catification Ideas from the “Cat Daddy” for making your home more cat friendly and still looking nice. Has ideas that range from expensive to stuff you can make yourself with little or no tools. Also discussed some tips on understanding your cats behavior. Also, gives examples from his tv show, My Cat from Hell.

two catsAuthor Patti Davis shares how she became the owner of a cat and found out how fulfilling having cats as pets can be. Though she formerly considered herself a dog person and was unprepared for the differences between cats and dogs. Soon she discovers how cats are actually in charge and the life lessons they can teach humans if only we listen.

 

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Madeline, Romance, Teen Books

The Swiss Affair by Emylia Hall, 384 pages, read by Madeline, on 11/10/2014

From the highly acclaimed author of The Book of Summers comes a tale of love, lies and innocence lost.

For Hadley Dunn, life has been predictable and uneventful. But that is before she spends her second year of college abroad in Lausanne, a glamorous Swiss city on the shores of Lake Geneva. Lausanne is imbued with the boundless sense of freedom Hadley has been seeking, and it is here she meets Kristina, a beautiful but mysterious Danish girl. The two bond quickly, but as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

Driven by guilt and haunted by suspicion, Hadley resolves to find the truth about what really happened that night, and so begins a search that will consume her, the city she loves, and the lives of two very different men. Set against the backdrop of a uniquely captivating city, The Swiss Affair is an evocative portrayal of a journey of discovery and a compelling exploration of how our connections with people and with places, make us who we are.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fiction, Humor, Poetry, Tammy · Tags:

I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs by Francesco Marciuliano, 110 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/04/2014

i could chew on thisA collection of poetry that express dogs devotion to their owners, their food and what makes them happy. Things like squeaky toys, naps, bones. Funny and heartfelt. For anyone who has ever loved a dog.

 

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Science Fiction, Tammy

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind by Zack Whedon, 152 pages, read by Tammy, on 12/05/2014

leaves on the windThis graphic novel picks up after the Serenity movie. I really enjoyed the story line and the artwork. I don’t want to give anything away. For all fans of Firefly!

 

 

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers, 444 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/25/2014

Mortal Heart concludes the amazing “His Fair Assassin” series. This time it’s Annith’s story. Annith was brought to the convent of Mortain (a pagan god of death) as a baby and has been living and training there ever since. She’s easily one of the most accomplished initiates, particularly in archery. Annith has been frustrated lately as her sisters Ismae and Sybella were sent out before her in spite of their minimal training. When a 15-year-old initiate is sent out instead of Annith, Annith begins to seriously question the abbess’s judgement. Then Annith finds out that the abbess intends to make her the next Seeress, a role that will necessarily sequester Annith in a closed room for the rest of her life, she is livid. The abbess gives her only one other option: if Annith won’t do as she’s bid, she will be forced to leave the convent for good. After a brief stint nursing the current Seeress back to health, Annith leaves the convent to track down the abbess, who is seeing to the duchess’s affairs. It’s time the abbess knew what Annith really thinks about the plans for making her Seeress. Of course, there will be more than a few surprises, revelations and adventures along the way. I’ve been loving this series from the moment I heard “assassin nuns”. Each one has centered on a different sister in the convent of St. Mortain and all three stories center around the court of Duchess Anne and their struggles to maintain Breton independence from the French. What is even cooler is that Anne was a real person and her fictional character dovetails nicely with her historical one. There are a few minor anachronisms/liberties taken with the course of historical events, but these are noted in an author’s note at the end of the book. Annith’s story was everything I had hoped it would be. She is every bit as strong, intelligent and skilled (even more so, really)as any of her predecessors, though her story is completely her own. It is, of course, fun and edifying to see Ismae and Sybella again, though through the eyes of someone else. Part of the joy of this series is how well-constructed and well-written it is. The books are long, but the pacing is swift. The voice of each character rings true and distinct. For fans of the previous two books, this is a no-brainer. For newcomers, well, they’ll be missing out on a couple of levels, but this book would even work as a stand-alone.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Teen Books

Mortal Gods (Mortal Gods #2) by Kendare Blake, 341 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/21/2014

