31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction

How to talk about books you haven't read. by Pierre Bayard , 185 pages, read by Kira, on 07/25/2012

With tongue in cheek, Literature professor Pierre Bayard offers a pseudo-defense of the “art of nonreading”.

Really, who has actually read all of Proust’s  Remembrance of Things Past – at 1.2 million words (vol 1 of 7 is 1360 pages long).

Bayard likes to quote Oscar Wilde’s ” I never read a book I must review; it prejudices you so”.  I think there’s some critique of postmodernism/deconstructionism, but I don’t know enough about the topic to be sure.  Is it more important to be aware of a given book’s “cultural location” than to actually have read it?  If you’re curious, check out this book.

31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science

Zoobiquity sound recording : what animals can teach us about health and the science of healing by Natterson-Horowitz, Barbara and Kathryn Bowers, 308 pages, read by Kira, on 11/14/2012

What do you call a physician? a doctor that only treat 1 species.  Ha!   This joke informs the divide between human doctors and doctors that treat animals aka veterinarians.

Natterson-Horowitz and Bowers suggest we have a lot of scientific/biological information we can learn from the veterinarians.  Monkeys also suffer cardiac arrest, octopi and stallions also self-mutilate.  If we know how to treat these problems in animals, surely some of this knowledge can be transferred to human patients.  It appears that dinosaurs got brain cancer, so knowing that cancer has been around for so long may shed light on what causes and how to treat diseases like cancer.

If you like Temple Grandin, you might like the book Zoobiquity.

31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Hammered by Kevin Hearne, 326 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/30/2012

Book 3 of the Iron Druid series. Not my favorite of the stories so far. Very little time was spent with Oberon or the widow next door, so less humor in this book than the first two. Despite warnings from two other deities about dire consequences if he continues on his current path, Atticus keeps his word to Leif, his vampire lawyer, to transport Leif and several others to Asgard. Leif and his friends want to kill Thor (yes, Thor the Norse god of thunder)for crimes he commented against them. Each member of the traveling party tells the story of why he is on this revenge quest to the rest of the group and a lot is learned about each one, but especially Leif.

Will Leif get his revenge? Will any of Atticus’ party survive the journey?

31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Harbinger by Sarah Wilson Etienne, 309 pages, read by Courtney, on 12/12/2012

After her panic attacks/hallucinations and nightmares get too bad, Faye’s parents ship her off to Holbrook Academy. It’s really more of a prison than a school and residents are locked in their rooms at night, pepper-sprayed when they talk back and drugged indiscriminately. Faye and the rest of her “Family” (a seemingly random group of 5 students) seem different from the rest of the kids though, particularly since they keep waking up with their formerly locked windows open and their hands stained red. Only one member of the Family is really set apart and Faye begins to suspect that he may know much more than he is letting on. In fact, Faye is fairly certain that he might be trying to kill everyone.
While this book is, for the most part, rather entertaining and unusual, it is also a bit of a hot mess. The setting is somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Oil has peaked out and most forests have been clear-cut. Holbrook Academy, however, appears to have avoided the worst of the clear-cutting as it is heavily wooded (evidently a rare sight in this world). The headmistress of the academy, Dr. Mordoch, is constantly spouting Buddhist phrases that somehow support the “goals” of the school. It’s honestly the first time Buddhism has ever sinister to me. Anyway, the Buddhist symbolism is more or less completely dropped by the time the second half of the book rolls around. And so does the tone. Ecological themes begin to play an increasingly important role and then an ancient culture comes into play. I get where the author was headed with some of this stuff, but it still feels muddled and far-fetched. Bonus points, however, for the author’s notes indicating that the ancient race mentioned in the book did actually exist (though very little appears to be known about them). An interesting debut novel though, flaws and all.

31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Literary Fiction, Tracy

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg, 529 pages, read by Tracy, on 12/31/2012

It’s 1946 and World War II has ended. The residents of Elmwood Springs Missouri are living the simple life just like most small towns. At 9:30 AM there is a half hour radio show hosted by Neighbor Dorothy that is broadcasted all over Missouri.  This radio show is full of music, local news, letters from fans with recipes and an occasional guest author.  Dorothy is a wife, mother and the best cake baker in town. The people of the town are the subject of this book and you can’t help but feel like you know them or someone like them even if you don’t live in a small town. People pass through the town and some have a big effect on the townspeople. A gospel singing family and a tractor salesman with dreams of making life better for Missourians. This book is hard to put down and when it ends in the year 2000 you wish there was more. Fannie Flagg is an amazing author.

