05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Teen Books

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 by Jinsei Kataoka, 215 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/04/2014

A teen, Ganta Igarashi, finds himself the lone survivor of the mass slaughter of his middle-school classmates. He alone saw the “red man” that laid waste to his peers. Needless to say, he is utterly shocked when he is accused and then convicted of the crime of killing all of his classmates. In this version of the future, Tokyo was previously destroyed by a giant earthquake, leaving the country devastated both functionally and economically. Somehow this lead to the construction of the first-ever, for-profit prison, Deadman Wonderland. There, prisoners are forced to run deadly gauntlets and engage in fights to the death (or debilitation) with their fellow inmates, all for the entertainment of the masses. In essence, Deadman Wonderland is not just a prison, it’s a demented amusement park where the prisoners are the main attraction. Prisoners have no choice but to participate or they’ll be poisoned by the suicide collars around their necks. Only by earning enough CPs (company points)can the antidote be obtained. Ganta quickly finds himself fighting for his life.

This is a truly bizarre and violent manga series, but it’s equally engrossing. Sure, the setting requires some suspension of disbelief, but it never fails to simultaneously entertain and horrify. It gets bonus points for introducing the concept of Foucault’s panopticon to manga readers. Definitely one of the more original manga series I’ve come across in recent memory.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Teen Books

All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry, 274 pages, read by Courtney, on 11/03/2014

Before being taken from her home by the town’s resident war hero, Judith had a promising life. She had decent, respectable home life and the love of her life showed signs of reciprocating those feelings. Now, she is the town pariah. She was able to eventually return to her community after being held captive for a couple of years. No one knows what exactly happened to her and she can’t tell them either – her tongue was cut out by her captor. Another girl was taken as well, but she came back dead. The townsfolk assume all kinds of things about Judith – that she was raped or otherwise defiled and that her lack of speech equated to a lack of intelligence. Complicating matters is the fact that the man who kept her in his rustic and remote cabin is the father of the boy Judith loves, long presumed dead after his disappearance. Judith’s own father died during the long search for his missing daughter and her mother’s heart has hardened after both ordeals. Judith is considered bad luck; few will even make eye contact, let alone speak to her. When word comes that the Homelanders are mounting an attack, however, Judith takes matters into her own hands. The town is saved, but not without exposing some deadly secrets.
Julie Berry has written a genuinely unique variation on the traditional historical novel. The time and place are both unspecified, though the signs all point to Puritan New England. The narrative is decidedly different, being broken up into brief vignettes, all addressing the boy she loves. As her story continues and her world broadens, so too does the narrative. The reader will not know exactly what happened to her up in that cabin and is thus left to draw their own conclusions, much like the townspeople who presume the worst. Bit by bit, however, past and present are revealed and intertwined to expose some of the hard truths surrounding this small community. I personally found this novel to be dark but refreshing for its quirky structure and setting. My teen readers (we read this for our high school book group) were of dramatically varying opinions. Some despised the structure and narration while others enjoyed reading something that challenged them a bit. Either way, we definitely had an interesting discussion.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Crafts, How To's, Informational Book, Marsha, NonFiction · Tags: , ,

Creative Lettering and Beyond: Inspiring tips, techniques, and ideas for hand lettering your way to beautiful works of art by Gabri Joy Kirkendall, Laura Lavender, Julie Manwaring, Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn, 144 pages, read by Marsha, on 12/05/2014

download (1)This new addition to the library as of November 2014 is a wonderful book for any artist.  I could see the applications being used in mixed media art, art journaling, calligraphy, and so much more!  This book will get you started with basic pen paper and ink while later chapters add paint, chalk, and more! Illustrated lettering is also discussed with ideas for enhancing the first letter of a quote for phrase.  Includes instructions for making your own chalkboard as well as how to do some of the basics in a digital program such as Photoshop.  Creative Lettering and Beyond is not one to be missed by all types of crafters.  Write on!

