Monday, February 28, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley, 399 pages

This is the 3rd mystery in the series featuring 11-year-old Flavia, in 1950s England. She is a young girl with a passion for chemistry and poisons, who has a tendency to stumble over dead bodies. These are well-written, filled with lots of science and chemistry, but in a clear way, integral to the plot, (and I say that as someone who didn't enjoy science class in school.) I am always kept guessing, but the plot always makes sense at the end. This book was different from the others in that I kept feeling bad for Flavia with the way she was being raised, or better said, the way she was raising herself. I just wanted to hug her, brush her hair, tuck her in, and tell her someone loves her (yes, that's the emotional mom in me) but it almost interfered with my enjoyment of the book.

A Girl's Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister, 388 pages

Joy and her friend Roxy have traveled to Europe and are spending their vacation trying to track down Moravian Dark Ones, aka vampires. These are tortured souls, always men, who are looking for their one true soul mate, the only woman who can save them. Joy is a non-believer, that is until the first night there, when her mind is flooded with images of a tortured soul, drinking human blood. Now Joy must figure out who the mysterious man is that is invading her dreams, mind, and very soul. But she must balance this while dealing with an instant and powerful lust for tall, dark and handsome Raphael and searching for a murderer before the local police arrest her as a suspect.

"A Girl's Guide to Vampires" by Katie MacAlister was a fun, new twist on the vampire story. I read this book when it originally came out and am glad to see the series being rereleased. Katie MacAlister combines tons of steamy sex and seduction with lots of humor, weaved with adventure and mystery to create a fast-paced rollicking, good read. A great addition to the collection for anyone who enjoys romance, vampires, or just an entertaining story.

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord (192 pages)

In order to keep their island's small school open, Tess Brooks' family and neighbors hatch a plan to take in five foster children. Eleven-year-old Tess is excited to meet her family's newest member, but when thirteen-year-old Aaron arrives to the island he is not at all what Tess imagined.

Tess quickly hatches her own plan to help Aaron adjust and fit in, however, life gets in the way and all of Tess' carefully laid plans go astray.

Author Cynthia Lord's description of the Bethsaida, Maine island community, with its colorful community members and close-knit feel, will draw readers in, but its her uplifting messages about hope and the importance of relinquishing control that make this title a must read.

Where Love Dwells by Delia Parr 320 pgs.

I enjoy historical fiction. Grabbed this one off the shelf as I was exiting the library one day. It's an inspirational fiction first-book-of-a-trilogy that touts itself as historical fiction.

Other than being set in the 1840's, it doesn't really reflect my idea of historical fiction. Other books in that genre have been so thoroughly researched in order to be set in that era, I have learned about history and politics while reading the book.

This book is a way to kill time. The writing isn't particularly riveting. I have issues with the way time is treated in the book -- time doesn't seem to flow properly. As such, the chronology of the book seems out of kilter. An event may be said to be impending at one point; at another point the same event may be "weeks away".

Product description from Amazon: Emma Garret is eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring, when her three children and grandchildren will travel back to Candlewood to celebrate her birthday at Hill House, the boardinghouse she oversees. Though anxious to introduce her sons to Zachary Breckenwith, the man who's been courting her, her sons' own problems--and wounds deeply hidden since childhood--soon overshadow her joy. As Zachary presses Emma for an answer to his marriage proposal, Emma faces a host of dilemmas. Struggling to help her children, to determine the fate of Hill House, and plan her future with Zachary, Emma must rely on her wits, her determination, and her faith to help her fully understand the meaning of family, friendship, and love.

Anyway, it killed the time I needed to kill and I wasn't in pain while killing it.....

I'd give this book 2.5 stars out of 5.

Refining Emma by Delia Parr 320 pgs.

I enjoy historical fiction. Grabbed this one off the shelf as I was exiting the library one day. It's an inspirational fiction first-book-of-a-trilogy that touts itself as historical fiction.

Other than being set in the 1840's, it doesn't really reflect my idea of historical fiction. Other books in that genre have been so thoroughly researched in order to be set in that era, I have learned about history and politics while reading the book.

This book is a way to kill time. The writing isn't particularly riveting. I have issues with the way time is treated in the book -- time doesn't seem to flow properly. As such, the chronology of the book seems out of kilter. An event may be said to be impending at one point; at another point the same event may be "weeks away".

Anyway, it killed the time I needed to kill and I wasn't in pain while killing it.....

I'd give this book 2.5 stars out of 5. (OK, I cheated. This is the same review as for book 1 of the trilogy. I wouldn't have gone on to book 2 (or 3, for that matter), but the story line wasn't wrapped up after the first book.

Hearth in Candlewood by Delia Parr 320 pgs

I enjoy historical fiction. Grabbed this one off the shelf as I was exiting the library one day. It's an inspirational fiction first-book-of-a-trilogy that touts itself as historical fiction.

Other than being set in the 1840's, it doesn't really reflect my idea of historical fiction. Other books in that genre have been so thoroughly researched in order to be set in that era, I have learned about history and politics while reading the book.

