08. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Magician's Boy by Susan Cooper , read by Lisa, on 10/07/2014

Only a child can find the way to bring Saint George back to the play.

The Boy works for the Magician, and he wants more than anything to learn magic. But the Magician always says, “Not yet, Boy. Not till the time is right.” So the Boy has to be content with polishing the Magician’s wand, taking care of the rabbits the Magician pulls out of hats, and doing his favorite job: operating the puppets for the play Saint George and the Dragon, which the Magician always performs as part of his act.

Until one day the Saint George puppet disappears, and the angry Magician hurls the Boy into the strange Land of Story to find Saint George. His quest is full of adventures with oddly familiar people, from the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe to the Giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk. But the Boy’s last adventure is the most amazing of all — and changes his life forever.

08. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Avengers, Vol. 2: The Last White Event by Jonathan Hickman, read by Brian, on 10/08/2014

avengersThe Avengers must face off against an enemy from another universe.  This volume also shows us some hidden connections between the Avengers and the New Avengers.

 

08. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore, read by Angie, on 10/07/2014

Hazel lives with her parents in the small Vermont town of Maple Hill. Her parents are the caretakers of the local cemetery and Hazel has free reign over the cemetery. It is 1953 and the height of the Joseph McCarthy Red Menace where communists seem to be everywhere. Hazel believes what she hears. She is building a bomb shelter in one of the mausoleums and investigating the new gravedigger Mr. Jones. She believes that since the FBI is investigating the local factory there must be other commies in town. Hazel thinks Mr. Jones is suspicious and wants to catch him in the act. She enlists the help of her new friend Samuel who is new in town and has a mysterious past. Together they have to figure out the mystery of Mr. Jones and the communist threat.

I liked this book. Hazel is spunky and smart and a bit full of herself. She loves the mysteries of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon and wants to solve mysteries herself. Since she lives in a small town there aren’t really a lot of mysteries, which doesn’t stop Hazel. She sees things as she wants them to be in a lot of ways. She doesn’t have a whole lot of parental supervision, but this is the 1950s so maybe parents were a bit more lax back then. I like the fact that this book is set in a time period that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention with middle grade novels. There is also McCarthyism which is not something a lot of kids know about it. It is a fascinating time in our history when there was a lot of fear-mongering going on. While the Mr. Jones mystery wasn’t really that interesting, Samuel’s story was as was how Hazel resolved it.

08. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance

Opal's Jubilee by Leslie Lynch, read by Melody, on 10/07/2014

Fresh out of prison after twelve years, Opal McBride must find a job in order to meet parole requirements. Failure means she’ll serve out the remainder of her sentence behind bars. The system has seen fit to drop her in Louisville, Kentucky, a far cry from her hometown of Jubilee in the Appalachian hollows. Scrambling to adapt, Opal finds more than a potential job in May Boone’s quilt shop; she finds acceptance and perhaps even friendship.

That is, until May’s son recognizes her. A detective, Josh Boone is not about to let a felon work for his soft-hearted mother. Though Opal’s crime was against a sheriff’s deputy, his innate sense of decency prods him to break ranks and defend her from the disdain of his fellow officers. Then he finds she may have light to shed on a cold case—and discovers there is more to Opal’s story than it seems.

Josh risks his professional reputation (and his heart) as he digs into Opal’s past. When secrets are exposed, will justice prevail? Will Opal and Josh find redemption—and maybe even love—where they least expect it?

08. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Science Fiction

William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher, read by Brian, on 10/07/2014

jediWilliam Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return is the third book and last of the original Star Wars trilogy.  Like the books before it, the classic tale is written as if William wrote the book.  I’m waiting for the stage version in a round theatre this would be really cool.  If you enjoy Star Wars, you may enjoy these books.

 

07. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Science Fiction

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher, read by Brian, on 10/06/2014

yodaWilliam Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back is an adaptation of The Empire Strikes but in Shakespeare’s voice. It is neat to read the verse as if William wrote it himself, however, it does get old at times. Being familiar with the material makes it easier and more fun to read.

 

 

 The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls–the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

 

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

I Heart Band by Michelle Schusterman, read by Angie, on 10/06/2014

Holly is looking forward to going back to school and seeing her best friend Julia. Her first day does not go as planned however. First her brother spills orange juice all over her first-day outfit and new backpack so she has to use an old batman one. Then Julia has made a new friend at band camp and Natasha is not someone Holly wants to be friends with. Natasha and Julia have all kinds of inside stories about band camp that makes Holly feel left out and jealous. Natasha also plays french horn in band just like Holly does and she is better! Seventh grade is hard enough without having to deal with all of this extra drama.

