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.

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

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, read by Courtney, on 03/21/2014

Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday will go down in history. If all goes as planned, that is. Leonard’s plan is relatively simple: visit his four favorite people so that he can give them a parting gift, track down a former friend named Asher, shoot Asher and then shoot himself. Leonard has in his possession his grandfather’s WWII-era Nazi handgun, which he takes to school with him on that fateful day. Leonard begins his rounds, delivering his personalized parting gifts to the few people that mean anything to him: his elderly Bogart-quoting neighbor, an Iranian classmate who is also a musical prodigy, a Christian home-school girl who hands out pamphlets in the subway station and Leonard’s Holocaust teacher, Herr Silverman. Each and every one of these characters (and a few more along the way) notice something is going on with Leonard; he’s chopped off all his hair, he’s giving away treasured possessions, he’s acting differently. Leonard manages to dodge their questions and concerns and continues to work through his plan. All the while, he can’t help but hope that at least one person will remember that it’s his birthday or that someone will try to stop him. The ultimate question, however, is will Leonard follow through with his plan to end the life of a fellow teen as well as his own? Is there any way for him to come back from the brink?
There are a lot of books out there that address teen suicide, as well as teen shooters. Leonard makes for an interesting protagonist. He’s not particularly likeable, but he’s also not completely despicable. He’s really smart and has serious difficulties relating to people his own age. His attitude towards the rest of his school and society at large is reminiscent of a modern-day Holden Caulfield. What sets Leonard apart as a character is the added element of his relationship to Asher, the former-friend Leonard is determined to kill. It takes a good deal of time to understand the motivation behind his target, but when it comes up, it’s pretty serious. The reader will rarely agree with the actions that Leonard takes, but they will likely have some similar frustrations in their lives. My only real issue with this is the attitude regarding the vast majority of the adults in this book. Only two of them are trusted by Leonard; the rest of the adults are only doing their duty, or, in the case of Leonard’s mother, completely shirking it. Leonard’s story is angsty and sad, but with good reason. The action is interspersed with “Letters From the Future”, which adds a hopeful note, even when things appear bleakest. Hand this one to fans of 13 Reasons Why and Everybody Sees the Ants.

02. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen, read by Madeline, on 03/05/2014

Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendant  her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

Brilliantly written, powerfully observed, Still Life with Bread Crumbs is a deeply moving and often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa · Tags:

One For the Murphy's by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, read by Lisa, on 03/29/2014

Twelve-year-old Carley Connors can take a lot. Growing up in Las Vegas with her fun-loving mother, she’s learned to be tough. But she never expected a betrayal that would land her in a foster care. When she’s placed with the Murphys, a lively family with three boys, she’s blindsided. Do happy families really exist? Carley knows she could never belong in their world, so she keeps her distance.

It’s easy to stay suspicious of Daniel, the brother who is almost her age and is resentful she’s there. But Mrs. Murphy makes her feel heard and seen for the first time, and the two younger boys seem determined to work their way into her heart. Before she knows it, Carley is protected the boys from a neighborhood bully and even teaching Daniel how to play basketball. Then just when she’s feeling like she could truly be one of the Murphys, news from her mother shakes her world.

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

I Even Funnier by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, read by Angie, on 03/25/2014

Jamie Grimm wants to be the “funniest kid on the planet”. He is on his way to achieving his goal after winning the funniest kid in Boston contest. He just needs to win the regionals and move on. Jamie pulls his humor from the things around him which don’t seem funny on the surface. Jamie is in a wheelchair after an accident that killed his parents and little sister. He now lives with his aunt and uncle and a horrible cousin who bullies him all the time. Thankfully he has a good group of supportive friends and another uncle who helps him prepare for the competition.

I didn’t read I Funny: A Middle School Story so I didn’t have all the background on these characters. However, I think this is a book that will appeal to kids, especially fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The humor is pretty good and the story is interesting enough to keep kids reading. I thought the turn-around of the bully was a little too good, but other than that the story was fine. Not my favorite, but not horrible either.

25. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Noelle · Tags: , , ,

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, read by Noelle, on 03/18/2014

This book was not bad, but I was hoping it would be a little more exciting and quirky.  I also could have used a little less of the narrator’s self loathing rants.

In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road. Lucy Hull, a young children’s librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. The precocious Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in weekly antigay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library after hours with a knapsack of provisions and an escape plan. Desperate to save him from Pastor Bob and the Drakes, Lucy allows herself to be hijacked by Ian. The odd pair embarks on a crazy road trip from Missouri to Vermont, with ferrets, an inconvenient boyfriend, and upsetting family history thrown in their path. But is it just Ian who is running away? Who is the man who seems to be on their tail? And should Lucy be trying to save a boy from his own parents?

