31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira · Tags: , , ,

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Kira, on 01/27/2013

 

scorpioraces

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

Every November, on the Island of Thisby, riders compete in the Scorpio Races. They attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Others die – because the Water Horses, though fast, are man eating monster horses.

The writing is gorgeous and the island itself seems like a character, Stiefvater creates very atmospheric locations.  There is something here for everyone, adventure, love (NOT ROMANCE), family relationships.  This might be Stiefvaters best yet!

scorpioraces2

31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction

Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles #5) by Kevin Hearne, read by Angie, on 01/31/2013

Our favorite druid Atticus and his apprentice Granuaile have spent the last 12 years training so that Granuaile can become a full-fledged druid. This means 12 years have passed since the events in the last book. Granuaile has become a bad ass in the past few years and can pretty much take on anyone. The last thing in the creation of a new druid is binding that person to Gaia. The problem is that the process takes three months and everyone now knows Atticus isn’t dead. So every enemy he has ever made is out to get him and the binding process keeps getting interrupted. You have Bacchus and Loki and vampires and dark elves all out to get rid of the Iron Druid. Plus there are a couple of gods ready to call in favors on Atticus.

This book is much better than the last one which I thought was a bit of a mess. The dialogue between Atticus, Granuaile and Oberon (my favorite character ever!) is sharp and whitty and a lot of fun to read. With all the enemies out to get them, Atticus and company seem to jump from one fight to another. I think it is a little crazy how many factions are after him in this book, but it does make for an exciting read.

I do think the story gets a little bogged down with Hearne’s lectures. That is really all I can think to call them. He lectures on the different gods and pantheons; he comments on the modern world and social issues; I am not sure there is any topic he doesn’t let his opinion be know on. These lectures slow the story and stop the forward progression. I wish he would learn to weave these in a bit better or just control himself.

This is a fun series and I am can’t wait to see where Atticus and Granuaile find themselves next.

31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Jane, Thriller/Suspense

Heart of a Killer by Jaci Burton, read by Jane, on 01/30/2013

 Before the Special Forces hero has even unpacked his bags from twelve years of active duty, he’s embroiled in murder – corpses bearing the brutal trademark he’s seen only once before – on the worst night of his life. The last time Detective Anna Pallino saw Dante Renaldi, they were in love. Now, he’s part of the connection to a string of fresh homicides and a horrible assault Anna only survived thanks to him. More than anything, Anna wants to trust Dante. But as the bodies and the coincidences stack up, Anna will have to decide, and fast: Is the man she owes her life to the very same one who wants her dead?
31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , ,

The Wives: The Women Behind Russia's Literary Giants by Alexandra Popoff , read by Tammy, on 01/31/2013

wivesA collection of brief biographys of six Russian women who made great contributions to literature through supporting their husbands writing careers. Some are well-known authors such as Tolstoy and Dostevsky while others are lesser known authors and poets. Sophia Tolstoy, Vera Nabokov, Elena Bulgakov, Nadezdha Mandelstam, Anna Dostevsky, and Natalya Solzhenitsyn all assisted in a variety of ways including being stenographers, typists, editors, researchers, translators and even publishers. These brave ladies also faced adversity in financial circumstances and often under a restrictive government many of them battled censorship and even risked their lives to preserve her husbands writings, documents and important papers for the future.

This seems to be a unique trait among Russian women to so completely throw themselves into their husbands work. Often these ladies were the writers’ intellectual match and often made invaluable contributions and suggestions during the creative process as well as serving as an example of women’s thoughts and feelings. At Dostevsky’s request Anna kept a daily journal of her activities, thoughts and feelings and he read these to gain a better understanding of a female perspective.

They established a tradition all their own, unmatched in the West. Sometimes they were celebrated for their contributions during their lifetime and sometimes they were ridiculed and popularly believed to be holding their husband back. Here are the stories of the writing of some of the world’s greatest literature through the wives’ eyes.