I actually dreaded reading this book because of the title. I think I Heart Band is going to turn off kids who would actually enjoy this one. It is a completely realistic look at what happens when a new friend is introduced into the mix, when you start thinking about boys as more than friends, when you move up in school and the classes are so much harder. I remember a lot of these emotions and situations Holly experiences from my own experiences in middle school. You cringe a bit but can also laugh because you survived. However, as much as I would have enjoyed this story as a kid I would probably have never picked it up because of the title. I wasn’t in band and would have been completely turned off by the fact that it is mentioned in the title. I would have thought it was all about band instead of a decent story about surviving middle school.

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

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman, read by Angie, on 10/06/2014

Gladys Gatsby is an eleven year old foodie. She has been forced into learning to cook and learning to love good food by her fast-food eating, microwave cooking parents who have no concept of what good food actually is. She has been making her own gourmet meals since she was seven when her aunt Lydia introduced her to the wonders of excellent cooking. Her life as she knows it comes to an end one day when she accidently set the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to make creme brulee with a regular blowtorch. Her parents ground her from cooking, reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows on TV. Instead they say she has to go out into the world and make friends and do regular kid stuff. This also means she is forced to eat the awful things her parents eat.

Then her new teacher has a fabulous assignment. The students are to write a report on their future selves. These reports will be submitted to the essay contest at the New York Standard newspaper. Gladys loves the dining section of the Standard and all the restaurant reviews. So she writes her report as if she was submitting a cover letter to be a food critic at the paper. Her letter gets misdirected to the editor of the dining section who just happens to need a new food critic. Gladys is hired but now must figure out how to get to New York to the restaurant without her parents finding out or the paper finding out she is only eleven.

This book was simply charming! I was afraid it was going to be filled with implausible coincidences and a child prodigy cook, but it was nothing like that. While Gladys is a fantastic cook, she is also completely realistic. I liked her fascination with food and could belief that it developed because of her parents’ horrible tastes. She gets up to all kinds of schemes to try and get to New York and complete her assignment and I thought they were clever and smart. Doesn’t matter that most of them didn’t work out. I thought the ending was a perfect end to this journey we took with Gladys. My one complaint about this book is that it made me really hungry for fabulous food and delicious desserts.

06. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

SYLO by D.J. MacHale, read by Leslie, on 09/29/2014

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Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when the U.S. military quarantines his island?

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce prefers to fly under the radar. He’s used to navigating around summer tourists in his hometown on idyllic Pemberwick Island, Maine. He’s content to sit on the sidelines as a backup player on the high school football team. And though his best friend Quinn tells him to “go for it,” he’s too chicken to ask Tori Sleeper on a date. There’s always tomorrow, he figures. Then Pemberwick Island is invaded by a mysterious branch of the U.S. military called SYLO. And sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for Tucker, because tomorrow may never come.

The more I read this book, the more it pulled me in, cannot wait to read the sequel.  While it does have a girl as one of the main characters, the factors of football and military espionage and intrigue will probably draw the boys to read it before the girls.  I loved the twist, that the characters kept expecting the military presence to be the bad guys, but then they can’t figure out if they are or not.  Very riveting read, I would recommend to any reader.

06. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Icons by Margaret Stohl, read by Leslie, on 09/18/2014

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After an alien force known as the Icon colonizes Earth, decimating humanity, four surviving teenagers must piece together the mysteries of their pasts–in order to save the future.

While I’m sure that many readers of a younger age will enjoy this dytopic novel, I was not so enamored with it.  There was just enough suspense and action as to be interesting but I just did not care for the plot.  We never really find out anything about the aliens except for the fact that they invaded Earth and put icons in certain cities to control the humans that were left.  The teens, who figure out that they have abilities that may overcome the alien technology, never really seem to click together.  I would not recommend it to younger teens.

06. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, read by Leslie, on 09/11/2014

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Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It’s something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

Based on a true story, this book brings a story that young people can read and maybe gain some insight into a part of history that takes us where no one should ever have gone.  This may be what interests boys in the way that Anne Frank’s diary interested girls.  While brutal in nature, it is written so that young people can read it and maybe learn from it in the hopes that history will never repeat itself.  Recommend for both boys and girls.

