28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Nikki, Romance

Never Too Far by Abbi Glines, 188 pages, read by Nikki, on 02/27/2013

Never Too FarNever too Far is the sequel to Fallen Too Far. Rush left Blair in her hometown after she told him to leave. Blair is trying to move on and decide what to do with her life now that Rush is no longer part of it. But one day Blaire finds out that that all is going to change.

That’s all I can really say about the book without giving anything away. While I do enjoy the story, the main character, Blair, is probably one of the most annoying female characters I’ve ever read. She’s self loathing, low self esteem, tries to be independent but just ends up having to depend on all of her friends for everything. But mostly she’s so stubborn it’s the point of being ridiculous…and this is coming from a stubborn person here!

28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Jane, Mystery, Teen Books

The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks, 217 pages, read by Jane, on 02/28/2013

  When a teenaged girl with a bad reputation is murdered in New York City’s Central Park after a party, her childhood friend is determined to solve the mystery of who caused her death.
28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Christian, Drama, Fiction, Romance, Sarah · Tags:

Don't Tell a Soul by Tiffany L. Warren, 281 pages, read by Sarah, on 02/21/2013

dont tellThree best friends whose lives are intricately tied together through a Sister to Sister group in their church have been through some real trials in their lives.  A cheating, wife-beating husband, recent divorce, tempting potential lovers, an 11 year old son with serious anger issues, a possible threat to one’s marriage, being stranded on an island in a storm with the choir director….these are just a few of the issues that Pam, Taylor, and Yvonne have to deal with.  When a lovely girl, Eva, shows up at their church meeting needing food, Yvonne is more than happy to assist her and reach out with kindness.  But can Eva’s past derail all that Yvonne has hoped for?  Can Taylor forgive her baby’s daddy?  Can Pam stay strong in the face of temptation?

This book surprised me with its frankness in dealing with serious problems in relationships.  It was a bit confusing at first because each chapter is told from a different woman’s point of view and you don’t really know the connection between the ladies early on.  It mixes street-wise folk with shouting-hallelujah folk and is heavy on pushing that Jesus will help you through it all.  All in all, it was a good read that kept you guessing.

28. February 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Melody

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, 468 pages, read by Melody, on 02/24/2013

A must read for fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs.  Charming period piece about a rich American girl whose mother has aspirations for her to marry a title.  Very witty and intelligent; full of sables, Chippendales, and landed gentry.

28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody, Science Fiction, Short Stories

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination by Edited by John Joseph Adams, 363 pages, read by Melody, on 02/23/2013

Do you ever cheer for the monster?  Wish that you were an evil genius?  Think that the mad scientist should win once in a while?  Then The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is the book for you.  Full of nefarious plots and slavering Igors, it is a wildly entertaining romp of short stories where the superheros are often just stupid saps and the wicked do not get their just deserts. Muahahahahaha!

28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Melody, Paranormal

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding by Edited by P. N. Elrod, 310 pages, read by Melody, on 02/27/2013

Very entertaining short story collection by some of the big names in fantasy and paranormal fiction like Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, and Rachel Cain.  Great read for fans of the genre.

28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Elemental by Antony John, 326 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/26/2013

Elemental

Sixteen-year-old Thomas has always been an outsider. The first child born without the power of an Element—earth, water, wind or fire—he has little to offer his tiny, remote Outer Banks colony. Or so the Guardians would have him believe.

Another dystopian book for this month!  I like the way the kids in this book learn to cope with the rigid rules the adults have set, in order to survive.  There is one girl who always ignores the rules, several kids that always follow the rules and a pair of brothers who are also treated as outcasts, even within their group.  They have to learn to trust each other and know that adults don’t always know best or do the right thing, if they want to survive the assault on their colony.  Another one that begins a series I might read as it comes out.

28. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Joyce, NonFiction · Tags:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, 286 pages, read by Joyce, on 02/26/2013

This is an inspiring narrative about William Kamkwamba, an African teenager of Malawi, who used what limited resources were available to build a wind mill.  His efforts overcame crippling adversity of poverty and famine.  Many thought he was crazy, but his dream to bring his small village electricity and running water became reality. “And I try and I made it,”  applauded words William spoke at a conference, where his accomplishments were honored, became the motto for those attending.  This is an inspiring and heartwarming true story.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books · Tags:

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, 278 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/22/2013

The Eleventh Plague

Twenty years after the start of the war that caused the Collapse, fifteen-year-old Stephen, his father, and grandfather travel post-Collapse America scavenging, but when his grandfather dies and his father decides to risk everything to save the lives of two strangers, Stephen’s life is turned upside down.

A quick read for me, I do enjoy reading dystopia novels.  There were a few things about the book that made me go “hmm” and  a couple of times it didn’t seem plausible, but then again, that’s why I don’t write because I don’t think my stories would necessarily flow smoothly.  I might just read the sequel.

 

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery · Tags:

Chicago Blues by Hugh Holton, 384 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/18/2013

Chicago Blues (Larry Cole)

Police Commander Larry Cole returns in his most dangerous case to date. the investigation of the murders of two hit-men leads Cole to an old colleague, FBI Special Agent Reggie Stanton. Cole had known Stanton when he was a Chicago cop accused of vigilante knife-murders on Chicago’s South Side. Now the murders of the two assassins bear the same M.O. as those long-ago cases.

I liked this book but it isn’t the type of mystery I usually read.  It seems very old school, police, mobsters, very realistic, considering that Hugh Holton was a police officer in Chicago.  So, it’s very natural that it is the setting for this book.  There weren’t a lot of twists and turns, I could see them as they developed, but it gives the reader a glimpse of what it must have been like in a big city, trying to hold back organized crime and bad cops.  I think I would read more of his work if it were the type of book I tend to read.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Mystery

Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell, 498 pages, read by Leslie, on 02/10/2013

Red Mist (Kay Scarpetta, #19)

Determined to find out what happened to her former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, murdered six months earlier, Kay Scarpetta travels to the Georgia Prison for Women, where an inmate has information not only on Fielding, but also on a string of grisly killings.

This was as intriguing as the book that comes before it. I liked all the twists and turns and the characters who seem like minor ones, turning into major ones.  I like the undercurrents that flow between the characters and how she pulls all the threads together in a convincing way.  Patricia Cornwell is definitely one of my favorite authors.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel

DMZ, Vol. 6: Blood in the Game by Brian Wood, 144 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/26/2013

Journalist Matty Roth has been working and living in the DMZ long enough to have become influential both in the DMZ and in the world outside. In this latest issue, a cease-fire is issued so that an election can get underway. Matty is putting his faith in the Delgado Nation, supported by the vast majority of those living in the DMZ. Unfortunately, the powers that be are not too keen on seeing Delgado coming into power and efforts are made to silence both the candidate and elections. Enter Matty’s mother as Delgado’s campaign manager, much to Matty’s surprise and chagrin. She appears to be completely out of her element in the DMZ, but proves herself to be an exceedingly effective campaign manager.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

In Darkness by Nick Lake, 337 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/25/2013

When In Darkness won the 2013 Printz Award, I was a bit surprised. So many other books had a lot of buzz, but this one didn’t seem to register on that particular radar. I knew it had been well-reviewed, but when it won, it jumped up to the top of my reading list and I was not disappointed.
This is a story of two major turning points in Haitian history. We are first introduced to modern-day Haiti through the eyes of Shorty, a young gang member who had been convalescing in a hospital after a gunshot wound when the 2010 earthquake hit. Shorty, now buried so deep in rubble that he can’t even see, tells us his story in order to keep himself sane. Shorty was born as a twin, which, in Haitian culture, implies that the lwa (gods) have blessed these children. Life is difficult, but more or less tolerable in the slums of Port-Au-Prince. While the UN guards the slums, it is really the local chimeres, or gangs, that control the community. The only funding for education or medicine comes from the local gangs and the UN frequently causes more problems than they fix, giving the people of Site Solay (and many, many others) little reason to believe that they are there to help. When Shorty witnesses his own father being slaughtered by a rival gang and loses his twin to the gang in the process, Shorty joins Route 19 in order to fight for his sister’s return.
Juxtaposed against Shorty’s story is the more historical narrative of Toussaint L’Ouverture. Toussaint and others, inspired by the recent revolution in France, aim to rid Haiti of slavery. While attending a vodou gathering wherein the lwa of war is invited to inhabit one of the souls present at the ceremony, Toussaint is infused with the soul of a boy. A boy who lives in a Haiti where black people are no longer slaves. He is also suffused with much of the boy’s knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic; skills which he swiftly uses to his advantage. The truly striking aspect of Toussaint’s mission is his insistence limiting violence as much as possible. Indeed, Toussaint became notorious for being considerably ahead of his time and went on to influence the American abolition movement nearly a century later.
As Shorty begins to lose his grip on reality, he keeps seeing flashes of a distant past…
I absolutely loved how these two gripping stories intertwined to present a rich and complex picture of a country torn apart first by imperialism and then by poverty, violence and corruption. This is a book that I can not stop thinking about. Appeal to teens may be limited, but sophisticated readers willing to take the plunge will not have any regrets.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Victory by Carla Jablonski, 128 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/20/2013

