07. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kristy

The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jiménez, read by Kristy, on 04/30/2014

These independent but intertwined stories follow a migrant family through their circuit, from picking cotton and strawberries to topping carrots – and back again – over a number of years. As it moves from one labor camp to the next, the little family of four grows into ten. Impermanence and poverty define their lives. But with faith, hope, and back-breaking work, the family endures.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge, read by Lisa, on 04/30/2014

Penelope Tredwell is the feisty thirteen-year-old orphan heiress of the bestselling magazine. The Penny Dreadful. Her masterly tales of the macabre are gripping Victorian Britain. even if no one knows shes the real author. One day a letter she receives from the governor of the notorious Bedlam madhouse plunges her into an adventure more terrifying than anything she ever imagined – A thriller with a fast-paced cinematic style. Twelve Minutes to Midnight is an electrifying story from an exciting new author.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano (Illustrations), Greg Salsedo (Ink), Alexis Siegel (Translator), read by Lisa, on 04/07/2014

In this gentle, poetic young graphic novel, Dounia, a grandmother, tells her granddaughter the story even her son has never heard: how, as a young Jewish girl in Paris, she was hidden away from the Nazis by a series of neighbors and friends who risked their lives to keep her alive when her parents had been taken to concentration camps.

Hidden ends on a tender note, with Dounia and her mother rediscovering each other as World War II ends . . . and a young girl in present-day France becoming closer to her grandmother, who can finally, after all those years, tell her story. With words by Loïc Dauvillier and art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo, this picture book-style comic for young readers is a touching read.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Claudia, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The Chosen by Chaim Potok, read by Claudia, on 04/01/2014

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….

Potok’s first novel, The Chosen, was published in 1967, and he quickly won acclaim for this best-selling book about tensions within the Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish communities. This and later books have been both critically and popularly successful. Many of them explore the meaning of Judaism in the modern era, focusing on the conflict between traditional teachings and the pressures of modern life. The Chosen was nominated for a National Book Award in 1967 and made into a successful film in 1982. Its sequel, The Promise (1969) was the winner of an Athenaeum Award.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie · Tags:

Privateer's Apprentice by Susan Verrico, read by Leslie, on 04/08/2014

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From Charles Towne, Carolina Territory, in 1712, thirteen-year-old Jameson Cooper, orphaned and indigent, is abducted by privateers working for Queen Anne but proves himself worthy to be called a royal sailor through his writing and drawing skills, as well as his hard work and courage.

I find that this will be a book that appeals to boys, not really sure about the girls, however, as it really has no female characters to speak of.  I think that if the reader pays attention, they may get quite a life lesson from this book, to take pride in whatever work you find yourself doing.  Full of adventure, a little suspense, I did enjoy the story.

01. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Noelle

Alexandria by Lindsey Davis, read by Noelle, on 04/28/2014

Little known fact about me:  I was a Latin nerd in high school.  I still heart ancient Rome.   I was in the mood for something along these lines this month, and a Marus Didius Falco mystery did the job.  The plot dragged a little at times, and there were a few elements of the ridiculous (scholar eaten by crocodile), but the Latin nerd inside me thoroughly enjoyed it.

In first century A.D. Rome, during the reign of Vespasian, Marcus Didius Falco works as a private “informer,” often for the emperor, ferreting out hidden truths and bringing villains to ground. But even informers take vacations with their wives, so in A.D. 77, Falco and his wife, Helena Justina, with others in tow, travel to Alexandria, Egypt. But they aren’t there long before Falco finds himself in the midst of nefarious doings—when the Librarian of the great library is found dead, under suspicious circumstances. Falco quickly finds himself on the trail of dodgy doings, malfeasance, deadly professional rivalry, more bodies and the lowest of the low—book thieves! As the bodies pile up, it’s up to Falco to untangle this horrible mess and restore order to a disordered universe.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Dystopia, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Sekret by Lindsay Smith, read by Courtney, on 04/25/2014

