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

Fourmile by Watt Key, read by Leslie, on 09/01/2013

Fourmile

A mysterious stranger arrives at a boy’s rundown Alabama farm home, just as a dangerous situation is unfolding for the twelve-year-old and his widowed mother.

I could see the story unfold a mile away, but I still enjoyed seeing the outcome of the characters situation.  Foster’s mother has a boyfriend who isn’t probably the best choice for her.  He hasn’t gotten over his father’s death and the fact he doesn’t like his mom’s boyfriend isn’t helping the situation.  Help comes from a stranger hiking to Texas.  The timely arrival of Gary to help them when needed has unexpected consequences.

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

Homesick by Kate Klise, read by Leslie, on 09/04/2013

Homesick

Benny’s parents are getting divorced, his mom left and his father has become a hoarder, to make matters worse his hometown has been entered into a contest, and now the pressure is on to get the house cleaned up.

I liked the story, thought it was good way to show how hoarding can impact a young person’s life, but not as realistic as it could have been. The story takes place right before computers and the Internet take off in popularity, so I found it a little hard to believe that at that time a town could have actually won a contest to be hooked up to it.  Hoarding was also not called hoarding yet, so it is a look into how the disease might start for someone.  The tornado does make it interesting and could be the draw for lots of readers.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction, Science, Self Help

The Autistic Brain : Thinking across the Spectrum by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek, read by Kira, on 09/28/2013

Temple Grandin does for Autism what Susan Cain did for Introversion.  Grandin shows us the strengths associated with Autistic and Asperger’s syndrome, citing research showing superior ability to focus on details.  She suggests that we quit seeing only the deficits, but acknowledge that some characteristics are actually strengths.  Her attention is limited to high-functioning  end of the spectrum while, the lower end of the spectrum is given short shrift.  She backs up most of her arguments with scientific research (though a few times, she just says “That doesn’t make sense” without showing why).  IntertempleGesting, but not as enjoyable asclaire-danes-and-temple-grandin_original Anibrainmals in Translation.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Bryan, Informational Book, NonFiction

Humboldt: Life on America's Marijuana Frontier by Emily Brady, read by Bryan, on 09/28/2013

Emily Brady presents a look at the marijuana “industry” in Humboldt County, California.  She focuses on a few characters and chronicles their lives as growers in this very secretive community.  The book builds towards California’s legalization vote in 2010.  Although Brady makes her views clear throughout, it isn’t overbearing and people on both sides of the issue should be able to read it without too much discomfort.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kira, Women's Fiction (chick lit) · Tags:

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg, read by Kira, on 09/27/2013

standingrainbstandrainbow  A slice of Americana, specifically here in Missouri. Flagg tells her story through multiple vignettes.  Its a charming story of small-town America, of radio announcer Neighbor Dorothy, and her family and neighbors.  Next time someone asks for a gentle read, I need to remember Fannie Flagg, though there are some sad parts 80% of the way through.   Its an engaging stanrnbowstndrnbfannieread.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, NonFiction, Sports, Tracy

Bloody Confused by Chuck Culpepper, read by Tracy, on 09/29/2013

Chuck Culpepper was a veteran sports journalist edging toward burnout . . . then he went to London and discovered the high-octane, fanatical (and bloody confusing!) world of English soccer.

After covering the American sports scene for fifteen years, Chuck Culpepper suffered from a profound case of Common Sportswriter Malaise. He was fed up with self-righteous proclamations, steroid scandals, and the deluge of in-your-face PR that saturated the NFL, the NBA, and MLB. Then in 2006, he moved to London and discovered a new and baffling world—the renowned Premiership soccer league. Culpepper pledged his loyalty to Portsmouth, a gutsy, small-market team at the bottom of the standings. As he puts it, “It was like childhood, with beer.”

Writing in the vein of perennial bestsellers such as Fever Pitch andAmong the Thugs, Chuck Culpepper brings penetrating insight to the vibrant landscape of English soccer—visiting such storied franchises as Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool . . . and an equally celebrated assortment of pubs. Bloody Confused! will put a smile on the face of any sports fan who has ever questioned what makes us love sports in the first place.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Tracy

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown, read by Tracy, on 09/24/2013

A gripping adventure, a seaborne romance, and a twist on the tale of Scheherazade—with the best food ever served aboard a pirate’s ship

The year is 1819, and the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail.

