30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Poetry

My brother's book by Maurice Sendak, read by Kira, on 04/28/2013

SendakPoetry.  sendak-233This was a book about longing to be reunited with those you’ve loved.  I had to read it 3 times through, to get a full sense of the narrative.  Even then, the poetic lines are open to multiple interpretatsendak grions, feeling like the mist slipping through ones fingers.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, read by Kira, on 04/26/2013

Cover-of-Some-Kind-of-Fairy-Tale The protagonist Tara Martin disappeared 20 years ago.  When she returns she claims she spent 6 months in Faery.  Her family and boyfriend have been devastated by her disappearance and respond in various ways to her tale.  I’m Not sure this really belongs in SciFi, since the focus is more on the internal psychological bluebells clyne meadow 2007world than the magical aspects.

 

So I liked a lot of the book, but unlike many other reviewers could see the ending from a mile away (well not the epilogue part).  Perhaps, it reminded me of the book “Giants of the Frost” by Kim Wilkins.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Graphic Novel

Fables: The Deluxe Edition Vol. 6 by Bill Willingham, read by Courtney, on 04/28/2013

In this volume:
The battle with the Adversary heats up (literally). Bigby is tracked by Mowgli and begged to return to Snow and the kids. The kids are growing fast and trying to control their shape-shifting abilities, otherwise they’ll never be allowed to leave the farm. Finally, a compromise is reached wherein Bigby may be able to live with his family after all.
This volume does feel really short compared to previous deluxe editions, but it’s a fantastic installment just the same.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, read by Courtney, on 04/27/2013

When Sybella first arrived at the convent, she was a traumatized young girl. After four years of training, Sybella can now truly serve as one of St. Mortain’s handmaidens. Those who train in the convent become expert assassins and Sybella is no exception. When our story begins, Sybella is undercover at the D’Albret estate. More specifically, Sybella is undercover in her own childhood home. She’s been sent there by the abbess to gain valuable intel on D’Albret’s treasonous plans to either marry or assassinate the young duchess who is struggling to keep Brittany independent of the French. D’Albret’s treachery and brutality know no bounds and Sybella is painfully aware of just how far he is capable of going. When Sybella manages to get the duchess out of a secret attack, one of the duchess’s fighters – a knight known as the infamous Beast of Waroch – is taken prisoner by D’Albret and sent to the dungeons. Sybella is then tasked with freeing him so that he can get back to fight for the duchess against the French and the country’s own treasonous troops. What was meant to be a simple rescue mission turns into a full-fledged journey and Sybella find her plans to kill D’Albret thwarted once again. What’s more, she can no longer return now that the Beast is missing too. Instead, Sybella must deviate from her own mission of vengeance in order to help keep her country out of the hands of both D’Albret and the French. Oh, and she’s got some pretty dark secrets that could potentially change everything.
Every bit as intriguing as the first book in the series, Dark Triumph is a pleasure to read. Readers will come to root for Sybella as she faces trial after trial. The Beast is a fantastic character and a wonderful foil to Sybella. I kind of wished I could have seen more of Ismae in this one, but I do recall being very curious about Sybella, so it was interesting to have her perspective. I look forward to seeing what Annith will be up to in the next book.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, Informational Book

Economix: How and Why the Economy Works (and Doesn't Work) in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin, read by Courtney, on 04/20/2013

With the financial world in more turmoil than it’s ever been, this graphic novel economics primer seems especially timely. Michael Goodwin is out to show readers that the economy can be understood, even by non-economists. He goes back in time to show how our current economic structure evolved and the theories it was built upon. While there’s a lot to take in, Goodwin does an excellent job of simplifying the seemingly obtuse mechanisms that make our economy work (or not). We can easily see where our theoretical foundations lie and where they have deviated from what was originally envisioned. We can also see just how inextricably linked money is with our history and future. It’s simultaneously educational and chilling, but ultimately, knowledge is power (though honestly, money is still likely more powerful) and this knowledge is not nearly as inaccessible as the powers that be would have us believe.
Goodwin makes attempts to keep politics out of the picture, but admits that, when it comes to our current economic climate, it is nearly impossible to be apolitical. Fiscal conservatives will likely feel that Goodwin is being too liberal with in his estimation of the these power structures, but I personally felt that this was an excellent introduction to a very hotly debated topic.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Multicultural Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

