22. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Steam-punk, Teen Books

The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent , 305 pages, read by Angie, on 10/16/2012

The Unnaturalists is an unusual book. It is a mix of fantasy, magic, history and steampunk. It is set in New London where 600 years ago the people where sucked through a portal into this new world. Along with the people, buildings from various periods of time were also sucked through. The world they landed in had many creatures who the people called unnaturals. They hunt the unnaturals and use them to fuel their world.

Vespa Nyx is the daughter of the head of the Museum in New London. She wants nothing more than to work in the Museum and become a Pedant but there are no female Pedants in New London. Syrus is a Tinker who lives with his clan in Tinkerville, a collection of old train cars. He has the gift of being able to understand the unnaturals when no one else can. Pedant Hal Lumin is a mysterious character who seems to always come to the aid of Vespa and Nix. We then learn that Vespa is a witch, probably the last witch and Hal and the Architects, a heretic group who practices magic, want her to help heal the world. Vespa, Hal and Syrus struggle to figure out what is going on with the captured unnaturals and tinkers in the refineries that power the city. What they discover shakes them to the core and makes them realize how evil their world really is. Of course there is one who wants to destroy everything and he needs Vespa to do it.

The concept of this book was awesome; I loved the idea of combining steampunk and fantasy and magic. I actually really liked the characters of Vespa and Syrus; they were well fleshed out and had a lot of dimension. However, the world building really suffered in this book. It was a fascinating world but it seemed like there were a lot of things unexplained or just plain improbable. I wish Trent had spent a little more time building a logical world in addition to all the time she spent on her story.

22. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst , 424 pages, read by Angie, on 10/21/2012

Liyana is the vessel of her tribe. She has prepared her entire life to receive the goddess Bayla and die. On the night of the goddesses arrival she prepares herself, she says goodbye to her family and she dances for Bayla. But Bayla never comes. She has forsaken Liyana and her tribe. The tribe leaves Liyana in the desert. She believes she will die and is willing. Then Korbyn walks out of the desert. He is the trickster god and has successfully inhabited his vessel. He tells Liyana that several of the gods have been kidnapped, including Bayla. They must find the empty vessels and rescue the gods. Liyana and Korbyn travel the desert in search of the other clans and their vessels. Along the way they pick up Fennick of the Horse clan, Pia of the Silk clan and Raan of the Scorpion clan. Together they must find their gods and bring them back to the desert. For the desert clans are suffering from a Great Drought and only the gods can restore life to the desert.

I loved this book. I devoured it in one sitting. I loved the desert setting and the clans/tribes who inhabit it. I really enjoyed that they were all different and you could see the difference in the vessels. Fennick is gruff but has a good heart, Pia is the princess of her tribe, seems spoiled but is really the purest soul, Raan fights against her fate and her goddess. But my favorite characters were definitely Liyana and Korbyn. I love how their relationship develops and how they must also deal with Bayla. She is the goddess who will inhabit Liyana but also Korbyn’s love. As their relationship deepens it just gets more complicated. I really enjoyed Liyana’s journey through this book. She starts out as a willing sacrifice for her goddess and her clan and as the journey progresses she starts to question her faith and purpose; she develop talents and skills of her own. She becomes so strong at the end that you are rooting for her to remain instead of Bayla.

I think my only issue with this book, and it is a minor one, is the Crescent Empire. I didn’t feel like the emperor was as fleshed out or his motives as clear. I was actually kind of surprised at the relationship between the emperor and Liyana. I didn’t see it and wasn’t sure how it developed. But all of that doesn’t take away from the magnificence of this book. It is a wonderful fantasy adventure novel.

22. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact by A.J. Hartley , 448 pages, read by Angie, on 10/21/2012

Darwen Arkwright is a proper Northern English boy who finds himself living with his aunt in Atlanta. He is a fish out of water, he doesn’t talk like everyone else and he has no idea what the other kids are about. One day in the mall he sees a strange bird and follows it into Mr. Octavius Peregrine’s Reflectory Emporium: Mirrors Priceless and Perilous. Mr. Peregrine gives him a mirror that turns out to be a portal to another world. Silbrica is a strange and wonderful world that has all kinds of creatures. There are good things like Moth the dellfey, but there are also dangerous ones like the gnashers and scrobblers and shades. Darwen is also dealing with his new school, Hillside Academy, and the students and teachers there. The teachers are hard on him for not knowing what they are teaching and the students make fun of him for his accent and lack of knowledge. Darwen does make a couple of friends: eccentric Alex and scientific Rich. Together they explore Silbrica and try to discover what is happening there.

I thought this was a good fantasy novel that boys especially will enjoy. There is a lot of action and adventure and danger throughout the novel. I guess my problem with the book was the characters. While Darwen, Rich and Alex are well thought out characters, everyone else seems very one dimensional and over the top. The adults especially were a little hard to swallow. However, it is an enjoyable read and I like the world Hartley created in Silbrica.

21. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Mystery, Tracy

The God of the Hive by Laurie R. King, 354 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/21/2012

There are a lot of books written about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Laurie R. King has a series of books about Mary Russell who met Sherlock when he had retired. She is a lot younger but that didn’t stop them from falling in love. Mary is very smart and has some of the same deductive talents that Sherlock has. This book is a continuation of a story in the book “The Language of Bees”. When Sherlock retires he takes up bee keeping as a hobby and so they use this reference when sending messages to each other by newspaper ads. At the start of this story Mary is on the run with her granddaughter Estelle after she rescues her from a religious fanatic who is after Sherlock. Sherlock is on the run with his son Damien who is accused of murdering his wife. I suggest reading “The Language of Bees” first so all of this makes sense. Laurie R. King was written 12 Mary Russell books and I would also suggest reading the first, “The Beekeepers Apprentice”, when she introduces Mary Russell. If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan you won’t be disappointed.

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

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, 184 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/20/2012

There is a show on tv called Haven that says it’s based on this book by Stephen King. I’ve watched the show from the beginning and the only resemblance to the book is the town in Maine and the two characters who run the local newspaper. Most of King’s books are horror and thrillers. This one is a Mystery.  It’s a short story and the mystery is how and why is the Colorado Kid dead. His body is found by two locals and to this day no one knows who-dun-it. It’s one of those stories that every small town passes on to anyone who will listen. You just have to figure it out yourself.

18. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Classics, Fiction

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 10/17/2012

The Indian in the CupboardOmri gets a plastic Indian from his friend Patrick for his birthday; he also gets and old cupboard from his brother and a key from his mom. Together these items make magic. When Omri puts the Indian in the cupboard and locks it the Indian comes alive. Suddenly he finds himself in possession of Little Bear an Iroquois brave who wants things had has to be taken care of. When Patrick finds out about Little Bear he wants his own and chaos ensues. Soon the boys realize that they have real people who were sucked from their real lives not toys in their possession. They realize the best thing to do is to send them back through the cupboard.

This little book was a fun read. It doesn’t really seem dated at all even though it is over 30 years old. Omri and Patrick act like real little boys who want what they want no matter the consequences. Their adventures with Little Bear and Boone are a little dangerous and a lot exciting. I really enjoyed how the boys differed in their reactions to the toys coming to life. Omri accepted the responsibility and Patrick was less cautious and more reckless with them. But in the end the boys make the right decision for everyone even if it isn’t the easiest.

18. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor, 256 pages, read by Angie, on 10/18/2012

Raine and her mother are spending the summer at Sparrow Road and Raine is not happy about it. She doesn’t want to leave her Grandpa Mac in Milwaukee and can’t understand why her mom wants to be the housekeeper for an artists’ retreat for the summer. Sparrow Road is very different; it was a mansion that became an orphanage that become a summer retreat for artists. It is run by creepy Viktor, the Iceberg, and houses an eclectic mix of artists: Josie the loud, crazy quilter, Diego the big bear of a collage maker, Lillian the old piano teacher and poet and Eleanor the grumpy essay writer. Soon Raine is discovering the history of Sparrow Hill and making new friends with artists. She also discovers the reason her mom brought her to the country for the summer.

