Saturday, March 26, 2011

"Gone" by Michael Grant

558 pages

Fourteen-year-old Sam Temple is sitting in American history class when all of the teachers and a few kids literally disappear in the blink of an eye. Soon, the students who remain realize that everyone over the age of 15 is gone--not just in their school, but the whole town. Sam teams up with Quinn, his best friend, and Astrid, a beautiful genius that Sam has a crush on, to find help. When they go a few miles, however, they discover that the town is surrounded by an impenetrable dome. Other unbelievable things begin to happen--animals mutate and some children start developing supernatural powers. Sam is just trying to keep everyone calm, but then a group of bullies start terrorizing everyone else, especially the ones with powers. And the leader, Caine, has a personal problem with Sam. On top of it all, the disappearing hasn't stopped--everyone who turns 15 disappears at the exact time they were born. Sam has only a few days until his 15th birthday, so he has to act fast to fight off Caine's groupies and figure out how to avoid "the poof" before his time runs out.

"Gone" seemed to me like a cross between "Lord of the Flies" and "X-Men". It grabbed my attention right away and held it all the way to the end. The events are so weird and unbelievable that I couldn't wait to get to the end to figure out what happened. There aren't many answers at the conclusion, but that makes sense because this is the first book in a series. I really liked the main premise--all of the adults disappearing and people continuing to disappear--but I think there is too much additional stuff going on. So many bizarre things happen that it's hard to keep track of and it seemed over-the-top to me. I can't imagine how the author is going to have it all make sense at the end, but I will wait until I've read all of the books to pass judgment about the overall plot. I really like the characters, especially Sam, and I am glad that most of the kids aren't clear-cut good and bad.They seem more real because they are multidimensional. Some of the "good" kids do bad things, and some of the "bad" kids do good things. I recommend this for anyone who likes fast-paced science fiction.

Eating Animals

by Jonathan Safran Foer. 267 pp plus Notes and Index.

Eating Animals explores vegetarianism and the horrors of factory farming. I do not normally read non-fiction and chose this title because I enjoyed Foer's other two books, Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I have always been a meat-eater and have never considered seriously becoming a vegetarian . . . until I read this book. I was aware of how awful factory farms and slaughterhouses are, but I chose to put it out of my mind. Foer discusses the meat industry from chickens to beef to shrimp and tuna. He doesn't say everyone should be a vegan, but he makes a very convincing argument. Nothing is sugar-coated and it definitely left me thinking about what I choose to eat.


by Maggie Stiefvater. 360 pp.

The sequel to Shiver and the second in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, returns to Grace and Sam together at last. Except, Sam is trying to deal with his werewolf past and Grace has her on fears about a possible werewolf future. A new wolf named Cole, who also has an interesting past, is added to the mix.

This teenage love saga, though involving the ever popular werewolves, is one that I'm actually looking forward to continuing on in the third book. Also, the cover is green as well as the text. Does that count for double points in the March challenge???

The Gates

by John Connolly. 293 pp.

A few days before Halloween in a small English town, a boy named Samuel and his dachshund Boswell witness the Gates of Hell being opened by his neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy. He tries to warn everyone, but, of course, no one believes him. So, he must take it upon himself, with the help of his two friends and Boswell, to save the world.

This humorous take on the Apocalypse includes bumbling demons and silly antics involving the CERN Large Hadron Collider as well as a lesson that we should listen to what children have to say. Though it is somewhat reminiscent of Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman, it was still very enjoyable. It left me wanting to read other books by John Connolly.

Women in the Civil War

Cobblestone, Discover American History by many authors, 48 pp

Women in the Civil War were not just your average 1800's lady. Some were soldiers, spies, doctors, nurses, authors, chaplains, teachers, and much more. Usually these roles were of men, not women. Several women were involved in espionage. All just wanted to desperately help their side of the war.
I have been reading a lot about women of the Civil War lately and these books are very interesting. I especially like this Cobblestone book because it has fun ideas of what young girls did as well during the Civil War. There are several authors in this book. The stories are really neat how they set them all up to. There are fun activities and even a comic strip on the last page of the book. A lot of fun and interesting facts!

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago..., Volume 2
by Archie Goodwin, Carmine Infantino, Glynis Wein, John Costanza, et al.
464 p.
This is a collection of Star Wars comics published by Marvel Comics in the 70s and 80s. The stories take place after the first Star Wars movie, through The Empire Strikes Back, and afterwards. Luke Skywalker and friends have many adventures; including run-ins with the Tagge family and a race of avians, a battle of wits with Darth Vader, and an escape from a very different looking Jabba the Hut. None of this, of course, is part of the Star Wars canon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler

This is a Truman Award Nominee for 2011-2012 and it's pretty good.  Penny Lane moves to Hog's Hollow with her mother because her parents have separated.  It's not easy to be fourteen and it's even harder when you move to a new town and a new school and your parents are breaking up.  But Penny finds a couple of good friends and catches the eye of a really cute, sweet boy who has problems of his own.  The characters explore feelings and situations faced by many young people:  bullies;  trying to be yourself,even when that's different than the norm; separation; loss, winning and losing. There are lots of cupcakes, from beginning to end, so be prepared to get hungry as you read!
Kim F
242 pp

Fall of Giants

by Ken Follett

p 985

Every now and then I bite the bullet and read a gargantuan historical fiction. Investing weeks in another time and place feels like a vacation, education, and adopting a new family of characters. Aside from James Michener, Ken Follet does this type of writing better than anyone else. After reading Pillars of the Earth, I was hooked on his writing, the detail and total immersion into history and the lives of people living during 13th century England.

Fall of Giants is the first book in the Century Trilogy. Starting in 1914, the time frame of this novel centers around the events leading to WWI and then the actual 5 yrs of war. Ending with the signing of the peace treaty, the Russian Revolution, and a little known political upstart, Adolph Hitler, there is ample opportunity to imagine where the next books will begin.

