13. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery, Paranormal

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein , 416 pages, read by Lisa, on 01/12/2015

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

Description from Goodreads.com.

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 224 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/24/2014

They’re back! Except Princess Cimorene is now Queen Cimorene of the Enchanted Forest, and she is on a very important mission with Kazul the dragon king, Morwen the witch, Telemain the magician, two cats, and a blue, flying donkey-rabbit named Killer. It’s not going to be easy.

The wizards have become very smart (sort of) and have found a way to capture the most powerful source of magic in the Enchanted Forest — King Mendanbar’s sword. If the sword is not returned to the forest in due time, the forest will begin to die. And you can bet your last dragon scale that Cimorene won’t stand for that!

Description from Goodreads.com

06. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson, 304 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/12/2014

Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow’s princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academymasterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.

Description from Goodreads.com

19. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Lisa, NonFiction

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay, 320 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/11/2014

A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.

Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to becool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better. (from Goodreads.com)

19. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter, 318 pages, read by Lisa, on 12/04/2014

 In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren’t alone–they’re actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so… ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose’s name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family… before it’s too late. (from Goodreads.com)

18. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Teen Books

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, 366 pages, read by Lisa, on 11/18/2014

What if you live for the moment when life goes off the rails—and then one day there’s no one left to help you get it back on track?

Althea Carter and Oliver McKinley have been best friends since they were six; she’s the fist-fighting instigator to his peacemaker, the artist whose vision balances his scientific bent. Now, as their junior year of high school comes to a close, Althea has begun to want something more than just best-friendship. Oliver, for his part, simply wants life to go back to normal, but when he wakes up one morning with no memory of the past three weeks, he can’t deny any longer that something is seriously wrong with him. And then Althea makes the worst bad decision ever, and her relationship with Oliver is shattered. He leaves town for a clinical study in New York, resolving to repair whatever is broken in his brain, while she gets into her battered Camry and drives up the coast after him, determined to make up for what she’s done.

Their journey will take them from the rooftops, keg parties, and all-ages shows of their North Carolina hometown to the pool halls, punk houses, and hospitals of New York City before they once more stand together and face their chances. Set in the DIY, mix tape, and zine culture of the mid-1990s, Cristina Moracho’s whip-smart debut is an achingly real story about identity, illness, and love—and why bad decisions sometimes feel so good.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Lisa, NonFiction

He Has Shot the President by Don Brown, 64 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/29/2014

The headline that shocked the nation: President Lincoln Shot by Assassin John Wilkes Booth! One of the most exciting stories in American history told with full color illustrations.
The fifth installment in Don Brown’s Actual Times series featuring significant days in American history covers the Lincoln assassination and the ensuing manhunt. In He Has Shot the President! both Lincoln and Booth emerge as vivid characters, defined by the long and brutal Civil War, and set on a collision course toward tragedy. With his characteristic straightforward storytelling voice and dynamic water color illustration, Don Brown gives readers a chronological account of the events and also captures the emotion of the death of America’s greatest president.

30. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Searching For Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, 242 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/29/2014

Cimorene, the princess who refuses to be proper, meets her match in the not-quite-kingly Mendanbar. With the aid of a broken-down magic carpet and a leaky magical sword, the two tackle a series of dragon-nappings.

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman , 288 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/26/2014

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world.

But in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?

29. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa · Tags:

School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott, 304 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/16/2014

Who’s got time for hair curlers and high heels when you’re busy keeping baby turtles alive?

Chip has always been a tree-climbin’, fish-catchin’ daddy’s girl. When Daddy dies, Mama moves her and her sisters south to Grandma’s house and Chip struggles to find her place in a family full of beauty queens.

Just when she’s wishing for a sign from Daddy that her new life’s going to work, Chip discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. Could unusual pageant lessons and secrets be the key to making Chip’s wishes a reality?

Full of spirit, hope, and a hint of magic, this enchanting debut novel tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time?

22. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Lisa, Mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, 247 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/21/2014

When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she discovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

20. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa, Romance, Teen Books

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl, 261 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/17/2014

Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors–or suitors of any kind–in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There’s only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans.

14. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Horror, Lisa, Mystery

The Dreadful Revenge of Ernest Gallen by James Lincoln Collier, 240 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/13/2014

In the quiet town of Magnolia, someone is a’ haunting, making people do awfully weird things. Eugene knows because he’s being haunted, too. His friend Sonny’s dad walked right off of a building and fell to his death, and then another friend’s dad crashed his car into a tree. The same “specter” that was haunting them is inside Eugene, talking to him, telling him to do crazy things! Along with the help of their friend (conveniently, the daughter of the town’s newspaper editor) Eugene and Sonny pledge to get to the bottom of the haunting.  But not before uncovering a bigger mystery that will affect nearly every townsperson in sleepy little Magnolia…

11. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, 256 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/10/2014

“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.” —Harriet Tubman

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life—to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth—and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

08. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Magician's Boy by Susan Cooper , 112 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/07/2014

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

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

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

02. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

The Swap by Megan Shull, 400 pages, read by Lisa, on 10/01/2014

“YOU BE ME…AND I’LL BE YOU.”

ELLIE spent the summer before seventh grade getting dropped by her best friend since forever. JACK spent it training in “The Cage” with his tough-as-nails brothers and hard-to-please dad. By the time middle school starts, they’re both ready for a change. And just as Jack’s thinking girls have it so easy, Ellie’s wishing she could be anyone but herself.

Then, BAM! They swap lives—and bodies!

Now Jack’s fending off mean girls at sleepover parties while Ellie’s reigning as the Prince of Thatcher Middle School. As their crazy weekend races on—and their feelings for each other grow—Ellie and Jack begin to realize that maybe the best way to learn how to be yourself is to spend a little time being someone else.

01. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, History, Lisa, NonFiction

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, 416 pages, read by Lisa, on 09/30/2014

For readers of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

16. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Lisa, NonFiction, Self Help · Tags:

Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy, 225 pages, read by Lisa, on 09/15/2014

“FREE RANGE KIDS” has become a national movement, sparked by the incredible response to Lenore Skenazy’s piece about allowing her 9-year-old ride the subway alone in NYC. Parent groups argued about it, bloggers, blogged, spouses became uncivil with each other, and the media jumped all over it. A lot of parents today, Skenazy says, see no difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficult in your child’s everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up. We parents have to realize that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, 272 pages, read by Lisa, on 08/26/2014

An intriguing novel with a classic feel, featuring three vividly alive young sisters, an eccentric family struggling against the odds, and the slowly revealed story of a house with a past.

At the end of the world, near the border with Germany, stands a house as long as nine open arms. Half hidden behind trees and shrubs rises a wide brick wall, topped with two attic windows, each no bigger than a dishcloth. The walls have been whitewashed and the wooden floor is bare, as if the house is waiting. Waiting for someone to move in. 

It is the summer of 1937, and it hasn’t rained for seven weeks when Fing and her family of nine move into Nine Open Arms, along with their handcart of meagre belongings. ‘The Dad’ is a man who does all kinds of jobs and none of them well, while Oma Mei courageously holds everything together, including the family’s history in her Crocodile bag full of pictures and stories. But as the year progresses, the family just gets poorer.

Meanwhile, Fing and her two sisters, wild Muulke and fearful Jess, begin to discover strange mysteries…a bed that looks like a tombstone, and an unmarked grave in the cemetery.

Nine Open Arms is an exceptional imagined historical mystery – the story of a very special home, the eccentric families who have lived within it, and the unexpected ties that emerge between the two..

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Lisa

Sea-Cat and Dragon King by Angela Carter, Eva Tatcheva (Illustrator), 96 pages, read by Lisa, on 08/13/2014

This is a magical story of the love between mother and child and the gifts of kindness and understanding. Dragon King and Sea-Cat both live under the sea. Sea-Cat lives with his mother who sews him fabulous jewel-encrusted suits that shimmer and capture the attention of all who see him. Dragon King, the ruler, lives a sad and lonely life as he is so ashamed of his ugliness. When he sees Sea-Cat in his beautiful suit, he is overcome with jealousy and wants the suit for himself. But Sea-Cat is clever and kind and befriends Dragon King. Sea-Cat knows his mother can turn the Dragon King’s ruby tears into a most dazzling suit, just for him!