02. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Jessica, Romance

Finding Cinderella by Colleeen Hoover, read by Jessica, on 08/30/2014

71G-sjnwY4L._SL1500_A chance encounter in the dark leads eighteen-year-old Daniel and the girl who stumbles across him to profess their love for each other. But this love has conditions: they agree it will only last one hour and it will only be make-believe.

When their hour is up and the girl rushes off like Cinderella, Daniel tries to convince himself that what happened between them only seemed perfect because they were pretending it was perfect. Moments like that with girls like her don’t happen outside of fairytales.

One year and one bad relationship later, his disbelief in insta-love is stripped away the day he meets Six: a girl with a strange name and an even stranger personality. But Daniel soon realizes that fairytales don’t exist, and unfortunately for Daniel, finding Cinderella doesn’t guarantee their happily ever after…it only further threatens it.

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop, read by Angie, on 09/01/2014

There are certain series I love but really wish I hadn’t discovered until the entire series is out. Why? Because I want to devour them all in one sitting of course. After having read the first two books in this series I was disappointed to find out I am going to have to wait until next year to read the next one. Ugh!!

Murder of Crows picks up where Written in Red left off. The citizens of the Lakeside Courtyard have successfully fought off the mercenaries who were coming to kidnap Meg and young Sam and take them back to the Controller. So one problem has been solved, but the bigger issues still remain. There are still lots of places with tensions running high between the terra indigene and the humans. There are more instances where the drugs gone over wolf and feel good have caused havoc. And now there are reports of tainted meat causing the same kinds of problems the drugs did. For those who know where the drugs are coming from this is disturbing news. The humans don’t seem to realize how tenuous their place is in the world and how short their time might be if they keep pissing off the Others. Meg’s prophecies are dark indeed and the future doesn’t look very good for the human population. Simon and the rest of the Lakeside Courtyard are trying to solve the problems before they escalate past the point of no return. They are working closely with the local police to find solutions and peace. It is not escaping the notice of other Courtyards or terra indigene. They are on the hunt for the Controller and the cassandra sangue he is using to poison the world. 

I think I might have loved this book just as much as Written in Red. Anne Bishop does such a fantastic job of building the worlds she creates and making them come alive. She also does a fantastic job of creating characters you come to love and cheer for. I thought it was interesting that in this book, as in the last, the Others are not the bad guys. The bad guys are the humans. Sure the Others do terrible things, but they are not human and the reader isn’t expected to look at them through a human lens. They are other and for the most part think of humans as prey and meat. They tolerate humans because humans provide some of the things they enjoy, but they do not need humans and most of them never want to be around them. That is why I love the dynamic between the Lakeside Others and the humans who work with them. It is meant to show an ideal; it is an experiment to see if humans and Others can tolerate each other enough to live peacefully. It makes for thrilling storytelling. 

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal

Written in Red by Anne Bishop, read by Angie, on 08/31/2014

Namid created the world and all those in it. When Namid created humans they were given a small part of the world; it was only after they ventured out of their area that they realized they were not the dominate species. The rest of the world was controlled by the Others and the humans had to learn to live with them. The Others are shapeshifters, vampires, elementals and others who you really don’t want to know about. As the humans moved out into the world they negotiated settlements with the Others who controlled the areas. Soon there are human towns surrounded by the terra indigene who control the world. There are also human cities with terra indigeneCourtyards. The Others control the world and everything in it; they decide where the humans live, how long they live there and what resources they get. It is up to the humans to become more than prey. 

Meg is a cassandra sangue, a blood prophet, who sees prophecies when her skin is cut. She has run away from the Controller who operated the compound where she lived and controlled all aspects of her life. She ends up at the Lakeside Courtyard where she meets Simon Wolfgard and is given the job of human liason. It is her responsibility to take in all the mail and packages the residents of the Courtyard receive and make sure they are properly distributed. Lakeside isn’t like other Courtyards in that they interact more with the humans. They have stores the humans can use and they have human employees. Meg’s presence changes the dynamic of the Courtyard in a way no one could have foreseen. She forms relationships with the Others and with the humans in their employee. But Meg has powerful enemies and they are not willing to let such valuable property fall through their hands. They are determined to return her to the Controller not matter the cost. 

