12. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, read by Angie, on 07/11/2014

Ari is a young man filled with anger and silence. He comes from a family with a father scarred by war, a mother devastated by a son’s actions and a brother who has disappeared from their lives since he went to prison. Ari has no friends and is melancholy. His only desires are for a truck and a dog. He likes to run and workout, both solitary activities. It all changes when he meets Dante. Dante is vibrant and chatty. He likes to draw and read poetry. He asks hard questions and truly wants to know the answers. Ari and Dante become best friends. Dante brings Ari out of his shell and gets him to talk and makes him realize it is ok for boys to cry. They are there for each other even when Dante moves to Chicago for a year. Their friendship holds up even when Dante confesses he would rather kiss boys than girls and would really like to kiss Ari. Ari cares so much for Dante that he saves his life and goes after a boy who hurt Dante. However, Ari is still conflicted and angry even if he doesn’t know what he is angry about. 

I thought this story was wonderful. I loved the friendship of Ari and Dante and the fact that Dante being gay really had no affect on it. Ari accepts Dante for who he is and who he loves. They are friends no matter what. I also loved the parents in this book, which is something I don’t often say. I thought both Ari and Dante’s parents were some of the best. The relationships were realistic and touching. I also really enjoyed the dialogue of this book. It is snappy and relevant and reminded me of the dialogue on some of my favorite tv shows. This is a great story about acceptance, both of others and yourself. It is a love story, a story about families, a story about self-awareness and a story about growing up into who you are meant to be. 

12. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

Going Over by Beth Kephart, read by Angie, on 07/11/2014

Ada and Stefan are young and in love. Unfortunately they are separated by the Berlin Wall. It is 1981 and there are still many years before the wall will fall. Ada, in the west, works at a daycare during the day and graffitis during the night. She lives with Omi (grandmother) and Mutti (mother) in a squatters flat close to the wall. She urges Stefan to make his escape when she sees him every 3 months. Stefan lives with his grandmother in the east. His mother escaped to the west and hasn’t been seen. His grandfather tried to escape and was killed. Stefan is cautious despite his love for Ada.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It is unique, which I enjoyed. I don’t believe I have ever read a teen book about Berlin during the time of the wall. I thought Ada really represented my image of a young German Punk with her cans of paint and bright hair. Stefan seemed to be her exact opposite but also somewhat of a stereotypical reserved German. I liked their love story even if I didn’t always buy its authenticity. I also liked the secondary storyline of the Turkish women and children brought into West Germany as second-class workers. I thought it helped flesh out Ada’s character and make her become more fully realized. Stefan felt a little flat to me because of the lack of more story on his part. I also liked/disliked the writing style. I liked the sparse prose but I thought it left holes in the story. I wanted more information on who these characters were, especially the secondary ones, and what their motivations were. I felt like the story lacked the details that would have made it great. 

08. July 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald, read by Angie, on 07/07/2014

Odette lives in Paris with her mother and father. They are non-practicing Jews and have a good life in Paris. Then the Nazis come into power and things begin to change. First her father joins the French Army and is taken prisoner by the Germans. Then the Nazis start rounding up the Jews of Paris. Odette’s mother is prepared however and Odette gets sent to the Vendee countryside with several other little girls. They are going to hide in plain sight not as Jews but as Christian girls escaping the violence of Paris. Odette must learn the Catholic prayers and the sign of the cross and never tell anyone she is Jewish. Odette considers this just one more secret she must keep. Her mother soon joins her in the country which makes things even more difficult. They spend the war safely ensconced in their country cottage, but suspicions still follow them. After the war they are able to return to Paris and their home, but life will never be the same. 

I really enjoy novels in verse and thought the format really worked for this book. Odette’s Secrets is based on the true story of Odette Meyer and how she and her family survived the war. Odette was able to blend in as a Christian girl and actually came to enjoy praying and different aspects of Christian life. It is amazing how adaptable people, especially children, can be. I am always fascinated by the stories of how people survived during WWII. These stories make me wonder if I would be as strong or as brave as those who fought against the Nazis and did what they must to survive.

08. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, read by Angie, on 07/07/2014

The KKK was set up after the Civil War by white Southerners who felt they needed to protect their way of life from the Northern Reconstructionists and the uppity Blacks. They used intimidation, fear, beatings and murder to try and get what they wanted, which was for blacks to go back to being subservient to whites. Bartoletti takes a hard look at how the KKK was started, what precipitated its creation, how they grew to include so many members and what those members did. She also details the reaction to the KKK by Southern Blacks, Northern Whites and the governments of both the North and the South. President Grant was successful in disbanding the KKK, but he was not successful in creating equality in the South. It is sad that the same practices of the KKK during Reconstruction existed for many up until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The KKK was truly a terrorist group and it is pretty scary that some people today don’t see them that way. 

08. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The World Made New: Why the Age of Exploration Happened and How It Changed the World by Marc Aronson, John W. Glenn, read by Angie, on 07/07/2014

The Age of Exploration began with Columbus “discovering” America in 1492. After his trip many other explorers set out to discover the riches America had to offer. Their expeditions brought many things to Europe: the potato and tomato, spices, gold and silver and new ways of life. These explorers changed the world in both good and bad ways. They opened up trade routes and new lands for exploration, but the native peoples suffered greatly as their way of life came to an end. The explorers were generally not friendly to the natives. They saw them as savages to be tamed with riches to be taken. They brought death and disease and destruction to the natives. This book provides a good overview of why these explorations took place, what they found and the consequences of their discoveries. 

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, read by Angie, on 07/06/2014

A baby is discovered floating in a cello case after a shipwreck. She is taken home by Charles and raised as his daughter Sophie. Sophie and Charles are not conventional people. They eat off of books because Sophie breaks plates. Sophie wears trousers even though girls are supposed to wear dresses. Children’s services doesn’t always approve of Charles’s methods, but they leave Charles and Sophie alone until she turns 12. Then they decide it isn’t appropriate for a young girl to live with a non-relative. So Charles and Sophie escape to Paris to find her mother who Sophie believes is still alive. In Paris they are thwarted by the police but not discouraged. Then Sophie meets Matteo who lives on the rooftops and introduces her to a whole new world in the sky. She enlists his help in finding her mother. 

I was completely charmed by this book. The language is beautiful and lyrical and reads almost like poetry in some places. Sophie and Charles are not conventional, but they are interesting and unique. I really loved the world Rundell created both in England and on the Paris rooftops. I think the only criticism I have of the book is that I wish the ending would have been a little more fleshed out. I wanted to know more of the whys and the what happens nexts. Other than that it was a completely enjoyable read.

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

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal, read by Angie, on 07/06/2014

Nalia has been brought up believing she is the future queen of Thordaval. After she turns 16 she is informed that she is not in fact the princess, but an imposter who replaced the princess because of a horrible prophecy. So Nalia, now Sinda, is unceremoniously sent to the country to live with an aunt she has never met. She has to leave everything she has known and loved behind to start a life she is not prepared for. Her aunt tries to teach her dyeing, but Sinda has no talent for it. She does find out that she has magic however. The spell that made her into the princess repressed her magical abilities. She heads back to the capital to learn how to control her magic. Sinda is unable to get into the wizard college because she is not a member of the nobility, but does find a witch willing to teach her. While in the capital Sinda uncovers a plot against the throne. It seems the princess prophecy might be more than it seems and the new princess might not be the true princess. Sinda has to figure out who is behind the plot and why before things go too far. 

I really enjoyed this story. I actually read it in one gulp for the most part. I like the fact that it is a stand alone novel and I don’t have to wait years to find out how the story plays out which is so very rare these days. I thought Sinda was fascinating. She is really thrust into situations that are completely different from what she is used to all without warning. She does fairly well dealing with them, but like anyone there are issues. She pushes away her best friend Kiernan and trusts new friends who don’t deserve her trust. But she is determined to solve the mystery and she is willing to go to any lengths to do it. I would definitely recommend this one.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction

Archon by Lana Krumwiede, read by Angie, on 07/05/2014

Archon is the continuation of the Psi Chronicles that started in Freakling. Taemon has successfully gotten rid of psi in Deliverance and the community has fallen into chaos as people try to figure out how to live without psi and do things manually. Taemon learns that when he asked the Heart of the Earth to get rid of psi it left everyone except him. So not only did he destroy everything he kept power for himself. Taemon also discovers that his father has been taken over the mountain into the Republik. Taemon and Amma venture over the mountain and discover the Republik is building up an army of psi warriors to invade Deliverance. Taemon’s action hasten the invasion and he has to bring all the communities of Deliverance together to fight back the Republik.

