Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bloody Bones by Laurell K. Hamilton, 328 pages

This Anita Blake book features vampires, zombies and faeries, including one really disturbing boggle. This book was the first book that Anita admits that she lusts after Jean-Claude and Jean-Claude that he loves Anita. This was one of the darkest books so far, but each book does get darker and more disturbing.

Cape Light, By Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer, 359 pages

This story is about two sisters who take care of their mother after she has a stroke and also the lives of the other residents of Cape Light. Emily is the towns mayor and Jessica is a businesswoman who has temporarily moved back from Boston. Jessica loves the city life, but finds after awhile that she enjoys a more simpler life. Emily is all about being the mayor, but someone from her past shows up, but she doesn't know it. There is also the grumpy owner of the Clam Box restaurant who wants to oust Emily as Mayor. Reverend Ben is always there to help the townspeople. He has a son he's trying to reconcile with. There is also Sam, who falls in love with Jessica, Lucy who wants to go back to school and Digger that needs to still feel useful in his old age. I enjoyed this book and will be reading more in the Cape Light series.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier, 384 pages

I was a huge fan of choose-your-own adventure books as a child and always hated the fact that I had outgrown them. But no longer! "Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?" by Max Brallier had brought back the choose-your-own adventure books, revamped and ready to go for adults. The zombie apocalypse has hit and it's up to you to make the decisions that will keep you alive or have you end up as zombie fodder. There is tons of blood, gore, and zombie butt-kicking to keep you entertained. With tons of multiple storylines, there are a variety of ways for your story to go, with you spending hours making choice after choice. One of the fun things about the book is when it calls you on making a stupid or selfish choice. This book is one that I have already recommended to a ton of people, and I will pick it up many times to see just how well I do during a zombie apocalypse. I even read through every page at the end just to make sure I had explored every path and option in the book.

Bloodroot by Amy Greene, 549 pages

One of my younger sisters mentioned she was reading this for her book club, so I thought I would pick it up. I probably wouldn't have chosen it otherwise, but it was a different and interesting read. It section is narrated by 1 or 2 characters, alternating between their viewpoint, with the characters changing in each section. It takes place in the hill country, in what must be the Appalachians. Myra fell in love with John Odom and we see how this romance affected not only her grandparents who raised her, but also the neighbor boy who loved her from afar, Myra and John's two children and even Myra and John. This was was therapists would call a disfunctional relationship. The story weaved back and forth in time, and between the characters, but it served the story well.

Hangman by Faye Kellerman, 422 pages

This is the latest entry in the Peter Decker/Rita Lazarus mystery series set in California. It's around the 15th book, so I don't recommend picking this book up unless you've read the others, but if you like dark and intriguing mysteries, this is a good series. I really like that fact that Rita is Orthodox Jew, so I've learned about some of the practices involved. Imagine never having a Big Mac because you can't mix meat and dairy. If you do pick this series up, you should really start at the beginning, otherwise you'll miss out on a lot of back story.

The Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K. Hamilton, 369 pages

This book in the Anita Blake series dealt with shapeshifters, lycanthropes, and immortals, all of which have distinct differences. Also, Jean-Claude, vampire master of the city, demands that Anita gives him a chance to woo her. Lots of action, supernatural activity, and blood. Anita Blake really changed the face of vampire fiction.

Chuck Klosterman IV (432 pages)

As witty and amusing as Klosterman's "straight-to-book" essays are (for example, those collected in "Walking the Dinosaur" or "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs"), Klosterman shines in the brief, focused pieces collected in "IV." The book is an anthology of pieces Klosterman wrote for magazines and newspapers, and cover the usual dizzying array of topics, all while managing to stay firmly entrenched inside the diverse sphere of pop culture. All his books are enjoyable and maddening in parts, but I found "IV" to lean squarely on the enjoyable side.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton, 303 pages

I had forgotten how much I liked this series. This book had werewolves, vampires (including one that was 1,000s of years old), a lamia (snake woman), giant cobra, and little Anita Blake, zombie raiser. I finished this book on my break today and with 15 minutes left I had to go and immediately get the next book in the series. I'm enjoying this series for the third time just as much as I did the first time.

Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel by James Patterson (291 pages)

In this seventh installment of the Maximum Ride Chronicles, Max and the rest of the flock (excluding Fang, who left in the last book) are still trying to save the world. For those of you who may not know, Maximum Ride and the gang are science experiments - they are 98% human and 2% bird. They have wings, and they can fly.

I loved the original Max Ride books. I thought they were clever and interesting. Max's sarcastic personality always cracked me up. But I feel like Angel, as well as the last book, Fang, was seriously lacking in the creativity department. The characters were flat, the storyline was unoriginal... I think this is a sign that the author is running out of ideas and it's past time to end the series. :P

R. Crumb: Conversations (250 pages)

Anyone with more than a passing interest in legendary underground cartoonist Robert Crumb knows the only thing the man loves more than old music and amazonian women is his privacy. So rare are his interviews, in fact, that over forty years of them fit into this relatively slim volume. However, each interview is a pure, unadulterated look into the unique worldview of this controversial figure. In fact, his pointed observations on life and the world sting with as much precision and force as his masterful "comix," and "Conversations" is a whirlwind ride through topics as diverse as American culture (Crumb finds it soul-sucking), big business (also soul-sucking), and of course, sex. Anyone with an interest in the man, his art, and his unique (however resentful he is of it) stamp on modern pop culture will find something of value in this book.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummand (237 pages)

The subtitle of this cookbook is "recipes from an accidental country girl" and that perfectly describes Ree Drummond. She grew up in the city, moved away to an even larger one, and the on a visit home, she fell in love and married her own "Marlboro Man," the owner of a ranch in rural Oklahoma.

Ree's narrative is upbeat and entertaining, but my favorite part about her cookbook is the photographs. She give step-by-step instructions on how to make the recipes, along with photographs for each step. I love this cookbook!

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (305 pages)

After reading Stephanie's review for Portia de Rossi's book I check it out and read it this weekend.

Since it's already been reviewed I'll just tell you that it was difficult to read about Portia's struggle with her weight and sexuality, but the whole time I was reading how awful she was to herself, I just kept thinking about how her story must have a happy ending, especially since she's married to Ellen DeGeneres. And lo and behold, it did.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Decadent Way to Die by G. A. McKevett, 294 pages

Savannah Reid is a private detective, born and raised in Georgie, now living in sunny California. She is hired to investigate possible murder attempts on doll-maker and grandmother Helene. With lots of help from her girl-Friday Tammy, former partner and still cop Dirk Coulter and lots of chocolate and gooey desserts, Savannah may solve this case before she ends up dead as a doll, I mean, doornail.
I've read all the Savannah murder mysteries and always enjoyed the great intrigue, wonderful characters, and Savannah's love of food, but this was one of the best so far. The ending had me shocked and upset and then clapping for joy. If you haven't read one, I recommend starting with the first in the series and settling down for a long, enjoyable weekend of reading them all.

The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies by David Lubar, 192 pages

Sammi picked out this book at her last Scholastic Book Fair and was raving about some of the short stories in it. I read one and was instantly hooked. With stories involving books banning problem patrons from a library, vegans getting eaten on Thanksgiving Day (yes, I did think of you Stephanie) and the retelling of a classic fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea Brain", this was one of the wackiest and funniest short story collection I had read. In fact, I used the inter-library loans, and requested his three other collections for Sammi (and me) to read. Ask nicely and maybe Sammi will let you borrow this book.

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, 400 pages

This is the ReadMOre book this year and the JPL book club Readers Without Borders is reading it this month. So I read it, and I finished it only because I had to. It dealt with communism, free thought, gender roles, language, physics, and tons of other deep and serious issues in a sci-fi genre. I'm not a sci-fi fan unless it's Star Trek (I've got a thing for Q) and I could feel my eyes glaze over when the novel went into pages of physics and time theory. Maybe it's a great book that was revolutionary and shocking for it's time (published in 1974) but I just didn't like it.

Wicked Joplin by Larry Wood, 107 pages

This book is by an local author and is all about Joplin's sin spots and rowdy ruffians during it's raunchiest heydays. If you got to hear Jill at Reference give her program on the Bad Girls of Joplin, this is similar in content. It covers prostitutes, drinking, and bad guys and girls galore. One of the best parts is the quotes regarding Mr. Cox, an early settler in Joplin who lost his bid for surveyor. I will just say it was because, in part, due to some sexual shenanigans, and he makes a joke based on his last name. I've read some of Larry's other books on the history of the area and really enjoyed them. Larry is even going to do a presentation for Adult Summer Reading as part of our grand finale!