This book is a way to kill time. The writing isn't particularly riveting. I have issues with the way time is treated in the book -- time doesn't seem to flow properly. As such, the chronology of the book seems out of kilter. An event may be said to be impending at one point; at another point the same event may be "weeks away".

Anyway, it killed the time I needed to kill and I wasn't in pain while killing it.....

I'd give this book 2.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Vampire Lestat

by Anne Rice, 560 pages.

Took me an entire month to reread this Moldy Oldie, but I am once again hooked onto the romantic world of Anne Rice's vampire fiction. Started "Queen of the Damned" as soon as I finished this today. We'll see how long this vampire infatuation lasts...

The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle, 355 pages

LA naturalist and liberal Delaney and his wife Kyra live in a subdivision in Topanga Canyon. One day he hits illegal immigrant Candido with his car accidentally. Candido refuses help (afraid of INS) and Delaney ends up giving him twenty bucks. Candido has crossed the border with his young pregnant wife America, desperate to make a better life for his family. They must live in a gulch in the canyon until they can earn enough money to get an apartment. The two men will cross paths again and again, but will they ever see each other as they really are.
The library book club read this for January but because of snow had it delayed to the February meeting. I didn't read it in January thinking it looked Steinbecky and put it off. I figured I really should read it so I could talk about at the meeting. I must say I really didn't like this book. Not that it wasn't well written, because it was. But because it made me uncomfortable and challenged my thinking. And who wants a book that challenges you? I like to believe that I am a truly liberal person, but I saw to much of myself in the thinking of the "white" people in this book in their us vs them attitudes. I truly don't believe there will be an easy answer to the immigration issue, but anybody who reads this novel should come to realize that there is no way a wall or fence is going to fix anything, and maybe it's not a black or white issue.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr, 599 pages

Lisa recommended this book to me after I had read Shadow in Gotham based on her review. I love well-done historical mysteries and this novel is one of the best I've read.
A serial killer is stalking 1890s New York City, and Police Commissioner Teddy Roosevelt (yep, that Teddy Roosevelt) must not only clean up corruption in the police force but put together a group that will be able to outwit and catch this killer. People with mental illnesses at this time where thought to be alienated from society and human nature so experts in mental pathology were called alienists. Famed alienist Laszlo Kreizler and crime reporter John Moore are old friends of Teddy's from college, so they are tapped to head the group. Will they be able to figure out the killer's plans and stop him before outside forces stop them, for good?
This was dark, fast-paced, extremely well-researched, filled with historical characters, and kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I'm very glad I listened to Lisa!

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, 256 pages

This book had been reviewed earlier in the blog and sounded really good so I thought I would pick it up. I love the original Grimm fairy tales, children getting cooked, stepsisters getting their eyes pricked out by birds, tons of blood, what's not to like. This is Hansel and Gretel but with them wandering through some of the less famous but still darkly delicious Grimm tales. I especially like the narrator warning you not to let your children read this, not to read it to them, stop reading now! and such. My 9-year-old has been wanting to read the original fairy tales for a while and I told her if she was able to read this I would probably let her. She is only a few chapters from the end and loving the book. If you like your fairytales dark and twisted, you'll want to pick this book up.

Love Letters, by Katie Fforde, 388 pages

Laura works at a bookshop, but it is closing its doors. At a book signing event she meets Eleanora, an agent. Eleanora is so impressed with Laura's knowledge of books that she asks her to help organize a literary festival. At a meeting to discuss the festival, Laura is asked if she knows Dermot Flynn, a famous author. When she said she did everyone got so excited and decided she just had to go to Ireland and get him to be the key author. What Laura really meant was that she knew his work, but not him personally. It didn't matter. They insisted that she go to talk him into it. Dermot Flynn was at a point in his life where he had stopped writing and never left Ireland. Laura herself is not a person that likes to do anything out of the ordinary, preferring to spend most her spare time reading. In the end, she decides to go to Ireland and talk Dermot into doing the festival. His books have always been her favorite and when she meets him, sparks fly. She will do anything to get him to England. He decides to do the festival so she goes back to London. Later on he decides not to do it, so it's time for Laura to make another trip to Ireland. Sparks fly again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton, 799 pages

Edie Burchill's mother receives a letter that took 50 years to reach her. Edie sees how upset her mother is, but her mother will not tell her what its about. On a drive one day, Edie see an old castle and realizes that she had seen it before when she was young. She is drawn to it and manages to get a tour of Milderhurst Castle. Its occupants are three old sisters, twins Percy and Saffy and the youngest sister Juniper. Juniper is living in the past, always waiting for someone. Juniper,when she sees Edie, calls her Meredith which is Edie's mothers name. Edie finds out her mother stayed at the castle as an evacuee from London during the war. Edie is asked to work on a publication of old stories. One of the stories is called The True History of the Mud Man, which is written by Raymond Blythe, the sisters father. When Edie goes to the castle to interview the sisters, she finds out the "true" history of the Mud Man. This was one of those stories that I was afraid I was going to have nightmares about. It had a surprising and disturbing ending. I enjoyed reading this book.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer (250 pages)

All I could think as I finished reading the final page and turned to the end of the book was, "Where are the cupcake recipes?" Honestly, the whole book is about a girl who bakes these wonderful concoctions--cupcakes, muffins, and brownies. Here are just the cupcakes that I remember of the top of my head: chocolate, red velvet, butterscotch, malted milk, vanilla, and chocolate mayonnaise (I know the last one sounds weird, but wait until you read the description in the book). And there is not a single recipe in the entire book, though the author does thank her husband for testing cupcake, after cupcake.

