Reading Room Blog

Finnikin of the Rock

This is Week 5 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is a book for readers who don’t mind losing themselves. The land of Skuldenore is not always a pleasant place to be lost – in fact, it is often heartbreakingly dark. But I didn’t mind being lost within it, as long as I was with Finnikin.

Skuldenore is comprised of several countries, such as Osteria, Charyn, and Yutlind. Each country has its own interesting characterization, and there is much that goes into the world-building in this book, which makes it so successful. The country we care most about is Lumatere, Finnikin’s homeland.

Ten years ago, a power-greedy cousin infiltrated Lumatere’s royal castle, slaughtering the king, queen, and princesses. This violence set off another chain of violent events, which ended with the entire country being cursed and sealed off from the rest of the world. Those events are called “the five days of the unspeakable.” The people who escaped during that time roam the other countries, exiled, ignored, and mostly despised. They die from fever, starvation, and at the hands of other countries’ kings. It is not a good time to be Lumateren.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

At 5 o'clock in the morning, a curly-headed toddler went missing from his bed in the spacious mansion in the English countryside, never to be seen alive again.
Young Saville Kent's soon-to-be-discovered vicious murder at the hands of someone who was surely a family member or trusted servant excited the press, the populace, and the authorities and ultimately drew the attention of one of Scotland Yard's first and finest detectives, Jack Whicher. Like the fictional Sherlock Holmes, Detective Whicher had a keen mind and almost sixth sense for uncovering criminals in the most unlikely places. With no forensics lab modern or otherwise to help him discover the identity of Saville's killer, Whicher used reason and intuition when setting about his task.

A Nest for Celeste

 

Celeste, the star of “A Nest for Celeste” by Henry Cole, is a sweet and gentle mouse. She enjoys making beautiful baskets in the safety of her comfy mousehole, which is located within Oakley Plantation in Louisiana. She is occasionally bullied by two nasty, lazy rats, who force her to retrieve food for them from the dining room. The cat is a constant danger in her life, and during one of her food expeditions Celeste is chased away from the safety of her home and must seek refuge in another bedroom.
 
It turns out that this room is occupied by Joseph Mason, a young apprentice to the great wildlife artist John James Audubon (1785–1851). Mason and Celeste form a tender friendship, and Celeste loves riding in Mason’s pocket around the house and watching him paint.

 

Summer Fun

    It’s high summer now, with the library’s summer reading clubs in full swing and the Fourth of July right around the corner.  Marla Frazee’s award-winning picture book, “A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever,” captures the best of summer from a kid’s point of view.


    James and Eamon are spending the week with James’s grandparents so they can attend nature camp.  While Grandfather Bill tries his best to interest the boys in Antarctica, and Grandmother Pam fills them with banana waffles and ice cream sundaes, the boys enjoy all kinds of fun, most of it unrelated to nature camp.  Identifying birds?  They have more fun training their binoculars on each other’s freckles.  Sleeping in the basement on the blow-up mattress, playing video games, and eating more banana waffles are the highlights of their week.

The Killing Way

Most books set in the time of King Arthur are fantasies focusing on Merlin's magicks, glittering armor, and tragic, high-flown affairs of the heart.  As the title implies, The Killing Way is not one of those books.

Our hero is not a king's son like Lancelot or a wily wizard. His name is Malgwyn ap Cuneglas, and before the Saxons overran his village, killing his beloved wife, he was simply a farmer.  For revenge, he gladly and madly joined up with young Lord Arthur's band to slay as many Saxons as possible. He proved an able and trusted lieutenant and for a while peace is restored to the land though at a terrible price for Malgwyn.

Southern Living's Farmers Market Cookbook

The farmer's market beckons us with spring's arugula, peas, and asparagus and continues its siren call until the fall's first frost. We return with bags overflowing with berries, new potatoes, sugar snap peas, and herbs to plant in the garden. Of course there are tried-and-true recipes that we fall back on each year to use up the produce, but new inspiration is always welcome. Southern Living's new Farmer's Market Cookbook is a great resource for "celebrat[ing] the seasons with fresh-from-the-farm recipes."

The cookbook is divided by season and then further subdivided by appetizers, beverages, main dishes, soups, side dishes, jams/jellies, salads, and desserts. The format is lovely, with beautiful pictures enticing you to recreate the recipe. There are plenty of recipes that employ such typical Virginia bounty as tomatoes and zucchini, but there are also more exotic subjects like mangoes and avocadoes.

Since we are at the beginning of summer at the time of this review, here are the recipes I plan to try in the next two months: Blackberry Iced Tea, Pan-Seared Trout with Italian Style Salsa, Gazpacho, Skillet Creamed Corn, and Summer Squash Casserole. We have peach trees in the backyard, so I think I'll try the Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad as well. The Tomato-Cucumber Salad should nicely take care of extra cukes and tomatoes from the garden. Then I can look forward to fall's scrumptious apple recipes. (See a selection of recipes online).

12 Weeks of Hot Summer Reads: After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is Week 4 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review. 

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
Tad Ibsen is a scrawny kid who walks into the classroom on crutches, muttering angrily to himself, with a huge red scar across the side of his head. Why does the teacher seat the new kid next to Jeffrey Alper? “Suddenly I get it,” Jeffrey explains to the reader. “I don’t always catch on so fast, but this time, I put two and two together…I lean over and whisper, ‘Hi, I’m Jeffrey. I had cancer, too.’ He looks at me like I’m a particularly loathsome slice of school-lunch meat loaf and says, ‘Wow, congratulations! What do you want, a medal?’” Of course, they’re best friends from that moment on. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 274

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Alicia Suskin Ostriker is one of our country’s finest poets. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey. I thought that today you might like to have us offer you a poem full of blessings.

The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

American Life in Poetry: Column 273

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Equipment. I like to paint and draw, and I own enough art supplies to start my own store. And for every hobby there are lots of supplies that seem essential. In this poem we get a whole tackle box full of equipment from Michael Sowder, who lives and fishes in Utah.

Fishing, His Birthday

Cooking the wolf (or fox) at the door

Three authors wrote notable books on eating in lean times: MFK Fisher, Elizabeth David, and Patience Gray. Fisher and David wrote during and just after the war, respectively. Gray wrote about places where food was scarce at certain times of the year. They all offer sage advice and write well.