11 March 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 4 Good Books and a Story

book reviews for mid-March 2019Good morning. If you're in the United States, I hope you're adjusting to the time change. I actually do better with the spring forward than I do with the fall back. Maybe that's because I love the idea that I can now take an outdoor walk after work. Yay for evening daylight.

I had a decent reading week, but that might be because most of the books I read were short and didn't require a lot of thought. Always a good choice after editing all day.

We haven't watched anything in particular on television. We're not huge basketball fans, so we're escaping March Madness. The most interesting show that comes to mind is the new season of True Detective on HBO. At first I didn't like the multiple time periods, but after I got to know the characters, I really liked the set up and the mystery.

review of The Tornado Scientist by Mary Kay Carson with photography by Tom UhlmanThe Tornado Scientist by Mary Kay Carson with photography by Tom Uhlman (HMH Books for Young Readers, March 19). You've heard it from me before, but it's true: I can't say enough good things about HMH's Scientists in the Field series. In this installment (out next week), we meet Robin Tanamachi, who is not only a research meteorologist but a storm chaser who is interested in learning as much as she can about tornadoes in an effort to help protect people who live in areas prone to these destructive winds. I grew up in tornado country in northern Ohio long before we had the sophisticated technology that weather scientists now depend on. It was really interesting to see how Robin's van was set up as a mini research and weather station and to learn how a storm transforms from a bout of heavy rain and winds into a twister. The amazing photographs of funnel clouds and the mind-numbing scenes of the after-storm destruction drives home the power of tornadoes; easy-to-interpret graphics illustrate the physics. Robin's stories of chasing storms and collecting data give young readers (and adults) a clear picture of what it's really like to be a tornado specialist. The book ends with an overview of how the field data are used and a look at the newest weather probes and other equipment. Recommended for readers of all ages. (review copy provided by the publisher)

review of Death in Provence by Serena KentDeath in Provence by Serena Kent (Harper, Feb. 19). I always love it when I can get into a series on the ground floor. This cozy mystery is set in St. Merlot, France, and features a middle-aged woman who is looking for a new start after a divorce and early retirement. Penelope Kite isn't your ordinary British ex-pat who buys a house in Provence and then gets embroiled in a murder mystery, though. She used to work in the forensics lab of the Home Office. Although she doesn't have a professional degree, she has much experience interpreting crime scene data, so when she doubts the local police chief's assessment that the man floating in her swimming pool died of accidental drowning, she knows what she's talking about. The only problem is that she's not sure whom she can trust in her new town. This first in series was a lot of fun. Penny isn't stupid, but she makes classic outsider mistakes, is unaware of long-term family feuds, and is no where near as stylish as her real estate agent cum new BFF. Among the locals are a cute mayor, a cranky neighbor, a wonderful baker, and a charming electrician. It's France, so expect good wine and lots of good food. The mystery itself was well set up and kept me guessing all the way to the end. I may have had an extra glass or two of wine along the way. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio, 10 hr, 17 min) read by Antonia Beamish, whose accents and characterizations were delightful. For more, see AudioFile magazine. (review copy provided by the publisher; audio for assignment)

review of The Time Museum by Matthew LouxThe Time Museum by Matthew Loux (First Second, Feb. 2017). I picked up this middle grade speculative fiction (science fiction?) graphic novel because I noticed that the second book in the series is coming out in a couple of months. A small group of young teens are given a chance to win a prestigious internship at a natural history museum, but these aren't just any kids and this isn't your ordinary museum. The Time Museum is in fact a portal to all of earth's history, from its earliest habitable days and into the distant future; within its walls are exhibits representing the plants and animals of all these times. The kids are smart and capable, each with unique skills and each from a different time period--Ice Age to the 5000s. Delia (from our time) is given a chance to win the internship because her uncle helps runs the museum, but she must still earn her place by passing three time-traveling tests. This was a fun graphic novel about curious, smart kids who learn to balance friendship and cooperation with competition. The story has plenty of action, including a time-traveling bad guy, mixed with some laugh-out-loud humor and a twist at the end. All the children have white skin, but despite the lack of diversity, I really liked the book and am looking forward to the second installment. The artwork was colorful and the scenery and creatures from the past and future gave me a lot to look at. The action and emotions were well rendered. (copy borrowed from the library)

review of Tin Heart by Shivaun PlozzaTin Heart by Shivaun Plozza (Flatiron, March 12). Marlowe Jensen was born with a congenital heart defect that guaranteed her a short life unless she received a heart transplant. When she's about 16 and on death's door, Marlowe's life is saved: the heart of a teenage boy is suddenly available, and she spends the next year (which would have been her senior year in high school), in and out the hospital in rehabilitation, regaining her strength, building her immunity system, and getting used to the anti-rejection drugs. Her mother, owner of a vegan, organic wellness store, is naturally a little overprotective of Marlowe but supports her daughter's decision to return to high school instead being home schooled. Meanwhile, her mother opens a new store right next to an established family butcher shop and immediately goes into ultra-liberal protesting against meat eaters, and her younger brother dresses up in a new creative (gender-bending and genre-mashing) costume every day. So this is Marlowe's outward reality: zany but lovable family, medical issues, and a return to school where she's not only older than everyone else but is thought of as the Heart Transplant Girl. This book explores a slice of contemporary life that we rarely read about: life after an organ transplant. Marlowe contends with bullying, trying to make friends, and her first true crush all while trying to find the confidence to live outside her mother's careful control and coming to terms with having someone else's heart in her chest. I was quickly caught up in Marlowe's story, cheering her on as she tried to find some sort of normality. She makes blunders and is a little socially awkward, but she's also smart and holds her own when pushed. Keep the tissues handy, Marlowe's journey isn't always easy. (finished copy provided by the publisher)

