31. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Motel Life by Willy Vlautin, 240 pages, read by Claudia, on 07/12/2014

The Motel Life

In a gritty debut, Vlautin explores a few weeks in the broken lives of two working-class brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who abruptly ditch their Reno motel after Jerry Lee drunkenly kills a boy on a bicycle in a hit-and-run. The two are case studies in hard luck: their mother died when they were 14 and 16, respectively; their father is an ex-con deadbeat; neither finished high school. Frank has had just one girlfriend, motel neighbor Annie, whose mother is an abusive prostitute. An innocent simpleton, Jerry Lee is left feeling suicidal after the accident, despite his younger brother’s efforts (à la Of Mice and Men’s Lenny and George) to console him: “It was real quiet, the way he cried,” says Frank, “like he was whimpering.” On returning to Reno, an eventual reckoning awaits them. Vlautin’s coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E. Hinton—a writer well-acquainted with male misfit protagonists seeking redemption, no matter how destructive. Despite the bleak story and its inevitably tragic ending, Vlautin, who plays in the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, transmits a quiet sense of resilience and hopefulness. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information, Review provided by Publisher’s Weekly

31. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Inspirational, NonFiction

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff, 240 pages, read by Claudia, on 07/01/2014

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren’t good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll.

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world’s best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it’s not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob’s love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

Review provided by publisher Thomas Nelson

31. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Signature of All things by Gilbert, Elizabeth, 512 pages, read by Claudia, on 07/22/2014

The Signature of All Things

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

Review provided by Viking Penguin

31. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Informational Book, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Globish: How the English Language became the World's Language by Robert McCrum, 331 pages, read by Kira, on 07/31/2014

It seems unlikely that a small island conquered repeatedly would provide the world with a global language.  McCrum provides a historical review of how the English language developed, how its fluidity and subversive nature allowed it to flourish and become the lingua franca of the world.  He also details all the colonizing by the Brits. index globishpiespeakers   I wish only one timeline of history had been provided, I got a little confused going through history periods a couple of times, while focusing on other aspects of the language development.

31. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, NonFiction · Tags:

Gothic art now by Jasmine Beckett-Griffith, 192 pages, read by Brian, on 07/30/2014

artGothic Art Now, is an exceptional look at Gothic art in media, sculpture, advertising, photography and digital form.  The imagery is amazing and so is the insight you get from the artist on their work.

 

30. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Cats, Fiction, Humor, Tammy

The Devious Book for Cats: A Parody by Fluffy and Bonkers, 224 pages, read by Tammy, on 07/30/2014

devious book for catsA funny book of advice for cats from cats. But seriously, it’s a parady of the popular Dangerous Book for Boys and Daring Book for Girls that tells the kids how to do stuff that used to be common knowledge for most people. Everything from building a fire safely in the woods to how to play marbles to the importance of writing a letter (yes, with pen and paper) for certain situations. The books also feature lesser known but important men and women from history that the authors felt could be good role models for children.

This book advises cats on how to train their human, how to be the best hunter they can be and also gives them “histories” of famous and important cats. If you love cats and especially if you have a house cat you will recognize a lot of these behaviors and they way the authors interpret what the cats are thinking is hilarious.

30. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, 335 pages, read by Noelle, on 07/29/2014

A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.

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. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal

Hunted The Iron Druid Chronicles Part 6 by by Kevin Hearne, 384 pages, read by Kira, on 07/20/2014

index  Hunted is more like Part II of book 5, in that it picks up seconds later from where Trapped left off.  Atticus, Graunuialle, and Oberon get chased across Europe, with Artemis & Diana trying to kill the 3 of them.  I didn’t like to see these 2 strong female role models – Artemis & Diana – being portrayed in such a stupid manner.  And as another reviewer said, Atticus is way too powerful in comparison with the “Gods” in the novel, he seems to be able to get them to do whatever he wants. I did really like the epilogue where Graunuialle got her own wolfhound.

30. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

How They Choked: Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 07/29/2014

How They Choked explores the failures of fourteen historical figures. Obvious failures like Anne Boleyn and Benedict Arnold and George Custer are compared to some less obvious failures like Susan B. Anthony and Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison. I am not sure you can compare the failure of Montezuma to realize Cortez wasn’t a god which led to the death of his people to the fact that Susan B. Anthony failed to get women the vote in her lifetime. Some of the facts were really interesting however. I knew Amelia Earhart hadn’t learned how to read her instruments correctly, but I had no idea she wasn’t really that great of a pilot and had crashed a lot. I don’t think I even realized that Magellan hadn’t actually made it all the way around the world but had died in the Philippines. I think fans of gruesome history will enjoy this one as well as those who like to learn obscure trivia about people. Definitely not as interesting as How They Croaked, but a fun read nonetheless. 

29. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Paranormal

Trapped by Kevin Hearne, 320 pages, read by Kira, on 07/19/2014

Finally, after 12 years of training in secret to become a full druid,  Granuaile is ready to for the binding ceremony.  However, all the deities, that thought Atticus had died, now learn that he is still alive.  The saga continues.  They also have to help prevent Ragnarok.  I read this book back-to-back with the next book in the series “Hunted”, which is good, because Trapped ends on something of a cliffhanger.  They also kind of blended together in my mind, reading both in one straight shot.   trapped c92439bb9a4e1b7db76d3fc7fd23066eatticus_and_granuaile_by_codyvrosh-d63iuwe35ee3eae8e474884125d4c5c4b056dcbwlfh This was a fast enjoyable read, but sometimes Atticus is so arrogant, it is really annoying.  Iron_Druid_Chronicles images

29. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Kira, NonFiction, Science · Tags:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell., 512 pages, read by Kira, on 07/20/2014

davgol  Malcolm_GladwellBoy with menacing shadowAnother great book by Gladwell!  In this title he explores how our wounds our struggles can be the source of our strengths.  Interesting pieces that I learned: apparently Goliath was suffering from acromegaly (due to pituitary tumor) that caused him visual difficulties (thus he had another person guide him to the battle field) in addition to his giantism; Marching Day in England is where the Protestant march and celebrate their victory over the local Catholics! imagine if the Northerners came down to the South and celebrated the South’s loss in the Civil war!   He talks about the advantages that come from being a big fish in a small pond.  For example, the same percentage of Science majors switch over to Humanities in a Top School as compared to a medium school, despite the fact that the ATC test scores of students at the top school are generally way above those at medium schools (unless all these schools are grading on a curve, which wasn’t clearly discussed).

When the impressionists were shunned from the high art society in France, they created their own art show. And their art became more popular.  The most interesting take-away message is, if you’re going to fight the big and powerful, you don’t play by their rules.  You change the game.

Negatives: Though Gladwell holds up Jay Freireich’s cure of childhood leukemia as admirable, Freireich violated the physicians oath – do NO harm

29. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, 320 pages, read by Angie, on 07/29/2014

Felicity Pickle has been wandering her whole life. Her mama has a wandering heart and they barely get settled in a place before they are moving on. Felicity is hoping Midnight Gulch will change that. This is a place that feels like home. They are staying with her aunt Cleo and she learns that their family has a history in the mysterious Midnight Gulch. It is a place of wonder and magic. In the past magic bloomed everyone and in everyone, but since the Weatherly Brothers’ famous duel all that’s left is little snickers of magic. Felicity wants nothing more than to break the Weatherly Curse and stop her mama’s heart from wandering. It will take a whole cast of curious characters to help her out and another duel to settle things once and for all.

