Life on Mars book review

April is National Poetry Month. Time for this “non-poetry reader” to try a collection of poems. This year I chose the lauded Life on Mars by Tracy Smith, former Poet Laureate of the United States. I like science fiction and David Bowie, so I was excited about this one.

The collection did live up to my expectations. I did enjoy the poetry about space, science fiction and Bowie. I preferred these to the others in the book. Some of the others were ok, but nothing that moved me.

As a librarian, my favorite passage comes from the Poem “My God, It’s Full of Stars”
Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population

Do try this book. Please do not chew on the Library’s pencils.

Tom Taylor
Director

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Guest Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

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Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson will expand your reading repertoire. As a Seattle native, Guterson’s familiarity with Puget Sound and Bainbridge Island intensifies the descriptions of the unique ecosystems and diverse plant life including prairie, thickets, wetlands, native grasses, and wildflowers. Douglas fir, hemlock, cedar, pines, and other trees surround the beautiful San Piedro Island. Tireless, determined fishermen, women, and families exercised a code of honor in their work: fish canning industry, dairy, poultry, berry fields, and assorted crops. Witnessing the celebration at the annual strawberry festival highlights the collaboration of the fishers and farmers.

After dedicated, principled fisherman Carl Heine was found the victim of head trauma, Kazuo Miyamoto was charged with his murder. They were childhood friends and football teammates; nonetheless, evidence suggests foul play. Clouded by a land dispute between the two families, Kazuo’s responsible fishing practices and farming reputation do not alter any potential mistrust. Suspicion of Japanese Americans heightened after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although many were second-generation citizens and acknowledged for their established work ethic and fishing and farming practices, they were forced into internment camps. War relocation haunted relationships when a community was exiled, while neighbors watched despite previous coexistence.

More than the compelling story of a mangled veteran tortured by the memory of killing Germans, Ishmael Chambers returned home to oversee his father’s newspaper and was respected for truthful reporting and poignant photography. His loyalty and deep feelings for Kazuo’s graceful, beautiful wife Hatsue intrigue the reader during Ishmael’s quest for facts about the accident. As children, they harvested strawberries, treasured the woodlands, and adored each other. Peace, privacy, security among the cedars, and the tranquility of colonnades provided sacred memories. Absent of society’s pressures and prejudices, the forest protected this young couple. “He loved humankind dearly…but disliked most human beings.”

This historical novel grips your heart and captivates your mind. If you embrace family and community, Snow Falling on Cedars weaves love, fear, deceit, war, drama, and an enchanting island into one story. Although nautical knowledge will ease reading, no maritime experience is necessary to imagine the powerful messages. The cruel kindness of the island affords residents a fresh life yet a fierce threat. The beauty yet peril of snow blanketing the cedars and the ice concealing the roads disrupted island life and the trial. The courtroom is a stark contrast to the energetic waterfront and serene woodlands. Trepidation reinforces the convictions of the fishermen, “No one harms a seagull,” and other beliefs that demonstrated respect for all life.

Former high school English teacher, Guterson, fully commands language with alliteration, imagery, symbolism, legend, and prose. As an experienced journalist, he incorporates details, legalities, and research into the lighthouse history, harbor life, nature, woodlands, and piscaries. Explored on various levels, “man’s inhumanity to man” remained a constant reminder of a racial divide. The “eye of evidence is in the eye of the beholder.” Guterson’s courtroom depiction symbolizes the serendipitous task of islanders influenced by bias to determine the truth which is more than guilt or innocence. His intense exploration of fundamental human themes demonstrates the value of retreating to nature to escape unfairness alienating islanders. Snow Falling on Cedars evokes thought, sheds light on a foggy situation, and perplexes the reader.

Guest post by Carmaine Ternes, Librarian, Author, Editor, Presenter

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Book Review: The Widow Queen

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The Widow Queen by Elżbieta Cherezińska

I enjoy historic fiction set in specific eras. I love Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon stories and this ties in closely to that time (late 10th Century). I also know very little about Polish history and was eager to learn more. This book has a lot of interesting characters. I appreciate the different perspectives.

That said, it’s a mammoth undertaking. It’s a large book with a lot of characters and names in languages readers might be unfamiliar with.  But, if you like historical fiction set in this era, give it a try.

 

Tom Taylor

Library Director

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Book Review: The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

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The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Genevieve Gornichec’s debut novel, The Witch’s Heart, takes the Norse characters and myths we are familiar with and gives them a new voice. Instead of the usual suspects, Odin and Thor, we are introduced to a minor character: the witch Angrboda, Loki’s first wife and the mother of his three children.

The Witch’s Heart begins with a heartbreaking scene in which Angrboda is being burned at the stake for the third time and her heart has been removed. She possesses the gift of seid, a kind of prophetic magic, which allows her to see into the future. Odin punishes her because she will not help him to see the future. She survives the burnings and finds herself stripped of her powers. Angrboda is now at the edge of the world, her body is slowly healing and she is reduced to foraging for roots just trying to survive.

Loki, the frost giant trickster god finds her and returns her heart to her. It’s at this point, where as a Marvel fan I can’t help but hear Tom Hiddleston, the actor who portrays Loki in the Marvel movies. “You’re a difficult woman to find.” See…I bet you just imagined the same thing!

Unlike the Loki we are accustomed to in the movies, this Loki is angsty, bored, and lacking in charisma. Angrboda is distrustful, as she should be, but Loki is persistent, he continues to insinuate himself into her life. She is content to live a solitary life in a cave. Despite Loki’s many antics and their frequent arguments, they fall in love and have three ill-fated children: the wolf Fenir, the Midgard serpent Jormungandr, and the half-dead girl and future Queen of the dead Hel.

Angrboda’s friend, the huntress giant Skadi, helps her to hide her family from the all-seeing eye of Odin. The threat that her unique family poses to the gods in Asgard will not go unnoticed for long. Angrboda’s prophetic visions of Ragnarok, or the apocalypse, and the role her children will play in the fall of the gods are a constant threat to her family’s safety. Angrboda must choose between letting the prophecy play out or somehow find a way to change the outcome.

The Witch’s Heart can be a bit slow-paced at times. This is a character-driven story of a woman who eventually learns to embrace her power. Angrboda makes the argument that the experiences of love and motherhood are equal to any epic battle waged by the gods. We get a glimpse into the complicated relationship with her “children” and the lengths she will go for love and vengeance.

Throughout the book, we are reminded that in Norse mythology, Ragnarok is inevitable. Angrboda, like all the others, is bound by fate. The author offers us a new perspective: instead of trying to alter the ending, focus on the small moments in your life, be present in your own life.

If you enjoyed Circe by Madeline Miller, you will love this book.

Review by Angela, Circulation Librarian

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