19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles #2) by Melina Marchetta, 593 pages, read by Angie, on 01/15/2012

froi of the exilesNo No No No! That is what I thought when I finished Froi of the Exiles. Why did it have to end with a cliffhanger? Why? Melina Marchetta sucks me into this world again and then she leaves me hanging! She is a cruel cruel woman. Brilliant but cruel. As far as I am concerned she can do no wrong (except for leaving me with a cliffhanger of course). I have never met a Marchetta book I didn’t love and the Lumatere Chronicles are some of my absolute favorites. I love this land and these people. In all honesty I have to admit that I am not sure I love Froi as much as I loved Finnikin but that could be the format I read this book in. I got it from NetGalley so I was reading it on my computer, which is not my favorite way to read books. I am a tactile reader; I like having a book to hold, I like flipping the pages, I think that is part of the experience of reading. So reading on the computer was not my favorite way to read this book, but I really couldn’t wait for it to come to me in book format. So I didn’t get into quite as well as I might have, but I still loved it.

I loved the story of Froi and Quintana. If there are two more broken people I don’t know who they would be; unless of course they are Lirah or Gargarin or Arjuro. The world is full of broken people in this country we want to hate for what they did to Lumatere. But how can you hate a place under a curse? And such an intriguing curse! I love the whole first born plot in all its twisted splendor. And then there is everything going on in Lumatere with the characters we have grown to love: Finnikin and Isaboe and Lucien. Oh poor Lucien. I can’t wait to find out how Lucien’s story turns out in the next book.

Marchetta has captured my heart with these characters and I really didn’t want the story to end, which is a testament to any good book. I loved the crazy Quintana and I can’t wait for her story to continue in the next book. I just wish I didn’t have to wait a year.

I read an Advanced Reader Copy (available from NetGalley — Thank You!) of this book so it is not available from the library yet, but we will purchase it as soon as it is published I am sure.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, 243 pages, read by Angie, on 01/07/2012

Oh how I love Melina Marchetta; she is such a gifted writer. Everything she writes I love and this book is no exception. I kind of wish I would have read this one before Piper’s Son as the characters are the same, but it didn’t spoil my reaction to either book. The thing I really like about Marchetta’s books is that the characters are real and relateable. The are not one-note or caricatures. All of her characters, even the minor ones, are so well-developed they could be people you know or people you wish you knew. They are not perfect; they have their flaws and they work through them or with them. I also love how Marchetta tells a tale. Her words just suck you in and you want to read more and you are sad when the book ends. This story of Francesca dealing with a new school, new friends and her family falling apart is wonderful.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Poetry, Short Stories

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan, 128 pages, read by Angie, on 01/10/2012

Shaun Tan is extremely talented. His work just blows me away. I thought this collection of stories was very powerful. and the illustrations are magnificent. Tan is like a strange cooky version of Dr. Seuss; he is whimsical and there is just so much going on in the pictures. You want to pour over them for a long while. The three stories in this book are all variations of loss and finding your place in the world. The first “The Red Flower” deals with a girl’s depression and the darkness and loneliness she feels, but there is hope in the end. The second story “the Lost Thing” is my favorite about a lost something that is found by a boy. He wants to take care of it and find it a home and he eventually does find it a place with others of its own kind. This story deals with conformity and pushing things into the dark if they don’t fit in. “The Rabbits” is probably the most obvious allegory tale of the three. It deals with a population being invaded by colonists. It is a perfect story to go with lessons on Native Americans. They are driven from their homes and lands and pretty much decimated by the invaders. Tan’s strength really lies with the illustrations though. They bring the stories to life in their own whimsical way. Very enjoyable book that you want to read over and over.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Chime by Franny Billingsley, 361 pages, read by Angie, on 01/13/2012

This book is so different. I really loved parts of it and other parts of it just made my brain hurt. It is unlike any other book out there and definitely deserves recognition for that. The writing style of Billingsley is unique and special and wonderful and strange. I loved all her characters; they really jump off the page and are real in a way that a lot of fantasy characters are not. I like the world she created with its mix of reality and fantasy; a mix of Victorian modern and Old Ones.

Briony Larkin tells us from the beginning that she is a witch and she should be hanged, but there are always holes in her story. As she tells us about injuring her sister Rose and her stepmother we never quite get the full story and you always wonder if there is something missing from what we are told. The narrative is beautifully told but jumps around a lot. It is as jumbled as Briony’s thoughts.

