29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Apocalyptic, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell, read by Courtney, on 07/22/2014

Temple has been on her own for a long, long time. She’s been living on an island lately, but the season is changing and it’s only a matter of time before the will have to move on. The zombies will come. So Temple takes off. She starts off attempting to stay with an established community, but accidentally kills a man in the process of defending herself from his advances. She is then forced to flee before the other men retaliate. Temple decides it’s better to move on her own. She picks up a companion, a man with special needs that she finds and feels compelled to help care for. Together, they embark upon a journey that takes them across the American South. They’ll meet a variety of other people and groups who have all adapted (or not adapted, as the case may be) to this post-apocalyptic and unforgiving landscape. All the while, the brother of the man killed by Temple is determined to track her down to exact his version of justice.
This book was amazing, particularly for a zombie novel. I’ve read a fair amount of zombie-related fiction, but nothing has ever had quite the same emotional impact that this book had. Of course, it’s really not so much about the zombies in the first place. It’s definitely Temple’s story. Temple is tough, street-smart and has the soul of a poet. The book opens on a moment that captivates Temple and fills her with a sense of wonder. Moments later, she’s smashing in the head of a zombie with a large rock. She’s compassionate to an extent, but survival is her primary motivation. And then there’s the fact that this book starts years after the zombie infection has taken hold. Temple doesn’t know who her parents were, she’s never seen the inside of a school. She doesn’t know how to read. She does, however, know how to survive. There’s also a running theme of religious imagery that is both poetic and thought provoking, particularly since it shares space with a setting that seems almost entirely devoid of happiness and hope. Highly recommended.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Courtney, Teen Books

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock, read by Courtney, on 07/19/2014

Starbird Murphy has spent her entire life on the Free Family Farm, headquarters to one of the longest-running intentional communities in the country. Starbird has never used a cell phone, watched TV or attended school. When forces conspire to send Starbird off to the city to be a waitress at the Family’s restaurant, Starbird is less than thrilled. Everyone tells her that working in the restaurant must be her “calling”, but Starbird is certain that waitressing cannot possibly be considered a true “calling”. She has no desire to leave the Farm, even though it could provide an opportunity for her to reunite with her brother who has been “lost” to the community for years. She doesn’t really enjoy her current work with the chickens all the much either, but everything and nearly everyone she loves is on the Farm. Members of the Family don’t question the posts they’re assigned and they always embrace their calling, or, they didn’t until their leader, EARTH left on a mission three years prior and never returned. Now, the population of the Family is dwindling and it’s getting harder and harder to keep things afloat. When the boy Starbird is crushing on turns out to have his attention elsewhere, Starbird grudgingly agrees to go work at the restaurant. Following this path, however, means that Starbird will have to live in a city, go to a public school and even (gasp) handle money. Starbird is about to find out that not everything is as it seems; the Family has serious issues while the Outside may not be nearly as bad as the Family’s elders made it out to be.
I couldn’t help but be interested by the premise of this novel. I had recently seen a documentary about the Source Family and the parallels between the Free Family and the Source Family are striking: both had similar structures and values. Both were run by a charismatic man. Both attempted to keep themselves afloat by running organic restaurants in large cities. The primary difference between the two is time. The Source Family didn’t last much longer than a decade, while the Free Family has at least 3 generations of devotees. Starbird and her brother were born into the cult life and thus knew no other sort of life. Starbird does not, however, come across as terribly naive, as one might expect. She is devoted to her life within the Family, loves its leader and is suspicious of the world outside. Things are not perfect, even on the Farm, and Starbird is much like any other teenager when she’s around her mother and “siblings”. It is only once she is able to gain some distance (and get over extreme homesickness) that she is able to start seeing the cracks in the Family’s foundation. While the storyline is not surprising, Starbird’s journey is still fascinating and well-written. There is just enough world-building to make the Family seem like more than some silly cult, even it does turn out to be ethically questionable. No one is forced to stay against their will and the brainwashing is far more subtle than expected. Starbird fights assimilation for her first several weeks outside of the Farm, but eventually begins to accept friendship from outsiders. Readers will understand what is happening with the Family long before Starbird does, but watching her grow as a person is more than satisfying enough.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann, read by Courtney, on 07/14/2014

It’s hard to even know how to describe this graphic novel. It takes some of the cutest illustrations you’ve ever seen and turns them into something utterly chilling. A community of storybook-esque characters find themselves marooned in what appears to be a giant forest. The reader, of course, knows that the characters are actually tiny and have sprung from the head of young girl’s corpse. Because it’s that kind of story. Situations that would normally be adorable in a fairy tale setting wind up having unspeakable consequences and every turn of the page can yield either clever or maudlin humor. This juxtaposition makes for a totally engrossing experience than can really only be seen/read to be truly understood.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Jessica, Romance

Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels, read by Jessica, on 08/29/2014

81bvGuUpCML._SL1500_Wedding hook-ups never amount to anything.

Those who partake in this wicked little activity know the rules. Get in. Get laid. Get out. There’s no expectation of a relationship. It is what it is.

Dylan Sparks knows the rules. She’s familiar with the protocol. And she engages in the best sex of her life with a complete stranger at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.

