Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Laughing Corpse

by Laurell K Hamilton
301 pages

This is the second book in the Anita Blake series.  Anita has been propositioned by a rich, disabled mobster to raise a very old corpse in exchange for a very large sum of money.  The problem is that this requires human sacrifice, which she is unwilling to do.  However, the mobster isn't about to take no for an answer.  In the meantime, a killer zombie is killing a bunch of innocent people, and Anita realizes that a very powerful and evil voodoo priestess might be involved.  She manages to get herself on the wrong side of this priestess while investigating these murders.  In addition, Jean-Claude is still trying to woo her and get her to submit to being his human servant.  Obviously, Anita has her hands full.

Overall, this was a very action packed novel that made for a quick and pleasurable read.  I did not like this novel as much as the first.  Anita wasn't quite has funny, and I have still not seen any of the romance I was promised.  I was also slightly disturbed by parts of this novel, mainly because have an easier time believing that vampires aren't real than zombies.  Maybe I'm just quirky that way.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Songcatcher

The Songcatcher 
by Sharyn McCrumb.
Publisher New York : Dutton, c2001.
321 pg

Author McCrumb delivers another Appalachian-centric tale of mystery and mysticism.
A young boy is kidnapped from the British Isles and eventually arrives in New Jersey. He fights in the Revolutionary War. He has few memories of home but passes down a ballad to his children.

Lark McCourry is on her way to becoming a Nashville sensation. She starts to look for a ballad she remembers as a child. When she is summoned to her estranged father's deathbed, she plans to continue her search. On her way home, she crashes into a remote mountaintop, not knowing her father takes a turn for the worse.

This is a good read if you like tales of quest and redemption.

The Ballad of Frankie Silver

The ballad of Frankie Silver / Sharyn McCrumb.
Publisher New York : Dutton, c1998.
386 pgs.

Part of her Ballad Series, Sharyn McCrumb combines personal history, fiction and the lives of people past and present of Appalachian Tennessee and North Carolina.

Sheriff SpencerArrowood is recovering from wounds when he receives word that a inmate on death row is about to be executed. The sheriff was the principal witness against the prisoner. As time goes on he starts to question the verdict.

Set against modern day Tennessee and North Carolina the tale of a mountain girl convicted and hanged for the murder of her husband in 1823 unfolds.

Frankie Silver was a real person, and her trial and subsequent death continues to raise questions and speculation about her sentence.

The back and forth of timelines eventually makes sense. And in between, McCrumb paints a picture of Appalachia that you can’t help but relate to. Like a lot of people in the Ozarks, my family tree began in this region, and the dialogue reads true. As most good and true hillbillies know, you always lend a hand, but you don’t want to be personally “beholden” .

Readers will be behold to the author of  this absorbing tale of murder and mystery.

Anna and the French Kiss

by Stephanie Perkins
372 pages

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more.  So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris-until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.
But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true.  Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

This books is so cute! I was hooked from the very beginning. Couldn't put it down, stayed up to finish it. Just to make sure that yes, they finally kiss.

However, Anna & Etienne each keep messing things up a bit in the end and that was a slightly annoying, but it all wraps up nicely. None of it was too far fetched and real life type events, so I guess I’m not that annoyed :) Because it was so just so dang cute.

Oh, and I'm totally adding this to my everyday language: pants. Instead of crap, shite, etc :) When Etienne says this Anna, she says, "Oh heavens, that's cute."  

Plus, I totally think the author is making fun of Nicholas Sparks. It was cracking me up.

Did I mention I thought it was cute?...Just kidding.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


by Franny Billingsley
361 pages

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know.

Not my cup of tea. It reminded me of Tithe by Holly Black, which I also didn’t like.

It’s like Briony is writing, telling her story and it’s just stream of consciousness sometimes. It was making me crazy. She would go off into these little limericks or poems, then come back to the story. A lot of repeating that she was wicked, she mustn’ forget Stepmother, what she did to her sister, Rose and etc. etc. etc. Too tiring. Perhaps this won several awards because this style is brilliant. Again, just not my cup of tea.

And probably the biggest thing for me is that while there is a HEA, the author messed it up for me with a bit of “rape and pillaging” but then they are okay and end up together. Also, the inevitable kiss is referred to early on with a specific page number. I know that’s what is likely to happen, but I don’t want to know exactly when, what fun is that?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Smart

Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days
by Jane Mallison
294 pages

Imagine if your English professor gave you a list of books to read, except instead of for the semester it's for the whole year: that's pretty much what this book is.  Luckily, you don't have to write a report or anything.  Many of the books are classics, but there are also more contemporary books and some books I hadn't heard of.

Each month has a theme, with books to read that match.  For example, April is female protagonists (think Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina), while October is themed around children growing up (think Little Women and To Kill a Mockingbird).

This book definitely gave me some books to add to my "to-read" list.  The only criticism I have is that in some of the synopses of the books, she pretty much gave away the ending. Still a good book to check out if you need an idea about what to read next though.