The relationships in the book are wonderful. You can feel the love between Briony and her sister Rose. You can see how Rose’s affliction (autism??) affects the relationship but not their caring for each other. I liked the quirky relationship of Eldric and Briony; you could see that relationship developing and not in the teen romancy way of many YA novels. Sure there was jealousy when Leanne came into the picture but I liked that there was a reason for it and it wasn’t just some stupid love triangle.

The language is difficult I will admit and probably one of the reasons I didn’t rate this book higher. It takes a bit more concentration to read this book, but it is well written and the world is well developed. It was definitely worth the read.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai , 324 pages, read by Angie, on 01/16/2012

This was a fun book. It was recommended to me and I am glad it was. It is the tale of a children’s librarian named Lucy who kidnaps/is kidnapped by a 10-year old boy named Ian. They run away together on this cross-country trip from Hannibal, Missouri to Vermont. Along the way they have encounters with her Russian mafia father, her boyfriend Glenn and a variety of people. I am not sure if the journey was more of a self-discovery for Ian or Lucy but I think Lucy. She discovers more about herself and her family history. I am not sure if Ian really learns anything but atleast he gets away from his family for awhile. There is a message here about being who you are and that it is ok to be gay and books are great. All good messages and not shoved down your throat. They are told with humor and insight. I liked the characters in the book; they are quirky and fun. I have to admit that the book did start out pretty slow for me and didn’t really pick up until they hit the road, which was about 1/3-1/2 way into the book. But the story was fun and enjoyable. Not very realistic, but fun. I was a little shaky about the ending because there didn’t seem to be any consequences for either Lucy or Ian and it was just a bit too easy but overall it was a good book. I would recommend it to my library friends.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction

Habibi by Craig Thompson, 672 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/15/2012

Whoa. This was epic. On the surface, it’s a story about a young girl, Dodola, sold into slavery who manages to escape with a little boy, Zam, into the desert. She lives with and raises Zam for nearly 9 years, trading her body for food when the Bedouin caravans come by. They find a relative peace in the desert until Dodola is kidnapped by the Sultan’s men and brought to the palace as a consort. In his abandoned anguish, Zam sets off to find his beloved Dodola. His story becomes dark as well. By the time they meet again, they have both been through some of the worst times imaginable. From this sadness arises a new sense of hope and love.
So, the story is harrowing and intriguing, but it is also interspersed with stories from both the Quran and the Old Testament (often pointing out the differences in the details). It draws connections between the characters in the book and the spiritual personages to whom they feel connected. Themes of language, water and numbers are also prevalent throughout. This graphic novel is a rich tapestry that could give a college level class discussion fodder for weeks.

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

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, 316 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/15/2012

Yay! A paranormal book that sets itself apart from the pack! I genuinely enjoyed this book. Theseus Cassio (Cas, for short) is a ghosthunter. It runs in the family along the paternal line. Ever since his father died in a hunt gone wrong, Cas has taken over his duties. He and his mother (a practicing wiccan) move all over the country following leads on dangerous hauntings. One of these leads brings Cas and his mother to Canada to hunt down a ghost known as Anna Dressed in Blood, who is apparently responsible for at least 20 deaths. In fact, she’s managed to kill everyone who has ever set foot in her house. Cas is fascinated by her story. She was murdered in 1958 and haunts her old house still dressed in the frock she was headed to a school dance in, though the dress now drips blood and Anna has far more power than a ghost like her should have. When Cas goes to investigate, Anna does not kill him, nor does she attempt to. In fact, they strike up an odd sort of bond that drives Cas to find a way to save her rather than kill her.
The characters are great. I love Cas. He reminds me a little bit of Veronica Mars, even though he’s, you know, male and hunts ghosts rather than doing detective work. His relationship with his mother is sweet and she is well aware of everything he’s involved in. And then there’s Anna, who, for a murderous ghost, is surprisingly sympathetic. All in all, the book held up nicely, though I’m not sure I’m happy to discover that it’s a series. I worry that the series will lose its “umph” in successive installments.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, 472 pages, read by Courtney, on 01/02/2012