Anne Bishop has again created a world and characters that suck you in and don’t let go. I loved the world she created in Namid and the creatures that inhabit it. It is very much our world with a different history. I like the new take on shapeshifters and vampires and the fact that we get to know their motivations and what they think of humans. I LOVED the elementals; they are my favorite characters in this series. The action of the book was great and I liked that this is a planned series so nothing was really tied up at the end of this book. It isn’t a cliff hanger, but there is a lot more story to tell in the future books in the series. I think the relationships between the charactesr and the world building are going to make this one of my favorite series. 

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal · Tags:

Omens by Kelley Armstrong , read by Angie, on 08/30/2014

Olivia Taylor-Jones has always lived a life of privilege and ease. She is the daughter of a powerful couple and engage to a powerful man. All that changes when it comes out she is adopted and the biological daughter of a notorious serial killer couple, Pamela and Todd Larsen. Olivia flees Chicago and ends up in Cainsville, a place of secrets and unknowns. She is taken in by the residents of this private town and soon becomes one of them. It is in Cainsville that she starts her investigations into her parent’s crimes. She isn’t sure if they are guilty or innocent, but she wants to find out more. Her mother gives her leads to investigate the last couple who were killed. Their killing was a little different from the others. Olivia is joined on her investigations by Gabriel who used to be her mother’s lawyer. He too has ties to Cainsville and the residents there. What they uncover doesn’t necessarily prove Olivia’s parents are innocent, but it does make them wonder what else is going on. 

Obviously as the first book in this series not all the reader’s questions are going to be answered. I am not sure if any of them were actually answered to tell you the truth. There is a lot going on in this book. You have the Larsens and whether or not they committed the crimes they are convicted of. You have the CIA and whatever experiments they were conducting. And then you have the people of Cainsville and whatever they are. Are they even human? Are they descendants of the fair folk from the British Isles or are they the fair folk? No idea. I think it was smart to leave the Cainsville part of the mystery pretty much up in the air. It is just barely touched on in this book and of course Olivia knows nothing of it except the fact that she can identify omens when others can’t. It is an interesting start to a series and one I am eager to read the rest of.

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Paranormal · Tags:

Brazen by Kelley Armstrong , read by Angie, on 08/29/2014

Nick is an omega wolf in the pack. He isn’t the smartest or the best fighter but he is an essential part of the pack. He has taken on the role of guardian for the three young werewolves that have joined the pack and has offered to help with the hunt for Malcolm Danvers. Malcolm is the bogeyman of the pack and he needs to be found and put down. Nick enlists the help of a supernatural detective agency and when they get in over their heads he and the lead detective Vanessa head off to Detroit. What follows is a game of cat and mouse between Malcolm and Nick with dead bodies, werewolf hunters, and cabal assassins.

I’m glad Nick has finally gotten a book of his own even if it is a short one. He has always been one of those characters in the background of Armstrong’s series so it is nice to see him take center stage for once. I was highly entertained by the developing relationship between Nick and Vanessa and glad to see Nick holding his own against Malcolm. I know Armstrong has ended the Otherworld series, but I feel like there will definitely be more to this story in future books.

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Paranormal · Tags:

Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong , read by Angie, on 08/29/2014

Morgan is on his way to New York to take a look at the North American Pack. He met Clay and Elena when they were in Alaska. He stops at a diner for dinner and starts to feel woozy so he thinks he needs to change. He takes off into the woods and changes into a werewolf. Unfortunately he still doesn’t feel well and he is found the next morning lying naked in the snow. Of course he is hauled off to jail and Clay and Elena are called in to rescue him. Once they get there things get even stranger. The local sheriff is a young woman with something to hide. Could it be all the bodies decomposing in the woods? Or whoever slashed the tires on their cars and broke into their rooms? Something is definitely going on and it is up to Clay and Elena to figure it out. 

This was a fun novella set in Armstrong’s Otherworld series. It gives us a little insight on how Morgan joined the pack and offered a strange mystery for our favorite werewolf pair to solve. The pack is definitely my favorite part of the Otherworld. They are really interesting and entertaining. Fans of Armstrong’s books will surely enjoy this one. 

