29. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck, 238 pages, read by Angie, on 09/28/2012

Helena is the eldest sister looking out for her siblings Bernice, Louise and Lamont. They are an old family, older than the Upstairs Cranstons, the human family that lives in their house. Helena is always worrying about her siblings: Lamont likes to run wild, Bernice is a dreamer and Louise is attached to Camilla, the youngest Cranston. Then the Upstairs Cranstons decide they are leaving for Europe to find a husband for oldest daughter Olive. What are the mice to do? Well go with them of course! Even though mice are afraid of water, the Cranston mice pack themselves away and set sail for Europe. On board the ship they are introduced to a whole new way of life. Their are royal mice on board and Helena and her family are responsible for helping their humans make the right connections. There is adventure and romance on board ship.

This book was a little slow for me. The adventures don’t really take off until the mice are on board the ship 2/3 of the way through the book. I like the mouse society that is on the ship. I thought it was fun the way mouse society mirrored human society and how a mouses fortunes depend on the fortunes of their humans. Not a bad book just a bit of a quieter story than I would have liked.

28. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Tracy, Westerns

Jubal Sackett by Louis L'Amour, 341 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/28/2012

Most families have one member who is a loner. Jubal Sackett is the loner of the Sackett clan. While his sister and brothers live around friends and family Jubal prefers the life of a nomad exploring America on foot. He learned from his father Barnabas how to survive and live in the wilderness. This story finds Jubal traveling west alone. He meets  Keokotah, of the Kickapoo tribe,  who also prefers his freedom and they travel together for a while and become friends. Louis L’Amour really had a way of describing the wilderness and wild life that is long gone now. I didn’t know there were wild parakeets living in America. Sadly  they are extinct now.

28. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony, Rodrigo Corral (Illustrator) , 272 pages, read by Angie, on 09/27/2012

Glory is a piano prodigy. She has fallen in love with her neighbor. But her father hates Frank and takes her to Europe for a year. Glory has a breakdown and only plays Chopsticks. She is sent to Golden Hands facility where she disappears.

This book is pretty much indescribable. It is told through pictures, IMs, scrapbook materials and letters. There is very little actual text. And I am not really sure what happened at the end of the book. Did Glory and Frank run away together to Argentina, did she just disappear, did she make the whole thing up, or has she completely lost her mind???? That is the beauty of this book; there are no definitive answers and it is up to the reader to decide. This is a book you will pour over time after time.

25. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, 452 pages, read by Angie, on 09/25/2012

This book starts with a confession. A confession by a Scottish spy caught in Nazi France. Our spy has caved in to the torture and starvation and given the Nazis codes and planes and airbases. But her confession is not just about the British war effort; it is really about her best friend Maddie and how they came to be in France. Maddie is a bold English lass, a pilot and a mechanic. Our spy is a high-born Scottish miss with a penchant for sarcasm and language. Together their story is one of friendship and love and heroism. Our spy (Queenie/Eva/Julie) gives her confession and tells her story believing that Maddie crashed after delivering her to Oramie, France. She tells her story to buy herself more time before the inevitable.

I have to admit that it took me a little bit to get into this book, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. Julie’s story is heartbreaking and beautiful. She is a spy so we don’t know if she is telling the truth or just making up this story to stop the torture. Even through all the torture and deprivation she still maintains her wit and humor. Her writing will make you laugh and cry. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone because the end is a great twist, a great and heartbreaking twist. This book will definitely tug your heartstrings. After I was finished I wanted to read it again. I needed to go back over parts of Julie’s story and see the twists. This is a beautifully written story and one I would suggest to anyone.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and an Incredible Journey by Erin E. Moulton, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 09/23/2012

Nine year old Maple and her ten year old sister Dawn set out on an action-packed adventure to find a mystical pool with healing properties. Their baby sister Lily was born premature and is in the hospital struggling for life. They believe the water will help heal her. During their adventure they meet a bear, a skunk, a beaver, poachers and have to survive terrible rapids on the river.

I like books about girls with spunk and these girls had spunk. It is nice to read an adventure book with girl characters surviving in the woods. I also liked both Maple and Dawn and their relationship. As someone with sisters I thought it was spot on. They fight and argue and don’t like each other but in the end they are family and look out for each other. I was never really sure what time period this book was set in; could be modern times could be anytime in the recent past. I liked that aspect of the book. It made it feel timeless in a way. I did think the girls’ adventures was a little preposterous. There were just too many obstacles and dangers. But overall I liked the book and the girls. It was a great read and a different twist on the adventure novel.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Will at the Battle of Gettysburg by Laurie Calkhoven, 144 pages, read by Angie, on 09/22/2012

Will lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with his mother and three sisters. His father is a doctor helping out in Washington and his brother is a prisoner of the South. It is 1863 and the Civil War is raging. Will dreams of being a drummer boy for the Union Army and doing heroic deeds, but his mom won’t let him join up. Then the war comes to Gettysburg. The bloodiest battle of the War is fought right on Will’s doorstep and he is right in the middle of it. He finds that war is not heroic deeds and glory but bloody, chaotic and terrifying.