Characters spanning countries and continents, all economic and social classes, bring the novel to life. Admittedly keeping everyone straight at times can be a daunting task. There are Welsh miners, English artisocrats, Russian Bolsheviks, German spies and of course the young dashing Amercian aide to President Wilson. Follet does a nice job of capturing the atmosphere of the turn of the century world that is both wonderful and terrifying with its modernity. The clash of politcal ideals, old institutions being challenged, oppression being fought, and women demanding more of a voice, lead the reader into the rich context of the Modern Age. The characters are equally intriguing, with families, friends, commrades and soldiers trying to survive the horror of "the war to end all wars."

I read only one book this month, but it was a good one and well worth the investment of time.
Gotta give it a Rock, Chalk, Jay!
By the way, who is VCU and what are they doing in the Final Four:(

Franny and Zooey

by J.D. Salinger, 201 p.

My reading goal recently has been to re-read a lot of what I read as a kid to see if everything is still as mind-blowing as I remember.

Its still pretty good. I feel like I actually understand what's happening, instead of pretending. Plus, Franny is so much more accessible right now.

So far my experiment is going well... I just hope my reading tastes continue to translate well from my childhood.

Women Who Dare ~ Women of the Civil War

By: Dr. Michelle A Krowl, 63 pp
Bold, brave women did their part in the Civil War here in the United States. Some may also be a bit extreme, like Anna Dickinson. Dickinson was in her early twenties, but very famous for her speeches. She once "commanded a $1,000 speaking fee in 1863, at a time when ordinary soldiers received just $13 a month."
The picture on the right above is of brave Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. She was well-known for her giving the opportunity for the soldiers not having to always amputate their limbs. She was awarded Congressional Medal of Honor bestowed by President Andrew Jackson, however, later in 1917 she was stripped of her award on a technicality, but Walker refused to give her medal up. She wore her medal until her death in 1919. In 1977, her award was restored.
This book only touches on just a very few of the women that were well-known for their courage, support, and activities during the Civil War.
I enjoyed reading this book. It is informational. There are actual pictures of these women that Dr. Krowl speaks of in this book, which brings them to light.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

I started this book Wednesday evening and finished it Friday morning, with tears running down my face.  Wow.  I didn't expect to be so moved by a war novel (not usually my choice of reading material.) But Michael Shaara, even when speaking the language of generals and writing words of battle, still finds a way to convey the humanity, the grace, the sadness, the exaltation of the men who fought the battle of Gettysburg.  Whatever you learned in school about the Civil War, whatever small bits you may remember were all dry facts and statistics compared to this account.  Shaara makes you feel it and I, for one, am grateful there are books that can leave me sitting on my sofa, on the last day of spring break, with a lump in my throat that won't go away, hoping it will be awhile before the girls awake, demanding pancakes and the plans for the day.
Superb.  If you read no other Big Read title for this year, please, please, read this one.
Kim F
355 pp

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Achingly Alice" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

128 pages

Alice has a lot going on. Her mom died when she was four, so she's growing up with her dad and 21-year-old brother. She's 14 now and has been with her boyfriend, Patrick, for about two years, but lately she can't stop thinking about other guys. Then Mr. Sorringer, her school's vice-principal, returns to work after a year on the West Coast. The problem with this is that he is in love with Miss Summers, who has been dating Alice's dad. Alice can tell that Miss Summers is torn between Mr. Sorringer and her dad, which drives her crazy because she is dying for Miss Summers to marry her dad and become her stepmom. She decides to do something about it, but of course things don't go the way she planned.

As I mentioned in my review of "Alice in April," an earlier book in this series, I love the characters in these books, particularly Alice's family. This book provides good doses of both humor and tough stuff, as do the rest of the Alice books that I've read. I didn't think this one was quite as funny as "Alice in April," though, and it seemed sort of repetitive: Alice still wants Miss Summers and her dad to get together and they still are moving too slowly for her. I would have liked to see more new stuff coming into play in "Achingly Alice."

beetle bop

By: Denise Fleming, 27 pp
Some of these beetles are colorful, while others are dull. Some are creepy, some are scary, but some are cute.
Fleming tells us that there are all different kinds of beetles. They are one of the largest groups of animals.
Boys will love this book! Girls that like bugs will love it too!

Goin' Someplace Special

By: Patricia McKissack & Jerry Pinkney, 29 pp
'Tricia Ann lives in the 1950's down south which is a segrated community. Her grandmother always takes her to a "someplace special" downtown. One day, 'Tricia Ann wants to go on the trip alone. So with her grandmother's inspirational words and seeing friends on the way with encouraging words, 'Tricia Ann takes off. On her way, she does run into Jim Crow signs - segrated signs, "Colored Section" and "Whites Only."
This "somplace special" is somewhere where all are welcome - no segration. You don't find out where this place is until the very last page, but it is interesting trying to figure it out while reading the story.
This story is based on Patricia McKissack's life as a young girl raised in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Moon in the Mango Tree

by Pamela Binnings Ewen, 470 p.

Leaving her love of opera behind, Barbara travels to Siam as a mission doctor's wife in 1920. As Barbara struggles to find a place in her new community, she moves further from the ideals that brought her family there in the first place. She finds herself constantly at odds with the other missionaries, her surroundings, and even her own faith. A series of jolting events send Barbara back to Philadelphia, where she immerses herself in the modern flapper culture. When her husband is offered a teaching position at a Siamese medical university, she finds herself once again in Siam, although this time in the luxurious ex-pat community of Bangkok. But the riches and splendor still leave something empty deep in her heart. Barbara flees to Paris and Rome, leaving behind her husband in hopes of reigniting her opera career. As she finds herself further away from the life she fled, an old acquaintance shows her the way back to her family and happiness.

