03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Dork in Disguise by Carol Gorman, read by Angie, on 10/03/2014

Jerry Flack is not cool. He is a nerd who likes science and wears glasses. When he moves to a new town he thinks he has a shot at changing his image and becoming cool. He puts away his glasses and gets lessons on being cool from his friend Brenda. Soon he is hanging out with the cool kids and thinks beautiful Cinnamon likes him. But he also misses hanging out with Brenda and the other kids on the science team. And he still likes science and other uncool things. This is a book all about accepting who you are and what is important to you. Is it more important to be cool and do things you don’t enjoy or approve of or is it better to hang out with people you like and do things you enjoy? Jerry has to learn this lesson that we have all learned. No one wants to be uncool or unpopular, but sometimes you realize that being cool isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction

The Circus Goes to Sea by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 10/03/2014

Sir Sidney’s Circus is the best circus in the world. The circus goes to sea when they receive an invitation from Flora Endora Eliza LaBuena LaPasta to be guests on the SS Spaghetti. Everyone in the circus is excited about the trip except Sir Sidney because he gets seasick. Once they board the SS Spaghetti they find out that Flora is a little girl and her mom is the Captain of the ship. Unfortunately, the captain is not happy that Flora fired all the entertainers and brought the circus on board. She is even more unhappy when they empty the swimming pool (the elephant jumped in) and injured a passenger (he tried the spaghetti tight rope the Banana Brothers set up). But when the ship hits an iceberg she is happy the circus is there to help fix the ship. This is a cute beginning chapter book. It has an engaging story and lots of illustrations to keep the story moving. I really enjoyed how Klise included illustrations showing conversations between the characters. I think kids will enjoy this book by Kate Klise.

I received this book from Netgalley.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction

The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker by E.D. Baker, read by Angie, on 10/02/2014

Cory hates being a tooth fairy. She isn’t very good at it and doesn’t enjoy it, but her mom is a tooth fairy and convinced her it was the career for her. When she quits her mom is furious as is the Tooth Fairy Guild. Cory just wants to help people and wants to find a career that will let her do that. She starts taking odd jobs like babysitting (for Humpty Dumpty and the old lady who lived in a shoe), mowing yards (for the three little pigs of course) and doing inventory (for the lady selling seashells on the seashore). She also starts setting up her friends on dates trying to find them the perfect match. The Tooth Fairy Guild does not take quitters lightly and starts a campaign of harassment that follows Cory wherever she goes. They send rain and gnats and crabs and the big bad wolf. None of it convinces Cory that she should go back to being a tooth fairy. As the harassment escalates so does her determination to find something truly helpful to do.

I had high hopes for this book as I really enjoy fractured fairy tales, but this book was a bit of a disappointment. I liked the fact that we got to see such a nice mixture of fairy tale characters, but I wanted more of a story. The story itself seems very disjointed with Cory moving from one odd job with a fairy tale character to another. The only truly cohesive thing seems to be the harassment by the TFG, but even that seems a bit extreme. I liked the ending and how Cory’s matchmaking desires finally makes sense but I also thought it was a bit rushed. There was a lot of story about Cory babysitting and such but very little about what happens when she finds her true calling.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, read by Angie, on 10/02/2014

Rose is on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s. She is obsessed with rules, prime numbers and homonyms. She gets upset when people don’t follow the rules or when she has problems understanding something. The adults in her life respond to her in different ways. Her father doesn’t understand and all and gets angry at her when she does not respond in a normal way. Her teacher and aide try to help her through difficult situations at school. It is her uncle Weldon who truly understands and accepts Rose. Their relationship is the heart of this story and one that grounds Rose and helps her live as normal a life as possible. Her father gave her a dog one evening which she named Rain. Rose loves the fact that both of their names are homonyms (rose/rows and rain/reign/rein). A hurricane strikes their New York town and her father lets Rain out into the storm. Rain disappears and Rose does everything she can think of to find him. She calls shelters and gets her uncle to help her search. When they finally do find Rain their joy is tempered by bad news. Rose has to find the courage to do the right thing and accept the reality of the situation.

I really only remember Ann Martin for her Babysitter’s Club books (which I was obsessed with as a kid). I hadn’t read a book by her in years and have to admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by this one. Rose is written so realistically that at times it is almost painful to read her story. Probably almost as painful as it would be to watch it unfold in real life. She does truly try to life as normal a life as possible, but she doesn’t always respond in the normal ways. Her meltdowns feel real and natural as does her confusion over the actions of others. I think this is an eye-opening look at what a person with Asperger’s goes through and how they think and react to situations. It was wonderful and truly worthy of the praise it is getting. The ending alone is enough to break your heart and make you want to give Rose a huge hug.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/26/2014

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/23/2014

Dear Reader,

I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, THE MISERABLE MILL might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log.