This was an amazing story of what it was like in Gettysburg during the battle. Calkhoven does a great job weaving historical details into her fictional characters’ story. She shows the true horror of war, but also the selflessness of some of the people. I really enjoyed how she showed the townspeople opening their homes for the soldiers on both sides and taking care of the sick and wounded. She also provides historical notes at the end of the book with details about the battle and the Civil War.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Sidekicks by Dan Santat, 217 pages, read by Angie, on 09/22/2012

Captain Amazing is getting older and needs to recruit a sidekick. His pets all want the job: Roscoe the dog, Fluffy the hamster, Shifty the chameleon and old sidekick Manny the cat. Together the animals start fighting crime to prove to Captain Amazing that they are the perfect sidekicks.

This is a perfect superhero story for kids. The animal sidekicks are cute and fun and had a lot of humor to the story. I love the other superheroes and how they reference famous heroes from other stories. I thought the villain was good and the fights had just enough action for kids. Wonderful illustrations and a great story.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Hothead by Cal Ripken Jr., Kevin Cowherd , 144 pages, read by Angie, on 09/22/2012

Connor is the hotshot of his baseball team, but he is going through some hard times. His dad has been out of work for months and can’t find a job. And Connor is having a hard time controlling his emotions; he starts through tantrums during games and is close to being kicked off the team.

This entire book felt like an after school special on dealing with families out of work and controlling your temper. It was way too simplistic with little character development or plot. And there was way too much baseball; I think every game had a play by play recap. I think that is going to turn off kids who aren’t into baseball that much. I think there were some good things in this book like Connor’s dad losing his job and the family struggling to get by but everything else just seemed so stereotypical and flat. It seemed like Cal Ripken Jr. was just trying to create the perfect kid and then give him a problem to solve. This is why celebrities shouldn’t write books.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Historical Fiction

R My Name Is Rachel by Patricia Reilly Giff, 176 pages, read by Angie, on 09/21/2012

It is the Great Depression and lots of people are out of work, including Pop who has lost his job at the bank. He decides to move his three kids to the country in the hopes that there will be another job available. So Pop, Rachel, Joey and Cassie leave the city and Miss Mitzi and move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. But times are hard in the country too; the school and library are closed and there are no jobs for Pop. So he leaves the kids to take a job building a road far away. Rachel, Joey and Cassie have to learn to cope by themselves.

This was a great story. Giff does a wonderful job conveying the hopelessness and despair people felt during the Depression and the resourcefulness. The kids all have unique voices and personalities and do a remarkable job of surviving on their own. Yes, everything ends happily and maybe a little too perfectly, but it doesn’t diminish the struggle to get to that happy ending.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas , 416 pages, read by Angie, on 09/21/2012

Calaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s greatest assassin, but she was betrayed and is now a slave in the salt mines of Endovier. Then the Crown Prince approaches her with a proposition. She can earn her freedom if she becomes the King’s Champion. Of course there is a tournament with many of the kingdom’s most ruthless villains. Calaena accepts the challenge and becomes part of the King’s Court where intrigue, murder and romance are everywhere.

I really loved this book. Calaena is a great character; she is smart, pretty, sarcastic and kicks butt. I loved her interactions with both Crown Prince Dorian and Captain of the Guard Chaol. Of course both of them are vying for her hand; I really hope it ends up being Chaol. All the characters are intriguing and well-written and the world building is fabulous. The entire story of the land isn’t told but enough hints are given that I am hungry for more. I love fantasy and this one is one of the better ones I have read in a while. I have my theories on certain things and I hope they come true in future books. Can’t wait for more!

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente , 247 pages, read by Angie, on 09/20/2012

September is washing tea cups one day when the green wind stops and asks her to travel to Fairyland with him. As any partly heartless girl would do she goes along without saying goodbye to mom or dad. In Fairyland, she has many adventures and meets many interesting people. She vows to get the witch Goodbye’s spoon back from the Marquess, she rescues the Madrid Saturday, she rides velocipedes through the plains and she makes friends with the wyverary A-L (Ell for short).

I loved this book. It was magical and whimsical and beautifully written. Part fairy tale, part adventure story, part fantasy novel all mixed up into one delightful tale. The story was darling with a heroine that everyone will love. September is spunky and fun and smart. I wanted to take adventures with her. I love the texture of this book…it is just filled with so much to look at and read. There are things around every corner it seems. I think the artwork at the beginning of the chapters was amazing and I loved the little previews of the chapters that the author provided. Brilliant book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It was really fun to read.

24. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 09/19/2012

Duncan Dorfman has magic fingertips; they allow him to read anything he touches without looking. He has just moved to a new town with his single-parent mom and wants to fit in. Unfortunately he has the nickname of Lunch Meat and wears shirts the color of condiments. Then he shows his power to Carl, the youth scrabble champion. Carl immediately recruits Duncan to play scrabble and forces his to use his power. April is from a family of sports fanatics, but she only loves Scrabble. Her family doesn’t understand her. She wants to make it to the Youth Scrabble Tournament so she can prove to her family that Scrabble is a sport. Nate’s dad lost the YST when he was twelve and now he is obsessed with Nate winning it. He has pulled Nate out of school so they can study scrabble full time. All Nate wants to do is go back to school and skateboard. The kids meet up at YST and become friends.

For a fan of Scrabble this book might be more entertaining, but as it is it is fairly tedious. The kids are all stereotypes and pretty one-dimensional. The adults are ridiculous. And the plot is pretty predictable. There are pages of Scrabble lists (seriously every two letter word is listed here!). I think a little less time could have been spent on developing the Scrabble games and a little more time spent on developing plot and character.

22. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Tracy

Wine Wars by Mike Vesth, 255 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/22/2012

If you love wine you’ve probably gone to the store to buy a bottle and stood in front of the shelves and asked yourself these questions. Should I try something different, how much should I spend, why would I buy wine in a box and how did so many different wines from all over the world end up at my local store? Globalization is one answer. The author of Wine Wars, Mike Veseth, is a wine economist. Wine is a product and if you want to market it you have to keep up with the times. Global warming and the economy have a lot to do with wine. If you read the label of most bottles you might find that it doesn’t have one type of wine in it. The cheaper brands might have a mixture of various varieties. How it got to your store might surprise you. It could’ve been shipped in huge vats by cargo ship and then bottled here in the USA. It’s cheaper and there is less breakage. Most countries produce wine but the people who live there may not drink it. Germany produces white wines mostly because of the climate but the population prefers red wine. I learned a lot about wine and the world and you might find this book interesting if you enjoy wine.

21. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Drama, Graphic Novel · Tags: , , , , ,

Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil, 272 pages, read by Andrea, on 09/21/2012

With all of the negative media attention the Middle East has gotten lately, it is sometimes hard to separate the good people from the evil. Zahra’s Paradise, although fictional, is a good way to bring what is happening over there back into perspective. This story served as a representation of what many Iranian families went through during the revolution and are going through now under a corrupted Islamic Republic. Most of the Middle East we see in the media is a bunch of angry extremists yelling and marching and burning the American flag. This story is an attempt to show Iranians are a compassionate people (no matter their religion, age, or sex) and have a strong desire to live in freedom. Their leaders are the ones who have turned religion into a cover for gaining wealth and power. Not everyone in Iran likes their country, not even Muslims as the book reveals, but they are forced to, or risk possible prison time or execution.

Basically, this heart-wrenching story is about a mother and her son (the narrator) who journey together throughout Tehran in search of Mehdi, their son and brother. Along the way, the reader is introduced to the horrors of Iran. From prisons to hospitals, morgues to cemeteries, the reader is reminded that what is shown on American news is unrelated to what Iranians go through every day. Most have no time to “hate America” or protest in the streets about the Western world. The book actually makes light of this generalization at some point. Many, as we do here in the US, are simply trying to live. What this book does is show that humanity lies even in the darkest corners of the world despite the way it is represented as a whole.

The two authors withholding their names (for very obvious reasons) kind of makes the fear Iranians live in every day that much more realistic for me. In the end of the book is a large list of people who have died under the Islamic Republic. Kinda goes to show that as far as the effects of war on a country go, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg yet domestically.

21. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, 183 pages, read by Andrea, on 09/20/2012

Sometimes collaborative books can be awesome. However, they can also be a little choppy and thrown together in places. This is what Nick and Norah’s story was for me. I did like Norah’s character from the beginning of the story. She was cheeky, borderline introverted, and had a very dry sense of humor. I didn’t care for Nick, but in the end he grew on me. Asking a random girl to pretend to be your girlfriend for five minutes just to make another girl jealous is pretty low. That two second request and five minute interaction was basically the beginning of Nick and Norah’s crazy all-nighter out and about in New York.

Choppiness aside, what kept me reading was the randomness of how Nick and Norah met, and the fact that their brief interaction blossomed into so many possibilities. They were two young adults that basically went wherever their random half-joking thoughts took them.  From a random “cabaret” with dancing/half naked nuns singing Edelweiss to a steamy almost hookup in a random hotel ice room, their night together was far from boring – and it started around 3 am. To top that off, Nick did eventually shape up and basically got over his ex gf and fell in love with Norah all in the same night. A typical, lovely, whirlwind of a teen romance…or something more perhaps. I liked how the book was open ended and left you to guess where Nick and Norah’s relationship went from there.

