20. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Cats, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Kira

P.S. Your Cat Is Dead by James Kirkwood, read by Kira, on 10/18/2014

There is a reason we don’t carry this title…yep, its Not that good.  Remind me to never read a book, just because the cover looks really good.  They say you cannot judge a book by its cover, well, thats Not entirely true.  If the cover features a knife dripping with blood, you know chances are good, that its just NOT a “cozy mystery”.  But I digress.

Main character, Jimmy Zoole’s has had a wretched year: his best friend died, his acting career is dead, his apt has been burgled repeatedly, his promising manuscript for a novel gone with burglary #3, his girlfriend just broke up with him, and now his cat has died while at the vets.  Its being capped off with burglary #4 on New Year’s Eve.  Zoole catches the burglar in the act ties him to the kitchen counter, and vents by hitting the burglar.  I thought it would be lots funnier.  Yes I knew there’d be some black humor.  But I thought the burglar turning around and helping Zoole after being hit repeatedly stretched credulity.

Ps_your_cat_is_dead

The cover (the black one) looks like it’d be a hilarious read, a little quirky… Not for me.  Yet this book, was turned into both a play and a movie, perhaps I’m being harsh.ps-your-cat-is-dead

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

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler, read by Angie, on 10/15/2014

Auggie lives with her grandpa Gus who is a trash hauler. She and her friends who live on Serendipity Place love going with Gus to the junkyard and seeing what kinds of neat things they can find. They are all poor but proud. Auggie is starting a new school since her old school has been condemned. The school is bright and shiny and full of well-off kids, nothing like their old school. Mean girl Victoria starts tormenting Auggie on the first day and never lets up. She even steals Auggie’s best friend Lexie. Victoria’s father is on the House Beautification Committee and they come after Auggie’s neighborhood with a vengeance. Everyone tries to fix up their houses, but the committee just wants to condemn them all and build a community center. Auggie and Gus spend all the time working on their house. They find materials people no longer want and they turn them into art. Soon their yard is full of metal sculptures of all kinds. They have to figure out a way to stop the House Beautification Committee and save their neighborhood.

I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I loved Auggie and Gus’s relationship and the sense of community between the people who live on Serendipity Place. I didn’t quite understand the rationale for the story about Auggie’s mom, but it fit with the rest of the book. I did want the neighbors to figure out the committee’s plan a little bit sooner, but I really loved the end result. Victoria and her dad are pretty one-dimensional villains in this story, but then most villains are. I liked the lesson on how one person’s trash is another’s treasure.

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

Tell Me by Joan Bauer, read by Angie, on 10/12/2014

Anna is a twelve year old drama kid. She is currently starring as a dancing cranberry at the mall. Unfortunately, her parents are not getting along right now and need a little space. They decide to send Anna to Rosemont to stay with her grandma Mimi for a little while. Rosemont is getting ready for its famous flower festival which Mimi founded and runs. Anna jumps right in to life in Rosemont. She meets Taylor and Taylor’s horse Zoe and she gets a role as a dancing petunia at the local library. While at the library one day Anna notices a sad girl who seems to be in trouble. Anna can’t get the girl out of her mind and is determined to help her. She enlists the help of Mimi, the librarian, and the everyone she can think of including the librarian’s grandson Brad who works for Homeland Security. Anna spends her days helping with the festival, being a petunia at the library and trying to remember more details to help this mysterious girl.

Joan Bauer does a good job writing these types of books. They have strong female lead characters who kids can identify with. Anna is smart and determined and dedicated. Things don’t always work out for her but she does the best she can with what she has. Human trafficking is a pretty dark subject but it is handled with a gentle touch in this book. It is a good introduction of the subject to kids who have probably not heard about it before. I like the fact that the case wasn’t solved like magic but through investigation and determination. Tell Me is a good read and another winner for Bauer.

12. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Twice As Nice by Lin Oliver, read by Angie, on 10/12/2014

Charlie’s friends aren’t talking to her ever since she told on two boys who started a fire. Her twin Sammie thinks this is for the best since mean-girl and leader of the pack Lauren isn’t nice at all. Charlie just wants to be part of the in-crowd though. When Lauren decided to form The Junior Waves club she needs Charlie to increase their chances of getting approved. Charlie is excited to be back in the group and will do pretty much anything even if it means going against what she knows is right.

This book was pretty cliched with no likable characters. I know it has a nice message about not giving in to peer pressure and bullying and being true to yourself but the delivery had the subtlety of a sledge hammer. Pretty much any cliche you can think of was in this book and you knew how the story was going to play out from the beginning. There are much better books out there that deal with these topics.

12. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, read by Tammy, on 10/05/2014

secret historyThe story of a group of eccentric college students who fall under the spell of their charismatic professor. They seek to learn profound truths from the classics especially the Greeks. But one experiment into ancient Greek traditions goes awry and they learn how easy it is to kill.

Told from the viewpoint of a new student in the classic who learns of the event afterwards and shares how the moral and ethically decisions the group makes from that point on affected the rest of their lives.

12. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald , read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Theodora Tenpenny is not having a good summer. Her grandfather Jack died in a freak accident and she is left caring for her reclusive mother and their aging house. When Jack was alive they were just scraping by with his salary from the Museum of Modern Art, but now they have no income and very little left to live on. She makes due with food from her garden and treasures she finds around New York. Jack was an artist and when he died told Theo to look for a treasure under the egg. Their is a painting of an egg in the house and Theo is obsessed with finding the treasure. One day she spills alcohol on the painting and finds another painting underneath. This painting looks old and probably stolen. Theo spends the rest of the summer trying to figure out if the painting is really a lost Raphael and how Jack ended up with it. She finds help throughout the city from a variety of people including the daughter of two actors, a priest, a fun librarian, and a guy selling nuts on the street. Turns out the painting has an amazing back story.

I have become kind of obsessed with the Nazi art looting of Europe and the Monuments Men story in the last year or so. This book really brought that obsession to life in a wonderful middle grade novel. I loved Theo and her determination and resilience. She is a fabulous character who is stuck at the beginning of the novel. Throughout the book she becomes more and more unstuck as she meets wonderful, helpful people around the city and realizes she is not alone. The thing I liked best about the book was the fact that the mystery of the painting was believable. So many mysteries for kids take a huge leap of faith on the part of the reader and this one did not. Sure there was a huge coincidence at the end, but the rest of it made sense. I highly recommend this one. Loved it!

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

Sunny Sweet Is So Dead Meat by Jennifer Ann Mann, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Masha and Sunny are back in their second adventure. This time it is a trip to the science fair where it turns out Masha is Sunny’s project. The project involves red dye exploding all over Masha and observing how people treat her once she looks different. Masha of course is not happy about this at all. The day ends up with Masha sneaking through the school and meeting Batman and Robin, Masha and Sunny taking the wrong bus home and ending up at a graveyard, Masha getting lost in the graveyard and falling into an open grave, and of course Sunny winning the science fair. I really enjoy these stories. While you do have to suspend a bit of belief to believe a six-year-old could accomplish everything Sunny does the interaction between Masha and Sunny are very true to life. Little sisters can be annoying but you do love and support them…even if they spray you with red dye!

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

The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan, Eric Wight (Illustrations), Magician Mike Lane, read by Angie, on 10/09/2014

Mike is always getting in trouble, not because he is a bad kid but because he just can’t sit still. The first week of school he is sent to the principal’s office twice! He and new girl Nora have to spend every afternoon together this year too. Nora is smart and good at everything. One day they find The White Rabbit magic shop and Mike discovers he is good at something too. Mr. Zerlin challenges Mike and Nora to a riddle and only Mike can figure it out. Mr. Zerlin teaches Mike a magic trick. Soon Mike is learning tricks on his own and doing great. He still isn’t doing that well at school, but the magic gives him the strength to stand up to bully Jackson.

