23. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Robin, Science

Panic In Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science by Richard Preston, 240 pages, read by Robin, on 02/21/2012

Panic In Level 4
I listened to this book as an audiobook and it did a pretty good job of keeping me entertained while I drove around town over the course of a week or so. The book covers some of the author’s experiences while writing non-fiction pieces (books and magazine articles) over the years. It returns to his famous Hot Zone book about an Ebola virus outbreak in the United States and discusses his feelings while in the hot zone of the level 4 biohazard labs of USAMRIID (U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases). That is a pretty short section, followed by a much longer (too long, perhaps) section on a pair of brothers who are working on calculating the digits of pi (3.14….) to ever-increasing precision in order to find some pattern or order in the number. There were some interesting parts to their story – their homemade super-computers were interesting, but this section took up more of the book than I was completely happy to hear… The final section of the book – about a genetic disease that causes sufferers to literally cannibalize themselves (left to their own devices, they eat off their fingertips, lips and whatever else they can get into their mouths) – was very interesting. Not something I would want to read or listen to while eating, but a fascinating glimpse of the ravages that small changes in our DNA codes can make in a human being. The book was, overall, interesting and it kept my attention, but the middle part seemed to drag on a bit. I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in scientific oddities, though – it had its truly fascinating moments.

22. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Tracy

The Good Life by Tony Bennett, 312 pages, read by Tracy, on 02/22/2012

The Good LifeTony Bennett has had an amazing career.  He made a lot of friends and got a lot of good advice. This biography has all the ups and downs of his personal and professional life. He also is a talented artist which probably helped his singing career.  One thing he stressed was that he always sang the songs he liked and tried not to be swayed by the record companies. He felt that if the song was good it would be a hit. When he hit the big time there was a lot of time spent on the road which put a strain on his personal life. Of course when he recorded “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” he became an a super star. I’m a big fan and was glad to see in the back of this book a listing of some of his best recordings.

22. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody H

Second Grave from the Left by Darynda Jones, 307 pages, read by Melody, on 02/21/2012

Second Grave on the Left is the second in a series of which I have not read the first.  Perhaps I would have liked the book more if I had.  The heroine, Charley Davidson, is a private investigator who is also the Grim Reaper.  Besides solving very human cases, she finds ghosts and sends them to the great beyond.  Charley is also romantically involved with the son of Satan who was born into the human world just to meet her but who murdered his abusive father so he is in prison  but can leave his body and astrally project and have sex with her.  Wheh, that’s a lot going on.  That is my summation of this book, a lot going on.  I found it to be a very busy read, some things worked well and others seemed to just be tossed into the mix.  I liked it well enough to finish  but not enough to read the first book.

22. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Ida B. . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan, 246 pages, read by Angie, on 02/21/2012

Ida B is very happy with her life. She lives on her ranch with her mom and dad. She talks to the trees and the brook and they are the only friends she needs. She is homeschooled because school just didn’t work out for her. And life is perfect. Then one day her momma gets sick and everything changes. Her daddy has to sell part of the ranch and part of her trees are gone. And worse yet she has to go to public school. Ida B thinks her life is in ruins and she hardens her heart to everything around her: her parents, the trees, her teacher, the kids at school…nothing can break through. She is in a very dark and sad place. But little by little things begin to to chip away at the shell she has created around herself and she learns that even though things have changed and it will never be the perfect life she had before life can be good again. This is a book about maturing and facing life as it comes. Ida B has to do a lot of growing up in this book. She has to face some hard truths about life and herself. In the end she comes out of it in a good place and starts living a positive life again.

22. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Melody H

Falling In by Frances O'Raork Dowell, 245 pages, read by Melody, on 02/21/2012

Delightful  and fanciful book. This is  the second book this week I’ve read about someone falling into the fairy tale world and both were worthwhile reads.  Falling In is the story of Isabelle, a girl who has always felt different who opens a closet on her way to the principal’s office and finds herself in another world.  She is told there is a witch who eats children in the woods and since since she’s never met a witch, decides to go find her.  I loved the character of Isabelle, who in the strangest of circumstances, takes charge and find her own way.

22. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Kira, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense

Whiplash by Coulter, Catherine, 549 pages, read by Kira, on 02/10/2012

WhiplashConvoluted thriller.


Why is it always the women who need rescuing? for once I’d like to see the woman come save the man.

Also, if you really loved your husband, would you tell confess to him on your deathbed, that your oldest child isn’t his? come on this just reeks of “plot device”.   And if you thought your wife was in love with another man, wouldn’t make sure you lived away from the source of temptation.

22. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Kira · Tags: , , , ,

Clockwork Prince by Clare, Cassandra., 424 pages, read by Kira, on 02/17/2012

City of Fallen AngelsThe saga of Clary and Simon and Jace and the rest continues.  Its nice to be back with the characters themselves.  Its nice to see Simon grow.   However, the book drags toward the end and reads starts to read like a romance.  Well my definition of a romance, where the protagonists are TOO STUPID to communicate and take risks with the person they like.  Well, here the protagonists’ behavior is too stupid to believe.  They continually run off without letting anyone else know – have you ever heard of teamwork?  You have characters leaving their beloved (brother, s.o., friend, etc) a character filled with self-loathing and suicidal thoughts on the top of the rooftop with a corpse – seriously?

