31. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Thriller/Suspense, Tracy

Killing Floor by Lee Child, 524 pages, read by Tracy, on 01/30/2012

Killing FloorThis is the first in the popular Jack Reacher series. Jack is a drifter who is trained to handle any bad guy or situation. He’s the kind of guy you want on your side in a corrupt town. When he gets off a bus and walks into the town of Margrave, Georgia things get complicated and violent. Not knowing who is clean or who is dirty can be a problem. Jack’s mind works fast and his military training is not wasted. Although there was a lot of violence I enjoyed reading this book and finding out how he gets out of a tough situation.

31. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green , 318 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/30/2012

I laughed. I cried. Literally. As in, I really did laugh and cry while reading this. John Green has the uncanny ability to create some of the most memorable characters in teen fiction and this is one of his most ambitious novels yet.
This is the story of Hazel, a 16 year old who has miraculously outlived her original diagnosis. She still has problems and continues to take the “wonder” drug that sent her tumors into remission. All the while, her life is focused on mainly on staying alive and causing as little pain to others around her as possible. Her parents, worried about her anti-social tendencies, send her to a support group where she meets Augustus, a 17 year old who lost one of his legs in his battle with cancer but is now attending the group to support his pal Isaac, who is about to lose his other eye due to tumors. Hazel can’t help but be intrigued by the beguiling Augustus and a beautiful friendship and romance follow. They bond over Hazel’s favorite book about a young girl with cancer and muse over the ontological implications of dying from cancer. These two are smart, sarcastic and brilliant. But they both know that time is limited. Hazel’s treatment won’t keep her alive forever and Augustus can only hope that he stays in remission.
The language is beautiful and smart. The characters are sarcastic but never caustic. The issues they ponder are those that affect all humans, though these characters have far more at stake than the vast majority of us. And that’s just it, this isn’t so much a book about cancer, it’s a book about being human and what that means in the grand scheme of things. Thoughtful, funny and heartbreaking.

31. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Thriller/Suspense

Incorruptible Vol. 1 by Mark Waid, 128 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/15/2012

What do you do when the world’s greatest superhero turns bad and kills millions of people? If you’re Max Damage, one of the most infamous villains in the world, you decide that you’re going to switch teams and play for the good guys. Naturally, not an easy task, especially since Max’s “team” are more than a little confused by his conversion, but it certainly makes for a very entertaining comic book premise.  Fun, fast read.  If only volume 2 wasn’t on back order….sigh.

31. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Last Breath (Morganville Vampires # 11) by Rachel Caine, 338 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/30/2012

Last BreathBook 11 in the Morganville Vampire series. This one is a game changer. Whole new creatures to face that even scare the vampires and the end results will change the town and the main characters forever.

30. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Janet · Tags:

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King, 368 pages, read by Janet, on 01/24/2012

Full Dark No StarsFour stories by Stephen King about ordinary people in extraordinary situations, trying to do the right thing.  “1922” tells of a man whose wife wanted to sell the family homestead and move to Omaha.  Their disagreement led to a gruesome end.  “Big Driver” is about a lady mystery writer who had a flat tire on a country road “shortcut” after giving a program and was violently assulted by the driver of a truck.  She was left for dead.  The story tells of her revenge and learning about her inside self.  “Fair Extension” tells the tale of a man with cancer who makes a deal with the devil.  Both good and bad things developed.  “A Good Marriage” shows how even a happily married couple have secrets from each other – even murder.

30. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Paranormal, Robin, Romance · Tags: ,

Whispers In The Dark by Maya Banks, 333 pages, read by Robin, on 01/29/2012

Whispers in the DarkIn this installation of the KGI Series (Kelly Group International), Maya Banks gives us Nathan’s story – one of the Kelly brothers who make up the various stories in this series. The action begins with Nathan in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, being tortured by terrorists. In the midst of this torture, he connects (telepathically) with a woman named Shea who is able to take some of his pain from him. She is instrumental in getting him out of the terrorists hands, but then cuts all mental contact – until she finds herself in need of help. Nathan goes rushing off to help her and the action never really lets up after that. This was one of those books that I gulped down in a single day – I was drawn in by the story and happy to find out what had happened to the other brothers whose stories I’d read before. It looks like the stories will branch out a bit – Rio (not a Kelly brother, but one of the KGI team members) seemed to be quite taken with Shea’s sister, though he only saw her on video for a short time. He took off to find her and protect her from the folks who want to exploit the sisters’ mental powers, so I imagine the next book in the series (or at least one of the next books…) will follow their story.

30. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare , 476 pages, read by Angie, on 01/29/2012

I have to admit that I have not read Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I am not sure if that would have had an affect on my opinion of this book or not. Not sure I want to read it after reading this one. I don’t think there is anything really wrong with this book per say; it just wasn’t that great. I found it really boring in places and struggled to finish it. I didn’t connect with the characters and really couldn’t care less about them. The story was interesting, but the plot was kind of obvious (maybe not to the characters but certainly to the reader).

This book is set in Victorian England and definitely has a very steampunk vibe to it, which I enjoy. However, the main character of Tessa is so Victorian that it is kind of difficult to like her. For the majority of the book she is more concerned with what is proper (like whether she can call someone by their first name) than what is going on around her. And one of the shadowhunters Jessamine doesn’t want to be what she is she just wants to go to parties and be a part of society. It may seem silly (and it is), but taken as a whole and in the quantity presented in the book and really does make it a little hard to stomach at times for the modern reader. The male characters aren’t that much better. Will is snarky and nasty and not in the “I’m mean on the outside and nice on the inside” kind of way. It doesn’t really appear that he has a nice inside to hide. Jem also has a dark secret past but he is atleast likeable if maybe too nice to contrast Will’s darkness. They all seem fairly one dimensional as characters so it is hard to like them or root for them.

The plot isn’t bad, but this is definitely set up as a series so not all your questions are answered in this book and not all plot points are resolved. Since this is the opening of the series there seems to be a lot of filler in the nearly 500 pages and the book does drag a bit in the middle. That isn’t to say that there wasn’t exciting parts because there was. I just wish it was more consistent.

30. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Teen Books

Ashfall (Ashfall #1) by Mike Mullin , 466 pages, read by Angie, on 01/28/2012

I am a sucker for a disaster…whether it is a disaster movie or a disaster book. I just love seeing the world end. So a book about Yellowstone volcano exploding was right up my alley. I actually thought this book was pretty good. The situations and characters seemed pretty realistic. That is always a testament to a good disaster…whether it is realistic and whether you can see yourself in the situations.

I haven’t really studied up on what would happen if Yellowstone blows, but I did see a History Channel special on it once and it seems like what the book describes is pretty accurate…ash rainy down, booming explosions, darkness, strange weather, etc. And as we have seen on smaller scales human beings react in different ways during disasters so I think the human reactions in the book could very well happen as well. You would probably have those people who would be out to take what they can, those just trying to survive, and those who want to help. And then the evil crazy ones who are either trying to hurt as many people as they can or make as much profit from the disaster as they can. It takes all kinds.

The main characters in this book, Alex and Darla, seem like they would have been regular teens before the disaster but they become very resilient at surviving. I think they are great characters. I like that they aren’t perfect, they make mistakes (like giving away most of their food), they fight with each other, they don’t trust immediately, they also don’t fall in love immediately (or jump right into sex!), but they stick together and make things work, they are resourceful. They are the kinds of people you want to have around you in this type of situation and the types of characters you want to read about as well.

Overall, this was a good disaster book. The ending was a little on the weak side but it didn’t leave it open for the sequel which I look forward to reading.

28. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, 352 pages, read by Tracy, on 01/27/2012

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar ChildrenThe author of this book did something peculiar. He found authentic vintage photos and built a story around them. As you read the story you see what most of the characters look like. The main character, Jacob,  travels to an island off the coast of Wales to find the orphanage his Grandfather stayed at during World War II. Miss Peregrine and the children all have powers, some that you might see at a carnival side show. I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down.

27. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta, 593 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/26/2012

Oh Melina Marchetta, how much do I love thee? You’ve written some of the most amazing teen literature on the shelves today. You write realistic fiction as well as you write fantasy. And the language…so lyrical, so evocative, so flawless.
Much like Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles is a superlative example of what fantasy can and should be. Froi picks up a few years after Finnikin ends and we begin to realize just how damaged the entire land has become, not just the kingdom of Lumatere. Froi is sent to a neighboring cursed country to assassinate their corrupt king. But it’s never that easy, is it? While impersonating another, Froi infiltrates the palace in Charyn with the intention of following orders, but the more Froi learns, the more he realizes that there’s far more than meets the eye going on in this land. What’s more is that he may not be a mere random player in this drama.
I love Marchetta’s flawed-but-believable characters. I mean, Quintana? How awesome is she? And Gargarin and Arjuro? So curmudgeonly, but so wonderful. There’s a lot going on in this book and in any other author’s hands, it would likely fall flat, but in Marchetta’s hands, it soars to great heights before dropping you at its cliff-hanger of an ending. My only complaint is that it’s going to feel like a really, really long time before I get to read another installment in the Lumateran Chronicles. I mean, Froi of the Exiles isn’t even technically out yet (in the US, anyway).

U.S. publication date:  March 13th, 2012 (and yes, we will be ordering this title!)

Disclaimer: I received this ARC directly from the publisher and I am in no way compensated for my review (other than the satisfaction of having read such an amazing book).

27. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, How To's, Memoirs, NonFiction

Picture This by Lynda Barry, 204 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/26/2012

I had a good feeling about this one. You see, I loved Lynda Barry’s earlier work, “What It Is”, the ground-breaking, mold-shattering, genre-defying and above all, inspiring, book about creative writing. I had a sneaking suspicion that she might have adapted the same format with visual art in mind. And I was right. “Picture This” does for art what “What It Is” did for creative writing. They encourage letting go of preconceived notions of “good” and “bad” and promote experimentation. The format is highly unusual, combining full page works of art, comics and activities to get the mind operating in new and different ways. Barry never makes the reader feel as though they can’t do something; in fact, that is one of the best elements of her work. Her exercises do not intimidate. They are not pretentious. They make you realize you had the artistic streak in you all along; you just thought you were somehow doing it wrong and therefore had no talent. Barry wants you to know that you’ve had it in you all along. If readers of this book don’t feel like grabbing a paintbrush (or their art-related weapon of choice)upon finishing this book, said readers may not be human.

27. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, 387 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/09/2012

I’m so glad that I had my middle school book group read this one, because it gave me a chance to read it as well.  I can’t believe I put it off for so long!  This was an utterly delightful read with interesting characters and tons of twists and turns.
Ananka meets a strange, pale girl at school who seems to appear and vanish at will.  Shortly before this new girl arrived on the scene, Ananka was witness to a giant sinkhole that revealed an entrance to an underground city, though the sinkhole got filled in and Ananka was left wondering if she’d ever be able to find out more about it.  After trailing the mysterious pale girl, she finally meets her face to face and it turns out to be Kiki Strike.  Together, they round up rogue girl scouts with nearly criminal talents and form the Irregulars.  And the Irregulars are about to go exploring and mapping the Shadow City, which appears to stretch all the way along Manhattan roughly 40 feet underground. Things quickly go wrong and Kiki disappears.  The Irregulars are left to wonder just who this Kiki girl really is, aside from a brilliant mastermind.
The plot clips along at a brisk pace, even though the story takes place over 2 years.  I have issues with the ending, but I’ll let that go in light of a portrayal of some very, very clever girls who have a fantastic sense of adventure.  I wish I had been able to read this when I was 12.  Definitely recommended for smart girls with a rebellious streak.  And no romance! Or paranormal stuff!  What a relief!

27. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Jessica

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult, 369 pages, read by Jessica, on 01/27/2012

Picture PerfectIn Jodi Picoult fashion this book was sad and depressing, but very good.  It deals with the difficult subject of spouse abuse, but she is such a good writer I loved the abusive husband as much as the abused wife did.  I was very disappointed in myself when I wanted them to end up together in spite of everything he had done to her.  If you’re in the mood for a well written book, but not a book with a happy ending all tied up in a pretty bow, this is the book to read.

26. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Vicious Grace by Hanover, M.L.N., 367 pages, read by Kira, on 01/16/2012

viscious graceGot Darkness?  well M.L.N. Hanover kicks it up a level, further blurring the line between good and evil, as Jayné (Zhanay) discovers more about her uncle’s legacy and his past.  The solutions to containing evil become grimmer.  Jayné and her troupe discover a powerful evil demon breaking loose under Grace Memorial Hospital.  Their pursuit of this evil reveals more then any of them bargained for.

26. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Melody H

Money for Nothing by Edward Ugel, 235 pages, read by Melody, on 01/25/2012

Money for Nothing is the memoir of a former lottery annuity buyer.  He worked for The Firm which bought lottery annuity payments for lump sum payouts, minus a very juicy cut for itself.   Turns out that winning the lottery isn’t always the dream come true that it would seem.  There is of course the stories of lottery winners blowing through enormous amounts of cash in a very short time, of greedy relatives and hanger ons, and of how that problems that winners had before the millions are invariably the problems they have after the millions.  I did learn quite a bit that I did not know.  When the lottery says that it pays for schools, not really.  If the state budgets 200 million for schools and the lottery gives 75 million, the state simply pays 125 million and lets the lottery pick up the rest,  Schools do not get extra money because of the lottery. Money for Nothing was a fast read with interesting characters and very relevant issues given our society’s love/hate relationship with gambling.  He closes with the sentiment that we value and respect money that we earn, not money that is found.  Of course, I’d still like my chance to blow a chunk of someone else’s cash.

26. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Mike

Invasion by Lackey, Mercedes , 405 pages, read by Mike, on 01/13/2012

InvasionThis is the first book in a series that began in an interesting way: It’s not based on a computer game, but originated from a computer game. The authors were all playing a Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game based around the idea of super powered heroes and villains. Most players now days just play these games and don’t delve into the Role Playing aspect. Not these people. The authors/players started creating back stories for their characters. Then role playing these characters in the game creating more complex stories to go along with actions in the game. Then they stated doing pod casts as these characters, story telling their stories. These became so popular that a book of their stories was almost inevitable.

Invasion follows several “Meta-humans” – humans with heightened strength endurance and some kind of super power, before, during, and after an world-wide invasion of an unknown enemy in huge armored suits that are capable of taking down even the best of the Earth’s Meta-human defenders. After the initial attacks these heroes are left trying to help rebuild while dealing with public outcry against their failure to successfully defend against these invaders while also trying to answer all the questions: Who are these invaders? Where did they come from? What do they want? And most importantly, what can be done to stop them?

26. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Darker Angels by Hanover, M.L.N., 360 pages, read by Kira, on 01/10/2012

Darker AngelsHanover, M. L. N. continues the story of demon-hunter Jayne (Zhanay), as she sorts out problems among the demon-possessed in New Orleans – yep, the real voodoo in this town is based on a demon possessing a line of family members all the way back to the Great Madame Laveau – and what this power means to the disposed of the city.  The line between good and evil gets murkier in this second in the series “Daughter of the Black Sun”.  I like the way Hanover ties in “real” occult figures from the past and weaves them in for the backdrop of this series.  Jayne is a kick-butt heroine (aka strong female protagonist).

26. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Mystery, Tammy · Tags: , , , ,

Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot #19) by Agatha Christie, 255 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/25/2012

Appointment with DeathHercule Poirot is the featured detective in this book though he is barely mentioned in the first half of the novel. Events are seen through the eyes of two other characters and then Poirot is asked to investigate the death of a tyrannical matriarch at Petra. Was it murder or was the journey to beautiful Petra just to much for her?

26. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

Reading with the Stars: A Celebration of Books and Libraries by Leonard Kniffell, 158 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/20/2012

Reading with the StarsEach chapter tells how a writer, politician or celebrity has not only been influenced by libraries but what they have done to support literacy and libraries. Nice to find that such diverse people have some common ground and that it benefits kids, learning and libraries

25. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, How To's, Tracy

52 Loaves by William Alexander, 339 pages, read by Tracy, on 01/24/2012

52 LoavesI can think of a lot worse things to be obsessed with than baking the perfect loaf of bread. William Alexander spent a year baking, growing wheat, touring yeast factories and flour mills and finally training a monk to bake  peasant bread. I can relate to some of his frustration having baked a few duds myself.  An enjoyable read for anyone who loves bread, baking and eating. He tries to answer the question “What is it about bread?”