04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Noelle

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, 315 pages, read by Noelle, on 12/02/2014

I wanted to see what all the hype was about this book, and I was certainly not disappointed.  It is now one of my all time favorite chapter books!  If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

“Wonder is the best kids’ book of the year,” said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” –indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Children's Books, Fiction, Noelle · Tags:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, 305 pages, read by Noelle, on 12/03/2014

This was one of those children’s books I meant to read when it came out, and just hadn’t gotten around to it.  In enjoyed it, but be warned:  if your heart is tender towards animals, be prepared to shed a few tears with this one!

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home–and his own art–through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

26. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Drama, Fiction, Noelle

Sleepwalking by Meg Wolitzer, 215 pages, read by Noelle, on 11/23/2014

So, I like Meg Wolitzer and thought I’d give her first novel a go.

Published when she was only twenty-three and written while she was a student at Brown, Sleepwalking marks the beginning of Meg Wolitzer’s acclaimed career.  Filled with her usual wisdom, compassion and insight, Sleepwalking tells the story of the three notorious “death girls,” so called on the Swarthmore campus because they dress in black and are each absorbed in the work and suicide of a different poet: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Wolitzer’s creation Lucy Asher, a gifted writer who drowned herself at twenty-four.  At night the death girls gather in a candlelit room to read their heroines’ work aloud.

But an affair with Julian, an upperclassman, pushes sensitive , struggling Claire Danziger—she of the Lucy Asher obsession-–to consider to what degree her “death girl” identity is really who she is.  As she grapples with her feelings for Julian, her own understanding of herself and her past begins to shift uncomfortably and even disturbingly. Finally, Claire takes drastic measures to confront the facts about herself that she has been avoiding for years.

25. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Noelle, NonFiction, Science

The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood, 349 pages, read by Noelle, on 11/20/2014

Prone to existential depressive episodes related to identity?  Me too!  Feel like delving further into such quandaries?  If you answered, “Why not?”, then read this book!  I personally find it exciting/ weirdly comforting when science challenges traditional Western thought.

Summary from Publisher:  Most of us believe that we are unique and coherent individuals, but are we? The idea of a “self” has existed ever since humans began to live in groups and become sociable. Those who embrace the self as an individual in the West, or a member of the group in the East, feel fulfilled and purposeful. This experience seems incredibly real but a wealth of recent scientific evidence reveals that this notion of the independent, coherent self is an illusion – it is not what it seems. Reality as we perceive it is not something that objectively exists, but something that our brains construct from moment to moment, interpreting, summarizing, and substituting information along the way. Like a science fiction movie, we are living in a matrix that is our mind.
In The Self Illusion, Dr. Bruce Hood reveals how the self emerges during childhood and how the architecture of the developing brain enables us to become social animals dependent on each other. He explains that self is the product of our relationships and interactions with others, and it exists only in our brains. The author argues, however, that though the self is an illusion, it is one that humans cannot live without.
But things are changing as our technology develops and shapes society. The social bonds and relationships that used to take time and effort to form are now undergoing a revolution as we start to put our self online. Social networking activities such as blogging, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter threaten to change the way we behave. Social networking is fast becoming socialization on steroids. The speed and ease at which we can form alliances and relationships is outstripping the same selection processes that shaped our self prior to the internet era. This book ventures into unchartered territory to explain how the idea of the self will never be the same again in the online social world.

25. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle, Paranormal

Rooms by Lauren Oliver, 320 pages, read by Noelle, on 11/06/2014

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family, bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna, have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls.

28. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, 396 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/28/2014

So, once I realized that the secret would not be revealed in the first few chapters, I was entirely too impatient to wait.  I’m not proud, but I looked up “the secret” online.   I was worried it would be one of those books where the secret was NEVER revealed and I just couldn’t take it any more.  Of course, soon after I looked it up, it was revealed in the book.  So, if you decide to read this, you might want to be a tad more patient than I was.  The secret IS revealed a little less than halfway through.

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

 

25. October 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Horror, Noelle, Paranormal

Sunshine by Robin McKinley, 416 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/17/2014

There are places in the world where darkness rules, where it’s unwise to walk. Sunshine knew that. But there hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years, and she needed a place to be alone for a while.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t alone. She never heard them coming. Of course you don’t, when they’re vampires.

They took her clothes and sneakers. They dressed her in a long red gown. And they shackled her to the wall of an abandoned mansion–within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight.

She knows that he is a vampire. She knows that she’s to be his dinner and that when he is finished with her, she will be dead. Yet, as dawn breaks, she finds that he has not attempted to harm her. And now it is he who needs her to help him survive the day.

25. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Humor, Informational Book, Inspirational, Noelle, NonFiction

Bossypants by Tina Fey, 277 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/04/2014

LOVED THIS BOOK!

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

25. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Noelle

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff, 264 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/07/2014

AWESOMELY FUN CHILDREN’S BOOK!
In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone’s joke.nbsp;But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship–and a cheeky sense of humor–he just might triumph in the end.

30. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror, Noelle

The facts in the case of the departure of Miss Finch by Neil Gaiman, 51 pages, read by Noelle, on 09/18/2014

Come, come and hear of the strange and terrible tale of Miss Finch, an exacting woman befallen by mystery and abduction deep under the streets of London! New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivers another stunning hardcover graphic novel with longtime collaborator Michael Zulli (Creatures of the Night, The Sandman). This is the first comics adaptation of his popular story “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch,” which saw print only in the U.K. edition of Gaiman’s award-winning work Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions and was recently interpreted for his Speaking in Tongues CD. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a “mostly true story” that combines the author’s trademark magic realism with Zulli’s sumptuous paintings, and has been newly rewritten for this hardcover. Join a group of friends, with the stern Miss Finch in tow, as they enter musty caverns for a subterranean circus spectacle called “The Theatre of Night’s Dreaming.” Come inside, get out of the pounding rain, and witness this strange world of vampires, ringmasters, illusions and the Cabinet of Wishes Fulfill’d.

30. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle, Paranormal

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, 406 pages, read by Noelle, on 09/26/2014

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers-with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another. They are twenty. .

The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building’s other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin’s devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt’s neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including-perhaps-their aunt, who can’t seem to leave her old apartment and life behind..

Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life-even after death..

12. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Noelle · Tags:

Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, 306 pages, read by Noelle, on 09/09/2014

“The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls–the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie”

12. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Noelle, NonFiction

The Carb Sensitivity Program by Dr. Natasha Turner, 472 pages, read by Noelle, on 09/02/2014

My doctor prescribed a low carb diet and this was one of the books I picked up to learn more about it.   The main thing I garnered from the book was that some incredibly lucky people with incredibly efficient endocrine systems can eat carbs all the livelong day without negative side effects.  However, the vast majority of us are not that lucky.  And I am included in the vast majority, making the book depressing.    I feel like her system of going incredibly low carb and then slowly testing out various kinds of carbs to see how sensitive you are is great in theory, but difficult to follow.  Her program is incredibly detailed and restrictive.  I feel I could be successful at this if I was wealthy enough to hire a private chef, or retired with absolutely nothing else to dedicate my life to but food preparation.

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Noelle

All I Love and Know by Judith Frank, 422 pages, read by Noelle, on 08/28/2014

Absolutely fantastic.  I give this book a starred review- Noelle

With the storytelling power of Wally Lamb and the emotional fidelity of Lorrie Moore, this is the searing drama of an American family on the brink of dissolution, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found.

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.

The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children’s guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. What is Matt’s place in an extended family that does not completely accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made? How do Daniel’s complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother’s death? And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?

The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways. How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed? And are there limits to honesty or commitment–or love?

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel by Alice Hoffman, 368 pages, read by Noelle, on 08/14/2014

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

30. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, 335 pages, read by Noelle, on 07/29/2014

A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

 

22. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Mystery, Noelle, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, 227 pages, read by Noelle, on 07/16/2014

Each summer the wealthy, seemingly perfect Sinclair family meets on their private island. Cadence, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat are a unit, especially during “summer 15,” marking their fifteenth year on Beechwood– the summer that Cady and Gat fall in love. Cady became involved in a mysterious accident, in which she sustained a blow to the head, and now suffers from debilitating migraines and memory loss. When she returns to Beechwood during summer 17 issues of guilt and blame, love and truth all come into play.

 

22. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Noelle, Science Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy, 457 pages, read by Noelle, on 07/03/2014

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

13. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Noelle, Teen Books

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams, 234 pages, read by Noelle, on 06/13/2014

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters. That is, without questioning it much—if you don’t count her visits to the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her secret meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her sixty-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—she must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, 546 pages, read by Noelle, on 05/27/2014

I swear I’m not trying to read all of the books from Oprah’s club, it just so happens to be working out that way recently.  I loved this book, and I particularly loved the character Adah’s narration.

In 1959, Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist, takes his four young daughters, his wife, and his mission to the Belgian Congo — a place, he is sure, where he can save needy souls. But the seeds they plant bloom in tragic ways within this complex culture. Set against one of the most dramatic political events of the twentieth century — the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium and its devastating consequences — here is New York Times-bestselling author Barbara Kingslover’s beautiful, heartbreaking, and unforgettable epic that chronicles the disintegration of family and a nation.