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.

20. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, read by Angie, on 03/18/2014

I loved Eleanor and Park so of course I had to pick up the next Rainbow Rowell book. Her stories are wonderful and so very realistic. Fangirl is about Cath. Cath is headed to college and not really ready for it. Her twin sister Wren has told her she doesn’t want to be roommates and wants to meet other people. Cath has always had Wren to rely on so this makes going to college even harder. Cath also worries about their dad who isn’t the most stable man around especially without Cath and Wren to keep an eye on him. Cath’s roommate doesn’t help either. She is snarly and rude and has an adorable boyfriend who keeps hanging around the room. Cath isn’t interested in socializing or having the college experience. She doesn’t want to meet new people or party and is scared of the cafeteria. All she really wants to do is work on her Simon Snow fanfiction and finish Carry On Simon before the next book comes out. Cath is an uber Simon Snow fan and her fanfic has thousands of followers online. Cath is more comfortable in that magical world than she is in the real world.

So for the first part of the this book I could do nothing but feel sorry for Cath. She is completely anti-social and one of the most scared people you will ever meet. Regan and Levi do slowly bring her out of that shell but it really takes a lot of effort. I thought the fanfic would be weird but it really kind of worked and in a way made me wish there really were Simon Snow books; even though they are really just Harry Potter fanfiction in themselves. I really appreciated Cath’s journey through these books. She grows up a lot and really comes into her own. And of course I loved Levi. He is the perfect first boyfriend in almost every way. As long as this book was I could have actually read more of this story. I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell comes up with next.

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

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg, read by Angie, on 03/19/2014

Clare’s mother has died. Her father is a doctor and decides to move them to Malawi where he will work in a local hospital. Needless to say, Clare is not thrilled. She doesn’t want to leave her home, her friends and where she knew her mom. Once they get to Malawi it is complete culture shock. Everything from the living conditions to the food to the school is 100% different than what she is used to. However, Clare makes friends with Memory and her brother Innocent. She starts fitting in at school and things start to look up. She even gets to teach English to the first graders. Clare has to deal with a lot; she has to come to terms with the loss of her mom, to forgive her dad, and to learn to love her new life.

I didn’t think I would like this book as much as I did. I loved Clare and all her trials and triumphs. I thought she was extremely realistic in how she handled everything from the chicken to the shower to the school. Boston and Malawi are worlds apart and I thought Shana Burg did a great job showing just how different life in Africa really is. I also loved that this was not an after school special type book and that everything was not perfect. Life expectancy is low in Malawi; people don’t live to old age (old age is your 40s). I thought it was really realistic to show a child’s death and to show how difficult getting an education was. Excellent book!

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

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick, read by Angie, on 03/15/2014

This is the story of Richmond, Virginia after the Civil War. The war ended three years prior, but the conflict is no where near done. Shad and his family live in Richmond. One night Shad follows his brother to a Klan meeting and joins the brotherhood. At first he thinks it is all meetings and singing songs and playing pranks, but then things get serious. It doesn’t help that Shad has started teaching colored children how to sew in return for reading lessons. Shad has always thought he was stupid because he couldn’t read, but now he learns that he just switches some letters around and can read after he learns some tricks. Everything changes when the Klan kills his teacher and wants to torch the colored school. Shad has to decide if he is going to stick with the Klan or try and do what is right.

This is a very powerful story that isn’t often heard. You read a lot of books about what happened during the Civil War, but not a lot about reconstruction. You also don’t learn a lot about the poor Southern families who didn’t own slaves and who fought in the war for freedom not slavery. I really enjoyed the rawness of this story and how honest it was in its portrayal. My only quibble, and its a minor one, was the scene where Rachel, the colored teacher, first meets Shad on the street. She is extremely forward with him and doesn’t act anything like a just freed slave would act. During the rest of the book she acts much more restrained. That one scene really stood out to me and felt inaccurate. Other than that the rest of the book seemed like it could have really happened.

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

B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolen, Adam Stemple, read by Angie, on 03/16/2014

Sammy Greenburg is bullied at school. He has a smart mouth and can’t seem to help mouthing off to the bullies. He makes friends with new kid Skink who helps a bit with the bullying situation, but isn’t always around. During bar mitzvah lessons he learns about golems. He decides to make a golem to help him out. Gully, the golem, does protect him from the bullies and he becomes his friend. Sammy, Skink and Gully form a band and get a gig performing at school. Of course Sammy’s rabbi tries to warn him about the danger golems can be to those around him. Sammy has to decide what to do about Gully and the bullies.

