08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Poetry

Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 11/07/2014

Suzy’s little brother becomes a hero when he calls 911 for a neighbor. Suddenly Suzy is second fiddle in the family and Parker is getting all the attention. Suzy’s and her best friend Alison are taking part in Tween Time at the library during the summer and learning about the 1800s. Suzy is also friends with Gilbert, a young man who does odd jobs around the neighborhood. Gilbert is accused of stealing from one of the neighbors, but Suzy is sure he didn’t do it. When Suzy learns about Emily Dickinson at the library she decides that maybe it is time to give up being Suzy and start being Emily. She wears white dresses and becomes a recluse. However, being a recluse is hard work and Emily misses some of the things she did as Suzy.

I enjoy novels in verse and this one was fairly well done. I liked the family dynamic of Suzy’s family, but I felt like most parents would not have put up with the recluse nonsense. I did think it was pretty realistic how Parker got more attention than Suzy and she got jealous. That is something a lot of kids have to work through. I am not sure how familiar kids today would be with Emily Dickinson and her poetry.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull by Bill Harley, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 11/07/2014

It is Halloween and Charlie is determined to have an epic holiday. He doesn’t want to take his younger sister trick-or-treating like he does every year. He wants to go to his friend Alex’s house in a wealthy neighborhood. he thinks big houses equals big candy. He also wants to have an epic costume but his mom is really busy. Charlie enlists the help of his art teacher to make his bat costume. Now the only thing he has to worry about is the fact that Alex plans to show scary movies at his house. Charlie doesn’t like scary movies at all. His brother Matt helps him out by de-scarifying him and telling him scary stories. This is another hit for the Charlie Bumpers series. I think Bill Harley does a great job of writing about things that all kids worry about and making the stories relatable.

08. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome by Bill Harley, 155 pages, read by Angie, on 11/07/2014

Charlie is back in his second adventure. This time his class is putting on a play. Charlie really wants to be the evil sorcerer, but Mrs. Burke assigns him the part of the nice gnome. The nice gnome actually has a lot of lines, but he is nice and that is not what Charlie wants. He tries a lot of different things to get out of the part from trading parts, changing the lines to be more funny and doing a horrible job during rehearsals. Nothing works and Mrs. Burke just becomes disappointed in Charlie. Charlie has to resign himself to being the nice gnome. At home he is rebelling against walking his dog even though that is his assigned job. He doesn’t think it is fair that he is the only one who has to walk the dog. Charlie is dealing with things a lot of kids have to deal with: school issues, chores, wanting to be cool. I think this is a really good series for younger readers. There is a lot about Charlie to like and identify with. He is not a bad kid he just doesn’t always make the best decisions.

05. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 11/04/2014

One day Ellie’s mom brings a teenager home. She claims this young Melvin is actually grandpa Melvin. He has found the fountain of youth, which turns out to be a jellyfish. Of course he experimented on himself and reversed the aging process. Only problem is that his lab has been bought out and they are pushing Melvin out; of course there is also the fact that he looks 15 instead of 75 like he is supposed to. So Melvin moves in with Ellie and her mom and starts going to school with her. Melvin and the mom do not get along. Melvin doesn’t respect the fact that Ellie’s mom has chosen a career in drama instead of following in his footsteps with science. Melvin also doesn’t fit in at school since he still acts, dresses and talks like a 75 year old man with no respect for anyone else. Ellie however kind of likes having her grandpa around. She has found that middle school is a whole new world compared to elementary school. Her best friend has moved on to the world of volleyball and Ellie doesn’t find it easy to make friends. Soon Melvin has pulled Raj (scary goth kid who is actually pretty nice) into their circle and concocted plans to break into his lab and steal his jellyfish. Ellie is also finding that she fits in with the science world of Melvin a lot more than she does with the drama/theater world of her parents.