Based on her grandmother's diary and letters, Barbara Binnings Ewen tells a wonderful story that is hard to put down. I normally am not a fan of inspiration fiction, but this story is balanced and accessible.

Biking to Work

by Rory McMullan, 85 p.

I need inspiration on commuting this bike season. This is one I could read again and again. Which I will.

Restless Heart

Restless Heart by Emma Lang 265 p.

Angeline Hunter and her friend Lettie are running away from an abusive husband. They were the second and third wives of Josiah Brown. He thought his Mormon beliefs gave him the right to not only multiple wives, but that he could abuse them also. They ended up in Forestville Wyoming working at the Blue Plate Diner. Of course a new man comes into Angeline's life and all is changed. It was a pretty good read and had a few extra twists and turns to keep it interesting.

Pale Demon

by Kim Harrison, 439 pages

This is the 13th book in the Hollow series, which is set in a world where humans are the minority.  When a batch of genetically engineered tomatoes manages to kill almost all of the human race, witches, vampires, weres and other supernaturals come out of the closet.  Bureaucracy, politics and power struggles between the races become a background for the series, and in the middle, trying to establish her own independence is a witch, Rachel Morgan.

In this book, Rachel has three days to get across the country and appeal her shunning at the annual witches convention.  If she fails to convince her peers of her innocence, she will be banished to the Ever-after like the demon she is accused of being.  Backed by her partners Ivy and Jenks, and charged with the protection of Trent, an elf who causes more trouble than he's worth, she heads west doing her best to dodge assassins and stay out of the clutches of a cannibalistic day-walking demon.

Harrison loves to stack the deck against her characters and watch them struggle to survive.  Every friendship is hard earned and love is more likely to end in betrayal than a happy ending.  Each victory comes with a price, and Rachel is forced to balance survival and doing the right thing.  I'm a sucker for those life and death, good vs. evil story lines, and this book has the added bonus great imagination.

At the Spaniard's Convenience

by Margaret Mayo, 189 p.

Sixteen years after the birth of her daughter, Kirstie Rivers seeks out the girl’s father, Lucio Masterton, now a wealthy technological entrepreneur. Becky is thrilled to have a father - but Kirstie still feels the reservations that led her to keep their daughters birth a secret. Kirstie thought that seeing Lucio would have no effect on her after years apart, but as they come together for the sake of their daughter sparks start to fly. Kirstie, acting as her daughter’s chaperone, is whisked away to one of Lucio’s many villas, to be wooed in more ways than one. Will their past tear them apart? Or can they come together as a loving family? Passion, betrayal, and a sense of familial duty pepper this fast-paced, intense love story.

*disclaimer - I wrote this for school. I hated this book. Please don't ever make me read one again. -C.*

Glamour's Big Book of Dos & Don'ts

by Cindy Lieve, 192 p.

Whereas the Big Book of Style fueled my clothes obsession, Glamour's BBDD fuels my snarky-social commentary tendencies. Though the styles may be a little out of date, people-watching never is.

The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style

by Kim France, 305 p.

I like clothes. A lot.

This just fueling the fire.

What's the Matter, Bunny Blue?

By: Nicola Smee, 27 pp
Easter is coming and this would be an awesome book to read to your little ones or for Storytime. Bunny Blue has lost his granmother and does not know where to find her. He gets help from all of his friends and she finally appears! It is a happy ending.... So I gave it away, but you need to read it for yourself (or sing it). It is very poetic.

The Lover's Dictionary

by David Levithan, 211 p.

corrode, v.

I spent all this time building a relationship. Then one night I left the window open, and it started to rust.

-The Lover's Dictionary

David Levithan's beautiful novel explores the love of two people. Written in dictionary form, Levithan tells their story with words like rubberneck, aloof, banal. Best of all, he knows the characters. This is one of those books where you feel everything the characters feel, as if he's writing about your own love life.

poignant, adj.

The Lover's Dictionary.

Squirrel Meets Chipmunk

by David Sedaris, 159 p.

I'm ashamed to admit that this is my first Dave Sedaris Experience, despite the fact that I've spent many a Christmas season reveling in the joy that is his annual reading of the story of his time as a Macy's Santa elf on NPR. But it was another reading of his work on NPR that led me to this wonderful book of short stories. And really, there's nothing like a nice bit of anthropomorphism to start off the day. Illustrations by Ian Falconer (of Olivia the Pig fame) really take the cake.


By: Keith Baker, 32 pp
This is a cute little rhyming picture book. The Peas announce that they are acrobats, artists, and much much more as they go through the alphabet. I really love the last couple of pages... "Who are you?" is printed in huge letters to give the kids a chance to talk about who they are and what they can do and find out what letter that begins with. It would be a lot of fun to read in a Storytime setting!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Alice in April" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

176 pages

This is the fifth book in the beloved but controversial Alice series, which is about a young girl growing up with her dad and older brother after her mother died of cancer when she was four. In "Alice in April," Alice is about to turn 13, and Aunt Sally says that means she is Woman of the House. To prepare, Alice sets out to learn how to sew, clean, cook, etc. Meanwhile, she is worried about her dad's relationship with her English teacher, Miss Summers. Alice wants them to hurry up and get married so the fantastic Miss Summers can be her mom, but the relationship is moving slowly and Alice is afraid that her dad will let Miss Summers get away. On top of that, she's starting to become friends with rough-around-the-edges Denise and noticing that Denise's home life isn't so good--in fact, it might be dangerous.

