27. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin, Kevin Cornell (Illustrations), 112 pages, read by Angie, on 03/26/2015

This is a really cute beginning chapter book. It is the tale of a dog who is in charge of keeping the chickens in his yard safe. Of course, he has to keep them safe from themselves. The four chicks take up with a squirrel who convinces them there is a UFO in the yard out to kidnap the chicks. Turns out it is a barbeque and the dog has to save everything. Very cute and appropriate for beginning chapter book readers. A good recommendation for fans of Mercy Watson.

27. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

More of Monkey & Robot by Peter Catalanotto, 64 pages, read by Angie, on 03/26/2015

The second book in the Monkey and Robot series. This is a good transition book for young readers who are ready to move on from easy readers but not quite ready for chapter books. The four chapters in the book are all independent stories that can be read together or separate. Funny stories that are sure to tickle kids.

26. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Missing Pieces of Me by Jean Van Leeuwen, 226 pages, read by Angie, on 03/25/2015

Weezie’s momma says she is a bad kid. Nothing she does ever seems to come out right whether it is making her momma tea or cooking dinner or picking flowers. Momma dotes on Ruth Ann and Jackson, but has nothing good to say to Weezie. Momma also doesn’t talk about Weezie’s daddy. She won’t even say his name or tell Weezie anything about him other than that he was a bad guy. Weezie wonders if finding her daddy would make any difference in her life. She has very little to go on: just a photo with a first name. She enlists the help of her friends Calvin and Louella to help her figure it out.

Weezie’s story seems to be one of heartbreak and loss, but on closer inspection it is one of hope and determination. Weezie is beaten down at every turn, by her momma and by some of her classmates. She doesn’t let that drag her down though. She is positive in spite of everything. She is an artist with true talent and is recognized by her teacher if not by her momma. She is a good friend to Luella and Calvin even when her momma tries to stop her from being their friend. She is a good big sister to Ruth Ann and Jackson even though her momma never recognizes her efforts. And she is a good daughter despite her momma’s indifference. I appreciate the fact that while the ending is hopefully it is not necessarily a happy ending. It is realistic in that momma has not made a big change in her attitude and Weezie’s homelife is still very much the same as it was. Sure she knows who her daddy is, but that has not really changed her circumstances. The Missing Pieces of Me is a wonderful story that I highly recommend.

26. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Lulu's Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst, Kevin Cornell (Illustrator), 185 pages, read by Angie, on 03/25/2015

Lulu’s parents are going on vacation without Lulu. She is NOT happy about it and is even more unhappy when she learns they are leaving her with a babysitter. She tries everything she can think of to get rid of Sonia Sofia Solinsky, including introducing cats to the highly allergic babysitter, sneaking out the window and blockading herself in her room. It doesn’t matter what she does, Solinsky is always one step ahead of her. After the blockade is destroyed Solinsky lets it slip that she is actually a spy. Of course, Lulu wants to be a spy as well and begs Solinsky to train her. Solinsky demands obedience and once Lulu is on board she has a much better time with her babysitter. The only problem is that her parents missed her so much they are determined to never leave her again. That will not do! Lulu then has to convince them to keep taking vacations so she can have Sonia Sofia Solinsky keep training her. I really enjoyed Lulu’s third outing. This series is very tongue-in-cheek funny. I really enjoy the interjections of the author, which didn’t seem quite as plentiful as they were in other books. However, I liked this story and how Solinsky tames Lulu. I think Lulu fans will enjoy this one as much as the others.

25. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 03/24/2015

Typhoid seems like one of those diseases people used to have back in the old days when there wasn’t any antibiotics or good sanitation. It sort of is, but it still exists today. Fatal Fever is the story of typhoid in the early 1900s in New York. New York was not like it is today. There were outhouses and cesspits and raw sewage in the streets. It was very likely you would come in contact with typhoid at some point in your life. This book chronicles the story of Mary Mallon, otherwise known as Typhoid Mary. It is also the story of George Soper and how he tracked down Mary. Mary was a cook for prominent New York families. Soper’s investigation led him from family to family and from typhoid case to typhoid case. Mary was something unknown at that time: a carrier of typhoid who was not herself sick. She spread the disease through the food she handled and served to her employers. Soper and his associates finally caught up with Mary and had her tested. She was then confined to North Brother Island. Mary was never charged with anything or put on trial. She was confined by the Department of Health because she was considered a health risk. She never believed that she infected people with typhoid or that she was a carrier. She fought against her confinement for years. After she was finally let go, you would think she learned her lesson but you would be wrong. She again infected a family with typhoid and was again sent to North Brother Island where she spent the rest of her life.

