01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Best Kept Secret by Ann M. Martin, read by Angie, on 05/31/2014

This book tells the story of Francie as she grows up in the 1970s and 80s. She has to deal with her parents’ divorce, her disabled uncle moving in, new friends, new schools, family feuds and all the things that come with growing up. This is the third book in this series; the previous two followed Francie’s mom and grandma. A lot of time is covered in this short novel. It starts with Francie starting school and ends with her married with a baby on the way. Unfortunately, the span of years really cuts down on the storytelling. Each chapter is basically a different year in her life so very little is actual told about what happens to her on a daily basis. It is more like a collection of vignettes than a fully fleshed-out story. There are things like the feud between family members that is mentioned but never really explained. And there is an incident when Francie is young where she is almost kidnapped and another girl disappears. This is mentioned several times but really never goes anywhere. I think the book would have been better served to tell Francie’s story through childhood with more attention to detail than to try and tell her entire life story in 200 pages. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. 

27. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Melody, Romance

Stranded with her ex by Jill Sorenson, read by Melody, on 05/24/2014

An exotic wildlife preserve is a dream come true for conservation biologist Daniela Flores. Until she finds out her ex-husband is leading the research team. World-famous shark expert Sean Carmichael has only grown more ruggedly appealing in the time they were apart…the passion between them more intense than ever. But how could Daniela forgive Sean for betraying her when she needed him most?Sean had come to the remote Farallon Islands to study killer sharks. Now a real killer is on the loose, threatening the woman he’s never stopped loving. And this time, he knows he can’t walk away. Marooned together during a deadly storm, Sean vows to go to hell and back to save Daniela…and for the chance to begin again.

21. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

The F- It List by Julie Halpern, read by Angie, on 05/20/2014

Alex is not speaking to her best friend because she slept with her boyfriend the night of her dad’s funeral. So she spends the whole summer dealing with her grief over her dad. She goes back to school ready to forgive Becca only to find out she has cancer. So the friendship is back on and Becca shares her bucket list with Alex. They call it the f*** it list. Becca has been working on this list since she was 12 and it has a wide range of things she wants Alex to take care of for her. While Alex is working on the list, she starts hanging out with Leo. And when I say hanging out I really mean making out. Alex is obsessed with horror movies and Leo shares her love of the genre. But Alex is a very closed off person who comes off as not very nice. She doesn’t want to open herself up to her feelings for Leo and drives him away instead. 

This book didn’t end up being exactly what I thought it was going to be. I assumed it would be more about Alex and Becca’s relationship and dealing with Becca’s cancer. Instead it was more about Alex and Leo’s relationship and Alex dealing with her feelings. That was fine, but I felt like it was a little misleading. This is also not a book for the younger teen crowd. There is a LOT of language and a lot of talk about sex and a lot of well described make out sessions. Nothing wrong with that either, but it might shock (or educate) younger readers (and their parents). I enjoyed the story of Alex as she dealt with her grief over the loss of her dad, her fears about Becca and her new relationship with Leo. It was a fast read just not suitable for younger audiences. 

19. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Seeing Red by Kathryn Erskine, read by Angie, on 05/19/2014

Red Porter comes from a long line of Porters. He is proud of his family heritage and his place in the world and his community. Then his daddy dies and suddenly mom is talking about moving them from Virginia to Ohio. Red doesn’t want to leave his home or the shop and store his daddy owned. He tries everything he can think of to stop his mom from selling even if that includes enlisting the help of Darryl Dunlop. The Dunlops have been the Porter’s neighbors for a hundred years and there has always been bad blood between. The Dunlops and Porters couldn’t be more different. The Porters are pillars of the community whereas the Dunlops beat their kids and cause trouble. 