I read a few Alice books when I was younger and loved them, and I enjoyed this one just as much as an adult. The series has been widely banned for its frank discussions of sex and puberty. While I don't think the books are appropriate for young kids, they seem pretty tame to me compared to a lot of the children's and young adult lit out there now ("Alice in April" was published in 1993). I LOVE the characters in the Alice books. I totally relate to Alice and her confusion about boys, her family, her body, school, and everything else. I adore her family, especially her goofy twenty-year-old brother who teases her sometimes but is ultimately kind-hearted and sweet. This book has a good combination of light-hearted humor and tough real-world stuff, though I do think that the tragedy at the end of the book is glossed over a little too much. The middle school drama cracked me up and made me remember my own adolescence, but there's plenty of heavier subject matter, too, to give the story depth.


by Chris Lynch, 165 pages

"I am only trying to stop the sound. It looks terrible what I am doing, as I watch my hands doing it...but I am only trying to stop that awful sound and the way it looks is not the way it is."

Keir is a good guy. He gets the grades, the scholarships and the friends. He drinks and does drugs - but that's only occasionally so it's fine. And sure, he was responsible for crippling another football player - but that was only an accident, right? And yes, he got drunk with his classmates and toppled over the town statue - but that was just a high school prank. Keir has a rational explanation for everything. But when his childhood friend Gigi accuses him of the worst possible offense - rape - will his reasoning about the night's events be enough to convince her otherwise?

At the very first, I empathized with Keir as he relived the events that led up to the moment he is accused of raping Gigi. However, I immediately realized something was amiss. Keir has an excuse for everything and his narration rapidly becomes a disturbing trek into the psyche of a burgeoning sociopath. Lynch's character development is top notch and I couldn't put this one down.

From the perspective of an adult, I saw the patterns fairly quickly - Keir's father's enabling behavior, his abysmal refutation, and his uncanny rationalization for everything. But as a teen, I suppose I might read it more surprisingly. It's important for young adults to read about these sorts of patterns of behavior so that they might identify them before the 'inexcusable' ever happens. Well done.

Kitty Raises Hell

by Carrie Vaughn, 322 pages

After barely surviving her Las Vegas vacation, Kitty returns home to Denver ready to leave trouble behind.  Unfortunately, trouble follows her in the form of a fire starting demon.  As the violence and attacks escalate, Kitty turns to a team of paranormal investigators in hope of solving her problem.  Meanwhile, a strange vampire shows up in town offering his demon-hunting services for a price.  Just how far will Kitty go to keep her town safe and will it be enough?

Vaughn continues her series with book 6 introducing a few new characters and reviving some old enemies.  While Kitty struggles to deal with immediate threats, Vaughn foreshadows a twisted web of supernatural politics that will surely play out in future books.  This one has plenty of excitement- I had a hard time finding a stopping point, because the story flows seamlessly from one threat to the next.  I just had to know what happened!

The Three Incestuous Sisters

By: Audrey Niffenegger, 160 pp
This is a novel in pictures. An artistically creation that keeps you reading and rereading over and over again! Very few words, but is explained very creatively in the pictures.
Three sisters, Bettine, Clothilde, and Ophile are at first very close. Then when a lighthouse keeper dies in a horrible storm, the three sisters set out to find his son, Paris, to let him know of his father's death. Paris falls in love with Bettine and Ophile is horribly jealous and ends up killing Bettine and all believes that she has killed the baby as well. Haunted by Bettine, Ophile throws herself off a cliff and kills herself.
Many years later, Clothilde receives an image/message from the baby as a grown man. He is not dead after all! She sets out to find him and save him from the circus. Then the two together set out to find his father. They all move back together into the three sisters house and the haunting changes from horrible to fun and laughter. They are all together again (in some sort of strange way).

"The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett

288 pages

In the early 20th century, ten-year-old Mary is orphaned and sent from India, where she lived due to her father's government position, to her uncle's mansion on the moors of England. When she arrives, the servants discover that their new mistress is one the most disagreeable and spoiled children they have ever encountered. Mary, meanwhile, finds herself very much alone, living in a house "with a hundred rooms, most locked up", without anyone she knows and no other children at all. Slowly, she gets to know Martha, the young, friendly maid, and Ben Weatherspoon, the grizzled gardener with a soft spot for birds and other creatures. Through them, she learns that her uncle, Master Craven, lost his wife ten years ago when she fell from a tree as one of its limbs broke off. After the accident, Master Craven locked the door to the garden his wife died in, buried the key, and became cold and reclusive. Mary is intrigued by the "secret garden" and vows to find the key and entrance. Then she meets Dickon, Martha's friendly twelve-year-old brother, who was raised on the moor and can charm animals. She trusts him with her secret, and when she eventually finds the key and gains access to the garden, the two begin to bring it back to life. Soon after, Mary follows the sound of crying in the night and discovers her young cousin, Colin. He's her age but has been confined to his room for years because he's always ill and everyone believes that he's going to die before he grows up. No one talks about him, so Mary didn't know that he existed. Even though they are both unpleasant children, they become friends. Eventually Mary introduces him to Dickon and tells him about the garden, which begins to work its magic on both Mary and Colin, making them healthy, happy, and kind. Soon, it becomes clear that there might be hope for Colin's life after all...

I tried to read this children's classic when I was younger but didn't get through it because it creeped me out: the big, dark house, the moaning throughout the night, and the poor orphan all by herself (but the real reason is that I was a huge wuss). I'm glad I gave it a second chance! This time, I found it charming rather than disturbing. I could just picture the secret garden and the magic that the children saw in it. It reminded me of when I was a kid and had secret places of my own out in the woods. I enjoyed watching Mary's, and later Colin's, transformation. I especially loved the side characters, including Dickon, Martha, their mother, and Ben Weatherstaff. I think the pacing of the story is just right; enough time passes that the changes in the children are believable, but it doesn't drag on too long. I'm not sure that many children today would have the patience to adjust to the old-style language of this book, but I think it's a great pick for older teens or adults who want to remember being carried away with their imaginations when they were younger.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