For some reason this book took me forever to read. I got about half way through it and then put it away for several months. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t nearly as excited about it as I was the first book. I still like this world where people have mental abilities and thought it was interesting to see them figuring out how to live without them. I didn’t think it was ever fully explained how psi existed in the Republik when it was only supposed to be a part of Deliverance, but that is a minor issue which may be resolved in the next book. 

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present by John W. O'Malley S.J., read by Angie, on 07/04/2014

This book covers the history of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) from its inception to the present day pope. The history of the Jesuits is an interesting and controversial one. They were disbanded by the Catholic Church at one time and made many enemies throughout history. They also did a lot of good as their missions spread throughout the world and they opened thousands of schools and universities. The book is written by a Jesuit priest and his bias does show through. The Jesuits are never shown in anything but a positive light and their controversies are always glossed over. The book was interesting but I think a more unbiased look at the Jesuits would have been just as interesting if not more so. 

I received this book from Netgalley.

This is an excellent overview of the history of women serving in Congress. It begins with Jeannette Rankin in 1917 and goes through the present day roster of women in the House and the Senate. It’s interesting that the majority of the women who broke ground in Congress came into their positions through a husband or father dying. The congressman died and the women were able to fill the seat. I like the fact that the book also give the political and social background of what was happening at the time of each woman entering Congress. This book is very readable and entertaining. There is not a lot of information on the different congresswomen, but it is a good starting point. 

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp by Mary Cronk Farrell, read by Angie, on 07/02/2014

Pure Grit tells the story of the American nurses in the Philippines during WWII. These nurses join the Army and the Navy because there were a lot of opportunities, but they never expected to actually be part of the war. We are taught a lot about WWII and the battles that took place in Europe. Unfortunately, a lot of history books minimize the war in the Pacific, which was just as deadly as the European front. I had no idea that hours after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor they attacked the Philippines. I had no idea that American forces were forced to surrender and became prisoners of war. The nurses that were on the island were also forced to surrender and be placed in internment camps. The nurses continued to care for their patients both before and after the surrender with dwindling supplies of both medication and food. They agonized over leaving gravely injured patients to the mercies of the Japanese. Once the war was over the nurses received little to no recognition for their efforts and suffered life-long physical and mental disabilities. It wasn’t until recent years that their history has come to light and they have been recognized for their heroics. This was a very readable book, in fact it was hard to put down. The story is gripping and because it is true very moving. I would definitely recommend it. 

03. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, NonFiction, Science

Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love, and Language from the Insect World by Marlene Zuk, read by Angie, on 07/01/2014

Sex on Six Legs is a fascinating look at the world of insects. This book covers not only their reproduction but also communication, social systems and much more. Insects are the most numerous animals on the planet and their variety testifies to that fact. Zuk is obviously a big fan of the insect world and has a lot of knowledge about the studies that have taken place regarding insects. I found this book a lot more interesting than I thought I would. It is a great read, educational and entertaining.

01. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction · Tags:

Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin, read by Angie, on 06/30/2014

Little John is working with his father trimming trees for Mr. King during the summer. One day he hears the most amazing music. He discovers it is a little girl who sounds like a magical bird. She is an orphan living with Mrs. Cutlin whose property borders Mr. King’s. Gayle is just like a little bird, more comfortable in the nest she built in the tree than on the ground. Over the next few days Little John and Gayle become very close. Little John needs something good in his life. His family is not the same since the death of his little sister. His dad is drinking a lot and spending their rent money on booze. His mom still talks to the little sister Raelynn as if she is still alive. They are about to be evicted and have no where else to go. So when Mr. King offers John $500 to bring Gayle to his house and let him record her voice, John accepts. Mr. King is a bit creepy but John doesn’t think he would actually hurt Gayle. However, after he records her Gayle acts as if she has been wounded. She claims Mr. King stole her voice. There are a series of unfortunate events that leads to a horrible accident and the loss of the rent money. Little John has to make things right with his family and with Gayle.