This is a fun book that I am sure kids will enjoy whether they like magic or not. I do wish there was a bit more resolution to the story though. It seems to end abruptly which I guess is to get the reader interested in the next book in the series. I also think Mike’s problems could have been handled better by his parents. They are present during the book but don’t seem to take a lot of interest in Mike. It does have a good message about finding what you are good at and standing up to bullies.

09. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kira

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, read by Kira, on 10/05/2014

This is the story of Alma Whiteacre a scientist of moss and evolution.  It starts with her father’s life, an unscrupulous lad, who starts prospering by stealing botanicals. byss42134 2dsafdsafasdfdetail-of-tahitian-man-from-man-with-an-axe-by-paul-gauguin2165949indexs29kingsolver-final-articleLarge4 His life is interesting, though he is not a likeable character.    The next 3 segments of the book cover Alma’s life, a very intellectual but very lonely life.  Her mother and secondary mother figure, are all about being tough, and stoic.  Her father is pretty self-centered, and behaves however he pleases.  An interesting, if uneven read.

 The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls–the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

 

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

I Heart Band by Michelle Schusterman, read by Angie, on 10/06/2014

Holly is looking forward to going back to school and seeing her best friend Julia. Her first day does not go as planned however. First her brother spills orange juice all over her first-day outfit and new backpack so she has to use an old batman one. Then Julia has made a new friend at band camp and Natasha is not someone Holly wants to be friends with. Natasha and Julia have all kinds of inside stories about band camp that makes Holly feel left out and jealous. Natasha also plays french horn in band just like Holly does and she is better! Seventh grade is hard enough without having to deal with all of this extra drama.

I actually dreaded reading this book because of the title. I think I Heart Band is going to turn off kids who would actually enjoy this one. It is a completely realistic look at what happens when a new friend is introduced into the mix, when you start thinking about boys as more than friends, when you move up in school and the classes are so much harder. I remember a lot of these emotions and situations Holly experiences from my own experiences in middle school. You cringe a bit but can also laugh because you survived. However, as much as I would have enjoyed this story as a kid I would probably have never picked it up because of the title. I wasn’t in band and would have been completely turned off by the fact that it is mentioned in the title. I would have thought it was all about band instead of a decent story about surviving middle school.

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

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman, read by Angie, on 10/06/2014

Gladys Gatsby is an eleven year old foodie. She has been forced into learning to cook and learning to love good food by her fast-food eating, microwave cooking parents who have no concept of what good food actually is. She has been making her own gourmet meals since she was seven when her aunt Lydia introduced her to the wonders of excellent cooking. Her life as she knows it comes to an end one day when she accidently set the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to make creme brulee with a regular blowtorch. Her parents ground her from cooking, reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on TV. Instead they say she has to go out into the world and make friends and do regular kid stuff. This also means she is forced to eat the awful things her parents eat.

Then her new teacher has a fabulous assignment. The students are to write a report on their future selves. These reports will be submitted to the essay contest at the New York Standard newspaper. Gladys loves the dining section of the Standard and all the restaurant reviews. So she writes her report as if she was submitting a cover letter to be a food critic at the paper. Her letter gets misdirected to the editor of the dining section who just happens to need a new food critic. Gladys is hired but now must figure out how to get to New York to the restaurant without her parents finding out or the paper finding out she is only eleven.