To appease the red-haired captain, Wedgwood gets cracking with the meager supplies on board. His first triumph at sea is actual bread, made from a sourdough starter that he leavens in a tin under his shirt throughout a roaring battle, as men are cutlassed all around him. Soon he’s making tea-smoked eel and brewing pineapple-banana cider.

But Mabbot—who exerts a curious draw on the chef—is under siege. Hunted by a deadly privateer and plagued by a saboteur hidden on her ship, she pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox. As Wedgwood begins to sense a method to Mabbot’s madness, he must rely on the bizarre crewmembers he once feared: Mr. Apples, the fearsome giant who loves to knit; Feng and Bai, martial arts masters sworn to defend their captain; and Joshua, the deaf cabin boy who becomes the son Wedgwood never had.

     Cinnamon and Gunpowder is a swashbuckling epicure’s adventure simmered over a surprisingly touching love story—with a dash of the strangest, most delightful cookbook never written. Eli Brown has crafted a uniquely entertaining novel full of adventure: the Scheherazade story turned on its head, at sea, with food.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

The Solitary House by Lynn Shepherd, read by Tracy, on 09/22/2013

London, 1850. Charles Maddox had been an up-and-coming officer for the Metropolitan police until a charge of insubordination abruptly ended his career. Now he works alone, struggling to eke out a living by tracking down criminals. Whenever he needs it, he has the help of his great-uncle Maddox, a legendary “thief taker,” a detective as brilliant and intuitive as they come.

On Charles’s latest case, he’ll need all the assistance he can get.

To his shock, Charles has been approached by Edward Tulkinghorn, the shadowy and feared attorney, who offers him a handsome price to do some sleuthing for a client. Powerful financier Sir Julius Cremorne has been receiving threatening letters, and Tulkinghorn wants Charles to—discreetly—find and stop whoever is responsible.

But what starts as a simple, open-and-shut case swiftly escalates into something bigger and much darker. As he cascades toward a collision with an unspeakable truth, Charles can only be aided so far by Maddox. The old man shows signs of forgetfulness and anger, symptoms of an age-related ailment that has yet to be named.

Intricately plotted and intellectually ambitious, The Solitary House is an ingenious novel that does more than spin an enthralling tale: it plumbs the mysteries of the human mind.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense, Tracy

Inferno by Dan Brown, read by Tracy, on 09/19/2013

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Tracy · Tags: ,

The Haunted Tea Cosy by Edward Gorey, read by Tracy, on 09/12/2013

Gorey has never been funnier or more “impossible to resist” (Boston Herald) than in this peculiar retelling of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense, Tracy

Never Go Back by Lee Child, read by Tracy, on 09/05/2013

After an epic and interrupted journey all the way from the snows of South Dakota, former military cop Jack Reacher has finally made it to Virginia. His destination: a sturdy stone building a short bus ride from Washington D.C., the headquarters of his old unit, the 110th MP. It was the closest thing to a home he ever had.

Why? He wants to meet the new commanding officer, Major Susan Turner. He liked her voice on the phone. But the officer sitting behind his old desk isn’t a woman. Is Susan Turner dead? In Afghanistan? Or in a car wreck?

What Reacher doesn’t expect to hear is that Turner has just been fired from her command. Nor that he himself is in big trouble, accused of a sixteen-year-old homicide. And he certainly doesn’t expect to hear these words: ‘You’re back in the army, Major. And your ass is mine.’

Will he be sorry he went back? Or – will someone else?

30. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, read by Angie, on 09/29/2013

Willow Chance is a special girl; she is interested in plants and medical diagnosis; she is an undiscovered genius. Willow has just started middle school when she aces a standardized test and is accused of cheating. This sends her to Dell Duke, incompetent counselor, and allows her to meet her only friend Mai, whose brother Quang-ha sees Dell as well. These are the people around her when her world is destroyed. Her adoptive parents are killed in a car crash. Suddenly Willow is alone in the world with no family and no place to go. Mai takes charge and convinces her mother to allow Willow to stay with them, pretending she is a family friend even though they have never met. Mai’s mother Pattie is from Vietnam and operates a nail salon. The family lives in a one room garage behind the salon, which would definitely not pass a social services inspection. So Pattie convinces Dell to let them pretend to live in his apartment. She takes charge and transforms it into a home. Before you know it Willow, Mai, Pattie, Quang-ha and Dell are like a real family. Willow slowly comes out of her grief as the family comes together, but will she be able to stay with her new family or will the state take her away and destroy all she has known again?