I was charmed by this quirky book. It is full of strange and wonderful characters both in the past and the present. I love the everyday magic that inhabited the people of Midnight Gulch and the snickers of magic that were left behind. It seems like there are lots of books in this genre: quirky, small town folks who band together out of love and hope and community. My only complaints were the overuse of specific words. Felicity sees words in the air and captures them in poems and her notebook. These words are wonderful and unique; however, her vocabulary is not. I got sick of reading spindiddly and what the hayseed and factofabulous. They were overused and unnecessary when such a rich vocabulary was introduced throughout the book. Other than that I really enjoyed it. 

29. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Cats, Children's Books, Fiction, Pamela

The five lives of our cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin, 229 pages, read by Pamela, on 07/06/2014

zookIn this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat, Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, Oona tells the stories of his previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life. Each of Zook’s lives have echoes in Oona’s own family life, which is going through a transition she’s not yet ready to face. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has started a relationship with a man named Dylan—whom Oona secretly calls “the villain.” The truth about Dylan, and about Zook’s medical condition, drives the drama in this loving family story.

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George, 248 pages, read by Angie, on 07/26/2014

Creel and Luka are engaged to be married and the dragons are safely living in the Far Isles. Creel is working hard on her wedding dress, but wants to visit Shardas and Velika before she gets married. While they are visiting Velika is kidnapped and spirited away to a far off land. Creel, Luka, Shardas and the others follow them to try to get Velika back. She has been kidnapped by rogue dragons who are failing and believe they need a queen to make them better. Problems arise because Velika is so close to giving birth to her clutch of eggs. Then the volcano blows and things go from difficult to impossible. 

I loved this conclusion to the Dragon Slippers trilogy. We get even more information on the dragons and we get to visit yet another exotic locale. I really enjoyed seeing Creel’s aunt again; it added a lot of comic relief to a somewhat dark book. I also really had to laugh at the saga of the wedding dress. This series just reinforced the fact that Jessica Day George is one of my favorite authors. It was fun and entertaining.

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 07/18/2014

It has been a year after the events of Dragon Slippers. Creel has become a famous dressmaker and is still friends with the dragons and Prince Luka. They find out that dragons are being trained in a neighboring country and invasion is imminent. Creel and her friends and dragons must try to figure out a way to free the captive dragons and stop the war. Turns out dragons are being bred for war and there are thousands to save. It also turns out that the the country is under the control of a rogue dragon who wants revenge on the King of the Dragons Shardas. 

Yet another fun book by Jessica Day George. I liked the continuation of the Creel story. I also really enjoyed getting to know more dragons and finding out more about their culture. Creel is again the heroine of the Dragon War with the help of her friends. She also gets a little closer to Prince Luka, who she has a big crush on.

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George, 352 pages, read by Angie, on 07/25/2014

Creel has been sacrificed to a dragon by her aunt. Since her parents died she is just an extra mouth to feed for her impoverished family. Creel goes into the dragon’s lair, but the dragon doesn’t want her. So he gives her a pair of blue slippers from his hoard (not gold) and sends her on her way. Instead of heading back to her family, she takes off for the capital city. There she makes friends with another dragon and a prince of the realm. She finds a job in a dress shop because of her amazing embroidery work. She also runs afoul of the princess-to-be who is going to marry the older prince. The princess turns out be evil and steals Creel’s slippers. Turns out the slippers are dragon slippers and control dragons. War comes to the realm and it is up to Creel to figure out how to stop the evil princess.

I am a huge fan of Jessica Day George and this series is another winner. While it might not be quite as charming as the Castle Gower series, it is still pretty awesome. I loved Creel as the spunky, talented heroine. I also really loved the dragons. They all have unique personalities and I loved the different things they hoarded like shoes and dogs and stained glass. 

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce, 440 pages, read by Angie, on 07/27/2014

Battle Magic is the story of Briar, Rosethorn and Evvy in Yanjing. The events that are alluded to in The Will of the Empress are explained here. They become involved in a war between countries; fighting on the side of the God-King of Gyongxe. They are forced to become battle mages and use their ambient magic to help win the war. 

