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: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready, read by Courtney, on 06/19/2014

David and Mara used to have a fairly ordinary life. Then, their older brother joined the armed forces and was killed. Now, the family is a complete mess. Over the course of their grieving, David’s parents first turn to the Evangelical Church for answers. It helps, to an extent. David is “saved” and his parents start to come out of their depression. David and Mara are taken out of the public schools and put into a religious homeschooling group. Over time, the church ceases to be enough for David’s parents and they find solace in a group that believes in the end of the world. Instead of calling it the “Rapture”, this new group calls it the “Rush” and claim to know exactly when it’s going to happen. David and his sister are dubious, but their parents appear completely convinced. As the date for the “Rush” draws nearer, David’s father becomes increasingly unhinged, speaking only in Bible verses. In the forty days before the “Rush”, David and his sister are asked to give up everything worldly to prepare for their salvation. Aside from not really believing that the end of the world is coming, David has some other problems with this situation. He’s a baseball star with college scouts following his every pitch. He’s got a girlfriend that he’s absolutely crazy about. In other words, he really doesn’t want to give up his entire life.
When the book opens, it is the night of the “Rush” and David and Mara have missed it. Instead of being at home with their parents on the night that they are supposed to be taken to Heaven, David and Mara have gone to an after-prom party and missed the deadline. When they return home, their parents are gone. No messages or notes. Their clothes laid on on the bed under the covers as though they had simply vanished. Needless to say, David and Mara are concerned. They don’t believed their parents have been “Rushed”, but something is clearly not right. Now they need to figure out what happened to their parents before word spreads that two teenagers are living by themselves.
The premise of this book is fascinating to me. I’m not a religious person, so it was interesting to see how a practitioner would view the world. Smith-Ready miraculously manages to keep this story from either glorifying or vilifying those of faith, but always remains critical of those who would use faith to achieve their own ends. I’m not 100% sold on the parents’ reaction to their eldest son’s death, but a catalyst was needed and grief is a powerful one. David and Mara make a great sibling team. David is a person of faith, while Mara is a skeptic who manages to play the part of a religious person to avoid confrontation with her parents. David’s girlfriend, Bailey, provides a great foil to David. Bailey is not religious either, but is curious and considerate when the topic of religion comes up, which happens frequently. I will admit that my brain fuzzed out a bit during the baseball-heavy portions of the book, but overall, this was a very engaging take on faith and religion. Would likely make a very good book club read.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Drama, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Pamela

Be careful what you wish for by Jeffrey Archer, read by Pamela, on 07/02/2014

cliftonWhen Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to take his place, but Don Pedro Martinez plans to install his puppet, the egregious Major Alex Fisher, so he can destroy the Barrington family firm once and for all. The talented Jessica Clifton, Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter, wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art and falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted and preparations for the nuptials are well under way, when Charlotte Bingham, Jessica’s future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice. But then, without warning, a man no one had ever heard of takes his place on the board of Barringtons and causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated. Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshire banker, quickly decides who he should support, Emma Clifton or Don Pedro Martinez, and the story takes yet another twist.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, read by Courtney, on 06/13/2014

The Midnight Dress is a gorgeously rendered tale of murder, friendship and sewing. When Rose arrives in Leonora with her father, she is not expecting to stay very long. She and her father have been driving around Australia in their RV for years, never staying in one place for very long. She grudgingly enrolls herself in the local high school and does her best to avoid everyone. She unwittingly winds up friends with Pearl Kelly, the lovely and gregarious girl who smells of “frangipani and coconut oil”. Rose is unaccustomed to having friends and her gruff demeanor is designed to keep it that way. Pearl has a way of getting under one’s skin though and, as the Harvest Festival draws nearer, Rose finds herself heading to the seamstress Pearl recommended to have a dress made. The seamstress is an elderly woman named Edie who lives in a giant, dilapidated house at the base of the mountain. She was once a dressmaker of some renown, but has since become regarded as a witch. Rose, in spite of herself, continues to come back, week after week to help Edie hand-stitch the beautiful midnight-blue dress that Rose will wear for the Harvest Festival parade. Through it all, however, the reader knows that one of these two girls will not survive the night of the Festival. Who, how and why remain a mystery.
Each chapter begins with a flashback showing a tiny portion of the fateful night, but the information is meted out so deliberately that the reader is driven to push on in order to find out how the pieces fit together. The rest of the story is told in a more linear fashion, but is no less mysterious. Pearl and Rose make such a wonderful pair. Pearl is sweetness, dreams and light. Rose is twilight, introspection and nature. Edie’s backstory expands the world inhabited by the girls. The landscape of their coastal Australian town is as much a character as any of the humans. While there’s nothing explicitly magical about this tale, there’s something about the writing that feels as though this might be magical realism. The narrative may move slowly, but this is not a novel to rush through. Readers who stick with it will be richly rewarded by the dazzling writing, vivid landscape, and memorable characters.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Romance