Red is also having trouble reconciling the racism he sees in his community with his own beliefs. Red is learning that just because it is the 1970s that doesn’t mean racism is gone. There are still people who want to put Blacks in their place and keep them separated from the whites. Red is friends with Ms. Georgia, an old Black lady who lives up the road from his family. Her grandpa was murdered 100 years ago on land he was buying from the Porters. Red decides to try and solve the mystery of where the Freedom Church was and what really happened the night George Freeman was murdered. This leads him to some hard truths about his family and the Dunlops. 

There is a lot going on in this book. It is a book that would spark a lot of discussions on civil rights, women rights and racism. It is also a good discussion book on grief and how different people deal with a loved ones death. Red wants to hold onto everything related to his father, but his mother can’t stand being around everything without his father. I liked the progression of the characters. Red grows up a lot during the course of the book. He learns to stand up for what he believes in and not to give in to the bigots and racists. His mother also changes. She is devastated with grief at the beginning, barely able to function, but by the end she is strong and more than what she was.

15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Jessica, Romance

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, read by Jessica, on 05/15/2014

At twenty-two years old, aspiring musician Sydney Blake has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her good friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter cheating on her with Tori—and she is left trying to decide what to do next.

Sydney becomes captivated by her mysterious neighbor, Ridge Lawson. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the daily guitar playing he does out on his balcony. She can feel the harmony and vibrations in his music. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either: He seems to have finally found his muse. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one…

10. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri (Author), Randy DuBurke (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 05/09/2014

During the summer of 1994, Chicago and the nation were glued to the news stories of eleven-year-old Yummy. Yummy was a shorty member of the Black Disciples trying to prove his worth to the gang leaders. He shot into a crowd of his rivals, but missed them all and instead hit 14-year-old Shavon. The murder of a young girl by an even younger boy shocked the nation and brought the harsh realities of inner-city Chicago to light. Yummy went on the run, but was eventually gunned down by his own gang members when they got tired of all the media coverage. This story is narrated by a fictional classmate of Yummy’s who wants to find out what happened to Yummy and why he turned out the way he did. It is a fast read and one you will not want to put down.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Madeline

Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker, read by Madeline, on 04/27/2014

A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?
Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline, Romance, Teen Books

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, read by Madeline, on 04/20/2014

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Romance, Teen Books

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, read by Lisa, on 04/05/2014

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Literary Fiction

The Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker, read by Lisa, on 04/01/2014

A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?
Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Free by Willy Vlautin, read by Claudia, on 04/15/2014

Severely wounded in the Iraq war, Leroy Kervin has lived in a group home for eight years. Frustrated by the simplest daily routines, he finds his existence has become unbearable. An act of desperation helps him disappear deep into his mind, into a world of romance and science fiction, danger and adventure where he is whole once again. Freddie McCall, the night man at Leroy’s group home, works two jobs yet still can’t make ends meet. He’s lost his wife and kids, and the house is next. Medical bills have buried him in debt, a situation that propels him to consider a lucrative–and dangerous–proposition. Pauline Hawkins, a nurse, cares for the sick and wounded, including Leroy. She also looks after her mentally ill elderly father. Yet she remains emotionally removed, until she meets a young runaway who touches something deep and unexpected inside her.

01. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle · Tags: ,

The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil, read by Noelle, on 04/07/2014

With a boss threatening to exile him to driving a bookmobile in Amish Country and a headstrong wife whose erotic pop-up books fail to revive the couples lost intimacy, Alexander retreats to a world of private annotation. Enter Henry James Jesson III, a collector with an improbably literary name, who shares a number of Alexanders unconventional interests. Soon, Jesson hires Alexander for some after-hours research. As his search advances, the librarian realizes there are many more secrets in Jessons life than the ones found in his dazzling Manhattan salon.

01. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Noelle, Teen Books

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, read by Noelle, on 04/16/2014

I was a huge fan of Eleanor and Park, so I decided to give this one a whirl.   I liked the main story line, but just couldn’t really get into the “book within the book” sideline fan fiction that the main character was writing.  I eventually just skipped over those parts.  Overall, though, not bad.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life-and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? Open her heart to someone?Or will she just go on living inside somebody else’s fiction?

