Friday, December 13, 2019

Book Review: Beautiful on the Outside by Adam Rippon


Beautiful on the Outside:A Memoir
by Adam Rippon (Biography Rippon)

Figure skater Adam Rippon was not expected to make the 2018 Olympic team at 28 years of age. But the planets aligned and the fates smiled for he suddenly began pulling together some of his best performances when it counted. He ended the Olympics with a Bronze Medal in the Team Competition, and is now retired from figure skating.

We follow him from his youth where he pretty well fails at all athletic attempts, but he syncs with figure skating. He quickly advances through the skating ranks and is regularly winning junior competitions on sheer natural talent. He’s the oldest of six children, then his parents divorce, so it’s quite a hardship for the family for the costs involved. They can afford a coach only a few days a week, they barter for ice time at area rinks, and they drive several hours each day to get him to practices.

Reading his story, one wonders how much farther he could have gone if finances hadn’t been an issue. Or if he’d had coaches who could have assisted him with the emotional side of competition as well as the technical aspects. Considering his circumstances, it’s amazing how far he got. You learn a lot of what it takes to be an elite athlete, and get some inside information on how US Figure Skating works. Somehow, during the worst of times he was able to push on through and continue with skating.

He also discusses the difficulties of being a closeted gay man while competing, and his concerns that other athletes and US Figure Skating will reject him. He eventually came out before the Olympics.
He’s funny, honest, and endearing. Some are stories we’ve already heard from him in other interviews. I’ve been following him on Twitter and Instagram before he made the Olympic team, and enjoy his humor — “When I qualified (for the 2018 Olympics), I told myself I was going to have the full Olympic experience, because it was only going to happen once, unless I really got into archery around forty and went to the Summer Games.”

He’s now a spokesperson for several companies, and has his own YouTube channel broadcasts.
This book is recommended for fans of Adam Rippon and figure skating in general.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Landing It: My Life On and Off the Ice by Scott Hamilton, My Sergei: A Love Story by Ekaterina Gordeeva, A Skating Life by Dorothy Hamill, or Zero Regrets by Apolo Anton Ohno.]

[ publisher’s official Beautiful on the Outisde web site ] | [ official Adam Rippon Instagram feed ]

Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

I mentor a young adult in high school, and they recently mentioned to me that they watched the Netflix series inspired by this book. When I looked the book up, just out of curiosity, I discovered it was written by Shirley Jackson! I always marveled at her short story, “The Lottery.”

Intrigued, I decided to read The Haunting of Hill House. I found it very captivating! It’s told in an old-world style, though it can easily be adapted to modern-day. I loved the way the main characters interacted with each other, always trying to laugh and joke and make light of things, even during times of great stress. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to visit Hill House!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin.] [ The Haunting of Hill House page on Wikipedia ] | [ official ShirleyJackson.org web site ]


Recommended by Tracy T.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Book Review: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson


Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire
by Delilah S. Dawson

I wasn’t expecting much from this novel, but Black Spire turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed Delilah Dawson’s earlier novel, Phasma, so I anticipated that it would be well-written. She continues the story of characters introduced in Phasma and takes them to Batuu, a little-known and lightly-visited world at the edges of the known galaxy. Dawson’s characters are pretty standard fare, but still engaging and relatable. It takes the story a little while to get going, but the plot picks up about a third of the way through and really takes off from there. It has a bit of an uncertain ending, but perhaps events to be revealed in Episode IX will help the ending feel more complete. Black Spire works just fine as a standalone novel. I do recommend reading Phasma first to better understand some of the characters. It’s not a must-read novel for casual Star Wars fans, but readers who give it chance will enjoy it.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson, Crash of Fate by Zoraida Cordova or Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse.]

[ official Black Spire page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official whimsydark/Delilah Dawson web site ]

Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Book Review: Akin by Emma Donoghue


Akin
by Emma Donoghue

Because of a great-nephew he’s never met, needing immediate supervision by a relative, retired chemistry professor Noah Selvaggio amends his plan to go solo to the French Riviera he left as a small child during the Holocaust. He takes Michael, his eleven-year-old great nephew with him. Together Michael and Noah learn from each other as they also solve mysteries about their family history. They learn about human nature, love and loyalty, and risk both in WW II Nice, France and modern-day New York. They also learn they have more in common then either originally believed.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer, The World That We Knew by Emma Donoghue, or All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.]