Yulia’s parents used to be nomenklatura, members of the Soviet elite. Now, Yulia lives with her mother and brother, her father’s whereabouts unknown. They’ve been on the run, eluding the KGB, for several years. Then, on a day much like any other, Yulia uses her ability to read minds in order to get desperately needed supplies on the black market. Yulia senses something wrong and, before she can do anything about it, she is taken into custody by KGB operatives. It turns out that they had been specifically tracking Yulia for some time and not because of her parent’s former transgressions, but rather due to her psychic abilities. Yulia is forced to join a top-secret group of operatives with powers similar to hers. There, Yulia learns to block her own thoughts from being read and how to hone her own skills for the purposes of espionage. Yulia knows they have her mother and brother and she has been promised time with them as a reward for her cooperation. As if that weren’t incentive enough, the man in charge of their group, Rostov, is known as a “scrubber” and is able to “scrub” the thoughts right out of someone’s brain, only to be replaced with thoughts of his choosing. Yulia and her comrades manage to expose a traitor with connections to the CIA, only to discover that the traitor has had memories erased by another scrubber. This other scrubber appears to have even more power than Rostov. He’s also looking for Yulia. If this scrubber, who works for the enemy, is more powerful than the USSR’s scrubber, then Yulia’s not safe anywhere.
I found Secret to be both unique and fascinating. I’ve read quite a few books involving mind reading and other psychic powers, but this is by far the most realistic use of such powers that I’ve come across. The Soviet backdrop (a real dystopia!) is detailed and well-researched. Much of the plot centers around real events from the Cold War era (the space race, Cuban Missile Crisis). Further, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the KGB was doing research on physic abilities during this era(mainly in response to the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program), which makes this a fantastic merging of the paranormal and the historical. A cliff-hanger ending sets this up for a sequel.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, read by Courtney, on 04/08/2014

The year is 1960 and 13-year-old Sophie is being forced to live with her Aunt and Grandmother in rural Louisiana for the summer. Sophie, who usually lives in New Orleans with her single mother, is not happy even though it means she won’t have to worry about her mother’s criticism all summer long. Sophie’s aunt lives on what is left of the Fairchild family’s once-grand sugar cane plantation. There’s not much to do on the plantation, so Sophie spends her time outdoors exploring. On one of her excursions, she encounters a strange creature that grants her wish for adventure, family and friends. Sophie subsequently finds herself transported back in time to 1860. The plantation in 1860 is vastly different from the dusty, sleepy farm that Sophie had previously explored. This is the plantation’s hay-day; all the structures are new and solid, the atmosphere thrums with life. The Fairchilds have nearly 200 slaves working their crops and, when Sophie makes her first appearance, she is mistaken for a light-skinned slave. Realizing that attempting to tell her slave-owning ancestors that she’s traveled from the future would probably not make her transition any easier, Sophie begins to assume the identity of a slave.
Sophie’s journey is particularly fascinating because she originates from a pre-Civil-Rights-Movement South. Racism is still a part of everyday life even if slavery is a thing of the past. Sophie not only has to learn to fit in where she is uncomfortable, she experiences the bigotry first-hand. Sophie quickly discovers that the past is far more complicated than she had ever dreamed.
This book could have been a rip-off of other “modern-girl-travels-to-her-ancestors-past” books like Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic or Octavia Butler’s Kindred, but it most certainly is not. For one, Sophie is white, which takes her even farther out of her comfort zone. For another, Sherman weaves in themes from African mythology to paint a sophisticated portrait of a subjugated people. Linguistically, Sherman’s approach feels very authentic and she never shies away from the discomfiting details that flesh out daily life on the plantation. Sherman does, however, keep things appropriate for a younger audience by writing around some of the more violent aspects of antebellum life. It is still a sophisticated novel and will require a measure of dedication from readers, particularly younger ones. This book won’t have broad appeal, but it’s definitely worth a read.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Melody, Romance

