Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

This title was a Newbery Honor winner this year. The setting is Moscow, Russia during Stalin’s rule. The main character is a young boy whose father is a high level officer for Stalin who turns in ‘traitors’ and anyone who is anti-Stalin, anti-Communism. The young boy (11 years old or so) is completely brainwashed into believing Stalin is the greatest and is ready to dedicate his life to him and the cause. However, that night officers come and take his father away. Presumably he was turned in by a neighbor as it seems was common practice: everyone accusing anyone, people being imprisoned and killed without evidence.  The action mostly takes place in the boy’s school as he is slow to realize his father is not coming back and that he himself is in danger of being accused of being a traitor as well as his new status of orphan. I knew nothing of this time in history. While I enjoyed the book and its illustrations, it might confuse young readers who know less than I do about the subject. However, it had a great sense of time and place; the cold, frigid temperature of Russia, and the fear that everyone was in danger of being next in line to be killed.

Elmore Leonard

The 86-year-old crime writer is a recent receipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguised Contributions to American Letters.  Leonard has published 45 novels, nearly half of which have been on the NYT’s best seller list.  His books and short stories have been turned in movies, TV movies and three TV series.  The FX show “Justified” features one of Leonard’s best known characters, US marshall Raylan Givens.

Leonard is in good company.  Others who have won this prestigious award are Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, Phil Roth, and John Updike.

The Foundation is also awarding the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community to NYT Chairman and Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.

Wanted Man

Just finished the new Lee Child.  His main character, Jack Reacher, is an ex-army guy who has no home and few possessions. He carries a toothbrush, buys new clothes when the old get dirty and invariably stumbles into fascinating situations.  He always knows what time it is, what the population of every city is, and all the zip codes of the country. In Wanted Man he is hitchhiking on his way to Virginia.  He’s picked up by two men and a woman, and the adventure begins.  The men have just committed a murder, the woman is a hostage to fool the road blocks looking for two men, and Reacher soon knows things are not as they seem.

The thing is, if you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read them all.  Which does not keep me from being addicted.


Okay.  This is my second attempt to post this blog.  Yesterday’s attempt was unsuccessful.  Why?  I don’t know.

This is exciting stuff,  so pay attention.

Recently, I noticed that there seems to be an epidemic of children’s books–of all types–about dogs.  Sunday’s NYT Book Review section featured 8 books who major characters were dogs.  Some were very serious; some funny.

Here are several titles that we recently acquired in this category.  “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer is a serious book for readers ages 10 and up.  It deals with a young girl from a troubled family who will face homelessness, groups homes, foster care, etc.  Somewhere along the way, she acquires a dog, Shush, who travels with her on this physical and psychological journey.

“Lenore Finds a Friend” by Jon Katz is a picture book for ages 4-8.  It is a follow-up to “Meet the Dogs From Bedlam Farm” told through animal photograph.  Lenore is the last of five working dogs on the author’s upstate NY farm.  The other dogs seem to be jealous of her, but eventually they become friends.  A simple story with dogs showing humans how to act the right way.

Michael Morpurgo author of “War Horse” has written another animal story against the framework of another war.  “Shadow” is set in present-day Afghanistan.  Aman, fourteen years old, and his mother are barely surviving in an Afghan cave.  Shadow appears seemingly out of nowhere just when the boy needs him the most.  Eventually, Aman and his mother make it to England and are detained in Yarl’s Wood, an immigration removal center in the UK.  This story blends the plight of war refugees and the very real connection between an owner and his pet.

A book that complements “Shadow” is “Dogs on Duty” by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.  This is a visual history of dogs on the battlefields of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.  The book details the training and experiences of real dogs from World War I to the present.  Their stories and those of their handlers are both heroic and inspiring.


Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich

I just finished Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich.  This book follows the exploits of Lizzy, a cupcake baker, and Diesel, a supernatural hunk, as they hunt for the SALIGA Lust stone.  The story takes the characters all over Boston as they hunt down clues that were apparently put into place by other people with special abilities back in the 1800s.  It was a fun, light, fast read- I wouldn’t have had the time to read it otherwise!