31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Art by Maira Kalman, 354 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/26/2012

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been dumped; most of us have probably dumped someone. We know the pain and humiliation. But no matter how many generations of us go through the heartbreak of teen love, every succeeding generation will fall prey to the same scenario. This is one of those stories. It is, in fact, a long letter from Min Green to her now-ex-boyfriend, Ed Slaterton. Min is quirky and smart. Ed is a classic jock. Different social circles and everything. They had 2 months together before breaking up. Min goes through her box of relationship ephemera (each item illustrated) and sorts through the memories of their brief, but intense couplehood.
I get where this is coming from and Min’s voice does ring rather true. I feel as though Min is actually more in love the the idea of love than she is with Ed. Just as she is more in love with the idea of the lady from the movie theater being the star of a classic film than the potential reality that she really is just a random elderly film aficionado. Ed, on the other hand, comes across as someone that would drive me absolutely crazy (and not in a good way). It’s clear that this is one of those relationships that can’t possibly last, but it is interesting to see how it worked, even briefly. Min and Ed do have their moments, but Min clearly has more faith in Ed than I and perhaps that’s supposed to be the appeal of the book. Ed has some really unpleasant moments and his friends aren’t much better. Min and her friends seem pretty cool, but everyone is so blind to their own circumstances and feelings that you want to shake them and holler to them what is so obvious to you. But I suppose that’s life. This wasn’t really the book for me, but there’s a definite audience for it and they will love it.

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Black Dawn by Rachel Caine, 370 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/26/2012

Volume 12 in the Morganville vampires series, Black Dawn picks up right where the Last Breath ended with the Draug taking over Morganville. Draug, ancient water creatures that feed off the blood and life energy of vampires when they can and humans if they have to, have our band of young heroes, Clare, Eve, Michael and Shane trapped in the main hall of Morganville in the vampire stronghold with the vampires. Town founder and vampire queen Amelie has been infected by the Draug and is probably dying. A temporary truce is drawn between all the human and vampire factions as they work together to defeat or at least survive the Draug. Will Michael and Eve’s relationship survive? Will Shane survive at all? What about the vamps? And what happens to the town of Morganville and all the humans if Amelie dies and Oliver takes over or worse yet, Amelie’s power-hungry sister?

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Crusoe: Daniel Defoe, Robert Knox and the Creation of a Myth by Katherine Frank, 338 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/29/2012

It is January 1719. Nearly sixty, Daniel Defoe is mired in political controversy, legal threats and health issues, but for the moment he is preoccupied by a younger man on a barren shore—Robinson Crusoe.

Several miles south, another old man, Robert Knox, sits bent over a heavy volume—published nearly forty years before. Knox’s Historical Relation was a best seller when it was published in 1681, just a year after he escaped from Ceylon and returned to England.

This book explores the real men and their stories. Defoe who imagined great adventures and Knox who lived and wrote about his real shipwreck adventure on the island of Ceylon. It then explores how their writings created a whole genre of adventure, lone-man survival stories especially ones modeled after Defoe’s main character, Crusoe.

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Inspirational, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism by Kate Winslet, 286 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/30/2012

Kate Winslet did the English voice narration for a documentary on autism, A Mother’s Courage (aka The Sunshine Boy) and learned of a whole other world of people who are intelligent and vital but unable to communicate through normal means. She met the filmmaker, Margret who filmed her own story with her autistic teenage son who wasn’t able to communicate until he was 10 through the use of a typing letter board.

Winslet wanted to create awareness of autism and to share some of what she had learned it might be like to be autistic or to be the parent of an autistic child. Kate Winslet’s daughter saw the documentary and asked if Kate could imagine not being able to hear her say, “I Love You Mommy.” Winslet knew she needed to do something. This book was born. She shares emails between herself and Margret, first words and photos from people with autism and asked friends and others famous people to pass her well known hat around with a digital camera and to take a photo of themselves with the hat and sent it on with a quote summing up something important they would wish to express if they only had a few words after not being able to communicate for years.

A fast but moving book both visually with the photos and demonstrates the power of words.