Then the book ends in a cliff-hanger, well it seems more like the start of another book, like a teaser, but that could have been more clearly stated.

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Romance, Teen Books

Mangaman by Barry Lyga, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/18/2012

Oh, now this is clever: take a manga character and drop him into an American comic world. Said character not only looks like he’s ripped straight out of a manga, he even embodies many of the conventions used in the manga format. He’s referred to as an “extra-scientific event” by scientists, viewed as a threat to his fellow male high-schoolers, and simply can’t seem to find a way to fit in. I suppose that’s to be expected when giant drops of sweat appear on your forehead when you’re embarrassed or when sound effects become visible. That can’t be easy. Fortunately, he quickly becomes friends with the most popular girl in school who finds his quirks to be refreshing, if a bit unsettling.
I love anything that messes with the “fourth wall” (as those in theater might say). The characters become aware that they are in a comic, but are forced to acknowledge the differences in their “worlds”. There’s a bit of action, a lot of humor and a charming little love story. What more can you ask for?

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins, 529 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/17/2012

I’ve been a long-time fan of Ellen Hopkins’ work. Of course, the vast majority of it is teen/YA oriented, so naturally I was curious to read her foray into adult fiction.
Here’s the basic storyline: 3 women, all very different, come to a place in their lives where nothing is as certain or easy as it once was. Holly is married with several kids and has the picture-perfect life. Except for the fact that she regrets marrying early and not finishing school. This sense of lost time sparks her to explore the extra-marital world, allegedly “research” for the erotica she’s beginning to write . Her best friend, Andrea, a divorcee with a teenaged daughter is mostly privy to Holly’s colorful lifestyle but neither particularly supports or condemns the choices Holly makes. Andrea is more concerned with her daughter who is on the precipice of adolescence. Finally, there is Marissa, Andrea’s sister. Marissa is unhappily married with two children. One has a degenerative disorder that will ultimately end her young life. The other is gay, which both parents are still attempting to come to terms with.
The story cycles through each woman’s point of view and their stories begin to intertwine. I’ve always been a fan of Hopkins’ prose-poem style of writing, which she continues to use here. It works well in this context, though less observant readers may find themselves confused as to which character is speaking. I personally had trouble relating to these characters, mostly because I’m not yet married and have no children. Also, I’m about 10 years younger than they are. In fact, aside from Marissa, I’m not even sure I really liked the characters. I wouldn’t exactly recommend this to teen readers of Ellen Hopkins; this is definitely an adult book. I’m so used to reading teen fiction that I found myself blushing at some of the more intimate scenes. It is, however, probably a very good choice for mothers of teenaged children as the relationships presented between the mothers and their kids is particularly well done.

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody H

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston, 228 pages, read by Melody, on 02/20/2012

Very unique book.  It is the story of a girl coming to age in the 1920’s and her search to find herself told as a scrapbook she keeps.  A mix of period photographs and text, it is beautiful if perhaps a little busy.  Creative and delightful.

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French, 368 pages, read by Angie, on 02/20/2012

Julian is staying with his aunt and uncle while his mom is in China. He goes home sick one day and accidentally sees his uncle’s email about the clear cutting of a redwood forest by his uncle’s company. He conspires with the author of the email, Robin, to come stay with her instead of going to math camp. With Robin and his best friend Danny’s help, Julian plans Operation Redwood to stop uncle Sibley’s plans to destroy the Big Tree Forest. This is a good environmental story for kids. It doesn’t cram the environmental message down your throat, but puts it in human terms and keeps it in line with the story. I like the activism of the kids and how everything they do seems like something kids would think of doing. It is a story about friendship and family and trying to do what is right. Great story with a great message.

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Sweet Venom (Medusa Girls #1) by Tera Lynn Childs, 345 pages, read by Angie, on 02/20/2012

Gretchen, Grace and Greer are the descendents of Medusa. Their destiny is to fight monsters that escape into the human world. Sounds fun right? Not if you don’t know about it. The triplets have been separated since birth and have no idea the others exist. Until they all meet up in San Francisco and discover their heritage. Turns out it’s not just monsters they have to contend with, but there is a bounty on their heads, Gretchen’s mentor is kidnapped, and their are cute boys (of course). Plus there is a destiny involving the three of them.

Sweet Venom is clearly the beginning of a series and this book sets of the series more than anything. It introduces the sisters and the mythology of the world. I think the story has a lot of potential. This book wasn’t super exciting; it didn’t blow my socks off, but it was a fun read and I liked the monster hunter/Greek mythology mashup. It was kind of a Percy Jackson meets Buffy if you go for that kind of thing. Clever writing, a bit of action, a good potential.

