Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

I read this book in one day.  It was short and filled with pictures and journal entries along with Jaycee's reflections on what happened to her along with a recounting of her abduction and subsequent life hidden away in Phillip and Nancy Garrido's backyard.  I was struck by how young she sounds but considering she was abducted at age 11 and not rescued until she was 29, this makes perfect sense.  Her story is compelling and I appreciated how she reported honestly but avoided sensationalizing and "blow by blow" accounting of events.  She managed to convey the horror of her situation but also her strength in getting through it and her desire to move forward now and to protect her children while giving them opportunities to grow and mature.   Her therapist must be a genius to help her through the ordeal and let her see a positive future.
Kim F

The Girl In the Song

The Girl In the Song: The True Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics
by Michael Heatley & Frank Hopkinson
144 pages

This is a short read, good for music lovers or anyone curious about the stories behind some of music's biggest songs.  Such songs included are: "Dear Prudence" (Beatles),  "Every Breath You Take" (The Police), "It Ain't Me Babe" (Bob Dylan), "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" (Beatles again), etc.  A lot of the songs featured I didn't recognize but it was interesting to learn their stories none the less.

Jake by Audrey Couloumbis

Close your eyes and imagine you are a ten year old it?  Okay, now imagine that your father has died and you live alone with your very wonderful mom.  Okay?  Add to the mental picture a grandfather you only speak with on the phone who sends you a Christmas present every year like clockwork but doesn't really know you and a nice neighbor lady.  Are you still with me?  Okay, now imagine you are at the grocery store with your mom; it's really, really cold outside and there is ice everywhere.  You come out of the store and your mom slips on the ice.  One minute she's there and the next she isn't.  An old lady starts screaming for help.  You don't know what to do.  Eventually, an ambulance comes and takes your mom to the hospital.  You find yourself in a waiting room and some stranger lady comes in and starts asking you questions about who you can contact but all your family is away and you don't know what to do.  Are you feeling how scary that could be?  You will if you read this book. Don't worry, it works out in the end and people come together in the nicest ways but Audrey Couloumbis does a good job of telling a story in a ten year old's voice and making you feel his feelings of fright, loss and worry.
159 pp

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

How much do you know about the Cuban Revolution?  Not much? Well you won't know any more about it after reading this book.  The revolution is simply the vehicle for telling this story about a teenage girl, Lucia, and her little brother Frankie who are sent alone to the United States by their parents so they can avoid the hardship and complete indoctrination of Castro.  It's also a story about friendship and the misunderstandings that can happen and how political issues can divide people: friends AND families.
Lucia and her brother are sent to a home for Cuban refugees and then to a home with a nice Midwestern couple. They learn English, how to be American children and are eventually reunited with their parents who find a way out of Cuba before the total lockdown. 
If it was better written, this would be a great book to give your Anne of Green Gables lovers but I never really cared about Lucia as much as the author wanted me to.  This will be liked by your hard-core girl readers and no one else.
284 pp

The Golden Ghost by Marion Dane Bauer

This is the perfect book for my youngest daughter who is nine years old.  It's a good length (86 pp) that she can read in one sitting and the writing is clear and compelling but more importantly, there's a ghost in it.  And not only that, the ghost is a dog!  For Elena, who is currently obsessed with The Ghost Whisperer and also with becoming a part time FBI agent, this book has everything.  There's a slight air of mystery, a ghostly dog who leads the main character, Delsie, to saving an old, homeless man and a happy ending...mostly.
Share this with the nine year olds in your life!

Friday, February 24, 2012

"The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron" by Howard Bryant

600 pages

Almost everyone's heard of baseball legend Hank Aaron, but few really know much about Henry Aaron--the real man behind the icon. This biography, however, digs below the surface. Based on interviews with former teammates, family, and Aaron himself, it chronicles Aaron's journey from his childhood in segregated Alabama to his brief stardom in the Negro leagues all the way to his demolition of Babe Ruth's home run record, plus everything in between. The story isn't limited to baseball, though. Howard portrays Aaron as a complicated person who loved his sport but also wanted to leave behind a legacy off the field, particularly in the area of civil rights and equality for African Americans.

I picked this book up because I like Howard Bryant's column in ESPN: The Magazine, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. It's one of the best biographies I've read in a while. Bryant got some great interviews with Aaron and people close to him. He did his historical research as well, which allowed him to put Aaron's life in context. The storytelling really brings the exciting baseball stories to life, and the issues of racism and segregation are covered well also. It's hard to believe that such blatant discrimination took place just decades ago, and even superstars were not immune to it. After reading this, I feel like I not only know a lot more about Henry Aaron but also understand his impact on the world, on the field and off. And it was just plain interesting and enjoyable.


by Ann Aguirre
262 pages

In this dark and gritty novel, Deuce, a Huntress, must brave the underground tunnels of NYC to bring back meat for the people of the Enclave. She’s partnered with Fade, a mysterious outsider, who was found near the Enclave after being in the tunnels for four years by himself. Freaks, who I immediately associated with Reavers, are also there hunting the same meat and them...well they aren’t particular in what they eat.