 

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, read by Angie, on 03/18/2014

I loved Eleanor and Park so of course I had to pick up the next Rainbow Rowell book. Her stories are wonderful and so very realistic. Fangirl is about Cath. Cath is headed to college and not really ready for it. Her twin sister Wren has told her she doesn’t want to be roommates and wants to meet other people. Cath has always had Wren to rely on so this makes going to college even harder. Cath also worries about their dad who isn’t the most stable man around especially without Cath and Wren to keep an eye on him. Cath’s roommate doesn’t help either. She is snarly and rude and has an adorable boyfriend who keeps hanging around the room. Cath isn’t interested in socializing or having the college experience. She doesn’t want to meet new people or party and is scared of the cafeteria. All she really wants to do is work on her Simon Snow fanfiction and finish Carry On Simon before the next book comes out. Cath is an uber Simon Snow fan and her fanfic has thousands of followers online. Cath is more comfortable in that magical world than she is in the real world.

So for the first part of the this book I could do nothing but feel sorry for Cath. She is completely anti-social and one of the most scared people you will ever meet. Regan and Levi do slowly bring her out of that shell but it really takes a lot of effort. I thought the fanfic would be weird but it really kind of worked and in a way made me wish there really were Simon Snow books; even though they are really just Harry Potter fanfiction in themselves. I really appreciated Cath’s journey through these books. She grows up a lot and really comes into her own. And of course I loved Levi. He is the perfect first boyfriend in almost every way. As long as this book was I could have actually read more of this story. I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell comes up with next.

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg, read by Angie, on 03/19/2014

Clare’s mother has died. Her father is a doctor and decides to move them to Malawi where he will work in a local hospital. Needless to say, Clare is not thrilled. She doesn’t want to leave her home, her friends and where she knew her mom. Once they get to Malawi it is complete culture shock. Everything from the living conditions to the food to the school is 100% different than what she is used to. However, Clare makes friends with Memory and her brother Innocent. She starts fitting in at school and things start to look up. She even gets to teach English to the first graders. Clare has to deal with a lot; she has to come to terms with the loss of her mom, to forgive her dad, and to learn to love her new life.

I didn’t think I would like this book as much as I did. I loved Clare and all her trials and triumphs. I thought she was extremely realistic in how she handled everything from the chicken to the shower to the school. Boston and Malawi are worlds apart and I thought Shana Burg did a great job showing just how different life in Africa really is. I also loved that this was not an after school special type book and that everything was not perfect. Life expectancy is low in Malawi; people don’t live to old age (old age is your 40s). I thought it was really realistic to show a child’s death and to show how difficult getting an education was. Excellent book!

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Rachel, Teen Books

Friday Never Leaving by Vikki Wakefield, read by Rachel, on 03/19/2014

In this wrenching, exquisite coming-of-age novel, Friday discovers what makes a family-and a home.

Friday Brown has never had a home. She and her mother live on the road, running away from the past instead of putting down roots. So when her mom succumbs to cancer, the only thing Friday can do is keep moving. Her journey takes her to an abandoned house where a bunch of street kids are squatting, and an intimidating girl named Arden holds court.

Friday gets initiated into the group, but her relationship with Arden is precarious, which puts Friday-and anyone who befriends her-at risk. With the threat of a dangerous confrontation looming, Friday has to decide between returning to her isolated, transient life, or trying to help the people she’s come to care about-if she can still make it out alive.

19. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolen, Adam Stemple, read by Angie, on 03/16/2014

Sammy Greenburg is bullied at school. He has a smart mouth and can’t seem to help mouthing off to the bullies. He makes friends with new kid Skink who helps a bit with the bullying situation, but isn’t always around. During bar mitzvah lessons he learns about golems. He decides to make a golem to help him out. Gully, the golem, does protect him from the bullies and he becomes his friend. Sammy, Skink and Gully form a band and get a gig performing at school. Of course Sammy’s rabbi tries to warn him about the danger golems can be to those around him. Sammy has to decide what to do about Gully and the bullies.

There are parts of this book I really liked. I liked the lessons on bullying and making friends and making good decisions. However, this was kind of a clunky book to read. It starts with a chapter on golems going crazy in Isreal featuring Sammy’s rabbi. Doesn’t seem to fit with rest of the story except when the rabbi tells the story later to illustrate how dangerous golems can be. I also didn’t buy just how horrible the bullies were. Bullies are of course mean and terrible and they do really bad things, but do most 6th grade bullies try to kill their classmates? I don’t think so. I found it strange that no one questioned Gully’s appearance (which is gray down to his teeth) or the fact that he just shows up and starts going to school nor do they question his disappearance. Even though this book isn’t supposed to be exactly realistic, it has so many realistic elements that the fantastical bits really stood out and didn’t work.

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

Cheesie Mack Is Running like Crazy! by Steve Cotler, read by Angie, on 03/18/2014

Cheesie Mack is starting 6th grade and middle school. He decides to run for class president, but finds out one of his friends is also running. So they hatch a plan to get Georgie, Cheesie’s best friend elected instead. Cheesie becomes Georgie’s campaign manager. Cheesie also has to contend with his 8th grade sister Goon (June) who wants to sabotage him at every turn.

