03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

Luna by Julie Anne Peters, read by Kristy, on 02/14/2014

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance.

I really didn’t like this one.

03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, read by Kristy, on 02/02/2014

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules.

I really liked this one.

02. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Noelle

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, read by Noelle, on 02/08/2014

WICKEDLY WONDERFUL!

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart Words are like a road map to reporter
Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory. HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims– a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming. With its taut, crafted writing, “Sharp Objects” is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

 

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, read by Courtney, on 02/01/2014

Up until recently, Hayley and her father have been living on the road. Hayley’s father, a veteran with PTSD, has been trucking and picking up odd jobs to earn a living. They never stayed in one place very long, so Hayley hasn’t much in the way of traditional schooling. At long last, Hayley’s father decides to settle down in his hometown so that Hayley can go to school and graduate like a normal teenager. While not exactly enthused, Hayley settles into a life than is indeed more or less normal. She makes friends, even starts falling for a boy. The only problem is that she’s not exactly sure that being here is helping her father. He’s not always getting out of bed in the mornings, he gets drunk and angry at unpredictable times, he still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night…Even if Hayley does find a way to live a normal life, who will take care of her father?
The Impossible Knife of Memory takes on the tough subject of a parent home from war and still bearing the scars, physically and emotionally. Hayley has never had a stable life, but it is the only one she knows and she would rather be at her father’s side than anywhere else. The downside to her life with her father is that she is ill-equipped to deal with her own life. She too seems to suffer from a form of PTSD. Hayley’s internal struggles add a sense of immediacy to even the everyday hurdles she encounters. The relationship between father and daughter is nuanced; there’s a lot of love and a lot of anger. Hayley also must try to understand the drama of her friends and their situations, something she is unaccustomed to. It takes some time for her to realize that life-altering struggles are a part of everyone’s life, not just hers and her father’s. Hayley will definitely say and do things that will make readers want to yell at her, but in the end, Hayley’s growth as a person satisfies.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes, read by Angie, on 02/27/2014

Gaby’s mom has been deported to Honduras and her absentee dad is back to take care of her. Her dad isn’t the best caregiver; he is always quitting his job and he forgets to get groceries so Gaby is pretty much on her own. Thankfully her best friend’s family steps up and helps out. Gaby’s class starts volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter and Gaby finds a passion for animals. She starts writing profiles on each of the animals to help get them adopted. She is convinced her mom will be home anytime, but sneaking back into the country is not as easy as it once was and her mom is having trouble finding the money.

I found Gaby’s story enchanting. I think it is something kids can relate to even if their parent has not been deported. Any kind of absentee parent situation could apply to this story. I really enjoyed the animal shelter part of the story. I think animals lovers’ hearts will melt hearing the stories of all these animals. I know I wanted to adopt a couple of them! I thought Gaby was a very realistic kid in how she acted, how she spoke and how she thought of the things happening to her.

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy

East of the Mountains by David Guterson, read by Tammy, on 02/12/2014

east of the mountainsBy the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, this novel about a dying man’s final journey is just as moving and descriptive but a much more personal narrative. After learning he has terminal cancer, retired surgeon Ben Givens decides to go on one last trip. He takes his beloved dogs and goes hunting. He is determined to end his life his way. Bu the people he meets, the memories the landscape evokes, and what happens along the way all cause him to consider the mystery of life. His travel brings up much from his past and sends him on a journey of discovery rather than just one last trip before dying. 

27. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy, Teen Books

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, read by Tammy, on 02/04/2014

ameliaA coming of age story, a mystery, a mother-daughter relationship story are all wound tightly together in this novel. After Amelia’s suicide her mother, Kate searches to find who her daughter really was and if she really committed suicide. Told from both Kate and Amelia’s perspectives and through text, email and Facebook posts the story shows how today’s teens smoothly communicate on all the numerous social media that exists today and how easy it is for a parent to fall behind. Kate has to come to terms with who Amelia really was and all the events that led up to her death. A moving, relate-able story that keeps you turning the page.

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

Theodore Boone: The Activist by John Grisham, read by Angie, on 02/23/2014

The Activist is the fourth in the Theodore Boone series. In this book, a bypass is proposed for the city of Strattenburg. The bypass will go through several houses and farms, cross the river twice, and go right by an elementary school and soccer complex. Theo becomes an activist against the bypass. He enlists the help of his friends to put a stop to this unnecessary project.