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, read by Courtney, on 06/07/2014

Clementine’s life is normal enough, even a bit boring. Then she meets Emma and everything changes. They are passionately in love. Then a mistake accidentally outs Clementine to her parents, which evidently makes everything fall apart. The next thing the reader knows; they are adults and one of them has died.
The first half of this graphic novel is beautiful. The illustrations are lovely. Then we get to the end and everything feels extremely rushed. The tragic death felt cheapened by being somewhat unbelievable (or was that just a translation issue? I can’t really tell). Overall, decent but not life-changing.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Multicultural Fiction, Teen Books

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, read by Courtney, on 06/07/2014

Sophie’s mother runs the only bonobo sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so vacations spent with her mother are anything but ordinary. On one of her excursions outside of the sanctuary, Sophie comes across a man with a baby bonobo in a cage. Seeing the poor physical state of the young bonobo, Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. She takes out her spending money and barters with the man. She arrives back at the sanctuary with a lighter wallet and a very ill baby bonobo who may not even survive without its mother. Sophie’s mother is infuriated as Sophie’s action likely prompted the man to poach more of the endangered species. A penitent Sophie is determined to be the best surrogate she possibly can be. Towards the end of her scheduled trip, her mother has to leave to take a group of bonobos to a release site upriver. Due to a variety of factors, the release cannot be delayed simply because Sophie’s flight is scheduled at the same time. Sophie doesn’t mind; it will give her that much more time to bond with the baby bonobo that she’s named Otto.
A few days after her mother leaves, civil war breaks out in Congo. The president has been killed and the resulting power vacuum has caused the UN to evacuate all westerners. Sophie is told she will be leaving early. When the UN van arrives, however, Sophie cannot bring herself to leave Otto and jumps from the van as it pulls away from the sanctuary. By the time she gets back, rebels have encroached on the sanctuary. Sophie manages to hide with Otto in an electrically-fenced enclosure. She’s temporarily safe from the rebels, but the adult bonobos are another story.
It quickly becomes evident that Sophie cannot stay, so she makes a daring escape and is followed by several of the adult bonobos from the enclosure. Together they make their way across the war-town countryside as they head for the release site where Sophie’s mother went. The journey takes Sophie across dozens of miles of the DRC. At every turn, Sophie is confronted with the realities of war: child soldiers, starving families, violent militia men, death, destruction.
Endangered excels because it focuses not just on the astonishingly-human bonobos (who share nearly 97% of our DNA) and their plight, but because it refuses to operate in a vacuum. The DRC is a country with a complicated history and is also home to the largest population of bonobos in the world. When a country with vast natural resources has been traditionally mismanaged by colonial powers, however, everyone loses. Sophie’s journey is harrowing, unexpected and strangely beautiful. The narrative moves quickly without sentimentalizing. Sophie is a relate-able main character; she often acts according to her heart, which opens the doors for consequences that are often surprising and formative. Readers will appreciate the swiftly-moving narrative that utilizes popular literary elements like survival and eluding armed militias and grounds them in a very real context. The ending ties up a bit too tidily and Sophie gets extremely lucky on more than one occasion, but these foibles can be easily overlooked. The rest of the story is totally solid though not for the faint of heart.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Courtney, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Teen Books

Morning Glories: Deluxe Collection, Volume 2 by Nick Spencer, et al, read by Courtney, on 06/05/2014