Oh No She Didn't by Clinton Kelly, 201 pages

I love books like "Oh No She Didn't" because they make me feel better about my own clothing choices. Clinton Kelly, co-host of "What Not To Wear," visits a variety of fashion faux pas, ranging from wearing pajamas in public (a personal pet peeve) to frosted hair to camel toes. He lets his inner bitch out to berate the clueless folks who appear in public wearing polar fleece or take make-up tips from porn stars. But he always follows the snarkiness with some solid advice on what would be a more appropriate fashion, makeup or hair choice. His best tip: Find yourself a good tailor. Someone handy with a needle and thread can fix a multitude of problems with an ill-fitting outfit. Chances are, if you're reading this book, you're already mostly doing the right things. (Although my best friend was insulted that Kelly frowns upon hoodies; she's very attached to her black hoodie.) But it's one hilarious read, and the photo illustrations are priceless. For example, the section on camel toes featured a woman wearing tight pants, with a tiny camel superimposed over her crotch.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (201 pgs)

I've been frustrated by long, dark audio books lately, so I roamed the shelves looking for something short but intriguing with a guaranteed happy ending. Having read Kate DiCamillo before, I knew I would be in for an adventure. Then I stopped here to blog about it and found that Cari had just listened to it as well! So instead of giving another synopsis of the same book, I will just say that this audio is very well read, there are only 3 discs so it is a quick listen, but the plot is twisting and fantastical. I felt transported to yet another magical world, delving into a variety of character backgrounds, and I was very pleased when the story wrapped up happily for everyone.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Waters & the Wild.

by Francesca Lia Block, 112 pages.

It's been a tumultuous couple of weeks, book-wise, for me. I got halfway through Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater when I realized I had no motivation to keep reading, so I looked up the plot summary online and found out that NOTHING else happens in the book. So I stopped reading it. I started two books today and abandoned them (one about a werewolf girl that was admiring her tall, full-breasted, blond self in the mirror wondering if other girls didn't like her because of her intimidating beauty--in human form--I can't relate to that! And another about a shapeshifter girl that was enslaved by a prince she was hopelessly devoted to--ew, slavery and boy-worship!), so I went back to an old favorite author from my teens.

I like Francesca because her books are short and lyrical and visceral and magical. You never really know what's going on, but you know it's magic and preeeeeetty. So, the book ennui has lifted and I'm ready to jump back into the teen paranormal waters again. Thanks, Ms. Block.

Oh, this book is about a changeling.

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, 231 pages

As you can probably tell from the title, this teen novel updates Jane Austen's classic "Pride and Prejudice." Austen is my favorite writer, and "Pride and Prejudice" is my favorite novel, so I approached "Prom and Prejudice" with my guard already up. I rolled my eyes at the opening line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single girl of high standing at Longbourn Academy must be in want of a prom date." Lizzie Bennett is a scholarship student at Longbourn. She's getting a good education but is miserable because -- aside from her teachers, her sweet roommate Jane, Jane's crush Charles Bingley, and a local boy named George Wickham -- everyone treats her horribly. She meets Will Darcy, Bingley's friend who attends the neighboring boys school, and finds him quite the snob. Of course, if you've read Austen's book or seen the many movies based on it, you know how "Prom and Prejudice" ends. This is a fast, easy read -- perhaps too fast and easy. I think the characters could have been a little more multi-dimensional; many of them were just caricatures and hollow reflections of the originals. The language didn't ring true; I couldn't see contemporary teenagers talking the way they did in this novel, and some of the dialogue was awkward. All things aside, however, my exasperation with this book faded, and I soon couldn't put it down. I enjoyed how she updated Austen's original story: the kids go to schools named Pemberley and Longbourn, Lizzie's music teacher is called Mrs. Gardiner, Lizzie Bennett sees Will Darcy in a new light after she unwittingly visits his parents' beautiful Manhattan home. Even though I knew how the book would end, I still found myself rooting for Will and Lizzie, and hating Wickham. Now I'm curious to see if the author intends to update Austen's other novels ...

