29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky, read by Courtney, on 01/07/2014

All of Sophie’s life has been about her mother. As long as she can remember, she’s been taking care of her mother through all of the ups and downs that a bi-polar disorder can bring. Until one day, when Sophie gets home from school to find the house much quieter than usual. She finds her mother barely alive on the bed with a nearly-empty bottle of pills nearby. After 911 has been called and the house cleaned up, Sophie packs her things and heads to her aunt’s house. She hasn’t seen her aunt’s family in years, but was always told that she could call them if she really needed to. This time, Sophie had no choice. As her mother slowly recovers, Sophie reflects back on the life they’ve been living together (and why her aunt’s family has been kept at a distance) as well as what it means for their futures. For the first time in her life, Sophie is not the one who has to take care of everything and she’s not sure how to feel about it.
This is more or less a traditional “problem novel” where a main character has an issue that they have to deal with by the time the book is over. In this case, it is the mentally-ill parent and the teenaged daughter who does more of the actual parenting. Sophie’s love for her mother is obvious and palpable, but later revelations about her mother’s behavior make one wonder why no one stepped in earlier. The reader will feel empathy for Sophie, but she’s not a particularly nuanced character.

29. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books · Tags:

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian, read by Courtney, on 01/03/2014

Evan has been moving around his entire life. Thus, he has perfected the art of being the New Guy. As the New Guy, Evan focuses entirely on meeting girls. He has no male friends to speak of and goes from girl to girl. He’s always had good luck with girls and views them as little more than conquests. Friendship with girls who won’t sleep with him aren’t really worth his time. Then Evan sleeps with the wrong girl. She’s a girl with a violent ex-boyfriend (who is unfortunately friends with Evan’s roommate). Evan gets beaten up so badly that he’s pulled out of school by his father and taken to live in the small rural community in Minnesota that his father grew up in. There, everyone knows everyone else. Evan quickly discovers that he cannot simply spend the summer hiding from everyone and everything. Slowly, bit by bit, Evan begins to make actual friends, both male and female. Still, Evan is haunted by the repercussions of his beating and has trouble even thinking about going back to his old way of living.
Evan’s perspective is a unique one in YA lit. Evan isn’t really the most likeable of characters, but it doesn’t take the reader long to figure out that it’s not entirely Evan’s fault. Evan’s mother is long absent and his wealthy father is more comfortable with computers than people. As Evan begins to open up to his new friends, he begins to reassess the way he thinks about both women and relationships.
The ending is little on the tidy side and the final chapters portraying Evan at the public school feel like they’re rushed and possibly unnecessary. Otherwise, it’s compelling read about issues rarely addressed from the male perspective. This would likely make a very interesting book for discussion groups.

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

My Summer of Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald, read by Angie, on 01/22/2014

Lucy’s dream summer is not turning out the way she planned. Her sister Claudia is back from college, but instead of spending all summer sharing secrets by the pool Claudia is hanging out with her boyfriend Bean. Lucy’s best friend Sunny is wrapped up in her boyfriend Eric and the boy Lucy likes is giving her mixed signals. Lucy thought she would be helping turn the Pink and Green Spa into a reality, but feels pushed out by all the adults working on the project. To make things even worse she is stuck with Bevin, who is embarrassing and hangs around Lucy all the time. Can Lucy turn things around?

This is the sequel to My Life in Pink and Green and picks up shortly after the ending of that book. The spa is becoming a reality and Lucy is still trying to make things happen. She has a lot going on in this book and learns some lessons about herself and those around her. Lucy definitely grows up a bit in this book. I enjoyed the first book and I enjoyed this one as well. I think this is a good series for girls. The situations are all pretty realistic and there is also information about green initiatives.

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

After Iris by Natasha Farrant, read by Angie, on 01/13/2014

Blue’s twin sister Iris died three years ago and the family hasn’t really gotten over it. Mom travels the world with her job for Bootylicious Cosmetics. Dad spends most of his time in Warwick. Blue has become invisible and hides behind her camera. The family is taken care of by au pair Zoran and chaos reigns. Blue and her sisters and brother seem to act however they want with no parental supervision. Blue thinks things are looking up when she meets new neighbor Joss. Unfortunately, while Joss is a good friend for a while he starts dating her older sister which really sours him to Blue.

This is a story that will make you laugh and cry. The story of Iris’s death comes out in bits throughout the book. Blue and the rest of her family slowly try to deal with being apart and coming back together. They have to figure out if they can still be a family if a member is missing. Blue has to come out of her shell and realize she can still be happy without Iris. This is a very touching story.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. Sorry it took me so long to read it!

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

Penelope Crumb Finds Her Luck by Shawn Stout, read by Angie, on 01/13/2014

Penelope feels like Bad Luck is shadowing her. She has gotten another note home from her teacher. Her brother Terrible now has a girlfriend. Grandpa Felix is letting Terrible be his photographer’s assistant which was Penelope’s job. It all started when she joined a group painting a mural at Portwaller’s Blessed Home for the Aged. She was elected Boss of the group and became a little too bossy and drove the other kids away. She has to find a way to get Good Luck back on her side and save her relationship with Grandpa Felix and save her friendship with Patsy Cline and help her new friend Nila Wister.