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

The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen by Geraldine McCaughrean, 325 pages, read by Angie, on 02/19/2012

Diptheria hits town and that means the kids need to leave. So Kookie, Cissy and Tibbie leave with their teacher Ms. May and head to meet up with the Bright Lights Theater Company and their previous teacher. They join the company on the Sunshine Queen and set sail down the Missouri River. There is a whole cast of unique characters who round out the group aboard the Sunshine Queen on their adventures on the river. The book does start out a little slow, but it is a gentler read.

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 02/19/2012

Isabelle Bean is not a normal child, at least that is what she tells herself. She thinks she is a changeling, a child switched with at birth with a fairy or even a troll child (but hopefully not a troll child). She doesn’t fit in, but she doesn’t really mind. Then one day she hears a buzzing sound and then she opens a door and falls into another world. A world where she meets children who think she might be a witch out to devour them. She meets new friends. Hen, a girl who is on her way to the camps escaping the witch, and Grete, an old lady who lives in the woods and turns out to know Isabelle. Falling In is a fun, whimsical fairy tale. There is a nice twist where the narrator breaks into the story to talk to the readers directly. I thought it was fun and added to the whimsy of the book. This is a nice light fantasy that I think kids will enjoy.

21. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Crunch by Leslie Connor, 330 pages, read by Angie, on 02/19/2012

What would you do when the world runs out of gas? Ride bikes of course. The Mariss Family Bike Shop is doing a booming business after the Crunch. Of course it doesn’t help that mom and dad are stuck up north where they ran out of gas and Dewey and Lil have to take care of things at home. But they are doing ok. They are running the expanding bike shop, keeping the farm going and watching their little brother and sister. Then things start disappearing from the shop a little bit at a time. And someone is stealing bikes all over town. This is a nice story about a family who comes together during a time of crisis. They act like a family would too; they bicker and fight, but when it really counts they stick together. I thought the kids were really well written and each had their own personalities. You could really tell that Vince didn’t like to be around people but loved working on bikes, that Dewey really wanted to make the business work, that Lil wanted to be an artist and not the parent. I especially loved the thieving neighbor Mr. Spivey. He was a fun character and a real treat to read about. This is a fun read and you will cheer along with all the kids at the end of the book.

19. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Paranormal, Romance, Tracy

The Grift by Debra Ginsberg, 335 pages, read by Tracy, on 02/19/2012

the griftMarina was born with a psychic ability that her mother forced her to use to fund her drug habit. When her mother dies she moves to California where she finds plenty of messed up people who seek her services. She doesn’t think she really has the ability to see the future but is very observant and can predict what people are thinking and feeling. But things get crazy and dangerous for her clients and her own future. Everyone blames her and she begins to feel she is going crazy. Most of the characters have so many problems it’s almost funny at times. They think that going to a psychic will help them make all those important decisions they don’t want to deal with. It doesn’t work out that way.

19. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Novel, Paige, Teen Books

Manga Man by Bary Lyga and Colleen Doran (Illustrator), 126 pages, read by Paige, on 02/19/2012

Coming from a person who is not into Manga at all, but I do like the occasional graphic novel this was actually really good; the crossover was pretty fabulous. Manga man is Ryoko…he’s been sucked into ‘our world’, but still retains the style of manga (speed lines, shockingly expressive faces, etc…). Naturally he’s an outcast, but meets a girl, Marissa; fun, silliness, and even some action ensue.

Great graphic book for teens on up and for graphic novel, comic book, or manga lovers alike. Also, the artwork…pretty awesome, but quite black and white.

19. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Melody H, NonFiction

The Mysteries of Angkor Wat by Richard Sobol, 42 pages, read by Melody, on 02/19/2012

A beautiful children’s book about the iconic World Heritage site, Angkor Wat.  Wonderful pictures of not only the ruins themselves but also of the Cambodian people.  The book is one of a series written and photographed by Rickard Sobol, an award winning photographer whose pictures have been in National Geography and Rolling Stone.

19. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody H

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton, 306 pages, read by Melody, on 02/18/2012

Oh, Laurell K Hamilton, I should love you.  You write about fairies, necromancers, and vampires; you have plenty of blood, sex, and romance; you even live in St Louis but you fail me every time.  Guilty Pleasures is a passable read, as I find most of her books.  It is the novel that introduced Anita Blake, a necromancer who is also a vampire hunter.  I’m am not sure why I don’t like this book more.  The characters are okay, the story line is okay, everything is just okay.  Perhaps the fact that so many people are such passionate fans of her writing raises my expectations higher than is realistic.  If you are one of those fans, you will most likely love this book.  If not, well give it a try.  Hamilton gets points at least for being a Missouri girl.

19. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Melody H · Tags:

Half Upon a Time by James Riley, 385 pages, read by Melody, on 02/18/2012

One of this year’s Mark Twain nominees Half upon a Time is the story of a girl, May, from our world dropped (literally) into the fairy tale world.  Her grandmother was kidnapped, she is being hunted by a creepy guy, and everyone assumes she is a princess, a pretty rough day for May.   She is joined on her attempts to rescue her grandmother by a boy named Jack, of beanstalk fame, the Wolf King, and even a real prince.  The characters are charming  and the story paces well.  Fun read.