This is one of those books that will break your heart. Willow’s grief on losing her parents is real and visceral. You can feel and understand her pain as she shuts completely down. Willow is also very strange; her interests are strange; she doesn’t interact with people in what is considered a normal way; she doesn’t fit in. But she fits with this new group of people and she brings them together as a family. There are a couple things that kept this book from being perfect for me. The first is the fact that Willow is not forced to go to school for months. Her case worker, the school district, Pattie, Dell, none of them make her go to school. She tells them she isn’t ready and they drop it just like that. She is supposed to be homeschooling during this time, but no one checks on that either. The second thing is the ending…it is way too perfect. The entire time I was reading it I assumed Pattie would somehow get custody of Willow. There was no way the book was going to end with her losing her family again. However, at the end Pattie somehow ends up being rich, rich enough to buy an apartment building in California. Seems she was forcing her family to live in the garage so she could save up some cash. Really!!???! She always came across as a working mom trying to build up her business and keep her family going. Plus she makes Dell pay for everything! Pattie’s romance also seems to come out of left field. I think it would have been a stronger ending without the wealthy, two-parent Disney ending.

I received a copy of this book at ALA 2013 and from Netgalley.com.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Saints (Boxers & Saints) by Gene Luen Yang, read by Angie, on 09/29/2013

Boxers told the Boxer side of the Boxer Rebellion. Saints tell the story of Vibiana, who we briefly met in Boxers. Vibiana was a Chinese girl who was not loved or appreciated by her family. They thought she was a demon or a devil. She becomes friends with Dr. Won mainly for the cookies, but along the way he teachers her about being a Christian. She joins the other Chinese Christians as they hide in a fortified stronghold and try to protect themselves for the Brother-Disciples. She has visions of Joan of Arc and likens herself to Joan. It seems they are both destined to be warriors for God. Like Joan, Vibiana too must sacrifice a lot for her faith.

I love how this book ties together with Boxers. They really should be read together to get the full story. Vibiana plays a role in the life of Bao at two different points. We also get a different side to the story told in Boxers. Neither book is especially enlightening about the Boxer Rebellion, its causes and its effects. But they do tell the story of a couple of characters journey’s during the Rebellion and what they fought and died for.

I received a copy of the this book from the publishers at ALA 2013.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Boxers (Boxers & Saints) by Gene Luen Yang, read by Angie, on 09/29/2013

Boxers is the story of the Boxer Rebellion told from the perspective of Little Bao. Bao has a calling to fight the foreign devils who have taken over his country. He trains men and together they become Brother-Disciples of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist. They roam the Chinese countryside fighting the foreign devils and the Christian Chinese. What they do does not always seem right, but they are fighting for what they believe is right. The final battle comes in Peking as they try to drive the foreigners from the city.

I know pretty much nothing about Chinese history. I had heard of the Boxer Rebellion but really had no idea what it was about. Gene Luen Yang distills the history of the conflict down so that anyone can understand it. The graphic novel format is perfect for this story. Since it is told from the view of Little Bao, we don’t get the entire story of the conflict and its aftermath, but we get enough. It will definitely peak your interest and make you want to learn more about the Boxer Rebellion.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers at ALA 2013.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr, read by Angie, on 09/29/2013

Matt Thorsen is a descendant of the Norse god Thor. Ragnarok is coming and he has been chosen to fight the Midgard Serpent and save the world. No pressure! First he must gather his champions, other descendants of the gods, and find his talismans, then he will be ready for Ragnarok. His first challenge is convincing the descendant of Loki to join him. In the stories, Loki leads the monsters at Ragnarok and in real life Matt and Fen are not really friends. But soon Matt, Fen and Laurie, another descendant of Loki and Fen’s cousin, have joined forces. They set out with a little aid from the Norns and the Valkyries to fight trolls and find the other gods.