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , , ,

A Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister by Andro Linklater, 296 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/28/2012

On May 11, 1812, Spencer Perceval, the prime minister of Great Britain, was fatally shot in the lobby of Parliament by John Bellingham, a Liverpool businessman. Spencer Perceval is the only British prime minister to be assassinated. Perceval had deeply divided the British public. Some loved him others hated him for his fight against the lucrative slave trade and driving Britain into a war with the United States despite the economic consequences to both countries. Bellingham was not alone in blaming Perceval for economic ruin and he claimed to have killed Perceval “as a matter of justice,” and believed he would not only be exonerated, but also applauded for his action. But Bellingham was granted the briefest of trials that trampled his right to due process, he was hanged.

Author Andro Linklater examines the records including recently discovered correspondence and personal records to convincing show there was a conspiracy. Linklater shows the prime ministers personal and public life and discusses the economic and political climate of the time. He believes while Bellingham clearly fired they shot, he did not act alone.

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, 473 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/29/2012

This is the story of one man’s journey from fighting to survive physically from a bomber crash in the sea, and fighting for physical and mental survival as a prisoner of war to coming to terms with his experiences and learning to forgive and reclaim his own life.

Louis Zamperini had trained as an athlete leading him to compete in the Berlin Olympics but WWII changed his calling to airman. On a May afternoon in 1943, with the crash of his bomber, Zamperini began a much longer journey of endurance. A test of his will to live and to overcome.

31. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

On an Irish Island by Robert Kanigel, 320 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/28/2012

This work is a unique combination of telling the story of a way of life that is gone, a language and word origin study, how writers are affected by location and people and the shared love and admiration for a particular set of islands, the Blaskets.

This story is set mainly of the Great Blasket, an island off the west coast of Ireland, known during the early twentieth century for the communal life of its residents and the unadulterated Irish they spoke. With the Irish language vanishing all through the rest of Ireland, the Great Blasket became a magnet for scholars and writers drawn there to study a language that is slipping away and discovered a whole culture that is slipping away.

Kanigel introduces us to the playwright John Millington Synge, some of whose characters in The Playboy of the Western World, were inspired by his time on the island; Carl Marstrander, a Norwegian linguist who gave his place on Norway’s Olympic team for a summer on the Blasket; Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, a Celtic studies scholar fresh from the Sorbonne; and central to the story, George Thomson, a British classicist whose involvement with the island and its people we follow from his first visit as a twenty-year-old to the end of his life.

On the island, they met men and women with whom they formed lifelong and life-changing friendships. This book lets us get to know these men and women and learn of the culture of the islanders, their hard lives of fishing and farming matched by their love of singing, dancing, and talk. Sadly, we watch them leave the island, the village becoming uninhabited by 1953. The story of the Great Blasket is one of struggle—between the promise of emigration and the peculiar warmth of island life amid its physical isolation. This is the Ireland I imagine when I picture my ancestors setting sail from Ireland to America.

30. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Janet · Tags:

Exploring Historic Jefferson City by Gary R. Kremer, 137 pages, read by Janet, on 07/30/2012

I wanted to find out more about the city where i am living and working, and Gary Kremer has covered this very well.  He breaks it into 7 Tours around town (mostly meant for walking, with time and distance covered) and the seven cemeteries.  He mentions items in the past that are now different and why they changed.  He describes the different styles and materials of many buildings and the nationalities and special people who lived there.  Many time special activities that have taken place in an area are also mentioned.  Many items we wouldn’t know about are described, such as the house that had a turntable in the garage so the owner wouldn’t have to back out onto a busy street.  Architects are usually named and large changes that have taken place since the building was erected.  This is an excellent tour of Jefferson City that I would recommend to anyone.

30. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Mystery, Romance

The Witness by Nora Roberts , 757 pages, read by Angie, on 07/30/2012

At age 16 Elizabeth Fitch has a fight with her mom and rebels from the strict atmosphere of home. She does something stupid (makes fake IDs and goes to a club) and disaster ensues. She witnesses a double murder by the Russian mob. Even though she is drunk and sick, she has a photographic memory so she can tell the cops everything that happened. She is placed in Witness Protection but the house is breached by bad cops and her protectors die. Elizabeth/Liz goes on the run for the next 12 years. She becomes a gun-toting reclusive computer security specialist and finally settles down in a small town in Arkansas. Police Chief Brooks Gleason starts sniffing around. At first he is merely curious about Abagail (Liz’s new identity) but that quickly changes to something more. Abagail is not sure she wants a relationship but Brooks wins her over, but will she ever tell him her secret?

