The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
Scribner, 2014, 368 pages
Reviewed by: Sheryl Walters

The Museum of Extraordinary Things is just that, a museum with odd and unusual items. This story is set around the treasures at Coney Island in the early 1900s. It is about a young girl as she grows up in her overbearing father’s shadow. He is the museum owner and hires all sorts of unique individuals, all who are kept away from her. She lives very a solitary life until she reaches an age and is required to be one of his characters for paying customers to view and marvel.

The book also brings in another solitary character, a photographer who has forsaken his father and his Jewish faith. The story switches between these two people until they eventually meet and fall in love. In all, it is a love story, but definitely not a traditional one.

I waited for this book a long time, and was very excited about reading it. Perhaps that overjoy ruined it a little bit for me. I think if I had pulled this off the shelf, not knowing anything about it, I would have been very surprised and pleased. However, since I expected it to be great, it was hard for the book to enthrall me. I felt the ending was too dull in comparison to the events and mystery of the book on the whole. But I would recommend it for anyone who likes dark love stories with some history mixed in.

Fontbonne has it!

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: the Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

: the Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism

The Zero Marginal Cost Society: the Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism by Jeremy Rifkin
Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2014, 368 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

Economics is not my forte, but this book is certainly worth any difficulty. The author contends that we are at the forefront of another major shift in culture and attitude, replacing the self-centered, grasping, and acquisitive nature of capitalism with the collaborative, open, and sharing viewpoint of the “commons”. As production becomes ever more efficient and profit margins narrow, the value of “things” and even of money (which represents the ability to purchase “things”) begins to disappear. There are several obstacles to this society of abundance and more social perspective of humanity: population growth (which he hopes to stem with universal electrification), and climate change which may make all efforts at providing adequate food impossible. But even the threat of global terrorism aimed at the power grid could possibly be thwarted by decentralizing power systems (think solar) in much the same way the internet decentralizes its packet sending and routing.

Fontbonne has it!

Miss Dornton’s Hero

Miss Dornton’s Hero

Miss Dornton’s Hero by Elisabeth Fairchild
Signet, 1995, 224 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

When accompanying her older twin sisters to London for their season, Miss Dornton dreams of doing heroic deeds or at least meeting a hero, but after she is rescued from a vicious stray dog she finds that real life heroes have psychological wounds and nightmares. Urging herself on to heroic action, she dresses in a man’s clothing to watch a sword fight between her cousin and her rescuer, only to thrust herself between them, causing an accidental wounding. Social disgrace looms for her and her family, causing further reputational problems for the wounded viscount. This book is certainly readable, but I had somehow expected better from this author.

A Novel Way to Die

A Novel Way to Die

A Novel Way to Die by Ali Brandon
Berkley, 2012, 304 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

In the second of the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries, Darla hires a teenage worker, purely because the youth gets along with the dictatorial cat she inherited with her bookstore. But Hamlet, the cat, seems to be escaping into the night and her new assistant is out prowling when and where he shouldn’t be as well. Darla is becoming attracted to a partner in a local rehab project, but then the two of them unexpectedly stumble across the dead body of his partner. With help from Jake, her ex-cop friend and tenant, Darla tries to figure out what happened before she, too, ends up dead. Once again, Hamlet provides mysterious clues…

Double booked for death

Double booked for death

Double booked for death by Ali Brandon
Berkley, 2011, 325 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

Darla has inherited a bookstore with apartments in Brooklyn. As she tries to keep her small business afloat she has support from her basement renter, an ex-cop, and a rather antagonistic responsibility for supporting a large black cat named Hamlet, who thinks he owns the place. A book signing event for an author of high school ghost stories fills the neighborhood with black caped teenagers and the author ends up run over on the street by protesting religious fanatics. Was it an accident? A murder? If it was murder, was this black caped corpse the intended victim? The cat seems to be giving out literary clues…

The Notorious Lord Havergal

The Notorious Lord Havergal

The Notorious Lord Havergal by Joan Smith
Faucett, 1991, 224 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

Lettie inherited the trusteeship of Lord Havergal’s estate from her father and permits him to believe that she is a man. When she repeatedly refuses to allow him to draw on the principal to cover his extravagant lifestyle, he pays a surprise visit to try to talk her out of giving him the money and discovers his error. I enjoyed this one very much.

Willowswood Match

Willowswood Match

Willowswood Match by Gayle Buck
Signet, 1989, 224 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

Miranda, and American, goes to visit her English cousin Anne, while her brother tries to extricate his ship from wrongful impoundment by a rogue British naval officer. Unfortunately, Anne is sick and deserted by servants and neighbors who fear small pox. Miranda and her companion care for Anne’s small son and clean up the house, leading Viscount Wythe, who has arrived to assist his ailing sister-in-law, to mistake Miranda for a very incompetent servant. The death of Anne’s military husband forces Mirand and the viscount to share the running of the estate and a relationship develops in spite of a rough beginning. A good read.