A Year on Ladybug Farm, by Donna Ball, 439 pages

Three women (Cici, Bridget and Lindsay) have been friends for a long time. When Bridget's husband dies, they think of all the things they wanted to do years ago. They always talked about their special dreams of what they wanted, but never acted on it...until one day they came across a beautiful grand home in the Shenandoah Valley. They decided to call the realtor that had the home listing and wanted to just take a look at it. Of all things, the house had a thousand ladybugs inside. There were ladybugs wherever they looked. It needed a lot of work and all three fell in love with it. After much discussion they decided to quit their jobs, sell their homes and buy the grand house to make a new life for themselves at Ladybug Farm.

The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton, 301 pages

This is the second book in the Anita Blake series. I've read it before but felt an urge to re-read the series. Reading these early books again makes me realize how much darker and erotic the series has gotten. But I will continue to enjoy this great vampire series. If you want a great vampire read, this is a really outstanding series.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meditations on the Tarot, Letters XII - XIV, by Anonymous (pp. 303 - 398)

Letters XII - XIV address the Tarot Trumps of the same numbers; that is, The Hanged Man, Death, and Temperance. These three cards symbolize, among other things, the Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ, respectively. The Hanged Man also represents following Christ instead of the world and the investigation of things normally not pursued by the majority of the world, especially the seven enigmas of 1)The essence of matter and energy, 2) The origin of motion, 3)The origin of senses and perception, 4) The question of free will, 5) The origin of life, 6) The purposeful organization of nature, and 7) The origins of thought and language. In the letter concerning the Death card, the author explains why the church fathers chose to repress the teachings of reincarnation (still held as Biblical by Chassidic Jews) found throughout the Tanakh, Gospels, and Revelation, instead condemning it as Paul did to Timothy; the author suggests that the church fathers figured that if their congregations were aware of the teachings of reincarnation in the Bible, that they would choose to put off developing their spirituality for another lifetime -- and therefore hereticized it. The author supports the church's stand in one of the few passages with which I disagree with him. I think that if the church accepted the doctrine of reincarnation of souls not deemed holy enough to ascend to the throne nor deemed unholy enough to be condemned to perdition, that believers would stop polluting the world they are stewards of on such a huge scale. The letter concerning Temperance deals with the reality and roles of guardian angels and other angelic heirarchies as well as the reality of demons. As a student of Biblical languages, I find it interesting that the Anglicized Greek terms angel and demon are so different from the Hebrew terms used to describe these forces (though not completely removed in meaning). The Greek angelos means "messenger", whereas the Hebrew term is melekim "kings". The Greek daemon means, in my translation, "generalized Northeastern Mediterranean diety" whereas the Hebrew term is qlippoth, "Shells (of the dead)". More next month !

Breach Of Trust by Diann Mills pages392

Have never read any of her books but will definitely continue to read her books now! Very good book! Lots of suspense!!

What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb (218 pages)

Mo Wren has lived on Fox Street ,with her father and her sister, "the Wild Child" her entire life. Their house is located in the middle of the block and for many reasons it's Mo's favorite, but most importantly, it holds all the memories of Mo's deceased mother.

Summer has arrived on Fox Street and with it Mo's best friend, Mercedes Walcott. Every summer Mercedes visits her grandmather, Da, who lives on Fox Street, and it is Mo's favorite time of the year. However, this summer is different, unforgettable so, and it will take an enormous amount of courage for Mo to keep her family, friends and neighborhood together.

While School Library Journal gave this title a starred review, honestly, I did not feel that it contained anything special. Mo is a likable character, but I did not feel connected to her or really any of the other characters in the story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton, 266 pages

I've read this book at least two times before but felt a longing to read some of the early books in this series again. Anita Blake is an animator, raising the dead, in St. Louis, MO. She is also a vampire slayer and consultant for the police on their spook group. She is approached by the Master Vampire of the city to help solve vampire murders. Anita initially declines but quickly changes her mind due to some "persuasion."
This book features vampires, zombies, wererats, seduction, blood, and lots of action. The Anita Blake books have played an integral part in changing vampire fiction. This first book in the series introduces many of the characters that will play an important in the series over the next books.

