17. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 12/16/2014

Arty is obsessed with space and finding life on Mars. His best friends Tripp and Priya support his obsession as does his dad who works in an observatory. When dad loses his job and decides to move the family to Las Vegas, Arty is devastated. There are too many lights in Vegas for stargazing. Arty is left with a mysterious neighbor when the parents go house hunting. Turns out the neighbor is not a zombie who will eat your face, but a retired astronaut who never made it to space. Arty and Cash bond over the stars and build a machine to make alien contact.

This is a lovely story about friendship not just with people your own age but who share your interests. It is also a story about not giving up on your dreams or letting others destroy them. I really enjoyed Arty’s family and their obsession with space. All the kids are named after stars even though they have shortened their names. I liked Arty’s friends as well. Tripp provided a nice comic relief and Priya was a great girl friend who isn’t a girlfriend. Cash was probably the most interesting character as he went from a gruff, unfriendly possible zombie/serial killer to a dying man trying to encourage his young friend. One editing quibble: at one point Arty says something about realizing Cash was as interested as he was in astrology…pretty sure it should have been astronomy. That threw me off and really stuck with me.

17. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

West of the Moon by Margi Preus, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 12/16/2014

Astri and Greta live with their aunt and uncle on a farm in Norway. Their mother has died and their father has gone to America to find a better life. The aunt sells Astri to a goatman, Mr. Svaalberd, who doesn’t treat her very well. On the goatman’s farm she finds Spinning Girl who doesn’t talk but spins beautiful wool. Astri is determined to run away and find a better life for her and Greta. When she does finally get away, she is pursued by the goatman throughout her journey. Astri, Greta and Spinning Girl make their way to the coast and a ship to America. Turns out the money Astri stole from goatman will not get them all on the ship. Spinning Girl is left behind as Greta and Astri sail for America. Throughout the story Astri recounts tales and legends, mainly East of the Sun West of the Moon, to help her get through her horrible days. This is a time in history when the old ways have not given way to the new Christian beliefs completely. There is talk of trolls and huldrefolk and magic spells and rituals. It is an interesting mix of fantasy and reality in this historical tale. I found a lot of the historical information really interesting, especially how people had to supply themselves for voyages to America. I am not sure how many fans this book will find among the intended age group though. It is a little confusing with the mix of fantasy and reality and is plenty violent. I really wanted to like it more than I did.

I received this book from Netgalley.

17. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 12/16/2014

Octobia May lives with her Aunt Shuma who runs a boarding house. Octobia is obsessed with Mr. Davenport, one of the boarders. She believes he is a vampire for much of the book. Octobia and her best friend Jonah start following Mr. Davenport and belief he killed a girl. No one believes them until Mr. Davenport and banker Mr. Harrison try to railroad Shuma when she goes for a loan. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue in this book as Octobia and Jonah try to figure out what is going on with Mr. Davenport. Octobia is a strange child who seems obsessed with death; she died for a little while and talks to the statues in the graveyard. There is a lot of important topics discussed in the book that aren’t often talked about in middle grade fiction. Some of the boarders are holocaust survivors, no one will loan Aunt Shuma money because she is black and single, schools are segregated, there is talk of passing as white for light skinned Blacks, mixed race children and what it means to be free. You would think all of that would make this a more enjoyable story. It doesn’t! I think Octobia’s vampire obsession at the beginning of the book just made the whole thing seem more unrealistic and put me off the rest of the story. It was a bit on the long side and seemed less cohesive than I would have liked.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

16. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance

Keep by Karyn Lawrence, 270 pages, read by Melody, on 12/15/2014

Billionaire CEO Shawn Dunn has plenty of sex, power, and money. A woman turning down his advances? Unfathomable. Yet that’s what she does, again and again.

Kara Hayward is supposed to be off limits. Her sister is hiding from the dangerous assassin she escaped from, and it’s best for everyone if Shawn keeps his distance. Certainly as far as Kara is concerned. Shawn’s only after one thing and then he’ll walk away, just like her ex-husband.

But Shawn has larger desires and he’s used to getting what he wants. He doesn’t care if being together is dangerous. He doesn’t believe that threat to him, or his empire, is real. Right up to the night he has everything taken away.

16. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Humor, Tammy · Tags:

Dog Butts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. by Jim Benton, 96 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/15/2014

dog butts  A collection of cartoons by New York Times Bestseller Jim Benton. Though the title implies lots of pet or animal cartoons there are only a few. Personally I found the humor hit or miss.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Lirael by Garth Nix, 487 pages, read by Kira, on 12/10/2014

index    lirael 2This is the 2nd book in the Sabriel trilogy.  It picks up 14 years after Sabriel killed Kerigor and takes the viewpoints of Sabriel’s son, Prince Sameth, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, and of Lirael a daugher of the Clayr who are able to see into the future.  We meet Lirael at age 14 long after most Clayr have obtained the “Sight”, who has given up hope that she will ever become a ‘normal’ Farseer, like the rest of her community.  Lirael eventually becomes a librarian (and what a kick-butt occupation this is in this world), and has adventurous encounters in the library with her newly acquired magical companion “the Disreputable Dog”.  At the same time Prince Sameth tries to study the Book of the Dead in order to master the bells, to help his mother and eventually to become the Abhorsen.  However, he experiences panic attacks when he tries to interact with the book.  Eventually the 2 characters 3e091473a6324c21a9932889449091b6cross paths.  Their interactions are delightful.  Some of the index2surprises were easy to foresee, but I found this a very enjoyable read.  Beware,it ends 91GqNS1Oc2L._SL1500_on a cliffhanger.

rock breaks rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock-stein-schere-papier-eidechse-echse-the-big-bang-theory RANTBLEimages outguessing machine Even when people try to be unpredictable, they usually fall into patterns.  William Poundstone shows readers how to make the best odds for yourself, whether this be a game of rock/paper/scissors, gambling, fixing the books, or investing in the stock market.  Poundstone writes in an engaging and accessible style.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Kim, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

In a heartbeat by Rita Herron, 378 pages, read by Kim, on 12/14/2014

With that brief, terrifying phone call, Lisa Langley’s nightmare began again. Four years ago she was the sole survivor of the Grave Digger, a madman who buried his victims alive. Now a copycat killer is on the loose and she’s the only chance Special Agent Brad Booker has of stopping this twisted psycho before more women — including Lisa — die.

Hard-edged and always in control, Booker has never forgiven himself for failing to save Lisa from falling victim to the first Grave Digger. Whatever it takes, this time he’s not going to let her down. Because almost losing Lisa is not something he can live through twice.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Cold light of day by Toni Anderson, 340 pages, read by Melody, on 12/14/2014

Physicist Scarlett Stone is the daughter of the man considered to be the most notorious Russian agent in FBI history. With her father dying in prison she’s determined to prove he’s innocent, but time is running out. Using a false identity, she gains access to the Russian ambassador’s Christmas party, searching for evidence of a set-up.

Former Navy SEAL, now FBI Special Agent, Matt Lazlo, is instantly attracted to Scarlett but life is too complicated to pursue a politician’s daughter. When he discovers she lied to him about her identity, he hunts her down with the ruthless efficiency he usually reserves for serial killers.

Not only does Scarlett’s scheme fail, it puts her in the sights of powerful people who reward unwanted curiosity with brutality. The FBI—and Matt—aren’t thrilled with her, either. But as agents involved in her father’s investigation start dying, and the attempts to stop Scarlett intensify, Matt and his colleagues begin to wonder. Could they have a traitor in their midst?

As Scarlett and Matt dig for the truth they begin to fall passionately for one another. But the real spy isn’t about to let anyone uncover their secrets, and resolves to remain firmly in the shadows—and for that to happen, Matt and Scarlett have to die.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

A breath away by Rita Herron, 376 pages, read by Melody, on 12/13/2014

Ever since Violet Baker’s childhood companion was brutally murdered, she’s been plagued with visions of the girl’s last hours. Now, on the twentieth anniversary of Darlene’s death, Violet’s father is found dead, a note beside him confessing to the murder. But something doesn’t feelright, and Violet returns to Crow’s Landing looking for answers.