Sparrow Road sucked me in. I loved Raine’s voice and the realness of her character. I liked the unique cast of characters for this book and how they all ended up creating a family. The description mentions how mysterious and creepy Sparrow Road is and I originally thought this would be more about that. But it wasn’t. It is a book about growing up, accepting change, discovering who you are and what your place is in the world and about being part of a community. It was very successful and a delight to read.

18. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy · Tags:

Hexed (Iron Druid Chronicles # 2) by Kevin Hearne, 307 pages, read by Tammy, on 10/15/2012

Iron Druid Series book 2

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care for witches. But he’s agreed to make a non-aggression treaty with the local coven when a new coven of witches shows up in Arizona. The new coven has a dark history on the German side of World War II and a bad history with both Atticus and the local coven members.

With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants arriving from Las Vegas and two dangerous Celtic goddesses vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the German witch hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, his faithful hound Oberon and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to show the witchy women they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

17. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki

Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens, 366 pages, read by Nikki, on 10/11/2012

Kiera and Denny move to Seattle so Denny can start a new dream internship and Kiera can finish college with her new scholarship. They become roommates with Dennys long ago friend Kellan, who is a lead singer in a rock band. Denny is asked to go on an out of state job for 2 months. During that 2 months everything changes.

This was one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. Besides the fact that it is almost to descriptive in everything except for the sex scenes, the relationships between all the characters was by far the most frustrating. I finished the book angry basically. There are 2 books following these, and I haven’t decided just yet if I’m up for more frustration. But most likely I’ll give in and read the other 2.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy

Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles # 1) by Kevin Hearne, 304 pages, read by Tammy, on 10/06/2012

Iron Druid series # 1. A new series that mixes ancient religions and modern life. Join Atticus, the only surviving Druid, (yes, he’s over 2,000 years old) and his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon as they try to blend in to modern day life in Arizona. Unexpected visits from the gods of old stir up trouble and Atticus has to call on his lawyers from a specialized law firm that help unique clients. Since they are werewolves and a vampire (somebody has to work the night shift) they are experts in following modern law and explaining away weird goo from a dead deity on the front lawn.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Cats, Tammy · Tags: ,

The Life and Love of Cats by Lewis Blackwell , 213 pages, read by Tammy, on 10/13/2012

Coffee table book with huge beautiful photos of cats and kittens including close ups of eyes, tails, noses etc., whatever will relate to the writing on the accompanying page. The history of cats from recorded history forward is discussed and all sorts of writing and thoughts about cats and living with cats.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Fiction, Tracy

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci, 260 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/16/2012

It’s a little early for a Christmas story but this book is also a train story. Tom Langdon decided to take the slow unstressful train trip across country to spend Christmas with his girlfriend. He is also a writer and is writing an article on trains and the people you meet along the way. Things don’t turn out as stress free as he hoped but he does meet some interesting people on board. David Baldacci did his research on the Amtrak train system and history so you learn a lot about it. I love trains so I’m ready to take a trip anywhere. It’s a fun read with a few surprises.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Cats, Tammy · Tags: ,

The Cat's Pajamas: 101 of the World's Cutest Cats by Rachael Hale, 223 pages, read by Tammy, on 10/12/2012

A beautiful collection of photographs of all different kinds of cats and kittens with short descriptions of the history of the breed including more recent American cat breeds. Also has quotes about cats and cat-owners and of course photos of cats in cute poses.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins, 544 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/13/2012