31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Romance

The Husband List by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly, read by Melody, on 01/23/2013

All hail the queen of fluff, Janet Evanovich.  Do you the reader like books with well-drawn, predictable characters, sparkling dialogue that has nothing to say, and an ending, though mildly satisfying, that you can see from page 20?  Then I have the book for you, The Husband List by the prolific bestselling author Janet Evanovich.  This is the  printed version of a marshmallow peep, sweet, likable, and all air and sugar.  I apologize to the very large fan base of Ms. Evanovich but she is just not for me.  I found the premise of a headstrong society heiress in 1894 New York with an overbearing mother and titled unwanted suitor irresistible even though I have never liked anything else by the author.  I should have resisted.  I did manage to finish the book so I didn’t loathe it  but I could have spent my time reading something so much more worthwhile.  Don’t get me wrong, I am no book elitist.  I just like a different sort of book trash.  Having said all that, many people will love The Husband List.  Evanovich is a talented writer with a deft hand at plot development and likable characters, that is why she sells a bazillion books. Just not to me.

31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kira · Tags:

Shadow of night by Deborah Harkness., read by Kira, on 01/27/2013

shadow of nightThe adventures of Diana Bishop Royden de Clairmont, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, continue, as she and husband Matthew time travel back to Elizabethan England.  Diana seeks a witch to tutor her, and they also search for the lost book Ashmole 782.

The time period is less friendly to women, and at first, it seemed like Diana was needing to be rescued and taken care of too much, but then, the she would take some risky action that you thought would be problematic, but turned out to be the correct solution, standing up to Mathew on numerous occasions.

 

I enjoyed visiting with historical characters such as Kit Marlowe and Walter Raleigh from the School of Night as well as traveling to Prague and the court of Rudolf II, the holy Roman emperor and king of Bohemia.

I also enjoyed the consequences of time travel showing up in small modern day changes.

 

 

31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: History, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: , , , ,

Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq by Farnaz Fassihi, read by Tammy, on 01/30/2013

waitingWall Street Journal’s Middle East correspondent, Farnaz Fassihi, relates her interactions and interviews with the citizens of Iraq and how they are dealing with the affects of the US/Iraq war since 2003. She relates stories mainly from the ordinary working and middle class people she mets while living in Iraq. See the war through their eyes, everyone from a middle class art gallery owner to taxi drivers to radical teenagers.

31. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Tammy

Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern , read by Tammy, on 01/23/2013

music of the spheresSet in England during the French Revolution you follow the exploits of a British government worker, Jonathan Absey tasked with reviewing documents for messages to or from spies for France. Jonathan becomes convinced that he has a found spies being sheltered by a wealthy French immigrant family and worse that they may be sheltering a murderer who is stalking London’s streets looking for young, red-haired women. But no one will listen to him and his frustration and desperation grows because he believes this serial killer may be the murderer of his only daughter!

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

Finally by Wendy Mass, read by Leslie, on 01/21/2013

Finally (Willow Falls, #2)

After her twelfth birthday, Rory checks off a list of things she is finally allowed to do, but unexpected consequences interfere with her involvement in the movie being shot at her school, while a weird prediction starts to make sense.

I read the three books in this series out of order and I still do not have the answers to all the questions that have cropped up as a result.  I enjoyed the book, girls, especially, will enjoy reading it.  There is light romance as the girls show an interest in boys for the first time.  There is coming-of-age angst as Rory looks forward to and realizes that all of her goals as a 12 year-old are not what she imagines them to be.  But the questions I have as a result of reading them out of order will hopefully be answered eventually.  How did Rory manage to snag a movie star boyfriend in the 3rd book when they weren’t at the end of the 2nd one, why do 2 of the characters write on a blackboard to each other in the 3rd book, and probably a couple of others I don’t remember now.  These should have been explained in the 2nd book!  I guess that’s one way of bringing the reader back.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson, read by Leslie, on 01/16/2013

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns, #2)

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

I enjoyed this second book of the series much more than the first.  While the first really focused on the religious aspect of the land and characters, this one focuses more on the political intrigue of a person in power.  And it is more difficult when that person is a 17 year old queen, who never imagined she would be in this position.  I cannot wait for the next book.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery, Teen Books

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter, read by Leslie, on 01/13/2013

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls, #5)

When seventeen-year-old Cammie wakes up in a convent high in the Alps, she slowly comes to realize that she’s been tortured, the last four months have been erased from her mind, and an ancient terrorist organization is hunting for her.