Mortal Gods is the second book in the Goddess Wars trilogy and, as such, picks up shortly after Antigoddess ends. At this point, the gods are not doing well. It turns out that forces more powerful than Hera and Poseidon are at work and continuing to drive the gods into their painful physical decline. Athena et al. may have won the first battle (barely), but the war is just beginning. Cassandra wants revenge on Aphrodite. Athena wants to find the other human weapon, Achilles, before Ares and Aphrodite do. What Athena and her crew don’t know yet is that Hera isn’t actually dead. In fact, she’s been healing ever since the battle. Which goes to show: never assume a mostly-immortal being is dead, even if it seems like they couldn’t possibly survive whatever befell them. Odds are good they’re still alive and plotting how they’re going to get you once they get their strength back. As the gods feel their bodies giving up on them, the reincarnated versions of Cassandra, Hercules, Odysseus and Achilles seem to be getting stronger and faster.

While I didn’t hate Mortal Gods, I didn’t really love it either. I do enjoy the characterization of the Greek gods, even though it’s really nothing new at the point. Blake’s versions feel much more true to their origins than other incarnations I’ve come across. There’s plenty of fighting and action, but now, easily a year after reading Antigoddess, I’m having trouble remembering what the whole war thing is about in the first place. I spent the first half of the book struggling to remember what happened in the first book and the second half waiting for something exciting to happen. There’s a lot of travel, speculation and training for fights throughout this installment, which is all fine and good, but I guess I felt like I needed more from this series. This is absolutely a “middle book” in the series; I doubt it would work as a stand-alone. Perhaps I’m just tired of series at this point, but it almost always feels like the second book in a series/trilogy/quartet/etc. winds up being somewhat disappointing. Time will tell if I decide to pick up the final book in this series.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, 208 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/21/2014

>Through the Woodsb kicks off with an introduction that evokes the age-old fear of the dark and things that go bump in the night, which effectively sets the tone for the rest of this illustrated collection. They’re a gorgeously illustrated set of short stories with a distinctly disturbing vibe. Many of them feel like they could be fairy tales, but there are assuredly no happily-ever-afters here. From spiritualism gone wrong to fratricide, the themes of the stories are dark and uncomfortable though the tales are never gory. It’s an ideal collection for dark and stormy night and it’s short enough to actually be read in one sitting (just be sure to leave the light on).

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books

Loki's Wolves by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr, 358 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/18/2014

Blackwell, SD is not your average small town. For one, it’s populated almost entirely by descendents of the Norse gods Thor and Loki. Matt Thorsen and his classmates Laurie and Fen Brekke are no exception. As far as Matt is concerned, the Norse myths are really cool, but they’re just stories. No one really believes them, right? Except that Matt’s grandfather does and apparently, so do many of the other town’s elders. When Matt dreams of Ragnarok (the end of the world, according to Norse mythology), he begins to realize that there might actually be some truth to these stories. Then, at a town meeting, everyone is informed that Ragnarok is real and that all the signs have been pointing to it happening soon. Descendents of the gods will be acting as their stand-ins as the battle commences. Unfortunately for Matt, he has been named champion. Now he needs to gather the rest of the godly descendents, starting with Laurie and Fen, distant descendents of Loki. Did I mention that Loki and Thor were enemies at Ragnarok? Yup, things are going to get really interesting for Matt.
Loki’s Wolves is a fun middle grade series opener in the vein of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Parallels abound: a trio of magical kids (two boys and a girl, no less), one of whom is made leader by circumstance (technically against his will) and everything will be devastated if they don’t complete their quest. This is not to say that it’s derivative or anything like that, but it will certainly appeal to readers of both series. I personally had some trouble with the writing and a few plot points, but my middle grade readers loved the book through and through, so I suppose my issues are mere trifles. Overall, an entertaining and fast-paced read.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 by Jinsei Kataoka, 215 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/04/2014

A teen, Ganta Igarashi, finds himself the lone survivor of the mass slaughter of his middle-school classmates. He alone saw the “red man” that laid waste to his peers. Needless to say, he is utterly shocked when he is accused and then convicted of the crime of killing all of his classmates. In this version of the future, Tokyo was previously destroyed by a giant earthquake, leaving the country devastated both functionally and economically. Somehow this lead to the construction of the first-ever, for-profit prison, Deadman Wonderland. There, prisoners are forced to run deadly gauntlets and engage in fights to the death (or debilitation) with their fellow inmates, all for the entertainment of the masses. In essence, Deadman Wonderland is not just a prison, it’s a demented amusement park where the prisoners are the main attraction. Prisoners have no choice but to participate or they’ll be poisoned by the suicide collars around their necks. Only by earning enough CPs (company points)can the antidote be obtained. Ganta quickly finds himself fighting for his life.