This book was simply charming! I was afraid it was going to be filled with implausible coincidences and a child prodigy cook, but it was nothing like that. While Gladys is a fantastic cook, she is also completely realistic. I liked her fascination with food and could belief that it developed because of her parents’ horrible tastes. She gets up to all kinds of schemes to try and get to New York and complete her assignment and I thought they were clever and smart. Doesn’t matter that most of them didn’t work out. I thought the ending was a perfect end to this journey we took with Gladys. My one complaint about this book is that it made me really hungry for fabulous food and delicious desserts.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank, read by Courtney, on 09/27/2014

This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins , read by Courtney, on 09/14/2014

Matthew Turner is an atheist. He might have believed in God if his brother was still alive. But his brother committed suicide after the persistent harassment and hostility he faced when he came out as gay. In Matthew’s mind, if there really was a God, that God wouldn’t have let such terrible things happen to his brother, who was, by all accounts, a kind and wonderful human being. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Matthew doesn’t have faith in anything. His parents don’t get along; his father is a philanderer. His girlfriend is deeply religious, which causes serious problems when she decides she needs to get closer to God instead of Matt. School is even a bit of a mess; his essays raging against Christianity get him in trouble. What’s a kid to do when there’s nothing to believe in?

I’m ultimately kind of split on how I feel about Hopkins’ latest effort. On many levels,Rumble is great. On others, it feels heavy-handed and slightly contrived. The discussion of guilt and culpability is an important one for teens to read about, but Matthew is not a likeable character. He’s full of vitriol when it comes to the religion issue and he’s incredibly disrespectful of the faith of others. Of course, this really only pertains to Christianity, not other faiths. I’m honestly not sure that I buy the relationship between Matthew and his girlfriend. I have a lot of trouble believing that a girl so deeply religious would want to be around someone so exceedingly hostile toward a major aspect of her life. I might have bought it if one of the characters was more middle-of-the-road, or at least in a questioning phase. In this case, it feels like she exists more as a plot device and foil rather than a fully-realized character. That all having been said, I still found the overall message of the book to be a good and necessary one. While I saw the ending coming, I’m sure it will still satisfy many readers and give them plenty of food for thought.

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

I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, read by Angie, on 10/04/2014

It is the summer after 8th grade. Lucy, Michael and Elena are looking forward to summer and contemplating their summer reading list. They are all book lovers and Lucy in particular truly loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Their favorite English teacher Fat Bob Nowak died the previous year and was also a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. The kids decide to start a campaign in honor of Fat Bob and their love of the book. The campaign will hopefully make more people want to read To Kill a Mockingbird, but how are they going to do that. They decide on “I Kill the Mockingbird” and travel around the state hiding copies of the book in libraries and bookstores (they never steal them). They also start an internet campaign and leave I Kill the Mockingbird posters where they have removed books. Their campaign takes off after Wil Wheaton tweets about it. Soon the I Kill the Mockingbird campaign has made the news and has become a national movement. Of course that is not all that is going on that summer. Lucy’s mom has is recovering from cancer and she is worried about her. Elena is an orphan living with her uncle Mort who runs a bookstore and is afraid she won’t fit in at high school because she is so short. Lucy also has a crush on Michael (he has one on her too) but is afraid to ruin their friendship. Michael is a fabulous baseball player and wants to be challenge during the game. This is a wonderful story about friendship, family and good books.

I actually enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. I was a bit skeptical at first but the premise of the book really worked. I loved Lucy, Elena and Michael. They are smart, articulate and fun characters who seemed exactly like the type of kids who could pull this off. I enjoyed the fact that the parents were actually present in the book and seemed like real people as well. So many kid’s books have absent parents or truly stereotypical ones. I think this is a book that book-loving kids will enjoy (as well as adults) and one that may spark an interest in reading some of the classics mentioned.

05. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kira, Multicultural Fiction

One Night @ the Call Center: a Novel by Chetan Bhagat, read by Kira, on 10/02/2014

clltr - Copy1340699569_9780552773867  one night - Copy IMG_3975 index2 - CopyI read about this bestselling title in the book Globish  He is the biggest selling English language author in India.  In 2010 Time Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people of the world (along with Barack Obama and Steve Forbes).  I’d never heard of him before. the story takes place over the span of about 8 hours, examining the lives of 6 call center employees, most of whom are adults.  It was an ok book.  Not bad, but Not something I’d recommend.

 

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, 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.

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.