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett, 217 pages

A jaded PI goes on the trail of his partner's killer and finds himself embroiled in a complicated web of money, murder, and mystery.

I liked this classic hard-boiled detective novel more than I thought I would. It takes a bit to get used to the way the author reveals no internal thoughts or emotions directly, but after a while you start to appreciate having to be an astute detective yourself and read into the actions and expressions to determine what lies beneath. Not having any clues as to what someone's really thinking and feeling at any moment kind of ups the suspense, too, since you never know for sure what's going on inside their heads and you have to read each situation the way characters involved do--by keeping your eyes open and paying attention to every little thing. The book is also surprisingly funny, in a dry, sarcastic, tough-as-nails kind of way. Sam Spade may not be a "nice," upstanding guy, but you've got to admire his cleverness, grit, and self-preservation skills, as well as his ability to laugh (albeit jadedly so) in the face of the messiness of existence.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

by Frank Miller with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, John Costanza (lettering); Batman created by Bob Kane, 227 pages

The Batman hasn't been seen in Gotham for years, but as skyrocketing crime statistics threaten to drag the city into chaos, his aging alter ego struggles against the urge to come out of retirement.

At last I can eliminate this title from my comics-loving conscience's not-yet-read list--woot!

Bruce Wayne is no spring chicken. Pushing sixty tends to take the edge off one's crime-fighting pizzazz, and I love that Wayne acknowledges this, is a little worried about it, and finds less-taxing workarounds when he can. It helps, of course, to have a talented teenage sidekick to pick up the slack. Batman fights not only punk gangs with bad grammar, "rehabilitated" old foes, and vigilante-averse authorities, but his own body and the changing of the guard. The layers of conflict here besides just those between good and bad give this seminal addition to the comics world, and the superhero genre in particular, its depth and staying power.

Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 13

by Karuho Shiina, 171 pages

This time it's Sawako's turn to meet Kazehaya's family! Also, the gang enjoys a day at the beach and then later sets out on a (potentially eventful) school trip to Okinawa.

Ha ha, Kazehaya's family are a hoot, especially his dad, who's as protective as Sawako's but with a lot more confidence. He's like a benevolent drill sergeant. :) One of the things I love about this series is how much attention is given to the supporting characters. This may be Sawako and Kazehaya's story first, but they don't travel their paths alone and those at their side get the development they deserve. Another reason to appreciate this series is the way it takes standard manga tropes and makes them fresh and unpredictable. The beach episode is nice partly due to the ways it deviates from the usual manga "beach trip" scenario. And the school trip looks to be going the same route. What's going to happen next?!

Kimi ni Todoke: Volume 12

by Karuho Shiina, 179 pages

At last...Kazehaya meets the parents!

Oh, my goodness, the adorableness here is just too much (in the totally best way possible). Sawako's mom is cool, but her worried, protective dad gets almost as much giggly sympathy out of the reader as his shy daughter and her new, earnest boyfriend. Sweetness.

This volume includes a cute side story relating how Ayane and Chizu got to be friends. More sweetness! Also, giggles.

The Unwritten: Volume 4: Leviathan

by Mike Carey (story), Peter Gross (art), and Yuko Shimizu (cover and incidental art), 136 pages

Tom, Lizzie, and Savoy arrive in New England searching for clues to the "source" of story-bound magic so Tom can start to figure out how to control it instead of just being at its whim and crossing his fingers. While he inadvertently gets pulled into the story of Moby Dick, Lizzie and the increasingly sun-averse Savoy get caught up in one of the Cabal's webs.

Oh no, Savoy's looking a little green around the gills! But I worry less after seeing Lizzie's practical but undisturbed reaction. As long as somebody brings him his meals and he stays out of direct sunlight, maybe he'll be ok (as will the jugulars of those around him). Stupid Ambrosio, biting people without their permission.

I do love the way this series draws on literary allusions and philosophical theories as a basis for its magic. All the whale business this time around was rather fun (Tom meets up with some interesting personages in the belly of one). And the continuation of the story of Pauly, former acquaintance of Tom's father, in the form of a deranged rabbit now exiled to a scary staircase land with a bunch of other (somewhat familiar) talking animals is weird and disturbing and a bit cool (I do hope he gets his comeuppance, the selfish thing).

Crimson Hero: Volume 11

by Mitsuba Takanashi, 190 pages

Aiyu Gakuin's girls play for keeps, but would they go so far as to injure another player on purpose? When Tomo is hurt, the Crimson girls have to show their opponents what real teamwork is by stepping in for their vulnerable setter.

Ah, Nobara's heart is in the game, but when the whistle blows she's still stressing over keeping her and Yushin's secret, especially from Haibuki and Tomo and everyone else she's grown so close to.

Pandora Hearts: Volume 9

by Jun Mochizuki, 180 pages

Oz decides the best way to learn about Sablier is to go to the place itself...or what's left of it. But he, Gil, and Alice--as well as those who follow in their footsteps--may find themselves unprepared for what (and who) they encounter there.