Okay, so now you know the book is about baking, here's the rest.

Twelve-year-old Foster and her mother, Rayka, flee Memphis and Rayka's abusive ex-boyfriend in the middle of the night. All Foster has with her are some cooking supplies, her Bake & Take filled with chocolate chip muffins, a pillowcase of her dead father's belongings (or at least she thinks it's in the car), and her dreams of having her own cooking show. After driving all night the pair end up in Culpepper, West Virginia where they meet some of the nicest people. Tow truck driver's Kitty and Lester--who put Foster and her mom up in their Silverstream trailer, free of charge; Macon--documentary film making hopeful; former award-nominated actress Miss Charleena; and a town full of others that provide Foster and her mother the safe haven they need.

A fast, easy reading chapter book that should be popular with children who like contemporary fiction. Especially those who like books with feel good, happy endings. Fan's of Joan Bauer's previous works will not be disappointed and she's sure to garner even more.

And just so you're not too disappointed about the lack of recipes after reading this title, Joan Bauer does include three of Foster's cupcake recipes on her website, though you have to find a hidden link to get to the one for malted milk cupcakes.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A. S. King (326 pages)

Vera was falling in love with her best friend Charlie until he met Jenny and became a totally different person. Their friendship fell to pieces, and not long afterward, Charlie died. Told in the alternating viewpoints of Vera, her father, and Charlie, the story goes back and forth between present day and flashbacks from Vera's past. Vera both loves Charlie and hates him. She knows what really happened the night Charlie died, but in order to clear his name, she's going to have to forgive him first.

Okay, I'm not gonna lie. I wasn't a huge fan of this book. I picked it up mainly because it was a Printz Honor book, but also because I'd read a review or two from people raving about it. I really wouldn't have read past the first couple chapters had I not been stuck at home on a snow day with nothing else to read. Parts of it were boring, and other parts just plain weird. I never really saw what Vera saw in Charlie, and what bothered me the most was how all throughout the book, Vera had been a pretty heavy drinker. Then close to the end, she just stops. However, I did like Vera as a character. She was strong, sarcastic, and brave. Overall, it was an okay read, but not one I'd recommend.

Deliver Us From Normal by Kate Klise (225 pages)

In preparation for Missouri author Kate Klise's scheduled visit to the Joplin Public Library on July 7th I checked out Deliver Us From Normal, a chapter book that was published in 2005.

Living in Normal, Illinois could be hard for anyone, but is it especially hard for eleven year old Charles Harrison whose family is the farthest thing from normal. Or at least according to Charles they are. Not only is his family poor, which according to Charles is bad enough, they stand out. For example they rent their house, they wear home-sewn clothing, his younger brother is obsessed with the Wild West, they shop at Bargain Bonanza--where underwear is a topic of casual conversion--and the list, as Charles is a list maker, goes on and on.

Charles also feels that he has a special, unwanted skill--he can feel emotions other people do not seem to feel. These emotions are always negative and usually directed at him. In reality, Charles' obsessive, over-analytical personality makes life hard for him, but things change after his sister Clara decides to run for seventh grade class president. An ugly incident during the election prompts his parents to leave Normal for the promise of a houseboat on the Alabama coast.

Upon arrival the houseboat is not what was advertised, but the Harrisongs, make the best of the situation and in the process Charles deals with his own anxieties.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, Letters VIII - XI, (pp. 171 -302), by Anonymous

These four letters cover Justice, The Hermit, The Wheel of Fortune, and Force, following the medieval numbering of the Trumps. Most modern decks call Force "Strength" and juxtapose it with Justice in its numbering to better fit the symbolism of the Hebrew alphabet, but the medieval system is a commonly accepted array. Justice reminds us that while Divintiy has provided humanity enough will and discretion to properly judge words, actions, etc., that judgement of the soul is left to the Divine alone. The Hermit examines the nature of many dualities, notably the philosophic archetypes of the "Greeks" (those who seek the Divine through Wisdom), and the "Jews" (those who seek the Divine through Miracles). The author then suggests that these two forces were reconciled by the emergence of the archetypal "Christians" (those who seek the Divine through Love); and then explores many other dualities, including religion and science, suggesteing a reconciler for all forces can emerge. The Wheel studies and meditates upon the Fall -- both of angels and humanity: I have studied and meditated a great deal upon these subjects myself and found it enlightening on the idea of the Immanence of the Divine. Force, or "Strength" as i know it, is a comparison and contrast of the Virgin Mother and the Whore of Babylon, and delves deeply into Revelation. Hmm, from Genesis to Revelation in those last two Letters. I wonder what will come next .... I will post more next month.

Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers (120 pgs)

I can understand why YALSA had Spies of Mississippi on the short list for its new nonfiction award. I knew things were bad in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, but I had no idea how bad they were. The Spies of Mississippi chronicles the attempt by Mississippi governors to thwart integration--at all costs. The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission was formed to spy on NAACP workers and sympathizers as well as to interrogate and intimidate anyone who showed any favorable attitude towards integration.

This is truly a fascinating and horrifying story that is well told in short, easy to read chapters.

Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (454 pgs)

I listened to the Monstrumologist after having skimmed it a year or two ago. It's so creep-tastically good, I can hardly describe it! Basically, monsters are real and 12-year-old Will Henry, our fearless narrator, has witnessed their monstrosities first hand. Specifically, Will Henry helped the Monstrumologist rid his New England town of anthropophagi--headless, human-shaped land sharks with eyes in their shoulders and shark-like mouths beneath their sternums. These are truly frightening creatures that appear all throughout literature!

The audiobook was quite good, but I would advise listeners to be mindful of when they listen to this book. During lunch is probably a bad choice. The gore factor in this one is pretty high and no description is tamed for the likes of the squeamish.

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen, 305 pages

This is the 4th book in the Royal Spyness mystery series. Lady Georgiana Rannoch is 34th in line to the throne but she is a poor heiress. Fleeing the family castle in Scotland for the house in London, Georgiana is living without servants, a lot of heat and much food. But when she is asked by her cousin, the Queen, to represent the crown at a wedding in Transylvania, she figures it will be chance for some fine food, wine and entertainment. Little does she know one of the wedding guests will die almost immediately and Georgiana will be snowed in at the castle with the murderer, ...and a vampire? She must figure out what is going on before she ends the next victim, but of who or what she doesn't know.
This is a fun series that I've enjoyed from book one. Rhys Bowen has written another mystery series set in Wales with a main character named Evan that I really liked so I was glad to see a new book by her. These are always a lot of fun, lots of mystery, humor and a little romance thrown in.

The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo, 437 pages

This is the story of 3 men, Fleisher the former cop and customs agent, Bender the forensics artist, and Walter the profiler who started the Vidocq Society. This is a club in honor of the original French detective who was the inspiration for the first detective story. The members are the best in the field of crimefighting who meet once a month for a gourmet meal and a cold case. They have solved many crimes over the years that have baffled authorities.
This was a interesting read, though a little choppy at times, jumping from case to case and back and forth. If you like true crime, this is a read you'll want to pick up. What was really neat was reading about a couple of cases that I remember seeing on Unsolved Mysteries.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Secret History Of The Pink Carnation, by Lauren Willig, 388 pages

Eloise wants to solve the mystery of the Pink Carnation...a spy from the 1800's. She decides to contact the Selwick family whose relative was Lord Richard Selwick who lived during the time Napoleon was making plans to invade England. Elosie is given a diary written by a young woman. The diary tells the life of Amy who went to France in the 1800's to become a spy to avenge her father's death. Amy's life becomes intertwined with Lord Selwick in surprising ways.

Danya suggested this book to me since I like historical books. I really enjoyed reading this. It combined history, romance, mystery and humor all in one book.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Way Down Deep By Ruth White, 197 pages

Way Down Deep is written by Ruth White and is a book written about a small down in Virginia in the 1940's where the entire town just seems to just get along. One day in June a young child mysteriously shows up in the middle of town. All the residence of the town what to help the girl, but especially Miss. Arbutus Ward. Miss Arbutus Ward takes the child in to live with her in her boarding house and soon the two become a family. The townspeople decide to call her Ruby June (with some help from the little girl) and everyone loves having Ruby in Way Down Deep. One day the bank is almost robbed and it starts out an exciting adventure for Ruby and the entire town.

I choose to read this book by simply finding it in the collection of Juvenile Fiction books. I really enjoyed this story. It was so simple but also extremely thoughtful and touching. While reading this book you fall in love with the characters and even the town of Way Down Deep. It was a fairly quick read but so much happens to the characters in such a short time! I would definitely recommend reading this book.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pink Floyd: The Illustrated Biography by Marie Clayton, 224 pages

This was a birthday gift from a couple of my friends that I went to see "The Wall" with in Kansas City last October. It was a relatively quick read, comprised mainly of photographs with generally a paragraph per page giving the who, when, and where of the photo. I had most of the photos in the book in my other shelves of PF memorabilia, but (being published in 2010) there were a few recent photos of band members that are no where else in my collection. Being organized in chronological order and including a chronology from 1943 to 2008 at the end, it was a great refresher for some aspects of Pink Floyd's history.

Matched by Ally Condie (366 pages)

Jeana and Cari already blogged about this book so I won't go into too much detail. =) Cassia lives in a dystopian society where every choice is already made for her. Everything from what she eats to what she wears to who she marries. She's fine with this, because it's all she's ever known and besides, the Officials know best. But then a boy who is not her "match" shows up on her match screen, causing her to rethink the government's decisions.

I loved this book!! Although at first I was not a fan of it being another trilogy that I would have to wait forever for, I definitely cannot wait for the next book.

