29. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, 372 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/28/2012

Rory is a small town girl from the American South. For her senior year, she decides to join her parents as they travel to England on sabbatical. Her parents head for Bristol while Rory moves into a boarding school in the middle of London. The day she arrives, murders begin taking place around the neighborhood, each bearing a striking resemblance to the the murders performed by the infamous Jack the Ripper. Each murder takes place on the anniversary of one of the Ripper murders; in the same locations as well. Even though London is a city full of cameras tracking the populace’s every move, none of cameras managed to capture the culprit. The police are baffled and the entire country is on alert. In between making new friends and attempting to manage overwhelming coursework, Rory sneaks out of her dorm with her roommate on one of the murder nights. On her way back into the dorm, she meets a mysterious man on the school grounds. Minutes later, another body is found; this time on campus. Rory is now the only witness; her friend never saw the man. And now Rory might be a target.
I must say that this book isn’t exactly what I expected. When I heard “Jack the Ripper”, I just thought “historical fiction”, which clearly wasn’t the case. I loved the first half of the book and enjoyed Rory as a character. The second half started to make me wonder if the exposition was the high point. The action does pick up substantially, though some of the twists are predictable. The ending wasn’t particularly satisfying to me. I was more than a little disappointed about the “why” of Ripper’s actions and felt like it was a bit rushed and underdeveloped. The ending clearly paves the way for a sequel, but I’m not really sure where the series will go from here.

29. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, NonFiction

Worst of Friends by Suzanne Jurmain, 32 pages, read by Angie, on 02/29/2012

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams: friends, enemies, both? Exactly right. This is a delightful book that explores the relationship between Jefferson and Adams. They started out as the best of friends as they were shaping this country but they had a falling out over the role of the president and became enemies for many years. They then reconnected as older gentlemen and later died on the same day July 4, 1826. I thought it was really interesting that they were enemies during the time they were President/Vice President. And I loved the names they called each other in the book: “vain, suspicious, irritable, stubborn, and wrong” and “weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant”. They really didn’t pull any punches. The illustrations in this book are fabulous and are really going to appeal to kids. They have a childlike quality that goes along with the text. You feel like you are reading a story not just history.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Melody H, NonFiction

Simple Irresistible by Ellen White, 264 pages, read by Melody, on 02/25/2012

The subtitle is for Simply Irresistible is Unleash you inner siren and mesmerize men with help from the most famous and infamous women in history.  I read the book because who doesn’t love a naughty woman and not so much to be mesmerizing.  Interesting biographies on both historical and current femme fatales.  Beautiful photographs and art.  Let me know though is I seem more siren-ish to you.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody H, Teen Books · Tags:

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, 228 pages, read by Melody, on 02/26/2012

Great debut novel about a small town boy in Arkansas.  Cullen lives in Lily, Arkansas where nothing ever changes until everything does.  The same day that a man announces that he has seen an extinct woodpecker in the woods, Cullen’s younger brother goes missing.  Told in alternating story lines, Where Things Come Back is about growing up, family, young love, and small town life.  I highly recommend this book.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Melody H, NonFiction

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, 707 pages, read by Melody, on 02/24/2012

Beautiful book written by the director of the British Museum using 100 pieces in the museum’s collection to tell the history of mankind.  Most of the piece’s are little known and often their real import isn’t readily apparent.  It is fascinating how such seemingly inconsequential things tell the stories of long ago civilizations and people.  The illustrations are wonderful and the text is clear and concise. A must-read for history buffs and art aficionados.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, Literary Fiction

Cemetery Bird by Bridget Bufford, 258 pages, read by Claudia, on 02/18/2012

Cemetery BirdI recently had the good fortune of being introduced to Bridget Bufford’s latest book, Cemetery Bird.  Bufford was recently a guest at our library and because of that program, I had the privilege of meeting this fine author and listening to her talk about her experience writing this truly meaningful read.

At its heart, it is an exploration of one woman’s search for family and identity. It is the story of a young (half) Native American woman, Jay, who after an debilitating injury moves from Arizona to Missouri in order to help care for her autistic nephew,  Brandon, while his mother works and takes college classes.  This arrangement provides the opportunity for the development of  two surprising relationships, which have a profound impact on Jay…. the one is obviously with her nephew and other is with one of her nephew’s classmates, who suffers from a  severe brain injury. Bridget Bufford excels at giving the reader a realistic glimpse into the life of family members of people with autism and acquired brain injury at the same time writing in way about families all readers can appreciate it.   This book is beautifully written and incredibly descriptive…and I even would go so far as to say, poetic.  I would highly recommend to anyone who loves literary fiction.  It also had the great honor of being nominated for the 2012 Pushcart award.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, NonFiction, Reviewer, Travel