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Humor, Marsha, NonFiction · Tags:

The Rules: A guide for people owned by cats by Max Thompson, 85 pages, read by Marsha, on 12/01/2014

downloadA cute book, but I feel the author could have used more hyperbole to add to the humor.  It seemed to be missing something and that is the only thing I could put my finger on.  It is a terrific idea, though.  And people really are owned by cats, not the other way around!  I think an expanded edition is in order!

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Hope Is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 12/04/2014

Star Mackie has just moved from Oregon to California. The kids at school make fun of her because she lives in a trailer park and has a blue mullet (even though she insists it is a layered cut!). Her sister Winter is going to an alternative school after being expelled from public school for writing violent stories. Star decides to start a club in order to make friends, but her first effort of the Trailer Park Club doesn’t go over so well. After a poetry lesson on Emily Dickinson, she decides to start an Emily Dickinson Club. Through the club Star finally starts making friends with brother and sister Genny and Denny and older boys Langston and Eddie. Star is also on the hunt for her father. She has only ever had one glimpse of him so she and Winter make a plan to visit him. The visit doesn’t turn out like they had hoped as several things are revealed during the visit that rock Star’s world.

Star Mackie is one of those characters that doesn’t come around that often. She comes from a loving family, but is poor and doesn’t make excuses for that. There is a lot of discussion on single-parent families, food banks, shopping at thrift stores and wearing hand-me-downs, and all the other things that go along with not having enough money. This isn’t a book with a lot of action or huge revelations, but it is a wonderful story. I really enjoyed Star’s journey through the book as she comes to terms with her family life and starts to make friends at school. This is a story about hope and dreams and how you have to work towards both.

Hope is a Ferris Wheel –
It takes you Low and High;
And when you reach the Top,
It’s like you can touch The Sky!
And when it takes you Down –
Hope becomes A Thing
That, When you’re getting Off,
You take With you to Bring.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick, 184 pages, read by Angie, on 12/03/2014

Zane is visiting his great grandmother in New Orleans when Katrina hits the city. He and Miss Trissy and his dog Bandy are being evacuated when Bandy leaps out of the van and heads back to Miss Trissy’s house. Of course Zane follows his beloved dog and ends up in the Ninth Ward at the worst possible time. The flood waters send him to the attic without food and water. Fortunately, he is rescued by musician Tru and his ward Malvina. They navigate the flood waters in search of supplies and shelter evading drug dealers, private security and looters. They end up at several shelters including the Superdome before trying to get out of the city.

This is an excellent look at what it was like in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Philbrick doesn’t shy away from the horrible details like bodies in the flood waters and the dangers the survivors faced. I really enjoyed Zane and his companions journey through the flood. I liked the look at the different neighborhoods of the Big Easy and how they responded to the disaster. I did think it was a little unlikely that a big time drug dealer would care so much about a little girl like Malvina to come after her in the flood, but it added an additional element of risk to their story.

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

Crown of the Cowibbean by Mike Litwin, 140 pages, read by Angie, on 12/03/2014

Chuck and Dakota are off on their second adventure. This time they stow away on Marco Pollo’s ship the Swashbuckler in search of the Coral Crown. They are pursued by catfish Kingfisher who wants the crown for himself. Another fun adventure for new chapter book readers. Dakota and Chuck are really cute characters and their adventures are fun ones kids will enjoy.

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

Lost in Bermooda by Mike Litwin, 140 pages, read by Angie, on 12/03/2014

Chuck Porter wants nothing more than adventure. Unfortunately, his island home of Bermooda offers none. The hu’mans are gone and all the treasures from their time in the world are collected. Then he finds Dakota marooned on a sandbar. Dakota is one of the dreaded hu’mans. Chuck is determined to help his new friend so he disguises him as a cow, one from the sea, and brings him home as a guest. Everything is not alright on Bermooda however and it is up to Chuck and Dakota to figure it out and stop it before it is too late. This was a really cute beginning chapter book. It will be a nice transition series between easy readers and more complex chapter books.

05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue Book 3 of the Raven Boys Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, 391 pages, read by Kira, on 12/01/2014

RavenBoys3_2_jktraven-cycle-tarots

Maggie Stiefvater hits another out of the stadium!  Wow, this book is so much better than the last title I read by Stiefvater – that being Sinner.  Stiefvater creates so much atmosphere and the setting itself is sort of alive.