Sugar Changed the World by Marc Aronson & Marina Budhos, 154 pages

This books covers the history of sugar, how it influenced trade and slavery, and determined foreign policy. Cari recommended this book and I'm glad she did. I'm a fan of the show Modern Marvel on History Channel and this reminded me a lot of it. I love learning about stuff I had never even thought about, and I had no idea of how much sugar had affected the world. Next time you put some sugar in your coffee, give a thought to the blood, sweat and tears that lay behind it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miss Piggy's Guide to Life as told to Henry Beard, 113 pages

Miss Piggy is one fabulous pig, and she has written a book to share her tips to a great life. With chapters covering Beauty, Entertaining, Manners, Finance, Exercise and Diet, you can be as amazing as Miss Piggy. One of her tips includes skipping those heavy artichokes and having a light pastry, since it weighs less it's better for you, right? This was a Valentine's Day present from my husband that had been laughing and remembering why I enjoyed the Muppets so much.

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff, 385 pages

Lisa read and reviewed this book a couple of weeks ago, and made it sound so interesting that I had to pick it up. Boy, am I glad I did. It's a mystery that takes place in 1905 New York, when the initial phase of studying the criminal mind was starting. The author did an amazing job of re-creating New York, with an wonderful eye for detail. This book reminded me of others by one of my favorite mystery writers, Will Thomas. I am looking forward to Stefanie's next book, which I told should be out in May.

The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn, 307 pages

Henry VIII has been unlucky in love; a Spanish queen that is set aside due to her barreness because of God's anger, a teasing beauty sent to the chopping block, a quiet queen that dies in childbirth, and a plain princess that "withers" the king's interest. Now Henry has fallen for his pure English rose, Katherine Howard. But Katherine Howard is far from pure, and will she be able to navigate the dangerous waters of Henry's court without him realizing this. Childhood friend Cat Tilney is called to serve the new queen. With cloths of gold and gems surrounding her Katherine seems impervious to all gossip, but that can always change. Cat just wants a happy and long life with her love Francis, but that may not be what the future holds.

I love English history and especially Henry VIII's family, so I was excited to see this new novel. "The Confession of Katherine Howard" did not disappoint. Suzannah Dunn did a superb job of bringing to life this intriguing time period, filled with captivating characters that seem larger than life. By telling the story from the viewpoint of a childhood friend, a woman's view of the changes sweeping England's church and goverment makes for interesting reading. For anyone who enjoys Carolly Erickson and Allison Weir, this is a definite must read. "The Confession of Katherine Howard" is a welcome addition to my bookshelf.

Wiener Dog Art by Gary Larson, 111 pages

Sometimes you just want a fun and mindless read (or browse) and Gary Larson always deliver. Even though he's retired, I can still read his comic books over and over. With his unusual look at people and animals, he can deliver a wallop in just one picture. My only hope is that he will blow through all his money and start his comic strip again!

Too Sinful to Deny by Erica Ridley, 344 pages

Susan Stanton was the toast of London society, until she crossed her parents and is banished to distant cousins in Bournemouth, a tiny town along the far coast of England. From the first moment, Susan is plotting ways back home, when she isn't distracted by the darkly handsome Evan Bothwick. Evan must determine who killed his brother, while hiding his smuggling from the local authority. With mysterious dangers threatening them both, flaring passions, and ghosts that demand help, this Evan and Susan must find the answers they seek without losing their lives.

"Too Sinful to Deny" by Erica Ridley is full of promise, passion, and an interesting plot. Unfortunately, it's a little confusing, with unbelievable characters. I initially thought I was missing some chapters in my book since the back story is not fully developed. Evan seems more upset by his attraction to Susan than his brother's death. No one seems upset by the wives that have been mysteriously muted on their wedding nights by the local lord, and the current wife chained up in the basement. If you want a mindless read that is fast-paced, and don't require it to make much sense, you'll love this book.

I wouldn't recommend this book. By the second chapter, it was a struggle to finish it, I only did so because it was one of my review books and I had to. This is the second book by this author that I've read and both of them made me think that maybe chapters had fallen out of my advance reader's copy until I looked at the page numbers. Nope, the chapters were there, plot and character development were just missing!

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (351 pages)

Abilene Tucker has spent the better part of her life hopping on and off trains with her drifter father, but during the summer of her twelfth year, after he gets a job working for the railroad, he sends her to stay in his hometown of Manifest, Kansas with an old friend. While there, Abilene intends to uncover information about her father's childhood, as he never talks about it, but in the process she uncovers the story of the town and its secret past.

This historical fiction tale does double duty, with part of the story set in 1936, during the Great Depression and the other in 1917 and 1918, during World War I. Debut author, Clare Vanderpool uses letters and newspaper articles, plus, the character of a storytelling "diviner" to weave the time periods together.