Oh, Gil, don't give in to Vince's crazy manipulation! More surprises, more mysteries, and more lovely artwork suck the hooked reader into the continued confusion of this dense story.

Pandora Hearts: Volume 8

by Jun Mochizuki, 204 pages

Break confesses a few more unpleasant details of his personal history to Oz, Alice, and Gil. Vincent, whose child-self features in Break's memories, shows himself to be as twisted and frightening as ever as he plays with his brother Gil's head and tries to nurture seeds of discord.

Sheesh! Vince is a scary, scary guy. And Break's account of his run-in with the Intention of the Abyss gives the reader much to ponder, as do the complex but intriguing ways in which all the characters are slowly being connected to each other, the past, and the as-yet unknown future.

Pandora Hearts: Volume 7

by Jun Mochizuki, 180 pages

Break joins Oz and the others at the opera for an information-trading meeting with the leader of one of the other noble houses. They want to know more about Glen Baskerville and the tragedy of Sablier...but are more shocked by the revelations of mysterious, clownish Break's past.

Considering some of the dark places this series goes, it does a good job of sprinkling in humor to keep the mood from being oppressive. That said, some of the things we learn--and some of the things we suspect--make the reader worry for the characters and their fragile relationships.

Pandora Hearts: Volume 6

by Jun Mochizuki, 180 pages

Oz's uncle Oscar whisks him, Gilbert, and Alice off to Oz's little sister's private school in order to discover the object of her secret crush. Really, though, Oscar's just trying to get Oz to relax, have a little fun, and reconnect with his sister, whom he hasn't seen since he returned from the Abyss the first time. With everyone but himself 10 years older than the day he disappeared, the boy has felt a little left behind and detached from those who love him. But with the "encouragement" of new acquaintances and old, Oz may finally be starting to step out of his self-hating holding pattern.

Ha, I like the new boys, Elliot and his valet Leo. Elliot's short-fused temper and blunt personality are just what quiet, tightly-wound little Oz needs to kick him in the seat of the pants. And vice versa, as Elliot needs his faith in humanity restored a wee bit, too. Now, if the scary Baskervilles, responsible for the tragedy 100 years ago, would just stop stirring up trouble and trying to bring it all about again....

"Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found" by Sophie Blackall

128 pages

This book is exactly what it looks like. Blackall took real missed connections from Craigslist and drew illustrations for them (If you don't know what "missed connections" are, google it. You can thank me later). Some are sad, and a lot are funny. The illustrations are perfect--fun but sort of whimsical as well. On the other hand, I don't think Blackall did as well at picking the ones she featured. A few were hilarious, but most weren't any more entertaining than ones I see on Craigslist when I log on. Still, the book is a great idea and I enjoyed it. 

Pandora Hearts: Volume 5

by Jun Mochizuki, 180 pages

As they struggle to once again escape the unstable Abyss, Oz and the others witness glimpses of the past tragedy of Sablier that altered the world order and changed their lives forever. There are still many secrets, past and present, to remember and unravel. Oz and his allies will have to uncover the truth and defeat a familiar adversary if they don't want history to repeat itself.

Sheesh, little Vincent was scary (not that big Vincent isn't scary, too, but sociopathic kids are so much creepier). And yet we feel a little sorry for him. What role did he have in the events of 100 years ago? And what's he up to now?! Crazy Vincent + Baskervilles = not a good thing for anyone else.

"Bittersweet" by Sarah Ockler

378 pages

Three years ago, Hudson had her future all figured out. She was on track to become one of the top figure skaters in the country, and then it would be on to the Olympics. All of a sudden, in one day, her life fell apart. Afterward, she abandoned skating and focused on working in her mother's diner and creating amazing new cupcake recipes. Now she's seventeen, and when an opportunity to skate again comes up she can't keep her mind off it. She begins training again--in secret. In secret at first, that is. When one of the members of her school's embarrassingly bad hockey team sees her on the ice, he talks her into helping the team learn to skate better. Turns out, one of those hockey players is special--so special that he makes Hudson want to tear down the walls she's built around herself and let someone in. Problem is, he's sending some seriously mixed signals. To make matters more complicated, an old crush (also on the team) is suddenly paying attention to her as well. Hudson has to figure out what she really wants--with the guys, with her skating, and with the rest of her life. 

Only Sarah Ockler can get me to read such "girly" books. Thing is, her stories are about so much more than just romance. I didn't like this one quite as much as her amazing Twenty Boy Summer, but that really doesn't say much. Bittersweet has the same depth and lovable, believable characters that Ockler is so skilled at bringing to life. Even though I know nothing about figure skating or baking, I found plenty to relate to in Hudson. Most of us have been confused about who we are and what we want to do with our lives at some point, so we feel for Hudson as she deals with all of these issues. I really loved the ending, too. Part of it is totally predictable, but I didn't care because it's what I wanted to happen. A different part of the conclusion completely surprised me, so there is some variety there. Also, I was glad that it ended on a happy note but everything wasn't completely fixed and wrapped up with a bow--it would seem fake if it had a fairy tale ending. I'll definitely be recommending this one to Ockler fans and anyone who wants a story that will not only entertain but also make them think. 