I really like this quirky little series by Ally Carter.  Who would ever imagine a series of schools that train young girls to become spies for their country?  Cammie awakes to find that she is missing her whole summer and part of her senior year in spy school and spends her time trying to make up her school work while trying to recover her memory.  This book takes us to many different locales in the pursuit of the truth.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead, read by Leslie, on 01/07/2013

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, #2)

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

In this next installment of the companion series to the Vampire Academy series by Mead, we get to see how hard it is to keep the vampires and their half-human, half-vampire offspring, separate and secret from the human population.  Sydney is finding it harder and harder to keep her emotions under control.  She should be very cautious about becoming close to them but as she spends more time with them, she finds herself becoming more entangled in their lives.  A very fun series that is well written and keeps you looking forward to the next book.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel

Channel Zero: The Complete Collection by Brian Wood, read by Courtney, on 01/26/2013

Channel Zero is a very early work by Brian Wood (of DMZ fame). How I managed to read two books in a row regarding pirate media (I just read Cory Doctorow’s excellent “Pirate Cinema”) is beyond me, but I regret nothing. This graphic novel was written in the ’90′s, but still feels fresh and relevant today. Perhaps even more so. In the world of Channel Zero, the US has passed “The Clean Bill”, which restricts all media to that which is deemed “appropriate” by the US government. Everything is censored and filtered through approved outlets, which means that the American public is not only denied perspective, they are denied their first amendment rights. Jennie 2.5 is pissed off. She’s mad enough to commandeer the equipment and security necessary to interrupt state-sponsored broadcasts with her own incendiary pirate broadcasts. She quickly becomes a cult hero to the people and the state’s biggest enemy.
Stylistically, this is one of the more original graphic novels I’ve come across. The solid black and white makes for a jarring and stark narrative. Jennie’s story is interspersed with government propaganda and bios of her successors. The story is not entirely linear, but it works in this context. It also makes me want to go finish reading the rest of DMZ. I swear Brian Wood might just be a touch psychic and I feel as though I ought to be prepared.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, NonFiction

Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued From the Past by Ransom Riggs, read by Courtney, on 01/24/2013

I am admittedly a huge fan of vintage ephemera (a quick glance at my Pinterest profile will confirm this), so it’s no surprise to me that I wound up loving this collection of “found” photographs. Ransom Riggs (of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” fame) is a collector of vintage photos, many of them dug up from antique stores and flea markets. Their original owners are unknown, as are their settings, subjects and contexts. The only clues to these photos are the inscriptions written on them by either the photographers or the subjects themselves. It is this juxtaposition of the visual and the brief hints of clues that make this an absorbing read. The book is broken up into multiple thematic chapters, such as “Clowning Around” and “Life During Wartime”. Most heartbreaking, however, is the chapter simply titled “Janet Lee”. An introduction and afterward by the author bookend this brilliant collection and bring it all together. Riggs exhorts us to save as many printed pictures as we can. In this digital age, these gems are becoming an increasing rarity. The images may fade over time, but they are never completely gone. Difficult to say the same for that file you accidentally deleted, right?