Penelope Crumb is a lot like Junie B or Judy Moody. She is opinionated and artistic and just a little bit weird. Even though she is a fourth grader these books are geared towards a little younger age. They are fun, but there isn’t a whole lot to the stories. In this book, Penelope does at least learn a lesson about being bossy and letting others have an opinion.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, read by Courtney, on 12/14/2013

Andrew Winston Winters is not a happy guy. He spends most of his time at his boarding school avoiding everyone and everything, in spite of the fact that he’s not only smart, but a top-notch athlete as well. The thing he avoids most, however, is his past. The one thing he can’t avoid is the coming full-moon. Win believes he has a monster waiting to come out and that monster is somehow connected to the events of a tragic summer years ago. As the clock ticks down, Win finds that he is not as alone as he thought.
It’s really difficult to write a plot summary of this book without being spoiler-y. Suffice it to say, this is an unusual book. Important information is meted out, bit by bit, enticing the reader with the promise of revelation. This is not a happy book, but it is a beautiful one. It’s one of those beautiful books that rips your heart out by the time you’re done reading it.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Steam-punk

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff, read by Courtney, on 12/07/2013

12-year-old Mila has a knack for noticing the things that others do not. This particular talent will come in handy as a series of events play out. She and her father had been planning to visit her father’s old friend in the United States for quite some time, but recently this friend has gone missing and no one has any idea what has happened to him. Mila and her father decide to make the trip overseas anyway. If her father’s friend, Matthew, isn’t back by the time they show up, they can spend some of their vacation trying to track him down. As soon as Mila and her father arrive at the home owned by Matthew and his wife, Mila notices quickly that this is not a happy house. The wife, Suzanne, appears stressed out but not overly upset. Their baby, Gabriel, has no idea that anything is wrong and charms everyone who comes in contact with him. The family dog, Honey, appears adrift with her master missing. Mila has a lot of theories, but the pieces have yet to fall into place. It will take some time, but she’s fairly confident that she and her father can track down his best friend. When the search takes them further into upstate New York, Mila finds more than she bargained for.
This is a novel about families, friendship and love. But it’s not a sappy novel at all. There is pain; there is humor; there is hope. Mila is one of those characters who is a very different person by the time the book is over, and while she’s not initially the easiest character to understand, she becomes a person that most of us can identify with on some level. I’m consistently impressed with the variety of Meg Rosoff’s work and this is just one more excellent novel in an already illustrious YA career.

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Teen Books

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell , read by Kristy, on 12/28/2013

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

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?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Kristy, Romance, Teen Books

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, read by Kristy, on 12/19/2013

It’s 1986 and two star-crossed teens are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love–and just how hard it pulled you under.

 A cross between the iconic ’80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.

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

Penelope Crumb Never Forgets by Shawn Stout, read by Angie, on 01/07/2014

Penelope Crumb has a fascination with dead things. Maybe this is because her dad is graveyard dead and she thought her grandpa was too. She gets frustrated when her class doesn’t pay enough attention to the dead people’s things in a museum during a class trip. She decides to set up her own museum to remember the people she loves (not all dead). This leads to some hard life lessons as Penelope acquires the things for her museum without permission which causes problems with her family and friends. She is also dealing with the fact that her best friend Patsy Cline seems to be moving on to another friend.

I think I might have a better appreciation for Penelope if I had read the first book in the series. As it is I had no idea what happened to her dad or why she thought her grandpa was dead. I am not sure Penelope is any better off at the end of the book than she is in the beginning. Things haven’t been resolved with Patsy Cline, she had to dismantle her museum and she lost her beloved toolbox. I think fans of Junie B Jones or Judy Moody might like this series, but it is not for the more mature reader.

07. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, read by Noelle, on 12/29/2013

Haunted by the freak accident that killed their father when they were children, Jim and Bob Burgess escaped from their Maine hometown of Shirley Falls for New York City as soon as they possibly could. Jim, a sleek, successful corporate lawyer, has belittled his bighearted brother their whole lives, and Bob, a Legal Aid attorney who idolizes Jim, has always taken it in stride. But their long-standing dynamic is upended when their sister, Susan–the Burgess sibling who stayed behind–urgently calls them home. Her lonely teenage son, Zach, has gotten himself into a world of trouble, and Susan desperately needs their help. And so the Burgess brothers return to the landscape of their childhood, where the long-buried tensions that have shaped and shadowed their relationship begin to surface in unexpected ways that will change them forever.
With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, “The Burgess Boys” is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art.

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

The Glitter Trap (Oh My Godmother #1) by Barbara Brauner, James Iver Mattson, Abigail Halpin (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 12/31/2013

Lacey Unger-Ware (yep that’s her name) thinks Paige Harrington is stuck-up and mean. Paige is the fastest rising most popular girl in school history. Lacey and her friend Sunny are often picked on by Paige who calls Lacey “underwear girl”. Then there is the fairy incident. Lacey gets glitter stuck in her hair from one of Paige’s glittery posters and accidentally traps Paige’s fairy godmother. Now if Paige’s dreams don’t come true none of Lacey’s will either. So Lacey has to learn how to be a fairy godmother so both of their dreams come true.