"School of Fear: The Final Exam" (School of Fear #3) by Gitty Daneshvari

336 pages

Madeleine, Garrison, Lulu, and Theo are back for their third summer at School of Fear. They made lots of progress during their previous visits, but, as much as they hate to admit it, they each have some more work to do in conquering their phobias. Problem is, things aren't looking good for the School of Fear. A nosy reporter is planning an expose on Mrs. Wellington that will ruin her reputation and the school's, possibly even causing the school to be shut down. If that happens, not only will Mrs. Wellington and her trusty sidekick, Schmidty, be devastated, but the kids will have no hope of acquiring the fear-free lives they long for. Once again, they have to band together and face their fears.

This conclusion to the School of Fear trilogy is as fun and charming as the first two books in the series. The characters really drive these stories. They totally crack me up, and a lot of young (and older!) readers will relate to them. We're all afraid of something, even if we don't have a full-blown phobia. By this point in the series, the characters all know each other really well so they interact with each other in hilarious ways. As far as the plot goes, I think this is the weakest of the series. There just doesn't seem to be as much going on and they're kind of wandering around for a while. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed The Final Exam, and I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the series.

Clockwork Prince

by Cassandra Clare
502 pages

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Loved it! The story is moving along so nicely; Tessa’s made out with both boys, there’s a mole and you never guess who it is, we find out just how strategically devious Mortmain is and Tessa ends up the wrong boy, of course.

Can’t believe I have to wait until November to read the final installment. I mean c’mon Ms. Clare, you have like 5 books out for Mortal Instruments. Which I heard were a lot like Infernal Devices, so I’m on to those next.

Phrases that crack me up: Horrors no (our Hell no), By the angel (our OMG) and Infernal Devices (things that Henry makes that are supposed to work)

Clockwork Angel

by Cassandra Clare
673 pages
(Large Type edition)

When sixteen-year-old orphan Tessa Gray's older brother suddenly vanishes, her search for him leads her into Victorian-era London's dangerous supernatural underworld, and when she discovers that she herself is a Downworlder, she must learn to trust the demon-killing Shadowhunters if she ever wants to learn to control her powers and find her brother.

What’s not to love about this book? It’s my favorite time period (Victorian-era), in one of my fav places (London) about a supernatural underworld with a love triangle. I can't wait to devour the second book.


by Lauren DeStefano
341 pages

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but they’re still in danger. Outside, they find a world even more disquieting than the one they left behind. Determined to get to Manhattan and find Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan, the two press forward, amid threats of being captured again…or worse. The road they are on is long and perilous—and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and men die at age twenty-five, time is precious. In this sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price—now that she has more to lose than ever.

This second installment of the Chemical Garden trilogy is lame. Rhine and Gabriel are captured again on like page 2, escape again on like page 182 then Rhine literally walks directly back into the arms of Housemaster Vaughn and back to the mansion on like page 302. Really? Let me guess what happens in book 3...Gabriel goes back to the mansion and rescues Rhine...again.


by Jessica Anthony, Rodrigo Corral
272 pages

After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song "Chopsticks."

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it's up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along....

OMG! This is such a great book! I completely loved it. The story, the format, just everything. If you haven’t read it, Google all the YouTube links, it’s so fun, sort of gives more madness to the story. I know what the authors want us to think happened, but I know what I believe :)

Clockwork Prince

By Cassandra Clare
498 pages
There have been some other recent reviews of the second book in the Infernal Devices series, so I won’t spend time on the story.  I enjoyed this book much more than the first in the series.  I felt the story moved at a better pace and the characters came into their own (in the first book I felt the characters were too similar to those in Clare’s first series, The Mortal Instruments).  Where I was indifferent before, I am now looking forward to the next installment! 

420 Characters

by Lou Beach
169 pages

Within this collection of miniature stories, entire worlds take shape—some like our own, some hallucinatory fairylands--populated by heartsick cowboys, random criminals, lovers and drifters. In a dazzling narrative constellation, Beach’s characters contend with the strange and terrible and beautiful in life, and no outcome is certain. Begun as a series of Facebook status updates, 420 Characters marks a new turn in an acclaimed artist and illustrator’s career, and features original collages by the author.

Jonathan Lethem wrote this review (featured on the cover), “Holy sh*t! These are great!”  Mr. Lethem I totally agree.