I thought Ellie was fantastic as a character. She is trying to find her way in the world and trying to figure out who she is just like everyone else. She doesn’t feel like she fits in with her family or her friends anymore and has to find where she does fit. I liked the fact that the complete misfit Melvin actually teaches her more about being herself. Melvin doesn’t care if he fits in; he just does what he wants when he wants to. Ellie develops an appreciation for science and a better relationship with her grandpa through this process. I really like well done coming of age stories and this one is excellent.

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

Double Reverse by Fred Bowen, 125 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

So sports books really aren’t my thing and this one wasn’t really that different. I can see it finding fans with sports-loving boys, but I really wanted a bit more plot. It was more football plays than plot. The book tells the story of Jesse who is starting freshman football with a team that has a terrible quarterback. Jesse’s brother Jay has always been the quarterback in the family but he is off playing college ball. When the quarterback is injured Jesse decides to try out even though he doesn’t look like a quarterback. Turns out he is really good, knows all the plays and even writes a few of his own. His move allows big kid Quinn to handle the ball and bit and little guy Langston to get some game time. The team needs a kicker which they find in soccer girl Savannah. Turns out that even though none of them look like ideal player they all got game. I enjoyed the fact that the characters defied the expectations of their looks to be who they wanted to be on the team, but I wanted a bit more meat to the story. It was a lot of play-by-play and little character or plot development.

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

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington, 304 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

Mysti dreams of going to France one day, but first she must survive 7th grade. She knows it is going to be a difficult year when her only friend Anibal decides to conduct a social experiment wherein he becomes a hipster and cool. In order to do that he has to ditch Mysti and in fact become a super jerk. Mysti is stuck on loser island with fact-filled Wayne Kovok (my name is a palidrome) and superhero Rama Khan (*not really a superhero but her name invokes it). Things at home aren’t much better. Mysti’s mom is agoraphobic and never leaves the house. This isn’t a huge problem because dad is there to take care of things. When dad falls out of a tree and ends up in a coma things go downhill fast. Mysti is forced to take care of the family and try and stretch their meager supplies. She eventually has to figure out a way to get additional supplies when the family accepts the fact that dad isn’t coming home anytime soon.

This is a story about acknowledging your situation and then taking steps to change the things you can change and accept the things you can’t. Mysti takes a while to figure things out, but she eventually starts standing up for herself both at school and at home. It helps that Rama Khan is there to boost her up when she needs it. I enjoyed Mysti as a character, but I did get a bit frustrated by the story. These types of novels are all about the kids taking charge of their situations and becoming more resourceful which is great. And usually the parents are gone or withdrawn from the kids life. However, there is generally a bit more realism to the story. I thought Mysti’s home and school life were very realistically portrayed. I could see trying to cope with a disabled parent and dealing with friends who abandon you. What I couldn’t buy was no one realizing what Mysti’s home life was like. It should have been a red flag at the hospital when the dad is there for weeks and weeks and no one comes to visit and the doctor has to talk to the mom on the phone about dad’s care. It should have been another red flag when you have a 12 year old walking to the grocery store and only buying what will fit in her backpack. The neighbors should have noticed that the mom never left the house and stepped in. You would have thought even the school would have noticed. I guess I just wanted someone to realize what Mysti was going through and give her a break. It was an excellent book aside from that point.

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

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord, 218 pages, read by Angie, on 11/01/2014

Lucy’s dad is a photographer and loves to move his family around a lot. This time they have ended up on a lake in New Hampshire. One day they move in and the next dad takes off on a photo shoot in Arizona. Luckily there is a lot to occupy Lucy’s time. She immediately meets their neighbors, the Baileys, and becomes friends with Nate and Grandma Lilah. They come to the lake every summer, but this one might be the last because Grandma Lilah is not well. Nate introduces her to the loons of the lake and Loon Patrol. Every day they head out on the lake to check on the pair of loons who are nesting there. Lucy also finds out about a photo contest her dad is judging and decides to enter. She too is a photographer and gets Nate to help her with the contest. During her quest for the perfect shots she learns more about the area, Nate’s family and herself.