If you liked Jane Eyre, The Castle of Otranto, Northanger Abbey or The Moonstone, you will enjoy this book which is filled with the same spirit.  Twists and turns, a house in disrepair, ghosts and the pall of madness can all be found in this tale.  Margaret Lea works for her father in an antique bookshop and dabbles in writing slight biographies, more essays than anything.  Then she receives a letter from the famous writer, Vida Winter, inviting her to become a biographer of Miss Winter's story, something many, many others have attempted.  All others were thwarted by Miss Winter but now, for some reason, Miss Winter is ready to tell all.  Just as the stories Vida Winter has woven for millions, her own story is full of mystery, sadness and loss.
I honestly had difficulty putting this book down.  I loved it and I hope you will allow yourself the opportunity to be sucked in, as I was.  It was a shame to reach the last page.
Kim F
pp 406

Tween Fantasy: The Invisible Order Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley

2010/ 332 pages

About the Book: Emily and her brother William a thrust into the middle of a war between different factions of fairies, and discover that thier fate may have been written centuries ago.

Andy's Thoughts: Well, I love fantasy, but I am not a fan of fairies. I picked this book up because it was on a list of books that could be the next Harry Potter. I believe that I can safely say that this series is no Harry Potter. The characters are weak, the story is kind of a fantasy steam punk mashup, and all and all this book was a bit of a yawn. I would give a 3 out of 10 and that is being generous.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed by Pat Rothfuss, illustrated by Nate Taylor

2010/68 pgs

About the Book: The story of a princess, told in three parts.

Andy's Thoughts: This book was weird but I really enjoyed it. Very funny, very original, and very true the Mr. Rothfuss's style that I have seen in the KingKiller Chronicles. I would give it a 6 out of 10, because it is definitely not a book that would appeal to everyone.

Adult Fantasy: The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

2011/994 pages

About the Book: What happens to legendary heroes when they grow tired of saving everyone? How do you motivate a hero? How does someone go from being an ordinary, albeit talented child to being the greatest hero in a generation? The Wise Man's Fear is Day Two of the back story of the legendary hero Kvothe.

Andy's Thoughts: Again relayed mostly through a series of flashbacks, this story continues to be fun fast paced and exciting. Rothfuss reclaimed his wonderful writing style and again the voice clearly changes when he is writing in the past versus writing in the present. Kvothe is flushed out much more as a character, but his story takes a darker and more dangerous turn. Adult relationships flourish in all of their complexity. While there were a couple breaks in voice as the book went on, for the most part Rothfuss quickly brought the story back to where I expected it to be. My biggest problems are that the middle of the book is a sexual romp in a fairy realm and the story seems to be progressing too slowly. I can handle sex in a book, but it seemed like 200 pages of the book was devoted to sex, it just kind of dragged on and on. The other problem with progressing too slowly is this. In the present, Kvothe is around 30 years old. By the end of the second book, he is not even twenty in his flashbacks. That means in the next book he has to cover 10 years worth of back story and I am not sure how he is going to do it.

Since this series is called The KingKiller Chronicle, I am hoping that the series will be longer than a trilogy. I have not heard how many books this series is scheduled for, but I image it will take at least 2 more.

Overall this book was very good and had a much better ending. Rothfuss has won me back and I well be impatiently awaiting the next book. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Adult Fantasy: The Way of Kings By Brandon Sanderson

2010/1007 pages

About the Book: Roshar is a world dominated by weather. Powerful, enchanted Highstorms sweep across the land with such fierceness and regularity that the plants have evolved to retract into the ground to avoid them. The energy of the storms provide powerful magic to Roshar's citizens and captured Stormlight can be used for everything from adding value to money to making legendarily powerful weapons and armor.

Kaladin is a brilliant soldier betrayed by his commander and sold into slavery for knowing too much. Shallan is a minor noble and talented artist who can capture a scene with a glance and duplicate it hours later, who's family no longer has enough money to survive, has a daring plan to steal a powerful magical item to try to save her family. Following the assassination of the king, and six years of war with the people who sent the assassin, Kaladin and Shallan must each risk everything just to stay alive.

Andy's Thoughts: This book is massive, over 400k words and over 1000 pages. It is the first book of a ten book series, but it is amazingly written and the story is masterfully crafted. The characters are vibrant and leap off the page even if the background is more sparse than one typically finds in fantasy. The setting reminds me of the seafloor just without the water.

Part Lighting Thief, part Ben-Hur there is a lot of action and adventure. While not quite the page turner that Goodkind's Sword of Truth was for me, this book is definitely one of my favorites and I will be eagerly awaiting each new addition to this series. I have not spotted any major flaws other than perhaps its length, and a desire to see a few of the background characters flushed out a bit more particularly, Wit and Szeth. (of course assuming that the rest of the books will be just as large, Mr. Sanderson will have plenty of time to flush out these characters). I have had the ARC of the book for about a year and just never made the time to get to it, but now that I have I am drooling over the next one. I give it an 9 out of 10. Oh, and the audiobook is awesome too!

Young Adult Fantasy: The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

2009/506 pages

About the book: The story focuses on two main characters, the headstrong princess Raisa and a teenage former thief and gang leader named Han. Set in an area of the Seven Realms called The Fells and in its capitol Fellsmarch, Han must learn how to provide for his mother and sister after giving up the leadership of a street gang which had previously been his means for provision. Meanwhile, Raisa is quickly approaching her 16th birthday at which time she will be eligible to be married. Raisa desperately wishes to escape the meaningless confines of fashion, propriety, petty court intrigue, and marriage to learn useful skills that will help her become a good and wise queen like her heroine Hanalea, the warrior queen who defeated the Demon King and saved the world. After a powerful magical item is stolen and the High Wizard begins to grow in influence with the Queen, Han and Raisa each begin adventures that could change the future for everyone in the Realms.

