19. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Horror, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Feed by Mira Grant , 583 pages, read by Angie, on 02/17/2012

Feed doesn’t read like your typical zombie apocalypse book; it is much more like a political thriller that just so happens to have zombies in it. I am not even sure if it should be classified as a teen book even though that is what it is being sold as. In the world Mira Grant has created a virus has been released and everyone is infected with the potential to be a zombie. Once you die you turn into one no questions asked, you can also spontaneously turn but that is rare. The dead have taken over parts of the country but other parts are safe and life goes on. Bloggers have taken over traditionally media and these are our main characters. Georgia, Shaun and Buffy are the bloggers for After the End Times. They are selected to follow the campaign of president hopefully Senator Ryman.

The book is really interesting. There is a great deal of world building, but unfortunately the world-building comes at the expense of info dumping in the plot, which makes for huge sections of dry plot in the book. I had a hard time getting through the first half of the book. There wasn’t a whole lot of action going on and there was a lot of information sharing and politics. It was fairly boring. I wish there was a more interesting way to impart the information, maybe through dialogue instead of text? There was also a lot of repetition of information. We heard about Mason’s law, retinal KA, etc. over and over and over again. I know it is part of the world but it got to be a little much after a while.

The last half of the book when the action picked up was really good. There was less info dumping and more action and dialogue. We really got to see the world move at this point. I love the characters of Georgia and Shaun. They are perfectly drawn and we really know who they are and what they stand for. Their world is fast paced and tragic and you can really see that in the last half of the book. And the end was tragic, but it had to be. You can’t have a zombie book end on a high note. I am interested to see where the rest of this trilogy goes since there were a lot of unanswered questions at the end of this one.

The library does not have this series but I was able to get a copy through Mobius.

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

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, 360 pages, read by Angie, on 02/16/2012

Okay for Now is the companion novel to The Wednesday Wars, but you really don’t have to have read The Wednesday Wars to enjoy this book. And enjoy it you will. If you don’t fall in love with Doug Swieteck after reading this book I have no hope for you. My heart ached for him and yours will too. Doug moves with his family (abusive father, silent mother, criminal brother) to stupid Maysville because his father lost his job. He lives in The Dump and he thinks life is hopeless. Then he finds a book of bird drawings at the local library. He doesn’t know they are drawings by Audubon, all he knows is that they are beautiful and he can’t take his eyes off them. His life starts turning around. He gets a job delivering groceries at Spicer’s Deli, he meets a girl (Lil), the librarian starts teaching him to draw (in secret of course). But then he finds out that the library is selling off the the Audubon drawings and he makes it his mission to get them back.

Doug’s life is not easy and it will break our heart. His father speaks with his fists and his a psycho throughout much of the book. His brother terrorizes him for the first half. His mother does the best she can but doesn’t stand up to his father. Doug is teased at school and looked down upon because of his brother’s criminal tendencies. But he does find that certain people recognize the spark in him and take a chance on him and he does begin to blossom. This book is all about personal growth. Doug’s growth is the main subject but we also see his brother’s growth as well. His brother starts out as a thug but we see him become more than that. Especially when the oldest brother comes home from Vietnam wounded; that really brings the family together.

I did think the end was a little too fairy tale ending and rushed. I like redemption but I thought the dad’s redemption came out of left-field and I am not sure I bought it. There was nothing leading up to it to show that he was on that path. I am also not sure about Lil’s ending; that too seem to come out of left field and I am not sure it was needed. There was a lot going on in this book and that seemed to be just one more unneeded thing tacked onto the ending. However, this book was stellar and a great read. I highly recommend it.

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

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, 560 pages, read by Angie, on 02/18/2012

The best way to describe Wildwood is an American Narnia. Prue’s baby brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken into the Impassable Wilderness outside Portland. She ventures there with her friend Curtis to get him back. In the IW she meets talking animals, bandits, villains, mystics and all kinds other people. Some helpful some not so helpful. Curtis and Prue are separated and have to make their own way through Wildwood but they eventually join back together to help save the day at the end. There is a lot of adventure, heroics and a bit a scariness in this book. The characters are good. Prue and Curtis are well written heroes; sure they have their faults but they turn out good in the end. The villain…the Dowager Governess is a nice one; she is the villain but she also tries to turn you to her side. The secondary characters are also fun: the postmaster, the bandit king, the avian prince. If I have a complaint about this book it is that it is long for a children’s book (over 500 pages) and the language does get a bit stuffy at times. But the illustrations are fun and I think if kids stick with it they will enjoy it. It is part of a trilogy, but this volume ends well enough that I don’t think you will have to continue reading if you don’t want to.

18. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Melody, NonFiction

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, 158 pages, read by Melody, on 02/15/2012

While not a book for a serious study of Taoism, The Tao of Pooh is a very sweet and gentle book using Winnie the Pooh as the perfect teacher of Tao.  Comparing the patient and calm Pooh to the ever busy Rabbit, the ever glum Eeyore, or the ever pontificating Owl, Hoff gives a illuminating overview of the basic tenets of Taoism.  The book is most successful at capturing the spirit of Tao instead of a being a scholarly treatise of religion.

18. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Poetry

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes, 44 pages, read by Melody, on 02/18/2012

Let America Be America Again is a beautiful edition of the classic Langston Hughes poem.

Let America be America again.

Let if be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me)

A timely and pertinent poem in our days of the 99% and rousing election speeches, I think it should be required reading for every citizen and perhaps be tattooed on those who use the chorus of “America” to rally us to war, to class and racial divides, and to hate and fear one another.  The wood cut illustrations are stark and moving, ideal for the poem, but I found the print to be difficult to read.  But even if you must find the poem online or in another anthology, please read it.

18. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Informational Book, Melody, NonFiction

Self-Sufficiency for the 21st Century by Dick and James Strawbridge, 304 pages, read by Melody, on 02/17/2012

Caveat, I am not the intended audience for this book.  I really was just looking for gardening tips and maybe some canning how-to.  I found that and more.  Some useful, selecting fruits to grow or making preserves and cheeses.  Some way beyond my ken, constructing a house out of straw bales or creating a waste water system out of sand and reeds.  Some horrifying, composting toilets and castrating livestock.  While I would like to be less wasteful and become more self-reliant, I enjoy be connected to the grid and love, love, love clean and safe water.  And toilets that do not require me to carry them out to the garden.  Definitely no toting my own waste.

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

Weird History by Matt Lake and Randy Fairbanks, 128 pages, read by Melody, on 02/17/2012

Weird History is just that, the strange, the spooky, the off-beat places, people, and facts that we as Americans can lay claim to.  There are ghosts, conspiracies, heroes, villains, and the occasional well-preserved corpse.  Missouri gets a nod with not just one but two dog stories and maybe the grave of Jesse James, or maybe not.  Fun read with great illustrations.

18. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody

420 Characters by Lou Beach, 169 pages, read by Melody, on 02/16/2012

420 characters is the maximum length of a Facebook post and the inspiration of this quirky little book.  The author, Lou Beach, is a magazine illustrator and gallery artist who became disillusioned with how pedestrian Facebook entries were and decided to see what he could do with 420 characters.  His results are mixed.  Some of his stories are evocative and moving.  Some feel unfinished and rushed.  The best have the feel of haiku, a complete emotion or image in a sparse form.  Having been inspired, I tried my hand at the 420 limit and it is incredibly difficult.  420 Characters is an interesting exercise.

17. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Romance, Tracy

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy, 596 pages, read by Tracy, on 02/17/2012

Circle of FriendsThe main characters in this book, Benny and Eve, grew up together in a village near Dublin Ireland in the 1950’s. They have the same circle of friends when entering university.  There are parties and dances for fun and also family complications back home in Knockglen.This is the fourth Maeve Binchy book I’ve read and she always keeps me interested in the story and the characters until the very end.

