High Wire

High Wire
High Wire by Charles Ogden
Aladdin, 2006, 208 pages
Reviewed by Rebecca van Kniest

Another fun installment in the Edgar & Ellen series. The circus comes to town and with it new questions about Heinmertz, the twins’ silent caretaker with his disturbing smile, and the unpredictable Pet. The tents and dramatic acts provide an excellent backdrop for the ongoing conflict with the Knightleighs and Edgar and Ellen’s desire for mischief and mayhem. The mystery surrounding the town’s founder and the strange balm continues to grow, and High Wire sets things up nicely for the next book.

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender
Doubleday, 2010, 292 pages
Reviewed by: Rebecca van Kniest

Simply in terms of narrative, this book was a pleasant surprise. Bender succeeds in the often difficult task of presenting much of the book from the perspective of a young child without sacrificing narrative credibility or the quality of the prose. Her premise, however, demands some considerable suspension of disbelief from the outset (which was relatively easy) and as the story unfolds (considerably more difficult). The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a book about the impossibility of knowing the people we love (and even ourselves). It’s not especially memorable, I suspect, but it reads quickly and I enjoyed it well enough.

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The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

Baby Whisperer

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (By Teaching You How to Ask the Right Questions) by Tracy Hogg
Atria Books, 2005, 402 pages
Reviewed by: Rebecca van Kniest

There’s some hyperbole in the title here, but at least it’s consistent with the content. Hogg presents herself as a middle-of-the-road professional on babies and their behaviors, but some of the suggestions seem to tend toward the extreme (check out the pick-up-put-down method). The Baby Whisperer covers everything from feeding to sleep in a sometimes unwieldy presentation and over-long chapters that include lots of narrative with letters from parents, etc. Includes a detailed index.

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Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – the Lessons from a New Science

Social Physics

Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – the Lessons from a New Science by Alex Pentland
Penguin Press HC, 2014, 320 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

This is not the first “big data” book to frame the mining of big data as a scientific revolution which can be used as a lens to view unknown aspects of social interactions like early microscopes and telescopes could view the previously unseen physical universe. Using aggregate data from cell phones, purchases, and personal interactions, the author and his graduate students have analyzed organizations, cities, and even the whole country of the Ivory Coast. He points out the need for international agreements on privacy and optional participation, and he highlights the necessity for moving swiftly before big businesses or governments take over the control themselves. The appendices on the technology developed and the mathematical equations used were a little over my head, but the book is very readable. The author shows how humanity is basically more cooperative and communal than competitive, and, when we are competitive we generally do that while working within a competing communal group. His research shows the need for a balance between exploration for new ideas and integration of those new ideas into a social group. Finally, I have a research-based justification for sending librarians to conferences!

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Tangled

Tangled

Tangled by Mary Balogh
Topaz, 1994, 384 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

David has always loved Rebecca, but she chose to marry his foster brother, Julian, whom David has always covered for and taken the blame for all of his life. After Julian and Rebecca marry, David joins the army and heads for the Crimean War, but Julian follows, philandering and self-centered as always. In the midst of battle David shoots Julian, who appears to be killing an unarmed fellow British officer, and, living with that nightmare, he returns home from the war a hero. Rebecca has been a widow for two years and they get married as a matter of convenience, but more and more problems get in the way of their developing relationship. The author thoroughly explores what it means to love, based on shared responsibilities, physical intimacy, raising a child, and caring for each other, and in particular, how that sort of love differs from romantic infatuation.

A Regency Valentine: five stories

A Regency Valentine:  five stories

A Regency Valentine: five stories by Mary Balogh, Katherine Kingsley, Emma Lange, Patricia Rice, Joan Wolf
Signet, 1991, 352 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

First, Roger uses a young boy as a messenger with his secret valentine token, but it is deliberately mis-directed to his aunt’s lovely companion and Roger finds that mistakes can lead to the best outcomes. Second, Aubrey has completed her education and continental tour, courtesy of a secret benefactor, and is about to take up the very boring and restricted life of a school mistress, when she accidentally runs into her best friend from childhood and finds that other options may be available. Third, Alex is visiting her godmother, expecting that she will have to somehow entice Harry into marriage, when she finds that her hostess has brought her first love back from India to join the party. Fourth, the dissolute Lord Chatham, having been thrown out as a suitor, returns from India with his own young daughter, knowing much more about how and why fathers protect their daughters and seeking a second chance. Fifth, ever since Dinah and her mother came to live with the youthful Earl of Thornton and his sister, she and Thorn have fought like cats and dogs, but when she enters her first London season determined to find a husband, they find a different relationship under the animosity.

The Toll-Gate

The Toll-Gate

The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
Arrow, 2005, 288 pages
Reviewed by: Sharon McCaslin

John Staple, a very over-sized ex-soldier and heir to his cousin’s earldom, is rather bored and ripe for adventure. Beset by bad weather and worse directions, he finds a toll gate “manned” by a terrified eleven year old boy and decides to take shelter there until the gate-keeper returns. However, the boy’s father does not return and, in the morning Jack meets the statuesque and competent Nell Stornaway, who is struggling to maintain her family estate and protect her dying grandfather, in spite of hovering vultures and obnoxious visitors. As Jack tries to unravel the convoluted mystery of the missing man, the motives of the encroaching villains, and the presence of a Bow Street Runner, he also endeavors to protect Nell, provide for the abandoned young boy, and reform a very engaging highwayman. This book is one of my favorites.