I really enjoy Lord’s writing. She is a wonderful storyteller and really makes the world she is writing about come alive. I like that Lucy is a regular girl, but one with a special talent. She is learning to see the world through a photographer’s eye and the world opens up around her. She is able to see things that others might not or might not want to see. Her photos show how vulnerable Grandma Lilah is and reveal how much Nate doesn’t want to accept that his grandma has dementia. Lucy also works hard to convince herself that she is good enough for her absent father. It seems that everything she does it to please him until she realizes how to please herself. Even though there is a lot going on in this book, it is a quieter story with more depth than action.

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

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman , 288 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/26/2014

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

28. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, 396 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/28/2014

So, once I realized that the secret would not be revealed in the first few chapters, I was entirely too impatient to wait.  I’m not proud, but I looked up “the secret” online.   I was worried it would be one of those books where the secret was NEVER revealed and I just couldn’t take it any more.  Of course, soon after I looked it up, it was revealed in the book.  So, if you decide to read this, you might want to be a tad more patient than I was.  The secret IS revealed a little less than halfway through.

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

 

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

Just Jake by Jake Marcionette, Victor Rivas Villa (Illustrations), 160 pages, read by Angie, on 10/22/2014

Jake has just moved with his family from Florida to Massachusetts and isn’t happy about it. In Florida he was the cool kid with tons of AWESOMENESS. However, his awesomeness doesn’t seem to have followed him north. He has problems making friends and his cool factor is near the bottom. His one saving grace is the kid cards he makes. They are trading cards of all the kids both in his old school and his new one. I didn’t realize this book was written by an actual 12-year-old until the end. It actually makes me feel a bit better about it. As I was reading it I thought the story was a bit unsubstantial and juvenile, which makes sense when you consider the author. However, I thought it was a great effort by young Marcionette. I think this book will appeal to fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Patterson’s Middle School series.

21. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, 472 pages, read by Angie, on 10/20/2014

So I picked up this book because it was on a time travel list. So I was expecting time travel; I didn’t expect to have to wait until the very end of the book to get it. This is a story of two girls separated by hundreds of years but connected by their love and grief over two little boys. Donnelly does an excellent job of bringing their stories together and making them both very believable. What she didn’t do a great job of was making me care about the characters. Modern day Andi in particular was hard to like or connect with. I got that she was grieving over the death of her brother Truman and that she blamed herself for his death. What I couldn’t get past was how unlikeable she was. She was whiny, self-centered and horrible to those around her. French Revolution Alex was easier to like even if she was further away in time. However, at times she too didn’t seem that realistic. She seemed to innocent of what was going on around her while at the same time she was jaded by the events as well. It was a contradiction that was a bit hard to reconcile. I thought the time travel bit at the end was pretty much unnecessary even though I was expecting it. It was basically a way for Andi to work through her grief and come to terms with her life as it is. I wish she had been able to come to that point on her own, but thought the narrative twist worked in its way. The problem with dual storylines is that one is often a lot better than the other and I think that is where this book fell for me. I really wanted more of Alex’s story and the French Revolution and every time it went back to Andi I got bored.

20. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Cats, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Kira

P.S. Your Cat Is Dead by James Kirkwood, 224 pages, read by Kira, on 10/18/2014

ps-your-cat-is-deadThere 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.

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.

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

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler, 240 pages, 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Tell Me by Joan Bauer, 272 pages, 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Twice As Nice by Lin Oliver, 224 pages, 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, 523 pages, 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald , 247 pages, 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. There 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Sunny Sweet Is So Dead Meat by Jennifer Ann Mann, 208 pages, 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan, Eric Wight (Illustrations), Magician Mike Lane, 160 pages, 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 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kira

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, 501 pages, read by Kira, on 10/05/2014

dsafdsafasdfThis 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.
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.