The Good Braider by Terry Farish, read by Courtney, on 04/20/2013

Viola lives with her mother and young brother in war-torn Sudan. All the men are either dead or fighting and soldiers prowl throughout the town, taking whatever they wish. After Viola is raped by one of these soldiers, the family decides to attempt a move to America. First they must travel out of Sudan and into Egypt, where they live in a refugee camp while waiting for the appropriate documents. It takes many long months to get the paperwork in order, but they are finally able to travel to America. Viola and her mother move to Portland, Maine, where a large Sudanese population has already been established. There, Viola attempts to piece her life back together while trying to balance life as both a girl from Juba and her new life as an American teen.
Told entirely in spare, lyrical verse, this novel is lovely addition to the immigrant-story genre. Viola’s experiences are painful, but her hope is palpable. This story sheds light on a part of the world that many American teens spend little time thinking about. The trajectory that Viola’s life takes is breathtaking, realistic and honest. We, as Americans, are so used to thinking about a country’s borders as something writ in stone, however, the borders of many countries in Africa are more or less arbitrary and were imposed largely by Western colonialist powers. Thus, when civil war breaks out, it is not necessarily because the country is divided, more that the country was never exactly unified in the first place. In fact, this story takes place shortly before South Sudan gains its independence. Readers will feel for Viola as she struggles not only to survive the journey out of Sudan but as she attempts to reconcile the cultural differences she must face as a new American. A moving and memorable read.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Thriller/Suspense

Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar, read by Courtney, on 04/17/2013

In spite of this being titled “Kick-Ass 2″, this is really the third trade paperback in the sequence. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to catch up. In this volume, the Red Mist has turned bad and is proving to be Kick-Ass’s nemesis. He’s also amassing an army of costumed warriors intent upon putting the heroes out of commission. In the meantime, Hit Girl is trying very, very hard to be a normal girl while living with her mother and stepfather (who happens to be on the force and completely aware of Hit Girl’s past). She’s doing OK until the fight starts to get out of hand and she feels compelled to join in.
Every bit as action-packed as the earlier books in the series.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Labyrinth of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers, read by Courtney, on 04/16/2013

This is going to be a difficult review for me to write as I am extremely conflicted regarding my feelings about this book. First things first: I’m a huge fan of Walter Moers and I’ve read everything of his that’s been translated into English. This is the sequel to City of Dreaming Books, which I adored. Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to this one ever since I found out that it even existed (and then I had to wait for the translation). So, there’s all that. When last we left our protagonist, Optimus Yarnspinner, he had been to Bookholm, become imbued with “orm” and had battled all manner of evils in the labyrinth only to see the city go up in flames along with the mythical Shadow King. Our story now picks up 200 year later (Lindworms like Yarnspinner evidently live very, very long lives). Yarnspinner has been resting on the laurels of his best-selling status for some time now. He’s churned out countless works, making him one of the most well-known authors in all of Zamonia. Thing is, the “orm” has left him and his works aren’t getting the reviews they once did. Yarnspinner could hang up his hat and live out the rest of his days in comfort, but he receives a most curious letter written in a style that could best be summed up as “pre-orm Yarnspinner-esque”. Yarnspinner realizes that while he didn’t write the letter, someone has gone to great lengths to get his attention, particularly because of the very last sentence: “The Shadow King lives”.
Yarnspinner heads back to Bookholm and runs into a couple of his old friends who have apparently conspired in some way to bring him back to the bookish city. So that’s the first few chapters. The rest? Yarnspinner’s musings and digressions on the “modern” Bookholm. Seriously, that’s pretty much it. Not that it isn’t entertaining to read, because it is. It’s really clever; almost painfully so. Observant readers may note that the names of all the authors, composers and artists mentioned are anagrams for real world counterparts (and yes, it all works in context as well). I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure them all out, not to mention the fact that I pestered my co-workers for days to get help on some of the trickier ones. I *did* feel pretty smart when I figured them out though. A bit exhausting though. And takes one out of the narrative, particularly when there’s a whole string of anagrams. There’s also a very “meta” feel to the whole thing as Yarnspinner revisits his experiences and engages in new experiences like puppetism. Yarnspinner even watches an entire puppet play of “City of Dreaming Books”, which is described in great detail.
The kicker, though, is at the end where Moer’s “translator’s” note indicates that he had to split the sequel into two halves (a la “Kill Bill”) because it would have been unwieldy otherwise. So, evidently, the rest of the plot will be happening in the third book. Which probably won’t be translated for another couple of years. All I can say is that it better be worth the effort of reading Labyrinth of Dreaming Books. Who am I kidding? I’ll totally read it either way.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Poetry

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, read by Courtney, on 04/10/2013

Here’s one that’s a must-read for more mature fans of fairy tales. Koertge takes well-known stories from the fairy tale cannon and turns them completely on their heads. In poetry form. Which is totally awesome. Many authors have difficulty getting their point across in 400 pages. Ron Koertge can tell a complete story in a single poem. And this book has tons of them! I loved these post-modern renditions; they feel simultaneously both truer to their original forms than many other modern adaptations and feel more contemporary than ever before. A fun, thought-provoking and fast read.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Teen Books

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, read by Courtney, on 04/09/2013