After being partnered with Fade, Deuce realizes that the elders may not always know best. She and Fade are exiled and make it Topside. But Topside is even more dangerous than the underground tunnels. At an action pace that brought Hunger Games to mind, we follow Deuce, Fade and a Breeder and Gangster they pick up along the way north as they search for a settlement Fade’s sire told him about.

The ending is not a cliffhanger, but doesn’t wrap anything up either, just leading us into Outpost, which is due out this Fall.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

by Laini Taylor
418 pages

I saw Sarah’s review of this book and knew I had to read it. She’s right, it’s not your typical paranormal read. Upon opening the novel you read, “Once upon a time an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.” I was enthralled to the last page.

As Sarah wrote, “Seriously, pick this book up now!” Just as I did. You won’t be sorry.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
374 pages

I have heard buzz about this book for a long time, but for some reason never really got into it. For some reason, I tend to stay away from YA novels. But then I heard that Josh Hutcherson was going to be playing Peeta in "The Hunger Games" movie. And I may or may not have a huge ginormous crush on Josh Hutcherson.

So I knew that I had to see the movie. And I try not to see a movie based on a book without reading the book first. So when I was at Target and saw that they had a copy of "The Hunger Games" for only $8, well, it was too good to pass up.

I LOVED it. Love love loved it. And that might be because since I already knew who was playing who in the movie. That helped me to envision what was happening while reading.

Also, Katniss Everdeen might be one of the most badass characters created. Right behind Lizbeth Salander.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Childhood's End

By Arthur C. Clarke
222 pages

This is a classic science fiction novel by one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time.  Though it is short, it is not a light read.  This book starts during the Cold War and covers the history of Earth for the next 150 years.  However, in this history, the "Overlords" have come from outer space and are now in charge of Earth.  During their reign, wars are ended and mankind reaches a new level of prosperity.  But man has not yet reached the pinnacle of existence...

Overall, I liked this book.  There were a lot of themes to explore, such as the problems with utopian societies and the purpose of life, so I can definitely see why this is a classic.  However, some of the technology and history in this book is dated.  It was written during the Cold War era and before man had actually reached the moon, so you do need to make the proper allowances for these issues.  Thankfully, the themes of this book are timeless, even if the technology isn't. 


by Marissa Meyer
390 pages

Looking for something to read while I was waiting for some books to come in, I downloaded the first 5 chapters for free and got started. I was immediately hooked and downloaded the whole book shortly after.

Yes, it’s another Cinderella story and you can easily see how the characters fit in within the fairy tale we know and love, but it still was a very intriguing story, set in New Bejing, China after WWIV
with Cinder(ella) as a cyborg.

The ending was left open since the 2nd-4th novels in this series are lined up to be released 2013-15.

Tortured: A Bridge Story Between Birthmarked and Prized

by Caragh M O’Brien
about 20 pages

A free ebook that tells the short story of what Leon goes through to go after Gaia after he pushes her out of the Enclave so she can run to the Dead Forest. I loved that it was free - pretty awesome that the author did this - but I wanted more information. However, I haven’t read Prized yet, so there may be the information I want in there.


by Caragh M O’Brien
362 pages

I’ve really been on the YA dystopia with a female heroine reads lately and this was one of the best so far. It had just the right amount of love story, thrilling action and a hint of the rebellion for me. I can’t wait to read the sequel to see what happens to Gaia and Leon and how they’ll come together and conquer the Enclave! :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Infernal Devices: Book Two: Clockwork Prince

by Cassandra Clare, 510 pages

While also trying to prevent a coup and reeling from multiple betrayals, Tessa and the Shadowhunters search for the mastermind behind a clockwork army plot before he completes his preparations and launches an attack. Meanwhile, Will attempts to fix his own problems on the sidelines, unaware that he's got more than one obstacle to overcome.

Argh, with the love triangles, already! And why do I always like the third wheels so much! I complain, but I still enjoy this series, and this universe, so I'll just have to wait for the next book and see how it all turns out. My memory of the still-in-progress sequel series is foggy enough that I can't remember what sort of hints were dropped as to the outcomes of these conflicts, so things may work out or they may not....