 

06. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, read by Leslie, on 09/06/2014

One Came Home

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

While set in the 1800s and the setting seems western in nature, it really isn’t a western.  Georgie, the main character, refuses to believe that her sister is dead, despite the evidence pointing to her demise.  She sets off, determined to find her.  While she is out looking, she runs into more than she anticipated and even though she still doesn’t believe her sister is dead, Georgie begins to resign herself to that conclusion.  What intrigued me about the story, were the pigeons and pigeoners, due to the fact that I had just been reading stories about the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the huge flocks of them that would migrate across the country.  I think this is a story that will find both boys and girls enjoying.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Romance

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 9: The Cure by Warren Ellis, read by Courtney, on 09/27/2014

The forces of darkness are closing in on outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem and his merry, filthy band but now they’ve got their own rope around the neck of corrupt President Callahan, and it’s time to start tightening the noose.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN: THE CURE is the ninth volume reprinting the acclaimed series written by Warren Ellis (PLANETARY, RED) with art by Darick Robertson (The Boys). Jerusalem and his cohorts step up their investigation into Callahan’s misdeeds and turn up some startling evidence…not to mention a sole surviving witness to the President’s depravity. The problem, as always, will be getting the word out before the massive forces of the Executive Branch black out everything ? and everyone ? involved.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank, read by Courtney, on 09/27/2014

This novel-in-verse—at once literary and emotionally gripping—follows the unfolding friendship between two very different teenage girls who share a hospital room and an illness.

Chess, the narrator, is sick, but with what exactly, she isn’t sure. And to make matters worse, she must share a hospital room with Shannon, her polar opposite. Where Chess is polite, Shannon is rude. Where Chess tolerates pain silently, Shannon screams bloody murder. Where Chess seems to be getting slowly better, Shannon seems to be getting worse. How these teenagers become friends, helping each other come to terms with their illness, makes for a dramatic and deeply moving read.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

Far From You by Tess Sharpe, read by Courtney, on 09/25/2014

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, read by Courtney, on 09/20/2014

Glory O’Brien has just graduated high school and she has no idea what her future holds. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was just five years old and Glory is worried that she’ll end up like her mother. They already have a lot in common. Glory’s mother was a famous photographer with an offbeat worldview. Glory prefers to hide behind the camera and doesn’t even particularly like her best and only friend. Everything changes when Glory and her friend, Ellie, drink a concoction consisting of a powdered, dessicated bat and some beer. It’s a strange thing to do, but the aftermath is even stranger. The morning after the bat-drinking incident both girls begin to see visions whenever they meet another person’s eye. They see that individual’s past, present and future. Not just that of the person in question, but that person’s ancestors and successors. It is in these visions that Glory begins to see a pattern of events that will eventually lead to a horrifying future. The future she sees indicates that a second civil war will take place. Women will lose all of their rights. Glory is having a hard enough time seeing a reason to live beyond tomorrow, but if this is the future she has to look forward to, what’s the point?

This is a fascinating experiment in form and genre. A.S. King is easily one of my favorite YA authors. Her work is never, ever ordinary. Her newest novel is no exception. The characters are unique and well-developed. Glory is maudlin, but never overly depressing. Her friend Ellie is the daughter of hippies who live in a commune across the street from Glory and her father. Ellie continually gets herself into terrible situations that Glory has trouble reconciling. Glory’s father is still mourning the loss of his late wife. He’s a painter who hasn’t painted since she died. There’s history between Glory and Ellie’s parents that slowly reveals itself. Everything is significant in the worlds of King’s novels, even the smallest details. I honestly had some difficultly believing in the future world presented here, but thematically, it makes for an interesting thought experiment. The discussion of feminism is prevalent throughout, but never feels heavy-handed. I genuinely enjoyed this book, even if I didn’t totally love the “History of the Future” part. This book is just so delightfully strange and emotionally compelling to be angry about the technicalities.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins , read by Courtney, on 09/14/2014

Matthew Turner is an atheist. He might have believed in God if his brother was still alive. But his brother committed suicide after the persistent harassment and hostility he faced when he came out as gay. In Matthew’s mind, if there really was a God, that God wouldn’t have let such terrible things happen to his brother, who was, by all accounts, a kind and wonderful human being. In fact, when it comes right down to it, Matthew doesn’t have faith in anything. His parents don’t get along; his father is a philanderer. His girlfriend is deeply religious, which causes serious problems when she decides she needs to get closer to God instead of Matt. School is even a bit of a mess; his essays raging against Christianity get him in trouble. What’s a kid to do when there’s nothing to believe in?