This is a book for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and books like that. Cheesie is a funny character that I am sure boys will like. The story is fine, but nothing really that special. However, this book isn’t the most fun to read. It makes constant, and I do mean constant, references to the earlier books in the series. And they are not your harmless references, but pitches to make you go out and buy the previous books. It doesn’t tell you what happened but says things like “you can read about that in my other book”. There are also a lot of references to the website in addition to the books. It is super annoying to read these things over and over and over again.

19. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tracy

Quentins by Maeve Binchy, read by Tracy, on 03/08/2014

Maeve Binchy follows the enormous success of Scarlet Feather with a new book, Quentins, that delivers the hallmark storytelling that has kept her millions of fans happy for more than twenty years.

Is it possible to tell the story of a generation and a city through the history of a restaurant? Ella Brady thinks so. She wants to film a documentary about Quentins that will capture the spirit of Dublin from the 1970s to the present day. After all, the restaurant saw the people of a city become more confident in everything, from their lifestyles to the food that they chose to eat. And Quentins has a thousand stories to tell: tales of love, of betrayal, of revenge; of times when it looked ready for success and of times when it seemed as if it must close in failure.

In Maeve Binchy’s magical new book you will meet new friends and old. The twins from Scarlet FeatherSignora from Evening Class, and Ria from Tara Road all drop by, as do a host of new friends-Mon, the ever-cheerful Australian waitress, and Blouse Brennan, whose simplicity disguises a sharp mind and a heart of gold.

Quentins is presided over by the apparently unflappable Patrick and Brenda Brennan, whose efforts have made the place a legend in the life of Dubliners and visitors alike. But even the Brennans have a story, and a problem, that is hidden from the public gaze.

As Ella uncovers more and more of what has gone on at Quentins, she begins to question the wisdom of capturing it all in a documentary. Are there some stories that are too sacred to be told, some secrets that must be kept? By getting to know the people that pass through the doors of Quentins, Ella has finally gotten to know herself.

15. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle · Tags: , ,

People of the Book: a Novel by Geraldine Brooks, read by Noelle, on 03/03/2014

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force”by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century S pain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

        

 

 

14. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy · Tags:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, read by Tammy, on 03/09/2014

goldfinchWell-written tale about a young teen who loses his mother, gains a piece of art and then has to live with the consequences of his decisions. What starts out as a basic coming of age story also contemplates, what is a good life? He wonders how much can you change the personality you are born with or taught by your parents and friends. Who has the most influence. Can you really be you if you resist those inner urges and desires?

 

10. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott, read by Angie, on 03/08/2014

Oh Elizabeth Scott, how you break my heart every time I read one of your books. They are almost always books that make me think and make me want to cry. Heartbeat definitely falls into that category. Emma is a teenager living with her stepfather. Her mother is in the hospital dead, but being kept alive for the baby she carries. Emma blames her stepfather Dan for only thinking about the baby and not about what her mom would have wanted. She believes her mom was scared to be pregnant and knew something was going to happen to her. She doesn’t believe her mom would ever have wanted to be kept in a vegetative state like she is. Emma is mad at the world and has given up on all the things she had before her mom died. She was a straight A student on track to become valedictorian and attending a top 10 school. Now she is failing all her classes because she can’t be bothered to do homework. Every day she goes to the hospital and sits with her mom because even though she is dead she is still here. It is at the hospital where Emma meets Caleb Harrison, the local bad boy. Caleb knows what it is like to lose someone because his little sister died. His parents blame him for her death and he blames himself. In the three years since she died he has fallen into trouble through taking drugs and stealing cars. His latest escapade was driving his father’s car into the lake. Emma and Caleb bond over their shared grief and the relationship helps Emma come to terms with her situation and start to move forward.

I usually hate weepy books, but there is something so compelling about the stories Scott tells that I can’t help but devour them all. I loved the fact that this story seemed ripped from the headlines even though she had to have started writing it long before the Texas case became a story. This story of course ends differently than that one did, but I thought Scott did a fantastic job of portraying the realities of the situation. Emma was also a fantastic character. You could feel her rage and grief oozing out of the pages. You wanted to help her stop self-destructing, but there was no way. I want to be sucked into a story I read and not want to come up for air. This was one of those stories.

05. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Claudia, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriaty, read by Claudia, on 02/12/2014

The Husband's Secret

This is such a great book!  It could have been so predictable, but the author makes it into one of the most original reads I’ve had in a long time.  I was immediately engaged with the story and liked the characters.  There were so many spot-on things written about the lives of busy working moms struggling with balancing work and family.  I found it very relatable on that level.   I highly recommend this to readers of intelligent chick-lit!

From Barnes & Noble

“My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died….” Her husband had not intended that she read the letter until after his demise, but Cecilia’s curiosity betrayed him. The unsettling words that she read forever changed the life of this once contented wife and mother; yet this well-intended posthumous missive also becomes the spur that enables Cecilia to connect with two other women recently pushed towards crossroads. A new novel by Liane Moriarty (What Alice Forgot; The Hypnotist’s Love) as original and well-crafted as a fine string quartet.

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.