A Web of Air

By Philip Reeve
304 pages
After Fever Crumb leaves London and the city’s irrational plan to become nomadic, she finds shelter in an unlikely environment for an engineer: a travelling theater.  Her two young charges, Fern and Ruan, adore the theater barge, but even though Fever has been useful in electrifying the theater, she knows that she does not belong here.  When the company reaches Mayda, she learns of a resident with an unusual passion – Arlo who is obsessed with flight.  But Arlo has demons in his past, and worse, there are those who are bent on stopping him from realizing his dream to fly.  As Fever sets out to help Arlo, she starts to feel true excitement over the technological wonder they are working on, and then complex feelings that her engineer background has not prepared her for.
I struggled a bit with Fever Crumb when I read it and found the same to be true for part of this book, but about midway began to connect with it in a greater way.  The action is just right and the description of both Fever and Arlo are right on.  Fever begins to realize that human emotion, while unreasonable, is powerful and unavoidable, and the ending is heartbreaking.  If there is one thing these books are not, it is idealistic, so while I am looking forward to the third I know it may not be a happy ending. 

"Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey" by Bob McCabe

531 pages

The first time I saw this, I flipped out. As someone who's obsessed with all things Harry Potter, I just had to get my hands on this massive book. Reading it was even more fun than I thought it would be. It goes through the entire process of making each movie, from selecting the cast to writing the scripts to bringing the incredible magic to life on screen. It's got the big-picture stuff, like the different directors' and producers' visions, as well as the details, like how they made each magical creature. There are tons of interviews and quotes from the cast and crew, plus memorabilia from the sets. Basically, this is the best coffee table book ever if you love Harry Potter.

Here are a few random things I learned while reading this book:
  • At the beginning, there was discussion of animating the films instead of using real people (how different that would have been!)
  • Daniel Radcliffe wasn't even going to try out for the role of Harry Potter; fortunately for him, his family ran into one of the producers at an opera and talked his parents into letting him audition
  • Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) has never read the Harry Potter books (shame on him!)
  • Emma Watson (Hermione) had a huge crush on Tom Felton (Draco) during the filming of the first several movies
  • One crew member's only job was gluing individual hairs and feathers into stuff, like the boar's head in Hogsmead and Dumbledore's bird, Fawkes

The Pledge

By Kimberly Derting
323 pages
In Charlie’s world, people are divided by class.  Each class has its own unique language, and if someone makes eye contact with someone of a higher class while they are speaking their language, the punishment is death.  Control is the name of the game, the queen is desperate to keep her citizens in check and keep a tight grip on her throne.  Charlie is in danger every day, because for some reason, she was born understanding all languages.  She manages to keep a low profile and has learned to navigate her world well.  But things are changing, there is massive unrest and the rules are becoming stricter.  Even more disturbing, two strange men have both seemed to take an interest in Charlie, and she is not sure what that means.  What she discovers about her world and her identity will change her life forever.
I am torn with this book.  First, the good: This has a very intriguing concept.  The structure of the country and the control the monarch has over the subjects with language is gripping.  Charlie’s power and the truth about her identity also grabbed my attention.  But overall, the book fell a bit short.  I very much wanted to know more about the world Charlie lives in.  How did the current situation come to be?  Why is the queen so evil?  How does the magic come in to play?  Derting really didn’t delve in to any of that.  The romance was a bit distracting too, aside from being unbelievable (the guy is a bit stalkerish versus romantic) once that romance started to play out it was as though the rest of the storytelling stopped and the story focused primarily on that.  It was hard to truly sympathize with the characters too, I just didn’t feel like I understood them.  I didn’t dislike the book, but I was disappointed that such a great idea wasn’t supported throughout the entire story.

The Thief

By Megan Whalen Turner
280 pages
Gen is a successful thief.  Unfortunately, he has one major flaw: arrogance.  In prison after bragging about his skills, Gen is suddenly summoned to the Magus, the king’s top advisor.  The Magus needs his assistance in stealing the treasure of a neighboring country, and not just any treasure.  A treasure that will allow the king to realize his greatest plans.  Gen quickly discovers that this will not be a typical heist, he will be forced to not only find a relic that others have searched for for generations, but also determine which of his companions can be trusted, which cannot, and just what he hopes to accomplish for himself.  Appearances can be deceiving however, and Gen has a surprise of his own.
I was intrigued throughout this entire book and pleasantly surprised at the end.  A great adventure story for those who like to root for the unlikely hero.

The Gray Wolf Throne

By Cinda Williams Chima
528 pages
This is the third book in the Seven Realms series.  When we last left Han and Princess Raisa, they were finding their way back to the Fells separately.  After Raisa (still disguised as Rebecca) is attacked in the mountains, Han comes to her rescue and manages to deliver her – barely – to the clans just inside the border.  Shocks await both of them, as Han discovers that the girl he knows and loves as Rebecca is actually the princess heir to the kingdom and Raisa learns that she will be rising to power much sooner than previously thought.  Raisa desperately tries to regain Han’s trust and allegiance as she fights to take her rightful place as queen.
This installment is long, and I found myself almost losing interest often.  I am still invested in the overall story, but I am getting anxious for some closure!  I am looking forward to the next one, but I hope Chima moves things along a bit.