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Battle for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi, read by Eric, on 08/30/2014

This final book in the WondLa trilogy puts Eva Nine amidst the war between humans and alien species, to decide the fate of Orbona. It also illustrates how much she has matured, and how powerful she has become, since The Search for WondLa. She has gained abilities which put her on par with most anyone on the planet, and she will need all of them in order to do her part in stopping the machinations of advisor-turned-usurper, Loroc.

This isn’t my favorite story of the trilogy, but even so, it is far from disappointing. Former antagonists become allies, treachery is revealed, and in the middle of it all is Eva. She is a great character, and her companions just as strong. Their effectiveness is enhanced by DiTerlizzi’s artwork, which is consistently excellent throughout the trilogy. His character and world designs are wonderful, and the perfect guide in case someone wishes to put all this on the big screen. Please?

index wistala_by_3l3ctr0head-d46r954 51pxnUyqBPL._ In this 2nd book, we hear the story of the dragon sibling Wistala, the female clutchling who survives the attack of the nest.  She attempts to rescue her father whom she finds near death on an outcropping.  She has an adventure with a cat, and eventually takes up  residence with a wise old elf named Rainfall, from whom she learns great wisdom and a gentleness of spirit.  She spends some time in a traveling circus learning to tell individual’s fortunes. Eventually she is able to manipulate the downfall of her parent’s and sister’s murder by gaining the trust of her enemy and setting him up for a fall.

01. September 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Science Fiction · Tags:

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik, read by Kira, on 08/31/2014

Dragon, Temeraire and Capt Lawrence are asked to return to the British Air Force (where dragons serve as airships), after having been dishonorably discharged.  Temeraire is delighted, Capt Lawrence is less thrilled.   Iskierka and her Capt Granby and Kulingile with his Capt Demane.  After several day and nights of storming, the drunken sailors catch the transport ship on fire, and sink the transport ship. More mishaps occur, but eventually they persevere.  I love these characters, and the way they play off each other, though there are so many of them, that it can get confusing.  Here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Temeraire_characters is a list of characters in case you need some refreshing, though it seems to be slanted toward the middle of the series.  I also really enjoyed the humor, arising from the clash of duty/protocol and doing the right thing; the humor arising from the clash between Temeraire and Izkierka.  Novik has developed these wonderful characters.  There are also some realistic losses experienced by these military engagements.
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download  download (1) Rebecca Parker West President of the Star King Ministry, as well as a Methodist Minister co-writes this with John Buehrens (co-author of A Chosen Faith).  They examine the commonalities of liberal Christian theology, exploring what is fruitful among various interpretations.

Progressive Protestants are committed primarily to the healing and creative transformation of themselves, their neighbors, and their world. They often experience ‘theology’ primarily as ideas and teachings that are authoritatively presented and hamper more than they help the work of the followers of Jesus. Their lack of a positive theology is one reason for their marginalization in today’s religious scene. Buehrens and Parker begin with the life of service and work for justice and deepen it to show the implicit beliefs that it assumes and that are implicit in it. They show that progressive Protestants can be proud and articulate about their beliefs

One of the themes woven throughout this book, is that we are called to build Heaven on Earth.  The structure of the book did Not work for me, they assigned different aspect of liberal Christian religion to various structures of a house.  The foundation or the floor makes sense, but I just wished they had defined their terms (I’ve encountered eschatology, but don’t remember what it means), and Not attempted the metaphorical bridge.  However, I really enjoyed this book, Christian-Leftwanting to incorporatedownload (2) it into my life.

30. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Biographies, NonFiction, Pamela

Kiefer Sutherland: Living Dangerously by Christopher Heard, read by Pamela, on 08/30/2014

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This book chronicles Kiefer Sutherland’s rise to Jack Bauer fame, professionally and personally.  He did not ride into show business on his daddy’s, Donald Sutherland, coat tails as some may think.  He did it his way.

We get a glimpse of his early life, his struggles early in his film career, as well as intermittently throughout, and his incredible work ethic.  He’s never late for work and is the consummate professional.  Sutherland works hard and plays hard.  He pays the price and reaps the reward for both.  Much of what is recanted in this book you’ve probably heard some rendition of through the Hollywood grape vine, but it’s fun to read it anyway.