With a name like The Glitter Trap I figured this book would be a pretty light read. And in some ways it was, but it also had a wonderful message about family and friendship and who we are on the inside. Lacey and Paige might have started out as enemies, but they become friends as the fairy godmother project evolves. This might be a heart-warming book, but it is also full of all the snarky humor that will make it popular with girls. A great message delivered with humor and fun.

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

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booraem, read by Angie, on 01/01/2014

Conor O’Neill has a banshee named Ashling hiding in his game closet. Ashling has come to announce the death of one of the members of the O’Neill family, but doesn’t know who. Conor doesn’t want anyone in his family to die. Grumps wants to be the one to die instead of anyone else. Little sister Glennie doesn’t believe half of what Conor says and is a royal pain. Mom and dad are clueless in so many ways. Mom insists on calling Conor Pixie which doesn’t help his image at all and dad is trying to force Conor out of Southie and into Latin School, Boston College, hockey and economics despite Conor’s dislike of all of the above. Conor travels to the underworld to hopefully stop the death, but things aren’t exactly as they appear.

I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. The characters are fully realized and the adventure kept me reading. Conor is not your typical hero; he is scared of so many things and a very reluctant hero. At one point he even wears a bike helmet to school. Ashling’s story is revealed throughout the book and it is a tragic one that directly connects to Conor. I thought Grumps was the most heartbreaking. He is obsessed by Irish death culture because of something that happened in his past; something that also caused him to neglect his son which in turn causes Brian to smother Conor. The ending will break your heart and the trip to the underworld will make you laugh. Who knew you could phone a friend from the land of the dead!

31. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sarah

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker, read by Sarah, on 11/23/2013

Stella loves living with Great-aunt Louise in her big old house near the water on Cape Cod for many reasons, but mostly because Louise likes routine as much as she does, something Stella appreciates since her mom is, well, kind of unreliable. So while Mom “finds herself,” Stella fantasizes that someday she’ll come back to the Cape and settle down. The only obstacle to her plan? Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. Angel couldn’t be less like her name—she’s tough and prickly, and the girls hardly speak to each other.

But when tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Stella and Angel are forced to rely on each other to survive, and they learn that they are stronger together than they could have imagined. And over the course of the summer they discover the one thing they do have in common: dreams of finally belonging to a real family.

30. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Hunter Moran Hangs Out by Patricia Reilly Giff, read by Angie, on 12/28/2013

There are only a few days left in summer vacation and Hunter and his twin brother Zack are trying to make the most of it. Then Sarah Yulefski tells them she overheard someone talking about kidnapping a Moran. They have to figure out who it is before the kidnappee gets kidnapped. There is a bully in the woods, a weird stranger in the abandoned house across the street and a gymnastic freak friend of their sister. Who is going to be kidnapped and who is going to do it. This was a fun, quick read. There is a lot here kids are going to enjoy. It was easy to read, had lots of adventure and mystery and the characters were fun.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline, Multicultural Fiction

The Ruins of Us by Keija Parssinen, read by Madeline, on 12/16/2013

More than two decades after moving to Saudi Arabia and marrying powerful Abdullah Baylani, American-born Rosalie learns that her husband has taken a second wife. That discovery plunges their family into chaos as Rosalie grapples with leaving Saudi Arabia, her life, and her family behind. Meanwhile, Abdullah and Rosalie’s consuming personal entanglements blind them to the crisis approaching their sixteen-year-old son, Faisal, whose deepening resentment toward their lifestyle has led to his involvement with a controversial sheikh. When Faisal makes a choice that could destroy everything his embattled family holds dear, all must confront difficult truths as they fight to preserve what remains of their world.

“The Ruins of Us” is a timely story about intolerance, family, and the injustices we endure for love that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new voice in contemporary fiction.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline, Romance

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani, read by Madeline, on 12/08/2013

For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves-the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything.

26. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline, Romance

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, read by Madeline, on 12/02/2013

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life–steady boyfriend, close family–who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after a motorcycle accident. Will has always lived a huge life–big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel–and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, bossy–but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living. A Love Story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common–a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

18. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tracy

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, read by Tracy, on 12/03/2013

As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland.

When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples’ already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe’s life.

An intimate epic, a NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style all its own, Telegraph Avenue is the great American novel we’ve been waiting for. Generous, imaginative, funny, moving, thrilling, humane, and triumphant.

16. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

This is How I Find Her by Sara Polsky, read by Sarah, on 12/13/2013

 How would you like to be solely in charge of your manic-depressive mother at 16?  What would you do if you came home to find her passed out with a bottle of spilled pills all around her?  Sophie has had an interesting life dealing with and managing her mom’s ups and downs.  At this point, her mother is hospitalized and Sophie has to stay with other family.  But the freedom that comes with her new situation makes her wonder….does she really want her mom to come back home?

This is a heart-wrenching story with strong-willed characters and a realization that sometimes we can’t do it all on our own.