19. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jessica, Romance

If You Leave by Courtney Cole, 336 pages, read by Jessica, on 09/18/2013

26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can’t get past, he needs someone who can help him heal…even if he doesn’t realize it.

25-year old Madison Hill doesn’t need anybody…or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents’ messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there’s no way in hell that she’s ever letting that happen to her.

They don’t know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other.

But Gabriel’s got a secret, a hidden monster that he’s afraid Maddy could never overcome… And Maddy’s got issues that she’s afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they’ve got demons to fight.

And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.

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

Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment by Sundee T. Frazier, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 09/19/2013

Brendan is starting junior high. He likes science and keeps a science notebook to record his findings and thoughts. He meets Morgan, a girl who has been homeschooled but is now going to junior high. Morgan latches on to Brendan despite his best efforts to shake her off. They get paired together for a science experiment involving manure. Brendan is also having problems with his dad and his best friend. He has to navigate the waters of junior high, friends and girls and manage to keep his head above water.

This is an interesting exploration of the life of a junior high science geek. I liked how complicated Brendan’s life is. He had to deal with a lot of different issues including his confusing feelings towards Morgan. This is a time in a boy’s life when things aren’t so simple anymore. Girls become interesting, friends can change, parents start to act differently. Poor Brendan! The science aspect of the book was interesting and I liked all the information given at the end about different ways to find information about the science in the book. I am not sure this book will resonate with all readers, but I think it definitely has its place and will be a gem to some.

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

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 09/18/2013

A classic story about a boy and his dogs. In some ways, Where the Red Fern Grows seems like a timeless story about a boy’s determination to get what he most desires. He works hard, saves his money, and is finally able to buy his coon dogs. He trains them, he comes to love those dogs, and they love him back. The three of them are a unit that can’t be broken. However, I can’t see a child of today acting with so much patience and determination. Billy is a special character; he almost seems superhuman in a way. He thinks of others, he works hard, he sets a goal and works to achieve it. Old Dan and Little Anne also seem superhuman. They are like one dog in two bodies; they are bonded in a way you really don’t see often; and they can’t live without each other. This book had a little more coon hunting description than I was really prepared to read, but I appreciated the story. It is a simple story with a strong message, but there is a lot of depth in the storytelling that you don’t always find in current books. This is a classic for a reason.

19. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Sarah

Mr. Terupt Falls Again by Rob Buyea, 356 pages, read by Sarah, on 09/14/2013

This sequel is good, but not as engaging as the first one (Because of Mr. Terupt).  Mr. Terupt is a teacher who gets to move up with his fifth graders into the sixth grade and his projects are just as challenging as last year.  The same seven students are followed with many storylines including getting in with the wrong crowd, abandonment, ladies growing up, finding out truths from the past, and land wars.  Each of the children mature even more this year and have a special project planned for the end of the year that will leave everyone smiling.  I recommend it, but…I listened to it with my 4th grade son and 6th grade daughter.  A few parts made me uncomfortable to hear with my son, but he took it in stride.  Guess mom needs to grow up!

17. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jessica, Romance

Breaking Nova by Jessica Sorensen, 224 pages, read by Jessica, on 09/16/2013

Nova Reed used to have dreams-of becoming a famous drummer, of marrying her true love. But all of that was taken away in an instant. Now she’s getting by as best she can, though sometimes that means doing things the old Nova would never do. Things that are slowly eating away at her spirit. Every day blends into the next . . . until she meets Quinton Carter. His intense, honey brown eyes instantly draw her in, and he looks just about as broken as she feels inside.

Quinton once got a second chance at life-but he doesn’t want it. The tattoos on his chest are a constant reminder of what he’s done, what he’s lost. He’s sworn to never allow happiness into his life . . . but then beautiful, sweet Nova makes him smile. He knows he’s too damaged to get close to her, yet she’s the only one who can make him feel alive again. Quinton will have to decide: does he deserve to start over? Or should he pay for his past forever?

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

The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond, Oliver Jeffers (Illustrations), 256 pages, read by Angie, on 09/17/2013

Stanley Potts is an orphan living with his Aunt Annie and Uncle Eddie. Uncle Eddie goes off the deep end with a fish canning business in their house after he loses his job. Stan runs off with the fair to become a hook and duck man. He is adopted by Dostoevsky and Nitasha and becomes part of the fair. Then Pancho Pirelli offers to teach him how to swim with piranhas. This is a charming book that reminded me of Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl in a way. The omniscient narrator gives us just enough details, but leaves things up to the reader to decide the ending. We have a villainous Clarence P. Clapp who is trying to get rid of all fishy things including our main characters. My one complaint would be the sections with Clapp and all the misspellings of words; it highlights how uneducated Clapp is, but makes it a bit hard to read. The book as a whole is all a bit silly, but fun.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Humor, Mystery, Pamela

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews, 332 pages, read by Pamela, on 09/14/2013

murder with peacocksHectic plans for three family weddings in one summer are made even more hectic by murder. A bridesmaid three times over, for her best friend, her sister-in-law to be, and her mother, Meg Langslow returns to the little Virginia town in which she grew up to help arrange the events.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching as craziness ensued.  From beginning to end, this is a hilarious book.  I’m looking forward to the next installment.