From movies, to voice overs, to personal relationships, to his interest in helping young music talent breaking into the business, this book covers it all.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno, read by Courtney, on 08/28/2014

Here’s one with an unusual premise (for a YA book, anyway). Molly has been losing large chunks of time for the last year and she doesn’t know why. She’ll be doing something and then, the next thing she knows, it will be hours later and she will be somewhere else doing something else with no memory of how or why she’s there. She’s scared to let anyone know about her problem though, so she tries desperately to keep it all to herself. She sees a therapist, but is convinced that if she tells him what’s going on, he’ll give her medication, which she doesn’t want. One day, when Molly has one of her episodes, she witnesses a boy on a motorcycle get hit by a car. She feels compelled to sit with him in the street and later go to the hospital with him. He’s fatally injured, but seems to know who she is, though he initially calls her “Mabel” before calling her “Molly”. Molly is sure she’s never seem him before though he seems equally sure they’re actually quite close. On the ride to the hospital, Molly agrees to call the boy’s brother, Sayer. He too, seems to know who she is and, when he arrives at the hospital, Molly finds herself inexplicably drawn to him. She’s also convinced he knows far more than he’s letting on and she needs some answers.
I kind of had a hard time deciding how I felt about this one, but it ultimately didn’t have much of an emotional pull on me. It will come as no surprise (and thus doesn’t count as a spoiler) that Molly suffers from a Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her “alter” is named Mabel. Molly has no clue that Mabel exists though Mabel seems to come out quite a bit. The narrative does shift from Molly to Mabel. Molly is skittish and depressed; she has a habit of leaving her sentences trailing off in the middle of them and acts awkward around just about everyone. Mabel, on the other hand, is more outgoing, speaks in complete sentences and has the distinct advantage of being able to remember everything, not just the moments when she is the dominant personality. Added to the mix of dealing with two identities is a kind-of mystery – how do Lyle and Sayer know her? Why are they so loyal to her? Why does the family tip-toe around Molly? It all makes sense in the end, even if the memories recovered in the wake of the accident are revealed in reverse chronological order. The end, however, feels a bit cheesy and contrived, so that was a bit of a letdown. Otherwise, the book was swift and compelling and just different enough to keep my interest.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books

Fluff Dragon by Platte F. Clark, read by Courtney, on 08/25/2014

Max Spencer has just finished saving the world from Princess the unicorn, but that was in the future. Now, they’re back in the present, but still in the Magrus, a magical realm. Max and his friends, gaming nerd Dirk, comic shop owner (and dwarf) Dwight and Sarah, the brains of the operation and resident kick-boxer, are would love to go home, but the revelation that there are forces far more dangerous than Princess are at work and will still destroy the future if this rag-tag crew doesn’t take matters into their own hands. Someone is hard at work killing all the dragons and if the dragons go extinct, the Magrus will grow cold and barren. Also, the Codex of Infinite Knowability is on the fritz, and, since they need it to tell them how to perform the magic to get home, they really can’t go anywhere anyway. Not until they can take the Codex to the place where it was written. In the meantime, Max and Co. pick up a few new companions, including the titular Fluff Dragon, Puff and a pair of Fire Kittens named Moki and Loki. Of course, there are also villains galore. Since Princess was defeated in the future, she’s still around causing trouble. Then, there’s Rezermoor Dreadbringer and his zombie duck, not to mention the insidious Maelshadow who’s truly pulling the strings. Max and his friends have their work cut out for them.
So, I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, but this one isn’t nearly as funny or engaging. Which is not to say that it isn’t enjoyable; it is. Just not *as* good as the previous one. It may, perhaps, be because there are far fewer excerpts from the Codex, which typically have a kind of Hitchhiker’s Guide feel to them. It may also be because the plot feels murky – there’s a lot going on and much of the humorous world-building is lost in the mix. It is, however, nice to meet some of the creatures that were only mentioned in the first book, but never encountered, like the fire kittens. Other characters don’t get to spend much time with our primary characters, so one can only hope that they’ll be back for the conclusion of the trilogy. This winds up feeling more like a traditional fantasy book (with a sense of humor, of course), rather than the surprisingly clever mashup of fantasy and sci-fi/time travel of the first book. I’m having trouble putting my finger on what exactly is was about Fluff Dragon that didn’t quite do it for me, but I still can’t help but look forward to the concluding book to this trilogy.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Mystery · Tags: ,

Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman, read by Courtney, on 08/18/2014

A young man is stranded in LA around Christmas time. After a brief tryst with an old acquaintance, the man feels like he isn’t ready to go back to the place he’s staying. He sits on a bench for a smoke when an older man walks up to him, asks him for a smoke and then offers him a story. The story is about a time before humans when the angels were still working out things like the concepts of “green” or “love”. The angels all lived in beautiful city in the sky. Each has their purpose as dictated by God. One day, an angel is found dead. It appears that the death is not from natural causes. Some say it might be suicide, but Raguel (the angel of vengeance and justice) thinks otherwise. Who could possibly have killed the angel and why?
This isn’t just any murder mystery. It’s the original murder mystery. The first murder, ever. And since it’s Neil Gaiman writing it, you know it’s going to be tragic and slightly humorous. The artwork is gorgeous and this particular edition has bonus features with commentary by artist P.Craig Russell, as well as early drafts of the artwork. Just because you think you know how it might end, doesn’t mean that there won’t be some completely unexpected twists and turns by the end. It’s a lovely graphic novel, even if it is a touch disturbing.

It’s Complicated is the result of a ten-year study investigating the effects social media has on our nation’s teenagers. danah boyd traveled all around the country interviewing teens and parents. What she found may surprise some. Many of the fears and assumptions held by adults tend to be misguided and/or hyperbolic. The ways in which teens use the technology varies from teen to teen, but much of their use is consistent with the psychological and social needs presented by physical interactions with their peers. It’s important to remember that simply because we adults may use the same social networks, we may use them for different purposes. Most of the things we fear about online interactions, i.e. predators, bullying, etc. tend to be greatly exaggerated and may, in fact, be worse in the physical world. There’s a lot teen psychology here as well, which helps not only in understanding how the software is used, but also why (and which sites, for that matter).
I may have only given this three stars, but a lot of that is because so much of this book feels like common sense if you anything at all about teenagers. It presupposes that you, as the reader, may only have limited interaction with teens (or interaction with a limited number of teens) and thus may not have spent much, if any, time researching their behaviors. I work with teens on a daily basis, so it kind of felt like this book was preaching to the choir. The biggest take-away here can basically be boiled down to: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Teens are doing what they’ve always done; they’re just adapting current technologies to do so (mainly because their access to public spaces and unstructured time has drastically increased over the years). Still, for those who may not feel as well-versed in teen behaviors, this is an informative read.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Violet Hour by Whitney A. Miller, read by Courtney, on 08/15/2014

Harlow Wintergreen is the daughter of VisionCrest’s patriarch. VisionCrest is one of the fastest spreading and most pervasive religions in the world. Fully a quarter of the world’s population adheres to the tenants of the faith. Harlow doesn’t consider herself a believer, but being in the public eye forces her to maintain a semblance of solidarity. Further complicating her life, Harlow also suffers from horrific and violent visions and hears a voice encouraging the violence. She’s been able to hide the visions from her friends and family, but when her father takes a group of high-ranking VisionCrest members and their families to Asia, the visions intensify. On her 17th birthday, Harlow undergoes the initiation and eventually tells her father about her visions. Her father freaks out and calls her an abomination. The next day, the group moves on to China. Without her father. They stay at a high-ranking official’s compound and Harlow quickly discovers that there are factions within VisionCrest that seek to unseat her father. There’s also a resistance faction that believes both groups have strayed from the true faith. Harlow isn’t sure what side she’s on, but she knows it has something to do with the voice and her visions. Either way, things will get worse before they get better.
The Violet Hour has a unique plot and style. The cult is based out of the United States, but the vast majority of the action takes place throughout Japan, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. It’s vaguely dystopian, but the world still looks very similar to the world we are familiar with. Harlow and her BFF, Dora have a sweet, solid friendship. There’s also a bit of romance involving a boy named Alex whose family was kidnapped by unknown forces (as, apparently, many other VisionCrest families have been). Alex was returned, but his family is presumed dead. Their relationship is frustrating, to say the least. Alex is involved with a girl that Harlow hates and acts alternately hot and cold with Harlow. His motivation is unclear until the end of the book. The world building in this falls a bit short. The reader discovers little about VisionCrest, with the exception of a ritual or two and discussion about the politics of its members. What they actually believe and ask of their members is unclear. Nevertheless, many readers will be willing to overlook these flaws since other aspects of the book are relatively strong.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein, read by Courtney, on 08/12/2014