Other Books and a Story

  • 2 books to skipSoulkeeper by David Dalglish (Orbit, March 19). I have mixed feelings about this first in a new epic fantasy series. The basic premise is that creatures and magic from the world's earliest days are reawakening and human life is forever altered. While I liked the action and interesting world-building, there was way too much going on in this book (zombies, talking mountains, assassins, soulless beings, fairies, fire spirits, wizards, healers . . .) and the plot lines didn't really coalesce until the end. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 19 hr) was read by Nicholas Tecosky. His performance was only okay. I would have liked to have heard a little more drama or emotion in his delivery. (audio review copy provided by the publisher)
  • The Size of Truth by Andrew Smith (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, March 26). I was interested in this middle grade book because it featured a boy who wanted to be a chef even though his parents thought he should be a scientist. The story fluctuates between Sam in eighth grade and Sam at four years old when he was trapped in a well for three days before rescuers dug him out. Smith's writing style was a mismatch for me and the well sections were too much like The Girl in the Well Is Me (which I loved). I ended up skimming the eighth grade sections just to see what happened. There are some good lessons, but you could safely skip this. (digital copy provided by the publisher)
  • "Crocodile Shoes" by Jo Jo Moyes from Paris for One and Other Stories (Pamela Dorman, Oct. 2016). I really liked this story about a woman who picks up the wrong bag at the gym and is forced to wear someone else's high heels for the day with unexpected consequences. A fun contemporary story. (finished copy provided by the publisher)


rhapsodyinbooks 3/11/19, 8:01 AM  

The tornado book sounds great. I would love to learn more about them! (from afar, that is...)

Susie | Novel Visits 3/11/19, 8:44 AM  

I love the time change, too. More light in the evenings when I can enjoy it is wonderful. I don't like that it will be dark again when driving to work, but I know it won't be long until the light returns there as well. enjoy your evening walks!

I think the Tornado Scientist sounds great. I'm going to mention it to our school's librarian.

Kay 3/11/19, 9:23 AM  

We're also fans of the time change in this direction. The evening light is nice and means my husband can stop by and hit a few golf balls on his way home. It's dark when he leaves regardless of the time of year - he leaves really, really early in the morning. And it means I can take a walk outside after dinner. Hope you have a good week!

Amanda 3/11/19, 9:36 AM  

Death in Provence looks really fun!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 3/11/19, 10:50 AM  

I’ve got my eye on Death in Provence. I’m not a mystery reader, but I love anything set in France.

Aj @ Read All The Things! 3/11/19, 11:11 AM  

I don’t like giving up sleep, but I like spring forward because I don’t have to walk the dog in the dark. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Laurel-Rain Snow 3/11/19, 11:19 AM  

Death in Provence looks like one I would enjoy. Thanks for sharing, and have a great week. Here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/11/19, 12:07 PM  

I am not aware of the Scientists in the Field book, what a terrific series.

Daryl 3/11/19, 12:12 PM  

i love Jojo Moyes but not enough to read short stories

Kathy Martin 3/11/19, 12:51 PM  

I am always amazed at how nonfiction for children has changed over my time as a librarian. New ones are so engaging and colorful. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

bermudaonion 3/11/19, 1:47 PM  

I like more evening daylight hours but springing forward is tough for me the first week.

I bet The Tornado Scientist is very well done.

sherry fundin 3/11/19, 2:37 PM  

the tornado book sounds good to me too. with all of them happening right now, its even more intriguing.
sherry @ fundinmental

Les in Oregon 3/11/19, 4:14 PM  

I recently read After You (Jojo Moyes) and was pleasantly surprised that it was a very good follow-up to Me Before You. I plan to read Still Me in a few weeks and maybe once I've finished that, I'll give some of her other books a try.

I am a huge fan of longer days and can put up with the adjustment of Daily Light Savings Time if it means getting more hours of the sun. I just wish we didn't have to keep going back and forth every year.

Greg 3/11/19, 7:26 PM  

The time change always seems to throw me out of whack, but I have to admit I do like the extra daylight after work.

the Tornado Scientist sounds great! I've always kinda loved storm chasing and tornado science so that sounds like a fabulous read.

pussreboots 3/11/19, 9:10 PM  

Death in Provence and Tin Heart both look good. My weekly updates

Laurie C 3/12/19, 8:44 AM  

Your weekly productivity amazes me! I hope Death in Provence is available at the library! It sounds like fun and will be a lighter listen than the Cormoran Strike books I'm currently hooked on.

Yvonne 3/12/19, 9:08 PM  

I'm not a big basketball fan either and not into March Madness at all. I hope you have a great week.

Trupti 3/13/19, 9:18 PM  

The Tornado book is right up my alley

thecuecard 3/15/19, 5:00 PM  

I agree with most: that a Death in Provence looks fun. You can't get a better setting than that book!

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