07. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore, 472 pages, read by Angie, on 05/05/2012

Katsa is graced with the power to kill. She is fast, powerful and deadly. She is forced to use her grace for King Randa her uncle. She doesn’t like it so she has created a council of like minded people to help people who are being abused by the evil kings in the Seven Kingdoms. On a mission she meets another graced fighter who turns out to be Prince Po. Together they try to find out who has kidnapped Po’s grandfather. They also realize that they are ideally suited for each other and start falling in love. On their quest they discover someone with a more hideous and deadly grace than than they have ever encountered.

This is a wonderful book. I reread it after reading Bitterblue to refresh my memory and it was just as good as the first time I read it. Katsa is a great character; she is strong and independent and not afraid to be who she is. Although she is scared of her power, but she does come to realize that her grace does not control her she controls her grace and that makes her even more powerful. I love the interaction between Katsa and Po. Their relationship makes sense; they are made for each other and the development of their relationship is a natural one. They are both strong and independent but come to depend on each other’s strength. Cashore is a great storyteller and this is a wonderful story. I highly recommend this series.

07. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Serpent's Shadow (Kane Chronicles #3) by Rick Riordan, 406 pages, read by Angie, on 05/06/2012

The Serpent’s Shadow is the final book in the Kane Chronicles Trilogy and it was amazing. I have really come to love the adventures of Sadie and Carter Kane. They are fun and heroic and wonderful to read about. It is a little sad to see their series end but there were hints in this book about other gods so we may see them pop up in another Riordan book, which would be wonderful.

This book details the final battle between the Kanes and Apophis. Apophis is creating chaos throughout the world and dividing the magicians against the Kanes and the First Nome. Carter and Sadie and their small band of recruits are trying to fight him but are losing ground. Then they discover a spell that might defeat Apophis forever. It requires the help of a criminal ghost and a journey through many dangerous places. Along the way there is the usual boy/girl drama between Sadie and Walt and Sadie and Anubis and Carter and Zia.

While in my mind nothing can really top Riordan’s Lighting Thief series, the Kane Chronicles are wonderful; they are fun and a great education on the Egyptian gods. I really like the format of these books with the alternating narration from Carter and Sadie. They each have such interesting voices and they play off each other very well. I think they sound just like brother and sister.

This book was action packed with one adventure right after another. Carter and Sadie are always getting into something and the something is usually quite exciting. I love the concept of the shadow of the soul. I thought that was really unique and interesting. And who doesn’t love the character of Bes—really the thought of a dwarf in a speedo shouting BOO is enough to scare away anyone! I really hope these characters show up in the Heroes of Olympus series. It would be awesome to have Greek, Roman, and Egyptian gods all together.

06. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Mystery, Romance, Tracy

The Calhouns: Suzanna by Nora Roberts, 255 pages, read by Tracy, on 05/06/2012

This is the final episode of the Calhoun sisters and the mystery of the emerald necklace and earrings. Suzanna meets Holt and like her sisters who are married now, she falls in love. Holt’s grandfather was the secret lover of their grandmother Bianca the owner of the emeralds. The jewel thief from the previous book is still hot on the trail and changes his appearance to get closer to the family.

04. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Tracy

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon, 310 pages, read by Tracy, on 05/04/2012

“In 1895 the Empire was at its peak. Queen Victoria was two years away from her Diamond Jubilee and Britain was, without question, the most prosperous and powerful country in the world.” When Almina Wombwell married George Carnarvon the 5th Earl of Carnavon she was only 19. She became Lady Almina and their home was Highclere Castle. She brought a huge dowry from her father Alfred de Rothschild. There was a lot of entertaining to do but she didn’t spend all her money on extravagances. During the Great War she decided to open the Castle to wounded soldiers so they could recover slowly. Her husband the Earl enjoyed visiting Egypt and became famous for discovering King Tut’s tomb with his partner Howard Carter. I really enjoyed this book. Lady Almina never thought twice about helping others with her money and time.

04. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, 228 pages, read by Angie, on 05/04/2012

Cullen lives in small town Lily, Arkansas. Nothing happens in this town until the summer that John Barling claims to have seen the Lazarus Woodpecker, a bird long thought extinct. Then Cullen’s brother disappears. Suddenly, Cullen’s life of boredom and nothingness is anything but. The story is told in alternating views of Cullen’s story and that of seemingly unrelated Benton Sage and Cabot Searcy. Benton is a failed missionary who commits suicide and Cabot is is college roommate who becomes obsessed with the Ethiopian Bible’s Book of Enoch after Benton’s suicide.

This is an interesting little book. I was never really sure where the story was going. On one hand you have a fairly straight forward plot with Cullen and the loss of his brother. He is trying to deal with that loss and the craziness that has come to his town with the Lazarus bird nonsense. He deals with his family, his best friend, girls, guys at school; basically all the normal teen stuff mixed with the devastation of losing his best friend and brother. But then you had the other plotline in and you have no idea how it ties with Cullen’s story. In itself it isn’t as interesting as Cullen’s story. Benton only has a couple of chapters and Cabot quickly goes crazy and obsessive. I never really bought the whole religious conversion of Cabot. I think it would have made more sense from Benton. The transformation from college party guy to religious zealot just seemed weird to me. Which made the whole kidnapping plot a little more hard to swallow. I never really understood the point of his ramblings there. Did he believe Gabriel was the angel? Did he want to bring the knowledge of the angels back? What was his point. He just seemed to be crazy for the sake of craziness and not really have a true place in this book. It really made the reading of the book disjointed and made it seem like you were reading two different books at times.