Victory completes the Resistance trilogy. The Tessier siblings have each been doing their part for the French resistance, but they are now about to embark on their most dangerous mission yet. This final installment takes us to the streets of occupied Paris where information critical to the success of the Resistance is needed. All three siblings make their way to Paris where they are reunited with their old friend, Henri. The tides of war are turning, but how long will it take for Paris to be truly out from under the German’s heels?
Overall, this is a lovely trilogy that highlights the efforts put forth by ordinary people under extraordinary circumstances. There is not a ton of YA fiction out there that details the role of the French during WWII and the graphic novel format makes this era of history that much more accessible. Readers may be surprised to learn that kids their age were indeed playing their own part in fighting the Germans.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Defiance by Carla Jablonski, 124 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/21/2013

Book 2 of the Resistance series is where this trilogy really begins to pick up steam. The Germans are now firmly rooted in just about all parts of France, even the unoccupied portion. The French police are nearly as bad as the German soldiers. Everyone in town must watch what they say and to whom they say it. Paul, Marie and Sophie are all trying desperately to help the resistance while keeping their family out of trouble.
It had never occurred to me that children would be as big a part of the resistance as any adult might be and these kids go above and beyond the call of duty. One can only imagine how much faster a child would grow up under such circumstances. Indeed, even little Marie, the youngest, handles her duties with a diligence generally reserved for those several times her age.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction

Resistance by Carla Jablonski, 128 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/20/2013

Resistance kicks off a trilogy of graphic novels about life in France during the German occupation in World War II. Paul and Marie are a young pair of siblings still trying to make sense of the war and the division of France. They currently live in the “free” part of France and haven’t yet seen much of the war. Things quickly begin to change, however. The Germans have come to town and are beginning to round up civilians. Among those to go are the parents of Paul and Marie’s friend, Henri. Henri manages to escape capture, but is forced to hide out lest the Germans find him. Paul and Marie, who have a father on the front line, are determined to reunite Henri with his parents. Fortunately for them, the resistance is willing to help and Paul, Marie and their older sister Sophie are all willing to do their part to see the resistance succeed.
While I have no real complaints about this graphic novel, I do wish it had been a little more in depth and a little less predictable. The story ties itself up very tidily, yet still leaves the reader to wonder what Paul, Marie and others are going to do next.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Horror, Literary Fiction, Teen Books

Darkwater by Catherine Fisher, 240 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/18/2013