I am still not sure what I think about this book. It was a very engaging story and one I really didn’t want to put down. However, it is based on a fairy tale I am unfamiliar with, which made the story a little more difficult to understand. Magical realism is also not my favorite genre. With that being said I think it is a magical little book that will definitely find fans.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Science Fiction

Smek for President! by Adam Rex, read by Angie, on 06/28/2014

Smek for President! is the sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday, a book I adored. I love the fact that J.Lo and Tip are back for another adventure. In this book, things have settled down on Earth now that the Gorg are gone and the Boov have moved one of Saturn’s moons. J.Lo is still a bit of an outcast as a Boov on Earth and he and Tip have not revealed how they actually saved the world. Dan Landry has taken all the credit and fame. J.Lo decides he needs to talk to Commander Smek and make things right. So he and Tip head for Saturn, but the trip doesn’t turn out like they thought it would. Turns out the Boov are having an election for High Boov and Commander Smek might not win. He throws J.Lo in jail and sends Tip on the run. Tip has to find J.Lo, free him, convince all the Boovs they are heroes not villains and not get killed by a mysterious masked Boov chasing them. She makes friends with Bill the Billboard and FunSize the garbage man, who help her along the way. This is a fun trip back into the world of the Boov. I find this series hilarious. J.Lo and Tip are a great team and pretty entertaining. I enjoy their interactions. This book also has some interesting thoughts on the democratic process, celebrity and the media. I’m not sure why more people aren’t reading Adam Rex but they really should.

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.

29. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel, read by Angie, on 06/28/2014

Becca Williamson is a singleton in a high school full of couples. She was dumped by her best friend when Huxley entered coupledom and now her new best friend Val wants nothing more than to be part of a couple. Becca’s sister was dumped on her wedding day and has entered a state of depressed hibernation. Becca fights against the world of couples by taking on the role of The Break-Up Artist. Through an anonymous persona online she will break up a couple if she is paid and she has a very high success rate. Her skills are challenged however when she is hired to break up Huxley and Steve, the golden couple of Ashland High. Things get even more complicated when she starts having feelings for Val’s new BF Ezra. Becca just might be in trouble herself on this one.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I thought the premise was interesting, but I found the story a bit unbelievable. I also thought it was exactly how a man would see teenage girls, knowing nothing about how they think or act or what their lives are like. Every single girl in this book wanted nothing more than to be with a boy. If you didn’t have a boy you were a social outcast. Once you had a boy you moved up the social ladder depending on who the boy was. It is seriously degrading to girls to think this has anything to do with reality. Sure some girls are boy crazy and obsessed with being in a couple, but not all girls and certainly not an entire high school of them. I also thought it was terrible the way Becca was portrayed. Sure she ends up fine in the end, but really the majority of the book she comes off as a bitter, jealous girl who isn’t a couple and can’t stand it. She even makes out with her best friend’s boy friend and thinks its ok. Maybe my feelings aren’t as mixed as I thought. I think this could have been a vastly different book if it had been written by a woman who had actually experienced life as a teenage girl. 

I got a copy of this book from Netgalley.

27. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Skies Like These by Tess Hilmo, read by Angie, on 06/26/2014

Jade is spending her summer in Wyoming with her aunt Elise who she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. She meets Roy Parker who styles himself as a true cowboy and a descendant of Butch Cassidy (real name Roy Parker). Roy’s family is going through some hard times since his father had to close his hardware store. Roy blames Kip Farley for all the troubles because he built a giant franchise store not far from the Parker’s store. Roy devises all kinds of schemes to get back at Farley; everything from fish heads hidden throughout the store to planning to sell his stuff on ebay to robbing the local bank (Roy only actually does the fish). Jade wants to be supportive of Roy, but isn’t comfortable breaking the law. All Jade’s previous summers have been quite, but this one is full of adventure and fun. 