The town of Alexandriaville, OH has been without a library for 12 long years, but they’ve just built a new one that will, quite possibly, be the most fascinating (and fun!) public library ever. That’s because it’s being built to celebrate the birthday of one of the town’s most famous residents: master gamemaker, Luigi Lemoncello. When it is announced that 12 lucky 12-year-olds will be given the opportunity to spend the night in the new library, Kyle jumps at the chance. He’s a huge fan of Mr. Lemoncello’s games and cannot wait to see what what’s inside. Naturally, Kyle becomes one of the 12 lucky kids to be the first to enter the library. The night is full of fun games, but little do any of the kids know that the real game hasn’t even started yet. As the lock-in draws to a close, a new and more exciting contest is announced: the first one to escape the library will win the prize of a lifetime. They can only use the resources within the library and cannot go out the way they came in. Since the library used to be a bank, it seems pretty impenetrable. Kyle teams up with some of the nicer kids so that they can be the first to exit and share in the prize.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this book is a lot of fun. The library itself sounds like an extremely cool (and extremely expensive) building. The narrative is peppered with references to popular children’s and teen books. There are puzzles here and there that the kids in the book have to solve and the reader gets to go along for the ride. Unfortunately, readers aren’t given a chance to solve anything on their own (something my middle schoolers were anxious to do), so it feels like a bit of a let-down when the answer comes right away. The prize is one that, to me, doesn’t feel very appealing, but perhaps to a 12-year-old, it might be. The characters aren’t particularly well-developed and most of their actions are predictable. There’s a definite “Willy Wonka” vibe to this book, except you would replace “chocolate factory” with “library” and “Willy Wonka” with “Luigi Lemoncello”. And instead of golden tickets, you have winning essays. This is an entertaining read, but I can’t help but think it could have been better executed.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books · Tags:

Friday Never Leaving by Vikki Wakefield, read by Courtney, on 08/10/2014

Friday Brown has lived her entire life on the road with her mother and in near-constant fear of the family “curse” of the women all dying in or near water on a Saturday. She’s never had an actual home to call her own. When her mother dies of cancer, Friday is left on her own. Her mother tried to get Friday to stay with her wealthy grandfather, but Friday isn’t comfortable there. Friday runs away to the city where she finds a silver-haired boy that doesn’t speak. He goes by the name of Silence and agrees to take her to the spot where he’s living. As it turns out, he is part of a community of homeless teens who all live in a squat and answer to an older teen known as Arden. Friday suspects that Arden might be manipulative, but she also makes Friday feel as though there is someone looking out for her. Still grief-stricken over her mother’s death, Friday decides to make life with these kids work. All of them live beneath the radar and get by on busking, turning tricks and petty theft. Things go relatively smoothly until Arden decides it’s time for the group to move. To a ghost town in the middle of the outback. A ghost town that’s been abandoned with good reason.
This Australian import offers the reader a rare glimpse into the lives of disenfranchised, homeless teens without feeling like a “problem novel”. None of these kids have had what amounts to an ordinary life. Most of them have experienced some kind of abuse, which actually sets Friday apart from the rest of the kids. While Friday hasn’t lived an enviable life, she did have a mother who loved her, something the kids in her new “family” dream of. These kids live their lives at the mercy of those around them. Friday and Silence have a beautiful and unique friendship that centers itself around protecting each other’s well-being. Arden, the “matriarch” of the group, is both fascinating and intimidating. She cares for the kids on a certain level, but is also manipulative and controlling. This character-driven novel may not move quickly, but the lure of the characters will draw readers in. The writing is lovely, which somehow seems to be endemic to all the authors I’ve read who hail from Australia (seriously, what is it about that country that produces such amazing YA authors?). The emotional pain and discomfiting nature of Friday’s circumstances feel uncomfortable, but her growth as a person is palpable. Readers will be hoping and praying that these kids make it into adulthood unscathed.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan, read by Courtney, on 08/07/2014