It has been a while since I read The Will of the Empress and Melting Stones (the two previous books in this series), but I do remember that Briar is portrayed as suffering from horrible PTSD because of the things he was forced to do in this war. He is so traumatized that he can’t sleep alone and has flashbacks and nightmares. Imagine my surprise on reading this book to find nothing that truly traumatizes him, except maybe thinking Evvy is dead. I was happy to return to the Circle world even though I have always enjoyed Pierce’s Tortall books more. However, I am not sure this book lives up to her others. For one, the narration skips around a lot. I am fine with multiple narrators because it gives the story more depth, but the narrators not only switch between chapters but within them as well. It ads a level of confusion that was unnecessary. The other thing that was surprising was that there was really no character growth for Briar, Rosethorn or Evvy. They all seemed exactly like the characters they have been in the previous books. The secondary characters also seemed to fade together and no one is a real standout. 

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading this book. I did and stayed up way too late reading it. I liked learning more about what Briar and Rosethorn have been up to. However, I wasn’t impressed with the story or the battles really. The way it played out the group was essential to winning the war. Sure there were soldiers fighting and even some other mages, but Briar and Rosethorn and Evvy’s magic was the deciding factor, because they are so powerful and no one knows how to combat their ambient magic. Seemed a little to perfect to me. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. 

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Lie with me by Stephanie Tyler, 353 pages, read by Melody, on 07/27/2014

Framed for a double murder, Delta Force operative Cameron Moore is given a new lease on life by the CIA–provided he pays them back by doing their black ops dirty work. But now Cam is ready to renegotiate the deal, and he thinks he’s found the perfect bargaining chip: Skylar Slavin, bestselling author of espionage thrillers and the daughter of the CIA man who saved Cam from a prison sentence. 
Skylar has been living in anonymity, never suspecting that someone so dangerous–and so desirable–would plunge her into a world as treacherous as one of her spy novels. But how can Cam go through with his plan to kidnap Skylar when just the sight of her sets off an explosive attraction he’s never experienced before? And when Skylar falls prey to an even more perilous threat, this special ops soldier must call upon all his combat skills to protect the one person who can help him win his freedom–and the only woman he’s ever loved.

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Kim, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

No escape by Mary Burton, 384 pages, read by Kim, on 07/27/2014

He Was Taught How To Kill

Even behind bars, serial killer Harvey Day Smith exudes menace. Psychologist Jolene Granger has agreed to hear his dying confession, vowing not to let the monster inside her head. And Harvey has secrets to share—about bodies that were never found, and about the apprentice who is continuing his grisly work…

And Now He’ll Teach Them

He buries his victims alive the way his mentor Harvey did, relishing their final screams as the earth rains down. And as one last gift to the only father he knew, he’ll make the most perfect kill of all.

How To Die

Everything about this investigation is unnerving Jo, from Harvey’s fascination with her to the fact that she’s working alongside Texas Ranger Brody Winchester, her ex-husband. Harvey’s protégé is growing bolder and more vicious every day. And soon the trail of shallow graves will lead them to the last place Jo expected, and to the most terrifying truth of all…

28. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Snapped by Laura Griffin, 401 pages, read by Melody, on 07/25/2014

On a sweltering summer afternoon, Sophie Barrett walks into a nightmare. A sniper has opened fire on a college campus. When the carnage is over, three people – plus the shooter – are dead and dozens more are injured. Sophie escapes virtually unscathed. Yet as details emerge from the investigation, she becomes convinced that this wasn’t the random, senseless act it appeared to be. No one wants to believe her – not the cops, not her colleagues at the Delphi Center crime lab, and definitely not Jonah Macon, the homicide detective who’s already saved her life once.

Jonah has all kinds of reasons for hoping Sophie is mistaken. Involving himself with a key witness could derail an already messy investigation, not to mention jeopardize his career. But Sophie is as determined and fearless as she is sexy. If he can’t resist her, he can at least swear to protect her. Because if Sophie is right, she’s made herself the target of a killer without a conscience. And the real terror is only just beginning.