Andy's Thoughts: I am not entirely sure what to say about this book. I did enjoy it, but I don't think it is something that will I come back to after I finish the trilogy. The characters are likeable enough and the series seems to have a very strong story arc overall, but I felt that this first book was little more than a setup for the rest of the series. I thought it was fairly obvious what was going to happen by the end of the book after reading the first few chapters. On the other hand I was very impressed that Ms. Chima did not seem to give much away about what would happen in the rest of the series. But since this review is about the book itself and not about the series as a whole I have to give it 3.5 stars. I did like the writing, I did not have any major problems with the character developement, but I thought the plot was a little predictable. Perhaps I am judging this book too harshly, but I had been hearing how great it was supposed to be for over a year. I came in expecting so much that perhaps there was no way that this book could live up to the hype. I will continue reading the series because the overall story arc has me engaged and the characters are interesting. I just cannot give it the rave review that I was hoping to give when I started the book.

Adult Fantasy: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

2007/722 pages

About the Book: What happens to legendary heroes when they grow tired of saving everyone, no matter what the cost to themselves. How do you motivate a hero. How does someone go from being an ordinary, albeit talented child to being the greatest hero in a generation. Kvothe already has most of those answers, but the answer he needs the most is the one that he cannot seem to find within himself. Maybe a chronicler who is asking about the past, a plague of demon attacks, and a worried magical friend will help him discover the passion he needs to reclaim who he used to be.

Andy's Thoughts: Relayed mostly through a series of flashbacks, this story is fun fast paced and exciting. Rothfuss has a wonderful writing style and the voice clearly changes when he is writing in the past versus writing in the present. Kvothe is a vivid interesting character, who you cannot help but want to know more about. I had this book highly recommended to me and after reading a bit about it I was excited to read it. I was really enjoying it so much so that I actually turned off playoff football. (granted the game was out of hand and so I did not feel bad about turning it off, but still I turned off football!) My enjoyment of the book was not to last however, as the ending was perhaps the most disappointing end that I have read recently (well, excluding Mockingjay). It was like Mr. Rothfuss lost his voice with 70 pages left to go in the story. One moment he was writing a riveting story with a past and a present voice, then suddenly it switched into a slow boring monotone. Furthermore, the ending was soft and the climax seemed sudden and disjointed. It seemed like this book was cut from a larger book and definitely could not stand on its own but had to because the full book would be too long. Kvothe is a strong enough character that I want to keep reading the series to find out more about his past, but so much of the book is dedicated to Kvothe's past that I am not sure that unless the series goes for 6 books or so that there will be enough pages to tell the rest of the story of the present and the future. The other major flaw of the book is that we are told that Kvothe is a legendary warrior and hero and we are told that there are legendary stories about him. However, since the reader has yet to hear these stories and since references to the stories are frequently made in the story, I felt frustrated that I could not use these stories as reference points the way that many of the characters could. The flaws are not enough to stop me from reading on, unless Mr. Rothfuss cannot find his voice again. I give this book 5 out of 10, which is disappointing because if the story had continued as strongly to the end and it was in the beginning and the middle it would have been an 8 or a 9.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

2011/320 pgs

About the Book: Four years after the events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have settled into life at Pemberly. But on a walk Mr. Darcy is attacked by a dreadful and falls into the strange plague. Elizabeth knows that the correct response is to behead her husband, but she can't bring herself to do it. She enlists the help of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who claims there may be a cure and Elizabeth must go after it, using her womanly wiles to seduce Sir Angus MacFarquhar, who holds the key to the cure. Enlisting the help of her sisters, Elizabeth must go undercover to save her husband.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Dreadfully Ever After completes the story of Elizabeth and Darcy and their escapades with dreadfuls. This is a hilarious take on what happens next. I hadn't read any of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies books until my mom told me they were hilarious and I needed to pick them up-and if my mom tells you to read a book, you have to read it-especially since I didn't think my mom was a zombie fan at all! So I listened to Mom and I'm so glad I did-this book was hilarious!!

The book maintains the feel of the original it's based on, but adds dreadfuls, ninjas, warriors and fighting into the story seamlessly. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments-the dialogue is prim and proper, yet funny, and it makes the book so much fun. Kitty and Mary join Elizabeth in this adventure and I was glad to see their characters a bit more fleshed out-they always seem to get overlooked.

This is a sequel and the end to the triology, but the book can stand on it's own. If the story has to wrap up, I think this is the way it should end! We get one last adventure with our favorite characters, they're spunky and sassy, and there's a bit of romance as well. Elizabeth's final battle with Lady Catherine is exactly what readers have been waiting for and doesn't disappoint.

A fantastic end to the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies story and very fun read!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

2008/290 pgs

About the Book: When Juliet receives a letter from a gentleman on the island of Guernsey, inquiring about Charles Lamb and a book that used to be hers, an unlikely correspondence begins. Dawsey and Juliet begin exchanging letters and Juliet comes to learn of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, a group formed during the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War Two. The war is now over and the people of Guernsey are eager for news from the outside world and for conversation, so they begin to share their stories with Juliet. Juliet becomes wrapped up in the lives of the Literary Society members and finds friendship and romance.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I actually tried to read this book when it first came out because I kept hearing so many good things about. But I just couldn't get into it, so I put it down. Then when it came time for my adult reading materials class this semester, again, this book's title kept popping up, so I decided to give it another try.

I'm so glad I did! This book is a wonderful tale that shows the will to flourish and survive in the worst of times and how friendships and books can help us. One review states the book is an "homage to booklovers" and I have to agree. Juliet loves books, the Literary Society connects over books and any booklover is sure to see themselves in the pages.

As charming as the book is, it's not all light and fluffy. This is a serious story and the characters have faced many hardships. I have to give credit to the author for bringing to life such a great cast of characters-quirky and all-all through letters. We come to know the characters and even the Island of Guernsey, all through the letter exchanges between everyone. Most of the letters are from Juliet, but her letters to her publisher and her friend Sophie help bring the happenings of Guernsey to life. I really felt as though I got to know the characters, which I found interesting since all character development is told either through Juliet's observations or their own letters to Juliet.

