Much as how centuries before Fawcett conquistadors disappeared looking for the city of El Dorado, dozens of adventurers have also disappeared trying to locate Fawcett and/or “Z.”
After reading and enjoying David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon earlier this month, I decided to give his first book about Fawcett and his disappearance, which was recently adapted into a film, a try.
Beware, there be some mild spoilers ahead.
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has a mission that he did not ask for nor one that he wishes, though he readily admits the necessity of his journey. A news reader who makes his living traveling between rough frontier towns in the tension-filled midst of Reconstruction-era Texas, he is asked to return a 10-year-old girl to her family. The child, Johanna, was captured by Kiowa years earlier and seems to have no memory of her former life or native language. She just wants to return to her adopted tribe and keeps trying to run away every chance she gets. As the two travel hundreds of miles together through a land beset by raiding parties and criminals, complications ensue.
To manga or not to manga. For me, it was a big NEVER, until last week. I know this may be an inflammatory statement on my part, for some of you. But it is the truth. I had never read any manga and had never really wanted to read it.
However, a few months ago when I was at Books in Bloom, some of our teen volunteers were taking a break at my table, and I made them give me reading suggestions. Bradley told me I needed to read Death Note, and Dustin recommended Shaman King to me. I finally got around to reading their suggestions, and I’m happy to report that my introduction to manga was an enjoyable experience. (Thanks for the great recommendations, guys!)
Confession: When I was a child, I was pretty blasé about learning the Easter bunny and Santa weren’t real. I was more angry at feeling like I had been lied to than sad because I had had my suspicions for quite some time .
However, learning as a teenager that Vikings didn’t really wear horned helmets was extremely upsetting to me. As in, it motivated me to try to debunk this theory, only for me to realize that no self-respecting historian believes they wore these helmets.
As someone who doesn’t often wear hats but loves historically-quirky headgear and also has a collection of strange historical hats (it’s a long story), I was inconsolable.
Helmets aside, I’ve always thought Vikings were fascinating. I like reading and watching things about Vikings, but I also tend to procrastinate on watching them or reading them. For example, I own all seasons of the show The Vikings and still have never watched it. I think my hesitance is borne out of fear of being disappointed again about them. (I really cannot overemphasize how attached I was to those fake helmets as a child.)
However, I recently overcame my very neurotic complex about this issue and read Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom, which transports readers back to 9th century England, when England was not a united country and was at the mercy of the feared Vikings, who were descending on the country from their native Denmark. Fortunately, this book did not disappoint me.
HARRY POTTER IS BACK (just in case you haven’t heard! 🙂 For all who spent their eleventh birthday wondering where your Hogwarts acceptance letter was and have spent the last nine years wondering where Harry and company were now, the wait is over. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is now not just a play in London but a book/script you can read wherever you happen to be. (Even here in Berryville, Arkansas – visit our online library catalog to learn more and place a hold!)
[Usually blog posts are written by Shirley, Berryville’s library services associate, but today we have a special treat–a guest review written by Tiffany Newton, the director of the Green Forest Public Library. She’s reviewing Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for us!]
“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”–Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
Do you love books? Quests with wizards, rogues, and warriors? Do you love code-breaking? What about ancient conspiracies? Living Forever? Modern Technology? 3D Printing? Rock Climbing? Computer Animation? Late nights spent reading your favorite childhood novel? Audio Books? Knitting?
What do all those things have in common? Well, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan takes all those amazing things and mixes them into one page-turner.