12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Tammy, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt, read by Tammy, on 10/05/2014

secret historyThe story of a group of eccentric college students who fall under the spell of their charismatic professor. They seek to learn profound truths from the classics especially the Greeks. But one experiment into ancient Greek traditions goes awry and they learn how easy it is to kill.

Told from the viewpoint of a new student in the classic who learns of the event afterwards and shares how the moral and ethically decisions the group makes from that point on affected the rest of their lives.

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Mystery

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald , read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Theodora Tenpenny is not having a good summer. Her grandfather Jack died in a freak accident and she is left caring for her reclusive mother and their aging house. When Jack was alive they were just scraping by with his salary from the Museum of Modern Art, but now they have no income and very little left to live on. She makes due with food from her garden and treasures she finds around New York. Jack was an artist and when he died told Theo to look for a treasure under the egg. Their is a painting of an egg in the house and Theo is obsessed with finding the treasure. One day she spills alcohol on the painting and finds another painting underneath. This painting looks old and probably stolen. Theo spends the rest of the summer trying to figure out if the painting is really a lost Raphael and how Jack ended up with it. She finds help throughout the city from a variety of people including the daughter of two actors, a priest, a fun librarian, and a guy selling nuts on the street. Turns out the painting has an amazing back story.

I have become kind of obsessed with the Nazi art looting of Europe and the Monuments Men story in the last year or so. This book really brought that obsession to life in a wonderful middle grade novel. I loved Theo and her determination and resilience. She is a fabulous character who is stuck at the beginning of the novel. Throughout the book she becomes more and more unstuck as she meets wonderful, helpful people around the city and realizes she is not alone. The thing I liked best about the book was the fact that the mystery of the painting was believable. So many mysteries for kids take a huge leap of faith on the part of the reader and this one did not. Sure there was a huge coincidence at the end, but the rest of it made sense. I highly recommend this one. Loved it!

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Sunny Sweet Is So Dead Meat by Jennifer Ann Mann, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Masha and Sunny are back in their second adventure. This time it is a trip to the science fair where it turns out Masha is Sunny’s project. The project involves red dye exploding all over Masha and observing how people treat her once she looks different. Masha of course is not happy about this at all. The day ends up with Masha sneaking through the school and meeting Batman and Robin, Masha and Sunny taking the wrong bus home and ending up at a graveyard, Masha getting lost in the graveyard and falling into an open grave, and of course Sunny winning the science fair. I really enjoy these stories. While you do have to suspend a bit of belief to believe a six-year-old could accomplish everything Sunny does the interaction between Masha and Sunny are very true to life. Little sisters can be annoying but you do love and support them…even if they spray you with red dye!

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

Susan Marcus Bends the Rules by Jane Cutler, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Susan Marcus is leaving New York and heading to St. Louis, Missouri. It is 1943 and the family is moving so her dad can start a new job. Living in St. Louis is much different than New York. Susan has a hard time accepting the Jim Crow laws of Missouri. She doesn’t like the fact that her new friend Loretta can’t go to the movies, the swimming pool or to restaurants just because she is black. Susan, Loretta and Marlene concoct a plan to fight Jim Crow when they realize that public transportation is not segregated.

I like the fact that this book is set in Missouri and it was interesting to read about the Jim Crow laws that affected this state. Most historical fiction dealing with this time period is set in the South not the Midwest so this is a new and different perspective. I think Susan’s confusion over the difference between New York and St. Louis came off completely realistic. I am sure there were a lot of kids who didn’t really see color if they didn’t grow up being told to notice it. It is a nice message for kids today. However, I did have a couple of issues with this book. There is a lot packed into this very short novel, yet strangely not enough. A lot of the book is taken up with the Jim Crow laws and the issues facing people who are not white. Very little is actually mentioned about the war and the rationing and how this affects every day life. There are a few instances, but you would have thought it would have more of an impact on the characters. I also truly hate the cover of this book and think it will turn kids off. I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover but we all do and this one looks too old fashioned for kids today.

12. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction · Tags:

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

This is a very nice beginning chapter book that teaches kids about Eastern philosophy without them even really knowing it. Isabel is the best bunjitsu bunny and each chapter of this little book teaches a different lesson. While each chapter is about Isabel they are all independent stories and don’t need to be read in order. Isabel is a wise bunny who shares many lessons she has learned through bunjitsu with the readers and the other characters in the book. It is a nice lesson on sharing and thinking of others and doing your best. Lots of white space and illustrations and short chapters so even the youngest readers can handle this one.

11. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction

Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe, read by Angie, on 10/11/2014

Ashara is a place ruled by magic. The powerful kasiri wield the magic and have all the power. The magicless halani are relegated to subservient positions and living in slums. Marah Levi is a 14 year old halani girl who dreams of a better life. She wants to study music in secondary school, but she also has a passion for books and languages. It is through her love of obscure languages that she meets Azariah a kasiri boy who also enjoys languages. Together they start exploring ancient books in a forgotten language. All the while a plague starts ravaging their city. The plague turns people’s eyes black and kills them. So far no cure has been found and the powerful kasiri government doesn’t seem to be doing much about it. Marah and Azariah stumble upon the cure and the cause of the plague in the book they are studying. Together they set out to create the cure and save those they love.

This is an interesting book. Because it is set in another land with magic it is able to make quite a few comments on racism and elitist governments. It is pretty heavy stuff for a middle grade book. The kasiri are the minority in Ashara, but wield all the power over the halani. Anytime the halani try to stand up for themselves they are labeled subversive and either killed or sent to prison. It is very reminiscent of some places and periods of history in our own world. I enjoyed the story and the quest Marah and Azariah take in order to figure out the cure for the black eyes plague but at times I felt the story almost took a backseat to the political/social commentary. I am sure a lot of that message will go over the heads of the intended readers so I wish the story would have been just a bit stronger.

11. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Melody, Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Stay by Karyn Lawrence, read by Melody, on 10/11/2014

A gunshot rings out and interrupts Laurel Hayward’s first steps on stage as a professional dancer, and witnessing an assassination is just the beginning of her horrific night. The ruthless killer is determined to either have her or to silence her, landing Laurel in the protective custody of Deputy U.S. Marshal Jason Dunn.

His cocky, indifferent attitude gets under her skin, but worse yet, there’s undeniable attraction. Jason can claim he’s not interested in her all he wants but once he’s got her tucked away in a safe house his actions say otherwise.

She needs his help to stay alive and he needs her to catch the killer that has eluded him for years. Forced together and on the run, the attraction flares out of control and develops into more just as the obsessed killer comes for Laurel . . . and threatens to destroy everything.

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

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

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

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

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, NonFiction, Sports · Tags:

100 Things Kansas Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Ken Davis, read by Brian, on 10/08/2014

heedAnother book about Jayhawk basketball and the rich tradition of the program.  Pay Heed To All That Enter the Phog, Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Jayhawks.  A must read for any Jayhawk fan.

 

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, NonFiction, Sports · Tags:

What it Means to be a Jayhawk by Jeff Bollig, read by Brian, on 10/09/2014

jayhawkJeff goes into each decade talks about the important facts in Jayhawk sports.  Very fun and interesting read.  Rock Chalk.

 

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Horror

The Unwritten, Vol. 8: Orpheus in the Underworld by Mike Carey, read by Brian, on 10/10/2014

unwrittenOrpheus in the Underworld is the 8th volume of a critically series.  Tommy ventures into the land of the dead to ue Lizzie.  During his journey, Tommy finds more than he expected.

 

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Katy, Science Fiction · Tags:

The Good, the bad, and the Goofy by Jon Scieszka, read by Katy, on 10/10/2014

9780670843800_xlgThis is the third book in the Time Warp Trio series. While enjoying a western on television, Fred, Joe, and Sam are transported back to the old west after reciting a spell. Based on knowledge from their previous time travel adventures, they know the only way they can get back to current day is by locating their magical book in the Wild West. They have some close calls with a flood, stampedes, and almost get scalped! They manage to survive by finding the book and using a Time Freezer spell to get themselves out of a dangerous situation and back to the present day.

I don’t read many juvenile books but I thought this was cute and had good illustrations.

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Fiction, Graphic Novel · Tags:

Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge, read by Brian, on 10/10/2014

coffinCoffin Hill is a graphic novel about Eve Coffin, a young witch who must confront the secrets of her families past to solve a modern disappearance.

 

10. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Jessica, Romance

Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward, read by Jessica, on 10/10/2014

91F-ojYyF8L._SL1500_You’re not supposed to want the one who torments you.

When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a jerk he’d be.

I hated that he took it out on me because he didn’t want to be here.
I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room.
But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him.

At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. But things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.

Then, just as quickly as he’d come into my life, he was gone back to California.

It had been years since I’d seen Elec.

When tragedy struck our family, I’d have to face him again.

And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane.