This is a truly bizarre and violent manga series, but it’s equally engrossing. Sure, the setting requires some suspension of disbelief, but it never fails to simultaneously entertain and horrify. It gets bonus points for introducing the concept of Foucault’s panopticon to manga readers. Definitely one of the more original manga series I’ve come across in recent memory.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry, 274 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/03/2014

Before being taken from her home by the town’s resident war hero, Judith had a promising life. She had decent, respectable home life and the love of her life showed signs of reciprocating those feelings. Now, she is the town pariah. She was able to eventually return to her community after being held captive for a couple of years. No one knows what exactly happened to her and she can’t tell them either – her tongue was cut out by her captor. Another girl was taken as well, but she came back dead. The townsfolk assume all kinds of things about Judith – that she was raped or otherwise defiled and that her lack of speech equated to a lack of intelligence. Complicating matters is the fact that the man who kept her in his rustic and remote cabin is the father of the boy Judith loves, long presumed dead after his disappearance. Judith’s own father died during the long search for his missing daughter and her mother’s heart has hardened after both ordeals. Judith is considered bad luck; few will even make eye contact, let alone speak to her. When word comes that the Homelanders are mounting an attack, however, Judith takes matters into her own hands. The town is saved, but not without exposing some deadly secrets.
Julie Berry has written a genuinely unique variation on the traditional historical novel. The time and place are both unspecified, though the signs all point to Puritan New England. The narrative is decidedly different, being broken up into brief vignettes, all addressing the boy she loves. As her story continues and her world broadens, so too does the narrative. The reader will not know exactly what happened to her up in that cabin and is thus left to draw their own conclusions, much like the townspeople who presume the worst. Bit by bit, however, past and present are revealed and intertwined to expose some of the hard truths surrounding this small community. I personally found this novel to be dark but refreshing for its quirky structure and setting. My teen readers (we read this for our high school book group) were of dramatically varying opinions. Some despised the structure and narration while others enjoyed reading something that challenged them a bit. Either way, we definitely had an interesting discussion.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Hope Is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 12/04/2014

Star Mackie has just moved from Oregon to California. The kids at school make fun of her because she lives in a trailer park and has a blue mullet (even though she insists it is a layered cut!). Her sister Winter is going to an alternative school after being expelled from public school for writing violent stories. Star decides to start a club in order to make friends, but her first effort of the Trailer Park Club doesn’t go over so well. After a poetry lesson on Emily Dickinson, she decides to start an Emily Dickinson Club. Through the club Star finally starts making friends with brother and sister Genny and Denny and older boys Langston and Eddie. Star is also on the hunt for her father. She has only ever had one glimpse of him so she and Winter make a plan to visit him. The visit doesn’t turn out like they had hoped as several things are revealed during the visit that rock Star’s world.

Star Mackie is one of those characters that doesn’t come around that often. She comes from a loving family, but is poor and doesn’t make excuses for that. There is a lot of discussion on single-parent families, food banks, shopping at thrift stores and wearing hand-me-downs, and all the other things that go along with not having enough money. This isn’t a book with a lot of action or huge revelations, but it is a wonderful story. I really enjoyed Star’s journey through the book as she comes to terms with her family life and starts to make friends at school. This is a story about hope and dreams and how you have to work towards both.

Hope is a Ferris Wheel –
It takes you Low and High;
And when you reach the Top,
It’s like you can touch The Sky!
And when it takes you Down –
Hope becomes A Thing
That, When you’re getting Off,
You take With you to Bring.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick, 184 pages, read by Angie, on 12/03/2014

Zane is visiting his great grandmother in New Orleans when Katrina hits the city. He and Miss Trissy and his dog Bandy are being evacuated when Bandy leaps out of the van and heads back to Miss Trissy’s house. Of course Zane follows his beloved dog and ends up in the Ninth Ward at the worst possible time. The flood waters send him to the attic without food and water. Fortunately, he is rescued by musician Tru and his ward Malvina. They navigate the flood waters in search of supplies and shelter evading drug dealers, private security and looters. They end up at several shelters including the Superdome before trying to get out of the city.

