Takoma Park Maryland Library · 101 Philadelphia Avenue · Takoma Park Maryland 20912 USA · 301.891.7259


Read Karen MacPherson's essays, reviews, and interviews with authors.

December 14, 2014

In the Calais Coach

Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie 
reviewed by Lintaro 

This book is one of Agatha Christie's famous Poirot novels, and deals with the main character, Hercule Poirot, trying to solve a murder on board a train that is stranded in the middle of nowhere during a week-long snow storm. The book has everything you could ask for: a riveting plot, a surprising twist at the end, and most importantly many details. Murder On The Orient Express is really one of the best books in the Poirot series with a mix of action, surprise, and suspense that I believe anybody could read and love.

Librarian's notes:
The official site for the book (with map).
The 1994 movie based on the book had an absolutely all-star cast including Albert Finney. Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, and so on. Read the book and then see the movie.

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December 10, 2014


The Good Earth by Pearl Buck  
reviewed by Lintaro 

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, is a captivating book about a Chinese peasant named Wang Lung who has to deal with the rigors of life such as famine and death while also having to deal with the vast social upheaval China experienced during the last century. It portrays life in its tragedy, poverty, wealth, and happiness. It focuses on family and conflict, making it very realistic.

Librarian's note: A critical essay by an Asian Studies scholar.

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December 09, 2014

From Columbus to Iraq

Zinn - Young People's History of the United States

A Young People's History Of The United States by Howard Zinn 

reviewed by Kie 

What is the real story behind the Japanese Americans in camps during World War II? What is the truth behind Columbus and the Indians? What were some of the ways African-American's revolted against racism during the 1950s and 1960s? A Young People's History Of The United States is a well written book. Not only does it talk about subjects rarely mentioned in books, but it sheds light on the standpoints of young people living in some of the hardest times in the history of the United States. This book is certainly for all ages.

Librarian's Notes:
A critical NYT review
Howard Zinn discusses the book
10th anniversary of Zinn's Voices of a People’s History of the United States (the recent performance at The New School).

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December 08, 2014

Welcome to Sunset Towers

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin 
reviewed by Lintaro 

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin is an enthralling novel about a reclusive billionaire who is murdered and then, according to the will, he invites his heirs to play a game that will decide the future of his vast fortune. Oh, and did I mention the murderer is among them? In this surprising gem of a book, there are many plot twists, moments of excitement and so on. This is a wonderful book I would recommend to anybody.

Librarian's notes: Ellen Raskin was also an artist who designed many book covers, including the dust jacket for the original edition of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time .
The Westing Game won the 1979 Newbery Medal.
The original manuscript has been scanned and is available online. Take a look.

original manuscript page from The Westing Game

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December 07, 2014

In the West Nothing New

All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque 

reviewed by Sarah 

These are the thoughts and experiences of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier who enlists in World War I. He is just a young man, only twenty years of age, but all he knows is the terror and despair of the front lines. As the war breaks him, he keeps fighting to keep a single promise, a promise to "fight against the hatred that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but in different uniforms against one another". But the front is a merciless and perilous place and Paul must first survive.

This is an extremely dense and deep book but I love this book so much because it reveals the reality of war. It was a brutal war, and Paul experiences the effects of mustard gas, goes through the trauma of seeing the ones he cares for in pain and dead, only to go back out on the front and fight a war that he had nothing to do with. This book has no clichés about a hero’s duty, it’s real, and it’s powerful. Everyone should read this book, whether they are an adult or teenager and should remember the Lost Generation.

Librarian's notes:
The movie version of All Quiet on the Western Front is a great classic.
A complete edition of Remarque's last book, The Promised Land, has finally being published in English translation.

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December 06, 2014

Meg's Adventures

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle 
reviewed by Kie 

On a dark and stormy night, a girl named Meg, her friend Calvin, and her little brother Charles Wallace, are visited by three strange women with even stranger names. The three embark on a dangerous and extraordinary mission: to save Meg's father. What the trio doesn't know is that the threat is more dangerous than they could ever have imagined. Madeline L'Engle has truly written a masterpiece with A Wrinkle In Time. This book is meant for all ages.

An earlier student review

Librarian's Notes:
This book won the Newbery Medal in 1963.
It has been "challenged" frequently, that is parents or others have asked that it be removed from library shelves.

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December 05, 2014


How They Croaked by Georgia Braggnbsp;
reviewed by Lintaro 

How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg is a wonderful book that explains in detail the 5 W's of some of history's most famous deaths. These people include Charles Darwin, Cleopatra, and even Galileo Galilei. Although most people think these people croaked in their sleep or just went into a long rest one day, the truth is they died in pain and anguish, with the use of bloodletting to get rid of their diseases and ailments. This book may make you think about how lucky you are to have aspirin in your cabinet today.

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November 26, 2014

Amor Deliria Nervosa

Delirium by Lauren Oliver 
reviewed by Oumou 

In this distopic world, love is a disease. The deliria consumes you and once it grasps hold of you completely, there is no escaping it, that is, until the scientists find a cure. At age 18, all citizens are required to be cured of love and delirium. Lena Holoway is looking forward to the day of her cure, when she could be pure, protected, and happy. But something unpredictable and life changing and possibly life threatening happens to her. She falls in love.

