30. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Poetry

Last Laughs by J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen , read by Angie, on 06/29/2012

Last Laughs is gruesome and macabre and truly wonderful. The book is full of short epitaph poems for animals who have met an untimely end. The pictures are awesome but gross. I don’t know if I will ever get the image of the newt or the horse out of my mind! It is very witty, but probably not suitable for all children. You should really know your audience to make sure they will not get upset by some of the images or poems.

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, How To's, Informational Book, NonFiction · Tags:

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Book by Kathleen T. Horning, read by Angie, on 06/29/2012

From Cover to Cover is an excellent resource for anyone who talks about, reviews or purchases children’s books. It has clear and concise chapters on every type of children’s book: nonfiction, poetry, chapter books, picture books, etc. While the subtitle states this book is about evaluating and review, the majority of the book is on evaluating books. Reviewing doesn’t come in until the final chapter. Not that it is a bad thing. The information in the evaluating chapters is great. Horning goes into the history of the literature, the different parts, what you should look at and how to evaluate it. She even gives examples of excellent books in each genre. Great resource and very helpful.

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Flood!: The 1993 Midwest Downpours by Barbara Knox, read by Angie, on 06/28/2012

This is a very brief view of what happened during the Midwest Floods of 1993. This informational picture book is aimed at younger readers so the text is very simplified. There is not a lot of detail so researchers will have to look elsewhere. However, the text is very concise and easy to understand. It gives the big picture of the floods and their aftermath. There is also a very nice glossary and timeline as well as additional resources in the back of the book.

As someone who lived through the floods of 1993 I really wanted more detail, but I am not the target audience for this book. I think this will appeal to kids and lead them to more information.

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale, Nathan Hale (Illustrator), Dean Hale , read by Angie, on 06/28/2012

Calamity Jack is the follow-up to Rapunzel’s Revenge and it is worth the read. Jack was just Punzie’s sidekick in the first book, but now he takes center stage. Jack’s story starts with the beanstalk of course. We learned that as a young lad he got into some trouble with giants. So he stole the golden goose and ran. Then he met Rapunzel and wanted to make things right for his mom. Unfortunately, nothing is right in Shyport. Blunderbore, the giant, has taken over and the town is being attacked by Ant People. It is up to Jack and Punzie to figure out what is going on and fix it.

I loved Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack is just as wonderful. While the story isn’t quite as involved as Rapunzel seemed to be there is a lot going on. You have giants, ant people, Jack’s momma, fairies, a new love interest and all kinds of wonderful adventures. Jack and Rapunzel are a great team and this book explores their relationship a bit further.

The illustrations are also wonderful. They really enhance the story and bring it to live. I think the team of Hale, Hale and Hale is a good one and I hope they keep pushing out the graphic fairy tales.

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, NonFiction · Tags:

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip . . . with Recipes! by Guy Fieri, read by Angie, on 06/27/2012

I love Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and thought I would check out this book to see if it had some of the recipes I have heard on the show. The book takes us throughout the country to place Fieri has visited on the show. The intros to each location are typical Guy Fieri and really remind me of the show. He does give us a lot of background and reminds us about what makes the place special. I really enjoyed the pictures and the guy asides. I didn’t try any of the recipes and some of them are definitely ones I would never make. There seemed to be a lot of recipes for coleslaw for example. Why? I am sure the restaurants got to submit whatever recipes they wanted but they often weren’t even the ones they are famous for. This is a fun book to peruse but reading it cover to cover isn’t really necessary.

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern,, read by Claudia, on 06/14/2012

While looking for a good book to read, I checked out our blog to find my co-workers couldn’t say enough wonderful things about The Night Circus.   I am here to tell you that EVERYTHING they said is TRUE!  I was not misled by their reviews in the least.  The Night Circus is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year!!!  I thoroughly enjoyed it and did not want it to come to an end.  This is the author’s first novel and all I can say is WOW!  I hope it is the first of many marvelous books to come. No pressure!  If you haven’t read it….you are missing out on one tremendous story  of magic and intrigue.  Celia and Marco’s story will stay with you for a long time after you’ve finished.  It’s the type of book that once you’ve finished, you really just want to re-read again.  You need to read this book!    I’m not kidding!