Blue’s mother, Maura, is missing, she went underground looking for Artemis (Blue’s father), but hasn’t returned for weeks.  The Professor from Britain, whom Gansey studied with, has joined the boys on their hu
nt for Glendower.  Gray Man’s boss, Greenmantle comes to town, along with his wife Piper, looking for vengeance against Gray abandoning the job he was supposed to complete for him (in the last book).  Adam and Ronan work together on a project.  And where is Neve?

I thought this might be the conclusion to the series, however, the epilogue lets you know differently.  I’m so glad there will be more to this series!

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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.

04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Marie Antoinette Serial Killer by Katie Alender, 296 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/30/2014

16139598 Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger . . .

I enjoyed this story more than I thought I might.  A definite first for me, bringing back the ghost of a queen to take revenge on the descendants of those she thought of as friends.  While they did not exist in her real life, it makes for a great storyline.  Definitely will appeal to girls more than it will to boys, not enough blood and gore to make up for the definite female storyline!

04. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Leslie

Sidekicked by John David Anderson, 384 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/24/2014

16248141 Andrew Bean might be a part of H.E.R.O., a secret organization for the training of superhero sidekicks, but that doesn’t mean that life is all leaping tall buildings in single bounds. First, there’s Drew’s power: Possessed of super senses – his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet – he’s literally the most sensitive kid in school. There’s his superhero mentor, a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than he does fighting crime. And then there’s his best friend, Jenna – their friendship would be complicated enough if she weren’t able to throw a Volkswagen the length of a city block. Add in trying to keep his sidekick life a secret from everyone, including his parents, and the truth is clear: Middle school is a drag even with superpowers.

Of all the superpowers you could ask for, enhanced senses would not be among them.  Drew not only has, in his opinion, the worst superpower you could ask for, but he finds himself assigned to be the sidekick of a super hero who no longer wants to be a super hero.  He and his friends are all sidekicks for super heroes, and they train at school in a secret basement during lunch periods.  Their city seems to be a magnet for evil super powers and it’s up to him and his friends to try and figure out what is going on.  However, there is a traitor in their midst and none of them are safe.  I can see that boys might find this appealing more than girls, but there is plenty of attraction for the girls to pick this up and read it.

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Inhuman by Kat Falls, 375 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/16/2014

13517617 America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.

Lane is a typical teenage girl, lots of friends, worried about school and peer pressure.  She and her friends don’t think too much about what’s on the other side of the wall that surrounds their half of the country, but when she is arrested after helping her friends send a drone camera over the wall, she thinks, she learns more about the other side than she ever thought she would.  All her life, her father has trained her how to survive, without explaining why.  After being told that he has been arrested for going through the wall and given the option to go on a mission to save him, she knows why she was trained.  Things are not as she imagined on the other side of the country and she finds herself torn between two boys, one with connections and one with street smarts.  A good start to a series, both boys and girls will find themselves enjoying this story.

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Rapunzel Untangled by Cindy C. Bennett, 294 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/06/2014

16225157 For one thing, she has a serious illness that keeps her inside the mysterious Gothel Mansion. And for another, her hair is 15 feet long. Not to mention that she’s also the key to ultimately saving the world from certain destruction. But then she meets a boy named Fane, who changes all she has ever known, and she decides to risk everything familiar to find out who she really is.

In this Rapunzel story, the author approaches it as if there was never a fairy tale, at least from the characters’ view.  Rapunzel has the long hair, she is kept isolated from the world, and she is, unknown to her, a kidnap victim.  Rapunzel is home schooled because of a supposed illness, but she has the Internet to connect herself to the outside world.  She finds herself investigating FaceBook and ends up friending Fane, a boy her own age.  Without any friends, this proves too tempting to her to resist.  As Rapunzel begins to question her loneliness and her life up to this point, she learns more about her mother than she could have ever imagined.  After a while, her luck in keeping her mother in the dark, runs out.

A definite winner for girls to read, it is different enough to keep the reader engrossed.  A good read to recommend.