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Mystery, Pamela

11th Hour by James Patterson, 407 pages, read by Pamela, on 09/15/2013

11th hourWhen millionaire Chaz Smith is mercilessly gunned down, Lindsay Boxer discovers that the murder weapon is linked to the deaths of four of San Francisco’s most untouchable criminals. Then she’s called next to the most bizarre crime scene she’s ever witnessed: two bodiless heads elaborately displayed in the garden of a world-famous actor.

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Horror, Teen Books · Tags:

Engines of the Broken World by Jason Vanhee , 272 pages, read by Angie, on 09/15/2013

Gospel and Merciful Truth live in a cabin in the woods with their mother, who has just died. Their only neighbors are Widow Cally and Jenny Gone and the Minister, a made thing who preaches the word of God. They are surrounded by a closing fog that leaves nothingness in their wake. Merciful thinks her mother is up and moving even though she is dead. The minister is keeping secrets. The world is ending and strange things are happening.

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book about the world ending because God is punishing humanity. Most apocalyptic books have some references to God and religion (not always positive), but I don’t think God is often shouldering responsibility for the end of the world. This is an interesting mix of horror and spirituality. The characters are confined to the cabin because of a snow storm for the majority of the book which makes it very claustrophobic. Gospel and Merciful have to rely on themselves for most of what they know. Everyone is hiding things from them or lying and it is up to them to discern the truth. I’m not sure it all makes sense; the backstory is not adequately explained in my opinion. There is a sense of mystery and unknowingness that permeates the entire thing. There is also a beauty in Merciful’s story as she tries to figure things out. Ultimately she is responsible for her choices and the decisions she makes and she accepts that. There is no happy ending for our characters; just choices, mistakes and an ending.

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

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Teen Books

The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman , 464 pages, read by Angie, on 09/15/2013

Oleander is your typical small town in Kansas, nothing much happens there until the day people went on a crazy murder spree. It is now one year later and the town has settled down, but they can’t forget the horror of the Killing Day. Daniel was the only survivor of a drug store shooting; Jule saw her aunt and uncle die; Ellie witnessed the crucifixion of a man; Matt, closeted gay jock, watched his lover get hit by a car repeatedly; and Cass is the only killer who lived, she killed a baby she was babysitting and has been in an institution ever since. So life returns to normal until a massive F5 tornado destroys half the town. Now everyone is going a little crazy, impulse control has been tossed aside, and the town is quarantined by soldiers. Oleander turns into a powder keg of religious zealots, power-hungry politicians, meth lords and crazy football jocks. Everyone is out to get someone and nowhere is safe. Daniel, Jule, Matt, Ellie, and Cass band together for survival, but will all of them survive?

This is a seat-of-your-pants horror thrill ride. It would actually make a great movie. It reminded me of Stephen King in its cast of characters and storytelling. You feel very claustrophobic in this small town with nowhere to go and no one to trust. Even a little old lady can be a killer in Oleander. I’m not sure I buy the science explanation behind the crazy, but if you take that with a grain of salt and just enjoy the ride you will not be disappointed. I really couldn’t put this book down. Wasserman is not afraid to go dark or to kill off characters. I like the question of whether the drug made everyone crazy or if it just brought out what was already there. Any author who starts a book off with the killing of a baby and then makes you sympathetic to the baby-killer is one twisted writer…and makes for a great book!

I received a copy of this book from the publishers at Netgalley.com.

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

Privateer's Apprentice by Susan Verrico, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 09/14/2013

Jameson Cooper is the son of the best printer in Charles Towne, South Carolina. He expects to one day take over his father’s business, but that was before tragedy strikes. A plague takes the lives of his mom and dad, an unscrupulous man takes the business and Jameson finds himself on the streets. He is accused of theft and sold as an indentured servant. On an errand for his master he is shanghaied by a crewmember of the Destiny, a privateer ship for Queen Anne. Jameson is not ready for life on board a ship, especially one captained by Attack Jack, but he soon learns the ropes. He makes enemies of a couple of the crew, but is championed by the ship’s cook and first mate. Jameson learns the ropes of life on a ship and becomes trusted by the Captain, who puts his printing skills to work as ship’s artist. There are attacks by a Spanish ship, storms at sea, and so much more in this high-seas adventure.