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, read by Claudia, on 06/01/2012

I had the pure pleasure of reading The Moonflower Vine for the 2nd time recently.  Our Fiction at Noon group tackled it (and loved it btw) and I was delighted to have another opportunity to read this treasure from Missouri-born Jetta Carleton.  This book was written in 1962 and received a favorable response at that time, but was largely forgotten until Jane Smiley included The Moonflower Vine among the classics she read (or reread) and then discussed in her 2005 book, Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, and wrote of it:

“To my mind, this is a novel characteristic of its time, the 1950s, because it completely avoids all political themes. To read it you would never know that black people existed in southern Missouri, that the area was still a hotbed of Civil War resentments, that the Cold War was raging, and that World War II had taken place. The novel exists in a timeless world of seasons and of girls coming of age, love their greatest concern, with earning a living teaching school or giving music lessons a distant second. The Soames family thinks only of religion, love, nature, and sometimes music. They are American innocents in spite of their lustiness, quite untainted by the compromises of American history. The novel is neither liberal nor conservative — more, perhaps, tribal, in the sense that while the characters do make authentic connections, these connections are only within their own family rather than with anyone outside (except for Jessica, who moves away). In addition, the world is repeatedly redeemed, not by human action but by natural renewal, as symbolized by the nightly flowering of the moonflower vine (a relative of the morning glory).”

At its heart, it is a story of family…. the Soames family, and their life and all its complexities told from 5 points of view.  I considered this one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.  I enthusiastically recommend to anyone who will listen to me.  It is the type of book I know I will read more than twice in my lifetime, and I am confident with each re-reading I will discover something I missed before.  The writing style is unique and lyrical and as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing else quite like it in the world of fiction.

29. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Fiction, Tracy, Travel

The Walk by Richard Paul Evans, read by Tracy, on 06/28/2012

When you see someone walking along the road with a backpack do you ever wonder where they came from and where they are going. Alan Christoffersen could be that man who just left everything behind and started walking. At first he had everything you could want. A successful career and a happy marriage. But somethings can be too good to be true. This is the first book in a series where Alan sets out from Seattle to Key West Florida with only a backpack full of camping gear and a credit card. He helps people along the way and they in return help him cope with his losses.

28. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Teen Books, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

Jane by April Lindner, read by Andrea, on 06/27/2012

I enjoyed this book. Even though it was centered on an idea that already existed (the book is exactly like Jane Eyre complete with crazy hidden wife on the third floor, young romance, Jane growing up and finding herself, etc.) it was different enough that it seemed like a branch of the original story instead of a dull retelling. In this version, Jane Eyre is actually Jane Moore and Mr. Rochester is now Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star. Jane goes to work for Nico as the nanny of his young daughter and falls in love with him. I really like Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and Lindner’s version gives the story of Jane a fun, contemporary twist. I’m glad someone finally decided to turn Jane Eyre into a more modern tale like all of the contemporary retellings of the classic Pride and Prejudice. Maybe someone will publish a Jane Eyre zombies version as well.

28. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Apocolyptic, Graphic Novel, Horror

100 Months by John Hicklenton, read by Andrea, on 06/27/2012

This book was very dark. If the sun hadn’t still been shining when I read it I may have had nightmares and/or been severely depressed. Suffering from MS, the author, John Hicklenton, committed assisted suicide the day after finishing this graphic novel. I was not surprised to learn that fact after reading and looking at the very disturbing and graphic illustrations. The entire story is about death and suffering. Mara, an earth goddess, is sent by her father (a scary looking creature who is presumably Satan) to slay the swine God Longpig (presumably all the negative aspects of humanity). It centers on her journey to find the Longpig. Mara claims the purpose of her task is to ultimately avenge her friend’s death (Jesus?).  Along the way, anyone she finds she punishes. She pretty much unleashes her wrath on all of humanity. The accompanying pictures are graphic but the composition and the usage of colors is quite breathtaking (if you can look past the death and destruction the illustrations represent).