Gail Jarrow is one of those authors that I am starting to look for. I really enjoyed her book Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat and equally enjoyed this one. This book reads like a detective story with Soper as the detective and Mary as the villain. There are lots of details about typhoid and sanitation in the 1900s, but you kind of forget how educational the books is. You are just reading it for the pure enjoyment and fascination of it.

24. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Humor, NonFiction

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris, David Javerbaum, Antony Hare (Illustrator), 304 pages, read by Angie, on 03/23/2015

Neil Patrick Harris is at this point unstoppable. His newest venture is his Choose Your Own Autobiography and it is HILARIOUS! It is set up just like the old choose your own adventure books from my childhood and it works. It also works really well just as a book to read straight through (which is what I did). Neil chronicles his life from childhood to present day in an honest, insightful and funny way. He pulls no punches about himself or those around him. I was especially touched by his personal journey to discover his sexual identity. He is honest about how he dated girls but wasn’t that into it, about his first gay experiences and about finding love with his husband David. I laughed out loud when he was talking about his escapades with LA nightlife in his youth and how outrageous it is to be friends with Elton John. The Choose Your Own Autobiography set up allows you to make terrible choices with Neil’s life which ended up with him as a sandwich maker at Schlotzky’s Deli or in a horrible death scene. I also really enjoyed the letters from his friends like Sarah Silverman, Nathan Fillion, Penn Jillette, Seth MacFarlane and many others. They were sometimes touching, sometimes funny, often bizarre, but always perfect. I started my journey with NPH during his Doogie Howser days when he was one of my favorite teen heartthrobs. I rediscovered him as Dr. Horrible and have loved him ever since. He is very talented and funny, but above all seems to be a genuine good guy who deserves all the accolades he gets. His autobiography is definitely worth the read for fans and nonfans, plus it has magic tricks!

23. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, 531 pages, read by Angie, on 03/21/2015

My mom recommended this book to me and I am so glad I finally read it. It is a powerful story, told beautifully. It is a story of love and loss and survival and death. It is the story of two children coming of age during WWII. Marie-Laure is a beloved daughter of a Paris museum locksmith. She has grown up surrounded by the museum and all its treasures. When she goes blind her father builds a replica of their neighborhood so she can find her way around. He also spoils her with little puzzles and treasures. Warner is an orphan living in a children’s home in a mining town in Germany. He is mechanically brilliant, building a radio from scratch and repairing things in the town. He fears being sent to work in the mines and dying like his father. He is protective of his younger sister Jutta, but doesn’t really know how to help them. When he is given the opportunity to attend a Nazi technical school he jumps at the chance. School is a lot more brutal than he thought it would be, but he finds a way to survive.

Marie-Laure and Warner’s stories are told alternatively through their childhood and the present day at the end of the war. They both end up in Saint-Malo on the French coast. Marie-Laure and her father have fled Paris ahead of the Nazi occupation and taken up residence with her great uncle Etienne. Her uncle was traumatized by WWI and doesn’t leave the house; he suffers bouts of PTSD that leave him hiding in his room for days. Marie-Laure’s father again builds a model of the neighborhood so she can find her way about, but then he disappears. Warner has become part of a radio unit that hunts down insurgents. Their quest has led them to Saint-Malo. Little does he know that the radio broadcasts giving out information to the French resistance is the same one he listened to as a child on his homemade radio. Etienne has again taken to the airwaves after being convinced by his housekeeper to join the fight. Warner is intrigued by the blind girl he sees coming out of the house and finds himself protective of her and Etienne. Their stories intersect during the last days in Saint-Malo as it is being bombed by the Allies.

Interspersed with all of this is the story of the Sea of Flames, a singular blue diamond with a heart of fire. It has traveled the world before ending up in the Paris museum. It is said to be cursed, offering immortality to its bearer but death to all those you love. Marie-Laure’s father was entrusted with its safe keeping when he fled Paris. A Nazi officer has been pursuing it across France as he also evaluates other jewels confiscated by the Nazis. He is dying and is determined to get the jewel in the hopes of saving his life. His search leads him right to the door of Marie-Laure.

I loved this book and really had a hard time putting it down. It is beautifully written and Marie-Laure and Warner came alive on the page. I couldn’t wait to see how their stories would finally intersect. This book really brought out the lives of ordinary people in the war. Even though Marie-Laure and Warner are extraordinary in their own ways, there stories are ones shared by others during that time. They are doing what they can to survive and remain themselves. I thought the ending was perfect. It wasn’t a happy ending, yet it was in many ways. This book is definitely worthy of all the praise that has been heaped upon it.

23. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: , ,

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, 279 pages, read by Angie, on 03/20/2015

Lucky Linderman isn’t lucky at all. When his grandma died she asked him to find his grandpa. Problem is grandpa was a POW in Vietnam and never came home. Lucky has been dreaming about rescue missions to save his grandpa ever since. Lucky is also being bullied by a horrible kid named Nadar McMillan. Nadar is one of those kids that every kid knows to avoid, but all the adults love. It doesn’t help that his father is a sue-happy lawyer. Nadar started bullying Lucky by peeing on his shoes when he was seven and hasn’t stopped. Lucky’s parents know he is being bullied, but can’t seem to find the energy or the drive to do something about it. His dad is a chef, works all the time and only wants to talk food when he is home. Dad has been so traumatized by growing up without a dad that he can’t seem to become one himself. Mom spends all her time in the pool swimming laps to avoid her unhappy marriage and her unhappy child.

It is not until Nadar physically harms Lucky so that others can see that mom finally does something. She doesn’t call the police or Nadar’s father; she takes Lucky and leaves. They head to Arizona and her brother’s house (mainly because it has a pool). Things seem to be looking up there. Lucky is bonding with his uncle and lifting weights and he meets a girl who helps build up his confidence in himself. Only problem is that the aunt is CRAZY. She is positive Lucky is suicidal and keeps wanting to help him in her own inept way. In Arizona Lucky learns some truths about himself and his family and starts to gain the confidence he needs to stand up to Nadar.

This is a book that might not be for everyone, but if you stick with it you are going to be rewarded. A.S. King always seems to write about the misfit characters who come into their own in her books. Like her other characters, Lucky is a real kid with real problems. He is picked on and bullied and misunderstood. Sure he dreams about rescuing his grandpa from the jungle prisons of Vietnam and sure he has a chorus of ants who offer commentary on his life, but that doesn’t make him crazy. In fact, the dreams and the ants help him work through what is going on around him. The ants offer a bit of light-heartedness to an otherwise fairly dark story.

19. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Award Winner, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction · Tags:

The Giver by Lois Lowry, 179 pages, read by Angie, on 03/18/2015

It seems that utopian societies always have a dark side. The community in The Giver is no different; the perfect society is balanced by an absence of so many things – colors, feelings, choice. Jonas discovers this absence when he becomes the new Receiver of Memories. In this capacity he learns what really happens in his community and he finds that he can’t live with it. He has to make changes to his circumstances.

This is a really interesting book and a great book for discussions. There is the sameness of the community, the regimented lives of the citizens, the lack of choice in everything they do and the release of people from the community. I thought Jonas’s story was one many could relate to; he really grew up and into himself in the book. He learned to think and act for himself and as an adult.

I did find that when I finished the book I wanted to know more though. I wanted to know how they created the sameness — do they genetically engineer all the people to be color blind? The colors are still there obviously but the people just don’t see them. How did they get rid of the weather, the sun, the hills, the animals? I assume they have climate control, but they aren’t under a dome or anything so how does it work? How did the Receiver of Memories gather all the memories in the first place? They seem to be from many different people and places and times and at least one seemed to come from an animal (the elephant). How are they gathered and stored and tied to the community? Jonas looses them so they are obviously tied to a place. Lots of unanswered questions!

The ending is also very ambiguous and left a lot of questions. Was it real? Did he live or die? How will the community deal with the memories? Will the Giver be able to help them? Will the community change? And should the community change? Even with all the sameness and lack of choice was the community bad? Is release bad?

19. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson, 224 pages, read by Angie, on 03/15/2015

Becky Thatcher has just moved to St. Petersburg, MO. The family is grieving the death of her brother Jon. Mrs. Thatcher has withdrawn almost completely from her family and Judge Thatcher has thrown himself into work. Becky is determined to honor her promise to Jon and have as many adventures as possible. She becomes friends with Amy Lawrence and Sid Sawyer almost immediately. She also makes an enemy of Tom Sawyer when he tattles on her and gets her in trouble. Becky takes part in a bet the boys have about who can steal something from the Widow Douglas who everyone believes is a witch. Trouble starts when Widow Douglas is accused of grave robbing. Becky and Amy know it was actually the notorious Pritchard Brothers who did the grave robbing and Becky decides she has to find a way to clear Widow Douglas’s name.