Reese Carroll doesn’t care about the rules. He wants more than just one night with Dylan.

And Dylan finds him too addicting to pass up.

Sweet Addiction is the story of one woman’s struggle to keep things casual, and one man’s desire to never let her go.

29. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Torn by David Massey, read by Angie, on 08/28/2014

Ellie is a 19-year-old medic in the British Army on her first tour of Afghanistan. She is stationed at a remote outpost and must figure out how things work very quickly. This involves becoming one of the guys to the guys in her squad, dealing with the irrational commanding officer who happens to be the only other medic and woman and figuring out how to handle herself on patrols through hostile territory. On her first patrol she has to help a squad-mate who has stepped on an IED and she gets her first glimpse of the mysterious Aroush, a young Afghan girl who seems to show up when death is coming. On the next patrol the squad captures a young Afghan boy, Husna, who is a member of the Young Martyrs, a group of young boys who fight everyone from the Taliban to the Afghan security forces to the coalition forces. Ellie and Husna develop a friendship as she questions him to try and find out more about the Young Martyrs and a weapons cache they stumbled across. Then they set out into the mountains to find Husna’s village and the cache accompanied by a group of U.S. Navy Seals. But there is more to this mission then they are told and there is more to Aroush than anyone knows. 

There were parts of this book I really liked. I liked the story of a young, naive, inexperienced soldier trying to figure things out in a war zone. Ellie’s reactions to the things happening around her seemed very appropriate for the most part. I actually enjoyed the conspiracy theory aspect of the mission as well. I especially liked the story of Husna and his village and his friendship with Ellie. I even thought the slightly supernatural Aroush worked with the story. What I thought was completely unnecessary was the budding romance between Ellie and the Navy Seal Lieutenant. The book only takes place over the span of about a week so the fact that this romance was even included in the story seems a bit farfetched. Every time Ellie got all dopey-eyed over the hotness of Ben I rolled my eyes. She seriously thought about his hotness while they were out on patrol and the Taliban were following them…really! I think the book could have been much stronger without this romance plot.

28. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Kim, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Into the fire by Anne Stuart, read by Kim, on 08/27/2014

Determined to find the truth surrounding the mysterious death of her cousin Nate, Jamie Kincaid confronts Dillon, Nate’s darkly seductive best friend, to get answers, but when bizarre accidents begin to happen, Jamie wonders if Dillon is trying to hide something–or save her from being the next vict

28. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Paranormal, Short Stories · Tags:

Otherworld Nights by Kelley Armstrong, read by Angie, on 08/27/2014

This is a fabulous collection of short stories and a novella set in Armstrong’s otherworld universe. It has been a while since I read a lot of the books in this series so placing the stories and characters was something of a challenge at times. However, these stories reminded me of how much I enjoy the world Armstrong has created. 

I received this book through NetGalley.

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?

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.

28. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Judy, Science Fiction · Tags:

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, read by Judy, on 08/27/2014

When Fat Charlie’s dad named something, it stuck.  Like calling Fat Charlie “Fat Charlie”.  Even now, twenty years later, Charlie Nancy can’t shake that name, one of the many embarrassing “gifts” his father bestowed–before he dropped dead on a karaoke stage and ruined Fat Charlie’s life.

Mr. Nancy left Fat Charlie things.  Things like the tall, good-looking stranger who appears on Charlie’s doorstep, who appears to be the brother he never knew.   A brother as different from Charlie as night is from day, a brother who’s going to show Charlie how to lighten up and have a little fun . . . just like Dear Old Dad.   And all of a sudden, life starts getting very interesting for Fat Charlie.

Because, you see, Charlie’s dad wasn’t just any dad.  He was Anansi, a trickster god, the spider-god.   Anansi is the spirit of rebellion, able to overturn the social order, create wealth out of thin air, and baffle the devil.    Some said he could cheat even Death himself.

 

28. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Judy, Romance · Tags:

Fifty Shades Freed by E L James, read by Judy, on 08/20/2014

When unworldly student Anastasia Steele  first encounters the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey, it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably.  Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment.  Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all–love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future.   But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate.  Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity.  And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

28. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Judy, Romance · Tags:

Fifty Shades Darker by E L James, read by Judy, on 08/10/2014

Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented  young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with Seattle publishing house.

But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking though, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resit.  They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

28. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Judy, Romance · Tags:

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, read by Judy, on 08/04/2014

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.   The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him.  Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her too — but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates.  For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control.   When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

27. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Madeline, Thriller/Suspense

All Day and a Night by Alafair Burke, read by Madeline, on 08/15/2014

A murder case with ties to a convicted serial killer leads a young defense lawyer and an NYPD homicide detective into parallel investigations with explosive and deadly results in this superb mystery.

The latest story dominating the tabloids – the murder of psychotherapist Helen Brunswick-couldn’t be further from Carrie Blank’s world handling federal appeals at an elite Manhattan law firm. But then a hard-charging celebrity trial lawyer calls Carrie with an offer she can’t refuse: Anthony Amaro, the serial killer police blamed for the murder of Carrie’s older sister, Donna, has new evidence related to Brunswick’s murder that he believes can exonerate him. Determined to force the government to catch Donna’s real killer, Carrie takes on Amaro’s wrongful conviction claim. 

