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?
11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Joyce · Tags:

In Front of God and Everybody by K. D. McCrite, read by Joyce, on 01/30/2013

In the summer of 1986, eleven-year-old April Grace, who lives on a rural Arkansas farm with her family, across a field from her grandmother, has her sense of Christian charity tested when a snooty couple from San Francisco moves into a dilapidated house down the road and her grandmother takes up with a loud, obnoxious, and suspicious-acting Texan.
11. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Teen Books

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, read by Lisa, on 01/30/2013

Standing on the fringes of life…offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

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

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, read by Jessica, on 02/10/2014

My Darling Cecilia
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died . . .

Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret – something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all – she’s an incredibly successful business woman, 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 devastating secret.

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

Starring Jules: As Herself by Beth Levine Ain, Anne Keenan Higgins (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 02/09/2014

Jules is an entertaining young girl with Pizazz! She has a lot to deal with at school what with her former best friend coming back from a fancy vacation and not liking her anymore. Then there is the new girl Elinor of London who she hopes will be her new best friend. She also has her very first audition coming up. The only problem is that it is for orange mouthwash and Jules doesn’t do anything orange since the orange sherbert incident. It will take all the help of new and old friends as well as her grandma to get her ready for her debut.

This was a good beginning chapter book for girls. Jules is a fun character who likes to collect words and make lists. I enjoyed the fact that her family was pretty much normal with just a few entertaining quirks. Her little brother was awesome. I also liked the fact that even though she felt left out when Charlotte found new friends she learns that friendship goes both ways.

07. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence, read by Courtney, on 08/17/2013

When Alex Woods was 10 years old, a meteorite crashed through the roof of the house he was living in, striking him in the head. After recovering from the coma induced by the physical trauma of a meteorite hit to the head, Alex develops a seizure disorder. The seizures, combined with his single-mother’s quirky vocation as a tarot card reader, make for an unusual upbringing that isolates Alex to a rather extreme degree. As he nears his teen years, he meets Mr. Peterson and his life changes forever. What begins as a chance encounter turns into a full-fledged friendship between two very unusual individuals. When Mr. Peterson realizes he is going to die, Alex becomes more like family and it becomes a race to accomplish as much as they can before Mr. Peterson’s disease catches up with him.
The beginning of the book features Alex at 17, being stopped by border patrol with a massive quantity of marijuana in seat next to him. He is also very, very certain that he has absolutely done the right thing. The reader follows Alex as he tells his side of the story, which necessarily includes many detours and unusual circumstances.
This is an interesting take on the classic bildungsroman. Alex is certainly not like most kids or teens, which makes him an intriguing narrator. Mr. Peterson is a classic curmudgeon. Alex’s mother, while not exactly run-of-the-mill herself, is kind and loving even if a bit smothering. The only place where I’ve really got to deduct points is for the basic plot. There are a lot of great details, but the overall story is one we’ve heard time and time again. Awkward teenage boy befriends grouchy/lonely old man and everyone learns/grows from the experience. Mix in some feels due to the old man dying of a rare disease and you’ve got what amounts to a fairly predictable story. Major bonus points for all the Vonnegut love though.

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

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp, read by Courtney, on 09/18/2013

This epistolary-style novel follows teenaged runaway, Punkzilla, as he travels across the country to see his dying brother. Most of the letters are from Punkzilla to his brother, describing his own reasons for leaving home and his life in Portland. His brother has been keeping his distance from the family ever since coming out to his homophobic parents. Punkzilla’s life has been challenging too. His relationship with his family is strained as well; he has already been exiled to military school prior to running away. When he does receive the letter from his brother announcing that there is little time left, Punkzilla feels an urgent need to reconnect with his older brother. Here and there, letters from both parents to Punkzilla illustrate the circumstances that both brothers have had to contend with and the frustration they share is palpable.
In classic Adam Rapp fashion, this story is swift-moving and heart wrenching. Punkzilla does and says a lot of things that are clearly misguided, but remains sympathetic nonetheless. The real achievement is the growth that the reader sees throughout Punkzilla’s journey and how he interacts with the people he meets. This is a tough and gritty coming-of-age story and a decent choice for reluctant readers.