The Corpse Wore Tartan by Kaitlyn Dunnett, 278 pages

Liss MacCrimmon is usually busy running her Scottish store in Moosetookalook, Maine, but she has agreed to serve as a assistant for the Robert Burns appreciation dinner that is being held at The Spruces, a hotel her boyfriend helps run. But not longer after the haggis is served and Auld Lang Syne is sung, one of the members of the Scottish Heritage Appreciation Society is found dead. With everyone trapped in the hotel due to a blizzard, Liss must depend on her friends' help if she will solve the murder before she is pushing up heather herself.
This is the fourth murder mystery in this Scottish series. I've enjoyed them all due to the interesting plots, intriguing characters, and general fun. I will continue to pick up books by Kaitlyn Dunnett as she writes them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SeinLanguage, Jerry Seinfield, 180 pages

This book is full of funny Seinfeld stories covering all kinds of situations.
Stories range from theater shushing to snack-pack cereals.

Chuck Klosterman, "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto" (256 Pages)

This entertaining collection of 18 essays relating to pop culture is a Klosterman classic, and probably the book title most people associate with him. Typical of Klosterman, the subjects are all over the map, from serial killers to professional sports and, of course, music. Klosterman has a tendency to drift into "hipper than thou" territory, but he manages to stay surprisingly humble through most of the book. For fans of all things pop culture, Klosterman is for you!

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston, 305 pages

Bess Hawksmith in 1628 has watched her brother, sister, and father die of plague, and her mother hung for witchcraft. She turns to warlock Gideon Masters as her only hope of surviving. He teaches her the dark arts, but before he can become her mate in a dark ritual, Bess escapes. She is determined to live a good life, healing and helping others, but Gideon follows, determined to make her his forever. Bess is now an immortal like Gideon, but a life alone and on the run is no true life. In current day England Bess has settled into a tiny village and is quickly befriended by teen Tegan. Tegan starts to learn the ways of the Hedge Witch and makes a place for herself in Bess' heart. But will Gideon show up and destroy all Bess has come to care for?
This was an interesting read, filled with history, witchcraft, love and excitement. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good book to pick up.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, 10 discs or 434 pages

I grabbed this CD book after teen librarian Cari Rerat recommended it. I loved it!!!! I listened to it during a recent drive to Columbia, and I resented every time I had to get out of the car. The book's hero is a boy named Will Henry. His guardian is Dr. Pellinor Warthrop (how's that for a name?), a monstrumologist, or someone who studies monsters. Their quarry in this book: anthropophagi, terrifying creatures with razor sharp teeth and nails, no head, and eyes set in their shoulders. These creatures feed on human beings, and have begun attacking the residents of New Jerusalem in 1888. The mood is wonderfully gothic -- lots of action happens at night, in locations such as lunatic asylums, in graveyards, and aboard ships. The characters are memorable. Will Henry is a child expected to behave like a man; he is the doctor's apprentice, so he must be present for necropsies, monster-hunting, and trips to graveyards and asylums. The doctor is fascinating: brilliant, temperamental, demanding, haunted by personal demons, yet caring of Will Henry in his own way. Particularly memorable is a monster hunter that Warthrop enlists; this vile man's sociopathic tendencies are at first well-hidden beneath a charming smile and wit, but his depravity becomes evident. Just a word of warning should you choose to listen to the audio instead of reading the book: It is gross. I mean really gross. Foul things are prevalent throughout. But the narration on the audiobook is superb. The actor does a great job voicing the different characters, from young Will Henry to a female Irish shopkeeper. I've already started listening to the second book in the series, although I don't think I can wait for all 10 discs; I might have to read the book first to find out what happens!

The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook by Andrea Froncillo, 168 pages

A friend and I were discussing his upcoming visit to San Francisco, and I started rattling off all the places he needed to see. One of those places was The Stinking Rose. Inspired, and salivating at the thought of all that garlic, I pulled out my cookbook from the restaurant and read it yet again. If you're a fan of garlic, this place is heavenly. From the beverages (how about a Gartini?) to the desserts (garlic ice cream, anyone?), garlic permeates everything. When I ate there years ago, I had the most wonderful gnocchi with pine nuts and asparagus in a garlic gorgonzola sauce. The recipe for which, thankfully, is in this cookbook. The book has mouth-watering pictures, information about garlic -- health benefits, purchasing and storing it -- a restaurant history, and nice background information for each recipe. It's inspired me to eat more garlic than usual lately. This week alone I've already had garlic pizza and roasted garlic slathered on bread to accompany potato-leek soup. If I have time this weekend, I might have to make some gnocchi in garlic gorgonzola sauce .... Yum!

