17. July 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, read by Angie, on 07/16/2014

Tree-ear is an orphan in 12th century Korea. He lives under a bridge with Crane-man. They live in Ch’ulp’o, a small village on the sea that is renowned for its celadon pottery. Tree-ear becomes the apprentice of a great potter named Min. Tree-ear labors for Min hoping that one day he too will be a great potter. In order to secure a royal commission, Min sends Tree-ear on a long journey across Korea with priceless pottery vases. Disaster strikes but Tree-ear manages to complete his mission and return with the commission. 

I actually liked this more than I thought I would. I thought the characters were very relatable and the story gripping and interesting. I also liked the fact that it is based on historical facts. I had to look up celadon pottery and the Thousand Cranes Vase after I was finished reading. Both are truly beautiful and you can tell that it took great skill to make these items. 

12. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Award Winner, Brian, Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Romance

O My Darling by Amity Gaige, read by Brian, on 06/12/2014

darlingO My Darling was described to me as one of the best supernatural books, a comedy and a romance.  I saw no comedy, a hint of the supernatural and did see the romance even in a tragic sense.  The writer wrote with great imagery which made it a joy to read.  There were parts I thought were not necessary and other parts that confused me.

 

 

05. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books

The Chosen by Chaim Potok , read by Tammy, on 06/03/2014

chosenA beautifully written story of two teenage Jewish boys who become friends even though they are from different Jewish traditions. The narrator, Reuven, is from a modern Orthodox Jewish family with an intellectual Zionist father. While Danny is an academically gifted son and heir to a Hasidic rebbe. Set in 1940s Brooklyn the two young men form a deep friendship that lasts into adulthood. They struggle through adolescence, family conflicts and crisis of faith during the Holocaust when the stories reach the U.S. together. The two fathers clash over intellectual and spiritual matters and of course have conflicts between themselves and their sons. Though the book explores religious differences between the two Jewish traditions the struggles reflect on issues we all face no matter what religion or family background.

 

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, read by Leslie, on 05/14/2014

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When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life.

I loved the form in which the author wrote this book.  The chapters are short but contain so much in those short amounts, it will appeal to kids who don’t normally like long chapter books.  The fact that she based it on a true story will be another hook for some kids.  It really makes you think about zoos and how we treat our fellow creatures.  I can see why it won the Newbery award.

15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, read by Angie, on 05/15/2014

Sometimes I read a book and wonder what happened when I was a child that I missed reading it then. Maybe I was just too preoccupied by The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High and didn’t pay attention to books that might be considered quality. Maybe I only read things I could get through Scholastic Book Club. Whatever the case, I am glad I have the opportunity to read some of these as an adult and to introduce them to kids. 

The Westing Game is one of those books I never read as a kid but know I would have loved. It did when the Newbery when I was a pre-reader, but I am sure it was on every library shelf throughout my childhood. It is a wonderfully engaging mystery that reminded me a lot of the movie Clue (not an exact match I admit, but some elements were there). I liked that it is not a dumbed down mystery for kids, but one that made me think even as an adult. In the introduction, it states that Rankin never “wrote-down” to children, but instead wrote to the adult in children. I think this perfectly describes this book.

The story begins with the Sunset Towers and its new occupants. They are all carefully chosen, except for the mistake, and all are connected even though they do not realize it. Sunset Towers is in the shadow of the Westing House whose mysterious owner, Sam Westing, disappeared 20 years ago. Then Sam Westing is found dead in the house and the occupants of the Sunset Towers are notified that they are heirs to the Westing Fortune. The sixteen heirs are paired up and given clues to solve the mystery of who murdered Sam Westing. They winner of the Westing Game will receive the Westing fortune. Along the way we learn so much about each of the characters and their connections to each other and Sam Westing. In the end there is only one winner of the Westing Game, but everyone who plays benefits in some manner. 

28. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Brian, Fiction, Teen Books

Insurgent by Veronica Roth, read by Brian, on 04/27/2014

veronica-roth-insurgent-itaInsurgent, the second book in the Divergent trilogy, is as good as a book the original.  Reviewing this book takes on a Fight Club perspective:  First rule of reviewing Insurgent-Don’t talk about Insurgent.  By talking this book I would be ruining the book, so go read and enjoy.

 

27. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Award Winner, Classics, Dystopia, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, read by Rachel, on 04/26/2014

Before The Hunger Games there was Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies remains as provocative today as when it was first published in 1954, igniting passionate debate with its startling, brutal portrait of human nature. Though critically acclaimed, it was largely ignored upon its initial publication. Yet soon it became a cult favorite among both students and literary critics who compared it to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in its influence on modern thought and literature.

Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies has established itself as a true classic.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kristy

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by Kristy, on 03/15/2014

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kristy, Poetry

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, read by Kristy, on 03/31/2014

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she must endure heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this award-winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental–and emotional–turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

25. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Rachel

All-of-a-kind Family by Sydney Taylor, read by Rachel, on 03/24/2014

This was a pretty cute book. Reminded me of an urban Little House on the Prairie. I loved the detailed description of Jewish holidays. Make sure you don’t read those sections on an empty stomach…the food descriptions were very well written!

It’s the turn of the century in New York’s Lower East Side and a sense of adventure and excitement abounds for five young sisters – Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie. Follow along as they search for hidden buttons while dusting Mama’s front parlor, or explore the basement warehouse of Papa’s peddler’s shop on rainy days. The five girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises. But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax, read by Courtney, on 02/16/2014

The War Within These Walls follows a young Polish boy whose Jewish family has been moved into the ghetto in Warsaw by the Nazis. Like so many others, Misha’s family endures devastating conditions. Misha begins to sneak through the sewers just to find food for his family. Eventually, his little sister joins him as well. Until she fails to return, that is. As things go from bad to worse, Misha joins his fellow Warsaw residents in one final stand against the Nazis.
The Warsaw Uprising is not addressed in YA fiction much, if at all. This slim novel brings the events of that struggle into focus with a sparse verse-like narrative and somber blue-grey drawings. It’s a lovely, if devastating, story about an important chapter in our collective history.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books · Tags:

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian, read by Courtney, on 01/03/2014

Evan has been moving around his entire life. Thus, he has perfected the art of being the New Guy. As the New Guy, Evan focuses entirely on meeting girls. He has no male friends to speak of and goes from girl to girl. He’s always had good luck with girls and views them as little more than conquests. Friendship with girls who won’t sleep with him aren’t really worth his time. Then Evan sleeps with the wrong girl. She’s a girl with a violent ex-boyfriend (who is unfortunately friends with Evan’s roommate). Evan gets beaten up so badly that he’s pulled out of school by his father and taken to live in the small rural community in Minnesota that his father grew up in. There, everyone knows everyone else. Evan quickly discovers that he cannot simply spend the summer hiding from everyone and everything. Slowly, bit by bit, Evan begins to make actual friends, both male and female. Still, Evan is haunted by the repercussions of his beating and has trouble even thinking about going back to his old way of living.
Evan’s perspective is a unique one in YA lit. Evan isn’t really the most likeable of characters, but it doesn’t take the reader long to figure out that it’s not entirely Evan’s fault. Evan’s mother is long absent and his wealthy father is more comfortable with computers than people. As Evan begins to open up to his new friends, he begins to reassess the way he thinks about both women and relationships.
The ending is little on the tidy side and the final chapters portraying Evan at the public school feel like they’re rushed and possibly unnecessary. Otherwise, it’s compelling read about issues rarely addressed from the male perspective. This would likely make a very interesting book for discussion groups.

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

Divergent by Veronica Roth, 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.

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31. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tracy

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak , read by Tracy, on 08/06/2013

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

30. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Drama, Eric, Fiction · Tags: , ,

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, read by Eric, on 08/29/2013

13-yr-old Salamanca retraces with her grandparents the route taken by her mother when suddenly she left Sal and her father, and went to Lewiston, Idaho. Along the way, Sal tells her grandparents the story of moving from Kentucky to Ohio, and of how Phoebe, a new friend, also had a mother leave. The journey west combines with stories of the past to determine the future of Sal’s family.

This novel won the Newbery Award in 1995, and deserves all the praise it has gotten over the years. It is a powerful exploration and celebration of life, loss, new love, and mature love. Creech gives Sal’s voice an aching, coming-of-age truthfulness that should be experienced by everyone, and not just middle readers. If you’ve not done so already, read this book!

25. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, read by Angie, on 08/24/2013

Imagine a love that transcends time; a love that will manifest seven times. That is the story of Eric and Merle or Erik and Melle. The story starts at the end in the year 2073 on the strange island of Blessed when Eric and Merle meet. But this is not the first time they have met; this is the last. We see each previous time as we travel backwards to the beginning. Eric and Merle are always present and always on Blessed Island, but they are not always the same lovers. Sometimes they are brother and sister, sometimes mother and son, sometimes father and daughter and sometimes doomed lovers. We learn their stories in each chapter until we get to the beginning and find out how their doomed love began.