Nobody's Angel by Karen Robards, read by Melody, on 04/28/2014

In Carolina Colony, the community admired Susannah Redmon, plain eldest daughter of the preacher. Her herbal healing skills made her an angel of mercy, her determination held together the family’s farm, and her strong will always got her what she wanted–even the buying of a man.  But no suitor had ever courted her…

Ian Connelly, Marquis of Derne, had been betrayed, branded a criminal, and beaten.  Still defiant, he had been indentured and transported to the Colonies, where a bossy, primly proper woman had bought him!  But he alone saw the strength of her character, the gold in her tawny hair, and, in her eyes, the fire of her long-hidden desire…

Now Susannah “owned” this magnificently handsome rogue, but it was his passion that could free her imprisoned, lonely heart.  From the frontier South to society London or even to hell itself, with her body she would worship him and with her soul she would love him, for she was…Nobody’s Angel.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tracy

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks, read by Tracy, on 04/24/2014

Bertie Wooster (a young man about town) and his butler Jeeves (the very model of the modern manservant)—return in their first new novel in nearly forty years: Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks. 

P.G. Wodehouse documented the lives of the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster for nearly sixty years, from their first appearance in 1915 (“Extricating Young Gussie”) to his final completed novel (Aunts Arent Gentlemen) in 1974. These two were the finest creations of a novelist widely proclaimed to be the finest comic English writer by critics and fans alike. 

Now, forty years later, Bertie and Jeeves return in a hilarious affair of mix-ups and mishaps. With the approval of the Wodehouse estate, acclaimed novelist Sebastian Faulks brings these two back to life for their legion of fans. Bertie, nursing a bit of heartbreak over the recent engagement of one Georgina Meadowes to someone not named Wooster, agrees to “help” his old friend Peregrine “Woody” Beeching, whose own romance is foundering. That this means an outing to Dorset, away from an impending visit from Aunt Agatha, is merely an extra benefit. Almost immediately, things go awry and the simple plan quickly becomes complicated. Jeeves ends up impersonating one Lord Etringham, while Bertie pretends to be Jeeves’ manservant “Wilberforce,”—and this all happens under the same roof as the now affianced Ms. Meadowes. From there the plot becomes even more hilarious and convoluted, in a brilliantly conceived, seamlessly written comic work worthy of the master himself.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tracy

The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes , read by Tracy, on 04/10/2014

Juliet Dufresne is a hard-working and smart high-school girl who aspires to make a groundbreaking scientific discovery like her hero Marie Curie. Life in South Carolina with her father, stepmother, and her brother Tuck is safe and happy. But when war breaks out in Europe, Tuck volunteers and serves in Italy—until he goes missing. Juliet, already enrolled in nursing school, is overwhelmed by the loss of her brother, so she lies about her age and enlists to serve as a nurse in the army, hoping she might find him.

Shipped off to Italy at the age of seventeen and thrust into the bloody chaos of a field hospital, Juliet doles out medicine, assists in operations, and is absorbed into the whirlwind of warlife. Slowly she befriends her fellow nurses, her patients, the soldiers, and the doctor who is treating the little-understood condition of battle fatigue. Always seeking news of her brother, her journey is ultimately one of self-discovery.

Both a compelling coming-of-age tale and a moving wartime narrative told with verve and emotion, The Secret of Raven Point is Jennifer Vanderbes at her best.

30. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck, read by Angie, on 04/28/2014

This is a story about a little mouse with no name who lives under the Mews at Buckingham Palace. Everyone is getting ready for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee including the mice. Of course our little mouse gets into a bit of trouble and finds his way out of the Mews and into a bunch of adventures. By the end he has discovered who he is and where he belongs in mouse society. I really don’t enjoy animal books that much and I found this one incredibly slow and predictable. There just wasn’t anything exciting or unique about the story. While I did enjoy the set up of the different mice societies throughout Buckingham Palace I thought the rest was a bit dull and predictable.

hollow city   The story picks up where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children ended with Jacob and his peculiar friends running for their lives from hollows and the wights and trying to figure out a way to save Miss Peregrine. They aren’t sure if there are any safe time loops left or if they have all been destroyed. Can they find someone who knows how to turn Miss Peregrine back into a human? The children travel into war-torn London and come across other peculiar folks along the way. Once again the author uses vintage black and white photographs to illustrate his story creating a different visual experience for the reader.

28. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, read by Angie, on 04/26/2014

In 1957, the Little Rock Nine integrated the Little Rock high schools. In 1958, all the high schools in Little Rock were closed to prevent further integration. Many of the white kids were sent off to attend schools elsewhere, but the black kids had no where to go and were forced to miss a year of school. Marlee is attending middle school so she is not affected by the closures, but her sister Judy is forced to go live with their grandmother to attend school. Marlee is now alone and silent; Marlee doesn’t speak. It isn’t that she can’t, but she is so shy she doesn’t speak hardly at all. Then she meets a new girl in school. Liz chooses Marlee to be her friend and slowly brings her out of her shell. But Liz disappears one day and it comes out that she was a black girl passing as white. This causes all kinds of issues in racists Little Rock. Marlee doesn’t want to give up her only friend and convinces Liz to keep getting together. Tensions arise and Liz and her family are targeted. Marlee starts helping out on a committee to reopen the schools and gets her mother, who was against integration, to help her. 

We have all heard about the Little Rock Nine and many books have been written about them. However, I had no idea the high schools closed the next year to stop integration. I thought it was a very smart choice to tell the story of that year instead of the previous year. I could understand Marlee’s confusion and anxiety as the issue of integration caused problems in the town and in her family. Her father was clearly in support of integration whereas her mother was a segregationist. I imagine there were lots of families like this during this time period. I enjoyed Marlee’s determination to keep her friendship and help move things forward. This was an interesting book about a fascinating time in our history. 

28. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Melody, Romance

Never kiss a rake by Anne Stuart, read by Melody, on 04/27/2014

Bryony Russell and her two sisters are left destitute by the disgrace and unexpected death of their father, a wealthy shipping magnate. He left a cryptic note, and Bryony is determined to find the real villain and clear her father’s name. In disguise as a servant, Bryony infiltrates the home of her father’s business partner to find proof of his guilt…or innocence. It’s not just clues that Bryony finds, but temptation too…

Adrian Bruton, Earl of Kilmartyn, immediately suspects there is something not quite right about his new housekeeper. The brooding, irresistible rake plays along because he has his own guilty secrets, and his venal, scheming wife holds the key to them, trapping him in a hate-filled marriage. But against his will he’s fascinated by Bryony, seeing past the scars on her face to show her the beauty she never knew she had. Bryony must uncover the truth and attempt to preserve her father’s legacy, before things go too far and she falls in love with a man who might very well be her worst enemy.

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

Romeo Blue by Phoebe Stone, read by Angie, on 04/21/2014

Flissy lives with her American relatives in Maine. She has been shipped off from Britain because of WWII. Her parents, Winny and Danny, are both spies and missing in France. Flissy lives with the Gram, aunt Miami, Uncle Gideon who is actually her father and Derek who has been unofficially adopted by the family. All of the Bathburns seem to be in some type of spy/government work. Gideon is getting ready to head to France and try and rescue his brother Danny and Winny his first love. Miami is being courted by the mailman who is also being shipped off. Derek has decided to try and find his father, but is the man claiming to be his dad really his dad? Flissy loves Derek but does he love her back? Will Winnie and Danny ever make it home?

I haven’t read The Romeo and Juliet Code so I wasn’t up on this story. I don’t think it hurt this book however since the past was rehashed fairly well. This was a slower read and one I am not sure kids will stick with. There is a TON of 1940s slang throughout the dialog which makes it a little more difficult to understand what exactly is going on. I do like the story of Flissy and her family, but I am not sure how kid friendly it is.

21. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Melody, Romance

Miracle Jones by Nancy Bush, read by Melody, on 04/19/2014

SEEK…
Searching for a past that was more lore than truth, part-Indian healer, Miranda “Miracle” Jones, drove her peddler’s cart toward Rock Springs, Oregon — straight into danger. Before she could learn anything about her missing and mysterious father, and carrying the tin box he’d left her – her only memento – she was attacked by highwaymen and sold to Harrison Danner at a drunken bachelor party on the eve of his wedding. Danner meant only to save her. But Miracle, frightened and trusting only in herself, stabbed him – and then, with her herbal potions, desperately sought to save the compelling stranger’s life!
AND YOU SHALL FIND…
Danner was pledged to the daughter of his bitterest enemy; their wedding was meant to end a generations-old feud. Yet he could not resist his attraction for the strong-spirited beauty who had attacked him – and then stole his bartered heart. Though they both fought the wave of passion that threatened to overtake them which could only leave devastation and betrayal in its wake, the truth of their love was undeniable, a force of nature they willingly succumbed to within each other’s arms.

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

In Search of Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus, read by Angie, on 04/18/2014

Henri Bell has been sent to America to live with his Great Aunt Georgie. His father has disappeared in British Malay and his mother has gone to look for him. While staying with his aunt Henri discovers that he can communicate with insects. He suspects Georgie can too. Georgie’s neighbor is the sinister Mrs. Black who takes a peculiar interest in Henri. Henri runs away with the circus and starts working with the flea circus. He decides that he wants to travel to Malay to find his father and to capture Goliathus Hercules, a giant beetle of legend. On this journey Henri starts a metamorphosis of his own…he is turning more and more insect like. He is pursued always by Mrs. Black in one guise or another.

I really enjoyed the first part of this book where Henri learns about his new skills with insects and works with the flea circus. I loved the other characters he met at the circus: Tony, Billy and Robin. I thought it was really interesting how he kept enhancing the show with more varieties of insects with different abilities. Where I thought this story fell apart a bit was the end where they get to Malay and start looking for Goliathus Hercules. First there is Henri’s transformation which is never fully explained. The mystery of his father is cleared up, but we have no idea why the insect communication gift has seemed to occur differently with the members of the family. Then there is the evil Mrs. Black. Her desire for Goliathus Hercules and her pursuit of Henri are never explained at all and we are left wondering what it was all about. Jennifer Angus is a new author and I think she has some really interesting ideas; she just needs to work out the details a little better.

17. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin, read by Tracy, on 04/16/2014

In 1872 the American merchant vessel Mary Celeste was discovered adrift off the coast of Spain. Her cargo was intact and there was no sign of struggle, but the crew was gone. They were never found.

This maritime mystery lies at the center of an intricate narrative branching through the highest levels of late-nineteenth-century literary society. While on a voyage to Africa, a rather hard-up and unproven young writer named Arthur Conan Doyle hears of the Mary Celeste and decides to write an outlandish short story about what took place. This story causes quite a sensation back in the United States, particularly between sought-after Philadelphia spiritualist medium Violet Petra and a rational-minded journalist named Phoebe Grant, who is seeking to expose Petra as a fraud. Then there is the family of the Mary Celeste‘s captain, a family linked to the sea for generations and marked repeatedly by tragedy. Each member of this ensemble cast holds a critical piece to the puzzle of the Mary Celeste.

These three elements—a ship found sailing without a crew, a famous writer on the verge of enormous success, and the rise of an unorthodox and heretical religious fervor—converge in unexpected ways, in diaries, in letters, in safe harbors and rough seas. In a haunted, death-obsessed age, a ghost ship appearing in the mist is by turns a provocative mystery, an inspiration to creativity, and a tragic story of the disappearance of a family and of a bond between husband and wife that, for one moment, transcends the impenetrable barrier of death.

17. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tracy

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson, read by Tracy, on 04/03/2014

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lily is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lily’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lily is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class, filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive. . . or will it become another casualty of this tragic war?