Despite my confusion reading the book it was a good read. I did enjoy Cullen’s story. Where there a few too many asides about people turning into zombies? Maybe, but we are delving into the mind of a teen boy and that could be what he was thinking about. I think Whaley really captured small town life in Cullen’s story. I just wish the two plots were woven together better. This is definitely a book that makes you think and kind of makes you want to reread it just to see how the two plots go together once you know they do.

04. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Invisible Sun by David Macinnis Gill, 384 pages, read by Courtney, on 05/03/2012

Here’s another installment in the life of Durango, aka Jacob Stringfellow. He’s been busy falling in love with Vienne, arguing with his delightfully sarcastic AI and attempting to find out the secrets behind his father’s downfall. The same downfall that caused Durango to become “dalit”. Durango and Vienne are on their way to steal some more information from a corporate military base when they make a stop-over at the monastery the Vienne grew up in. The time there is bittersweet. They move on to the military base only to have Vienne captured by bad-guy Archibald, who promptly begins messing with her head in order to create a perfect soldier.
There’s so much destruction and chaos in this book that it’s hard to imagine what will be left for the rest of the series. Seriously, tons of explosions and fights here. Plenty of folks die.
I had fun reading this one, but it would probably have helped if I had reread “Black Hole Sun”. I had a lot of trouble remembering relationships between characters and the larger story arc. The tone is humorous and suspenseful, with tons of action to keep readers interested. The ending is an obvious cliff-hanger, leaving plenty of room for the next book.

Side note:  I HATE the cover of this one, especially since I loved the cover of the first book.  What in the world were the cover designer and publisher thinking?

03. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, 545 pages, read by Angie, on 05/03/2012

Bitterblue takes place several years after the events of Graceling. You don’t have to read Graceling to enjoy this book but it will help as many of the characters from Graceling are in this book and events from Graceling are referenced in Bitterblue. Bitterblue is now Queen of Monsea after the death of her father Leck. Leck’s 35 year reign of mind-raping terror has left the country a place of secrets and lives that many can’t move on from. Bitterblue keeps discovering more and more secrets as she starts venturing out from her castle into the city. She discovers that people are not moving on from the terror of Leck. In fact, there is a group that is doing everything in its power to make sure that the truth about his reign does not come out. It is up to her and her trusted friends to uncover the truth.

I said that you didn’t have to read Graceling or Fire to enjoy this book and you don’t, but I found myself wishing that I had reread them as I was reading Bitterblue. The story of Leck’s beginnings in Fire and his end in Graceling are very relevant to this story so you really might want the refresher.

Bitterblue is a book about secrets and lies. What people do to keep those secrets, the lies they tell, and what they do to uncover the truth. There are a lot of secrets in this book; it seems like no one is telling the full truth. At times it was hard to keep all the secrets straight and I was right there with Bitterblue asking “what is going on?” and “why is everyone crazy?”. Because it really did seem like no one was quite sane. There is a lot of talk about codes and cyphers throughout the book and it does get a little wordy and bogged down. Is it worth it? Ultimately, yes. It does all pay off in the end when secrets are revealed and the mystery is solved; it just takes a while to get there.

Bitterblue is a great character and she is surrounded by a wonderful case of supporting characters. She is strong, inquisitive, and always armed. Her supporting cast is comprised of a bunch of characters from the other books and some new ones. I especially loved Death (pronounced Deeth) the royal librarian. He is prickly and grumpy and probably one of my favorite librarians! His grace is speed reading and remembering everything he reads. He is trying to recreate every book Leck destroyed (all 4000+). I loved how he resented Bitterblue at the beginning and then became her greatest ally by the end because she challenged him so much.

I think fans of Cashore’s other books are really going to enjoy this addition to the Graceling world. It ties the other books together and it will be interesting to see where things go from here.

02. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Teen Books

Beneath the Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson, 192 pages, read by Nikki, on 04/21/2012

Laurel Daneau has lost her mother and grandmother in a hurricane in the south and her and her daddy and little brother Jessie are moving up north to continue on in their lives. Laurel meets her first friend Kaylee and joins the cheerleading team with her at her new school. Laurel meets T-Boom, the co-caption of the basketball team, who quickly becomes her boyfriend. T-Boom introduces Laurel to the “moon” (meth). Once Laurel does the moon she instantly feels so free, free of guilt, free of sadness, that she quickly becomes addicted to the moon.

Laurel eventually becomes so addicted to the moon that she runs away and lives on the streets begging for money to pay for her habit. On the streets she meets a graffiti artist name Moses who tries to help her get off the moon.

This book for me gave me more insight on addiction and how differently people handle or deal with life situations. The way the story was told was so personal and you felt like you were right there next to her watching her go through it all.

02. May 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, Fantasy, Fiction, How To's, Kira, NonFiction

Enchanted adornments : creating mixed-media jewelry with metal clay, wire, resin + more by Cynthia Thornton, 159 pages, read by Kira, on 04/30/2012

Interesting jewelry projects alongside a simple story of an artist being commissioned by THE  Fairy Queen to create jewelry for her various friends.  Excellent description of how to make wings, using tissue paper and modge podge and wire.