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Teen Books

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, read by Courtney, on 01/24/2013

Calling all remixers, hackers, activists, freedom fighters and rebels! Your book has arrived. Cory Doctorow hits it out of the park again with another scathing indictment of government surveillance and corruption. Our protagonist, Trent (aka Cecil B. DeVil), is your average teenaged bloke. His main distinguishing characteristic involves his obsession with remixing the films of his favorite movie star. When his hobby gets his entire family kicked off the internet for copyright violations, Trent/Cecil decides to leave home and head for London. In London, he meets a colorful array of characters, including the unflappable Jem, who teaches Cecil all he needs to know about Squatter’s Rights and dumpster-diving (i.e. how to be homeless with class). Eventually, Cecil gets a new laptop and begins to remix again. He’s getting increasingly popular online and is developing something of a fanbase. He joins up with a couple of other remix artists and become part of a network of “pirate cinemas” (film screenings in random locations like graveyards and abandoned sewers) across London. As his popularity increases, so too does his rap sheet. The British government is in the process of passing even more draconian copyright laws and they (or, rather, the large media corporations who hold the rights to Cecil’s downloads and have massive influence at the governmental level) are not happy with Cecil’s work. Cecil and co. find themselves drawn into the fight against criminalizing artists who use previously copywritten material as their artistic medium. Is Cecil a criminal? It certainly doesn’t appear as such. He merely views his art as putting things together that no one ever thought to combine before. And honestly, is that really so different from any other modern art form? Isn’t everything a remix at this point?
This book is every bit as much a call to action as it is a fun, well-written coming-of-age/speculative narrative. Cecil grows as a person, meets other fascinating and well-written characters, and learns a lot. Readers will learn something new, guaranteed. The book may be set in the not-too-distant future, but it’s certainly not a future that would require binoculars or any other corrective lens. This is exactly where we (not just Britain, but every copyright-obsessed nation) are headed. And it isn’t pretty.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, read by Courtney, on 01/16/2013

First things first: I was really looking forward to this one. It all sounded like so much fun…Alice in Wonderland plus zombies. How could it go wrong? After a few hundred pages, I now know better.
Alice’s father has always been afraid of monsters that no one else can seem to see. He won’t let the family out of the house after dark, no matter how badly it impacts their lives. On Alice’s birthday, she asks for one thing: for the whole family to attend her little sister’s dance evening dance recital. After considerable cajoling, their father agrees. On the ride home from the recital, Alice’s father spots his mysterious monsters and manages to crash the car. Everyone except for Alice dies. While in the hospital, she meets a girl named Kat who will later become Alice’s BFF. When the school year rolls around, Alice is living with her grandparents and going to a new school. She immediately becomes entranced by bad boy Cole, in spite her inner voice telling her to stay away. Around the same time, Alice is noticing that she is seeing and smelling things that shouldn’t exist. Creatures that lurk in the dark. Creatures that no one else can seem to see. Students are known to have gone missing and the group of kids that Cole hangs out with always seem to be battle-scarred. Naturally, Alice is determined to get to the bottom of all this. As the title implies, Alice discovers that zombies are real, but they exist in the spirit realm and can only be fought there as well. Luckily, Alice has abilities that surpass even the best of the current zombie hunters. So there’s that.
My problems with the book? I had more than a few. I’ll just touch on some of the bigger issues I had. First and foremost, the Alice in Wonderland theme. It was practically non-existent. Aside from the fact that the protagonist’s name is Alice and her pal’s name is Kat, there are very few other parallels to the original. In fact, if it weren’t for the title and the chapter titles, one could easily forget this was supposed to have anything to do with Wonderland at all. It feels like a cheap ploy to pull in fans of more traditional mashups. Second issue: the zombies. Really? Spirit zombies? Zombies that can only be fought in the “spirit realm”? That can’t be seen by the average person? Takes most of the “zombie” out of the zombies. I mean, they can’t even kill them by chopping their heads off. And the zombies don’t really eat flesh so much as they consume “goodness”. If it weren’t for their quasi-physical description, they could just as easily have been some other supernatural spooks. A part of me even wondered if this was originally written as a vampire tale, but turned zombie as trends changed. Final issue: the writing. It’s clearly meant to sound like an average teen, but comes across as forced and cumbersome. It’s as though Showalter really wants Alice to be Buffy, but it’s just not going to happen. Alice is constantly questioning the logistics of her situation, which is necessary since nothing would make the slightest lick of sense otherwise. There’s entirely too much telling and not enough showing. When all your exposition comes from one character constantly demanding information, there’s likely an issue with the plot itself. I’ll be passing on the sequels.

