16. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog by Frances Sackett, read by Angie, on 04/14/2014

Peter is your typical army brat kid. He lives with his mom and sisters while his dad is deployed flying jets in Afghanistan. Peter is really worried about his dad and a little mad at him too. On his birthday the last thing Peter wants is a party or a big to do, so it is with a lot of surprise that he announces he wants a dog. Peter can’t figure out where the words came from because he is afraid of dogs. But he adopts The Dog from the shelter and takes him home. That is where the fun begins. The Dog is not your normal dog. The first thing you notice is that he talks, the second thing you notice is that he can do magic. Turns out The Dog is a magician’s dog and he needs Peter’s help to free his master. The magician has turned himself into a rock. Peter starts to learn to do magic with The Dog’s help but soon realizes he has to get angry to do it. The more magic he does the angrier he gets. He wonders if magic is worth the price he is going to have to pay.

I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Peter is a great character who seems really real. He is dealing with a lot of things that kids deal with today: absent parent, trying to be the man of the house, taking care of his younger sisters, not showing how scared and frustrated he is. I really enjoyed the struggle he went through when he was deciding about the magic. He had to come to a place where love was more important than anger. That is not a thing a lot of people can do and I thought it was a great lesson in the book. Plus there are dinosaurs. Who doesn’t love magic dinosaurs?

16. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli, read by Angie, on 04/12/2014

Jack lives in Hokey Pokey; a land inhabited by children and surrounded by places like Snuggler and Stuff and Socks and The Kid. Jack likes to hang with his amigos, giving Tarzan yells and riding his wild bike Scramjet. Then one day Scramjet is stolen by The Girl and Jack is different. He keeps hearing a whistle and the tattoo that every kid gets in Hokey Pokey is fading. His friends try to help him but there is nothing they can do. Things are suddenly different and they don’t know how to handle it.

This is a strange little book that I am not sure I completely understand and I am pretty sure kids will not. I can’t decided if Hokey Pokey is a metaphor for childhood or a dreamland or what exactly. It is definitely not the real world as we see the real world in the latter part of the book. I was not a fan.

16. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction · Tags:

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, read by Angie, on 04/15/2014

Mickey Cray has been brought down by a frozen iguana. It has caused a concussion, headaches and double-vision. It also means he hasn’t been able to work as an animal wrangler. Bills are piling up so his wife has gone to China for a job, leaving Mickey and son Wahoo home alone. Then along comes Expedition Survivor and Derek Badger. He is a reality tv survivalist who believes his own hype and wants to film an Everglades episode; he is also a big fake. Mickey and Wahoo hire on to the show and start saving Derek from one animal after another. He is almost drowned by an alligator, bitten on the nose by a snapping turtle, bitten several times by a snake and attacked by a bat he is trying to eat. Mickey and Wahoo are joined on their expedition by Tuna, a girl in Wahoo’s class whose father hits her and who needs a safe place to hide out. The Expedition Survivor shoot is filled with chaos, mainly because of its star. Things get even worse when Tuna’s dad shows up and kidnaps Mickey.

This was a fun book. Carl Hiaasen obviously knows his animal info and is passionate about it. I thought he did a great job of passing along information about wildlife conservation and the plight of animals without shoving it down our throats. I liked how it was just a part of the story. I really enjoyed Mickey Cray, he is a fabulous character and one that was fun to read. His relationship with his son Wahoo was also really good. I liked how they were more partners than father and son, but Wahoo wasn’t the caretaker. I thought Derek Badger was hilarious and just how a reality tv star would be. Of course everything is fake and the star is a diva. The only part I didn’t think worked quite as well as Tuna’s dad. I thought his motivations were unclear and a little over the top. Other than that I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was great!

10. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Humor, NonFiction

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, read by Angie, on 04/10/2014

This is my first David Sedaris book and I am glad I listened to the audiobook. Sedaris reads the book himself and his unique voice really brings the stories to life. For the most part they are all tales from his childhood, young adulthood or current life. I especially enjoyed his first colonoscopy (hilarious) and his stolen passport. While not all the stories are laugh-out-loud funny, they are humorous and extremely satirical. I also enjoyed his essays at the end of the book where he takes on conservatives on social issues. The story of the woman who wants to march on Washington with the Tea Party was especially funny. This is a witty and humorous collection that I am sure fans of David Sedaris can appreciate.

10. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction

The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz, read by Angie, on 04/09/2014

This is the story of Jorinda and Joringel, twins who were born to a dead father and an absent mother. They move throughout the fairy tales as the lead characters. And these are not your Disney fairy tales, these are the ghastly, repellent, and sinister Grimm tales. These tales will give you nightmares and make you sleep with the light on. Both children die repeatedly throughout the book and in gruesome ways. There is death and destruction and mutilation and monsters. Good doesn’t always triumph in the end. Some facts I learned: Cinderella or Ashputtle actually means toilet cleaner! The people who fell asleep with Sleeping Beauty aged as they slept. Satan lives with his grandma in Hell. I really found these gruesome stories just as awesome as the narrator said they would be and I am sure kids will really enjoy that aspect of it. The one negative I have is actually about the narrator. For the most part the interjections are funny and don’t take away from the story. However, there is a section of the book where Jorinda and Joringel meet the narrator in Brooklyn and he reads the other two books in this series to them. I thought that section really broke up the story and wasn’t necessary. The rest is awesome…especially Hell. I might have to go back and read the others in this series.

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

Snap by Ellie Rollins, read by Angie, on 04/08/2014

Danya loves her pony Sancho. She takes him with her everywhere and he is her best friend. When she finds out her parents have sold Sancho she is determined to save him. Danya and her cousin Pia run away with Sancho to Florida. They are determined to find Danya’s grandmother Angie, Danya’s favorite author and who she has never met. They are on a hero’s quest like in Angie’s books. There are certain tasks they must complete in order to complete the quest. The three of them travel from Kentucky to Florida with the help of those they meet along the way. They wrestle alligators, join the circus, stow away on a cruise ship and spend the night in Graceland.

I thought this was a fun book, completely unbelievable, but fun. Somehow the girls get a pony to hide in a truck, ride in a motorcycle sidecar and stay in a cruise ship cabin. There is never any mention of the horse doing his business (which I am sure would be terribly messy wherever they were). There are times the group is recognized and chased by police or concerned citizens, but they always manage to outwit them and make their escape. I liked Danya and Pia and Sancho, but I couldn’t quite buy their story or stop questioning how they were able to do what they were doing.

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

Cal Ripken, Jr.'s All-Stars Wild Pitch by Cal Ripken Jr., Kevin Cowherd, read by Angie, on 04/08/2014

Last summer Robbie Hammond hit a kid in the head during a baseball game. Ever since then his pitching has been terrible. He can throw a huge fastball in practice, but anytime there is someone batting he just throws fouls and clunkers. His team is on a losing streak and Robbie’s pitching isn’t helping. Then he meets Ben, a kid who lost an arm but still has a great throw. With Ben and his friend Marty’s help, Robbie starts to deal with his phobia of hitting another kid.

This is a typical celebrity written book. It isn’t horrible, but it isn’t really good either. Ripken is writing what he knows in baseball, but the story doesn’t have a lot of depth. It is a little too after school special for my tastes. Very predictable story and not the best writing. Ripken should stick with what he knows…playing baseball…instead of writing about it.

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

Paperboy by Vince Vawter, read by Angie, on 04/05/2014

A young boy in 1959 Memphis takes over his friend Rat’s paper route for the month of July. For any other boy this would not be a problem, but this boy stutters and has a hard time communicating with people. They often assume he is slow or stupid or try to finish his sentences for him. On the paper route he meets Mr. Spiro, a merchant marine. Mr. Spiro likes to chat with the boy and doesn’t mind that it might take a while to get the words out. Each week with the paper collection he gives him a piece of a dollar bill with a word on it: Student, Servant, Seller, Seeker: the four parts of your soul. He also meets a beautiful but sad housewife who drinks too much and is in an unhappy marriage. Then there is TV boy who just stares at a silent TV all day long; it isn’t until the end of the summer that we learn he is deaf and learning to read lips.