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

Among Others by Jo Walton, 302 pages, read by Melody, on 02/10/2012

I almost gave up on this book before I even began it and am glad that I didn’t.  Personally, I dislike kitschy plot structure.  Books told as poems, journal entries, in pig latin, or whatever some author thinks is a clever way to set themselves apart leaves me cold.  Too often, plot and dialogue suffer as the writer tries to force a believable engaging story into imposed constraints.  Among Others is told as the diary of teen-aged Welsh girl, Morwenna,  who sees fairies.  Her sister has died in an accident that has left her crippled and Morwenna is sent to live with her father in England.  She is a voracious reader and uses books both as an escape and a way to connect with others.  Among Others is an interesting mix, Morwenna see fairies and ghosts yet loves science fiction, she fiercely defends her otherness but searches for kindred spirits, she fears the magic that has driven her mother mad but wields it herself.    There is a lot going on in this book and a lesser author would likely made a complete mash of it but Walton pulls it off beautifully.  Morwenna is a very compelling character that I really enjoyed getting to know.  Her diary entries told the story clearly without becoming self-indulgent or maudlin.  I did find the ending rather anti-climatic but I think it is simply because the rest of the book was so well-written. Great debut for Walton.

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

Who Hell the Pansy O'Hara? by Jenny Bond, 318 pages, read by Melody, on 02/11/2012

Spoiler alert:  Pansy O’Hara was what the character of Scarlett O’Hara was called in the early drafts of Gone with the Wind.  A must read for any bibliophile, Who the Hell is Pansy O’Hara?  is comprised of small chapters about the stories behind beloved books.  Full of interesting tidbits that any reader will love; Truman Capote and Harper Lee where childhood friends, Arthur Conan Doyle had sworn off Sherlock Holmes but  Hound of the Baskerfields was so compelling that he had to write him again, and Lord of the Flies was written by a teacher who found cloying feel-good portrayals of boys untrue.  Great romp through literature.

16. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody, Teen Books

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, 363 pages, read by Melody, on 02/01/2012

There are only so many variations to so many stories that are possible.  So many books become clones to one another, different cover and different setting but still the same bones underneath.  Nothing is more disappointing that the feeling of deja vu as you finish the first chapter of a book.  Given all that, I still found The Space Between a worthwhile read.  Daphne is the child of a demon and a fallen angel who leaves Hell to save her brother on Earth.  She falls in love with a mortal boy and complications ensue.  The conflict between good and evil, heaven and hell,  is the fodder for a million stories yet well drawn characters and believable emotions make this worth reading.

16. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody, Teen Books

Nightspell by Leah Sypess, 326 pages, read by Melody, on 02/09/2012

Bright and engaging fantasy, Nightspell is moving, thoughtful, and a little strange.  A princess is to be married to a prince of a nearby kingdom, nothing new there, but besides the standard courtly murder and intrigue, there are ghosts who are indistinguishable from the living.  Our heroine, a warrior from sun filled plains, goes to this dark forbidding place to save her sister who was sent here as a child.  Who is dead?  Who is alive?  Does it even matter?  Beautiful book, sad and lovely and complicated and inventive.

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

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein, 360 pages, read by Melody, on 02/14/2012

The Familiars, a nominee for the 2012 Mark Twain award, is the story of an alley cat on the run from a bounty hunter who finds himself chosen to be a wizard’s familiar.  His wizard is taken by an evil queen and he must join with a know-it-all jay and a clumsy tree frog  to save him.  It is all very standard fantasy fare;  dangerous quest, mysterious heritage, unknown talents, and the storytelling is competent. The animal point of view is something a little different than most of these types of books and it works well.  I found it an enjoyable read but lacking that wonderful quality very good fantasy has.

16. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 374 pages, read by Andrea, on 02/10/2012

The Hunger GamesI had not heard of the Hunger Games until a few weeks ago when I was doing the calendar of events for the library. I asked my sister about it and she proceeded to tell me the Hunger Games was actually part of a trilogy. Normally I don’t really like to read series of books. However, I have already started the second one and I have certainly changed my mind about series. Collins style of writing is descriptive yet easy to follow and understand. The book takes place in Panem, the ruins of what was once known as North America. Though it was once known as North America, Panem is very unlike the present-day North America we know. Divided into twelve districts, each one concentrates on a particular skill, such as mining or agriculture. The ruler district, the Capitol, rules over these twelve districts.

Probably my most favorite part of the first book is the contrast Collins creates between the Capitol and the twelve districts. The Capitol is this inhumane ruler of all the other districts. Using their unique skills, the twelve districts work while the residents of the Capitol have a stress-free life of luxury.  To show who is in control, the Capitol organizes the annual Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in an arena that is a hostile environment. Before the games, a process called The Reaping picks two children, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district other than the Capitol, who will compete in the games. The fear of the Capitol the district residents feel as a result of the Games keep a rebellion from emerging. The people and the country are described so eloquently it is no surprise that the books are being made into a movie. So far, the second book Catching Fire is just as well written and enjoyable to read as the first.