This was an amazing book. The storytelling was pretty much perfect and I really couldn’t put it down. I loved Eric and Merle each time we met them and I really liked that they were not always lovers. Sedgwick explored all the types of love in their seven lives. I like the mystery of the island and its secret side with the dragon orchids which may or may not make you eternally young. I liked that some of the other characters seem to travel through time with our lovers. Their lives are intertwined and doomed to repeat over and over again. I think my favorite story might have been The Painter, but I enjoyed them all. This is a spooky, fascinating love story that will really stick with you.

21. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Dystopia, Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books · Tags:

Divergent by Veronica Roth, read by Tammy, on 08/03/2013

divergent  In dystopian Chicago,  society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to a specific virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). One day a year all citizens who are now 16 must select the faction they will belong to for the rest of their lives. All sixteen year olds take a test to determine which faction they are best suited for but the choice is left up to the individual. Most choose the faction they grew up in, but not all.Our heroine, Beatrice, is growing up in the Abnegation faction and now must decide does she stay with her parents or does she follow who she really is? If she changes factions she will rarely ever see her parents or brother since not only are living quarters determined by faction but also career paths and marriage options.

During the initiation into her chosen faction, Beatrice renames herself Tris. The initiation is daunting but Tris also has a secret, one that she doesn’t fully understand herself but that she’s hiding on fear of death.

This book has won numerous awards including: ALA Teens’ Top Ten Nominee (2012), Children’s Choice Book Award Nominee for Teen Choice Book of the Year (2012), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2014), dabwaha for Best Young Adult Romance (2012), Goodreads Choice for Favorite Book of 2011 and for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction (2011)

16. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Fiction, Science Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, read by Tammy, on 08/15/2013

In the distant future planet Earth has barely survived attack by an alien race referred to as the “Buggers” for their bug-like appearance. Even though Earth was able to drive the enemy back everyone is waiting for the day when the alien force returns even stronger. All children are monitored as toddlers to early school age to see if they have what it takes to become part of the planets defense force especially leadership material. Young Ender Wiggin is deemed the perfect candidate to be trained up as the commander of the whole military force. He leaves his family at age 6 for rigorous training. He is constantly watched and tested by the teachers and military leaders who believe he may be the only chance for Earth’s survival against the enemy that they know so little about and understand even less. But is Ender clever enough and strong enough to be what the military is looking for? How can a child accomplish what no adult has been able to do so far? Ender's game

02. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Award Winner, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, read by Angie, on 06/29/2013

Bernadette is one of those characters that you just can’t get out of your head. I loved every minute of this book and found myself laughing out loud at times. Maria Semple takes an entertaining tale and makes it even better in the way she delivers her information. We learn about the life of Bernadette through a series of documents: emails, faxes, FBI reports, hand written notes, news articles, etc. This packet has been assembled and given to Bernadette’s daughter Bee. Through the packet of information we learn that Bernadette was once the hottest thing in architecture, but had a break down and ran away to hide in Seattle. She is married to Elgin Branch one of the hottest acquisitions Microsoft ever made. She is being harassed by her neighbor Audrey because of her wild blackberries. And she has become so agoraphobic that she has hired a virtual assistant in India to do everything for her from making dinner reservations to getting prescriptions to booking a trip to Antarctica. It is the trip to Antarctica, a reward for Bee getting straight As, that really throws Bernadette for a loop. Everything starts falling apart and Bernadette disappears. It is up to Bee to figure out what happened and where her mother went.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone. I listened to the audio version and it was hilarious! I love how snarky Bernadette is and how she pokes fun at everything from Canadians to prep school moms (they are gnats!) to Microsoft to herself. There are a ton of wonderful instances in this book that I wanted to relisten to. I will admit to being just a bit let down by the ending, but the rest of the book was so entertaining that I am giving it a pass.

27. June 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Award Winner, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Food, Kira · Tags:

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, read by Kira, on 06/13/2013

On her 9th birthdayparticularsadness cake  Rose discovers that she can taste the emotions of the people who prepared the food she eats; thus discovering the emptiness and discontent her Mother represses.

This is a story of attempting to forge meaningful connections within one’s family and beyond.

The atmosphere reminded me of that found in the title “A Certain Slant of Light”, though Sadness is far more realistic and grounded (yes it contains a small amount of magical realism).