So this is interesting: a YA companion to Ellen Hopkins’s (very) adult book, Triangles. Triangles followed three women whose lives converge and transmute in unexpected ways. Tilt gives us the perspective of their teenaged children. There’s Shane, Marissa’s son, who is openly gay and falling in love for the first time. He has a sister, Shelby, who was born with a degenerative disease and, at the age of four, has already outlived doctor’s predictions. And then his new boyfriend reveals that he has HIV…There’s Harley, Andrea’s daughter and Shane’s cousin. She’s 14 and desperate to be older and more sophisticated. When her father moves back to Reno to settle down with his new girlfriend (Cassie) and her son (Chad), Harley falls for older, bad-boy Chad and begins to find herself doing things to impress him that would have shocked her even months earlier. While Chad may not be interested in taking advantage of an eager Harley, he has despicable friends who are more than willing. Finally, there’s Mikayla, Holly’s daughter, who is 16 and head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend Dylan. Mikayla gets herself in trouble over and over just to be with the boy she truly believes she loves and believes loves her. Then she begins missing her period…
These three teens have little in common with one another, save for the connections their families have. For those of us who have read Triangles, the outcomes of these three stories are not much of a surprise, but for those unfamiliar with the lives of these families, the realizations will be all that much more heart-breaking. I must say that I didn’t love this as much as some of Hopkin’s other work, but I can’t really put my finger on why. Perhaps because I have more difficulty seeing a unifying theme amongst the characters, save for it being a time of “firsts” in their lives. Hopkins’ other novels seem more focused. Nevertheless, there is plenty for teen readers to relate to here. Each character is well-drawn and their problems are not nearly as unique as the character appears to believe (such is adolescence!), but each are treated with equal weight. I personally liked seeing the “other side” of the Triangles story and think it would be fascinating to see the pair of books used in a mother-daughter book group. I hope that adults who read and identified with Triangles will pick up Tilt and see how the teens react while the adults are absorbed in their own troubles.

16. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer, 336 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/05/2012

Kathryn and Brooke are alike in many ways. They’re in the same grade, they’re both in choir and they’re both overachievers. They’re also very, very different. Kathryn is petite and shy. Brooke is tall and gregarious. Kathryn is a soprano and Brooke is an alto. Kathryn is a bit of a loner. Brooke is an “a-lister”. It is honors choir that brings them together and music that solidifies their bond. It is something else entirely that tears them apart and leaves Kathryn with a black eye following their junior year Homecoming dance. How could things go so wrong? It’s never as simple as it seems.
This book explores one of the more painful subjects that seems to be inevitable for the vast majority of high school girls: the bestie-turned-worst-enemy scenario. It’s so much worse than standard, mindless bullying. Each party knows the other’s secrets and weaknesses. Each party can use such knowledge to do damage, should they so choose. Since this is high school and other ill-meaning people are involved, the rift between the two becomes legendary, leaving Kathryn a social pariah. Kathryn would love to simply keep her head down and bide her time until graduation, but both girls are in the running to win a national singing contest and are now direct competitors with equally good chances of winning. This forces each of them to examine the events that led them to this stressful state. Neither girl is completely innocent and neither is truly guilty either. Really, the focus is more on the shades of grey in the relationship between two very different people. Readers will likely enjoy seeing both sides of the issue, if they don’t wind up completely frustrated by the devastating misunderstandings that plague this particular friendship.

15. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Andrea, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, 371 pages, read by Andrea, on 10/12/2012

After reading the dustcover, I thought this book would have a lot more about Louise Brooks, who really was a rebellious woman of Hollywood in the 1920’s and her early days before becoming famous in New York attending Denishawn School of Dancing not all about her fictional chaperone, Cora. This book centered upon the themes of life lessons and 1920’s history. Cora is Louise’s chaperone in New York right as the socially acceptable ways of life are beginning to change. Although both women are from Wichita, their personalities are like day and night. While Cora is a socially upright woman with very high moral standards, Louise is a young girl with free, liberal views on life.

As Cora’s time in New York progresses, she learns more about herself than she ever thought possible. Louise, although differing in beliefs and ideals, teaches Cora about accepting modern thought. From contraceptive methods for women to lifting prohibition, everything that Cora once denounced doesn’t seem so socially unacceptable in her eyes any longer. Despite the pressure to conform to the popular thoughts of her friends once she returns to Wichita, Cora is able to accept others and herself. This was a good book that balanced the real life of Louise Brooks with a little fiction and what life was really like for people with unconventional thought in the 1920s.

15. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach, Antonio Javier Caparo (Illustrator) , 272 pages, read by Angie, on 10/10/2012

The Barker boys (Simon, Henry and Jake) have just moved from Chicago to Superstition, Arizona. One day their cat Josie runs off and they follow her up Superstition Mountain even though they have been repeatedly warned never to go into the mountains. They don’t find Josie but they do find three skulls lined up looking into a canyon. Back in Superstition, with new friend Delilah, they start researching the mountain and discover that lots of people have died and gone missing there. They go back up the mountain one more time to find the skulls and return them to town for identification.

This is a fast-paced mystery that I am sure kids will enjoy. I thought the mystery was a little too simple and obvious and wanted more character growth by the boys. In the beginning we are told that Simon is a know-it-all with a scientific mind, Henry likes to use big words and Jake doesn’t like to be called a baby and can go from happy to angry very quickly. Those characteristics didn’t really change at all throughout the book. I did like that the boys struggled with lying to their parents and not doing what they are told (even though it doesn’t stop them). I really wanted more closure for the ending even though I know this is the beginning of a series. Not bad but could have been better.

15. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland #2) by Catherynne M. Valente, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 10/12/2012

Oh September, how I have missed you and your delightful adventures. I must admit that I believe Catherynne Valente has created one of the best series I have read in a long time with this one. This book picks up a year after The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. September has gotten a bit older and a bit wiser and she is no longer the completely heartless child she once was. She is now 13 and everyone knows your heart starts to grow when you are a teenager. So September thinks about things a little more and she feels for people a little more. But she is still herself and still yearns for the adventures she had in Fairyland and the friends she left behind.

So September finds her way back to Fairyland and it isn’t as she left it. There are problems there of her creation. She vanquished the Marquess and left a power vacuum in her place. So September must travel beneath Fairyland to restore the magic to the world. There she discovers a world of shadows. She finds her own shadow and the shadows of her friends. But shadows are not like us; they are our wilder more heartless selves and September’s shadow, Halloween, is no different. She rules Fairyland Below and is stealing the shadows from above. September must restore the shadows before the worlds collapse.

I think this book is just as charming and wonderful as the last, but it is a bit different. September is a little more mature and the book deals with more mature issues like forgiveness and first kisses. It might not be as whimsical but it is just as dark and wonderful. I love that September is getting older and more mature. I love that she has to stop and think about things now instead of just rushing in. But I also love that September hasn’t changed that much in the year and is still the same girl who longs for adventure and friendships. She is a proper heroine and one I could definitely read more about.

15. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Mystery

Vanished by Sheela Chari , 336 pages, read by Angie, on 10/14/2012

Neela dreams of being a veena player, but she gets stage fright. Then her grandma sends her a mysterious veena and she starts to get better. But the veena is stolen and Neela learns that it is cursed. She must work with her friends to discover who stole the veena and what the curse really means.

I really enjoyed the way the author successfully wove Indian culture into this story. It makes for a very nice multicultural tale that I think kids will enjoy. The vanishing veena is a good mystery and there were enough twists and turns to keep the reader interested. However, the plot did get a little convoluted at times. There is a lot going on in this book and a lot of characters to figure out. Sometimes it worked really well and other times it was a mess. But overall this was a pretty decent mystery.

14. October 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Historical Fiction, Tracy

God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield, 816 pages, read by Tracy, on 10/14/2012

I read this book years ago but never read the second and third parts of this saga of the Swann dynasty. So back to the beginning of the story of Adam Swann who after retiring from the British military in 1858 decides to start his own business delivering goods by horse and cart in Victorian England. He meets and weds Henrietta who is more than happy to leave her controlling and unfeeling father. It’s a long story but Delderfield has a way with words. Like Charles Dickens he introduces several interesting characters along the way and doesn’t gloss over the living conditions of the times. Now onto the next story “Theirs Was the Kingdom”.