I'm glad I finally picked this book up and gave it a try! I really enjoyed it and I do recommend to anyone who hasn't read it (although I'm sure I'm the last person to read this one!:)

Invisible Order: The Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley

2010/352 pgs
About the Book: Emily Snow's parents have disappeared and for the past two years she has been in charge of her younger brother and making sure they survive. One morning, Emily encounters a conversation between strange beings and realizes she can see a entire hidden world in London, full of faeries. A war is raging between faeries. As Emily's brother is kidnapped, Emily must do everything she can to save him. But what side is good? What side will not destroy humankind? Emily must find the key to save her brother and help save London before faeries take over.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is quite the twisty mystery/fantasy for middle grade readers. The book starts out much like your usual fantasy novel, but soon the story starts to take many twists and turns. Who is good? Who can Emily trust? And which path is the correct one? The entire book is like one giant riddle which is sure to keep readers engaged.

I will admit that I grew a bit tired of the "can I trust this person/what side is right" as it kept going. Just when you think you have it figured out, it changes, so it keeps readers on their toes, that's for sure! I also wish that many of the supporting characters had been fleshed out a bit more. There were so many great characters that we were introduced to, but we only see them for a small portion of the book. I hope that since this is the start to a series, we see more of them as the series progresses.

I picked this one up originally because my husband told me about a review that mentioned The Invisible Order had the makings to be the next Harry Potter. While I don't think it's quite there, it could grow and become a great series that keeps you guessing. I do think it would be great for Harry Potter fans looking for another series to get into, but I'm not sure how much older reader appeal there is.

It's obviously a series, and while many things are wrapped up in this book, there is a cliffhanger ending and many things are left wide open. Book two will be out in September, so if you do get readers started on this series, they'll have a bit of a wait between installments. But that's part of the fun, right?

Gin Tama, Volume 7: You Always Remember the Things that Matter the Least
by, Hideaki Sorachi
This time around Gin gets hit by a car and suffers amnesia; which isn't necessarily a bad thing since it causes him to be a better person. Of course, it doesn't last. Also, the Odd Jobs folks have their home demolished by a spaceship which was piloted by Gin's old friend, Tatsuma. But it's okay because Tatsuma sends two of the best carpenters in the galaxy to repair it. But Gin and the gang get too greedy and have the carpenters build on all kinds of stuff that makes it all collapse anyway. But through all this they do stop a downsized worker from blowing up Edo with a giant cannon. Other stuff that happened are: Gin and some other dude fight over the last copy of Shonen Jump only to find out it is last month's issue; Katsura helps a ramen shop owner get rid of some thugs; Gin and friends try to help an elderly man cope with his wife's illness, but all he wants to do is make fireworks; and finally, Kagura's father shows up to take her home.

For Just One Day by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant

2009/32 pgs

About the Book: Young children imagine what they would be if they could transform themselves for just one day.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I was sold on this book the moment I picked it up. A bright sunshiny cover? Check! Retro illustrations? Check! Use of imagination? Check! So I expected to love it going in and I'm glad to say it held up to my expectations.

The rhyming text encourages children to guess what the next character will be, which gives a chance for lots of audience participation when you read this book. I do think it's best suited for a preschool storytime for ages 4 and 5-they'll be the ones who can offer up guesses of what animal the children would be.

The illustrations have a 70's retro feel to them (which I love) and hopefully kids enjoy them as much as I do. The illustrations are full of details and the pictures add to the story, giving us more background about why the kids choose the animals they do.

While I think this would be great for storytime, I'm interested to see how kids respond to the illustrations and if they catch the details in the story. This would be a great discussion book for parents and children as well.

Ready for Anything by Keiko Kasza

2009/32 pgs

About the Book: Duck wants to go on a picnic. But Raccoon is very worried about everything that could happen when the friends venture outside. Duck always counters with the fun the two will have on their adventure. Raccoon learns that he can be ready for anything and enjoy a day out with a friend.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Ready for Anything is on the 2011 Building Block list and while it's a cute book, I'm a bit torn on how much I enjoyed it.

I loved the illustrations and I loved Raccoon's crazy ideas for what could happen on their picnic. I think this could be a great book to read with a child who is prone to worry. But for me, the book didn't flow as nicely as I thought it could. As a whole, the book is cute, and the ending funny, but there were several points where I thought the book was ending and it just kept going. This made it a bit of a jarring read since I kept expecting an ending.

I'm also not sure if this would be something I'd pick for storytime, instead I think it would be a good one on one read.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean

2010/40 pgs
About the Book: Pete the Cat loves his white shoes. He loves his shoes so much that he strolls along, singing a song about them. But what happens when Pete steps in some berries? Not to worry-it's all good!

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Pete the Cat is a 2011 Building Block Award Nominee and I think Pete will end up being this year's winner.

The story is simple but I can see kids having lots of fun with it. There are opportunties for audience response when asked what happens to Pete's shoes and how he handles each new pile of berries and color. There's also lots of repetition of Pete's song, which kids will catch onto quickly and sing along. Pete takes everything in stride and his comments like "cool" and "it's all good" will be sure to make adults chuckle.

A fun colorful book that's perfect for storytime!

Usagi Yojimbo: Book 8: Shades of Death

by Stan Sakai, 192 pages

In this volume, wandering samurai Usagi lets fate determine which path to take at a fork in the road, with the expected results--namely, that he finds people who need him and make his existence temporarily more complicated than he'd like, gives them a hand, and goes on his way, grumbling but satisfied that he did the right thing. We also get a few glimpses into his childhood days of apprenticeship and how he learned a few lessons about living honorably.