The paper route is set against the backdrop of this boy’s home life. His parents are gone a lot and he is being raised by Mam, the Black housekeeper. Mam doesn’t treat him any different because of his stutter either. She helps him and guides him. There is trouble with a junk man who seems to be connected to Mam and who is taking the boy’s things. He also finds his birth certificate and realizes the man he calls his father is not his father. But he realizes this man makes the time to play pitch and catch with him and be his father even though he doesn’t have to. We finally learn the boy’s name at the end of the book. He never says it because it is impossible for him to say with his stutter.

This is a wonderful story about a young boy dealing with a difficulty. I like the fact that it is based on the author’s own life and struggles with his stutter. He never overcomes it, but he does learn to live with it. I thought the racial issues worked themselves into the story very well. This was the segregated South on the eve of integration and racial tensions were everywhere. I did think the story with the junk man seemed a little extraneous to the main story, but it didn’t take away from the story. I would recommend this book.

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

Lawless by Jeffrey Salane, read by Angie, on 04/05/2014

M Freeman has gotten accepted to the Lawless School. After a very strange interview, she is whisked away from her mother and her home. Her life before of tutors and homeschooling is over. But the Lawless School is not what it seems. The classes are not your normal classes and this is not your normal boarding school. It is a school where the children of exceptional criminals come to learn their craft. Turns out her parents aren’t art restorers and dealers, but art thieves. Her dad was a graduate of Lawless and may have been killed because of something he learned there. M (yes that is her full name) discovers that her tutors have been preparing her for this life of crime her entire life. She has been born a thieve and she is good at it.

This is a crazy thrill-ride of a book. The school itself is insane in the extreme, but really fun. M never knows who she can trust and that seems to change on a daily basis. There is of course a huge mission, a secret code, a message from her dead dad, and an end of the world scenario. The story is in no way believable or possible and the twist at the end is just a little too strange for my tastes. However, it is a fun book if you don’t think about the improbability of it all.

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

Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow, read by Angie, on 04/06/2014

Ivan is a 12 year old boy living in Leningrad when the Germans start bombing the city during WWII. Soon the city is cut off and supplies are running out. People are starving and freezing every day. Ivan lives with his mother in an apartment building in the city. Their upstairs neighbor Auntie Vera moves in with them when her apartment is damaged during a bombing. Auntie starts teaching Ivan all about how to survive during wartime, lessons she learned during WWI. Soon Auntie and Ivan are going to leave the city. Ivan’s mother works in a factory that is being moved to the Ural Mountains. Auntie and Ivan are going to take the ice road over the lake and out of Leningrad. They end up with Auntie’s sister-in-law in Vilnov. Soon they have joined the partisans, the people fighting against the Germans throughout Russia. Ivan catches the attention of Major Axel Recht because he plays the concertina so well. Ivan is moved into the Nazi headquarters and also starts taking care of Recht’s two German Shepherd puppies Zasha and Thor. Ivan is completely attached to the puppies and wants to save them from Recht. When the time comes to leave Vilnov, Ivan and the partisans take the puppies with them. They escape to Uncle Boris’s cabin in the woods where they spend the rest of the war.

I didn’t realize this was a prequel to another book until I was finished reading it. I guess the sequel takes up the story of Zasha and what happens to her after she is taken at the end of this book. I found the historical aspects of this story interesting. The Russian side of WWII is not one we in the west hear about a lot so a different perspective was nice. However, I didn’t find Ivan that great of a character. He was fine except for the role he had to play. I didn’t believe he could be a partisan; he just wasn’t sneaky or calm enough. He acted on his emotions too much and put the mission in danger several times. I also found it a little far fetched that this group would welcome him in so quickly and completely. I enjoyed his attachment to the dogs but also thought that was a bit over the top as well. The first part of the book was all excitement and adventure, but the back half really slowed down as the final years of the war passed. Some kids will stick this one out but it is not for everyone.