I randomly came across this book while looking for another and am kind of glad I decided to read it. Considering this was Mr. Hicklenton’s final statement to the world, I almost wonder if he was trying to give people a glimpse of what he thought the world is coming to and what will happen if we don’t change. It was almost as if he believes in the whole idea of self-destruction is imminent if humanity refuses to change kind of view. Creepy but interesting book.

28. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Signing their Rights Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men who Signed the United States Constitution by Denise Kiernan & Joseph D'Agnese, read by Tammy, on 06/20/2012

We’ve all heard of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin but who were the other signers of the Constitution? This book has mini-biographies of each of the 39 signers of the Constitution. These men were just as flawed as the elected officials we have today.Hugh Williamson believed in aliens, Robert Morris went to prison, Jonathan Dayton stole $18,000 from Congress, and Thomas Mifflin was ruined by alcohol.

Also includes a complete text of the Constitution and all it’s amendments including The Bill of Rights. Very brief bios of the other men who attended the constitutional convention but didn’t sign for one reason or another.

A fun book about men who were important to the history of our country but are mostly unknown today.

27. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Tracy, Travel

Lois on the Loose by Lois Pryce, read by Tracy, on 06/27/2012

It took Lois eight and a half months, over 16,798 miles, to get from Alaska to the end of South America on a dirt bike. Sound like fun? Not for me but she quit her job and drove all the way.  Most of the ride was solo but she met fellow bikers along the way. The North American part was easiest since the language was no problem. But once she hit Mexico and had to deal with the paper work of crossing borders the language barrier was a problem. The usual set backs were the weather, illness and mechanical problems. But Lois had the right attitude and enjoyed herself along the way. It was a fun read but I still wouldn’t do it.

26. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction · Tags:

Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust by Ruth Thomson, read by Angie, on 06/25/2012

Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust tells the story of the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic. The story is told through first hand accounts and art work from the people who were imprisoned in the camp. Terezin was a camp the Nazis used to show off to organizations like the Red Cross. They would fix it up and prove that their camps were not bad places. Unfortunately, Terezin was just like all the other concentration camps. Most of the Jews imprisoned there were transported to other camps like Auschwitz and killed. Only about 3000 of the 86000 survived Terezin.

The first hand accounts really make this book powerful. The innocence of the Jews when they are first sent to the Terezin Ghetto, the strength of the Elder Council as it tried to protect its citizens, the heartbreak of the Jews as they lost their battle to survive. Their own words are heartbreaking.

26. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Survive by Alex Morel, read by Angie, on 06/25/2012

Jane has a Plan. She has been working on her Plan for a while now. The Plan is to fly home for Christmas and not survive the flight. Jane is suicidal; she has been living at Life House for the past several months because she has had a couple of “incidents”. But she has convinced the staff and built up enough points to take a trip home for Christmas. She has a combo of sleeping pills that she plans to take on the flight so she never wakes up. Simple plan. Only she doesn’t count on the plane crashing and being one of the only survivors. The other survivor is Paul, the guy who sits beside her on the plane. Now Jane has to decide if she wants to live or if she really wants to die.

Jane was a difficult character. It was hard to like or identify with her in the beginning of the book. It seemed like she was suicidal because she thought she was supposed to be. Her father and grandmother both committed suicide so therefore she was expected to? Her only reason given for being depressed seemed to be her father’s suicide. I really didn’t buy into her depression or suicidal tendencies. They didn’t seem real for some reason. Maybe it just needed better explaining in the book to make me believe.

Once the plane crash occurred, the story did pick up and the action was a bit more believable. I did have a few problems with the storytelling, mainly from lack of details. For instance, when they decide to move from the crash area up the mountain it seems from the writing that they just go; they don’t pack their things or prepare in anyway. But once they get to the top of the mountain they have all their supplies. There are little instances like that throughout the book where the details seem to be missing from the narrative. I wondered the entire time they were climbing the mountain how they were doing it with their supplies; guess that was too much detail to deal with in the writing.