This was an interesting alternative preview to Mark Twain’s books. Lawson takes a lot of aspects of the the Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn stories and gives them a backstory. Sam Clemens himself is staying at the Widow Douglas’ house while his steamboat is being repaired. He collects the stories around him for his future books. I liked the fact that a lot of the adventures Tom Sawyer ends up having in Twain’s books are imagined as the adventures of Becky Thatcher. In this book, Tom Sawyer is a tattle tale and brown noser who has no friends whereas Becky is the adventurer who brings down the Pritchard Brothers. It was a nice twist.

19. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Humor, NonFiction

A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett, 307 pages, read by Angie, on 03/17/2015

A Slip of the Keyboard is all the nonfiction Sir Terry has written in his long career. Some of it dates back to the 60s when he was a journalist and SF fan while most of it consists of speeches and articles by Pratchett while he was a writer. There is a lot of discussion on what exactly SF/Fantasy is, fans, discworld, author visits, cons and later Alzheimer’s and the right to die movement. All of it is filled with the typical humor and whit you would expect from the creator of the Discworld. My only complaint is one that only comes with reading all of these articles one after another and that is the repetition. Pratchett is very consistent with his message on a bunch of topics and repeats them on a lot of occasions. They are good messages and worthy of being repeated, but it got so I could guess what was going to be said. But really that is a knitpicking. I really enjoyed this collection and recommend it to all fans.

18. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 03/14/2015

Marlin is a stutterer and has a lot of problems communicating with people. He has no problems talking to the animals in his father’s zoo however. Marlin’s dad is the famous adventurer Ronan Rackham and he created The Zoo at the Edge of the World in the Amazon jungle. The Zoo attracts wealthy tourists from Europe who come to see the amazing jungle animals and wild circus. Ronan’s latest capture is a jaguar the locals believe is a man-eater. Marlin is drawn to the jaguar and one evening while he is talking to it the jaguar talks back. Suddenly, Marlin can hear all the animals talking and they can understand him as well. This comes in handy when he has to save the zoo from his tyrannical, bullying brother, his crazy father and the scheming duke who is trying to encroach on the jungle.

I was intrigued by the premise of a zoo in the jungle during Victorian times. It is an interesting and plausible idea as the world was expanding for people during that time. Adventurers were discovering parts of the world never before seen by Europeans. I also liked the idea of a Marlin learning to deal with his communication problems and the fact that he is bullied by his brother. Talking animals I can do without, mainly because I thought it took away from the reality of the rest of the story.

18. March 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, 416 pages, read by Angie, on 03/17/2015

Feyre is the youngest daughter of an impoverished merchant. She is the sole provider for her family. When her mother died she charged Feyre with taking care of her older sisters and her father and Feyre has tried to fulfill that promise. One day when she is out hunting in the forest she shoots a wolf. Turns out the wolf was a shapeshifted faerie and she has to pay for his life. She is whisked off over the wall by Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court. Hundreds of years ago there was a war between mortals and fae that divided the world. The fae courts stayed behind the wall in the north and the mortals were relegated to the southern most part of the island of Prythian. Recently the fae have been venturing beyond the wall and attacking humans. Feyre finds life in the Spring Court different from what she expected. Tamlin and the other faeries treat her with respect and she is better fed and clothed than she has been in years. She finds herself falling in love with Tamlin. But things are not right in Prythian. There is a blight on the land that seems to be spreading and endangers both fae and humans alike. Feyre has the power to stop the blight if only she would realize it.

I am a big fan of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series so I was really excited when I saw this new series. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with a different twist. Maas has gone back to the old story of Beauty and the Beast, but instead of a troll queen we have an evil faerie queen. The beauty is a mortal girl and the beast is a faerie prince. It is a fabulous story with a fabulous set of characters. My only little quibble is that it is marketed as a teen book, but it has some fairly sexy sex scenes with a bit more detail than teen books usually have. Didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book, but I might be a bit hesitant to give it to younger, more innocent teens (not that I don’t think they get more graphic information elsewhere). I can’t wait to see where this series goes as this book wrapped most of the storylines up pretty nicely; although there is a nice twist at the end.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for letting me read the ARC of this book. I loved it!

12. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books · Tags: , ,

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry, 213 pages, read by Angie, on 03/10/2015

Cady wakes up on the floor of a cabin with no memory of who she is or why she is there. She hears someone talking about “taking care” of her and knows she needs to find a way to escape. What follows is Cady’s race to find out who she is and why these guys want to kill her. She faces danger along the way, but she also finds help from unexpected sources. She meets Ty at a McDonalds and he immediately sets out to help her find out what is going on even though the men chasing her seem to be closing in on her. They do eventually find out who Cady is, but the bad guys seem to have created a smear campaign where she is either crazy or a murderer or a crazy murderer.

I enjoy April Henry’s books and had the pleasure of meeting her last year at a conference. She writes fast-paced mysteries that suck the reader in to the very end. Cady’s story was certainly intriguing. You had no idea what was going on. Was she an escaped mental patient? Was she a murderer? Or was she just an innocent girl caught up in something beyond her control? I liked the relationship between Ty and Cady and was glad that it didn’t get all romantic right from the start which would have ruined the believability of the story. I did find the revelations at the end maybe just a bit too out there, but it made for great storytelling and an enjoyable read.

2015-16 Truman Award Nominee.

12. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Lost Children of the Far Islands by Emily Raabe, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 03/09/2015

Gus, Leo and Ila live with their parents in Maine. They have a pretty idyllic life until their mother gets sick. She deteriorates rapidly and suddenly the kids are whisked away to a grandmother they don’t know on a remote island. Their grandmother is the Morai, an ancient being who protects the world from the evil Dobhar-chu. She is also a selkie, a shape-shifter who can go between the human and seal shape. Gus, Leo and Ila are also shape-shifters. Because Gus and Leo are 11 they are taught how to change shapes. Ila is too young to shift, but seems to be gifted in that she has a third shape of a fox. With their mother fading and their grandmother old and weak, the kids are the only ones left between the world and the evil of the Dobhar-chu.

I really enjoy books that delve into different cultural mythologies. There are books about selkies, but you don’t see a lot for this age group. I liked that even though the book deals with the mythology of selkies it doesn’t specify the culture they are from or directly point to a specific culture. I liked the kids a lot. Gus and Leo are twins but very different. The star of the show was little Ila though. She doesn’t speak for the first 5 years of her life and it is only after the mom falls ill that she starts to talk. It turns out she is also the most talented of the family in regards to shifting. She is a fierce little thing and quite entertaining. This is a great stand alone book for fantasy fans.

09. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 03/09/2015

Twig has a secret, a secret that means she keeps her distance from everyone. She lives with her mother in the town of Sidwell where Johnny Appleseed gave her family a rare pink apple. Her mother’s pink apple recipes are famous. Twig has no friends her age, but immediately likes Julia when her family moves in next door. Her mom doesn’t want her to be friends with Julia however. It seems that 200 years ago their family was cursed by a witch who just happens to be Julia’s ancestor. The curse is that every male member of the family is born with wings. Twig’s secret is her brother James who has been hidden his entire life because of the wings on his back. James is getting tired of hiding though and starts leaving the house more and more often. Twig and Julia become determined to somehow break the curse and start researching their ancestors for the answer.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoyed the story and thought it was really interesting, but I also thought it lacked something. There isn’t a lot of character development for pretty much everyone except Twig. There is a whole plot line involving saving the woods from development that seemed like an after thought to get a character into the story. I also thought the ending was just a little too perfect. Even though magical realism is not really my favorite thing I did think it worked fairly well in this story.

I received this book from Netgalley.com.

06. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale , 323 pages, read by Angie, on 03/05/2015

The Forgotten Sisters is the final book in the Princess Academy trilogy. It picks up after the events of Palace of Stone. Miri and the other girls are ready to head back to Mount Eskel. Miri can’t wait to see her family and become betrothed to Peder. Just as she is about to leave she is summoned to the king and asked to go to Lesser Alva and train three royal cousins to be princesses. War is coming to Danland and the only way to prevent it is to offer the enemy king a bride. Miri heads off to the swamp expecting to find a much different situation than she does. The three sisters live in an empty stone house; they are not educated; they have no concept of what it means to be royal. Once their mother died their support dried up and they are forced to spend their days hunting for food in the swamp. Miri takes up the challenge to get the girls ready for their debut in Asland. This involves more than teaching the girls to read and write; she must also figure out a way to get their allowance back from the unscrupulous headman of the village. Unfortunately, war comes before the girls are ready and they are not safe even in the swamp backwater where they live.