02. April 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Duke by Kirby Larson, read by Angie, on 04/01/2014

It is the height of World War II and everyone is being asked to do their part. Hobie Hanson is already buying victory stamps and collecting scrap metal. His dad is flying bombers over Europe and he is the man of the house. Hobie has a wonderful German shepherd dog named Duke that he adores. He is struggling with whether or not to donate Duke to the Dogs for Defense program. As soon as he lets Duke go he immediately regrets it, but there is nothing he can do to get him back. Duke is partnered with a marine and sent to the Pacific. At home, Hobie is dealing with the fact that his best friend has moved away and a new kid is being picked on for having a German name. Hobie has a lot of growing up to do and has to figure out if he is strong enough to stick up for what he knows is right.

I thought this was a book that kids will really be able to relate to. Hobie is just your average kid trying to do what is right and not always succeeding. He struggles with his mixed feelings about Duke and his inability to stand up to the local bully. I liked the fact that the story is based on real historical facts even though the characters are fiction. There really was a Dogs for Defense program where people could donate their dogs to the military. It must have been very difficult to let a beloved pet go to war and I am sure a lot of kids handled it just as badly as Hobie.

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Poop Happened! by Sarah Albee, Robert Leighton (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 03/31/2014

Poop is not just funny for kids. Some adults (**cough** **cough**) find this topic just as interesting. Everybody does it and no one wants to talk about it, but the history of how people eliminate waste is fascinating. Poop Happened takes the reader on a journey through history; the history of poop and what people have done with it. I found it especially interesting to learn that sanitation-wise things were much better during Egyptian and Roman times than they were for a thousand years after. There was a lot of waste just sitting around during the middle ages and no one seemed to know what to do about it.

The first time I read this book we sat in the library reading excerpts from this book for a long time and just couldn’t put it down. It is fascinating, informative and addicting. You have probably always wondered what they did for bathrooms back in the old days…well this book will tell you in all the gross detail. And you probably didn’t really want to know!

For instance, once a knight had his armor on it didn’t come off for anything and it was his squires job to clean it at the end of the day. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted that job! I guess you really can’t stop a battle to take off a hundred pounds of armor to go to the bathroom, but can you imagine sitting in that all day!

In Renaissance France the ladies’ dresses were so big they could barely sit down much less squat over a chamber pot so they had maids who would hold sponges under their dresses while they did their business. Yet another job I wouldn’t want. During that time period corners and hallways were also fair game for bathroom usage. I always thought of it as a very elegant time but I bet the bottom of your dress was pretty gross! And that everything smelled disgusting!

There are other awesome facts like these in this book. I highly recommend it. It is written so that you don’t have to read it cover to cover; you can flip through and pick different eras or pages to pour over. But the information is definitely worth the read. I was educated and entertained and I still think back on the book and what I learned and laugh! This is also a book I like to recommend to reluctant readers or kids who like gross facts. It is one that will suck you in!

I have been reading a lot on this subject lately (because I am doing a program on it) so I feel like I have become something of an expert. This is the oldest book I read on sanitation history and perhaps the dullest. The text itself has some interesting facts and there are great pictures throughout the book. However, the author has a very abrupt way of writing and seems to jump around a lot. It is also all black and white which means there is nothing that stands out on the page. I am sure this is because of the age of the book, but it does pale in comparison to the others I have read.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Flush: The Scoop on Poop Throughout the Ages by Charise Mericle Harper, read by Angie, on 03/31/2014

Flush: The Scoop on Poop is full of fun little poems about the history of how people dispose of bodily waste (i.e. poop). The poems cover everything from the uses of urine to toilet paper to chamber pots and garderobes to toilets in space. I especially enjoyed the “Fun Facts” sections that accompanied every poem. These paragraphs gave the historical information about whatever topic was covered in the poem. Very fun to read and informational!