I really wish NR would stick to straight romance because I think she does those really well. It is these mystery/romance novels that I don’t think are as good. The first problem with The Witness is the main character Elizabeth/Liz/Abagail. She just isn’t realistic or likeable. I don’t think anyone is that robotic or socially inept. Sure she came from a controlling parental environment but I can’t believe anyone or any character could really exist like her. It made the first part of the book especially difficult to read. I also wish all her books didn’t have this formula of reluctant woman who doesn’t want a relationship/man who is won over by a strong charismatic alpha male. I find it a little offensive that the men in these books always push the women into something they don’t want (but secretly do) until the women give in and love ensues. haven’t they ever heard of No means No? Brooks isn’t a bad character but is a typical NR male: bossy, pushy and always sure he is right. As for the mystery, it wasn’t bad but the book seemed very segmented between the first section and the second. The first is all about the mob and the murders, the second all about Abagail and Brooks falling in love. It is not really until the end that these two stories come together. However, I thought the end was really rushed and there wasn’t a whole lot of tying up of loose ends. I wish more time could have been spent on the outcome of Abagail’s decision. It just seemed rushed and lacking information. Not that I really wanted a longer book because this is a thick one, but I am sure some of the previous info could have been dumped for a more satisfying ending.

Not the best NR book but not the worst either. Stronger characters could have made it better.

30. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense

The Name of This Book Is Secret (Secret #1) by Pseudonymous Bosch, 364 pages, read by Angie, on 07/28/2012

I have been looking at this series on the library shelf for a while now and I finally decided to pick up this first book in the series. It was definitely worth the read. There is mystery, adventure, magic and some great kids. Plus the author is just quirky enough to keep everything lively and interesting.

Cass is a survivalist who always carries a backpack of supplies just in case there is some kind of disaster. Max-Ernest is a budding comedian who can’t stop talking. Cass’s grandfathers, Wayne and Larry, get a mysterious box called the Symphony of Smells from Real Estate Agent Gloria. She got the box from an odd house where the owner died. The owner was Pietro Bergamo who had synesthesia, he smelled words and sounds instead of hearing them like other people. Cass and Max-Ernest are fascinated by the SOS but even more so when they learn two mysterious figures want the box…Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais. The mystery that follows involves kidnapping, secret societies, a spa and a lot of fun. Cass and Max-Ernest have to find out who Dr. L. and Ms. Mauvais are and why they want the SOS and Bergamo’s journal. As the author says…there is a secret…a secret that isn’t revealed until the final battle.

This was a fun book to read. The characters are so unique and fun and mysterious. You never really know what is going on until the very end. I enjoyed the author’s side comments and footnotes throughout the book. It makes the book read a little different than normal books but that is part of the charm. Definitely a series I would recommend for anyone who likes mystery and adventure.

30. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

My Rotten Life (Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie #1) by David Lubar, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 07/28/2012

Nathan Ambercrombie was having a really bad day. He has been getting picked on constantly by the popular kids at school and by his teachers. The this strange girl Abagail offers him a way to make all the hurt and embarrassment go away. Her uncle has developed Hurt-be-Gone and Nathan signs up to try it. Unfortunately, his friend Mookie spills the entire serum on him and bad things start to happen. Nathan does feel anything but he also doesn’t eat or go to the bathroom anymore and he starts loosing body parts. Nathan is turning into a ZOMBIE! Abagail says she can fix it with rare ingredients but there has to be some part of Nathan that is still alive for the antidote to work. If they don’t get it in time Nathan will be a zombie forever.

This was a fun book that I am sure boys are going to love. There is enough gross humor and adventure to satisfy most young readers. I loved the interactions between Nathan, Mookie and Abagail. They were great characters and really fun to read. I thought their friendship was a nice counterpoint to the mean popular kids. Those kids seemed liked your typical mean kids who get whatever they want and expect everyone else to fall in line. Sure there wasn’t much depth to them but that was to be expected. I have to say that I really enjoyed the ending and Nathan’s journey from nobody to hero.