I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Cats, Humor, Kira, NonFiction · Tags:

Dear Tabby: Feline Advice on Love, Life, and the Pursuit of Mice by Leigh W. Rutledge, read by Kira, on 10/09/2014

index mq1 20101218-Dear Tabby get-attachment deartabby dear-tabby-header-jan-14-2013Another book by Leigh Rutledge.  This one is a Dear Abby type series of letters that cats (& 1 dog), have written in to Dear Tabby.  Tabby answers a range of questions from how to get your humans to change the stupid funny name they’ve given the cat, to love of birds.  Rutledge, seems familiar with the types of letters that might get written in to an editor, including portraying diverse reactions to a given topic.  Dear Tabby is above all funny, with sharp sarcasm ending most replies.  Now on to find more cat titles by Rutledge.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Katy, Memoirs

The Big Tiny: a Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams, read by Katy, on 10/08/2014

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After being diagnosed with a heart condition, Dee Williams decided to downsize and de-clutter her life, and build a tiny house to live in. This is the story of how she designed and built the house, and the benefits and difficulties of living a minimalist lifestyle.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, read by Kira, on 10/03/2014

emp imagesssThis was a delightful, enjoyable read.  It is the tale of an old jinni, released from his flask after 1000’s of years imprisonment.  He is released by a tinsmith in New York at the turn of the century in New York.  At the same time, a golem created to be the wife of a ship passenger who dies en route to New York, struggles to pass as human in New York in a nearby neighborhood.   I really enjoyed this tale of historical fiction with a touch of magic.  You get a lot of backstory on several of the characters.  I heartily recommend this title. golemandjinni_pbk  772720 istock_000009314476small.jpg NOL-Read-Sliders-The-Golem-and-the-Jinniimages

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan, Eric Wight (Illustrations), Magician Mike Lane, read by Angie, on 10/09/2014

Mike is always getting in trouble, not because he is a bad kid but because he just can’t sit still. The first week of school he is sent to the principal’s office twice! He and new girl Nora have to spend every afternoon together this year too. Nora is smart and good at everything. One day they find The White Rabbit magic shop and Mike discovers he is good at something too. Mr. Zerlin challenges Mike and Nora to a riddle and only Mike can figure it out. Mr. Zerlin teaches Mike a magic trick. Soon Mike is learning tricks on his own and doing great. He still isn’t doing that well at school, but the magic gives him the strength to stand up to bully Jackson.

This is a fun book that I am sure kids will enjoy whether they like magic or not. I do wish there was a bit more resolution to the story though. It seems to end abruptly which I guess is to get the reader interested in the next book in the series. I also think Mike’s problems could have been handled better by his parents. They are present during the book but don’t seem to take a lot of interest in Mike. It does have a good message about finding what you are good at and standing up to bullies.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction

What the Moon Said by Gayle Rosengren, read by Angie, on 10/09/2014

Esther’s mom is extremely superstitious. Any little thing can be bad or good luck. Esther never knows when she is going to do something wrong and it seems like her mom doesn’t love her like she does the other kids or like other moms love their kids. Esther never gets hugs and kisses or “I love yous”. She is always trying to think of ways to earn her mom’s love. It is the height of the Depression and things are not looking good in Chicago. When Esther’s dad loses his job, the family decides to buy a farm in Wisconsin and start over. Esther loves the farm and all the animals. She has made a new friend and likes the community. However, her new friend has a mole on her face which to Esther’s mom means she has been marked. She tells Esther they can’t be friends anymore. Esther can’t obey her mom in this as Bethany is her best friend and so very nice. Esther wonders if her mom could be wrong for once about the signs.

This is a nice story about a girl living in the 1930s depression. I liked the story of surviving on less and learning to appreciate what you have. I think the heart of the story is really Esther trying to understand her mom and learning to live with the restrictions her mom’s superstitions place on the family. It is a gentle and slower story than many that are written today; more heart than action.

09. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kira

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, read by Kira, on 10/05/2014

This is the story of Alma Whiteacre a scientist of moss and evolution.  It starts with her father’s life, an unscrupulous lad, who starts prospering by stealing botanicals. byss42134 2dsafdsafasdfdetail-of-tahitian-man-from-man-with-an-axe-by-paul-gauguin2165949indexs29kingsolver-final-articleLarge4 His life is interesting, though he is not a likeable character.    The next 3 segments of the book cover Alma’s life, a very intellectual but very lonely life.  Her mother and secondary mother figure, are all about being tough, and stoic.  Her father is pretty self-centered, and behaves however he pleases.  An interesting, if uneven read.