 

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

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 02/16/2012

This novel written in verse tells the story of Ha and her family as they flee Saigon and come to America. It is a story of survival and struggle. It is beautifully written and the sparseness of the verse makes the story that much more poignant. In Saigon, Ha’s family listens to the bombs fall daily, they wait for a father’s return even though they fear he is gone forever. They are smart and capable people in Saigon. Then one day they decide to leave on a Navy ship as Saigon is falling to the Communists. They arrive in America and are sponsored by a family in Alabama. Life in America is not easy. They do not know the language and are considered dumb; they are teased and taunted by their peers. They had to leave everything they knew behind.

I think the fact that this book is written in verse makes it that much more powerful. I don’t think the story would have resonated as much if it was written in a traditional manner. Lai is able to convey every emotion and heartache of the family’s journey through the verse as well as their hope for their future. It is a powerful book on a powerful subject. This is a very fast read, but you really do want to take your time and pour over the language.

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

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming, 128 pages, read by Angie, on 02/15/2012

Amelia Lost is definitely a fact based biography on Amelia Earhart, but it reads almost like a novel. It alternates between the story of her life and the last hours of her life when she was supposed to land on Howland Island and never did. Her life story is very interesting and in reading it I found that as a person I don’t really like Amelia Earhart. Is that bad to say? She has always seemed like a larger than life figure and a pioneer for women. And she certainly was. But she was also reckless and always kept her image in mind. She had an affair with a married man (she later married him but still). She didn’t really know how to use her radio when she set off on her around the world flight…could that have caused her problems at the end??? The book doesn’t speculate on what happened to her it just gives us the facts as they are known so you will have to look at other sources for the speculation. I do love how Fleming has pieced together her history and the history of her last hours through all the radio transmissions…which I found fascinating. Who knew you could pick up radio transmissions from the Pacific in Florida? I love all the details Fleming included in the book and the fact that she did keep it straight facts. You are left to form your own opinions. I think the readability of this book will make it a great biography for kids looking for more information on Amelia Earhart. It is certainly not dry or boring and Earhart is always a fascinating mystery of history.

Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are gorgeous. I love his portraits and they are definitely worthy of their illustrator honor awards. I also think this book deserves the Coretta Scott King author award. It is a wonderful summary of African American history boiled down into 100 pages. I love the grandmother narrator who is telling the story of her families journey from slavery through modern times. Sure it is a stretch to believe one family could have experienced every aspect of African American history, but it is still a beautifully told story. And the illustrations go perfectly with the story; I can’t stress enough how wonderful they are. I wish there was more detail to some parts of the history; it does seem like certain segments were very briefly described, but 400 years were covered in a little over 100 pages so Nelson had to be brief. Overall, this is a wonderful book that definitely deserves all the honors and awards it is getting.

16. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts: True Adventures of a Female P.I. by Cici McNair, 354 pages, read by Tammy, on 02/14/2012

Detectives Don’t Wear Seat BeltsTrue story written by a woman who grew up in a small town in Mississippi but ended up traveling the world then decided to try her hand at being a private investigator in New York City. Cici loves creating characters on the spur of the moment and for her the stage is wherever her assignment takes her. She ends up working with law enforcement, going undercover, dealing with the ruthless Born to Kill gang in Chinatown and the Middle Eastern counterfeiters west of Broadway. The book starts out slow but quickly builds as her cases and experiences grow. A detailed account of the hidden world and real-life cases of a P.I.

16. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Tammy

Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs by Dave Barry, 94 pages, read by Tammy, on 02/14/2012

Dave Barry’s Book of Bad SongsAmusing little book for which Dave Barry used a couple previous newspaper columns and the many, many letters he received in response as the main text. There’s all sorts of popular songs that have made these lists. Only a couple I didn’t recognize at all and some are personal favorites. I think some of the songs it depends on what’s going on in your life when you first here them, because I have happy memories associated with some titles that made the “bad song lists” but if I’d just heard them on the radio over and over I might think they were annoying too.