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

Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, read by Angie, on 04/22/2014

Kiara is an 8th grade girl with a lot going on. She has been kicked out of school and is being homeschooled. It is just her and her dad at home since her mom moved to Montreal and her brothers are off at college. Kiara has Asperger’s and has problems in social situations and controlling her emotions. She has been called, freak, weirdo, and more and decides she is like Rogue of the X-Men. She never makes friends or keeps them because she is always doing something strange. When a new family moves in next door she tries to make friends with the two boys. Chad and Brandon have secrets of their own however. Soon they have become friends with Kiara, but Chad is drawing her into his family troubles. Chad likes doing BMX stunts and they are soon hanging out at bike trails with a bunch of older kids. Kiara for the first time has friends and she doesn’t want to give that up even if it means messing up her family or school life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Rogue. I learned a lot about Asperger’s from Kiara and her approach to life. I thought Chad and Brandon’s home life was also a timely topic. Their parents are cooking meth and making the kids help on top of some abuse.  I thought the X-Men obsession would be weird, but it actually really worked with the story. In many ways, Kiara is a lot like Rogue. I found myself smiling at times when she was trying to convince Chad he was Gambit or Antonio he was Wolverine. This is a touching story about family and friends and learning to accept who you are. It is a story about trying to change your circumstances and who exactly becomes our families.

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

Sunny Sweet Is So Not Sorry by Jennifer Ann Mann, read by Angie, on 04/21/2014

Masha wakes up one morning with plastic flowers stuck to her head. Turns out her little sister glued them on during the night. Sunny is a genius and thought the flowers would help Masha make friends. After repeated attempts at home (washing, peanut butter, freezing) to remove the flowers mom gives up. Masha is allowed to stay home from school until they figure something out. Soon after mom and Sunny leave, Masha hears a racket and finds her neighbor collapsed in the street. She calls an ambulance which takes Mrs. Song, Masha and a newly arrived Sunny to the hospital. A comedy of errors then takes place as Masha and Sunny might have caught whooping cough, Masha gets a cast on her arm in a case of mistaken identity, and various hospital personnel try to remove Masha’s flowers all the while calling her Marsha. Genius sunny becomes a mini-doctor during their stay in the hospital, always offering Masha advice and annoying her to no end. 

I found this book charming and fun. I really enjoyed the relationship between Masha and Sunny. You could feel the sisterness of it. They love each other, but they really can’t stand each other at times. Having two sisters myself I knew exactly what was happening. Masha’s experience was a bit extreme, but it made for a good story. I especially enjoyed the ending when their true feelings for each other came out. I think this is a fun book that kids will enjoy.

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

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, read by Angie, on 04/15/2014

Mickey Cray has been brought down by a frozen iguana. It has caused a concussion, headaches and double-vision. It also means he hasn’t been able to work as an animal wrangler. Bills are piling up so his wife has gone to China for a job, leaving Mickey and son Wahoo home alone. Then along comes Expedition Survivor and Derek Badger. He is a reality tv survivalist who believes his own hype and wants to film an Everglades episode; he is also a big fake. Mickey and Wahoo hire on to the show and start saving Derek from one animal after another. He is almost drowned by an alligator, bitten on the nose by a snapping turtle, bitten several times by a snake and attacked by a bat he is trying to eat. Mickey and Wahoo are joined on their expedition by Tuna, a girl in Wahoo’s class whose father hits her and who needs a safe place to hide out. The Expedition Survivor shoot is filled with chaos, mainly because of its star. Things get even worse when Tuna’s dad shows up and kidnaps Mickey.