31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, NonFiction, True Crime

In Broad Daylight by Harry N. MacLean , 416 pages, read by Angie, on 12/29/2012

Ken Rex McElroy terrorized the town of Skidmore and several counties in Northwest Missouri for decades. He robbed, raped, burned, shot and maimed the citizens of the area. No matter how many times he was arrested he was never convicted of any crime. He and his large family basically terrorized the entire population. He was finally convicted of the shooting of Bo Bowencamp in 1981, however, he was not put in jail. The people of Skidmore were fed up with the inability of the law to do anything to help them. So on July 10, 1981 McElroy was shot while sitting in his truck on the main street of Skidmore. There were dozens of witnesses, but no one will say who did the shooting. To this day none of the townspeople have identified the shooters or been prosecuted for the crime.

I went to college in Maryville, Missouri which is only about 20 minutes from Skidmore. My criminal justice professor talked about this case during class and knew the people involved. I have always been fascinated by the Skidmore story. This was a community that law enforcement had failed. They were finally at the end of their rope and took the law into their own hands. Were they vigilantes? Maybe. Were they people without any hope? Definitely.

Harry Maclean tells the story of Ken Rex McElroy from childhood until his death. I think he does a good job of being impartial to the story. If anything he does take a few jabs at the ineffectual law enforcement of the area. It is a fascinating story and Maclean does a good job of telling it. My only complaint of the book is the extra filler information. Maclean seems to be fascinated with describing the weather or the crops or what happens at that time of year. Every dozen pages or so there is a passage on farming and the weather. It wasn’t really necessary and didn’t add anything to the story. I ended up skipping those parts for the majority of the book. However, that doesn’t take away from the story. McElroy is a very interesting character and this book is definitely a page turner.

31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, History, NonFiction

The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty by G.J. Meyer, 612 pages, read by Angie, on 12/28/2012

There is something so interesting and compelling about the Tudors. It seems like we can’t get enough of them. There are tons of books, movies and tv shows about the family or set in that time period. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I will forever be at the forefront of interesting historical characters. The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty is a truly fascinating book. It takes us through the entire history of the Tudor dynasty from Henry VII to James I taking the throne. This family did not rule that long in the grand scheme of things, but their rule was turbulent, bloody and full of changes for the people of England.

The rule of Henry VIII takes up the majority of this book. His rule might not have been the longest (that was Elizabeth), but it definitely brought about the most change and the most bloodshed. Henry is probably best known for his wives, but that is not his true legacy. His true legacy is the Church of England. Henry systematically destroyed the Catholic church in England and remade it into the church of his heart. He stripped monasteries, abbeys and churches of their wealth and lands. He remade the clergy to follow his beliefs and persecuted and killed those that didn’t follow him.

Henry’s reign was followed by his son Edward who was even more evangelical. Then came Bloody Mary, who actually wasn’t as bloody as some. She brought back the Catholic Church and persecuted the Protestants. Her reign was a short five years however. It was Elizabeth that was the longest lasting of the Tudors. She reigned for 45 years. It appears that her turbulent childhood made her reign one of survival. She resurrected the Protestant church and continued the persecution of the Catholics; however, she was not as zealous as her father and brother. Together this family remade England into something different. They created and church without wealth, an aristocracy that became extremely wealthy off the spoils of the Catholic church and a population that was poorer and less taken care of then at any time in history.

28. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Science, Self Help

How children succeed : grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. by Paul Tough. , 231 pages, read by Kira, on 12/11/2012

Paul Tough explores how we often overestimate how important cognitive skills are compared to self-control or emotion regulation.  These skills turn out to be particularly important for children living in poverty, who experience more trauma than other other segments of society.

These skills Tough terms character include the ability to work hard toward a goal and stick to it in the face of adversity and setbacks, the ability to rebound after failure, the inclination to do one’s best even in the absence of obvious external rewards, the ability to delay gratification. I think of honesty, compassion, kindness, etc as character.

There is an interesting chapter on a low income school with a fabulous award winning chess team.  One of the youngsters becomes a grandmaster as a teenager, obviously a smart kid, but is unable to score well on a high school entrance exam, because he lacks basics like where is Australia on a map.