I am not really a fan of John Grisham or really any adult author who tries to make a buck on the youth market. However, I know this series has its fans and it wasn’t all bad. I am not sure how interested kids will be in a story about eminent domain and local politics, but there are enough exciting bits to make it a worthwhile read. On a scouting trip a foolish boy gets bit by a snake and Theo’s dog Judge gets attacked and nearly killed.

I think my big problem with this book was the fact that the kids don’t talk or act like regular kids. These characters are supposed to be in 8th grade, but they are like no 8th graders I have ever met. I also thought it was a poor way to describe activists to have Theo not know what they are. This is a kid who is very knowledgeable of the law, knows what eminent domain is, but has no idea what an activist is? Didn’t buy it. The ending is also a little bit too perfect in my opinion. I will admit that I did want to find out how the story ended and that it kept my attention throughout, but it just wasn’t my favorite.

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

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg, read by Angie, on 02/21/2014

Serafina dreams of being a doctor, but unfortunately she doesn’t even go to school. Her family is very poor, living in Haiti, and she is needed at home to help her mom and grandma. A flash flood wipes out their home and village so the family has to move to another part of the island and rebuild. Soon after an earthquake strikes as well. Serafina is on her own after the earthquake trying to find her family.

I really enjoy novels in verse. I like the fact that authors have to get their story told using so few words. I think Serafina’s story is a good one. You can feel her desire to go to school and her fear when she is on her own after the earthquake. I am assuming this story is set during the recent earthquake in Haiti, but there is no exact date given and it could be at any point in the last century. This is a powerful story and a really enjoyable read.

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

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus, read by Angie, on 02/21/2014

Gregory comes from a family of mathematicians and her really doesn’t like math. He is the oddball in his family and no one seems to understand him. For Gregory loves writing, poetry specifically. He and his best friend Kelly love to write together and share what they have written. In order to pass his math class and appease his family he has to keep a journal where he writes about math and his life. He also enters the citywide math contest. Gregory learns about the Fibonacci Sequence and decides to do his project on it. But he doesn’t do a traditional math project; he decides to write poems based on the Fibonacci Sequence, which he calls fibs.

Full disclosure, I am not a math person. So a book about math really wasn’t my thing. However, I did like Gregory’s story and how he had to overcome his math deficiencies and find his place in his family. I liked his friendship with Kelly, but didn’t think it was ever fully explained why she and her mom were moving away. It almost seemed like there had to be some tension other than math and the author decided that the best friend leaving was perfect. I think this book will find an audience with the math nerds and the word geeks among readers.

18. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tracy

Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani, read by Tracy, on 02/02/2014

BIG CHERRY HOLLER, the extraordinary sequel to BIG STONE GAP, takes us back to the mountain life that enchanted us in Adriana Trigiani’s best selling debut novel. It’s been eight years since the town pharmacist and long time spinster Ave Maria Mulligan married coal miner Jack MacChesney. With her new found belief in love and its possibilities, Ave Maria makes a life for herself and her growing family, hoping that her fearless leap into commitment will make happiness stay. What she didn’t count on was that fate, life, and the ghosts of the past would come to haunt her and, eventually, test the love she has for her husband. The mountain walls that have protected her all of her life can not spare Ave Maria the life lessons she must learn.

BIG CHERRY HOLLER is the story of a marriage, revealing the deep secrets, the power struggle, the betrayal and the unmet expectations that exist between husband and wife. It is the story of a community that must reinvent itself as it comes to grips with the decline of the coal mining industry. It is the story of an extended family, the people of Big Stone Gap, who are there for one another especially when times are toughincluding bookmobile librarian and sexpert Iva Lou Wade Makin, savvy businesswoman Pearl Grimes, crusty cashier Fleeta Mullins, and Rescue Squad captain Spec Broadwater, who faces the complications of his double life. Ave Maria’s best friend Theodore Tipton, now band director at the University of Tennessee, continues to be her chief counselor and conscience as he reaches the pinnacle of marching band success.

When Ave Maria takes her daughter to Italy for the summer, she meets a handsome stranger who offers her a life beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ave Maria is forced to confront what is truly important: to her, to her marriage, and to her family. Brimming with humor, wisdom, honesty, and the drama and local color of mountain life from Virginia to Italy, BIG CHERRY HOLLER is a deeply felt, brilliantly evoked story of two lovers who have lost their way and their struggle to find one another again.

18. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

Reality Boy by A.S. King, read by Angie, on 02/17/2014

Gerald Faust is The Crapper and has been since he was five and on reality tv show Network Nanny. Gerald’s family was dysfunctional and Gerald had anger issues. Issues that made him poop when he got mad; so he pooped on the dining room table, in his mom’s shoes and in a dressing room at Sears. But the show didn’t show all the family issues like his older sister Tasha who tried to kill him and his other sister numerous times, or how his mom always sided with psychopath Tasha and never believed Gerald or Lisi. The Crapper has followed Gerald throughout his life creating more anger issues and causing him to be put in special ed even though he doesn’t belong there. Gerald has no friends and no future until he finally gets the courage to talk to his crush register number 1 girl (Hannah) at work. Gerald starts opening up to Hannah and discovers he isn’t the only one with a messed up life.

I loved this book. It was raw and real and kind of made me uncomfortable at times. Gerald had a horrible, hidden life that is revealed during flashbacks to the show. Gerald’s story really makes you wonder about everyone who has ever been on a reality show and how messed up their life is because of the notoriety they received. Having your secrets and problems revealed on national television can not be good for you. Gerald and Hannah are equally messed up and you will applaud them when they finally take a stand and demand a better life. This book was fresh and creative and unique and a truly enjoyable read.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins, read by Courtney, on 07/24/2013

In spite of the fact that “Burned” was not my favorite of Hopkins’ books (a statement which will likely get me in trouble with many of my teens, for whom this is a much-beloved favorite), I was still anxious to read “Smoke”, its sequel. It had never occurred to me that there might even be a sequel to “Burned”, which so clearly stood on its own, but then, well, Ellen went and wrote a sequel.
This picks up more or less where “Burned” left off. Pattyn Von Stratten is now on the run after the death of her father. She has nowhere to go and no one left to turn to. She meets a girl her age who agrees to put her up for the night. There, Pattyn meets the rest of the girl’s family- all immigrants. In spite of the cultural differences, Pattyn begins to feel more at home with this new family than her real one.
In the meantime, Pattyn’s sister, Jackie, is still at home with the rest of the family and dealing with the aftermath of what happened in the family garage that fateful night. With Pattyn gone, Jackie has no one left to turn to. She’s not even remotely upset about what happened to her father, but she cannot accept her mother’s failure to acknowledge the trauma that Jackie has endured. The family’s continued adherence to the LDS church means that the family secrets are not to be discussed. Gradually, Jackie’s pain turns to anger as she begins to heal with the help of a new boyfriend.
This is a relatively tame book for those who are familiar with Hopkins’ oeuvre. The main themes center around the aftermath of abuse. This is, ultimately, a survivor’s tale. Pattyn and Jackie each have very different approaches to healing their psychological wounds, but each does so in a way that feels true to their character. There are times when the narrative drags, but readers who loved Burned will undoubtedly love meeting back up with the Von Stratten sisters and will rejoice in their triumphs over their troubling family situation.

I received this ARC from the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference. Smoke officially publishes in September 2013.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story by Sonya Sones, read by Courtney, on 07/15/2013

Colette is the daughter of a major Hollywood actress and has developed a knack for lying to escape from her mother’s shadow. She’s known for lying about anything and everything. Colette and her little brother even make a game of pretending its their birthday at restaurants to score free desert. When Colette’s summer plans are abruptly cancelled due to her mother’s filming schedule, Colette is convinced it’s going to be the worst summer ever. On the way to the middle-of-nowhere town that the filming is taking place in, Colette spots a gorgeous guy on a motorcycle and decides that maybe summer won’t be so terrible after all. She is even more pleased when biker-guy begins to pay attention to her. Colette worries, however, that her mother’s fame will ruin this relationship just as it has so many others, so she lies about her age and background. What Colette doesn’t count on is that her new boyfriend may be hiding a few secrets of his own.
This is the quintessential fun summer read. Since it’s written in verse, the story moves extremely quickly. Colette is fun and sarcastic, if a bit naive. Her little brother is charming, though his lisping quickly starts to feel like a cutesy convention. Readers may see the twist coming, but will likely be entertained enough by the humor and pacing to forgive the somewhat cliched ending.

This novel comes out in late August. I received this ARC from the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference.

14. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Multicultural Fiction

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, Julia Kuo (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 02/13/2014

Summer and her brother Jaz are headed out with their grandparents on harvest. Her grandfather will drive a combine as they travel the country harvesting wheat. Obaachan and Jiichan are an old Japanese couple who argue constantly and are always trying to help with Summer and Jaz. The family’s luck hasn’t been very good ever since Summer got malaria in Kansas and almost died. Her parents had to go to Japan to care for dying relatives leaving the kids with the grandparents and a mortgage to pay. While on harvest Obaachan keeps antagonizing Mrs. Parker the head of the harvesters and Jiichan gets sick. Summer has to step up and help out and change the family’s luck.

I found this book a little on the slow side and I have to admit I was a bit bored by all the information on combines and harvesting wheat. I did like Summer’s journey to help her family and was pretty entertained by Obaachan and all her complaining. I like the fact that Kadohata’s writing is filled with Japanese words and information on that culture.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

A Grown-up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson, read by Helen, on 06/30/2012

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family. Fifteen-year-old Mosey Slocumb-spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood-is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in the backyard, and determined to figure out why it’s there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it is Jenny, Mosey’s strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women’s shared past–and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen, Teen Books

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Helen, on 04/30/2012

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

The Botox Diaries by Lynn Schnurnberger, Janice Kaplan, read by Helen, on 02/28/2012

In a world where plastic surgery is as popular as a pair of sexy Manolo Blahniks, suburban single mom Jessica Taylor is trying to make it past forty with nothing more than moisturizer and a swipe of mascara. Her glamorous best friend, TV producer Lucy Baldor, has a different idea of aging gracefully. “My body is a temple,” Lucy explains. “I just don’t want it to crumble like St. John the Divine.”
Jess and Lucy’s friendship has weathered the trials of marriage, the births of children, and the transition from itty-bitty bikinis to “Kindest Cut” one-piece suits. Now the women are discovering that midlife crises aren’t just for men—they’re equal-opportunity dilemmas.
To Jess’s dismay, Lucy announces that she’s taken a lover. A very famous lover. Her husband, Dan, is bound to find out (especially after a picture of the amorous duo appears on Page Six of the New York Post), but Lucy’s too wrapped up in the joys of expensive lingerie and romantic retreats to care. Jess finds herself in the midst of her own romantic predicament when, after ten years of silence, her sexy French ex-husband, Jacques, ends up back in her life—and in her bed.

Whether navigating bake sales, bicoastal affairs, or bagels-and-Botox parties, these wise and witty women know that their friendship will remain the one true thing they can count on. Well, that and a good push-up bra, of course. And their bond withstands everything—from an orgy in Willie Nelson’s trailer to a reality TV-show bachelor named Boulder.
Funny, brazen, and often poignant, this irresistible novel offers an unexpected and entertaining look at two women’s midlife adventures. From Thai massage to tantric sex, who would have thought forty could be so much fun?

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Helen, Women's Fiction (chick lit)

Mine are Spectacular! by Janice Kaplan, read by Helen, on 02/28/2012

In the wealthy New York suburb of Hadley Farms, divorced mom Sara Turner is juggling a new fiancé, a new TV career, and a Newcomer’s Club that throws sex-toy parties. Her oldest friend, Kate Steele, is Manhattan’s “Derm Darling”–a successful Park Avenue skin doctor whose office is always packed with the city’s crème de la thin . . . and whose bedroom is frequented by a real estate mogul who has his own plane–and his own very big problem. Meanwhile, Sara’s new neighbor, Berni Davis, has just quit her career as a wildly successful Hollywood talent agent: pregnant with twins, she’s leaving behind her A-list parties and high-profile pals, trading in the fast track for the cul-de-sac. Will heating formula be as thrilling as creating the formula for the next box-office blockbuster?

At an age when women expect to find doors closing, forty-one-year-old Sara and her friends are all on the brink of new beginnings. For these three savvy and spirited friends, facing new options at midlife brings unexpected twists–a baby shower starring a male stripper, the latest Brazilian anticellulite treatment, and a day at a doggie spa that features lipo. Complications arise when a long-gone husband returns from Patagonia, a seductive ex-wife fights to win back Sara’s fiancé, and a hunky soap star stands waiting in the wings. But in a world where women spend their forties trying to look thirty, and girls as young as four use alpha-hydroxy to keep their skin baby smooth, these best friends help one another keep their priorities straight. Most of the time.

A fresh, funny novel about starting over, Mine Are Spectacular! will delight readers with the exploits of these irresistibly witty women. By turns touching and laugh-aloud funny, this is a must read for every woman who knows you’re always the right age for new adventures.

11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Romance

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, read by Lisa, on 02/28/2013

  Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?