Aw, little Usagi is so cute! There's also a cameo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which you may at first think is a bit odd, but if you've been reading these for a while, you know that the silliness of such world-crossing has its place, too. A few of the shorts in this volume have almost no dialogue, letting the reader take in the details and development largely from the images alone.

Vagabond: Volume 9

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 192 pages

Musashi's perpetual need to test and improve his strength takes him and his young tag-along Jôtarô to the home of the great master Yagyû Sekishûsai; but getting an audience, let alone a match, with the "invincible" old man is proving difficult, as his men don't want to waste their master's time with every travelling upstart who requests a challenge.

Sekishûsai's men obviously don't understand how stubborn Musashi can be. He believes in his strength and runs full-tilt into everything life throws at him, trusting it to see him through. He does not accept the right of obstacles to stand in his way. He may be a little dense now and then, but Musashi's also clever and observant, so he bides his time and watches for an opportunity to prove himself.

I love the nuances of the language of strength and how like-spirited individuals pick up on one another's queues. Musashi sees the cut stem of a flower he knows came from the master's home, compares it to his own cut, and understands just how much he has to learn from the one who made the original.

Great art, great story, great personality.

Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand

by Carrie Vaughn, 301 pages

What's a girl to do when wedding plans get to be a bit too much?  Elope to Vegas, of course.  Afterwards, Kitty plans to spend a relaxing weekend by the pool drinking frou-frou drinks and enjoying a short honeymoon.  Except her boss decides that this would be a great opportunity to film The Midnight Hour as a live TV show.  Plus Denver's master vampire, Rick, needs her to run one little errand.  Oh, and let's not forget the conflict with that ancient Babalonian cult, the magician who just might do real magic, the hotel full of bounty hunters in for the gun show and the fact that her fiance gets drawn into a high stakes poker game the same day that they're supposed to have a wedding.

This is one series that keeps getting better with each book.  In her 5th novel in the Kitty Norville series, Vaughn has upped the stakes, and crammed in more action and intrigue than ever before. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Why Didn't I Think of That? 101 Inventions That Changed the World By Hardly Trying" by Anthony Rubino

209 pages

Some of the things we use every day are really simple, when you think about it. This book gives a brief (one-page) history of 101 such things, from duck tape (developed to keep moisture out of ammunition cases in World War II) to popsickles (accidentally created after someone left a drink with a stirring stick outside the cold) to Post-It notes (dreamed up by a 3M employee who couldn't get his bookmark to stay in place during choir practice). The author describes how each invention or discovery changed the world it its own little way. There's plenty of humor to go with the facts, as the author pokes fun at the wacky ways that some common things were invented. Some of the jokes are too corny for my taste, but there were a few parts that made me laugh out loud. For many inventions, there is more information about what came before it, or what motivated the inventor, than information about where the idea actually came from or how it worked. Still, I enjoyed this book. It taught me a thing or two about things that I hadn't thought much about before, and it made me laugh!

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed by Pat Rothfuss, illustrated by Nate Taylor

2010/68 pgs
About the Book: The Princess lives in a marzipan castle and plays with her teddy bear Mr. Whiffle. Life is wonderful-except for the thing beneath the bed.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Patrick Rothfuss, of The Kingkiller Chronicle Fame, tries his hand at a picture for adults-the key words here being for adults. This is not a picture book for children, even if it does look sweet and fairy tale-esque. This is a book for adults with a dark sense of humor and I found it hysterical (not sure what that says about me!) The first review on Amazon states that this would be a book that would make Voldemort giggle-and I have to agree.
There are three endings-one happy, one horrible and one true ending. You can stop at whatever ending you please, but the fun is, of course, in reading all three and watching the story progress. I've already recommended this to friends and I plan on purchasing this for my own library collection. It will be a book I pull out when friends are over that I just have to share!

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

2009/262 pgs.
About the Book: Eleven-year-old Aubrey is barely surviving. Her younger sister and her father were killed in a car accident and her mother has left Aubrey-and hasn't come back. When Gram discovers that Aubrey is by herself, she brings Aubrey with her to Vermont. Aubrey writes letters to help deal with everything that is going on around her. Aubrey slowly makes friends and talks to the school counselor, but healing is a long process.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I listened to Love, Aubrey on CD and I can't decide if I liked it on audio or not.
It's a very good book and very well written. The author tackles tough issues, especially for a tween novel, and handles them delicately. She's also never message heavy which I think readers will appreciate. Aubrey is a bit of a difficult narrator because her grief is so heavy and that takes a toll on the reader. This especially made listening to the book very hard. The narrator gives Aubrey a scratchy, sad voice, which makes listening to the book a bit depressing. I also wonder if readers will get tired of Aubrey and not stick with the book-it look me awhile to like her.
I love the character of Bridget and she is an incredible friend for Aubrey. She was my favorite character in the book and I wish the world had more people like Bridget who are caring and understanding-no matter what. She's a great character for young readers to meet!
Readers who stick with the book will be rewarded though. Readers go through the healing process with Aubrey and through this I felt I liked Aubrey more. I don't know that this will be a favorite on the Mark Twain list, but I think it will have a small select fan base.

Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed

2007/40 pgs

About the Book: A young boy believes his mom is so mean! But when he witnesses his mother's kidnapping by martians, he realizes he needs to save his mom-and that maybe moms aren't so bad.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Berkeley Breathed's Red Ranger Came Calling is a tradition at my house, but I had never read Mars Needs Moms. With the movie version coming out, I figured I needed to check it out.

Mars Needs Moms has the same charm as Red Ranger, but less magic. The illustrations are fantastic-they manage to be cartoonish and lifelike at the same time. The story wasn't my favorite Berkeley Breathed story and it was a bit too sappy for my tastes. But it is a great tale of boys and their mothers. I'm sure the movie will differ greatly, since there are only 40 pages of the book to pull from.