This is how I like my fantasy, full of legends and mythology and characters coming into their potential. I think Norse mythology is an untapped segment of the mythology fiction. We get to read a lot about Greeks, but the Norse are often overlooked. I really like learning about these gods and their stories. I think this is a fun set up to a series. Since it is the setup, there is a lot of character and story introductions, but by the end we know who the main players are (on the good side at least) and they are ready to set off on their adventures. Are there plot holes? Sure there are. Why do kids have to fight the serpent, why not adults? Why do the descendants of the Norse gods all live in South Dakota? However, it is still an awesome story and I can’t wait to read more.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery

Andi Unexpected by Amanda Flower, read by Angie, on 09/28/2013

Andi and her sister Bethany have to move in with their aunt Amelia after their parents die in a plane crash. The grieving sisters are forced to leave their home and friends and everything they know. Aunt Amelia lives in the home she grew up in in rural Ohio. Andi and Bethany are forced to share a room until Andi starts cleaning out the attic. She discovers a mysterious trunk with things that belonged to another Andora Boggs. Andi and her friend Colin start investigating Andora to discover why her things were hidden away and why no one will talk about her. They are not they only ones looking into the Andora story. There is a history professor from the local college who is also interested.

What could be better than the mystery of a depression era baby who goes missing? I liked how the book was structured as Andi and Colin built their case. They were true investigators and I can see this book becoming a series. I really liked how Andi and Bethany were shown grieving differently. I do think Bethany’s grief was a little more obvious than Andi’s. She quickly became immersed in the Andora mystery and didn’t seem to think about her parents as much. I wish Amelia’s character was a little more fleshed out as she seemed barely there. But overall, I really liked this book and its mystery.

I received an advanced copy of this book from both Netgalley and ALA 2013.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby, read by Angie, on 09/28/2013

Billy Bertram wants to be like his father John, who is a renowned botanist. Billy gets the opportunity to go with his father on an expedition into the wilds of Ohio. They and the other scientists are looking for the Kingdom of Madoc. War between the French and British is coming to the colonies and the British would like to have Madoc as their ally. They believe that the Kingdom of Madoc was founded hundreds of years ago by Welsh explorers and still exists somewhere. They take their flying ship and all their scientific equipment and head out of Philadelphia pursued by the French. Along the way, they meet Major George Washington and different Indians. It is also on the journey that Billy’s opinion of his father changes. He is exposed to his father’s prejudicial hatred of the Indians; hatred that blinds him to all else. The journey is filled with dangers and revelations. Billy has to start thinking for himself and stand up to his father.

On one hand I really liked this book as a fantastical, historical adventure book. On the other hand, I found some parts really hard to believe. I liked the accuracy of the characters (many are based on real people) and there really is a legend of the Kingdom of Madoc. Billy’s personal journey is also really good. He becomes a man on this trip instead of the boy he was. I thought it was crazy that the French were able to follow the expedition from Philadelphia to Ohio so easily (even with the spy). I also thought the whole bear-wolf thing was just a little bit silly. I’m not sure what a bear-wolf is and I really don’t think it would follow a flying ship for hundreds of miles. Despite the silliness, it was a good story and a great adventure.

I received an advanced copy of this book from both Netgalley and ALA 2013.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, NonFiction, Science

The Mystery of Darwin's Frog by Marty Crump, Steve Jenkins (Illustrations), Edel Rodriguez (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 09/28/2013

Darwin’s frog is the only frog that carries its young in its mouth. When the eggs hatch the male frog scoops them up and carries them around until they turn from tadpoles to baby frogs. Fascinating species and really interesting book.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Last-But-Not-Least Lola Going Green by Christine Pakkala, Paul Hoppe (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 09/28/2013

Lola Zuckerman is always last. Having a Z last name means she never gets to go first in anything. She really wants to win the Going Green challenge at school and become Green Captain. But since she is last all her ideas get taken. Then she comes up with composting. Her rival Amanda comes up with trash-free lunch. The 2nd grade class votes on which one they want to do and Lola wins. She rubs into into Amanda’s face and is a bit mean about it. But Lola quickly learns her lesson and she and Amanda become friends. This is definitely a beginner chapter book. Lola is a bit obnoxious and not really that nice. She does redeem herself at the end, but she is still not one of my favorite characters.

29. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year by Bill Harley, Adam Gustavson (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 09/27/2013

Charlie is dreading 4th grade. He has learned that he will have Mrs. Burke and she hates him. He threw a shoe last year that accidentally hit her in the head. Once school starts it does seem like he is right. Charlie is always getting into trouble for some reason and Mrs. Burke is always on his case. But things are not always what they seem.

I thought Charlie was funny and I actually really liked Mrs. Burke. This book is geared towards younger/first chapter book readers even with the 4th grade characters. I think it will definitely find its place, especially with boys.