The pages of this book, I’m sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.

I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/22/2014

Dear Reader,

If you have not read anything about the Baudelaire orphans, then before you read even one more sentence, you should know this: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are kindhearted and quick-witted, but their lives, I am sorry to say, are filled with bad luck and misery. All of the stories about these three children are unhappy and wretched, and this one may be the worst of them all.If you haven’t got the stomach for a story that includes a hurricane, a signalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair.I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/21/2014

As Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire travel along Lousy Lane toward their new home, they fear the worst. It’s true that Violet Baudelaire has escaped some close calls before. For a fourteen-year-old, she has an extraordinary talent for inventing things. And her brother, Klaus, is also well equipped for emergencies. He has read a great deal and possesses just the sort of knowledge that can get them out of a tight spot. Their younger sister, Sunny, is also helpful in a jam. Though she is only an infant, she has four very sharp teeth, and she likes to bite things. Still, even though the Baudelaires have great talent among them, they can’t help but worry about what sort of guardian their strange Uncle Montgomery Montgomery will be. After all, these siblings are extremely unlucky and they had best be on their guard. Certainly, they will need all of their abilities if they should find themselves faced with a dreadful series of unfortunate events.

03. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Tracy

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket, read by Tracy, on 09/20/2014

It’s a good thing that Violet Baudelaire has a real knack for inventing things. When misery comes to call, the right invention at the right time can mean everything. It’s also fortunate that her brother, Klaus, has read lots of books and knows many important things, like how to tell an alligator from a crocodile and who killed Julius Caesar. When everything that can possibly go wrong does, a small fact can be vital. It’s lucky, too, that Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest sibling, likes to bite things. Even though she is an infant, and scarcely larger than a boot, she has four very big and sharp teeth. When trouble comes along, sharp teeth can save the day. But most of all, it is good fortune that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are as sturdy and resilient as they are, for ahead of these three children lies a seemingly infinite series of unfortunate events.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Swap by Megan Shull, read by Lisa, on 10/01/2014

“YOU BE ME…AND I’LL BE YOU.”

ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.

Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!

Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, read by Angie, on 10/01/2014

Albie is a boy in fifth grade who has issues. He doesn’t do well in school. He is so bad in fact he was kicked out of his fancy prep school and sent to public school instead. He isn’t good at math or reading or spelling or art. His parents expect a lot more from him; his dad expects perfection, but Albie is just not able to deliver. He isn’t cool or smart and doesn’t have many friends. His new babysitter Calista helps though. She tries to help him study and does fun things with him. His parents are distant and don’t really seem to have a lot of time for him. Albie spends the school year trying to figure things out and figure out his place in the world.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand I really liked the fact that Albie was just your average kid. He wasn’t super talented or super smart or super anything. In fact he was pretty much the opposite. He struggles with school. He struggles with making friends. Things are hard for him and they don’t get miraculously better at the end of the book. On the other hand I had a really hard time with this story. Albie’s parents are horrible with unreal expectations for him (which could be very realistic) and with little time or interest in Albie. They make no effort to find out what is going on with him or what he is having problems with or even what he likes. My biggest issue was probably Albie himself though. At one point Albie is tested for dyslexia and finds out he doesn’t have it, but he clearly has something. He is very immature for a fifth grader, he doesn’t pick up on social clues that most kids his age would clearly understand and he has a lot of problems learning. I think a lot of kids reading this book will be frustrated by Albie and the fact that he is so clueless about things. When the bully Darren starts being nice to Albie most kids will instinctively know that Darren can’t be trusted. He is clearly trying to get close to Albie because his friend is on a reality TV show. But Albie thinks he is suddenly cool and tries to help another “uncool” friend become cool. I can’t imagine any fifth grader acting like this. It seems more like the behavior of someone in third grade. I think the message of this book is good though. It is all about accepting yourself for who you are and realizing that not everyone is a superhero or has special powers. It was just a bit of a mixed bag for me though.

01. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove, read by Angie, on 09/30/2014

At some point in our future the Great Distortion takes place and the world is unstuck from time. What does this mean? It means that different eras/time periods co-exist throughout the world. You have the Prehistoric Snows in Canada, Late Patagonia in South America, the 40th Age in the Philippines area and here in the United States you have New Occident in the east and the Baldlands in the west. Some areas are so disrupted they are closed, but many others are open to exploration and trade. Sophia lives with her uncle in Boston in New Occident. Her parents were explorers who disappeared when she was three. Uncle Shadrack is one of the foremost cartologers (mapmakers) in the world and is teaching her about maps. Then Shadrack is kidnapped and leaves a message for Sohpia to find Veressa. She teams up with Theo and heads off to the Baldlands. Turns out Shadrack was kidnapped by the mysterious Blanca and her Sandmen. She wants Shadrack to help her find the carta mayor, the water map of the world, and revise it so the world is whole again. Everyone meets up in the Baldland capital of Nochtland, but there they discover that the world is not static like they thought. A glacier age is making its way north and wiping out every other age it crosses. Sophia, Theo, Shadrack and the friends they have made have to figure out how to stop it and stop Blanca.