Who doesn’t like sea battles, descriptions of weird food and life on board ship? Jameson is an interesting character who goes through a lot in this book. I’m not sure it is very realistic that the captain would trust him so much after such a short amount of time, but it made for an interesting story.

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson , 448 pages, read by Angie, on 09/13/2013

The Bitter Kingdom ends one of my favorite trilogies. Rae Carson has written such a smart and well-crafted set of books that I really want to recommend to everyone. These are not your typical teen books, if there is such a thing. They deal with religion and politics and friendship and love and becoming the person you are meant to be. There is heartbreak, but there is also wonder; there is love and loss; mistakes are made and forgiveness given. This is the story of a girl chosen by god who becomes an Empress and brings peace to the world. Elisa is a magnificent character and her growth throughout this series is one of the reasons I love these books. I am a little bit envious of those you are being introduced to these books now with the last in the series. They have the privilege of reading the books one after another, which is the way they should be read.

16. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Historical Fiction, Kim B, Teen Books

Annexed by Sharon Dogar, 341 pages, read by Kim, on 09/15/2013

I did not think I would enjoy this book as it fictionalized real historical persons, but Sharon Dogar did an excellent job! You get an entirely different perspective of the eight people hidden in the annex in Amsterdam during WWII and yet she retains the authentic emotional atmosphere of Anne Frank’s diary. Very good read!

12. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Science Fiction, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Divergent by Veronica Roth, 487 pages, read by Kira, on 09/09/2013

Enthralling and Exciting.  I did Not want to put this down.  And the book stayed with me for days afterwards.

It also reminded me of several other books – the initiation and bullying kept reminding me of Ender’s Game, and The Giver, as well as somewhat like Tamora Pierce’s Alana series (and also Tom Brown’s Schooldays, and Lord of the Flies, but Not that bad).  I enjoyed this book a lot, and look forward to the 2nd and 3rd books.  I’m even considering purchasing Amazon’s companion minibooks told from Four’s perspective – and normally, I don’t buy books, I keep my collection at the Library.

DivergentFactionsdivergent junpdivergDIVERGENT

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

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 09/12/2013

Oona and Fred have a cat named Zook. Zook is a sick kitty who has to get fluids to help his kidney’s function. Oona is teaching Fred to read using rebuses and stories about the past lives of Zook. She is upset that her mom is dating Dylan (the villain) who she thinks is the past owner of Zook. There are misunderstandings, life lessons and big and little whoppers.

I am not sure if I would have felt the same way about this book if I had read it instead of listening to it. But since I listened to it, my opinion is not the best. The narrator uses voices for each of the characters and I have to admit they got on my nerves after a while. Listening to the book also highlighted some weaknesses in the writing that might not have been as noticeable reading it. For instance, Oona uses way too many phrases like for instance, for example, and also, and others. It isn’t a normal way a child would speak (or anyone really) and it is pretty annoying. The story isn’t bad though and I am sure kids will enjoy this tale about Oona, Fred and Zook. It also offers a good starting point for discussions on telling the truth, letting new people into your life and death and grief.

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

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 09/11/2013

It is the summer of 1964 in Hanging Moss, Mississippi and Glory is excited about having her 12th birthday party at the community pool. Then the community pool is closed for repairs, but there are no repairs needed. The adults in Glory’s life don’t want to explain what is going on, but she figures out that some people don’t want Blacks and Whites mixing in the pool and other places. It is Freedom Summer and there are Yankees in town putting people on edge. It is the summer that Glory learns more about the world and what it means to stand up for what is right.

I like the fact that Glory is clueless about the world. So often kids in books seem smarter and more aware than they really would be. She just seems like a regular girl who is worried about her birthday party and why her big sister doesn’t want to play with her anymore. She gradually becomes aware of what is going on, but it takes perseverance and a bit of sneakiness. I also liked that the book was pretty realistic in that there wasn’t a big change in attitudes in the community. People didn’t miraculous become more tolerant; they are just as prejudiced as before. But Glory is more aware and has firmly chosen a side in the Civil Rights Movement.

11. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Mystery, Pamela

10th Anniversary by James Patterson, 395 pages, read by Pamela, on 09/04/2013

10th anniversaryDetective Lindsay Boxer’s long awaited wedding celebration becomes a distant  memory when she is called to investigate a horrendous crime: a badly injured  teenage girl is left for dead, and her newborn baby is nowhere to be found.  Lindsay discovers that not only is there no trace of the criminals, but that the victim may be keeping secrets as well. At the same time, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano is prosecuting the biggest case of her life, a woman who has been accused of murdering her husband in front of her two young children. Yuki’s career rests on a guilty verdict, so when Lindsay finds
evidence that could save the defendant, she is forced to choose. Should she trust her best friend or follow her instinct? Lindsay’s every move is watched by her new boss, Lieutenant Jackson Brady, and when the pressure to find the baby begins interfering with her new marriage to Joe, she wonders if she’ll ever be
able to start a family.

11. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Apocalyptic, Fiction, Science Fiction

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, 294 pages, read by Angie, on 09/11/2013

The Earth is slowing, days are getting longer, the planet is not in sync with clocks anymore. It starts as 56 minutes, then gradually lengthens until the days can last weeks as the Earth slowly moves towards its demise. Julie is an 11-year-old girl when the slowing starts. She tells us the story of how plants and animals withered and died, how people grew sick from gravity sickness, how the world fractured into those living on clock-time and those living on real-time, and of how the Earth died.

This is not a fast-paced, action-packed apocalyptic book. It is a slow, measured study of the end of the world. Even at the end of the world, Julie is still dealing with boys and friends and her parent’s marriage problems. She experiences friendships growing apart, her first love, her mother’s manic worry, and her father’s infidelity. This is set against the background of food shortages, species extinction, radiation from the sun and people disappearing.

On paper this seems more like a young teen novel, but it is written for adults. Julie is telling the story as an adult looking back on her life as an 11-year-old. As such, the voice is not always what you would expect from an 11-year-old girl; some of her insights are too wise, some of her foreshadowing too precise. I enjoyed Julie, but I don’t think this is a book for everyone. For those used to a different type of end of the world saga, they will probably be frustrated by the slow pace. For those wanting answers and scientific facts, they will be disappointed in the lack. We just know the Earth is slowing and the world is dying; we do not know why or how. Therefore, we just have to live our lives and hope for the best.

Lee Berger has spent his entire life looking for the next big adventure and that quest paid off in 2008 when he discovered a cave in South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind. The cave, Malapa, contained bones from an ancient species of hominids, perhaps the oldest ever found. The Australopithecus Sediba bones of five beings were found in the cave, some nearly complete. The bones tell the story of a species that contained both human and ape characteristics and changed the way scientists think about evolution. This is an immensely readable account of Berger’s discovery and its implications to the scientific community. Our origins are fascinating and mysterious and this book will just wet your appetite to know more about human evolution and our ancient ancestors.

11. September 2013 · 2 comments · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway , 277 pages, read by Angie, on 09/10/2013

Abby can’t wait until her birthday and her Judging. On that day she will be considered an adult and be able to do magic like everyone else in her family and the world. Up until now her family has had to do everything for her as their house is made up of spells upon spells that do everything from turning on the water to expanding rooms to cooking dinner. But Abby’s Judging does go like expected. She is judged to have no magical ability; she is an “ord”, ordinary with no magic in a magical world. Ords are shunned and usually kicked out of their homes and schools or sold immediately. Normal, magical people looked upon ords as if they were contagious (they weren’t) or dangerous (they kind of are). In a world of magic, ords can see through spells and are immune to magic. They can walk through wards and right into your house if they wanted to. Many ords were sold to Adventurers, who used them to get through dangerous curses in their hunt for treasure.

Thankfully, Abby doesn’t come from a normal family. Her family loves her and refuses to sell her even when pressed by a couple of insistent adventurers. Her oldest sister, Alexa, comes to her rescue with a solution. Alexa works for King Steve in education. She helps enroll Abby in a school for ords, a school where she will be taught how to survive in a magical world and where she will be safe (or safer). At the school Abby becomes friends with other ords and learns practical things like defense and how to wash dishes. But the Adventurers are desperate and the school offers a wealth of ords ripe for the picking and other dangers exist for kids with no magical abilities.

I loved this book. I thought it was charming and magical and entirely readable. I really enjoyed Abby and her family. They are a tight knit family unit who love each other, fight with each other, tease each other and protect each other…just like a family is supposed to. I also enjoyed the group of friends Abby makes at school. They are not stereotypical or one-dimensional, but well-thought out and multifaceted. The entire time I was reading this book I couldn’t help making Harry Potter comparisons. They are similar, if completely opposite, and equally enjoyable. I think this is a great discussion book with its treatment of ords and normals (racism), child abuse, families and governmental responsibilities. These themes are all woven so skillfully throughout the story that you don’t realize you are getting a lesson until you really think about it. I like that the “message” isn’t shoved in your face. I also enjoy that the ending is open-ended leaving plenty of story for another book.