Fodor's Disney World 2011 Plus Universal Orlando and Seaworld by Fodor's Travel Publications, 451 pages, read by Claudia, on 02/01/2012

Fodor's Walt Disney World 2011: With Universal, SeaWorld, and the Best of Central FloridaFodor’s is one of the best known publishers of travel guides around.  I’ve worked in libraries for 20 years now and they are the mainstays of every travel section.  These guides are reliable, well organized, and a ratings system is used throughout the book to assist readers.  I appreciated this guide’s content, but the small type font of the book grated on my nerves before I was halfway through it it.  I missed the inclusion of photographs, but appreciated the maps provided of  each theme park.  The information on rides and restaurants was fairly consistent with what I found in other guides, I just struggled with the format.  For future trips to other destinations, I will continue to consult Fodor’s.  I respect the reputation it has and believe it is a solid source of information.  I simply think there are a couple of other guides, I will consult first when planning another Disney trip.

28. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, NonFiction, Reviewer, Travel

Official Guide to Walt Disney World 2011 by Stephen Birnbaum, 263 pages, read by Claudia, on 02/11/2012

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2011In preparation for my family’s first trip to Disney World, I had the opportunity to read this well known travel guide published by Disney Editions.   This guide originally came out in 1981, 10 years after the parked opened, and is known for being completely revised each year leaving “no attraction untested, no snack or meal untasted, no hotel untried!”  Of the three travel books I read about Disney, I preferred this one.  I really liked the format, the conversational tone, the details on EVERYTHING, and the nice color photographs.    I feel this guide fully prepared me to make some informed confident, decisions ahead of time….including making reservations at restaurants.  If I had to choose just one guide on Disney, this would be it!

27. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Historical Fiction, Tracy

Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven, 410 pages, read by Tracy, on 02/27/2012

I was really glad to see that the author of Velva Jean Learns to Drive had written a sequel. The first book is the story of her growing up in the mountains of North Carolina. All she wanted to do was to become a singer and sing at the Grand Ol Opry in Nashville.The sequel continues with her driving to Nashville and learning that it’s not that easy to get a recording contract. Unfortunately World War II starts and she and her brother decide to take flying lessons.  Velva Jean joins an all women pilot training program called the WASPS. Flying planes gets into her blood but she never stops singing and writing songs. Despite  sexual harassment and sabotage she and her fellow pilots are determined to succeed. I really enjoyed this book and hope there is another.

Velva Jean Learns to Fly

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

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert Jeschonek, 336 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/25/2012

I’m not even sure how to describe this book. It certainly doesn’t fit into any genres that I can think of. There are multiple narrators, all with fantastically whimsical names, and multiple realities. First, in the reality closest to our own, is the world of Idea Deity (son of Loving and Vengeful Deity). He’s on the run from his tutors and parents since they’ve been restricting his life and priming him for “success” for the entirety of his memory. The only outlet he has is the fictional band that he’s created, Youforia. Even though the band doesn’t exist, it has developed a cult following. Idea has teamed up with a rather unusual young woman who calls herself Eunice Truant. She’s got a Janus-sort-of-thing going on. The back side of her head has a face painted on; her hair is two different colors and her clothes are two outfits stitched together. Idea also suffers from he calls “Deity Syndrome”, where the sufferer believes that he is a character in a novel penned by a malevolent creator.
In the alternate reality, where the grass is pink and the sky is green, Reacher Mirage, lead guitarist of the secret band “Youforia” is wondering how the heck someone is able to post such detailed information about the band online. Because the real Youforia has never performed as themselves. But all the details online are disturbingly accurate. Everyone is pushing Reacher to take the band public, but Reacher’s just not ready; he’s been led to believe that he’ll fail, a remnant of his upbringing by Daddy Naysayer. He’s on the run too, trying to avoid his own past. Interestingly enough, he also has a two-faced lady friend, Eurydice Tarantella, with features that run directly opposite of Eunice’s.
Consistent in both realities is a fantasy novel called “Fireskull’s Revenant”, which also has two narrators. It’s only a matter of time before all realities collide.
I can’t really think of anything else that I’ve read that even remotely resembles this book. It is ambitious, particularly for a debut novel. For the most part, it really works. The writing is occasionally a bit clunky, but I’m willing to forgive it for the sake of the highly original premise.

27. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Short Stories

Bad Doings and Big Ideas by Bill Willingham, 464 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/22/2012

So, this book isn’t really a graphic novel or part of a series of comics. Instead, it’s a compilation of Bill Willingham’s work from his early days. Before “Fables”, that is. In it, we have a wide variety of tales (and a wide variety of artistic talent), all of which are prefaced with introductions by Willingham. Particular favorites of mine are the stories set in the world of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Merv Pumpkinhead as a spy? Yes, please. Not one, but two arcs involving the inscrutable Thessaly (a character I always wanted to hear more about)? Absolutely! Top it off with some entertaining vignettes spanning comic genres and you’ve got one heck of a fun read.

27. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 02/26/2012

Bobby and his family take a trip south to see the Civil War battlefields. Jacob is spending the summer with his aunt and uncle. This book is told from various narrators perspectives and it makes for a very disjointed telling. It is supposed to highlight Jim Crow laws in the South during the 1950s and it does a bit, but it isn’t a very effective story. Bobby is obsessed with death and “chocolate” people. His mom actually wrecks her car to get away from a couple of African Americans (who aren’t doing anything to harm her). It does highlight the irrational fear whites had for blacks at that time. Jacob and his family are black and their story is told from many members of their family’s perspective. It is a very disjointed telling of their experiences living under Jim Crow and being treated as second class. Bobby and Jacob’s stories finally come together at the very end, but it is kind of forced and really doesn’t mesh; overall it is pretty poorly done. This book is supposed to be a testament on civil rights but it really doesn’t work. There are many other books out that do a really good job portraying live during the 1950s and 1960s…this isn’t one of them.

27. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, 341 pages, read by Angie, on 02/27/2012

I often wonder about the Newbery committee and if they select the winners because they think the books are great or if they think they are books kids should read. I don’t think a lot of the Newbery winners are books kids will want to read. That doesn’t mean they are horrible books, it just means they don’t have a lot of appeal to the demographic they are supposed to be written for. I think Dead End in Norvelt falls into that category. It isn’t a bad book; I just don’t think it is the best book written for children in the past year. And frankly I don’t think it is going to really appeal to that many pleasure readers.

Dead End in Norvelt is the story of Jack Gantos (yes it is semi-autobiographical) and how he spent his summer. It is full of tales of dead old ladies and writing their obituaries with Mrs. Volker, digging a bomb shelter with dad, getting in trouble with mom, Hells Angels, and nose bleeds. Their is a lot of crazy stuff going on in the town of Norvelt (founded and named for Eleanor Roosevelt) and Jack is in the middle of it all.

26. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Robin, Romance · Tags:

If You See Her by Shiloh Walker, 400 pages, read by Robin, on 02/04/2012

This is the second in a series of books that focus on a small town with a serial killer problem. In the first book, Shiloh Walker introduced us to a blind woman who heard the killer as he was attacking a woman. This book focuses on an abused woman who has enough of her own problems, apparently, as the killer is mentioned in her book, but rarely seen… The story is good and I’m eagerly awaiting the third book in the series – Shiloh manages to string the suspense along in a way that keeps my attention throughout both books while putting the main emphasis on the couple who “star” in each book. This is an enjoyable romance and something light and easy to read while still being interesting enough to hold your attention.

26. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Paranormal, Robin, Romance · Tags:

Eternal Captive: Mark of the Vampire by Laura Wright, 384 pages, read by Robin, on 02/12/2012

Eternal Captive
This is the 3rd book in the Mark Of The Vampire series by Laura Wright. If you are a fan of the J.R. Ward Brotherhood series, you will see a lot of similarities in the stories – but they are different enough to still be quite interesting. This story focuses on Lucien, the youngest of the Roman Brothers, and his quest for his mate and his desire to not end up like his father, the “breeding male” who felt nothing but the desire to make more little vampires.

This story, along with the first two in the series, was well written and kept my interest through the whole thing. It was enjoyable and kept me entertained throughout the whole book.

23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Apocalyptic, Romance, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, 391 pages, read by Andrea, on 02/23/2012

Catching FireI found the first book of the Hunger Games series to be a little predictable compared to this book. I was not expecting the series to take such a dark turn. I also wasn’t exactly certain how I felt about Katniss, the protagonist, either. However, with the continuation of the series, I think Katniss is a little more sensitive in this one and there were actually times where she convinced me she really was capable of being in love with Peeta, her fellow tribute. It has a little bit more romance between Katniss and Peeta and Katniss and Gale. There is a more in-depth look at how Katniss feels about her love for both guys and how she handles it. Lovely teen love. It does make the book more exciting seeing the internal battles Katniss goes through and how she has grown up since the last book. Overall, not too bad.