World of the Hunger Games

by Kate Egan
192 pages

This is the definitive, full-color guide to Panem. Gorgeous photographs from the movie make this a rich visual dictionary for the incredible world that Suzanne Collins created and that has come to life on the big screen. It showcases the major players and participants in The Hunger Games, the life and home of Katniss Everdeen, and the perils of the Games themselves — injuries, fire, muttations, and all the rest. A glossary and new quotes from Suzanne Collins herself complete the package. Fans of both the Hunger Games novels and the stunning forthcoming film will treasure this book.

I didn’t get this during my pre-movie prep time, but went ahead and read through it. It’s actually a great way to get the story and see some movie stills without any *major* spoilers, without reading the book or watching the movie.

Jellioce Road by Melina Marchetta

419 pgs/2008

How had I not read this before?? I loved this book! I think I had a different idea in my head of what the book was about, which made me not read it. It's hard to describe. It starts out with a war between those at the school and the townies, but it morphs into a story of Taylor, searching for family and her identity, and the story of kids who lived on the Jellicoe Road years before. The way they combine and weave together is magical.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


Maggie Stiefvater is so creative and talented! Who knew that racing water horses could be so engaging and make up a book that I loved? Puck and and Sean are both such great characters-Puck is the underdog in the race, wanting to win to save her family home. Sean has a talent for the horses and is the top choice to win (he's won many times before), but he's still under the rule of the Malvern family, who own the horses Sean works with and trains, including his beloved Corr. The two lives intersect when they both compete in the races, making a wonderful story that I got lost in. The island of Thisby was so rich and real and the characters really came to life. I listened to this one on audio and the narrators have such wonderful, velvet voices, the audiobook was so addicting to listen to!

Mr and Mrs. Bunny-Detectives Extraordinaire by Mrs. Bunny, translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath

256 pgs/2012

About the Book: Poor Madeline. All she wants is some new white shoes to attend her school graduation ceremony and accept an award from Prince Charles. It's a very big deal, except her hippie parents don't seem to agree. They're too busy celebrating Luminara. When some foxes need the help of Madeline's code-decoder relative Uncle Runyon, they kidnap Madeline's parents instead, hoping they can lead them to Uncle Runyon's address. Good thing Mrs. and Mrs. have just taken up detective work-all for the fedora, of course. The bunnies are on the case!

HermioneWeasley Says: It's rare that I find a book that appeals to my inner 9-year-old self and my adult self all in one. But that's just what Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-Dectectives Extraordinaire has done.

The satire is hilarious-from mystery novels, to hippie parents, to the long-married Mr. and Mrs. Bunny who have a wonderful banter, there is so much here that will leave adults laughing. But it's not just the adults who will get a kick out of this book. There are plenty of hijinks, silly animals, and twists and turns to delight younger readers. This is a book that made me wish I had a classroom of 4th or 5th graders to read this book aloud to-it's a book that begs to be read by adult and child together.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny cracked me up. Mrs. Bunny is always changing her hobbies and she decides that Mr. and Mrs. Bunny should become detectives, because detectives get to wear fedoras-perfectly reasonable, right? I loved the banter back and forth between Mr. and Mrs. Bunny-it reminded me a lot of myself and Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan, if we were bunnies, of course. And Madeline is smart (she's read Pride and Prejudice!) and she's the one who ends up telling the adults-human and bunny-what to do. Not in a bossy way, but she just ends up being the logical one. With Madeline leading the quest to find her parents, tween readers will be cheering her on and laughing about the silliness the bunnies find themselves in. Then there's the foxes who are trying to learn English, Madeline's hippie parents, and a marmot who loves garlic bread and really, why aren't you reading this book already??

This one has a nice mix of classic storytelling and satire and it's great for readers of all ages. Add in Sophie Blackall's beautiful illustrations, and you've got a book that you'll want to put on your library shelf right now. Be sure to booktalk this one to your tween readers-and your adult readers!

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin

240 pgs/2012

About the Book: Oona is worried about her cat Zook-he's not doing so well and Oona wants to figure out a way to break him out of the vet's office and bring him home. As Oona tries to take care of everything, she tells Fred that cats have nine lives, so they don't need to worry about Zook. Oona decides to make up the stories of Zook's previous lives. Oona always worries about her brother, Fred, who hasn't had the best appetite since their father died two years ago. And on top of that, Oona's mom has started to date The Villain...well, really Dylan-but Oona's sure he's a villain! Oona's determined to find out the truth about Zook's illness, and discover the truth about why her mom shouldn't be interested in The Villain and along the way she may just discover some truths about herself.

HermioneWeasley Says: Alright fellow readers. Do you ever find yourself in the mood for a charming middle grade novel? One that hits all the right notes when it comes to family and growing up? And that maybe evens has the feel of some of the classics you read as a tween yourself? Add The Five Lives of our Cat Zook into your secret pile when you're looking for that special book.