[ official Akin page on the official Emma Donoghue web site ]

Recommended by Jodi R.
Anderson and Bethany Branch Libraries

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Monday, December 9, 2019

Book Review: Love at First Bark by Debbie Burns


Love at First Bark
by Debbie Burns

This is a pleasant, but light-weight, winter seasonal romance novel, the fourth in the “Rescue Me” series by Debbie Burns, which are all connected by the fictional High Grove Animal Shelter in St. Louis, MO.
Mia Chambers is an artist, volunteering her time at the shelter, and the mother of an 8-year-old son. Ben Thomas is an architect and mountain climber, who also volunteers at the shelter. Ben has been in love with Mia for over eight years, but due to a quirk in timing, his attempt to connect with her at her college graduation ended up leading her to fall for his best friend and get married after she became pregnant. Ben has been the rock in her life, godfather to her son, and a source of stability when her relationship with her husband fell apart — she was preparing to divorce her husband when he died unexpectedly. Will Ben now have the opportunity to show Mia how much he cares for her? Will a group of border collies, abandoned to roam a city park, all get rescued? (and will both Ben and Mia end up adopting their own dogs from that group of border collies?). Will the unexpected appearance of Mia’s headstrong but normally absent mother, and her bitter and judgemental former parents-in-law complicate matters? And will a trip to a rental cabin in Minnesota provide an opportunity for Mia and Ben to connect, emotionally? It’s a romance…you already know the answers to these questions!

But, the detailed information about pet rescues, descriptions about the kind of work that goes on in a pet rescue shelter (including an amusing “Puppy Bowl” event), and a handful of quirky but interesting supporting characters, make this a fast, fun read. It’s sort of a “Christmas romance,” as some of the events take place during the holiday season, but the plot carries on beyond the holidays, so that’s only a minor focus.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the rest of the “Rescue Me” series by Burns, including the first three volumes (a fifth is scheduled for 2020): A New Leash on Love, Sit, Stay, Love, and My Forever Home.]

[ official Debbie Burns web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Mistletoe Mysteries booklist update for 2019!


Updated Booklist!

One of the booklists we maintain on the BookGuide readers advisory site that is among our most popular, is Mistletoe Mysteries -- a comprehensive guide to mystery fiction with a setting related to year-end holidays. Each year, this booklist is updated with new additions published in the preceeding 12 months, and the list is now updated to include 2019 releases.

Check out the list of holiday ho-ho-homicides at the following link: 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

DVD Review: Flash Gordon


Flash Gordon
[DVD Flash]

This 1980 film is one of my guilty pleasure films. It first played in theaters while I was in high school, and I saw it twice on the big screen, before buying it on VHS when that was the home video format in vogue.
The movie is a campy adaptation of the groundbreaking serialized sci-fi adventure comic strip that started in the 1930s (and continued in various forms until the early 21st century). In this film, Sam J. Jones plays Flash, superstar New York Jets quarterback, Melody Anderson is his beautiful girlfriend Dale Arden, and Topol is the eccentric scientist, Dr. Hans Zarkov. From the far distant planet Mongo, its despotic rule, Ming the Merciless (Max Von Sydow) has been using his own super-science to wreak natural disasters upon the Earth. Flash, Dale and Zarkov are snatched from the Earth and brought into Ming’s realm, where Flash must fight numerous battles, forge alliances with other kingdoms fighting against Ming (led by handsome Timothy Dalton and winged Brian Blessed), and hold off the amorous advances of Ming’s lascivious daughter Prince Aura (Ornella Muti). Meanwhile, Ming plans to take Dale as one of his concubines, and Dr. Zarkov is being help captive to assist Ming in his intergalactic plans of conquest and destruction — if he can’t have Earth, he’ll destroy it.

It is all comic-book style action and adventure, with technicolor sets and garish costumes, and outrageously over-the-top acting. And the best part is that the rock band Queen created the soundtrack, which is unforgettable!

Flash! Ah-ah Savior of the universe!



Flash! Ah-ah He’ll save everyone of us!

In all honesty, there’s really not a lot to recommend about this cheese-fest, but on the other hand, if you grew up in the 1980s, it is one of the more indelible sci-fi/fantasy film memories you can have. And that Queen music was marvelous!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the syndicated Flash Gordon series that ran for one season, 2007-2008, out on DVD.]


Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you watched this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Book Review: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon


The Season of Styx Malone
by Kekla Magoon (j Magoon)

The Season of Styx Malone is a book about the summertime adventures of Caleb and Bobby Gene: two brothers in a small town. It has a similar warm, nostalgic feel to the movie The Sandlot. First they get in trouble and are assigned daily chores with a boy who has a history of bullying them. Then they run into a new teenager in town, Styx Malone, who comes from a big city and seems like the coolest person they’ve ever met. Styx uses his negotiation skills to get them out of a jam. After that, the boys start working on their “elevator trade” scheme: trading an item for a more valuable item until they can trade up for a custom moped called “The Grasshopper.”

Bobby Gene has concerns that maybe not everything Styx is doing is strictly legal, while Caleb is more intent on copying Styx’s laid-back style. Older readers will realize early on that Styx is in foster care. The brothers initially believe Styx’s freedom is all up-side, but they come to realize that Styx is coping with the lack of some things they’ve been taking for granted in their much-complained-about “ordinary” life.

This is a great book that catches kids’ attention right away with shenanigans, but gives them real opportunities to improve their understanding of themselves and others along the way.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Maniac McGee, by Jerry Spinelli.]

[ publisher’s official The Season of Styx Malone web page ] | [ official Kekla Magoon web site ]

Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!