18. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Melody

Spunky Tells All by Ann Cameron, 106 pages, read by Melody, on 04/17/2012

Very cute book told from the dog’s point of view about the joy of treats, the ecstasy of dead fish smell, and horrors of a new cat. 

17. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Janet

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult, 434 pages, read by Janet, on 03/31/2012

Sometimes we are blamed for something we didn’t do and can’t prove otherwise.  Jack St. Bride was accused of raping a teenage girl, but couldn’t prove he didn’t – twice!  Bad news about someone travels fast in small towns and isn’t easily put down, no matter how well that person conducts themselves.  We are reminded of the poem of Jack and Jill and their problems and parts of Arthur Millers’ The Crucible.  The combination of teen-age girls trying out the practices of Wicca and a handsome stranger with a questionable past leads to a very interesting small town problem.  Many secrets are hiding.

 

17. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 04/16/2012

This is the third book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series. In this book we meet the last of our riders Pestilence. Billy Ballard is like our other riders. He is a loner, he is bullied, he doesn’t have a very good home life, his grandfather has Alzheimers. But he is also different from the other riders in that Death does not choose him. He was selected by the White Rider (Pestilence) when he was 5 years old. He was tricked by the Ice Cream Man into agreeing to be the White Rider by a promise of a rider on a horse…a ride he never got. Now Death is here to collect on that promise. It seems the old Pestilence has gone missing; lost in his memories. It is up to Billy to find him and bring him back. But bringing back an insane rider has its own issues.

This book is different in a way from the other books. Billy is a different rider in that he has to earn spot and there is already a rider. But Billy does become Pestilence. He grows the backbone he needs to standup to the bullies, to overcome his fears, to become who he is supposed to be.

Kessler’s books are more than paranormal books about the four horsemen of the apocalypse; they are modern day problem novels. Each of her riders has to deal with some issue whether it is anorexia or cutting or bullying or grandparents with anorexia. She deals with these issues in a very real way. They are not sugar coated or exaggerated for the sake of her book.

16. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal · Tags:

Forever Book 3 - Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater, 390 pages, read by Kira, on 04/16/2012

     I love this series.  This book picks up with Grace in wolf form, Shelby hunting her down when she changes to human, and Tom Culpepper leading an aerial hunt to rid the area of wolves.  I am listening to it on audio, and they changed the narrator for Sam, which annoyed me at first, but I got used to it.  I wish she had focused more on Olivia and less on Cole & Isabelle.  There are bittersweet separations, of longing/yearning to be with one’s beloved,  similar to “A Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger, or similar to the movie “LadyHawk” starring Rutger Hauer & Michelle Pfeiffer.   I like the way the characters (esp Beck) keep unfolding.

I really liked the playful scenes, where the other wolves congratulate Grace on finally making a kill, though it is only a small mouse.  I also liked the way Sam and Grace frolicked together.

I really wish Maggie Stiefvater would somehow continue this series.  If you’re tempted to read this book, start with “Shiver” the first in the series.  I read/listened to it twice straight in a row (have never done that before).

 

 

 

 

 

Spoilers:

 

 

I hate that the author killed of Beck, also disappointed that Olivia died.  I’d rather have seen Isabel and Cole killed off, though Cole certainly redeemed himself twice at the end.

16. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Mystery, Tracy

Miss Marple The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie, 346 pages, read by Tracy, on 04/16/2012

The residents of the village St. Mary Mead don’t pay much attention to Miss Marple. She spends a lot of time knitting in her Victorian home. But they quickly find out when a murder is committed that she is sharp as a tack. A seemingly complicated case usually turns out to have a simple solution when Miss Marple hears the whole story. These short stories are enjoyable and fun to read.

16. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, 215 pages, read by Angie, on 04/15/2012

The monster wakes Conner at 12:07, but it wasn’t the monster he was expecting. It wasn’t the monster from his nightmares so he wasn’t afraid. The monster takes the shape of a giant yew tree and tells Connor he will tell him three stories and after that Connor will tell him a fourth and the fourth will contain his truth. The stories the monster tells are ambiguous tales in shades of gray; there is no black and white, no right and wrong, no clear truth in these tales. But they lead Connor closer to his truth and his nightmare. When Connor is not facing his monster he is dealing with the fact that his mom is dying of cancer or not dealing with it as the case may be. He is being bullied and ignored at school. He feels like he is no longer seen. He no longer has friends or anyone to talk to. Basically his whole life is coming apart around him and he has nothing left to cling to…nothing but the nightly visits by the monster who is dragging him closer and closer to his nightmare.

This book sucks you in and won’t let go. I would recommend everyone read it. Seriously! Read it! I read it in one sitting…I didn’t put it down until I was finished with the last page, the last word, the last illustration. Connor’s story is one of grief and loss, and anger and frustration, and hurt and betrayal. All those things you feel as a 13-year-old losing your only real parent. Actually you probably feel them at any age. This book speaks in truths just as the monster says. The truth may be painful and gut-wrenching but it can also be freeing.

This is a magnificent book by a wonderful author who was given a brilliant idea. He did not go wrong by that idea.

16. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve, 358 pages, read by Angie, on 04/15/2012

Polly Peabody lives on a farm where the rhubarb taste like chocolate and fixes the hole in the ozone layer, where you can’t drown in the lake no matter what, where bugs and plants talk to her and where it rains every Monday at exactly 1 o’clock. Until the Monday it doesn’t rain and things start to fall apart. Her brother Freddy gets sick, her aunt wants to sell the farm, all the plants start to wilt and die from lack of rain, and funding for the farm dries up just like the rain.

I think this book could have been much better if the magical/fantasy portions of it had been left out or at least toned down. They didn’t seem to make a lot of sense and they took away from what I thought was the true point of the story…Polly’s journey of self-discovery, learning who she is and what she is really capable of. I am seriously you have talking plants, bugs that spell, spiders that talk, magic tasting rhubarb, magic rain…but only on this one farm in what is otherwise our normal world. It really didn’t make sense and there was no adequate explanation for it. I would have been ok with the magical abilities of the women in the family. That could have been explained by genetic mutation, which is touched on in the book. But it doesn’t explain the rest of it. Aside from the absurd magic stuff the rest of the plot was a decent coming of age story. Polly grows up quite a bit in the book. She learns a lot about herself and those around her. It could have used a bit of editing for both content and size…there were errors and it was too long/too much filler.

This is a 2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

15. April 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Paranormal, Teen Books

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Herber, 320 pages, read by Melody, on 04/13/2012

Retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray set in turn of the century New York.  Told as the diary of Natalie Stewart, a girl mute since an accident in her childhood that killed her mother.   She returns from school to live with her father, a curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The museum is hoping to buy an infamous painting,a remarkably life-like portrait of a young lord who committed suicide right after the painting was finished.  When Natalie sees the painting she falls in love with the lord, who isn’t dead at all but trapped by dark magic within the painting.  Somehow bound to Lord Denbury and able to enter his world, she resolves to free him. 

15. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, 473 pages, read by Angie, on 04/15/2012

Oh how I wanted to love this book. I thought the premise was pretty interesting. A young serving girl, Finley, fights the dual sides of her personality, one dark/one light. The dark side helps her survive difficult situations. She takes refuge with a young duke, Griffin, who also has otherworldly powers. He has a band of companions who are also gifted. Sam has supernatural strength, Emily is super smart and talks to machines, Jasper is super fast. The story takes place in Victorian England, but not our England. This is Cross’s steampunk version with automatons, velocycles (motorcycles), modern surgery, digital cameras, showers and all kinds of other modern conveniences. Our gang sets out to fight the evil Machinist whose dastardly plot isn’t revealed until the final chapters but clever readers will figure out very quickly.

Being a supernatural teen novel of course there not one but two love triangles…both of which are underdeveloped and not very necessary. I really don’t get the need for love triangles and in this book in particular they are completely unnecessary. The love interests themselves are so underdeveloped to be unbelievable. But that isn’t even the worst offense of the book.