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Literary Fiction, Short Stories

We Are What We Pretend To Be: The First and Last Works by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., read by Courtney, on 01/14/2013

This slim volume covers two previously unpublished Vonnegut works. The first, “Basic Training”, is a very early novella, written a few years before “Player Piano”. “Basic Training” follows young Haley to his relative’s farm after the death of his parents. The head of the family is known as The General and runs the family in military fashion. The second half of the book is a unfinished novel entitled “If God Were Alive Today”. It is classic late Vonnegut, bitter, ironic and unabashedly honest. The protagonist, Gil Berman, is a self-proclaimed stand-up comedian who tackles everything from politics to morals to social mores and just about everything in between. Both works are semi-autobiographical, which should come as no surprise to any Vonnegut fan.
Both stories are interesting from a contextual point of view. I’ve read just about every Vonnegut book I’ve been able to get my hands on. It’s fascinating to see the development between the early and late Vonnegut writings, even if they can’t really hold a candle to the extant works. I do wish, however, that he had had a chance to finish “If God Were Alive Today”. Great potential there. Many classic Vonnegut-isms.  Not, however, for the Vonnegut initiate.

 

 

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

Then Again Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume, read by Lisa, on 01/30/2013

judy blumeUnable to accept or explain his family’s newly acquired wealth, his growing interest in sex, and a friend’s shoplifting habit, a thirteen-year-old finds the pains in his stomach getting worse and worse.
30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah · Tags:

Barn Boot Blues by Catherine Friend, read by Sarah, on 01/26/2013

hw7.plWhat if your parents got a crazy idea that they can manage a small farm in the middle of nowhere, and they drag you away from the only life you ever knew in the bustle of the city?  That is exactly what happens to 12 year old Taylor McNamara just before starting school.  Will the chicken poop flying everywhere and the bloating sheep get her down?  Will she survive embarrassing moments of farm mishaps that leave their evidence on her stylish clothing?  Will her friends help her succeed in convincing her parents that the farm life is not for them?

Taylor was a believable pre-teen who only wanted to be accepted in her new school, be able to make friends, and survive the chore of taking care of 74 farm animals.  Her new friends are great; trying to help her in any way that they can.  Taylor’s parents sound like typical adults who try something new, discover it is going to be stressful, and forget about the kid for a while.  I like how the author let you in on the parents’ relationship throughout the story, too.  All in all, it was a good book that I would recommend for tweens (especially if they are interested in the perils of farm life!)

30. January 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Corbenic by Catherine Fisher, read by Angie, on 01/29/2013

Cal is tired of living with his drunken mother. He is going to have a new life with his uncle and leave all the sorrow and misery behind. Unfortunately, he gets off at the wrong train stop on his way to his uncle’s. He stumbles upon Corbenic and the Castle. At the Castle there is a party going on and Cal is invited. At the end of the night there is a procession of a staff and a cup. He is asked by the King what he saw and he denies seeing anything believing the wine he drank has made him like his mother. After he gets to his uncle’s he settles into a more comfortable life. He meets a group of medieval reenactors and joins their company. They urge him to try and find Corbenic again. Cal is reluctant until tragedy strikes. It then becomes his mission to rediscover Corbenic and makes amends.

This was a strange little book. I am not really sure how I feel about it. It is an intriguing story but it really bored me. I found myself skimming a lot of it and forcing myself to finish it. I didn’t really care about Cal or his journey and I am still a little unclear about what really happened at the end.