The hit, epic series about a sinister boarding school and the kids trapped there, trying to solve the mysteries of time and space – presented once again in a beautiful, oversized, deluxe hardcover format, with copious bonus material including sketches, character designs, cover galleries, and more.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Courtney, on 06/03/2014

I’m kind of feeling like E. Lockhart lulled me into a false sense of security with her more light-hearted previous novels. This one was devastating and I’m still kind of reeling from the final moments of the book.
Cadence Eastman Sinclair comes from an extremely wealthy family. The type that summers on a private island off the coast of New England. The type that plays tennis, owns pure-bred golden retrievers, and inherits mountains of money. These summers on the island are golden. Cadence and her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are joined by Johnny’s step-father’s nephew, Gat and all four are roughly the same age. They call themselves the Liars and set themselves apart from the rest of the family.
Something terrible happens the summer they are all 15, but Cadence can’t remember any of it. All she knows for certain is that she had some sort of head injury that leaves her with devastating migraines. Two years later, she finally returns to the island to find a lot of changes. The Liars are still there and they are very much the same as she remembers, but the main house has been rebuilt, the family tiptoes around the events of two summers ago, and the family’s patriarch is showing signs of Altzheimer’s. Cadence is determined to uncover the truth about that fateful summer, but no one wants to talk about it. Not even the Liars. Everyone wants Cadence to remember things on her own.
Gradually, the memories start coming back and Cadence is able to begin piecing together the events that have brought the family to this point. As it turns out, some things really are so painful that the brain will block them out. I don’t envy Cadence on any level.
This is one of those books with a surprise ending. Some readers may figure it out, but I wasn’t one of them. It completely caught me off guard and left my heart hurting. It’s a brilliant book with fantastic and intriguing characters, even if they’re not always likeable.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, NonFiction, Self Help · Tags:

Grieving the Death of a Mother by Harold Ivan Smith, read by Brian, on 07/07/2014

motherAnyone who has to deal with the death of their mother knows you never get over just deal with it a positive manner. Smith’s book is written in an honest and kind way.  I thought I was prepared for my mother’s passing but after she died I was fill with so many emotions my mind became a jumbled mess.  This book helped me realize my jumbled mess is normal and showed me how deal with the sorrow.

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. 

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas, read by Tracy, on 06/30/2014

In The Limehouse Text, Barker and Llewelyn discover a pawn ticket among the effects of Barker’s late assistant, leading them to London’s Chinese district, Limehouse. There they retrieve an innocent-looking book that proves to be a rare and secret text stolen from a Nanking monastery, containing lethal martial arts techniques forbidden to the West. With the political situation between the British Empire and Imperial China already unstable, the duo must not only track down a killer intent upon gaining the secret knowledge but also safeguard the text from a snarl of suspects with conflicting interests. 

Prowling through an underworld of opium dens, back-room blood sports, and sailors’ penny hangs while avoiding the wrath of the district’s powerful warlord, Mr. K’ing, Barker and Llewelyn take readers on a perilous tour through the mean streets of turn-of-the-century London.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense, Tracy · Tags:

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, read by Tracy, on 06/25/2014

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.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

A Likeness in Stone by Julia Wallis Martin, read by Tracy, on 06/20/2014

In the spellbinding tradition of Minette Walters and Ruth Rendell, author Julia Wallis Martin crafts an intelligent, atmospheric British suspense novel as engrossing as it is original.

An entire house, long submerged in the dark waters of a reservoir, unearths a starting find: the corpse of Helena Warner, an Oxford college student who disappeared twenty years earlier. For former homicide detective Bill Driver, it means the reopening of a case that, in his mind, was never really closed. And Driver thinks he knows who did it. But three of Helena’s friends– her cold former lover Ian Gilmore, her jealous best friend Joan Poole, and talented but institutionalized artist Richard Wachmann– conspire to keep a decades-old, deadly secret from seeing the light of day…all the while, a killer continues to strike again and again.

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Graphic Book, NonFiction, Tracy

The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tiwary, Philip Simon (Editor), Andrew C. Robinson (Illustrations), Kyle Baker (Illustrations), read by Tracy, on 06/14/2014

The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided The Beatles from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of “The Man Who Made The Beatles,” The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian himself died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, having helped The Beatles prove through “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that pop music could be an inspirational art form. He was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town.