Oona was a narrator that I liked and she made me laugh a lot. Her observations are smart and funny which made me like her. I also liked how much she took care of brother and taught him to read. She has many different theories about things-a name theory, a whopper theory-and each time Oona revealed a new theory, I liked her even more. She felt like a mix of Claudia (From the Mixed Up Files...) and Anne (Anne of Green Gables). She has some crazy ideas, but that's part of what I liked about her. She was loyal to her friends and family, even if meant coming up with a crazy idea of how to help them. Sure her plans didn't always work, but she had to try!

This is a very sweet book about a cat, siblings, and parents. Oona isn't quite ready for her mom to move on and Oona herself won't stop wearing her Dad's Raiders sweatshirt. While the book is about Zook and Oona's stories about Zook, it's also about grief and learning to live after a loss. Oona's story isn't obvious-we're not hit over the head with lessons that she's learned. Instead, she comes to an understanding slowly and we go through the process with her, which adds to the books charm.

I would recommend this one to readers who like family stories and animal stories and anyone looking for a good old fashioned book. You'll be glad you got to know Oona and Zook!

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

288 pgs/2012

All Portia remembers about her father is a circus. So when a circus comes to town, Portia decides it's her chance to escape the cruel home for girls she's been sent to and follow the circus in hopes of finding family.

What Portia discovers is a wonder show-a group of freaks who travel from town to town with the circus as part of a sideshow. There's a tall man, short mall, conjoined twins, bearded lady, strongman, and a knife thrower that throws with her toes, because she has no arms. Portia is one of the few normals among them. It's among this group that Portia begins to discover just who she really is.

A Good and Useful Hurt by Aric Davis

293 pages, 2011
Pain, whether physical or mental, is simply a fact of life. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves and other times it is cast upon us despite our every effort to keep it at bay. This novel brings them all together and reminds us that there is such thing as "a good and useful hurt." Experiencing pain and overcoming it helps us to grow and become stronger individuals and helps to remind us not to take life for granted, a point driven home on more than one occasion by Davis.

A piercer by trade, Davis provides excellent background information and realistic descriptions of tattoo and piercing practices as they relate to the book. But if you are a little squimish, don't worry, there's no over the top descriptions of either.
For only his third novel, I think Davis is embarking on a successful career. While some of the action was a little predictable, the overall focus is strong and some elements will keep you guessing until the end.

"Moon Over Manifest" by Clare Vanderpool

368 pages

Abilene is feeling lonely. Her mama is long gone, her father sent her off to live with an old friend in his hometown for a few months while he works on the railroad. This puts Abilene alone in Manifest, Kansas, a worn-out old town that was suffering even before the Great Depression hit. It looks like it's going to be boring summer...that is, until Abilene discovers a hidden cigar box full of 18-year-old mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on a real-life spy hunt. In the process, with the help of a so-called diviner named Miss Sadie, Abilene digs into the Manifest's past--which, as she comes to find out, brings her closer to understanding her father's childhood and how it shaped the person he grew up to be. 

This book sort of reminds me of Walk Two Moons, Savvy, and A Long Way from Chicago. Those titles cover a variety of settings and situations, but they all have a similar tone and just give me the warm fuzzies. Even when bad things are happening, you feel the love between the characters. I also enjoyed the mysterious aspect and the way that the two stories--what happened in Manifest in 1918, and what's happening in the present--weave together. Abilene is a totally charming little girl, and her curiosity reminded me of myself when I was young (but, admittedly, I think I was more annoying and less charming about it!). There are a few interesting twists at the end, too. In one word: fantastic!

Simon's Cat

by Simon Tofield

                  This book has no words I think, but the pictures are a delight. So funny, so charming, and if you have a cat or even known one fairly well it will ring true. I've been a fan of Simon's animations on his YouTube channel for quite some time and was very happy to find we had one of the books. Read Simon's Cat and watch the videos! You will laugh so much. Somehow he captures the terrible cat in simple black line drawing so accurately and with lots of humor.

Killer Weekend

by Ridley Pearson
336 p.

                This is the first of Pearson's Walter Fleming novels. Walter Fleming is a sad and recently divorced sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho. It is a playground of the rich and famous and in one crazy weekend he has to stop an assassin of a future presidential nominee he has saved before when she is about announce running at a big business conference.
                   It is not my usual kind of book, but it was alright. There were some exciting moments in it and a disturbing assassin.

Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins 374p.