So if the description confuses you, you are not alone. This is a very complex story that while fascinating requires a suspension of belief to enjoy. The description of the world is amazing, but it really doesn’t answer a lot of questions. For instance, no one knows what age the great disruption occurred in; however, there are ages from the distant past and the distant future. How can there be an age from a future after the great disruption if the great disruption occurs? Why are some ages closed and others open? Why can you travel and trade among some but have no idea what is going on in others? If this is earth, why are there people with feathers or metal bones? How can ages move and expand? It kind of makes your head hurt when you think about it. I think one of my biggest headaches was the language. There are lots of made up words that are like our words but not. Things like Baldlands (which I always read as Badlands) and cartologer (which I read as cartographer). It made a confusing story even more confusing. There is also the issue of the maps. Seems in this world you can make way more than paper maps. There are water maps, glass maps, cloth maps, metal maps and these maps contain not just geographical features but memories from people. No explanation on how these maps were created or how people learned to make them. Of course there was no explanation on the carta mayor and how and why it was created either.

Then you have the book itself. It is rather long and the age it is aimed at is questionable. It is complicated and has some nasty bits (torture and such) which seem to point towards a more teen reader, but the main character is obviously young and there is no romance between Sophia and Theo which points toward a more middle grade reader. I’m not really sure who I would recommend this book to. Of course there is the story itself which got even more far-fetched the longer it went along while at the same time remaining completely predictable. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book or enjoy it. I couldn’t put it down and really wanted to know how everything ended up. I was disappointed by the ending and still very confused when I finished.

29. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix, read by Eric, on 09/07/2014

An unscheduled, pilot-less passenger jet arrives at an airport gate. In each seat is an unattended baby. Thirteen years later, cryptic messages are being sent to these children, many of which don’t realize they were adopted, let alone that they are connected to the mysterious plane. Jonah and Chip have received messages, and are determined to find out why.

The search for answers to the children’s mysterious beginnings makes for a decent mystery adventure. The payoff isn’t quite what I had hoped for, but it certainly sets the stage for many sequels, and adventures through time. I’m interested in continuing, but not with much enthusiasm.

29. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Immortal Max by Lutricia Clifton, read by Angie, on 09/28/2014

Sammy wants nothing more than to have a puppy. Unfortunately, he is stuck with Max, a smelly mutt his sister brought home. Even though Max is loyal and well trained, Sammy doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. Sammy starts working as a dog walker at CountryWood, the nearby gated community. He has to earn the money for the puppy himself. His single-mom doesn’t have any extra money for a puppy and doesn’t want one since they have Max. At CountryWood, Sammy has to deal with bully Justin who terrorizes him every time he is walking the dogs.

I’m not sure why this book took me so long to read since it is less than 200 pages. It was a nice story about a boy learning to appreciate what he has. I also liked the fact that Sammy’s friends are a nice mix of cultures and personalities. I just found the book to be a bit heavy-handed in its message. I also found Sammy to be a bit selfish and self-absorbed. I identified more with poor Max than with any of the people characters. I am sure it will find appreciative readers, but I wasn’t one of them.

26. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Last-But-Not-Least Lola and the Wild Chicken by Christine Pakkala, read by Angie, on 09/25/2014

This is the second book in the last but not least series. Lola Zuckerman is always last in line and doesn’t like it. Her parents are both out of town and her grandma is staying with her and her brother Jack. She is also having a bad week at school. Her best friend Amanda is spending more time with friend stealer Jessie. New girl Savannah is also trying to butt in. Lola keeps doing mean things and getting in trouble. The girls are alternatively nice and mean to each other and no one comes off perfectly nice in this book. It is a good story for those beginning chapter book readers even if it is a little long for that type of book. That is my main complaint about the book. The characters are in second grade and the book is clearly geared towards that age group yet it is a whopping 195 pages. It is a much better story than the first one of the series and hopefully the author will keep getting better.