Apparantly Cohn and Levithan wrote alternating chapters by passing the manuscript back and forth to one another. All they had was an overall idea of the story and how they wanted the characters to develop. As a result, the book seemed a little choppy in a few places. However, I did like the fact that it was clear both characters had their own voice. I enjoyed reading the chapters and finding out Nick or Norah’s feelings about the situation. I’ll watch the movie – perhaps it will overturn my belief that the book is always better than the movie that is based on it. Maybe it will have better transitions from one character’s thoughts to the next.

20. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Mystery, Tracy

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie, 245 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/20/2012

This book of short stories features Mr. Harley Quin. Mr. Quin isn’t a detective or an investigator but he seems to show up when something mysterious has happened. Mr. Satterthwaite, an acquaintance,  describes Mr. Quin as someone who “has a power of showing you what you have seen with your own eyes.” Unlike Agatha Christies other sleuths Mr. Quin doesn’t solve the murder, he helps others remember important clues. And like all of Agatha Christie’s books there are plenty of strange characters and interesting villages with lots of secrets.

20. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Science Fiction, Tracy

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom, 224 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/19/2012

We humans are obsessed with time. When we get up in the morning the first thing we do is look at the clock. It starts with getting to work or school on time. Meetings, appointments, meals, travel schedules, there’s never enough time. This book is about Father Time who is punished for trying to measure time. He lives alone forever without aging and to redeem himself he must teach two humans the true meaning of time. An aging millionaire dieing from cancer and a young teenage girl hopelessly in love. When you are young time goes too slow and when you are older it goes flying by. This book will make you stop and think about how you spend your time and maybe it will change your outlook on life a little.

19. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, 192 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/16/2012

Perry is your usual over-achieving teenaged guy. The biggest quirk he’s got going is that his family is hosting a Lithuanian exchange student named Gobi. Near the end of her stay, Perry’s parents strong-arm him into going to prom with her. Assuming she won’t really like prom, Perry grudgingly accepts, believing he’ll have her home after a couple of hours when he can then go join the rest of his band at their first major gig in New York. They go to prom and dance once or twice, but things quickly take a turn for the strange and dangerous. Gobi changes out of her traditional Lithuanian garb and reveals herself to be older and more sophisticated than your average high school exchange student. In fact, Gobi is an assassin and she’s in need of Perry’s assistance if she’s going to hit all of her targets in one night. What follows is a madcap ride through New York with plenty of wit, gun shots and the occasional bit of illuminating insight. This is a particularly fast read. I breezed through it in one sitting and enjoyed it the whole way through. It does have its faults, but it’s so much fun that reader’s probably won’t care.

19. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Multicultural Fiction, Teen Books

Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, 248 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/15/2012

Tina is having a period of existential solitude. She’s just been “dumped” by her best friend and now sits alone at lunch. She has trouble identifying with her classmates, who all seem to fit into neat, tidy groups, and her large Indian-American family. She begins keeping a diary as part of her English Honors project and addresses her entries to the existential heavyweight, Jean-Paul Sartre. Tina finds herself stepping out of her comfort zone to take a break from her solitude. She ends up starring in the school play (Rashomon…must be a pretty progressive school) and going on bike rides with her crush, Neil. It’s all going well until she realizes how much kissing will be required of her in the play and all of it with a boy she finds disgusting. The one boy she wants to kiss does not appear to be nearly as interested in Tina as he is in the idea of Tina (he constantly grills her for information about Buddhism in spite of Tina’s identifying with atheism), so that’s not going so well either.
Tina’s journey is strikingly realistic and always told in a playful fashion. Tina is a lot of things, many of contradict. She loves her family, but is annoyed by their insular nature. She is bitter about stereotypes, but is willing to overlook them when it comes to that elusive kiss. Tina is like a lot of young women trying to reconcile their identities with their place in the world. Through her writing, Tina realizes some important truths about herself; truths that will likely resonate intellectual teens. A fun, smart read.

18. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Tracy

Calico Joe by John Grisham, 198 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/18/2012

I’ve been a baseball fan most of my life. This book touches on  the controversy around retaliation to baseball players when they go over that imaginary line and show up the pitcher. Calico Joe is a young talented player who gets called up to the big leagues. Paul Tracey was playing little league and was trying to be as good as his dad who pitches for the New York Mets. His dad Warren was too full of himself to be a good father and his pitching career was going downhill. Paul is an adult now with a family when he learns his dad is dying of cancer. No other family members wants to see him before he dies but Paul has a last request. Anyone who loves baseball will enjoy this book.