23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 02/22/2012

Lucia lives an idyllic life in Cuba. All she thinks about is her quinca, her friends and if Manuel will dance with her. Then Castro comes to power and everything changes. People start getting arrested, her parents become afraid, school is cancelled. Finally her parents decide to send her and her brother to America. They first go to Miami where they live in camps, then they are sent to live with the Baxters in Nebraska. Lucia and Frankie have to adjust to life in America, they have to learn English, they have to learn to live without their parents.

This is a wonderful book about a part of history I knew nothing about. I had never heard about the Pedro Pan Project. I had no idea 14000 Cuban children were sent to the United States when Castro came to power. I can’t imagine the heartache and fear that the kids must have felt to leave everything they know behind and move to another country without knowing if they will even see their parents again. The afterward of the book states that the majority of the kids were reunited with their parents but some never saw them again.

At the beginning of this book Lucia is a your typical spoiled teenager who really only thinks of herself. She is not aware of what is going on around her and doesn’t have a care in the world. As the book progresses she matures a lot and becomes someone who looks out for others and has an awareness of the world and what goes on. I think the book is a pretty realistic portrayal of what happened in Cuba, but it is shown in a kid friendly way. The violence is hinted at and shown but it is not thrown in the reader’s faces or graphic. This was not a pleasant time in Cuba and that is not covered up, but this is also a children’s book and that is taken into account which I appreciate.

The one thing I think is glossed over is the transition to America. Lucia and Frankie do have a very difficult time when they are in the camps in Miami, but there time in Nebraska seems almost too easy. They don’t have language problems or problems fitting in at school or making friends. I would think that there would be more issues being the only Cuban/Latino people in the middle of Nebraska at a time when there are probably only white people in the town. I find it hard to believe that the kids were that accepting of them. I think it reads great for a kids book, but I don’t find it that realistic. Still I think this was a wonderful book and I recommend it.

23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Paranormal, Robin, Romance

How to marry a millionaire vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks, 384 pages, read by Robin, on 02/19/2012

How to marry a millionaire vampireThis is the first book in the “Love At Stake” series. The premise of the book is that there are a group of vampires, led by alpha-men heroes who battle the “Malcontents” who still insist on biting their victims. The hero of this book, Roman, has created a line of synthetic blood (some of which is used for humans) for the good vampires to drink. This makes him the millionaire vampire of the title. It’s clear that the book is intended to be funny, and there are some amusing parts, but the humor gets silly after a while and the heroine is a nit-wit. To make Shanna, our heroine in the novel, funny, the author also makes her unbearably silly. The story itself is ok, and I plan to read (and review) the second in the series, but if it’s no better than this one, that will be the end of the series for me.

The romance was not all that satisfyingly written, the humor sometimes fell flat and the sexual tension in the book was pretty much non-existant.

23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Paranormal, Robin, Romance

Last Man Standing by Cindy Gerard, 368 pages, read by Robin, on 02/03/2012

This is the last of the books in the Black Ops Series by Cindy Gerard. This book continues a relationship started back in a previous novel (Feel The Heat) between Stephanie and “Mean” Joe Green, one of the Black Ops team members. The book begins with Joe breaking up with Stephanie and heading off to what he feels is a suicide mission to avenge the death of his buddy (and Stephanie’s brother), Bryan. Stephanie, being a romance heroine, doesn’t just pine for Joe – she figures out what he’s doing, heads to Africa and rescues him. The story is well-paced and exciting, the romance is sweet (with some sexy thrown in, of course) and the plot is both believable and thrilling at times. Stephanie manages to grow into the perfect partner for a guy named “Mean” Joe and Joe manages to lose a bit of the “hero” shine and lets her do some of the rescuing herself. This is a nice story with lots of heart and it was a fast and easy read.

23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Robin, Romance

My Wicked LIttle Lies by Victoria Alexander, 352 pages, read by Robin, on 02/16/2012

My Wicked Little Lies  This book was a nice, easy, light read that was a bit different than the typical historical romance. When the book begins, Evelyn (the heroine) is already married to the hero, Adrian. They’ve been married for two years and are quite happy, even though they both are reluctant to discuss their lives before they met. For good reason, so they think, because they were both spies for the British government. Adrian knows that Evelyn was a spy, Evelyn does not know that Adrian was the mysterious “Sir” that she recieved her instructions and the occaional flirty message from while she was a spy. The story, then, is the revelation of Evelyn and Adrian’s slightly notorious pasts and the misunderstandings and miscommunications that happen along the way. The story was entertaining, the characters mostly believable and sympathetic. The romance, because the characters had been married for two years, was a bit unorthodox, but still satisfying for those who want a true love story.