There are parts of this book I really liked. I liked the lessons on bullying and making friends and making good decisions. However, this was kind of a clunky book to read. It starts with a chapter on golems going crazy in Isreal featuring Sammy’s rabbi. Doesn’t seem to fit with rest of the story except when the rabbi tells the story later to illustrate how dangerous golems can be. I also didn’t buy just how horrible the bullies were. Bullies are of course mean and terrible and they do really bad things, but do most 6th grade bullies try to kill their classmates? I don’t think so. I found it strange that no one questioned Gully’s appearance (which is gray down to his teeth) or the fact that he just shows up and starts going to school nor do they question his disappearance. Even though this book isn’t supposed to be exactly realistic, it has so many realistic elements that the fantastical bits really stood out and didn’t work.

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

Cheesie Mack Is Running like Crazy! by Steve Cotler, read by Angie, on 03/18/2014

Cheesie Mack is starting 6th grade and middle school. He decides to run for class president, but finds out one of his friends is also running. So they hatch a plan to get Georgie, Cheesie’s best friend elected instead. Cheesie becomes Georgie’s campaign manager. Cheesie also has to contend with his 8th grade sister Goon (June) who wants to sabotage him at every turn.

This is a book for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and books like that. Cheesie is a funny character that I am sure boys will like. The story is fine, but nothing really that special. However, this book isn’t the most fun to read. It makes constant, and I do mean constant, references to the earlier books in the series. And they are not your harmless references, but pitches to make you go out and buy the previous books. It doesn’t tell you what happened but says things like “you can read about that in my other book”. There are also a lot of references to the website in addition to the books. It is super annoying to read these things over and over and over again.

10. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott, read by Angie, on 03/08/2014

Oh Elizabeth Scott, how you break my heart every time I read one of your books. They are almost always books that make me think and make me want to cry. Heartbeat definitely falls into that category. Emma is a teenager living with her stepfather. Her mother is in the hospital dead, but being kept alive for the baby she carries. Emma blames her stepfather Dan for only thinking about the baby and not about what her mom would have wanted. She believes her mom was scared to be pregnant and knew something was going to happen to her. She doesn’t believe her mom would ever have wanted to be kept in a vegetative state like she is. Emma is mad at the world and has given up on all the things she had before her mom died. She was a straight A student on track to become valedictorian and attending a top 10 school. Now she is failing all her classes because she can’t be bothered to do homework. Every day she goes to the hospital and sits with her mom because even though she is dead she is still here. It is at the hospital where Emma meets Caleb Harrison, the local bad boy. Caleb knows what it is like to lose someone because his little sister died. His parents blame him for her death and he blames himself. In the three years since she died he has fallen into trouble through taking drugs and stealing cars. His latest escapade was driving his father’s car into the lake. Emma and Caleb bond over their shared grief and the relationship helps Emma come to terms with her situation and start to move forward.

I usually hate weepy books, but there is something so compelling about the stories Scott tells that I can’t help but devour them all. I loved the fact that this story seemed ripped from the headlines even though she had to have started writing it long before the Texas case became a story. This story of course ends differently than that one did, but I thought Scott did a fantastic job of portraying the realities of the situation. Emma was also a fantastic character. You could feel her rage and grief oozing out of the pages. You wanted to help her stop self-destructing, but there was no way. I want to be sucked into a story I read and not want to come up for air. This was one of those stories.

10. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt, Iacopo Bruno (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 03/07/2014

Max Starling is the son of two actors who own a theater. One day a letter arrives from the Maharajah of Kashmir inviting them to open a theater company in India. His parents jump at the chance and make plans to leave immediately. They plan on taking Max with them, but when he arrives at the docks he finds the ship not only gone but nonexistent. He has no idea where his parents have gone or if they are in trouble. He also finds himself alone, except for his Grammie who lives next door. He has to find a way to support himself and become independent while trying to figure out what happened to his parents. His solution is to become a detective of sorts, a job he kind of fell into and found he was good at. His cases involve a lost boy, a lost dog, a lost spoon, and a lost heir. His cases offer up strange connections to the people he meets. In addition to his cases and striving for independence, Max is also hounded by a family of “long-eared” people who seem to be after his father’s fortune. Max’s father has always said he sits down with his fortune every day and Max has assumed he meant Max’s mom and Max, but did he?

I was highly entertained by this book even if it was a bit on the long side. I really enjoyed all the connections Max made through his investigations and the group of people who grew around him. He starts out with only his Grammie for support, but ends up with a whole new family of friends. I did think the investigations themselves were probably the weakest part. Max claims to be a horrible actor, nothing like his parents, but he is able to pull off disguises with nearly every case. His disguises include becoming a woman and an older man and many others. I found it hard to believe that these disguises would work; however, I loved Max’s process of getting into disguise and how the costume dictated how he would act. The mystery of Max’s parents is not solved in this book as it is the start of a planned trilogy. I am assuming that mystery will continue until the end of the series.

07. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

The Apprentices by Maile Meloy, Ian Schoenherr (Illustrations), read by Angie, on 03/06/2014

The Apprentices is the sequel to The Apothecary. Maybe I would have gotten more out of this book if I had read the first one, but somehow I don’t think I would have liked it even then. Because I didn’t read the first book, I had no idea who the characters were and why I should care about them. The story jumps around between each character so much that it is a little difficult to keep the thread of the story going. And what a convoluted mess of a story it is.

Janie is a girl who goes to boarding school and is super smart. She gets accused of cheating on a test even though she aced it by her scheming roommate. Roommates father wants her experiment on desalination, but that plot goes no where fast. Janie ends up living with the family who owns the Italian restaurant even though she doesn’t know them. The boy of the family of course develops a crush on her. In other story lines, Benjamin is in love with Janie but hasn’t seen her in two years. He and his father are out in war torn Asia trying to help people. There are of course some other characters we are supposed to care about, but really could care less. There is a of course a couple of villains who want to kidnap all our characters so they can make a nuclear bomb that can’t be stopped. There is an island with a secret uranium mine. There are boat rides and plane rides and bus rides and cannibals and magic and sorcery.

It was a trial to read this book and I probably would have given up on it if I didn’t have to read it. Wouldn’t recommend unless you were a super fan of the first one.

03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Better to Wish by Ann M. Martin, read by Angie, on 03/02/2014

Abby Nichols is happy with her life in Lewiston, Maine. However, her father has aspirations for a better life. Her mother is often sad because of the two babies she lost. Abby and her sister Rose like living near the beach and on the same street as all their friends. Once her father’s business takes off, he moves them to a much bigger house in Barnegat Point. Her mother has another baby named Fred who is not normal. Soon after there is another baby girl named Adele. Her father becomes frustrated with Fred and sends him away to school, causing her mother to have a breakdown. Mr. Nichols is very controlling; he decides who the girls can be friends with and what they will do with their time. Abby doesn’t like living with her father’s restrictions and dreams of a different life.

This is an interesting story. It covers a long period of time in Abby’s life and jumps forward quite a bit here and there. This is the first in a planned series of four books spanning four generations of Abby’s family. It offers glimpses into the life of Abby and her family and what happens during her childhood years. I thought her father seemed overly harsh and controlling and really wanted more on why he acted the way he did. Her mother was clearly suffering from postpartum depression and Fred was of course mentally handicapped. I think fans of historical fiction will enjoy this book and look forward to reading the others in the series.

03. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Cats, Children's Books, Fiction

Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa Martin, Valerie Martin, read by Angie, on 03/02/2014

Anton and Cecil are brother cats living in a harbor by the sea. Anton is a quiet cat who likes to listen to the sailors sing. Cecil is an adventurous cat who likes to go out on the day trips with the sailors. One day Anton is impressed into service on one of the ships and Cecil jumps on another ship to try and find him. They both have a lot of adventures on the high seas featuring rats and pirates and marooning. This is a fun romp on the high seas. I think kids will really like this tale, especially if they like animal adventure stories. I liked the distinct personalities of the two cats. I also enjoyed the slightly paranormal bit about the cat eye in the sky and the whale.

28. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

March (Book One) by John Robert Lewis, read by Angie, on 02/28/2014

March Book One is the first in a planned trilogy that tells the story of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement. John Lewis was an important member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and part of the group who helped integrate Nashville’s lunch counters. I really enjoyed how this story flashes back from Lewis getting ready to go to Obama’s inauguration in 2009 to his childhood, years in school, and his participation in the movement. We remember names like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but may not be aware of the significant role played by people like John Lewis. I think this is a wonderful book that sheds light on the life of one of the Civil Right’s heroes.

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

Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes, read by Angie, on 02/27/2014

Gaby’s mom has been deported to Honduras and her absentee dad is back to take care of her. Her dad isn’t the best caregiver; he is always quitting his job and he forgets to get groceries so Gaby is pretty much on her own. Thankfully her best friend’s family steps up and helps out. Gaby’s class starts volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter and Gaby finds a passion for animals. She starts writing profiles on each of the animals to help get them adopted. She is convinced her mom will be home anytime, but sneaking back into the country is not as easy as it once was and her mom is having trouble finding the money.

I found Gaby’s story enchanting. I think it is something kids can relate to even if their parent has not been deported. Any kind of absentee parent situation could apply to this story. I really enjoyed the animal shelter part of the story. I think animals lovers’ hearts will melt hearing the stories of all these animals. I know I wanted to adopt a couple of them! I thought Gaby was a very realistic kid in how she acted, how she spoke and how she thought of the things happening to her.