This was a fun book. Carl Hiaasen obviously knows his animal info and is passionate about it. I thought he did a great job of passing along information about wildlife conservation and the plight of animals without shoving it down our throats. I liked how it was just a part of the story. I really enjoyed Mickey Cray, he is a fabulous character and one that was fun to read. His relationship with his son Wahoo was also really good. I liked how they were more partners than father and son, but Wahoo wasn’t the caretaker. I thought Derek Badger was hilarious and just how a reality tv star would be. Of course everything is fake and the star is a diva. The only part I didn’t think worked quite as well as Tuna’s dad. I thought his motivations were unclear and a little over the top. Other than that I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was great!

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Kristy, on 03/16/2014

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.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Snap by Ellie Rollins, read by Angie, on 04/08/2014

Danya loves her pony Sancho. She takes him with her everywhere and he is her best friend. When she finds out her parents have sold Sancho she is determined to save him. Danya and her cousin Pia run away with Sancho to Florida. They are determined to find Danya’s grandmother Angie, Danya’s favorite author and who she has never met. They are on a hero’s quest like in Angie’s books. There are certain tasks they must complete in order to complete the quest. The three of them travel from Kentucky to Florida with the help of those they meet along the way. They wrestle alligators, join the circus, stow away on a cruise ship and spend the night in Graceland.

I thought this was a fun book, completely unbelievable, but fun. Somehow the girls get a pony to hide in a truck, ride in a motorcycle sidecar and stay in a cruise ship cabin. There is never any mention of the horse doing his business (which I am sure would be terribly messy wherever they were). There are times the group is recognized and chased by police or concerned citizens, but they always manage to outwit them and make their escape. I liked Danya and Pia and Sancho, but I couldn’t quite buy their story or stop questioning how they were able to do what they were doing.

09. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars Wild Pitch by Cal Ripken Jr., Kevin Cowherd, read by Angie, on 04/08/2014

Last summer Robbie Hammond hit a kid in the head during a baseball game. Ever since then his pitching has been terrible. He can throw a huge fastball in practice, but anytime there is someone batting he just throws fouls and clunkers. His team is on a losing streak and Robbie’s pitching isn’t helping. Then he meets Ben, a kid who lost an arm but still has a great throw. With Ben and his friend Marty’s help, Robbie starts to deal with his phobia of hitting another kid.

This is a typical celebrity written book. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t really good either. Ripken is writing what he knows in baseball, but the story doesn’t have a lot of depth. It is a little too after school special for my tastes. Very predictable story and not the best writing. Ripken should stick with what he knows…playing baseball…instead of writing about it.

07. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson, read by Courtney, on 03/17/2014

Laila has just arrived in America, but she’s not the average immigrant. Her father was the ruler of a Middle Eastern country who has been killed in a bloody coup led by her uncle. Laila, her mother and brother have relocated to the US with the aid of the CIA. It doesn’t take Laila long to discover that just about everything she thought she knew about her father was inaccurate. Where she and her little brother had thought him a king, the rest of the world regarded him as a corrupt and brutal dictator. Still reeling from being torn out of the only life she’s known, Laila finds the US to be overwhelming. Laila is unused to being able to walk about without body guards. She’s never attended school. Never had friends. Laila is immediately befriended by her peer ambassador, Emmy, who helps to introduce Laila to American teenage life. All the while, Laila’s mother is in contact with local refugees who were once targeted by her father, her uncle (now the new dictator) and the CIA. Who is helping who? Will this family’s life ever be peaceful? Can Laila ever atone for her father’s transgressions against their people?
This unique novel puts global conflict into context. The country Laila’s family hails from is unnamed, but feels very similar to several other oppressive Middle-Eastern regimes. Laila’s family has a lot to deal with, ranging from dealing with the death of their patriarch to coming to terms with a man they thought of as a gentle family man, rather than a brutal dictator responsible for innumerable deaths and atrocities. Laila is a fascinating, complex character. Her mother is quite interesting as well. They have both come from a culture where women had few rights and now live in a country where they are expected to take care of themselves and their family. Laila’s mother does it the best way she knows how: manipulation and bargaining. The plot will keep readers on their toes, because the motivations of the players that shape Laila’s world are unknown even to Laila. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.