Facing the judgmental town as a murderer’s daughter is difficult enough, but with the scalding tension between her and Sheriff Grady Monroe, Darlene’s half brother, is worse. As the two of them race to unravel the mystery, it quickly becomes clear that Violet is in grave danger…and Grady suddenly knows that he’ll do anything to protect her, no matter what the cost.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers, 444 pages, read by Angie, on 12/14/2014

Mortal Heart is the conclusion to one of my favorite trilogies. I am not sure you can go wrong with a series about medieval assassin nuns. This is Annith’s story. We have seen Annith get left behind each time one of her sisters has gone out on a mission. Now she wants to know why. Annith is the most skilled of all the initiates of Mortain. When a young, unskilled sister is sent out in her stead Annith rebels and confronts the Abbess. She learns she is meant to be the order’s seer and locked in the convent for the rest of her life. Annith wants none of that and sets out on her own to find answers. Along the way she rides with the Hellequin (Death’s riders) and the followers of St. Arduinna. She joins her sisters Sybella and Ismae in the service of the Duchess of Brittany. She discovers the truth of her origins, why she was held back at the convent and true love on her journey.

Annith is a fantastic character. She is strong and righteous and a true believer in the old gods. It is her faith that plays the biggest part in this book as she comes face to face with the old gods and learns what her role is. I love how this series ties actual historical events into the story. Duchess Anne really was besieged by the French and on the brink of losing her country. I thought the fantasy elements really worked with this story. I loved the Hellequin, which seemed like a wonderful mix of a biker gang and an old west posse. I wasn’t sure how the whole romance thing was going to turn out but I loved how it did. My only complaint about the book was the loose ends. I wanted everything tied up by the last page and it wasn’t. We never found out what really happened to Matelaine for instance. Those are just small quibbles though as this was a wonderful end to the series. I do hope the author returns to this world in future books as she really made this time period come alive and I want to know more.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, 227 pages, read by Angie, on 12/14/2014

So I’m not exactly sure how I feel about this book. I found the story itself intriguing, but there were aspects of it that were kind of annoying. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t truly hate it either. We Were Liars is the story of four cousins who spend their summers on a the family’s private island. So yes they are the rich elite of the East Coast. Grandma and Grandpa Sinclair have built houses on the island for all their pretty daughters and grandchildren. But of course the daughters are not happy with their lots in life basically because they are selfish, self-centered and living off daddy’s money. Their children aren’t as bad yet but you can see the potential. For of the kids are all the same age: Cadence (the oldest), Johnny (the first boy), Mirren and Gat (the sort of Indian step-cousin). Cadence and Gat fall in love the summer they are 15, but something happens that summer. Something no one will talk about to Cadence. All she knows is that she woke up on the beach with some kind of head trauma and now suffers from amnesia and migraines. She heads back to the island two years later and tries to figure out what happened and what no one is telling her.

So that all sounds intriguing and it is. However, you are told from the beginning that there is some kind of twist; the book was marketed that way so of course you know there is some kind of twist. I figured out the twist early on but not the how or the why of it. The truly annoying thing about the book was Cadence herself. She is our narrator and a very unreliable one. She is also prone to being overly dramatic and imaginative. The first time she describes being shot and bleeding out on the lawn you wonder what the heck just happened. When it keeps happening in different ways you realize she is talking about her feelings. Then there is the way the book is written. I listened to the audio which I think helped tremendously as you don’t notice the weird structure of the prose as much. It seems to be written in a very conversational tone with streams of consciousness and lack of punctuation or sentence structure. I can definitely see where that would get old fast. The other problem with the book, and this could have been completely intentional, was that the characters were not likeable. Cadence is a poor little rich girl who did something stupid and got away with it. She is almost as selfish and self-absorbed as her mother and aunts. All the adults in the book are manipulative and greedy. I am not sure who we are supposed to empathize with if anyone but I found I really could have cared less about the beautiful, special Sinclairs.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

By the Grace of Todd by Louise Galveston, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 12/12/2014

Todd’s room has got to be the grossest ever. There are dirty clothes and dishes everywhere, he has food stashed under his bed, and I am not sure he has ever cleaned. All this filth leads to new life however when Todd discovers his gross gym sock has created a race of tiny people. The Toddlians worship Todd as their supreme creator. Todd has no idea what to do with them so he enlists the help of is homeschooled neighbor Lucy. Unfortunately, Todd is also bullied and has to let bully Max Loving use the Toddlians for their science project to survive middle school. Max, being the bully he is, also bullies the Toddlians. Todd has to come to terms with his responsibility towards the Toddlians and save them from the evil clutches of Max.

