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

Weird History: A Twisted Tour of America's Bizarre Past by Randy Fairbanks, Matt Lake , 128 pages, read by Angie, on 02/15/2012

This book is full of weird snippets of history and I loved it. There is a lot of information in this book on ghosts, bizarre people and places, strange happenings, and just weird things that occurred in America’s history; things you aren’t told about in history books. All the segments are pretty brief so if you want more information on a topic you are going to have to find it elsewhere. But this book gives you a good overview on a lot of stuff. It is organized very well with nice concise chapters and very readable text. I think kids will find it fascinating. I know there are several things I want to know more about. I loved finding out that both Reagan and Carter saw UFOs, that there’s a cat haunting the U.S. Capital, and that George Washington was not our first president (he was our 9th)! I’m definitely going to have to read up on that one!

14. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Virals by Kathy Reichs, 448 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/12/2012

First off, I have to say that I’ve never actually read any of Kathy Reichs’ books, though I have seen a few episodes of “Bones”. I am always a little bit wary of best-selling adult authors moving into the growing market of teen/YA fiction. This particular offering was entertaining enough, but I had some issues with it.
The main story: Tory Brennen lost her mother about 6 months before the story begins and has moved in with her father (whose sister is the famous Temperance Brennen) on a island off the coast of Charleston, SC. The few families that live on the island are all employees of the university and work at a state-of-the-art lab on a neighboring island. Said neighboring island is wilderness preserve that happens to be full of monkeys (I *think* they were introduced for research purposes) and a random wolf-dog pack that Tory is particularly attached to. One day, she and her friends discover some dog tags on the monkey island and uncover a connection to a murder that happened decades ago. In the process of cleaning up the dogtags in the fancy-pants lab (that they broke into), they discover one of the dogs from the island sealed off in a cage and looking to be on the verge of death. Long story short, the dog is freed and nursed back to health, though the seemingly dog-specific virus has rather unexpected effects on the human rescuers.
So, we’ve got a murder mystery mixed with some accidentally obtained superhuman powers. In the end, it was all a bit of a stretch for me, but once I was able to appropriately suspend my disbelief, I enjoyed the rest of the book. The characters are a little flat and the emphasis is clearly on the action and mystery elements. Fans of crime dramas will likely appreciate the CSI bits, while fans of the supernatural will be curious to see the extent to which a virus can affect a person.

This book is on the 2012-13 Truman Award Nominees list and is the Novel Ideas read for February.

14. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books · Tags:

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, 228 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/09/2012

Now here’s a book that I’m still thinking about over a week after reading it.
Cullen lives in Lily, Arkansas. It’s a really small town, about four thousand people. Cullen is used to the drudgery of small-town life. Then a couple of things happen that turn both Cullen’s life and the town itself upside-down. First, a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct may have been spotted in town. The Lazarus woodpecker becomes the town’s rallying point as ornithologists and tourists crowd in to see if they can spot the bird for themselves. Second, around the time that the woodpecker appears, Cullen’s younger brother, Gabriel, vanishes without a trace.
Interspersed with Cullen’s story is the seemingly unrelated (at first) story that begins with a young missionary who fails in his mission, but brings the apocryphal texts from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to the attention of his college roommate, Cabot.
While it’s a quick read, there’s a lot going on here. So much that I’m still processing it. I loved how everything eventually fits together, even if I’m still not 100% sure what exactly happened at the end. I love that it is left to the reader to decide. So many books like to tie everything up with a tidy little bow, but this is not the case here. It may not be the book for everyone, but those willing to take a chance will find themselves rewarded.

This is also the 2012 Printz Award winner.

14. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, 387 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/08/2012

What a delightful read! It’s been a shockingly long time since I’ve read any fiction cataloged as “adult”, but the buzz surrounding this book convinced me that I needed to place a hold on it. The wait was worth it because I can’t recall the last time I was this enchanted by a book.
You can say it’s a tale about a circus. One that appears without warning and is only open from sunset to sunrise. A circus that, while rendered entirely in black and white, is the most colorful display of human imagination and ingenuity. A circus to surpass all others in scope and talent.
You could also say that this is a story about two warring wizards who use young proteges to fight a deadly game in their stead.
Or you could say that this is a love story. Sweet and doomed.
And all of these would be correct, though there is so much more. Everything is written in delicious detail and one suspects that there might be magic in the writing itself (otherwise, how could so many hours have passed unnoticed whilst reading?).
I loved everything about this book. The characters, the settings, the writing, the story. It’s all completely and utterly magical. Don’t be afraid to fall under its spell.

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

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, 125 pages, read by Angie, on 02/14/2012

I am sure every child has thought of running away from home at some point or another and what better place to run away to than the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Much better than the woods or the streets. Claudia Kincaid decides to run away because she is tired of being treated poorly by her parents and she takes her brother Jamie with her because he has more money than her. The Met is a good place to hide for since it provides educational opportunities, a bathing spot (the fountain), additional funds (coins in the fountain), and sleeping spots (beds on display). Claudia and Jamie become fascinated by a new statue on display at the museum. They are determined to discover if Angel is really a lost carving by Michelangelo. The mystery gives their adventure purpose and leads them to Mrs. Frankweiler, who sold the statue to the museum.

This Newbery winner is a great adventure story that while parts of it are dated does seem timeless in its themes. I think kids today will identify with running away from home and wanting to solve the mystery of the statue. Claudia and Jamie are very resourceful and determined in how the manage to escape detection and hide out in the Met for a week. I think they are fabulous characters: Claudia is a great planner and very determined (her grammar correcting does get a bit old however); Jamie is quirky and I love his penny-pinching and gambling habit. Fun book that stands the test of time.

13. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Janet

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, 335 pages, read by Janet, on 02/11/2012

Water for ElephantsThis story is a wonderful combination of an old man’s memories of his young life as a circus veterinarian and his difficulty facing the problems of old age.  It tells about how the people and animals in a circus deal with life in their own world.  All were lucky to have a job, including the young man who lost his parents and home just as he was getting ready to take his final college exam.  The book has many funny situations and is engrossing – very hard to put down, with a great view of circus life and the many characters that are a part of it.  The young man grows up and even finds love in this difficult situation.

13. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Fateful by Claudia Gray, 336 pages, read by Angie, on 02/12/2012

Werewolves on the Titanic…seriously that was all I needed to hear to be sold on this book. And for the most part it delivered. There is a lot going on in this book. You have the drama of the Titanic story…we all know it is going to sink but how is that going to be brought into the story. You have a lot of Upstairs/Downstairs drama going on with the first/third class passengers. And then you have the werewolves and the Brotherhood.

First I will say that I thought the Titanic bit of the plot was seamlessly woven into the story. It didn’t feel forced into the plot like I was afraid it might. Sure Gray took a few liberties with characters but that was expected and worked ok. I thought she did a great job with historical accuracy and really made the voyage come alive.

The Upstairs/Downstairs plot works for the most part. It does show the differences between the first and third class passengers and their lifestyles. However, I thought the secondary characters were fairly one-note especially the family Tess works for. They don’t really seem to have much in the way of full personalities and a lot of the scenes with the family were pretty repetitive. The one shining star was Tess’s roommate Myriam who does have a bit more personality than the other characters.

Then you have the werewolves…and I did like this part of the story. Alec was a great character; he was nicely conflicted and torn about his condition and very well written. Mikhail was a wonderful bad guy; one of those bad guys you really like to hate. I liked the Brotherhood storyline. I thought it was unique and really brought the whole werewolf plot together. Alec and Tess’s romance was ok as well. I don’t think it was stellar, but at least it was believable; a little rushed maybe but the voyage only lasted so long.

My only real beef with the book was the ending…really hated the ending. I get that Gray wanted a happy ending, but seriously! I thought it went way beyond believable. She could have done so many other things. The ending is the last thing you read so when it is crap it does kind of spoil the impression of the rest of the book. So the first 312 pages were great…last 15 I could have done without.

12. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Pearl Wars (Skyship Academy #1) by Nick James, 376 pages, read by Angie, on 02/11/2012

Skyship Academy is the first book in the Pearl Wars saga. Earth has been devastated by wars and three factions have emerged from the rubble: the Unified Party, the Skyshippers, and the Fringers. The Unified Party and the Skyshippers fight over Pearls that fall to Earth. These mysteries orbs contain enough energy to power the contained cities and ships for months. Our protagonists Jesse (skyshipper) and Cassius (unified party city dweller) meet on a Pearl run to a Fringe town. During their encounter something happens and they develop strange and mysterious powers. Cassius is then sent on a mission to try and kill Jesse all hell breaks lose and the truth is revealed.

I really enjoyed the world building of this book. I think in scifi/post apocalyptic books world building is key and James does a great job of explaining how the world got to the point it did and how the factions came about. Most of the explanation is focused on America with a few tidbits thrown in about Europe but that is ok since all our action takes place in America. And the world building is logical which is also key. Sometimes post apocalyptic books don’t really make sense on how the world got to where it is but in this one you can buy into the explanation of war and terrorism; it fits with our current world views and seems logical. With that being said I would have liked more information on the leaders (Madame and Alkaline); they do remain a bit shady in the book. But we may get more information in future books.

The main characters where good. Jesse and Cassius were both well developed and had unique voices. I thought it was interesting that Jesse’s story was written in first person and Cassius’s in third person. It did help to distinguish their voices throughout. I thought both characters showed good growth through the book. Jesse starts out as kind of a wimpy nonstarter and does develop into somewhat of a leader. Cassius has definitely drank the koolaid and by the end of the book has his eyes opened. I thought they played well off each other and I really liked their interactions.

The other characters, the sidekicks, where ok. I didn’t think they were as well developed, but they are the sidekicks. I thought it was interesting that they were all part of Jesse’s team and Cassius had no backup in life or the story.

As for the ending, I saw the first twist coming a mile away, which was fine. It was obvious and I think it was supposed to be. I liked it; it made sense and I think it made for an interesting twist. I am not sure how I feel about the second twist with the reveal about the Pearls. That wasn’t so obvious and I am a little hesitant to say I think it works with the story. I am not going to give it away, but I thought it was a bit hokey. However, the book was really good and that twist may work really well with the rest of the series. James may have a great plan ahead so I am reserving judgement.

The library doesn’t have a copy of this book, but I was able to get it through Mobius.

11. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, 437 pages, read by Leslie, on 01/15/2012

“California PI Kinsey Millhone investigates the death of Audrey Vance, a woman she helped arrest for shoplifting, and antagonizes just about everyone, including Audrey’s fiancé, several loan sharks, a stone-cold killer, and a hapless burglar who knows more than is healthy for him.”

I love the alphabet murders by Sue Grafton, even though it’s taking a while to get through the whole alphabet.  She doesn’t follow a cookie cutter approach to the books, so each of them is different from the next.  This one had an ending I hadn’t expected and I like books that can do that for me.  It tied the beginning up very nicely to the ending.

11. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Horror, Leslie, Paranormal, Teen Books

Three Quarters Dead by Richard Peck, 193 pages, read by Leslie, on 01/05/2012

“Sophomore loner Kerry is overjoyed when three popular senior girls pick her to be in their clique, until a shocking accident sets off a string of supernatural occurrences that become more and more threatening.”

Not the type of book I’ve come to expect from the author of Fair Weather and The Librarian Lies Here.  To say it departs from his usual fare does not quite cover it.  Usually I can see the twist coming several chapters before the author reveals it and I did not see this one coming at all.  A very good book from an author who shows he can keep up with topics that teens will enjoy.

11. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Zen and Xander Undone by Amy Kathleen Ryan, 212 pages, read by Leslie, on 01/03/2012

“Two teenaged sisters try to come to terms with the death of their mother in very different ways.”

Very interesting how 2 sisters, raised in the same fashion, come to terms with death of their mother.  It makes you wonder how you would handle it, destructively or constructively?  When you don’t think either of them can bridge the gap that has grown between them, life throws them a curve ball in the form of a mystery.  It made me want to reach into the pages and slap some sense into both of them!

11. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Shine by Lauren Myracle, 359 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/07/2012

“When her best friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover the culprits in her small North Carolina town.”

I liked watching this character move from withdrawn, as a result of an abusive encounter, to coming into her own.  It takes an attack on her best friend to do it, though the story does not center around hate crimes, as you might think it would.  Very good read.

11. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Mystery, Tracy

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter, 381 pages, read by Tracy, on 02/11/2012

Infernal DevicesVictorian England with it’s foggy atmosphere and creepy characters is a favorite background for fiction authors. This book is a good example. George Dower inherits his fathers watch and infernal devices shop. He didn’t inherit his fathers genius for repairing or inventing them. He is also clueless about most things in life. When his shop is broken into he decides to not call the police because he is suffering from boredom. The story gets crazier with lots of strange characters who try to help but put Dower into danger. Secret societies and mad scientists are everywhere. If you are into Dickens and Jules Verne this book might be for you.

09. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Science

Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet by Alexandra Siy , 64 pages, read by Angie, on 02/09/2012

Who isn’t fascinated by space? We all remembering looking up at the stars and dreaming about space, traveling to distant planets, meeting aliens, etc. Of course that isn’t going to happen anywhere but in the movies and in books, but it is still fun to dream. However, it has happened to a few select people and to a couple of robots named Spirit and Opportunity. They have been exploring Mars since 2003. Cars on Mars is their story and it is a good one.

It begins with the beginning of the mission. Who started it, how it was developed, how the rovers were named (an orphan girl named Sophia named them) and how they got to Mars. Then we actually get into the heart of their mission on Mars and what exactly they have been doing in all their years there.

Children’s nonfiction can be great or it can be boring and dry; there is rarely any middle ground. This one is a great read for kids. It is entertaining and educational. It is very accessible and I think kids will really enjoy reading about the Mars mission. The writing style is very accessible and easy to read; there are tons of photographs; frankly this book reads more like an adventure book than a nonfiction science text. I think that is a credit not only to the author’s writing style but to the people behind the Mars mission who were so creative in how they set up the Mars mission. The naming alone on Mars shows that those working this mission are kids at heart (groups of rocks are called blueberries, a rock is called Innocent Bystander). There is a lot of humor and fun in this book that I think kids of all ages will appreciate. And I think they will also cheer along with Spirit and Opportunity as they continue to explore their unknown planet. They truly are going where no man has gone before and making great strides in space exploration. It is a fascinating subject and a great read.

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

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, 316 pages, read by Angie, on 02/09/2012

I do enjoy when a book is unique and Anna Dressed in Blood is unique; it has broken out of the paranormal pack and definitely stands out in a good way. It is the story of ghosthunter Cas who moves around a lot because his job is killing ghosts just like his father before him and his father before him. You might say he is in the family business. His mom is a white witch who helps him out and doesn’t mind moving for his job. His current job is Anna Dressed in Blood. She is supposed to have killed a lot of people and Cas decides it is time to put a stop to her. Things don’t go quite as he planned and he ends up making friends and staying longer than intended. He finds that he doesn’t want to kill Anna; he likes her and he wants to help her. After learning her backstory and how she died you as the reader don’t really want him to kill her either! Then comes the real big bad of the book and the big battle at the end…good storytelling and an excellent finish.

I thought this book was a real page turner. I LOVED the character of Anna. She was excellent…you loved her, you hated her, you were scared of her, you wanted to help her. Her backstory was horrible and you could literally feel the conflict coming out of the pages. Great writing. I also loved the supporting characters: Carmel, Thomas, Cas’s mom and Thomas’ grandfather. All a great Scooby gang. Cas I thought was great. I got hints of the Winchester boys from Supernatural (tv show) from him throughout the book. He kind of had that tough as nails, I’m not a normal human attitude throughout. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but it was interesting. I thought the big bad at the end was great and I am not going to spoil it with details but I loved the finish of this book.

I wish this was a stand alone novel because I think it ended great. I am not sure where the author is going to take this with a series and it is a bit worrying, but read this book because it is excellent.

