Author Archives: smcmlibrary

Library Summer Reading has Ended

Cover Mix Everybody wins!

But Jane Kostenko wins the Amazon gift card, Mary Hall the LAMC Hoodie and Shane Hall picks up the August raffle prize.

Thanks to all the readers who participated in Library Summer Reading. We had a really great mix of reviews and dedicated readers. Nine people qualified for the bag of library swag.

Our top reviewer was Jane Kostenko with 15 reviews and 18.5 points. Lynette Starke was a close second with 11 reviews and 13.5 points. Andy Ashenfelter was the only person to complete seven different challenges. The only challenges he left unread were the LAMC Class of 2017 and the 2017 TOB. This year we also had our first reviews of audio books, because yes, the reader matters.

Our readers went head to head on a number of books including Camino Island, Dragon Teeth, The 16th Seduction, The City of Light, City of Poison, Homegoing and Golden Prey.

So what were you reading this summer? Lots of,

  • beach reads (35)
  • thrillers (30)
  • mysteries (27)
  • literary fiction (22)
  • history: non-fiction (18) and historical novels (17)
  • fantasy (15) and
  • books to film (15)

The VegetarianLord of ShadowsHimselfLincoln in the Bardo The Last Chance Olive Ranch

Black by Ted Dekker

Black

I read book #0 (Green) of the series with mixed feelings, so I wanted to try book #1 (Black). The fantasy story takes place in two time-periods (current and future) and I really like how the action in both time periods is weaved into one story via the main character, Thomas Hunter – the author does a good job keeping you interested about activities in both timelines. The overall idea and plot is interesting, but I continued to have trouble relating to characters and their actions.

I did enjoy Black more than Green and I think it is a much better series entry point, but I still think the book and the series are “okay”. I’ll go with a fairly weak “recommended” for those who like this type of fantasy.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one word title.

The Competition by Marcia Clark

The Competition

I first received a copy of a Marcia Clark book free from Amazon. I was totally surprised at how well written it was (yes the Marcia Clark from the OJ Simpson trials). This book did not disappoint me. It starts off with a school shooting, similar to Columbine, but with more deaths. And the shooters continue to try and out-do every other massacre, including the movie shooting in Aurora. As LA prosecutor Rachel Knight tries to connect dots along with her friend, Bailey Keller, the shooters still remain on the loose. Just when you think you have it figured it out, something happens to blow that theory away. It kept me on my toes until the end. My rating is highly recommend.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by Shelley Clark
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Oprhan's Tale

The Orphan’s Tale is about two women during the Second World War one of whom is a Jewish circus performer and another who took a Jewish baby from a rail car at a train station and they have to work together at the circus to survive.

I enjoyed the relationship between the two main characters; they had two opposing but believable personalities. I also liked the themes of atonement and survival that are in the novel. The end of the novel was also something I didn’t expect and it left me in tears.

The only problem I have with it is that one of the women has a lover that is kind of stalker-y and it makes you a little uncomfortable.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Madeline Rivard
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

A Single Spy by William Christie

A Single Spy

This is the best book I’ve read all summer and may turn out to be my favorite for 2017. The main character, who is difficult to love but fascinating to follow, is a Soviet orphan who takes the street survival skills of the Artful Dodger to a far meaner and more violent level. As a teenager, he’s recruited by the Soviets to impersonate the nephew of a senior Nazi official in Germany. After arriving in Berlin, he later joins the German army, where he becomes an intelligence officer. He winds up spying in the Middle East FOR the Germans, but at the same time, he’s spying ON the Germans for the Soviets.

Building a plot around a double agent can be tricky; I’ve read other “spy thrillers” where I’ve had to double back to make sure I haven’t lost the thread. But Christie does a great job keeping everything straight, which lets the reader focus on one of the best aspects of the book: all the spying and intelligence “trade craft” that Christie works into the plot. Although I seldom read a book twice, I might be compelled to read this a second time just to savor its cleverness. The ending is marvelous but I can’t say more about it without giving too much away.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Mary Hall
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Published in 2017

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

Fledgling

Alas or Hooray… we are living in a world where the relevance and popularity of Octavia Butler is on the rise! Her Kindred has just been adapted to an excellent graphic novel, Dawn (the first book in the Lilith’s Brood series) is becoming a TV show, and Parable of the Talents is currently reality. (not to spoil that dystopian book, but there’s a populist president brought into office by white supremacists chanting “Make America Great Again”)

Butler published Fledgling in 2005, just a year before her death. The book’s protagonist is named… well she can’t remember, at least for a while. She wakes up in terrible pain unable to remember anything, except that she is HUNGRY. What’s she hungry for? Well, turns out she’s Butler’s take on a vampire, so she’s hungry for blood. But Butler’s version of vampires (Ina) don’t necessarily kill for blood, instead cultivating extended families of human “symbionts” to feed off of. In turn, the humans gain supernatural health and longevity, and there’s a lot of sex too (it is a vampire story, after all).

Not that this is going to help entice you to read this book, but I’d like to say one of my favorite things about this book is the fact that everyone in it KNOWS there are vampires in culture. This is one of my greatest pet peeves about most genre films/books. The zombie apocalypse comes (like, say, in the walking dead) and nobody, nobody, nobody, has any idea what a zombie is. They’re always, “whoa, if you get bitten who knew you’d turn?” Anyone whose ever seen a zombie movie! Zombies, werewolves, and vampires as recognizable to modern Americans as Michael Jackson. Case in point— Thriller. So I find it refreshing that when our protagonist and her humans are trying to figure out what/who she is, they pour through hundreds of years of vampire folklore. Because scrubbing that from the universe while playing on this folklores tropes is just wrong. Butler even drops a lame Bella Lugosi joke, which even her characters find lame! Awesome.

Like many of Butler’s novels, the plot moves forward as an initially unsure protagonist gains skill and confidence to lead her community through struggle. The protagonist learns her name and finds that she is the product of genetic experimentation. The social mark of this experiment endangers and empowers her.

Overall, this is not my favorite Butler novel, and frankly I think a large part of that is that the main character appears to be only 10-11 in human years (but is really older, because… vampires), yet still is object of a lot of sexual desire and has a lot of sex (again, because vampires). Fine and good, but… yuuuuuuuck and eeee… it was just too much for me. I don’t really see the point, given the books interest in polyamorous relations.

Go read it– and all of Butler’s other works, too.

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Recommended

The Late Show By Micheal Connelly

The Late Show

This new novel introduces Detective Renee Ballard. Micheal Connelly is the master of police procedurals, and The Late Show is a great read with multiple plot lines and many twists and turns. The new character was well developed and hopefully we will see more of Detective Ballard. I don’t like to give storylines and plots away. I like people to be surprised, but I never figured out who the killer was until the end

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by Shelley Clark
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017