The Unwritten: Volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity

by Mike Carey (story), Peter Gross (art), and Yuko Shimizu (cover and incidental art), 140 pages

Having your emotionally distant beloved-children's-author of a father base a universally popular character on you is hard enough, what with the legions of adoring fans who can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. But it only gets worse when he disappears after publishing the thirteenth and final (?) book, leaving you to fight for your identity, fend off the increasingly suspicious police, and deal with the possibility that you may have no better a grasp on what is and isn't real than your father's readers.

I quite liked this first installment and will definitely read more. What starts out as a peek behind the curtain of the publishing and convention worlds becomes an intriguing tale of magic and mystery dark enough to qualify as horror, all with a literary, philosophical bent.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chew: Volume 3: Just Desserts

by John Layman (story) and Rob Guillory (art), 121 pages

Tony tries to balance his personal life (dates with "persuasive" food writer! family Thanksgiving [complete with illicit bird]!) and his work (hateful boss! wonderful nutjob partner! still-at-liberty villain!), with both silly and serious results. Is a double agent really a triple agent? And what's Tony going to do when his nemesis figures out his shocking weak spot?!

Ooh, surprises! And guffaws. Also, uh-oh. I need the next book!

Chew: Volume 2: International Flavor

by John Layman (story) and Rob Guillory (art), 121 pages

When Tony takes an off-the-record trip to a chicken-loving resort island in pursuit of a lead, what begins as curiosity quickly turns personal. Now he's got to coordinate with a crazy Agriculture Department agent, dig up a grave, locate a stolen fighting rooster, talk his greedy chef of a brother out of job, rescue the woman of his dreams, and deal with a potential Russian vampire linked to the vigilante conspiracy theorist from volume one. And of course he has to eat a lot of questionable stuff to do it.

I keep cracking up over every little thing in this series. Notes on walls and bulletin boards ("Colonel Sanders wanted for questioning"--"TPS Reports must be filed by end of day!"). All the different brands of artificial chicken products, such as Poult-Free and my favorite, Fricken (think "ribbit"). And the undefeated rooster's wall of fame ("Poyo: Behind the Mask"--"Cockfight will be followed immediately by BBQ"--"Could Poyo Beat a Man?"--the answer is "yes," by the way). And those are just from the backgrounds. :)

XxxHolic: Volume 18

by CLAMP, 180 pages

Watanuki asks for Dômeki's help with one customer and shoos him away while dealing with another. In both cases, and following a visit from old friends, Watanuki shows himself to have grown stronger, both in powers and spirit, which is a comfort to his loved ones.

It's a good thing Watanuki's built up some confidence and know-how, as only one volume remains and I'm sure it will not be an easy one for him. I don't know how or if CLAMP's going to fit in all the things I want to know, but I'm excited to get whatever they're willing to give me. But I'm also sad at the thought of finally having to leave these characters and their stories behind.

Blade of the Immortal: Volume 21: Demon Lair II

by Hiroaki Samura, 218 pages

Rin and the others battle madmen and mother nature, but as long as Manji's still chained to his prison cell wall, they're not going to get very far.

Sweet and hilarious, scary and horrible, all tossed together with loads of exciting, life-or-death action. How can I laugh and go "awww" over the fun bits when I know the cockroach is alive, free, and (oh so sadly!!) not alone?! Dang that Samura, he's got me right where he wants me. And I guess I'm happy to be there, too. Only I'd be happier if the cockroach were dead (for reals, this time, 'kay?). *sigh*

Arata: The Legend: Volume 8

by Yuu Watase, 190 pages

Kanate has an unwelcome reunion and makes a fateful decision while the rest of the gang infiltrate the palace of the local shinsho, Kugura, who's been absconding with local young ladies.

This volume is all about being happy with who you are (or confident enough in who you are not to freak out about a little cross-dressing). :P

Insert my usual grumbles about Arata and Kadowaki not getting nearly enough panel-time (all of five or six pages, this go-round). *sigh*

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Midnight Sons, Volume 1

by Debbie Macomber
392 pages

This book is actually two novels in one.  The first novel, Brides for Brothers, tells the story of how some lonely, bachelor pilots cook up a scheme to lure women to move to an isolated Alaskan town in the Arctic circle.  The story spells out the consequences of luring women to Alaska and the effect it has on one bachelor's heart.  The second novel, The Marriage Risk, picks up right where Brides for Brothers left off.  This book deals with a family feud and its effect on two potential lovers.

I listened to this on audio, and for the most part I enjoyed it.  The only complaint I had is that all the voices were done by a male narrator, which made some of the female characters sound a little weird.  However, I think the narration added to my overall enjoyment of the book and helped me feel the emotions of the characters.  My only complaint is that sometimes the "love" was a little too thick, but I am not a huge romance fan.