I was so surprised when I met Holly Goldberg Sloan and she told me that there would be a sequel to I’ll Be There. It had felt like it wrapped up all the loose ends and, since it didn’t end of any sort of cliff-hanger, I didn’t even suspect that a sequel could be in the works. Since I adored its predecessor, I was definitely excited to read Just Call My Name. And then, lucky me, I got an ARC from the good folks at Little, Brown.
So, our story left off with Clarence Border in jail and his sons being taken care of by the Bell family. Sam and Emily are now an established couple. Riddle is starting to settle into the Bell household, much to the chagrin of Jared Bell. Sam lives on his own in an apartment while he takes summer school classes to prepare for college courses in the fall. Things seem pretty solid until a new girl comes to town. Her name is Destiny and she is the type of girl that seems to attract trouble. She’s tiny, bubbly, large chested and charismatic. She latches on to Emily, Sam and Robb (formerly Bobby, Emily’s unfortunate prom date from the last book). Emily can tell that the boys are attracted to her, even if they don’t want to admit to themselves. Sam can tell that Destiny is attracted to him and he becomes desperately afraid of being in her presence, lest he do something that will ruin his relationship with Emily. Robb seems infatuated with her and quickly finds himself finding a place for her to stay as it is established early on that she’s something of a transient. With Destiny disrupting the peaceful calm that the crew had found in the absence of Clarence Border. In the meantime, we watch Clarence plotting and scheming until he finds the perfect opportunity for escape. He’s got a score to settle with the Bell family and his boys. And he knows exactly how and where to find them.
So, I had some trouble figuring out what to rate this book. On the one hand, it was totally engaging, especially since I was already familiar with the vast majority of the characters and their circumstances. The idea of Clarence re-entering the picture is dreadful, but it’s what gives this story its sense of urgency. On the other hand, I’m not entirely certain that I’m loving the Destiny angle. The name “Destiny” and her characterization winds up feeling a tad heavy-handed in the context, though she is absolutely a compelling character. She represents the first major challenge for Emily and Sam’s relationship and acts as a distinct foil to Emily’s character. Otherwise, it’s a true pleasure to be back in the heads of these characters. We’re learning a bit more about Emily’s brother Jared, who’s having trouble sharing his space with this strange new kid, Riddle. Bobby, rechristened Robb, is almost exactly the same as he was went we saw him last in spite of his efforts to reinvent himself. Other than Clarence, the adults are mostly absent from this story. The characters are ultimately what make this pair of books shine and, in that sense, this sequel is a pleasure to read.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, read by Courtney, on 08/02/2014

Gaiman wins again with this gorgeous little gem of a book. The story opens with a man on his way to a funeral in Sussex, the town of his youth. Upon his return, he is inexorably drawn to a house at the end of his lane. A house that he didn’t really remember until he was already walking up to it. As he gets closer, the memories resurface and he recalls a past so strange and mysterious that he can’t really fathom how he forgot it all in the first place.
You see, an evil was released in this sleepy little English town and the only person who could help our young narrator was a girl who lived at the end of the lane. Her name is Lettie Hempstock. She lives with her mother and grandmother. Lettie insists that the pond behind her house is, in reality, an ocean. Our narrator slowly recalls the details of this strange episode in his past as he sits by Lettie’s “ocean” as a grown man.
I don’t even really want to give away any of it, since this book is such a delightful journey to make on one’s own. Fans of Gaiman will naturally love this one. I sensed echoes of Sandman, Neverwhere and Coraline throughout and since these are works that I love through and through, these likenesses only served to make me even more enamored. Gaiman is such a wonderfully skilled writer, he doesn’t need hundreds of pages to create a fully realized tale. Indeed, this can easily be read in one or two sittings, though the atmosphere of the novel will linger long after the last page is turned.