This is an excellent look at what it was like in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Philbrick doesn’t shy away from the horrible details like bodies in the flood waters and the dangers the survivors faced. I really enjoyed Zane and his companions journey through the flood. I liked the look at the different neighborhoods of the Big Easy and how they responded to the disaster. I did think it was a little unlikely that a big time drug dealer would care so much about a little girl like Malvina to come after her in the flood, but it added an additional element of risk to their story.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Crown of the Cowibbean by Mike Litwin, 140 pages, read by Angie, on 12/03/2014

Chuck and Dakota are off on their second adventure. This time they stow away on Marco Pollo’s ship the Swashbuckler in search of the Coral Crown. They are pursued by catfish Kingfisher who wants the crown for himself. Another fun adventure for new chapter book readers. Dakota and Chuck are really cute characters and their adventures are fun ones kids will enjoy.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Lost in Bermooda by Mike Litwin, 140 pages, read by Angie, on 12/03/2014

Chuck Porter wants nothing more than adventure. Unfortunately, his island home of Bermooda offers none. The hu’mans are gone and all the treasures from their time in the world are collected. Then he finds Dakota marooned on a sandbar. Dakota is one of the dreaded hu’mans. Chuck is determined to help his new friend so he disguises him as a cow, one from the sea, and brings him home as a guest. Everything is not alright on Bermooda however and it is up to Chuck and Dakota to figure it out and stop it before it is too late. This was a really cute beginning chapter book. It will be a nice transition series between easy readers and more complex chapter books.

05. December 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Book 3 of the Raven Boys Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, 391 pages, read by Kira, on 12/01/2014

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Maggie Stiefvater hits another out of the stadium!  Wow, this book is so much better than the last title I read by Stiefvater – that being Sinner.  Stiefvater creates so much atmosphere and the setting itself is sort of alive.

Blue’s mother, Maura, is missing, she went underground looking for Artemis (Blue’s father), but hasn’t returned for weeks.  The Professor from Britain, whom Gansey studied with, has joined the boys on their hu
nt for Glendower.  Gray Man’s boss, Greenmantle comes to town, along with his wife Piper, looking for vengeance against Gray abandoning the job he was supposed to complete for him (in the last book).  Adam and Ronan work together on a project.  And where is Neve?

I thought this might be the conclusion to the series, however, the epilogue lets you know differently.  I’m so glad there will be more to this series!

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04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Noelle

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, 315 pages, read by Noelle, on 12/02/2014

I wanted to see what all the hype was about this book, and I was certainly not disappointed.  It is now one of my all time favorite chapter books!  If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” –indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Noelle · Tags:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, 305 pages, read by Noelle, on 12/03/2014

This was one of those children’s books I meant to read when it came out, and just hadn’t gotten around to it.  In enjoyed it, but be warned:  if your heart is tender towards animals, be prepared to shed a few tears with this one!

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home–and his own art–through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Marie Antoinette Serial Killer by Katie Alender, 296 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/30/2014

16139598 Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

I enjoyed this story more than I thought I might.  A definite first for me, bringing back the ghost of a queen to take revenge on the descendants of those she thought of as friends.  While they did not exist in her real life, it makes for a great storyline.  Definitely will appeal to girls more than it will to boys, not enough blood and gore to make up for the definite female storyline!

04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

Sidekicked by John David Anderson, 384 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/24/2014

16248141 Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there’s Drew’s power: Possessed of super senses – his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet – he’s literally the most sensitive kid in school. There’s his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than he does fighting crime. And then there’s his best friend, Jenna – their friendship would be complicated enough if she weren’t able to throw a Volkswagen the length of a city block. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.

Of all the superpowers you could ask for, enhanced senses would not be among them.  Drew not only has, in his opinion, the worst superpower you could ask for, but he finds himself assigned to be the sidekick of a super hero who no longer wants to be a super hero.  He and his friends are all sidekicks for super heroes, and they train at school in a secret basement during lunch periods.  Their city seems to be a magnet for evil super powers and it’s up to him and his friends to try and figure out what is going on.  However, there is a traitor in their midst and none of them are safe.  I can see that boys might find this appealing more than girls, but there is plenty of attraction for the girls to pick this up and read it.