I received a signed copy of this book from the author at PLA 2012.

30. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery

Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham, 333 pages, read by Angie, on 07/27/2012

Max the Wolf (not a real wolf) wakes up in the woods with no memory of how he got there. But he is in his Boy Scout uniform so he must have gotten lost on a Scouting trip. He loves solving mysteries so he decides to use his skills to figure out how he got to Heroes Woods and how he can get home. Then he meets Banderbrock a warrior badger who can talk; this forces him to reevaluate…maybe he is dead or dreaming. Soon the small band of warriors is joined by McTavish the Monster (a fierce barn cat) and Walden the Bear. Together they try to avoid the Cutters who want to cut out everything that makes them who they are and turn them into what the Cutters believe they should be. They journey through Heroes Wood trying to reach sanctuary down the Mysterly River.

Max and his gang are wonderful characters and this is a great mystery/adventure book for older elementary age kids and anyone who enjoys a good story. I especially loved McTavish…he is just such a rascal and he offers great comic relief to the story. The group has a typical hero’s journey though the woods as they are trying to get to the wizard for sanctuary and avoid the Cutters at the same time. I guess my one complaint would be the villains of the story…the Cutters. They seemed very one-dimensional and their motivations were never really clear. Then the end came and it was a little disappointing. Not the information we gained because we did find out why our heroes were in Heroes Wood and why the Cutters wanted to cut them, but it just seemed a little rushed and dense. I wish we could have found out some of this information earlier in the story instead of learning everything right there at the end. However, this did not diminish the wonderful story that preceded it. I really enjoyed Max, Banderbrock, McTavish and Walden and their journey through the Heroes Woods

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

Angel With Two Faces by Nicola Upson, 426 pages, read by Tracy, on 07/29/2012

Lately the mystery genre has been over whelmed with themed mysteries. Josephine Tey wrote several mysteries so it makes more sense to me that she would be the main character in this authors themed mysteries. Set in Cornwall in 1935 after The Great War Josephine is visiting friends and hoping to become inspired to write a new novel.  A death of a friend has also brought her friend Archie Penrose, Detective Inspector, to Cornwall. It seems that everyone has secrets which the reader has to wait to find the real reason for the death. The one person who knows most of the answers is Loveday the younger sister of the victim.

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

Crap-tastic Guide to Pseudo-Swearing by Michelle Witte, 173 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/22/2012

I’m always up for a good etymology book and this one had me laughing out loud. I was surprised at how many of the “old sayings” I grew up hearing in the country really were replacements for swear words. Of course some were obvious and as the author says any word can become a swear word using the right tone and body language just some won’t get you sent to the principal’s office or written up by your boss.

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

The Book for Dangerous Women: A Guide to Modern Life by Clare Conville, Liz Hoggard, and Sarah-Jane Lovett , 325 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/24/2012

This is a dictionary of thoughts and opinions by three women who share their myriad experiences to bear on topics such as marriage, infidelity, motherhood, sex, fashion, friendship, work, and self-discovery. Besides their own thoughts the authors share insights from famous and some infamous folks: Oscar Wilde, Coco Chanel, Mae West, Anais Nin and Shakespeare to name a few. Entries are alphabetical and cross-referenced by topic.

I didn’t agree with everything the ladies had to say, but some of it made me laugh out loud, some was thought provoking and it would definitely start lots of conversations especially among a group of female friends or at a book club.

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Lenobia's Vow: House of Night Novella by P.C. Cast, 147 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/23/2012

Before she is Zoey’s favorite professor and the House of Night’s powerful horse mistress Lenobia is just a normal 16-year-old girl. As the illegitimate daughter of a powerful baron in Evreux, France in 1788 she does not share any of the benefits of being the baron’s daughter and has had to guard her virtue from powerful men including the local bishop and even her own father has started starring longingly at her.

Then fate intervenes and Lenobia suddenly finds herself surrounded by wealthy young girls on a ship bound for New Orleans where they will be married off to the city’s richest Frenchmen. But the bishop is also being sent to the new world because of his appetite for young beautiful women and skills with fire and dark magic. How will Lenobia remain hidden from the bishop? Can she keep her secret over the weeks of a long ocean voyage?