Jane and Paul seem like a good match for the mountain. I didn’t really like either of them, but I found myself rooting for them to survive (I did feel a little cheated knowing only one would survive…the cover says so!). They made a good team and I did believe their friendship. Not sure I believe love grew in such a short amount of time, but stranger things can happen in such dire circumstances.

Overall this was a good survival book. Not sure it should be compared to Hatchet or Lost but it was an entertaining and very fast read.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher at PLA Conference 2012.

26. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale, Nathan Hale (Illustrator), Dean Hale , read by Angie, on 06/24/2012

Hale and Hale and Hale (yes that is a lot of Hales and not all related) take the Rapunzel tale and spin their own yarn or hair. And their take on this story is a good one. They move Rapunzel to an American West like setting with cowboys and lassos and horses, but the basic tale is still the same. Rapunzel was stolen from her parents as a baby by an evil witch and imprisoned in a tower/castle. She eventually gets free of the tower and with the help of a male companion defeats the witch.

In Rapunzel’s Revenge, Rapunzel is raised by Mother Goetel who treats her like her own daughter, and in fact Rapunzel doesn’t know she isn’t her mother until one day when she meets her real mom who is a slave in the mines. She also discovers that Mother Goetel’s magic is draining the land of all its vitality. She stands up to Goetel but is imprisoned in a tower for years. She finally escapes and teams up with Jack (of beanstalk and golden goose fame) to stop Goetel and free her mother. They have lots of adventures and we get to see Rapunzel use her hair in all kinds of unique ways.

I love new takes on old stories and the Hales really do Rapunzel’s story justice. I like the wild west aspect of the story with Rapunzel as a wild cowgirl using her hair as a weapon and a lasso and anything else she can think of. I think this really works as a graphic novel. Hale’s illustrations are great and really tell the story that can’t be told just through words. I think fans of fairy tales and fractured fairy tales will really enjoy this one.

26. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti, read by Angie, on 06/24/2012

Tristan Benway is ready to leave…leave the Bellweathers that is. He is been their butler too long and his family’s Oath of Fealty is almost up. He is ready for a Charming Cottage in a Warm Locale Far, Far Away. In order to finance his retirement he is writing a memoir of his time with the Bellweathers and it is sure to be a hit. For the Bellweathers are a unique and eccentric family. Dr. Bellweather is an inventor who likes to express his humor and displeasure by yelling and throwing things. Mrs. Bellweather paints and repaints the Lighthouse over and over again. Spider doesn’t like going out during the day but does enjoy rescuing animals; as long as the animals are ones who maim, kill or poison. He is currently keeping an Endangered Albino Alligator in his bathroom. Ninda wants to Do Good and Help the Downtrodden, by force if necessary. The triplets are just plain destructive and crazy. They yell everything at the top of their lungs, but beware when they whisper. And poor Benway has been taking care of this family in Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay for too long, he his tired of cleaning up their messes, he is tired of the triplets using his suits for art projects, he is tired of finding hobos in his bed, he is ready for his Glorious Liberation and Oath Abandonment Time.

This book has many laugh out loud moments. The Bellweathers are too funny and crazy to be real, but I really loved Benway’s long suffering endurance. His journal entries after each chapter really made the book that much more special. I loved his retelling of the days events and his hopes for his future. You could tell throughout that he really did care for the family even though they drove him crazy. I loved the message of this book about family and realizing where you belong and not taking advantage of people or taking people for granted. The message was there but it wasn’t super obvious and didn’t hit you over the head, which Ninda would have done with it…I am sure she would have had a pamphlet of some sort.

This would make an excellent movie (if they didn’t mess with the story or the characters) so it is too bad Benway didn’t go ahead and sell the movie rights to his book! Great read and one I am going to recommend.

26. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst, Lane Smith , read by Angie, on 06/23/2012

Lulu gets what she wants and want she wants for her birthday is a pet brontosaurus. But her parents don’t want to get her a brontosaurus for her birthday! So Lulu throws a FIT (yes fit with a capital F). When the FIT doesn’t work Lulu decides to find her own brontosaurus. She packs a bag and heads out into the woods. Nothing scares Lulu; in fact, after meeting her many things are scared of Lulu. She squeezes a snake, hits a tiger with her suitcase and stomps a bear’s foot. Then she finds her brontosaurus. But it turns out the brontosaurus doesn’t want to be Lulu’s pet he wants her for his pet. Now the tables are turned and Lulu doesn’t want to be a pet. She has to get away from the brontosaurus and find her way home.

How I enjoyed this little book. Lulu is an awesome character and Lane Smith’s drawings really bring her to life. She is tiny but spunky and really the fiercest thing in the forest. I loved Judith Viorst’s rhymes and songs and story. It had a great message without being messagey. I also really enjoyed the narrators interjections and asides. They really made the story for me, and of course the multiple endings were very Scooby-Doo…got to love that!

I would definitely recommend this book for beginning chapter book readers or just anyone who wants a fun story.

25. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Janet, NonFiction · Tags:

Lost States by Michael J. Trinklein, read by Janet, on 06/24/2012

These are true stories of Texlohoma, Transylvania, and other states that never made it.  They were wanted by many people for political reasons, environmental reasons, commercial reasons, and lots more, but all were turned down.  Some had strange names, like Absaroka (near the Dakotas, of course), Adelsverein (German Texas), Deseret (Morman land near the desert), Forgottonia, Nickajack, No Man’s Land, Rough and Ready, and Yazoo.  Some had names that were later used in a different area, like Washington (south of Lake Erie), Wyoming (between New York and Pennsylvania), and Minnesota (south of Dakota).  Some hopeful states had  names that stayed as cities, such as Boston, Chicago, Lincoln (now Idaho and part of Washington), and New York City (as a city, it couldn’t be a state).  Some were actually in other countries, such as Albania, Cuba, Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland, Panama, Puerto Rico, Sicily, and Taiwan – useful locations, but far away and difficult to protect, even though many of the people there wanted to become part of the United States.  If they all made it, I wonder what our flag would look like!

 

 

23. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Thriller/Suspense, Tracy

The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzwell, read by Tracy, on 06/23/2012

This book is about the quirky habits people acquire because of their jobs or obsessions. List makers, collectors, bibliophiles, tattoos and memorizing the Dewey Decimal system. If you work in a library or spend a lot of time there you can relate to this book. Alexander Short is a reference librarian who is hired by Jesson, a man of means,  to help find The Grand Complication, a watch, so he can complete his collection. Alexander’s wife Nic tries to warn him off Jessen but he is hooked into the hunt. His boss doesn’t like him neglecting his reference duties and threatens to send him on a bookmobile trip through Amish country. My favorite part was the competition at the library called The Class Struggle. Employees are given a subject and must identify the Dewey Decimal number that it would be found under. Mr. Paradis, the janitor, sweeps the others under the rug. Gadgets and books fascinate most of the characters. The book fascinated me.

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

Billions of Years, Amazing Changes: The Story of Evolution by Laurence Pringle, Steve Jenkins, read by Angie, on 06/22/2012

Wonderful book on evolution for elementary age students. This book has clear and concise chapters on everything from DNA to continental drift to fossils to diseases. The illustrations are wonderfully clear and bright and really fit the text. Of course, there is so much covered by the book (basically everything that falls under evolution) that it only skims the surface on each topic. But there are a lot of wonderful tidbits of information in here that I wasn’t aware of. I never thought of the study of diseases and drug-resistant bacterias as evolution but it is. I didn’t realize there were 60 different kinds of honeycreepers in Hawaii and that they all came from finches. There is lots of good info in this book and all of it is a good jumping off place for the study of evolution.