A Curtain Falls by Stefanie Pintoff, 390 pages

"A Curtain Falls" is the sequel to Pintoff's first novel, "In the Shadow of Gotham." Detective Simon Ziele is back to solve another mystery in 1906 New York City. This time around, someone is murdering up-and-coming Broadway actresses, leaving their costumed corpses posed in theatrical settings. Although Ziele is working the cases with his former police partner, he eventually brings in Alistair Sinclair, a Columbia law professor who studies the criminal mind and who partnered with him in "In the Shadow of Gotham." The reader is again treated to life in turn-of-the 20th century New York City. This novel is rich in historical detail; it's obvious Pintoff has done her research. I like the character of Simon; he's principled, very good at what he does, and has intriguing ties to the underbelly of the city. Sinclair is interesting as well, although in this book his knowledge of the criminal mind is downplayed; his knowledge of the theatre and his contacts among the elite, however, prove invaluable to Ziele. The book took some unpredictable turns, and I didn't see the ending coming, which is what you want in a good mystery. I'm already looking forward to Pintoff's next book in the series, slated for publication in late May.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Kenken Killings by Parnell Hall, 326 pages

This is the newest entry in the Puzzle Lady series. Cora Felton's ex-husband Melvin (one of many) had conspired to trick Cora into not getting any more alimony. During the course of the trial, dead bodies start to pile up and it looks like Melvin is guilty. Cora works to prove his innocence while denying that she still has feelings for the cheating scumbag.
This series is always a lot of fun, with great crossword puzzles. This book included Kenken puzzles which are evidently like Suduko but slightly different. I'm incapable of solving Suduko and Kenken both, but love crossword puzzles. Luckily, the book supplies the solved puzzles.

Life without Limits by Nick Vujicic, 238 pages

By Nick Vujicic..Pages 238 Awesome book about how life really has no limits other than what we set on ourselfs and how we can overcome those limits with the help of God and others!

The way to A Man's Heart by Mary Ellis, 485 pages

Third book in Series. Just a great as first two. Pages 485

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To Be Queen by Christy English, 380 pages

From an early age, Eleanor of Aquitaine has been taught by her father, Duke of Aquitaine, to rule. With her mother dead, and no sons to be heirs, she must, as a woman, be strong and feminine, able to walk a fine line in a world working to tear her down because of her sex. Eleanor and her father work for years for her marriage to King Louis VII of France, with Eleanor determined to have the next Charlemagne as her son. But she quickly realizes how weak Louis is, answering always to the Church. After a distaster-filled trip to Jerusalem, and years of marriage that result only in two daughters, Eleanor is determined to end her marriage to Louis and return to Aquitaine to rule in her own right, alone. But when the young Henry of Normandy comes to France, Eleanor realizes that her future may not lay just in Aquitaine. Has she finally meet a man strong enough to let her stand beside him as ruler?

Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of those timeless women who has captivated the world for hundreds of years. With beauty, strength, and intelligence, she is one of the few women to rule alone and to also wear the crowns of two countries. "To Be Queen" by Christy English is an outstanding work, recreating the early years of Eleanor's life. For anyone who is a fan of historical entertainment, this is a must-have addition to their collection.

This book is slated to come out in April and I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed "The Other Boleyn Girl" or historical fiction with strong women characters.