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Short Stories, Tammy · Tags: ,

Hex Appeal by edited by P.N Elrod, 356 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/26/2012

Honestly, I checked this book out because it contains a short story by Jim Butcher, featuring his paranormal detective Harry Dresden. It was nice to read about Harry doing a favor for a friend and not having to worry about saving all of humanity or even just all of Chicago. Butcher’s sense of humor once again comes through as his character Harry tries to explain to a campus security officer how parts of a university campus were destroyed and why some students are claiming to have seen some giant hairy creature, people that move really fast with glowing eyes and other weird things. Harry as usual tells him the truth confident that the officer won’t believe him anyway so why bother lying when the truth is such a fun story.

Also contains stories by current popular paranormal authors: Ilona Andrews, Rachel Caine, Carole Nelson Douglas, P. N. Elrod, Simon R. Green, Lori Handeland, Erica Hayes and Carrier Vaughn. I especially enjoyed Retribution Clause by Ilona Andrews and Outside the Box by P.N. Elrod. Fans of Simon R. Green’s Nightside series will also enjoy the origin story of Dead Boy. A sad tragic story but that’s to be expected of the Nightside.

 

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Tammy · Tags: ,

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, 352 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/24/2012

One teen’s search to discover the truth about his family heritage from all the stories his grandfather told and really to find his place in the world and where he belongs. A time-traveling story with bits of historical fiction set in World War II and the present at the same time about humans gifted with special abilities and the creatures that are trying to find and destroy them. I enjoyed the story and the mystery but the most unique thing about the book was the antique photos used by the author throughout the story instead of illustrations that show weird camera affects, special tweaking in the dark room or perhaps humans with special abilities – that is for you to decide. A truly unique coming of age story.

29. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

Silver Like Dust: One Family's Story of America's Japanese Internment by Kimi Cunningham Grant, 325 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/26/2012

Moving story of one Japanese families experiences in an internment camp in Montana during WWII. Author Kimi Grant wanted to learn more about her families history and especially about her quiet grandmother while an English major in college and this begins her informal interviews with her grandmother while visiting her each summer. She took several years to learn all she thought her grandmother could tell her, without intruding on her grandmother’s privacy or disrespecting her in any way. The story is told mainly from the grandmother’s memories but is fleshed out with historical research by the author. She also tries to relate how this heritage has affected her family and how being in her 20s the way the majority of the Japanese accepted internment as showing loyalty to their new country. Two of her great-uncles served in the U.S. military during WWII. One in the all Japanese Unit that has the distinction of having been awarded the most medals of any single unit during WWII. From geographic clues given in the grandmother’s memories this appears to be the same camp that Sandra Dallas used for her novel Tall Grass told from the viewpoint of people living between a Japanese camp and a small Montana town. Since I just read that novel a few months ago that made the story seem even more special to me… to be able to learn some more history and to read the memories of someone from the other side of the barbed wire and armed guards

27. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Multicultural Fiction

Zahra's Paradise by Amir and Khalil, 272 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/23/2012

If you’re looking for a book to break your heart, this might be the one. Flashback a few years to the Iranian elections and subsequent protests. A young man, Medhi, has gone missing. His brother, a blogger, and his mother set out to find him. Their journey takes the reader across Tehran and into prisons, morgues and mass graves. It’s an unflinching look at the effects of government corruption intertwined with Shari’a law, told with absolute respect for those trapped in the crossfire. It is as much about the suppression of culture as much as it is about the suppression of dissent. It is so important for us to remember that the violent images we see on reactionary news networks do not represent the vast majority of Iranians. Most are peaceful, compassionate people who only wish to raise their families and celebrate their heritage. Instead, these same people are often the victims and find themselves, like the characters in Zahra’s Paradise, trying to salvage what they can after corruption has run its course.
Zahra’s Paradise refers to the largest cemetery in Tehran. Zahra is the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. This book also comes with background information about the elections, various definitions of Arabic and Farsi terms/phrases, thoughts from Paul Coelho and a list of the names of the dead (which spans several pages, in extremely small font). A somber, but worthy read. The authors are anonymous due to the nature of the work.