Complex themes--the Great Depression, WWI, the KKK, immigration, and bootlegging--within the story might limit the appeal to the intended audience, however, readers will be drawn in by Abilene's lively first person narrative, the town's cast of colorful characters, and the beautiful way Vanderpool relates this award winning novel. Plus, with the help of the shiny 2011 Newbery Medal gleaming on its cover it's sure to fly off library and bookstore shelves.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Becoming Queen Victoria, by Kate Williams, 373 pages

This is a historic look at the lives of Princess Charlotte and Queen Victoria. The story starts with Princess Charlotte who was to be the future heir to the throne. Her parents used her as a pawn in their squabbles and eventually they lived apart. As a child, Charlotte pretended to be the daughter of her governess and would go shopping and buy presents for all her friends..something she would do all her life. Plans were made to educate her that would help her in her future role as queen, but it never materialized that way. Her schooling was allowed to downslide. The public had already put her on a pedestal at a young age and expected great things from her when she became their queen. Charlotte married Leopold, but sadly it was only for a short time. She died giving birth to their son who was stillborn.
The king had many grandchildren, but Charlotte had been the only one that was legitimate. Eventually, one of the kings sons, Edward, married Princess Victoria. They had a daughter and named her Victoria. She was born at the end of the Napoleonic war and the country was in turmoil. Victoria, like Charlotte, was to be taught many subjects, more than other women at the time. She got special tutors for different studies and spent most of her day learning. After Victoria's father died, her mother, the duchess, relied on John Conroy, her advisor for all things. They relentlessly tried for years for Victoria to let her mother be regent. Needless to say, as soon as Victoria became Queen she got her own suite of rooms to herself and an hour all alone. The British populace had high hopes that Queen Victoria would change things for the better. She was cheered everywhere she went. She married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. They experienced a happy marriage until he died when he was in his 40's. They had nine children.
Queen Victoria kept diaries for years, so those and other correspondence and newspaper articles were used for this book. I found this a very interesting book and now I want to read more about Queen Victoria's reign.

The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman (325 pages)

What if the Brothers Grimm collected magical objects as well as tales? What if all of there collection was stored in a special library? What if your teacher got you a job working there?
Elizabeth Rew jumps at a chance earn a little extra money working at what she assumes is a normal library. But, as with all fair tales, nothing is quite what it seems and something is lurking in the shadows. Someone is stealing items and replacing them with fakes, and it is up to Elizabeth and her new friends to find out who before it is too late.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Nemesis" by Philip Roth (304 paqes)

Bucky Cantor is a young physical education teacher and summer playground director in a sweltering WW2 era New Jersey. Lamenting the physical limitations that kept him from combat, Bucky soon faces a war much closer to home as an outbreak of polio threatens to tear the city, the playground, and his very conscience to shreds.

A tremendous short novel, "Nemesis" eschews much of Roth's signature sexual and cynical material in favor of a gentler, more straight-forward approach. To call it "old fashioned" sounds like an insult, but I mean it in the best possible sense of the word - Roth evokes a bygone era with all the glowing radiance of fondly recalled memory. Of course, being a Roth novel, Bucky cannot escape his fate and the ramifications of his stubborn sense of propriety and honor.

Similar in scope to the other of Roth's recent short novels (of which "Indignation" is also excellent), and certainly at home in the larger spectrum of Roth's canon, "Nemesis" finds a place all its own - not for its soul or mind - but for its heart.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (472 pages)

This is the story of two revolutions--an internal one for modern day Brooklyn teenager Andi and the French one for eighteenth-century Parisian teenager Alex.

Andi's younger brother died two years ago and she is still having a hard time processing her feelings. Her rage and grief are threatening to destroy her. In fact, the only thing keeping her afloat is her passion for music, specifically playing the guitar. Her much absent father notices her downward spiral, intervenes, and forces Andi to take a trip to Paris with him. While there, her Pulitzer prize-winning geneticist father plans to perform DNA testing on a two hundred year old heart. He intends to prove that it belonged to Louis-Charles, the son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Andi's job while in Paris is to work on her outline for her senior thesis.

During the trip, Andi discovers a hidden diary locked away in a two hundred year old guitar case and she begins to read the story of Alex, a teenage street-actor who lived during the French Revolution. It is through Alex's eyes that the doomed-prince Louis-Charles comes alive and with it the realization that while the world may be stupid and brutal, there is much more to be gleaned from life.

While the page numbers are included with the title, I listened to this book. The narrators, Emily Janice Card (Orson Scott Card's daughter) and Emma Bering, were superb. It was especially satisfying to hear the French words and names pronounced correctly. While a fantastical twist toward the end might leave readers and/or listeners questioning the author's choices, it is hard to deny that Jennifer Donnelly is a master storyteller. Her melding of believable characters and a riveting, history-based storyline make for a highly-recommended historical fiction drama.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Death of a Six-Foot Teddy Bear by Sharon Dunn, 290 pages

This is the second book in the Bargain Hunters Mystery series. These ladies are devoted to finding sales, clipping coupons and never paying retail. This was a light murder mystery with Christian overtones. It was a fun read but not one of the best I'd ever read. If I'm really bored and out of books, I would pick up another one, but otherwise it wouldn't be on my list.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers, 761 pages