Tough posits that early interventions will be more successful if they focus less on cognitive skills and more on self-control and emotion regulation.  He also looks at ways children from rich families need to learn how to fail.

Interesting, and I’ll bet you’ll learn quiet a few things about childrearing that you didn’t know before.


28. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman, 173 pages, read by Angie, on 12/28/2012

Meggy Swann is sent to live with a father she has never met in London. He is expecting a boy, not a crippled girl and promptly ignores her. She is alone in a strange city with no friends except a goose. But Meggy is not one to just give in. She makes friends (human ones) and becomes part of the city life. She makes herself useful to her alchemist father and uncovers a murder plot.

Meggy is a crabby, unhappy girl at the beginning of this book. She is not all that likable as she throws insults after insults to just about everyone. But once she settles in to London life she does grow on a reader. I listened to the audiobook and found it quite charming. The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, did an amazing job. Her voice fits with the time period and she was lovely singing the ballads. Cushman did a wonderful job recreating the historical period. She used authentic but not obscure language. Meggy might turn some readers off as she is a bit hard to like, but the book was worth the read.

28. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Science Fiction, Tracy

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, 381 pages, read by Tracy, on 12/28/2012

You’re not suppose to judge a book by it’s cover but I couldn’t resist this book about an unusual book store in San Francisco where patrons show up at odd hours to borrow books. When Clay Jannon is job hunting by foot he sees a help wanted sign at the book store. He is just looking for employment but the owner asks him “What do you seek in these shelves”.  When he is hired to work the late shift he must keep a log of all customers, what they wore and what they said. Clay is like his friends reliant on the internet for most things. His girlfriend works at Google and they use the internet to try to solve a puzzle that the patrons who borrow old and strange books have been working on for years. I really enjoyed this story and how the mystery is solved. Not sure why it’s a science fiction novel.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Vanished by Sheela Chari, 318 pages, read by Leslie, on 12/27/2012


Eleven-year-old Neela must solve the mystery when her beautiful but cursed veena, a classical Indian musical instrument, goes missing.

This was a good book but I thought it was a little long on details, mainly due to the explanation of culture and such.  I don’t know that too many of my students will give it the attention needed to finish.  I enjoyed it and I don’t think that boys will even want to pick it up.


27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Without Tess by Marcella Pixley, 280 pages, read by Leslie, on 12/24/2012

Without Tess

Fifteen-year-old Lizzie Cohen recalls what it was like growing up with her imaginative but disturbed older sister Tess, and how she is striving to reclaim her own life since Tess died.

I thought the book was well written but I don’t think I would recommend this to anyone younger than high school age.  It has a lot of disturbing parts where you aren’t really sure if Tess is mentally disturbed, if she only suffers from anorexia, if she is really what she imagines herself to be.  It takes her sister Lizzie a long time to come to terms with what happened to her sister and you worry if she will ever do so.  This did take me longer to read than I thought it would and definitely not for younger readers.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb, 388 pages, read by Leslie, on 12/19/2012

Delusion in Death (In Death, #35)

When a downtown bar erupts in sudden violence that leaves eighty people dead, Lieutenant Eve Dallas discovers that the bar’s patrons were exposed to a lethal cocktail of chemicals and illegal drugs that a sinister killer administered through an airborne method.

While I am not a big fan of Nora Roberts’ romance books, I do enjoy reading her Death series with Eve Dallas and Roarke.  Just the right amount of romance, intertwined with mystery and the illusion that a rich man is out there for all of us. I hope they never make this into a movie because I think it would never come close to the world I have imagined in my head.  A fast, good read, I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a book with a twist at the end.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal, Teen Books

Hidden by P.C. and Kristin Cast, 302 pages, read by Leslie, on 12/16/2012

Hidden (House of Night, #10)

At last, Zoey has what she wanted: the truth is out. Neferet’s evil has been exposed, and the High Council is no longer on her side — but she’s far from done wreaking havoc in the vampyre world. First, a mysterious fire ravages the stables. Then, Neferet makes a devastating move that will test them all.