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

The Story Behind Toilets by Elizabeth Raum, read by Angie, on 03/31/2014

The Story Behind Toilets offers a brief history of the toilet and then covers the modern aspects of sewage treatment. Lots of great pictures are included along with a very nice timeline of the toilet’s history.

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

What You Never Knew About Tubs, Toilets, & Showers by Patricia Lauber, read by Angie, on 03/31/2014

There is a lot of information packed into this small book. Most of the history covers baths and what people thought of them through the ages. There is a nice variety of information from around the globe included. Fun little book!

31. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, read by Angie, on 03/30/2014

Alina grew up an orphan in Ravka. She joined the army with her best friend Mal. Mal became a tracker and Alina a cartographer. On a mission to cross the Fold, an evil darkness filled with monsters, they are attacked and saved by Alina. Alina suddenly has powers she didn’t know she had. She is the one and only sun-summoner Grisha and must be protected at all costs. She is taken to the Little Palace by the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in Ravka, to be trained. She falls under the spell of the beautiful Grisha and the intriguing Darkling. But when she is told everything isn’t as it seems she runs away to save herself and Ravka.

I really enjoyed the Russian feel to this book. I was very glad I listened to it instead of reading it so I didn’t have to worry how all the Russian-sounding words were pronounced! However, I found the book fairly formulaic and didn’t feel like it covered any new ground. I was bored by Alina’s continued doubts about herself and her obsession with the beautiful Grisha. I did like the fact that the love story didn’t really become a love triangle and I enjoyed Mal and Alina’s relationship. There were some exciting battle scenes and the ending was fairly satisfying, but I didn’t think there was anything special about the book and don’t feel compelled to read any of the others in the series.

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

The Strangers by Jacqueline West, read by Angie, on 03/27/2014

This is the fourth book in the Elsewhere series. Olive Dunwoody lives in a magical house. The house used to belong to the McMartins, a family of powerful magicians who all died. The house is filled with magical paintings that lead to Elsewhere. With a special pair of glasses, Olive can enter the paintings and go to Elsewhere. In a previous book in the series, Adolphus McMartin and Annabelle McMartin both escaped from their paintings. They want the house and its magic back. In this book, Olive’s parents are kidnapped and a family of magicians come to town to help her. Olive has to figure out where her parents are and who she can trust.

I think my appreciation for this book would have been higher if I had read more than the first book of the series. I found the villains in this tale fairly predictable. However, the action was good and I am sure fans of this series were quite happy with how the story played out.

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

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

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

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

25. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Romance

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, read by Angie, on 03/24/2014

Lincoln has finally finished school after several degrees and moved back in with his mother. He has a job he hates at the local newspaper. He works nights in the IT office monitoring the email filter and making sure no one is sending things through company email that they shouldn’t. He doesn’t have much of a social life and spends his Saturday nights playing Dungeons and Dragons. He becomes enchanted by the emails between Beth and Jennifer as they chat about their lives, their loves and everything else. He is soon in love with Beth even though he has never met her or even seen her.

I absolutely loved Rainbow Rowell’s other books Eleanor & Park and Fangirl so when I saw she had another book I immediately picked it up to read it. My first indication that it was something different should have been that it was an adult romance book. This book definitely lacks the charm and intensity of her teen books. I did really enjoy the snappy emails between Jennifer and Beth. I thought those parts of the book really elevated the story. Lincoln’s story was a bit different. There wasn’t a lot there that really drew me in. And I thought he was pretty much a stalker for the majority of the book. Not in a horrible way, but a stalker none-the-less. Then we have the ending…oh the horrible ending. So Lincoln and Beth have never met, but they are somehow in love. So of course the first time they do meet they spend the entire time making out during a movie and suddenly love has bloomed, romance is in the air, and everything is wonderful. Really?? Never mind the fact that he invaded her privacy for months and stalked her and never mind the fact that she kind of stalked him as well. Once they meet all is forgotten and forgiven and coupledom ensues. I found it a bit ridiculous which is why I so seldom read adult books and very rarely romance. I will definitely stick with Rowell’s teen books in the future.