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

25. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Cats, Children's Books, Fiction, Kira · Tags:

The Chinese Siamese Cat by Amy Tan, read by Kira, on 09/20/2014

I’d been looking for a cat book available in MP3 downloadable format (so many are in the aggravating & useless WMA format) so when I found one in MP3 format and that Amy Tan had written it, I was delighted.  It is a brief tale of the ancient heroic cat Sagwa who had changed the emperor into a less self-centered ruler.  MV5BMTUyMzYxMTg0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDU1NjYxMQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_tumblr_l6ye02v1qX1qz8haeo1_400

24. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine by Julie Sternberg, read by Angie, on 09/23/2014

Things are not going well for Celie. She is fighting with her former best friend Lulu and she doesn’t even know why. She and Lulu have to attend Friendship Forward to work on their problems. Her big sister is friends with mean Trina, who Celie can’t stand. Her grandma is acting strange and her parents are worried. Celie has been spying on everyone and keeping secrets. Celie is keeping track of everything in her top-secret diary and spy notebook. There is a lot going on after all and she doesn’t want to forget anything. I thought Celie was a fun character and would appeal to girls starting to read chapter books. She is dealing with real world problems that a lot of young kids have to deal with: friends, siblings, parents and grandparents. I did think the book would appeal to younger readers, maybe early elementary grades. Even though Celie is 10, I think a lot of 10-year-olds will be beyond this book. Would probably appeal more to 8-9 year olds.

23. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Eric, Fantasy, Fiction, Multicultural Fiction

The Mirror or Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, read by Eric, on 09/02/2014

The continuing adventures of Anand, and his companion, Nisha, following the events in The Conch Bearer. Both children live and train with the Brotherhood of the Conch, in the Silver Valley within the Himalayas. While practicing his far-seeing ability, Anand discovers a wise-woman desperately in need of help for her village. Coming to her aid thrusts Anand, Nisha, and Master Abhaydatta into the past, and into a confrontation with a powerful sorcerer.

What may sound like a typical fantasy plot is much more in execution. The author weaves just the right mix of history and mysticism, and maintains complex and lovable characters with ease. Possibly the best character of all is the Conch itself, the power of which is matched by its humor and love. This is a wonderful followup to The Conch Bearer.

23. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Quirks in Circus Quirkus by Erin Soderberg, Kelly Light (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 09/22/2014

The Quirks are not your normal family. Mrs. Quirk can influence your thinking by looking you in the eye. Grandpa can skip time. Grandma is a tiny little fairy. Young Finn is invisible unless he has gum in his mouth. Penelope can make things just by thinking of them. Only Molly is normal though she is immune to everyone else’s quirks. The Quirks have only been in Normal a short time and hope to not move again any time soon (they always have to move when their quirks cause too much commotion). However, their neighbor Mrs. DeVille is snooping around and the Quirks are afraid she is going to cause trouble for them. They are also enjoying the fact that they are getting circus lessons at school and may get to perform in front of the entire town. The Quirks are fun and quirky and they don’t want anyone to find out how unique they are. I thought this was a fun book with a lot of character. The Quirks are entertaining and unusual. I didn’t realize this was the second book in the series, but I don’t think it detracted from the story. I think kids will enjoy this unique series.

22. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell, read by Angie, on 09/20/2014

Will has lived her whole life on the a farm in Zimbabwe and she loves the freedom of it. She is friends with the horseboys and loves to ride her horse over the bush and explore everything Zimbabwe has to offer. Her father is the manager of the farm owned by Captain Browne. They adore Will and indulge her wildcat ways. Then her father gets sick and dies and Cynthia moves in on the Captain. She is a young, gold-digging witch of a woman who can’t stand Will. As soon as she marries the Captain she convinces him to ship Will off to a boarding school in London. Of course Will doesn’t fit in at the school. She has had a formal education, she is dirty and wild, and the other girls are horribly cruel to her. She runs away from the school and lives on the streets of London for a while until she gets her bearings again and is able to endure the school.   I really enjoyed this book. I loved the first half with Will in Zimbabwe. Her life there just seems so idyllic and charming. She has the run of the place and can basically do whatever she wants. I liked her friendship with Simon and the relationship she had with her father and the Captain. I thought it was surprising how fast the Captain gave in on sending her to London. I thought Cynthia was very one-dimensional as the villain of the story and the Captain’s capitulation very stereotypical. Since most of the book took place in Zimbabwe we really didn’t get a lot about the school before Will runs away. The girls are cruel and girls can be and Will really doesn’t help her case. She doesn’t even bathe for two weeks after getting there (gross!). I am not sure she ever brushed her hair either and it had never been cut so it was a disastrous mess on her head. I know she ran wild in Africa but that seemed a bit extreme. I also couldn’t figure out how she got away with not going to school in Africa. This is never explained properly. So while I loved the story and Will in particular I did think the book had problems that detracted from my enjoyment a bit.