I really love stories that intertwine, especially when they connect past with present. Revolution does just that and it works on so many levels. In the present, we have Andi. She’s profoundly depressed, cynical and angry. Her little brother died two years ago, a tragedy for which Andi blames herself. Her mother can’t cope and has completely shut herself off from the world. Her father, a globally renowned geneticist, is never around. Andi has more or less given up. Her prestigious private school is ready to kick her out and Andi hasn’t even attempted college applications. Her father decides that Andi is going to spend her winter break in Paris with him while her mother goes off to a mental institution.
Things in Paris feel just as bleak to Andi; the only thing keeping her going is the research she’s doing for her senior thesis (and that only because she’s anxious to go home to her mother). In the midst of her stay, she discovers an 18th century guitar case with a secret compartment. The compartment contains the diary of a young girl, Alexandrine, raised as a performer, who has found herself in the company of royalty, particularly the young dauphin just before the French Revolution.
And then things get really interesting.
I loved the overlap of music, the connections between Andi’s story and that of Alex’s, the locations and vivid details. This is a lush, engaging novel that melds past with present in surprising ways. The only issue I had came near the end in the catacombs (those who have read this book already will know what I mean), which although exciting, managed to test my ability to suspend disbelief. Otherwise, I thought this was an excellent read.

Note:  This was also the January 2012 Pizza & Pages high school book group selection and is currently on the 2012-2013 Gateway Awards list.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, 531 pages, read by Angie, on 01/11/2012

Oh Eon, how you sucked me into your world of intrigue and danger. I have to admit that when I finished this book at 1:30 a.m. I was hugely disappointed that I couldn’t immediately start reading Eona. I had just spent the past 6 hours reading this book with very little interruption and I wanted more! I was sucked into this world and didn’t want to leave the characters I had come to love in such dire straights. Now I have to wait on the next book…ugh!

The world of Eon is intriguing. A lot of fantasy books are based on western culture, but this one takes a lot of its mythology from eastern cultures like Japan and China. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book; it added something different and somehow made the story more vibrant. I also enjoyed the fact that the dragons were not really physical dragons but more an energy that could connect with certain people. I think that was a nice change to dragon literature.

As for the characters…they were well-written and very fleshed out. I really felt like I got to know them throughout the book. When someone died it was sad, when they were in danger my heart started to race. It was very gripping. I liked the fact that gender was a big part of the plot…hiding who you are and being who you are meant to be. I find those kinds of plots interesting and think YA lit is the perfect place for them (teens just really don’t seem to care as much or get as hung up on it as a lot of adults do). I liked that there was a girl pretending to be a boy, eunuchs, and transgender characters. I think this made the book that much more relatable and interesting.

Eon is not really that easy of a character to like in the beginning but she really does grow on you. She finds herself more of a pawn during most of the book and it isn’t until the end that she really grows into her own story. She does things during the course of the book that you really want to slap her for because you know she is going about it the wrong way. She is a very real type of character; she is thrust into a difficult situation and it takes her a while to find her footing. I do like who she has become at the end of the book and I can’t wait to read more of her story.

As for the end of the book, I’m not going to spoil it, but I did think there was a bit of a copout there with another character. That was my big beef with it; other than that one instance at the end I really loved this book and can’t wait for Eona.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror · Tags:

The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman, 1088 pages, read by Angie, on 01/09/2012

I have to admit that I read this because I have been watching the AMC series. I wanted to see how the comic differed from the series. It is basically the same storyline about a ragtag group trying to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but there are differences that made this book a fascinating read. The story is brutal and honest and definitely not a pretty one. People die horribly and it becomes a part of life. It makes you question how you would act at the end of the world. Would you retain your humanity or become one of the monsters? Because in this world the zombies are not the only monsters…men are just as evil and they don’t have the excuse of being dead. I always like books that explore this aspect of humanity…who we really are and what we would become when societal conventions and laws are taken away.

My complaints about this book are the fact that the book itself is heavy! It is huge and weighs a ton. This is not something to lug around in your bag and in fact you might want to read it at a table. My second complaint is that I didn’t always find the drawings clear. It was sometimes hard to distinguish characters as a few of them looked a lot alike. But the illustrations also were fabulous in the way they carried the story.

I think I am going to have to check out more of the series to find out what happens next since of course this ends on a cliffhanger.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 01/18/2012

World War I is known as the Great War and the War to End All Wars, but it seems like World War II gets all the attention in schools, media and history books. I for one don’t remember learning a lot about WWI in school. I do remember learning a lot and reading a lot about WWII however. So my knowledge about WWI is limited. This book by Jim Murphy was an excellent source of information about the events leading up to the start of the war and some of the things that took place during the war. It is astounding that this is a war that really could have been avoided. The Serbs were willing to give in and had basically caved to all demands, but Franz Josef went ahead and invaded anyway. And then everyone else followed along and 8 million people died and millions of acres of Europe were destroyed and Hitler was created and WWII followed. It is amazing the chain of events that was created because one man decided to ignore something.