Here we have a story where two parts become one. In the first half of the book, we meet Sarah Trevelyan, descendent of the once-proud and wealthy Trevelyans. She has been reduced to assisting in a local school house to make ends meet for her and her ailing father. All the while, the spectre of her family’s former glory, Darkwater Hall, looms over her. Sarah would give just about anything to get her family’s honor back. One day, she meets the new lord of Darkwater Hall, Lord Azrael, who offers her a job assisting him with his alchemy. She eventually strikes a bargain with him that will restore her estate to her family, but only with the caveat that Azrael will return for her soul in a hundred years.
In the second half of the book, we meet a teenager named Tom. Tom lives in our time, but in the same location as Sarah. Darkwater Hall has become a prestigious school that Tom would love to go to, if he only had the intelligence and talent. Tom’s self-esteem gets bolstered when he meets Darkwater’s newest professor, Dr. Azrael, who just happens to want Tom as his assistant. It’s only a matter of time before Tom is faced with a bargain of his own.
I love stories that intertwine like this and Catherine Fisher is a great writer. There are certainly echoes of her other work here. Her characters are great as well. Sarah is believable, if not always likeable. Tom is hard on himself and unnecessarily so, just as many other teens are. I love that these two characters actually meet and relate to one another in spite of their vastly different origins. The Faustus-like theme is obvious, but it’s a delightful take on it.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal, 308 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/17/2013

Elvie is 16 and pregnant. Since this is 2074, options for pregnant teens include things like low-orbit space ships that are retrofitted as boarding schools for pregnant teenaged girls. Elvie’s father decided she should take that option and Elvie doesn’t really care, so long as she can give birth as quickly and painlessly as possible, give the baby up for adoption and get back to studying for the PSATs. Life on board the Echidna wouldn’t be so terrible if a)Elvie’s arch-nemesis, Britta, wasn’t also on board and b)a troop of laser-gun wielding guys hadn’t taken over the ship. Britta’s your classic mean-girl-cheerleader type and she’s been hating on Elvie since they were kids. To make matters worse, Britta’s baby-daddy is the same as Elvie’s. The guys with the laser guns aren’t terrible, but their ship blows up right after they board and the Echidna begins leaking oxygen at an alarming rate. In the meantime, laser-gun-guys have some revelations for the girls that will change their lives forever. Assuming, you know, they survive this ordeal.
Elvie is a super-fun narrator, she’s about the snarkiest of the snarky and I love her for it. Britta is annoyingly evil as is her pal, Other Cheerleader (so dubbed due to her complete lack of independent personality). Baby-daddy Cole is a *mostly* loveable buffoon that Elvie can’t help but fall for. The plot moves at light-speed and the humor never lets up. There’s some subtly smart stuff going on that just might make the reader rethink how they view personhood. Awesome! I’m very interested to see where this series is headed.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Teen Books · Tags:

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako, 208 pages, read by Courtney, on 02/17/2013

Wandering Son follows two fifth-graders as they navigate the beginnings of adolescence. One is Shuichi Nitori, a boy who would rather be a girl. The other is his good friend, Yoshino Takatsuki, a girl would would prefer to be a boy. Both are from good, loving homes and are both well-liked by their classmates. Often mistaken as members of the opposite gender, both children feel more at home in their bodies when they dress and act as such.
This is an unusual and somewhat provocative topic for manga, but the intertwining stories of these two kids’ stories does not focus on sexuality. It does, however, focus intently on personal identity. Yoshino and Shuichi are both sweet and endearing. Readers will hopefully empathize with their struggles and, ideally, learn to accept that gender is not always as black-and-white as it may seem.
The artwork here is nice enough, though I was expecting more from a hardcover manga. I often had difficulty telling characters apart since the sparse drawing style made many of the characters look similar. Overall, Wandering Son is sweet and earnest in its storytelling, making it appropriate even for younger readers who may wish to better understand themselves or their peers.

27. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Lisa, NonFiction

Little Rock girl 1957 : how a photograph changed the fight for integration by Shelley Tougas, 64 pages, read by Lisa, on 02/27/2013

 

Recounts the events surrounding the 1957 photograph taken by Will Counts that captured one of nine African-American students trying to enter an Arkansas high school while being taunted by an angry white mob and discusses how the photo brought the civil rights movement to the forefront of the nation’s attention.

Nine African-American students made history when they defied a governor and integrated an Arkansas high school in 1957. It was the photo of one of the nine trying to enter the school- a young girl being taunted, harassed, and threatened by an angry mob- that grabbed the world’s attention and kept its disapproving gaze on Little Rock, Arkansas. In defiance of a federal court order, Governor Orval Faubus called in the National Guard to prevent the students from entering the all-white Central High School. A chilling photo by newspaper photographer Will Counts captured the sneering expression of a girl in the mob and made history.