I have always been fond of speculative fiction and dystopias and utopias. The first time I read this book it was captivating. I loved the thrill and rebellious aspects of the main characters. I also loved the journey that the main characters went on and the story of a girl who needs to face the reality of her world and fight for those she loves. For those who like reading adventure and romance, this series is a great choice. I recommend Delirium to an audience of 13-17 year olds but it is still a wonderful read for those older. I enjoyed Delirium and have also enjoyed the continuations of the book, Pandemonium and Requiem and highly recommend those books too.

Librarian's note: the author.

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November 25, 2014

Charlie's Story

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky 
reviewed by Sarah G 

This book follows a troubled teen, Charlie, as he struggles through his first year of high school with a new group of friends after several traumatizing events, including his best friend's suicide and his aunt's death.

I loved this book because the author did and exceptional job at portraying Charlie's awkward, sweet personality by formatting the book in the form of letters written by Charlie. Also, I liked how the author was able to successfully show Charlie's dynamic among his friends and family even though the story is written in first person. However, I also thought that certain events in the story, like what happened with Charlie and his Aunt Helen, were a bit confusing and hard to understand as Chbosky did not explain them well. Also, some parts of the story seemed boring and uneventful, like when Charlie would simply describe what he has done throughout the day, which did not include any important events that are relevant to the story. Some of this story is unrealistic, as I doubt that that many bad things that were mentioned in this story can happen to a person.

I would recommend this book to anyone older than 14, as it mentions many mature things. Although I enjoyed reading this book, I think that the movie was better. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a good book, but I would not read it again.

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November 24, 2014

The Hobbit

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien 
reviewed by Sarah 

Bilbo Baggins is quite a simple average hobbit, or so he thinks. One day a large number of dwarves enter his home and destroy almost everything in it, but then they ask of his accompaniment on their journey to take back their home by the Misty Mountains and reclaim their gold from Smaug, the dragon who destroyed their home.

Bilbo is a crucial factor in this journey to slay the dragon, but is the gold reward enough to make him leave his cozy simple hobbit home? As the dwarves leave, Bilbo agrees to go with them and embarks on a mystical but perilous journey. I read this book a year ago but I can still remember most of the story because it was so memorable. This is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Librarian's note: A post on the rediscovered illustrations.
We do now have The Art of the Hobbit in the collection at 828.912 TOLKIEN

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November 21, 2014

Raw Heartbreak

book: What Happens NextWhat Happens Next by Colleen Clayton 
reviewed by Oumou 

Can one school skiing trip change everything? Apparently to Cassidy " Sid " Murphy it can and it did. When she meets Dax Windsor at a ski resort, she wakes up the next morning in a strange bed with no memory of what happened last night except for sneaking out to meet Dax. She starts to get scared of what might have happened and starts to distance herself from her close friends and family.

The book What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton is an amazing story. It shows the battle a girl goes through fighting off her insecurities and finding a person who thinks she's perfect just the way she is. This is a great story, but then starts become boring and cliché. I recommend this story to teens who love to read about people who experienced tragedies in their life.

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November 19, 2014

Watership Down

Watership Down by Richard Adams 
reviewed by Sarah 

A small gang of rabbits, Hazel, Fiver, Bigwig, Blackberry, Dandelion, Silver, Buckthorn, Holly, Strawberry, and a few others escape their original warren before the humans come to kill them and steal their land. Fiver, Hazel's younger brother, sees this all coming and he and other rabbits that believe in Fiver flee in search of a new warren. These rabbits are faced with many dangers and temptations along the way and will have to fight for their new home.

This classic personifies the rabbits to make them more human, therefore making reading a book about rabbits finding a new home a little more interesting. These rabbits have their own language, poetry, mythology, and other cultural aspects. Personally I never could really enjoy this book, but many others have. If you are the kind of person that could sit down and read a book about rabbits, heroic journeys and rabbit mythology and battle without being forced against your own will to read it for school, you may enjoy this book.

Interview with the author (at age 92) and the illustrator of a recent edition.

An earlier review of Watership Down written by Takoma Park student "...the absolute worst book I've ever read in my life..."

Librarian's Note: Some of us like it, even those who don't might enjoy Adams' other books such as Traveler and Plague Dogs. The author's own favorite is Shardik. Although he began writing by telling stories to his daughters, his books are not children's literature.

We have the Blackstone audio recording of Watership Down available on CD at the library, and as streaming audio for your pad or phone at Audiobookcloud.

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November 18, 2014

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 
reviewed by Lintaro 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a very intriguing novel that provides a speculative view about what our future will look like. The story focuses on a teenage boy named Wade, who lives in the year 2044, a year where people are unemployed, oil is a premium commodity, and life is a relative dystopia. Because of this, the world and Wade spends most of their time on a realistic simulation game called The OASIS where everything is plentiful and free. But this all changes when the game's creator dies and his entire $240 billion fortune is left to any OASIS player who can solve a complex scavenger hunt that he coded. Now with the possibility of becoming a billionaire in a second, Wade starts the long quest to solve the scavenger hunt.

This book is a very enthralling read full of thrills and excitement. The book becomes more exciting through its incredible realism and character development. However it is sometimes not very descriptive, which may confuse the reader. Overall, the book is a very interesting read.

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