This book is definitely geared towards boys as I think girls would just be grossed out. It reminded me a lot of other books with tiny races like The Indian in the Cupboard, The Carpet People or The Borrowers. I liked Todd’s struggle with his role in the lives of the Toddlians. I also really enjoyed his younger sister Daisy and the three main Toddlian characters. I thought the bullying story seemed pretty realistic but I wanted more repercussions for Max at the end. Definitely not my favorite book, but not the worst thing I have read either.

street cat named bob The moving, uplifting true story of an unlikely friendship between a man on the streets and the ginger cat who adopts him and helps him heal his life. Bob the world-wise street cat helps James change his life for the better and teaches him how to relate to other people better too.

world according to bobJames and his street cat, Bob, have been on a remarkable journey together. James was a homeless drug addict before meeting Bob. Bob helped James see important truths: friendship, loyalty, trust and happiness. This book picks up where “A Street Cat Named Bob” left off. James shares how Bob has been his protector and guide through illness, hardship and danger. James has taught Bob tricks such as how to high five but he knows he has learned so much more from his street-wise cat. Not just an animal story but the story of one man and his animal companion.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Cats, Short Stories, Tammy · Tags: ,

Christmas Cats by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 246 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/14/2014

christmas catsAll cat lovers will enjoy these 19 short stories, essays and poems. Some are new while others are previously published. Murphy, the serious editor is the author of the popular mystery series featuring a cat detective. There’s something for everyone, including an informative piece by Christine Church on holiday safety for cats.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Tammy · Tags:

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle , 167 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/13/2014

last unicorn

A beautifully illustrated graphic novel version of the story of the last unicorn. I first encountered this story as a movie inspired by the story also by Peter S. Beagle. The story leads our heroes to question what their purpose in life is and what is worth fighting and possibly dying for.

15. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Tammy · Tags: ,

Favole: Stone Tears by Victoria Francés, 48 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/12/2014


favole
An English translation with beautifully detailed Gothic illustrations. Victoria Frances relates the memories of a vampires and the ladies that haunt him including his one true love through time. Full of forbidden love, magic, lost innocence and longing.

14. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jessica, Romance

Maybe Not by Colleeen Hoover, 129 pages, read by Jessica, on 12/14/2014

71plHWxokBL._SL1500_Colleen Hoover, the New York Times bestselling author of Maybe Someday, brilliantly brings to life the story of the wonderfully hilarious and charismatic Warren in a new novella, Maybe Not.

When Warren has the opportunity to live with a female roommate, he instantly agrees. It could be an exciting change.

Or maybe not.

Especially when that roommate is the cold and seemingly calculating Bridgette. Tensions run high and tempers flare as the two can hardly stand to be in the same room together. But Warren has a theory about Bridgette: anyone who can hate with that much passion should also have the capability to love with that much passion. And he wants to be the one to test this theory.

Will Bridgette find it in herself to warm her heart to Warren and finally learn to love?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

11. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Paula, Teen Books

Dorothy Must Die by Paige, Danielle, 452 pages, read by Paula, on 12/11/2014

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Amy Gumm thought life was tough in the trailer park with her druggie, depressed mother and the mean girls in school. But that was before before she was carried to Oz by a tornado, before she was rescued by a series of strange individuals, and before she was instructed, Dorothy must die. Sweet Dorothy returned to Oz only to rule it with an evil, greedy hand, gradually stealing all its magic for herself. Amy, also from Kansas and arriving on a tornado, has to reverse the earthling’s power by killing her. Paige has spirited readers back to The Wizard of Oz, fracturing the already strange classic by having good and wicked witches exchange places, amputating the flying monkeys’ wings, and creating a fear-eating lion, a nefarious Dr. Jekyll scarecrow, and a vicious tin soldier. Amy’s assignment? Navigate through magical defenses, while struggling with her own values of good and evil, to get to Dorothy