I like steampunk. I can’t say I have read a whole lot of it, but what I have read I generally enjoy. Really well done steampunk integrates itself into the normal history of the world and becomes part of it. This book reads more like a future world forced into Victorian England. At points you pretty much forget that it is set in Victorian times and almost believe that you are in the future or at least modern times. Cross didn’t do a good job of integrating her modern tech into the historical era. It doesn’t fit; it isn’t part of the world; and you can’t make me believe it. There are instances that are just thrust in there for no reason…really a digital photo…seriously! In a world where everyone is riding horses and using carriages doesn’t it seem odd that our group would use motorcycles? Also, no one acts like people from the Victorian era. Their mannerism are all wrong; they are too modern and familiar for that era. But that isn’t the worst offense.

No the worst offense was the plot. I am sorry to say that it just fell flat. It had potential but just didn’t pan out. First, it was overly long which means there was way too much filler and exposition and not enough action. There was way too much tell and not enough show. There was also a lot of points brought up that were either not explored, dropped, or not sufficiently explained…the fact that Finley is the daughter of Jekyll and Hyde, the orgnanites, the aether, the work that is done for the queen, etc. Jack Dandy was an intriguing character who as far as I could see served no purpose but to be part of a love triangle. The villain was so obvious that I had it figured out as soon as we met him, yet the characters were too dense to see him or his plot. The characters themselves didn’t have a lot of density; they were very one dimensional. I could go on and on.

There is much better steampunk out there. Skip this one and find something else. I suggest Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series.

Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher, but obviously was not paid to review it.

 

15. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Paranormal, Teen Books

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, 329 pages, read by Melody, on 04/14/2012

Strange, strange book.  The title Every Other Day refers to that on one day, Kali is a normal teen-age girl and on the next day she is an invincible hunting machine with poison blood and supernatural skills.  On those days, she hunts down hellhounds, demons, and other monsters.  Interesting premise that works well sometimes.  I enjoyed most her days when she is just a girl trying to navigate high school which is as scary to her as anything that goes bump in the  night.  The book loses cohesion as Kali tries to find out what she really is and fight off an evil corporation with nefarious aims.  Where are all the good companies who aren’t conducting genetic experiments in the basement with an army of henchmen?  I guess profit sharing and retirement plans are not very exciting. 

15. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Melody, Poetry

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Levine, 80 pages, read by Melody, on 04/15/2012

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do ItVery funny collection of false apology poems with great illustrations.  My favorite:

This is Just to Say

While you were buying

doll dresses

I sanded off

your Barbie’s face

which

you constantly

patted

and praised

Forgive me

her beauty

was only

skin deep

 

14. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, 424 pages, read by Angie, on 04/13/2012

There is something about this books that really sucks you in. I love the story of Elisa the reluctant princess with the godstone in her belly who becomes the symbol of a revolution and its leader. This is a coming of age story; a story about a girl who becomes the woman she was meant to be. It is not an easy journey for Elisa, but she endures, she perseveres and she triumphs.

I love the fact that Elisa is not your typical heroine. For one thing she is fat. There is never a fat princess main character in teen books. She is fat and she really doesn’t care in this book. She likes food and she eats it. She isn’t really happy with her body but she doesn’t bemoan the fact that she is fat. She is who she is. Sure she eventually slims down, but that is because of the lifestyle she comes to lead. She is forced to become a different person than the pampered princess who she started out as. I think her journey is amazing. She grows so much in this book. You can see the changes in her and those around her as her circumstances change.

I like that Carson is also not afraid to make hard decisions in her writing. She kills main characters, she makes people have questionable motives, she makes us as readers ask questions, and she makes her central plot all about religion. This may turn some people off, but it is essential to the story. This is a book that revolves around a religion. Elisa is the bearer of the godstone which means she is connected to God. Even though the plot is religious it doesn’t get heavy handed or preachy. It is just part of the plot which I appreciate.