I thought this was an excellent book about family and adventure and finding yourself. Both Jade and Roy go through transformations during their summer together. Jade loosens up a bit and learns that real adventure can be a lot of fun. Roy has to come to terms with his family situation and his heritage. The bonus with the book is that you also learn a lot about Butch Cassidy and star gazing. I think there is something for everyone here. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

25. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff, read by Angie, on 06/24/2014

Mila and her father are heading to the United States to visit his old friend Matthew. Before they leave they are informed that Matthew has disappeared. They take the trip anyway in the hopes of finding Matthew. Once they arrive seems are not what they seem. Matthew’s wife Suzanne doesn’t seem that concerned about his disappearance and their home seems like anything but a happy one. Mila and Gil head to upstate New York in their quest to find Matthew. What they discover there further changes their perception of the situation. Mila is good at noticing things other people don’t notice and she knows things are not what they seem. The more they learn the less they seem to know about what is really going on. 

This was a real page-turner. I enjoyed Mila as a character. She is very different than most people around her, but really well crafted. I liked her relationship with her parents and the fact that they really seemed to know each other. While her faith in what she knows might have been rocked a bit by the trip, Mila has a very strong foundation to fall back on. I thought the mystery of why Matthew disappeared was also very intriguing. This isn’t your typical who-dunit type of mystery, but more of an unraveling of a damaged person. While not all our questions are answered, the conclusion is very satisfying. 

24. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Teen Books · Tags:

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin, read by Angie, on 06/23/2014

Nicole Castro is a pretty, popular girl who seems to have it all. She is athletic, has a perfect boyfriend, has won a beauty contest, is smart. This all changes when someone throws acid in her face scarring her and ruining her perfect beauty. Nicole doesn’t see who throws the acid and seems to retreat into her home with her mom as her only companion. Jay Nazarro is coming back to school after a humiliating experience. Jay suffers from seizures and had a horrible one during a school assembly. Jay is super smart and a skilled hacker, but a bit of a loner and definitely from the poor side of town. Jay and Nicole meet in the counselor’s office and Jay becomes obsessed with figuring out who threw the acid. The police don’t seem to be making any headway so Jay thinks he can use his hacking skills to do better. Jay and Nicole start hanging out and become friends which pushes Jay even more to figure out the mystery.

This was a compelling read. Once the story really got started I didn’t want to put it down. The story is told from Jay’s point of view and he has a fantastic voice. I liked how much depth these characters had. I thought their friendship was pretty believable as was the reactions of those around them. We get additional glimpses into Nicole’s life through her diary entries and the notes from her psychiatrist. I thought the mystery of who actually threw the acid and why was also interesting. Looking back I can see the clues, but during the reveal it was a surprise. I like that there were twists and turns in the investigation that left the reader wandering what was really going on. I guess my only big complaint was a storyline that seemed to go nowhere. Nicole has a young friend who is dying in the hospital. She visits her and is upset when she dies. However, we never really learn who this girl is and what her connection to Nicole is. Seemed like a storyline with no point and pulled the reader from the real story taking place. I think it could have been eliminated with no issues to the plot. Other than that I really liked the book. 

23. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

The Body in the Woods by April Henry, read by Angie, on 06/21/2014

Alexis, Nick and Ruby are all volunteers with Portland Search and Rescue. They are out in the woods searching for a missing man when they discover a dead body. It isn’t just any dead body however, it is a murdered girl. And she isn’t the first murdered, homeless girl discovered in Portland. There is a serial killer on the loose stalking homeless girls throughout the city. Soon the three teens find themselves deeper and deeper into the case despite the warnings from the police and their parents. Turns out the killer might have taken an interest in one of the girls. Is it Alexis or Ruby? Can they figure out who the killer is before its too late?

This was a fun, fast read. I liked the search and rescue aspect of the story and the fact that teens really can volunteer for SAR groups. I thought the mystery was interesting and who the killer is isn’t revealed until late in the book. I think April Henry does a great job writing teen mysteries and while I liked Girl Stolen better, I did very much enjoy this one. 

23. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Autobiographies, Humor, NonFiction

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling, read by Angie, on 06/23/2014

I will admit to not watching The Office, but I have seen Mindy Kaling in interviews and other things and enjoyed her. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is an entertaining look at her rise through Hollywood and other aspects of her life. She narrates the audiobook herself and has a witty way of telling her story. The book is short and jumps topics quite a bit which does help keep your attention. No one topic is so long that it will bore you and some of the shorter ones are the funniest. I think Kaling fans will enjoy this book.