Stephen has been trekking back and forth across the United States with his father and grandfather for several years. They work their way north and south, depending on the season, to trade salvage for food and supplies. The United States has completely collapsed after a war with China led to an outbreak of an extremely virulent P-11 flu virus which has become known as the Eleventh Plague. The vast majority of the population has fallen prey to the virus and civilization has collapsed. Stephen was born after the Collapse, so their nomadic lifestyle is normal to him. Then his ex-military grandfather dies, taking his strict rules regarding interacting with other people. Stephen and his father begin to move on, but quickly encounter some vicious slavers along the way. In an attempt to rescue some captives and flee the slavers, Stephen’s father falls into a gorge, causing a traumatic head injury. Helpless to do anything, Stephen stays with his father until a group of men and boys come into the woods. Finally accepting that these new people are not slavers, Stephen lets them take him and his father back to their community where Stephen’s father can get medical attention. The community turns out to be the remains of a secluded gated community, largely untouched by the looting that had followed the Collapse. The residents there live a relatively normal life, but Stephen has difficulty adjusting to being around other people. Things only get worse when Stephen gets involved with his host family’s adopted daughter, Jenny, who is Chinese and puts the rest of the town on edge. She’s a bit of a rebel and manages to get Stephen (and the rest of the community) into serious trouble in next to no time. Not that she’s a bad person, she just really doesn’t like her status quo.
Not a particularly groundbreaking post-apocalyptic novel, but it does blend the dystopia with survivalism pretty well.

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

The Finches' Fabulous Furnace by Roger Drury, read by Lisa, on 04/06/2013

When the Finch family moves into the only available house in Ashfield, they find it has a very strange heating system.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens, read by Lisa, on 04/21/2013

After the tumultuous events of last winter, Kate, Michael, and Emma long to continue the hunt for their missing parents. But they themselves are now in great danger, and so the wizard Stanislaus Pym hides the children at the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans. There, he says, they will be safe. How wrong he is.

The children are soon discovered by their enemies, and a frantic chase sends Kate a hundred years into the past, to a perilous, enchanted New York City. Searching for a way back to her brother and sister, she meets a mysterious boy whose fate is intricately—and dangerously—tied to her own.

Meanwhile, Michael and Emma have set off to find the second of the Books of Beginning. A series of clues leads them into a hidden world where they must brave harsh polar storms, track down an ancient order of warriors, and confront terrible monsters. Will Michael and Emma find the legendary book of fire—and master its powers—before Kate is lost to them forever?

Exciting, suspenseful, and brimming with humor and heart, the next installment of the bestselling Books of Beginning trilogy will lead Kate, Michael, and Emma closer to their family—and to the magic that could save, or destroy, them all.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, read by Lisa, on 04/18/2013

Called “A new Narnia for the tween set” by the New York Times and perfect for fans of the His Dark Materials series, The Emerald Atlas brims with humor and action as it charts Kate, Michael, and Emma’s extraordinary adventures through an unforgettable, enchanted world.

These three siblings have been in one orphanage after another for the last ten years, passed along like lost baggage.

Yet these unwanted children are more remarkable than they could possibly imagine. Ripped from their parents as babies, they are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power, an evil they know nothing about.

Until now.

Before long, Kate, Michael, and Emma are on a journey through time to dangerous and secret corners of the world…a journey of allies and enemies, of magic and mayhem.  And—if an ancient prophesy is correct—what they do can change history, and it is up to them to set things right.

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

Cousins in the Castle by Barbara Brooks Wallace, read by Lisa, on 04/25/2013

A new friend comes to Amelia’s rescue when she finds herself the victim of a dastardly villain’s fiendish plans.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Thriller/Suspense

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, read by Lisa, on 04/30/2013

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kim, Poetry · Tags:

Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath, read by Kim, on 04/30/2013

Crossing the Water is some of Plath’s best work!

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams, read by Angie, on 04/29/2013

Hope and Lizzie have always been the closest of sisters. Then one day Hope catches Lizzie with a gun. Suddenly, Lizzie is in the hospital and Hope doesn’t know why. She doesn’t know why Lizzie tried to kill herself or why she has been crying at night for the last few months. Her mom has secrets too. Secrets she is scared of people finding out. Their mom has been a prostitute for a while now; she says it is better money than working at the Piggly-Wiggly and she needs money now that dad is gone. Slowly, over the course of the summer, Hope finds out what happened to Lizzie and her whole world changes.

Novels in verse are somehow more powerful than regular novels. The sparse text has to convey so much and that gives it more weight and meaning some how. Hope and Lizzie’s story is a tragic one. You will guess Lizzie’s secret long before Hope, but like Hope you hope it isn’t true. How can a mother be that evil, that heartless towards her own child? Truly powerful story that can be read in a very short period of time. It will break your heart, but it is worth it.

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Poetry · Tags:

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou, read by Brian, on 04/29/2013

Four of Maya Angelou’s greatest poems about woman and life are put into one book.  Celebration is one her finest gifts.

maya2

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Poetry · Tags:

Brave and Startling Truth by Maya Angelou, read by Brian, on 04/29/2013

Maya Angelou is one of the world’s greatest poets. Brave and Startling Truth is one of her most inspiring books of poetry.  Highly recommended.

maya

29. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Madeline

All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellan, read by Madeline, on 04/28/2013

It’s been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she saw her parents, her sisters and brothers– everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. Their daughter Prima was raised on the lore of the Old Country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches the idea to take the entire family back to Italy– hoping to reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister and let her parents see their homeland one last time.