I’m ultimately kind of split on how I feel about Hopkins’ latest effort. On many levels,Rumble is great. On others, it feels heavy-handed and slightly contrived. The discussion of guilt and culpability is an important one for teens to read about, but Matthew is not a likeable character. He’s full of vitriol when it comes to the religion issue and he’s incredibly disrespectful of the faith of others. Of course, this really only pertains to Christianity, not other faiths. I’m honestly not sure that I buy the relationship between Matthew and his girlfriend. I have a lot of trouble believing that a girl so deeply religious would want to be around someone so exceedingly hostile toward a major aspect of her life. I might have bought it if one of the characters was more middle-of-the-road, or at least in a questioning phase. In this case, it feels like she exists more as a plot device and foil rather than a fully-realized character. That all having been said, I still found the overall message of the book to be a good and necessary one. While I saw the ending coming, I’m sure it will still satisfy many readers and give them plenty of food for thought.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Steam-punk, Teen Books

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, read by Courtney, on 09/09/2014

Joel has always wanted to be a Rithmatist, but he wasn’t chosen. He still gets to go to the prestigious Armedius Academy and, while he can’t take the courses that the Rithmatist students do, he can still sneak into the occasional class. His obsession with Rithmancy earns him a summer assistantship with his favorite Rithmancy professor, Fitch. When students studying Rithmancy start disappearing with no trace save for some drops of blood, the whole school is in an uproar. It’s believed that someone or something is targeting Rithmatists. The likely weapon is a set of oddly drawn Chalklings that have the ability to attack physical forms rather than chalk lines, the sort that are typically only seen far away on the war-torn isle of Nebrask. Professor Fitch is charged with assisting in the investigation and Joel is eager to help. The artistically-gifted-but-geometrically-disinclined Melody, also assigned to help Professor Fitch over the summer, teams up with Joel as they work to solve the mystery of their missing classmates.

Author Sanderson has created a fascinating and original world where battles are drawn in chalk. A working knowledge of geometry is every bit as important as a steady hand. Joel excels in geometric strategy, but ultimately can do little more than watch from the sidelines. The ability to become a Rithmatist is not one that can worked towards; either one is a Rithmatist or one is not. The setting is the United Isles of America (a detailed map of which appears at the beginning of the book). The Rithmatist is interspersed with illustrations featuring chalk-drawn defenses and Chalklings. Joel and Melody both break the mold of the middle-grade magic novel. Joel has no magical abilities. Melody, while a Rithmatist, is at the bottom of her class. She doesn’t particularly enjoy being a Rithmatist either. She is, however, an excellent artist, which winds up being far more useful than she had previously believed. This book works on a number of levels: it’s a mystery/fantasy/steampunk/action/adventure story. And it does all of these things quite well.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Sabriel by Garth Nix, read by Courtney, on 09/07/2014

Sabriel has been living on the safe side of the wall, far from the flowing free magic and the undead denizens of the Old Kingdom, for many years. She’s in training to be a mage and her mettle is about to be tested. Sabriel’s father, Abhorsen, has gone missing. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t worry Sabriel too much, but her father sent her his bells and sword. Which means he’s either dead or trapped in the underworld. Which means there’s now nothing preventing the dead from rising back up and wreaking havoc on both sides of the wall. Sabriel at once decides she needs to go and find her father, which means not only crossing the wall, but facing some of the biggest undead threats she’s ever encountered. Armed with her father’s bandolier of bells, each of which holds its own type of power, and her wits, Sabriel heads off into the unknown. She’s eventually joined by a cat-like creature, Mogget, and a young man she’s recently freed from the mast of a long-docked ship.

I’m a big fan of the Abhorsen trilogy, but there’s naturally a soft spot in my heart for Sabriel. Nix does a fantastic job with his world-building. The magic in this trilogy is one that must be learned and directed. Sabriel is clever and self-possessed, in spite of her absentee father and her longing to be on the other side of the wall where she was born. Her bitterness turns to determination as she navigates the river of the underworld and the dangers of the Old Kingdom. Sabriel is a richly imagined and original fantasy suitable for a wide audience.