I also appreciate that even though this is part of a planned trilogy this book can stand on its own. It ends in a good place and really doesn’t need more books if you don’t want to read more about this world. I am not sure where the next books are going to go but I think it will be interesting.

14. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Thriller/Suspense, Tracy

Split Image by Robert B. Parker, 318 pages, read by Tracy, on 04/14/2012

Jesse Stone is the chief of police in Paradise Massachusetts. In this book he teams up with Sunny Randall who is also a character in Parker’s other books. They collaborate professionally and personally.  There are two story lines going on in this book. The parents of an 18 year old girl hire Sunny to find her. She is staying at the Bond of the Renewal a religious cult sort of place. The other story involves identical twin sisters who each married into the mob and live next door to each other. Paradise is a small town and Jesse gets away with a lot of under the table deals. He is a man of few words and a drinking problem. The ladies all love him and the bad guys respect him.

13. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Teen Books

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin, 262 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/08/2012

Here we have a historical drama, a mystery and a ghost story all wrapped up in one nice literary package. Jennie Lovell was engaged to her cousin Will before he left to go fight for the Union in the Civil War. When his brother, Quinn, is the only one to return, the family is devastated, particularly Jennie. Even more unfortunate for Jennie is the fact that her fiancee’s family treats Jennie with apathy at best and ire at worst. She had been preparing to become the lady of the house but now find herself doing the maid’s work. In their grief, Jennie’s uncle decides to contact a spirit photographer in an effort to commune with their lost son. The whole family goes in for a photograph, in spite of their skepticism. Shortly afterward, the injured Quinn begins courting Jennie, who grudging accepts his favors. Around this time, she begins noticing signs that could only have been left by Will, who, according to Quinn, is not the man she thought she knew. Is Will trying to hurt her or warn her?
This book also features a “scrapbook” made by Jennie containing photos, letters and other bits of ephemera from her life. These elements introduce each chapter rather nicely, though they look a little too “friendly” to be scary or creepy. The story moves a bit slow, and readers won’t likely be too surprised by the secrets revealed by the end. It is, however, a very nice Civil War novel that focuses more on life at home rather than the battlefield.

13. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Spell Bound (Hex Hall #3) by Rachel Hawkins, 327 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/05/2012

So, here’s the deal: I love this series, so I was really anticipating this, the third book in the Hex Hall series. The thing is, I didn’t really feel the love this time around. I’m still trying to figure out what changed. It’s the same Sophie we’ve come to know and love. She’s as sarcastic and amiable as ever. I’d like to say it’s the addition of new characters to the mix, but they’re all right too. I think my biggest problem was actually in the plot. Not that it was dull, in fact, quite the contrary. There was actually too much going on and not enough development at any point. The story picks up right where Demonglass left off and hits the ground running. First, Sophie’s at one location and has some Big Revelations. Then she’s whisked off to a changed Hex Hall where more Revelations are to be had. Then she’s somewhere else to prepare for a fight, but winds up going somewhere where the reader might presume more time would be spent, but ends up being a rather brief experience (with more Revelations). There’s so much back and forth and it all feels as though it was written just to reveal bits of Sophie’s past in an action-driven manner. I guess it just didn’t really work for me this time.

13. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Tracy

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, 280 pages, read by Tracy, on 04/13/2012

Has the internet become a replacement for personal memory? This and many more questions are discussed in this book about the impact the internet has on our daily lives. When we read a blog or article on-line we don’t seem to read every word. There are so many distractions like ads and links that take our attention away. Does that mean we aren’t getting all the facts. A lot of us multitask while on-line so we don’t miss out on anything going on in the world or our own personal lives. I personally didn’t understand a lot of what Nicholas Carr was referring to, especially how the brain works, but I agree the internet can be an addiction. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to each person.

12. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

Twenty Gold Falcons by Amy Gordon, 216 pages, read by Angie, on 04/12/2012

Aiden Farmer has just moved to Gloria. Her father has died and she has had to leave the farm she loves. She and her mother have moved into an apartment with her uncle Tony, an opera singer, and she attends a school she hates with people she can’t stand. The only thing she does like is the Ingle Building and its connection to her family. She is a a Balboni and they have always been connected to the Ingle’s. Then Aiden hears about a mysteries lost treasure in the Ingle Building. Years ago Mr. Ingle hid 20 gold falcons for the children and they were never found. Aiden and her friends Adam and Lisle decide to try and find the falcons. They are aided by a strange cast of characters from in and around the Ingle Building and from various clues left by Mr. Ingle. Along the way we learn more about the Ingle family and its history.

This is a fun mystery for middle grades. It has a lot of adventure and action. The kids are smart and they have to use their heads a lot to solve the clues to this mystery. I think the thing I liked the most about this was that they weren’t super special kids; they were just regular kids who have an extraordinary adventure. I think the unique cast of characters adds something to the story and I found I was sometimes more interested in learning about them then following the mystery. The ending was pretty satisfying if just a little too put together/happy ending. but this is a middle grade book so you expect the happy ever after bit. Overall, it was good and I would recommend it.

2012-13 Missouri Mark Twain Award Nominee.

12. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Romance

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, 387 pages, read by Angie, on 04/11/2012

This is a book to be savored; you don’t want to rush through it; you want to pour over the imagery and the language and immerse yourself in the story. This book took me longer to read than any other book that I have liked in a long time. I found my self hesitating to read more than a few chapters at a time. I wanted to think about the story and imagine the circus. I loved this book and thought it was magical and wonderful and inventive and everything the Night Circus was.

A circus appears outside of town, but not any circus. It is Le Cirque des Rêves, The Circus of Dreams. It is only open after sunset and until dawn. The tents are filled with your wildest imaginings. You do not know it but the circus is the venue for a duel, a magical duel that has been going on for many years unbeknownst to those around them. Two magicians are creating and maintaining the circus as part of their competition. They are working off of each other and feeding the creativity and imagination of the other. And in the process they are falling in love. Yet they do not realize the rules of their competition; they are in the dark because their mentors do not want them to know. You and all those around you who are connected with the circus have been drawn into this contest. Your lives are forever changed.

You will feel the magic of this book as you read it. Savor the imagination that went into it; the dueling timelines, the competing stories; everything works to make a richer more complete picture of the world. I loved it and I really didn’t want it to end.

12. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody, Teen Books

The Horn of Moran by M. L. Forman, 376 pages, read by Melody, on 04/07/2012

The Horn of Moran is the sequel to the Mark Twain winner Slathbog’s GoldThe Horn of Moran is a very enjoyable and fast paced read.  Our hero from the first book, Alexander Taylor, has returned to his humdrum life in our world after defeating the dragon and earning his stripes as an adventurer and wizard.  He corresponds with a master wizard to learn his craft of magic while hoping to be called for another adventure.  He is asked by Bregnest, the leader of his last mission to go to Alusia to find the Horn of Moran that will sound for the true king and avert civil war.  The Horn of Moran is very entertaining with great characters and world building.  It is rather light fare with the standard fantasy repertoire of elves, magic beasts, and shadowy evil.  There are no great dilemmas or personal insights but sometimes a good story is enough.  

12. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Paranormal, Teen Books

Nightshade by Adrea Cremer, 454 pages, read by Melody, on 04/08/2012

What a complicated mess.  What a first blush seems like average werewolf with a heart story de-evolves into convolution.  The book begins promisingly enough with alpha wolf Bryn saving a human boy from an attacking bear even thought it goes against her pack’s laws.  She thinks she will never see him again but of course she does and falls in love with him.  Rather Romeo and Juliet with teeth and fur.  He is just a boy with an albeit mysterious guardian and she is destined to marry another alpha wolf and rule her pack.  That would have been enough for a plot but Cremer doesn’t stop there.  She throws on a secret society, an arranged marriage, sorcery, and prophecy.  Just too much for me but as Nightshade is an international bestseller, someone must like it.