The Christmas Truce on the other hand is a testament to man’s goodness. Both sides are entrenched across No Man’s Land. The occasionally shoot at each other or make raids but otherwise they are stuck in their trenches as Christmas approaches. Then on Christmas they decide to stop fighting, they come out of their trenches and share gifts and meals, they sing songs and spend time together. These truces last long past Christmas in many areas and the enemies realize that they are not monsters they are just men. It is a beautiful thing in the midst of a horrible war. The men on the ground realize none of them want to fight even as their superior officers rage at them to keep fighting this senseless war.

Jim Murphy has a wonderful way of bringing nonfiction to life. He does not write in a dry boring style, but a flowing narrative way that is interesting and really brings history to life in a way that young people (and not so young people) want to read it.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fantasy, Teen Books

Last Breath: The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine, 352 pages, read by Brian, on 01/09/2012

Last Breath, is the tenth book in the Morganville Vampire series about a town in Texas where Vampires and Humans live together, sort of.  The town was created by vampires to prolong their existence and if humans know about them they are not allowed to leave, however, there is a university but the students stay on campus and most are unaware of the vampires.

Being the tenth book of the series you would think the story lines would get dry and stale but each book goes to a new level and all the characters grow and new interesting characters are added.  I would recommend reading book one, Glass Houses and if you like the main characters continue on with the series.  Rachel Caine writes other series, each interesting and engaging,  Take a look.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LeFleur, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 01/18/2012

Love, AubreyThis was an amazing book about a young girl dealing with the loss of her family. Not only does she have to deal with the loss of her dad and sister but she has to deal with her mom’s abandonment as well. I thought it was beautifully written and accurately portrayed. I thought all the characters were so real; they could be anyone you know. I found all the situations and the feelings real to life; nothing seemed forced or faked to me. I especially thought that Aubrey’s reactions and actions all seemed very genuine. I have never had to deal with her situation but I imagine that her feelings are pretty typical. She is feeling grief at the loss of her family, she doesn’t want her mom to get in trouble yet she is angry at her mom for abandoning her, she isn’t sure if she can be happy in her new life or if she wants to go back to her mom. I thought this book was wonderful…definitely a must read. this is a 2011-12 Missouri Mark Twain Award nominee.

19. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Kira

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, 560 pages, read by Kira, on 01/15/2012

A beautiful and magical retelling of the fairy-tale The Six Swans, with a dash of romance thrown in.  Start reading at the beginning of the weekend, so you don’t miss too much sleep.  A strong female protagonist, Celtic background, and interesting characters, make you want to follow Sorcha and her brothers’ journey to the end.

18. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Tammy · Tags: , , ,

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett, 281 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/18/2012

Lords and LadiesBook 14 in the Discworld series, but more importantly the 4th book featuring the witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick and introducing Agnes Nitt. It’s also a fun spoof of a Midsummer’s Night Dream. Leave it to Pratchett to add more layers of humor and satire to one of Shakespeare’s best known comedies.

18. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Blood Stains by Catriona McPherson, 291 pages, read by Tracy , on 01/12/2012

Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Blood StainsLately I have felt that the classic British murder mystery has died. After reading this book I am happy to say the genre is still alive and kicking. Dandy,  a wealthy aristocrat, goes under cover as a ladies maid when the lady of the manor suspects her husband of trying to kill her.  Set in Edinburgh in 1926 the story also involves the labor problems of coal miners. Not an easy mystery to solve with so many characters entwined but Dandy gets her murderer. Lots of tea and scones are consumed and the proper treatment of blood stains is revealed.



18. January 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, NonFiction, Robin

Moneyball by Michael Lewis, 317 pages, read by Robin, on 01/02/2012

MoneyballI listened to this book instead of actually reading it, and I think that was probably a good idea. The book is about Billy Beane, a former baseball player who became the General Manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team. The A’s were the worst-funded team in baseball – they had no money to buy good players, but Billy (and his assistant, an ivy-league trained economist) decided to use a different method to pick players. Instead of going with players that looked good to the scouts, they used a computer program to analyze players that were actually going to be able to get on base – regardless of how they looked to the “traditional” scouting teams.
The idea was a success – the first year they put the method in practice, the A’s broke their league’s winning streak record, winning 20 games in a row and got to the World Series – though they didn’t win it. The book goes into detail about the method they used and can get a little dry with the math and statistics, but the reader for this audiobook did a good job of making even the stats sections accessible.
The book is more about math and statistics than baseball, but of course there is a lot of information about players and teams and games included in the narrative as well. I enjoyed this book, even through the somewhat dry parts when math and statistics were being discussed at length – this is a book that can appeal to both math nerds and baseball fans!