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Leslie, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Tandem by Anna Jarzab, 431 pages, read by Leslie, on 11/01/2014

15829686  Sixteen-year-old Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather’s stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real–until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.

If you’ve ever spent time wondering if there was a parallel universe and you might have a better life, this might be the book for you.  Sasha is taken to a universe that isn’t quite the same as the one she lives in.  She is a match in looks to a princess in this other world, but it’s nothing like she could have imagined.  Sasha spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to get home again but finds herself caring for some of the people she meets, including the boy who kidnapped her.  A thoroughly enjoyable story, very imaginative and appealing.

03. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin, 288 pages, read by Angie, on 12/02/2014

It is 1952, the height of the polio epidemic, Franny is 11-years-old and suffering from polio. She is confined to a wheelchair and all her friends have abandoned her. She is bored and lonely and frustrated until she starts receiving notes from Fleabrain. Fleabrain is the only surviving flea on Alf the dog. He is super intellectual and a voracious reader. Fleabrain becomes Franny’s only source of entertainment during her recovery. Fleabrain also has magical powers and is able to shrink Franny or take her around the world during the night.

This was probably one of the worst books I have read in a long time. I pretty much disliked the story from the beginning. I kept waiting for the Fleabrain storyline to be part of a dream or Franny’s imagination or something. The fact that it was treated as real just made the story so very unbelievable. I think a book about a young girl suffering from polio and everything she had to deal with would have been really interesting on its own and something we haven’t really seen in middle grade fiction. However, the entire flea storyline just ruined the entire book.

02. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Dystopia, Fiction, Kristy, Science Fiction, Teen Books

Specials by Scott Westerfeld , 384 pages, read by Kristy, on 11/28/2014

24765I greatly enjoyed the last book in the Uglies Trilogy. I love how Tally transforms in each book, and seeing her as a fierce and beautiful Special was intriguing. The end of the book wrapped up the series quite nicely. I can’t believe I waited so long to read these books! They are definitely one of my favorite dystopian series to date.

02. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, NonFiction, Paula

Heath Ledger Hollywood's Dark Star by Brian Bobb, 207 pages, read by Paula, on 11/30/2014

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Heath Ledger was one of the most charismatic actors of his generation. After establishing a high-profile Hollywood career at the age of 21 with the lead in A Knight’s Tale, Ledger pursued a series of increasingly diverse, often subversive roles that belied his image as a teen idol. Edgier films such as Monster’s Ball gave tantalizing hints of his talent, but it wasn’t until Brokeback Mountain that he proved beyond question the full extent of his abilities. His sudden death rocked the film industry and threw a poignant shadow over the body of work that has now become his legacy. Here, Brian J. Robb explores Ledger’s relationships with actresses Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts, and Heather Graham, recounts the making of Brokeback Mountain and the film’s impact, and charts Ledger’s increasingly troubled state of mind. Heath Ledger: Hollywood’s Dark Star paints a memorable portrait of a compelling and intense young man whose loss will be felt for years to come.

Heath Ledger is far and away my favorite actor of his generation.  I was devastated when he died almost 7 years ago.  I still cry when I think about it.  An amazing talent gone far too soon.

01. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell, 295 pages, read by Tracy, on 11/28/2014

Olivia Greyson is the proud owner of The Gingerbread House—a quaint shop that specializes in all things cookie—and her best friend, Maddie, is her sidekick, baking up scrumptious treats for their cookie-themed parties. But now they must take a break from baking and turn their attention to recreating a recipe for murder…

No one is more shocked than Olivia when prominent business owner Clarisse Chamberlain is found dead. It was Clarisse who encouraged Olivia to open The Gingerbread House—and she was one of her best customers. The sheriff is ready to call the case a suicide, but Olivia’s convinced there’s a murder to solve.

Then word spreads that Clarisse left Olivia a large sum of money, along with a collection of valuable, antique cookie cutters. Suddenly, Olivia is the prime suspect, with some fingers pointing to Maddie when the local postman falls ill after sampling one of their cookies. If the cookie-loving duo doesn’t find the real killer, their reputation—and quite possibly their lives—will be battered for good…