A good teen vampire series, with a mix of supernatural creatures to boot, a popular book with teen girls.  I enjoy this series, as I have all the books by the Casts, it keeps me coming back to see if Zoey will ever just be able to enjoy being a teen without all the weight of saving the world on top of it all.  Not too serious, just a touch of teen romance, and vampires, all the things girls like to read.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

Notorius Nineteen by Janet Evanovich, 356 pages, read by Leslie, on 12/12/2012

Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19)

Tracking down a con man who has disappeared from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy, Stephanie Plum calls on Joe Morelli for help when a second felon goes missing from the same hospital.

Another hilarious Stephanie Plum adventure in which she blows up more cars, comes close to being a pink bridesmaid, and too close to fire for her comfort.  Still unsure of being with either Morelli or Ranger but I don’t know if it would change the mood of the books if she actually chose one.  A fun, quick book, I recommend the series to anyone who hasn’t read them.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction

The Handknitter's Yarn Guide: A Visual Reference to Yarns and Fibers by Nikki Gabriel, 176 pages, read by Kira, on 11/14/2012

There is so much for knitters to know about yarn.  And this book is a good place to start – actually I’ve been knitting for about 3-4 years and still learned a lot.  Each page presents several swatches of a yarn and how it knits up – including how it knits up in different basic patterns (eg. garter versus stockinette).

Note they do NOT review by yarn manufacturer, only by gauge (or weight).




27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, 341 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/29/2012

Dead End in Norvelt

In the historic town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the summer of 1962 grounded for various offenses until he is assigned to help an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, typewriting, and countless bloody noses.

In the similar vein of Gary Paulsen, Jack Gantos writes of a childhood summer comprised of strange happenings in his hometown.  I’m currently reading this to my older students and they are finding it to be hilarious, and I did too, in parts.  One question he never answered in the book was whether or not he shot a hole in the screen of the town’s new drive-in theater.  A good recommend to either boys or girls.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry , 373 pages, read by Angie, on 12/24/2012

Joan is the daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The story starts when Joan is 7 years old and sees her brothers and father fight over the kingdom. Her mother is held hostage during their conflict and Joan is conflicted on who to support. She loves her father and her brothers equally especially her brother Richard. As most women of that time Joan is a pawn in the conflict. She is given to William of Sicily as his bride when she is eleven. There’s is not a happy marriage and produces no children. After 15 years William dies leaving Joan a widow and childless. She goes on crusade with her brother Richard as companion to his wife. On Crusade she realizes how selfish and barbaric her brother is. After returning to France she again marries, this time for love.

I am intrigued by historical fiction based on true events and this time period is a fascinating one. However the book was boring and read more like a history text then a novel. The book was a lot of exposition on the battles and the conflicts of the time. Not a lot of time was spent on character development which was disappointing because the characters were fascinating. All of the characters came off as petty and war like. All they did was fight amongst themselves. I wish more time would have been spent on making this book interesting then making sure all the history was present.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott, 269 pages, read by Angie, on 12/23/2012

I am definitely a fan of Elizabeth Scott; I have loved everything I have read of hers. Everything she writes is different, evocative, and intriguing. This book was confusing and annoying at times but I could not put it down.

Ava wakes not knowing where she is or who she is. She is told that she has amnesia and introduced to her mother Jane. Eva does not recognize her mother nor anything about her life. She does have memories and flashes of another Ava and another life. These memories are of a world under surveillance the world where nothing is private and everything is known by the government. In that world Ava is a listener who spies for the government. These memories bring on headaches and confusion and does the appearance of Morgan someone from her memories.

This story is told from Ava’s point of view and because she doesn’t know everything we do not know everything. The book is a confusing mix of this world and the dystopian world of Ava’s memories. Scott never tells the whole story. We are left wondering what exactly is going on. Is it parallel universes, time travel, or something else? This book is not for your average reader. the text is sparse and the narrative bare. If you are a reader who likes to know what is going on you will probably not enjoy this book; however, if you like an interesting story and bit of confusion this just might be the books for you.

27. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Tammy · Tags:

Cold Days by Jim Butcher, 515 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/23/2012

Harry returns as the winter knight. As a knight of the winter court in service to the fairy queen, Mab, Harry gets his first assignment from Mab, but as always when dealing with the fairy court – nothing is exactly as it seems. Multiple powerful forces are manipulating events and manipulating Harry along with them.  Someone is also trying to blow up the island of Demonreach and Harry discovers the island’s true purpose. Of course, all the major events have a deadline for Harry to figure out what’s happening, midnight on his birthday, Halloween.