Mark Schluter is in a terrible truck accident and shortly after arriving at the hospital he goes into a coma. When his sister Karin gets to the hospital she finds a strange note on his bedside table. A mystery to be solved...who wrote it and what does it mean? When Mark wakes up from his coma he thinks Karin is an impostor. He wants to know what happened to his real sister.
Karin decides to contact Gerald Weber who has written books on the different effects brain injuries have on people. This story contains many examples of brain disorders, like Capgras, which Mark has.
It is a long struggle for Mark who needs to know why and how his accident happened. The different characters in the book are all questioning how their own minds are working.
Interwoven in this story is the migration of sandhill cranes. They stay a few weeks at the river near the town where Mark lives. They later become an important factor in the lives of all the characters.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Lolita effect : the media sexualization of young girls and what we can do about by Durham, Meenakshi Gigi 286 p

This book takes a look at the difference between sexuality and the sexualization of young girls. All people are sexual beings, children included, and we owe it to them to model healthy sexuality and to teach them the truth, consequences, and realities that come with sex. The author calls upon society to reject the hyper sexualized version of girlhood that leads to child trafficking and prostitution. Examples are pole dancing baby dolls marketed to TODDLERS, inappropriate clothing (panties with slogans like, "who needs Mastercard?") targeted at our young daughters and sisters, and the myth that youth & a narrowly defined (and practically unattainable) beauty equals sex & power. With so much media pervading society, it is imperative that youth and adults are taught how to question the images they are bombarded with and to discern the motivations of the media mind. We must challenge the notion that "girl power" can be bought and sold. Girl power belongs to us, not a marketer!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George (272 pages)

In this sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, sixteen year old Poppy, one of the famed twelve dancing princesses, has been sent to Breton to stay with her cousins, as part of a royal exchange program. While there, she meets Christian, the crown prince of Danelaw. Since the curse that forced Poppy and her eleven sisters to dance every night has been broken, dancing at the many parties and balls that are held in Breton is the last thing she wants to do. So Poppy spends her days knitting, spending time with Prince Christian and her cousin Marianne, and playing cards with the men, a hobby that makes quite a few people raise an eyebrow. But then Eleanora, a clumsy, penniless maid, is suddenly wearing beautiful new gowns and every young man around is falling in love with her, including the prince. Poppy is the only one who can see through the dark magic surrounding Eleanora, so it's up to her to break the curse.

I loved Princess of the Midnight Ball and was excited to read this one. It wasn't as wonderful as the first book, in my opinion, but it was a short read that I did enjoy.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman, 270 pages

This was basically a series of short stories all involving one town over 200 years. It was odd and sweet, quirky and disturbing, a really good read. I have only read a few of Alice Hoffman's books and every time I think "Why don't I read more by her?" Then I get distracted, and forget about her until I discover a new one, read it and remember how much I like her books. My mistake was starting this book last night at 8pm. The next thing I knew, it was almost midnight and I had finished the book. I recommend not starting this unless you have some free time or the next day off.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan, 279 pages

This is book two in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. Percy is living in New York and going to school when all of a sudden monsters show up. His friend Annabeth arrives to tell him that Camp Half-Blood is in trouble. The special tree protecting the camp has been poisoned and there is only one way to heal it. It's time for another quest!

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage, 290 pages

This book covered world history through beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. From beer featuring in the agricultural settling in Mesopotamia and Egypt, coffee setting off religious debates in the Arab/Muslim world, tea influencing British policy in China and India, wine being the drink of intellectuals in the Greek and Roman civilization, whiskey/rum funding the slave trade and Coke spreading democracy through the world, this book covers it all. Chris in Reference recommended this to me when I mentioned that my family is hooked on the tv show Modern Marvels (imagine a whole hour devoted to how lunch meat is made) and I glad he did. If you love a lot of history, fun facts and a compelling read, you will want to pick this up. I will be quoting facts from this for a long and probably annoying time.

Top Dog Marmaduke at 50 by Brad Anderson, 160 pages

This was a collection covering 50 years of Marmaduke comics. Brad Anderson talked about how he got started, his process and some of the history behind the comics and it showed strips from the various decades. As someone who owned a big, goofy dog, this was a book that had me laughing the whole time.

Fast girls : teenage tribes and the myth of the slut By Emily White 219 p

Regardless of where you were brought up, chances are you will recall 'that girl." Most likely, she developed way ahead of the other girls physically and was branded with labels and stories of promiscuity. In this book, Emily White shares her findings after interviewing over a hundred girls, many of whom were perceived as "The Slut." She digs into the archetype of the bad girl and challenges the system that seems to perpetuate our need to find a scapegoat for our collective fears, prejudices, and curiosities.

Kosher sex : a recipe for passion and intimacy By Shmuley Boteach

I am not Jewish, but I thought it would be neat to see what a rabbi had to say on the subject of sex. I didn't agree with all his points, but I think he did a good job of presenting his case. Overall, I enjoyed this read, if only to throw me out of my comfort zone a little.

The three of us : a family story By Julia Blackburn 313 p

Julia Blackburn writes openly about life with her insane yet creative parents, lovers and love triangles, growing old & acceptance. I liked it.

... Advanced sex tips for girls : this time it's personal by Cynthia Heimel, 221 p.

This book is a hilarious collection of sassy essays that made me LOL many times.