Every time I read one of these books I remember how much I like Shannon Hale’s writing. I could not put this book down. I loved getting to see Miri on her own in an unfamiliar situation. The swamp offered a great background to the story as Miri learns to catch caimans and survive in the mud and the muck. I liked the royal cousins, but didn’t think they were developed as well as they could have been. Miri is really the focus of the story as she teaches the girls how to survive as princesses and she learns how to survive in the swamp. I actually loved the ending of the book and really didn’t see the twist coming. I had other ideas about the girls that ended up not being true. I thought the ending really suited the spirit of this series and wrapped up the characters’ stories really well.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Circle of Stones by Catherine Fisher, 298 pages, read by Angie, on 03/04/2015

Bladud is a Druid king forced out into the wilderness because of an illness. After wondering in the wilderness he finds a healing spring that cures his illness. He builds a temple to the goddess Sulis in appreciation for her healing. He erects a circle of stones and his people return to him.

Zac is apprenticed to architect Jonathan Forrest who is going to build the King’s Circus in Bath. Forrest is obsessed with druids and designs the Circus to mimic ancient druid structures. Zac is down on his luck after his father gambled away their fortune. He resents his lack of means and being the assistant to a mad man like Forrest. He has to decide if he is loyal to his master or to his idea of who he should be.

Sulis has just moved to Bath and into one of the houses on the Circus. There was a tragedy in her past that has put her in witness protection for the last ten years. Bath offers a fresh start with new foster parents in a new city and a new name. However, she believes she is being stalked by the man from her past. She has to come to terms with the truth of her past in order to create a new future.

These three stories all revolve around the same place but are very different. I thought some of the stories worked better than others. I loved Sulis’s tale and thought the reveal about the tragedy in her past was really well done. I like how her story tied in the story of the Circus and the other two characters. I wasn’t that interested in Zac’s story mainly because I really didn’t like him as a character. I wanted more information about Forrest and less whining from Zac. Bladud’s story was the briefest with the least amount of details. The three characters each had their own style of chapters with different fonts and styles of writing. I was also occasionally thrown by the probably historically accurate spelling, punctuation and writing of the Zac chapters. I thought this was an interesting, different type of novel and quite enjoyed the uniqueness of it even if I didn’t enjoy every part as much as the whole.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World's Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 03/04/2015

This is the story of chocolate from its beginnings in South and Central America to its trip across the pond into Europe. It is the story of how chocolate went from being a bitter, ceremonial and medicinal plant to the candy we all love today. The history of chocolate is complex with ties to colonialism, slavery, the industrial revolution and climate change. I really enjoyed the history of chocolate, but was less than thrilled by all the scientific information packed into the book. This is geared towards middle grade readers who I am not sure will care about the chemical make up or how those chemicals were found to affect humans. This is a pretty long book for the age it is geared towards as well. I think it could have been paired down a bit to focus more on the historical and modern parts of chocolate’s story which would have made it a little bit more readable for its audience.

I received this book from Netgalley.com.

02. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, 307 pages, read by Angie, on 02/28/2015

Glory O’Brien has just graduated from high school and doesn’t really see a future for herself. She and her dad have been stuck ever since her mom DArla committed suicide when Glory was 4 years old. The only thing Glory has is her photography, which Darla also had. She starts learning more about her mom after taking over the dark room in the basement. She finds her mom’s album entitled “Why People Take Pictures” filled with disturbing images and starts answering her mom in her own album.

Glory lives across the road from her best friend Ellie. Only she is not sure she wants Ellie to be her best friend anymore. Ellie lives on a commune run by her mother Jasmine Blue and totally takes advantage of Glory. The girls find a petrified bat and decide to drink it when it turns to dust. The bat gives the girls the ability to see the past and future when they look in someone’s eyes. They see people’s ancestors doing all kinds of things and they see people’s descendants in the future. Glory’s visions of the future all revolve around war. There is going to be a second civil war in America. This time it will not be slavery that divides the country but women’s rights. The passage of an equal pay bill will splinter the country and some states will end up taking away the rights of women completely. This will divide the country and cause a war as women basically become fugitives or breeding machines.

I am torn about this book. I really enjoyed the contemporary story of Glory trying to figure out her life. In the beginning, she only sees herself through Darla and doesn’t believe there is a future for her. Through the visions and the people she meets she starts to see herself as a different person, as someone with a future to look forward to even if it involves war. She also helps draw her dad back into the land of the living. Finally, she comes to terms with her relationship with Ellie and the commune. It was a compelling story and one I really wanted to read. However, the visions of the future just threw me off. I found it so unbelievable that I couldn’t buy into the visions or the future they represented. It was an interesting future and made for good storytelling, but it was just too far-fetched for me.