On the other side of Amaro’s case is NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, who, along with her partner, JJ Rogan, is tapped as the “fresh look” team to reassess the investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction. The case is personal for them, too: Ellie wonders whether they got the assignment because of her relationship with the lead prosecutor, and Rogan has his own reasons to distrust Amaro’s defense team. 

As the NYPD and Amaro’s lawyers search for certainty among years of conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie’s hometown and secrets left behind there. And when Carrie falls victim to a brutal attack, it becomes clear that the young attorney got too close to the truth.

downloadThis text provides a lot of basic information about the formation of the asylum in Fulton as well as present day status and everything in between.  Very informative if the reader is interested in some of the politics surrounding the state hospital throughout history.  Lael gives a lot of factual information, including patient statistics.  However, I feel that the book is lacking in one very important aspect: the lives of the patients who lived/live there.  In order to give an accurate history, this reviewer feels that conditions within the asylum should have been included, not just what was happening on the outside.  Though the author makes note of three patients who lived there, this is a very small and seemingly insignificant portion of the book.  An interesting read, but not what this reviewer was looking for.  So many of the treatments used were just glossed over or barely mentioned.  This is, then, truly only a PARTIAL history of this facility.

27. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Jane, Science Fiction, Teen Books

In The After by Demitria Lunetta, read by Jane, on 08/21/2014

They hear the most silent of footsteps.
They are faster than anything you’ve ever seen.
And They won’t stop chasing you…until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.

Rebellious, courageous, and tender, this unforgettable duo will have you on the edge of your seat as you tear through the pulse-pounding narrow escapes and horrifying twists of fate in this thrilling debut from author Demitria Lunetta.

27. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jane, Mystery

Sinister by Lisa Jackson, Nancy Bush, Rosalind Noonan, read by Jane, on 08/14/2014

A Killer’s Patience

Twenty years ago, a fire ravaged the Dillinger family’s old homestead, killing Judd Dillinger and crippling his girlfriend. Most people blamed a serial arsonist who’d been seen around town. But strange things are happening in Prairie Creek, Wyoming, again.

Will Be Rewarded

Ira Dillinger, the family’s wealthy patriarch, has summoned his children home for his upcoming wedding. Eldest son, Colton, and his siblings don’t approve of their father’s gold-digging bride-to-be. But someone is making his displeasure felt in terrifying ways, setting fires just like in the past. Only this time, there will be no survivors.

In Blood

As fear and distrust spread through Prairie Creek, soon all the Dillingers, and those closest to them, are targets–and suspects. A killer has been honing his skill, feeding his fury, and waiting for the moment when the Dillingers come home–to die. 

27. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Jane, Mystery

Remains of Innocence by J.A. Jance, read by Jane, on 08/07/2014

Sheriff Joanna Brady must solve two perplexing cases that may be tied together in New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance’s thrilling tale of suspense that brings to life Arizona’s Cochise County and the desert Southwest in all its beauty and mystery. 

An old woman, a hoarder, is dying of emphysema in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In cleaning out her house, her daughter, Liza Machett, discovers a fortune in hundred dollar bills hidden in the tall stacks of books and magazines that crowd every corner. 

Tracing the money’s origins will take Liza on a journey that will end in Cochise County, where Sheriff Joanna Brady is embroiled in a personal mystery of her own. A man she considers a family friend is found dead at the bottom of a hole in a limestone cavern near Bisbee. And now there is the mystery of Liza and the money. Are the two disparate cases connected? It’s up to Joanna to find out. 

While I think Malala’s story is an inspirational one I think this book was very poorly written. Malala is the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban and became an international icon for girl’s schooling. She and her father had both been very outspoken opponents to the Taliban’s closing of girl’s schools and the reduced opportunities for education for girls in Pakistan. After she was shot she was taken to England to receive treatment. I believe in her cause and think more people need to stand up to the Taliban as she does. However, this book was pretty hard to listen to. Maybe if I had read it instead of listening to the audio I might have been able to brush off the weaknesses of the text; however, listening to the story just highlighted how poorly written the book really was. The book is set up as her autobiography where she talks about her family history, her childhood, her fight for education and the aftermath of the shooting. Interspersed with that is a lot of Pakistan history and especially history of her beloved Swat Valley. The problem with this book was the lack of cohesive storytelling. It was almost like the co-author took notes as Malala was speaking and instead of putting those notes into a cohesive story she just typed them up verbatim. So the story jumps topics and is more of a stream of consciousness telling than anything else. It may or may not get back to the point or it just might start on another tangent and completely abandon original topic. And this stream of consciousness will be broken up as a part of Pakistan history has to be explained so the reader will understand where her opinion is coming from. Some of this may have been translation but I think most of it has to be the responsibility of the co-author Christina Lamb. I had high hopes for this story and was deeply disappointed. I would not recommend it. If you want to be inspired by Malala I would probably recommend finding some of the articles about her and reading those.

27. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, 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..