If love is a game, these are the rules by Carter-Scott, Cherie 251 p

This book goes over the ten most important rules for having and being a healthy partner in a relationship. They are not new ideas, everyone already knows them. But our brain makes us forget or ignore them sometimes; so it is nice to have something to jog our memories on occasion.

The beauty myth : how images of beauty are used against women; By Naomi Wolf 348 p.

This feminist book takes a look at how "beauty" is packaged and sold in many forms to keep patriarchy in power. The concept that beauty can and must be purchased (to be thin @ the price of anorexia, to mutilate one's body to keep a job, to spend a disproportionate amount of our income for beauty aids, diets, fads, creams, etc.) is utterly revolting to me. A poster of Medusa beside my mirror reflects this book perfectly, "Beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy."

Murder on the Rocks (A Gray Whale Inn Mystery) by Karen MacInerney, 281 pages

This is a murder mystery that takes place on Cranberry Island in Maine. Natilie Barnes runs the Gray Whale Inn. She is just starting her inn on this island when Bernard Katz wants to build a resort. Some people on the island are for it and others, like Nat , are concerned about terns nesting habitat being destroyed.

Soon after a town meeting takes place to see if the land will be used for the resort, Bernard is found dead. The main suspect is Nat, especially after it is found out that Bernard was planning to bulldoze Gray Whale Inn and make it a parking lot for his resort.

Nat keeps busy taking care of her inn guests and baking delish goodies for everyone, while trying to solve the mystery of Bernards death.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Backstage Stuff by Sharon Fiffer, 290 pages

This is the 6th book in the Jane Wheeler murder mystery series. Jane is a picker, someone who goes to garage and estate sales, looking for goodies to resell. Jane also has a penchant for falling over dead bodies. This is a fun series, fast-paced, and humorous. Plus, it even has a wooden dummy for a suspect. For anyone who watches Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, or American Pickers, this would be a good series to read.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Eating the Dinosaur" by Chuck Klosterman (304 pages)

This being my first Klosterman experience, I was not quite sure what to expect. It didn't take me long to realize that I loved K's writing - his sense of humor and the points he made were eye-opening and refreshing. Klosterman is a pop-culture critic, essaying on a dizzying array of topics, from David Koresh to ABBA and any number of things in between. But no matter what the topic, Klosterman's verve and writing style make the essays entertaining and thought-provoking to read.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wicked River, The Mississippi When It Las Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin, 270 pages

I told my husband that I have very eclectic tastes in reading. I have read 3 murder mysteries, a historical biography, 2 re"vamped" classics, and now a book about nothing but a river! This book covers the Mississippi basically in its heyday of the 1800s. I had not realized just how much the river changed year to year before it's course become completely controlled by man. This book also covered the people who made the river home and the settlers along it. One of the most interesting facts I learned was that camp meetings (religious revivals) would attracts thousands of people and usually descended into orgies of passion. Much different from camp meetings now! If you like nonfiction books that present a lot of information in a entertaining way, this is a great read. I will never look at the Mississippi the same the next time I drive over the bridge in St. Louis.

iPad: The Missing Manual by J.D. Biersdorfer 299 pgs

I mentioned in an earlier review I'd received an iPad as a Christmas gift from my kids and husband. iPads are handy little devices, but there is no written documentation that comes with them. I was lucky my kids all had iTouch devices and knew how to set them up. They got me up and running with the iPad.

This past week I got this book through interlibrary loan. (I was tired of waiting for JPL's one iPad book to come back in.) The book goes step by step through everything you want and need to know about using an iPad, about syncing an iPad, and about downloading and using apps and iTunes. Everything is covered in detail that is easy to read and easy to follow.

I found, however, that since I got the book about six weeks after I'd gotten the iPad, I'd discovered most of what I needed to know from the book. Still, there were a few tidbits in here that taught me a trick or two that I wouldn't have found on my own.

Glad I read it. It took a while though, because I read it with my iPad on my lap -- I would read something and then go to try it out, but get sidetracked doing other "stuff" on it. It would take forever for me to get back to the reading!

1001 Ways to Save Money and Still have a Dazzling Wedding by Sharon Naylor 334 pgs.

Ok, so I'm on a wedding kick. This is the second "save money on weddings" book I've read this year. It won't be the last. I'm still trying for one that will give me ideas I've not thought of. I've got a wedding to pull off 9/10/11 and don't want to go into the poor house to do it, but want my daughter to have a nice wedding.

Just like the last book on saving money on weddings, I'm not sure this is the book for me. Perhaps I've just been so frugal through most of my life that these items just seem to be the way to do things rather than some terrific idea I wouldn't have thought about without having read the book.

I mean really, some of these ideas are just dumb. Case in point -- to save money on shoes, "Encourage the mothers to buy simpler shoes". Duh. And throughout the book there was the suggestion to borrow this, borrow that. Do they think I've not already thought of that one.....???

The book does list websites and places to go for more information. I suppose that is alright, but they printed these facts in blue ink on a blue background. Without a spotlight shining directly on the page, the lists were nearly impossible for my old eyes to decipher.

Save your time. Don't read the book, but borrow anything you can think of for the wedding!