Well I finally read it. I also liked it. I resisted at first because it sounded unpleasantly morbid. Yet I was drawn in by the characters and wanting to know what happened to them, Katniss, Prim, Gale, Peeta, Cinna. I'm glad I read it too. I found it entertaining and thoughtful. Funny thing, the day I finished it only about an hour later a friend suggested going to see it. That was definitely the fastest book to movie version conversion for me. The movie I thought was a good representation. I also definitely wanted to read further and read Catching Fire.
The Little Book of Big F*#k Ups: 220 of History's Most Regrettable Moments
by Ken Lytle & Katie Corcoran Lytle, MA
224 pages

I like to have a book with me everywhere I go, and I love everything history, so this not quite pocket size book was perfect.  It had little anecdotes starting with the very first "eff up": Adam & Eve eating the apple. It continues all the way up through 2010, mentioning some obvious eff ups like: 

-the sinking of the Titanic
-the Greeks accepting the Trojan Horse
-Y2K (and how it didn't happen)
-the Salem Witch Trials

and some more obscure eff ups like: 

-the introduction of rabbits to Australia 
-the Grover Shoe Factory Explosion in Brockton, Massachusetts
-the Great Fire of Meireki
-Edward III of England making unions illigal.

This book is interesting and good for random anecdotes about history.  Could come in handy on trivia night.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Crossed (Matched #2)
by Ally Condie
367 pages

In the 2nd book of the Matched trilogy, Cassia is in the Outer Provinces, trying to find a way to search for Ky.  Her and another girl, Indie, escape into the Carving where they've been told Ky has gone. The Carving is like a bunch of caves and caverns that Farmers and people of the Rising (a rebellion against the Society) used to live in until the Society found it and the two groups deserted it.  In the Carving, Cassia reunites with Ky and they both make their way to the Rising.  Will they both join? Or will they be torn apart again? 

This book is BORING.  It was all fluff and no substance.  Ally Condie knows how to use her synonyms, and she writes gorgeous passages.  But in this book they were like a gorgeous airhead.  I hope "Reached" (the final book in the series) is better. It can't be any worse than "Mockinjay" was for The Hunger Games trilogy.

Dark Life by Kat Falls

304 pgs/2010

Living underwater does not sound exciting to me,  but Kat Falls makes it sound like an adventure! This book is a bit dystopian, a bit underwater western, with some mystery, lots of action and adventure and even a touch of romance. This will be a popular pick on the Truman list, I'm sure!

Hide and Seek by Katy Grant

230 pgs/2010
When Chase is out geocaching one day, he comes across a message in a cache-WE NEE. The next day it says more-WE NEED FOOD. Is it a prank? Or does someone need help? And can he believe their story?

This one is one the Mark Twain list for next year and I think adventure readers will enjoy it. It wasn't my favorite book on the list, but I think readers who like suspense, mystery and action will be picking this one up.

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

360 pgs/2010

About the Book: Aldywn is a typical ally cat-trying to find food and running away from the local animal bounty hunter. When Aldywn is running for his life, he ducks into a pet store to escape. But this isn't just any pet store-it's a pet store for familiars, animal companions to wizards. Aldywn doesn't know anything about the wizarding world or magic, so it's just his luck that a young wizard chooses him to be his familiar!

Aldwyn tries to fake his way in his new home and pretends to be a magical cat. When the familiars young wizards are kidnapped, Aldwyn and his new familiar friends must help them before it's too late-and Aldwyn has to decide if he should reveal the truth or not.

HermioneWeasley Says: I remember when this book first came out and it looked fun, but I'm not the biggest fan of animal fantasy, so I passed on it. I picked up it again for two reasons-1) it's nominated for our state book award and 2) a co-worker's third-grade son said it was the best book he ever read. So with those things pushing me to read The Familiars, I decided to give it a try.

The Familiars is very much The Warriors Series meets Harry Potter. (I was all excited to think of that "meets" line and than realized that Michael Buckley says the same thing on the back of the book-so much for being creative!:) It really is the best way to sell this book to tweens though and I think young fans of both series will enjoy The Familiars.

The Familiars has everything tweens will love-lots of adventure and excitement, humor, good guys versus bad guys, magic, danger, secrets and friendship. It's a non-stop adventure-filled ride and even though the book is long, it's easy to get caught up in the story and it ends up being a very fast paced read. Add in the fact that it's the start to a series, and I think this one will end up being very popular with tweens.

For adults, it's a bit predictable, but it's great for younger readers looking for excitement and adventure and a fun magical series. Since we put this out on our award shelf, it hasn't stayed long! Lots of fun for readers who enjoy magic and animals.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews


Greg has figured out how to navigate the high school social scene. Be friendly enough with every social circle and you'll get by. He has his friend Earl and they make movies after school, but then show them to no one. When Greg's mom suggests he befriend Rachel, a girl he knew in Hebrew school, because she has cancer, Greg is not pleased. Now he hidden social status is blown. And it gets worse when Greg and Earl decide to make a video about Rachel-and the whole school has to watch it.

The Final Four by Paul Volponi

256 pgs/2012

Malcom is a basketball star and only playing college ball because of the NBA's rules. Roko found hope in basketball after moving to America from Croatia.  Crispin is in the spotlight not because of basketball, but because his romance with girlfriend Hope is viewed as a good luck charm for the team. And Michael Jordan just wants to break out and be himself, and not compared to the player he was named after.

Taking place in the final moments of a final four game, an underdog school and a top school will battle it out on the court. Told in flashbacks and game time details, give this one to sports fans.