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

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, 640 pages, read by Angie, on 02/08/2012

I really love Brian Selznick’s books. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to capture the wonder of Hugo Cabret, but Wonderstruck is pretty amazing. It tells the story of two kids Ben and Rose in parallel tales. Ben’s story is told through the words and Rose’s through the illustrations. I love how the stories intertwine and mirror each other even though they are set 50 years apart. There are definitely similarities: Rose is deaf and Ben is deaf in one ear and then loses his hearing in the other ear. They are both unhappy at home and run away to New York looking for a missing parent. They both end up in the American Museum of Natural History. I love how Selznick is able to seamless weave the stories together and make them one story in the end. There is something very magical about how he creates a story that I don’t think can be duplicated. His illustrations are wonderful and really don’t need words to bring them to life. They tell their own stories and you want to pour over them to find all the details. But his stories work on their own as well; he is a gifted writer.

I loved the characters in this book. I thought we really got to know Ben and Rose and you could feel their struggles, not just as their journeys progressed but as they struggled with their deafness as well. I applaud Selznick for taking on deaf characters as that is not something that is often seen in children’s literature. He really showed how difficult it was for Ben especially to communicate and he showed how Rose was able to educate herself and find her way in the world.

09. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Contemporary Fiction

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, 301 pages, read by Claudia, on 01/15/2012

Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has repeatedly been recommended to me on the Reference desk, and I finally had a chance to read it for our library’s Fiction at Noon book discussion in January.  Unfortunately, for me,  it did not live up to the reputation it had been given by many people….and I was frankly, surprised and disappointed.  Having said this, it’s not a bad story, it’s pleasant enough.  The author’s writing style simply struck me as emotionally flat and the characters did not continue to hold my interest throughout the novel.

The story that spans several decades and deals with Japanese families who were “evacuated” in 1942 from the West Coast after the bombing of 1942 and placed in internment camps for what was ironically called “their own protection.”  The story’s narrator is 12-year-old Henry, the son of Chinese immigrants. Henry’s father is an ardent Chinese nationalist who has long hated the Japanese….so it is no surprise, when Henry befriends and eventually falls in love with a schoolmate and Japanese American, named Keiko. Keiko’s family is inevitably evacuated to an internment camp in Idaho, and the book alternates between 1942-45 and the present day as Henry and Keiko’s story unfolds.  I did not find Ford’s writing particularly descriptive, but he does do a good job of creating the atmosphere of this historical time period and a highly emotional conflict between father and son.  Having said that, it’s predictable and thankfully short

09. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Book, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

The Complete Peanuts, Volume 10: 1969-1970 by Charles Schulz, 344 pages, read by Tammy, on 02/07/2012

The Complete Peanuts, Volume 10 1969-1970In this collection of comics…. He turns up first as Snoopy’s secretary, then becomes a good friend whom Snoopy helps to fly South… but it is not until June 22, 1970 that the little bird gains a name, in a perfect salute to the decade that ends this volume: Woodstock.

Also Frieda is a prominent character
, Snoopy becomes “The Great Beagle” Charlie Brown’s baseball team has a winning streak and the little redheaded girl moves away.

09. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Mystery, Reviewer, Tammy · Tags: ,

Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard, 294 pages, read by Tammy, on 02/07/2012

Riding the RapAn adventure of Raylon Givens, US Marshall, while he’s stationed in Florida doing fugitive retrieval. Some slight differences in the earlier life of Raylon compared to the tv series, Justified, but the personality and attitude of the character are all there.

08. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Memoirs, Tracy

A Country Year by Sue Hubbell, 221 pages, read by Tracy, on 02/08/2012

A Country YearCountry living isn’t for everyone. Sue Hubbell made it work for her with a  successful bee keeping business on a small farm in the Ozarks. With no television or furnace in her cabin she cuts her own wood and never gets bored with the wildlife and vegetation. She also has a deep respect for her surroundings. Instead of avoiding the critters and bugs she tries to understand their lives and is curious about everything. I enjoyed reading about her year full of hard work processing and selling honey. I learned a lot about bee keeping and the native plants and animals in Missouri.