Lord of Danger by Anne Stuart, 350 pages

This romance book (or bodice ripper) was referenced in an Unshelved comic strip a few years ago. I have wanted to read it, but the library doesn't have it and I kept forgetting about it. They reran the comic strip a little while ago and refreshed my memory. I then requested this book through a inter-library loan request so I could satisfy my need to read it.
Simon of Navarre is magician and sorcerer to Richard the Fair. Anxious to keep his sorcerer happy, Richard offers either of his two illegitimate sisters in marriage. Claire and Alys have been raised in a convent, and they are both sure Claire will be the one chosen due to her beauty. Alys is determined though to make Simon choose her to save Claire from this horrible fate. But Simon is immediately attracted to Alys due to her grace, intelligence, stubbornness, and hidden beauty. Evil soon besets this couple as they struggle to fight their attraction to each other. Can they overcome all, including their troubled backgrounds, to have any chance at a future together.
This wasn't one of the most tawdry and torrid romances I've read (that makes them more fun) but it wasn't bad. If you want a fun and steamy read set in the time of Henry the Third in England, you would enjoy this book.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Cruel Ever After, by Ellen Hart, 320 pages

I found this book to be especially entertaining since the story takes place in Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota. Chesester Garrity is back in the United States after living in Istanbul. He has an artifact that he is trying to sell for a price of over a million dollars. Unfortunately, the man he was going to sell it to has been murdered. He turns to his ex-wife Jane that he hasn't seen for twenty years that owns a restaurant in Minnesota... a restaurant that was funded by her agreeing to marry him years ago. Little does she know that her family and friends are going to get caught up in a secret group that is trying to get the artifact back to a Mideastern museum. It's a group of people who will stop at nothing to get the statue back.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Swamplandia by Karen Russell, 316

Ava lives in the Florida swamp with her father, older sister and brother, helping run the family alligator amusement park. Ava's mother was the crowd-drawing alligator wrestler, but died a few months ago from ovarian cancer. Now the park is going under, her sister talks to ghosts, her brother has gone to work for the competition and her father has basically checked out. Ava has a plan to save the park and family though.
This was an extremely odd read. It made me uncomfortable at times, especially at the end. I still haven't made up my mind as to if I like it or not. I can't decide if it was a great book or a bad book. Maybe that is the sign of a good book?!?

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (256 pages)

Hansel and Gretel are the heroes of A Tale Dark and Grimm, and after their parents chop off their heads - but don't worry, they both get their heads back - in the first chapter, they set out to find new parents who won't be so horrid. Their journey takes them through several other violent and bloody Grimm's fairy tales where they encounter, among many other things, an evil baker, a dragon, and even the devil himself.

This was definitely an... interesting read. There were parts that made me cringe, though I can't say the author didn't give fair warning. The author frequently stops in the middle of the story to say that it's about to get violent and young children and the faint of heart should probably leave the room. This book reminded me a lot of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Harmonic Feedback.

by Tara Kelly
280 pages

I tore through this one 'cause the main character reminded me of me when I was a much so that I have diagnosed myself with Asperger's. ;) It was a really great experience to read this book because it is officially the first time in my life a protagonist has very closely resembled me. She likes the Cure, she speaks the truth bluntly, she doesn't understand sarcasm, she insists upon painting her room green with purple xmas lights (hellloooo, have you seen my bedroom?!? Probably not, but that's exactly what it looks like) she dresses Goth but doesn't like being labeled anything, she hates crowds, and the list goes on...

I really enjoyed the book, up until an after-school-special-type teen-tragedy happened toward the end. It was really not needed for the story progression and it seemed like an afterthought.

It made me feel understood, and I'm glad that it's out there in the world. Yeay!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (288 pages)

This title had been on my "to read" list since it came out in late 2007. Timely aren't I? I'm really glad that I finally got to read it though. While the subject matter is heavy, it's a great story about how small, seemingly inconsequential actions can alter someone's life.

Clay Jensen finds a package on his porch and inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by classmate (and crush) Hannah Baker. The sickening part is that Hannah committed suicide two weeks prior. In listening to the tapes Clay discovers that, according to Hannah, there were thirteen reasons why she committed suicide and that Clay is one of them. He must listen to the tapes to find out what part he played in her death and then pass them on to the next person on Hannah's list.

On the cover of the book, fellow teen author Chris Crutcher is quoted as saying, "Very clever premise, strong voice, perfect suspense. This one will keep you reading. Jay Asher is a fine storyteller." That about sums it up. I agree with Chris, it is a great premise and you won't be able stop reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (441 pages)

Lena lives in a society where amor deliria nervosa - or as we call it, love - is a disease. It is considered to be "the deadliest of all deadly things: it kills you both when you have it and when you don't." Lena is just a few months away from turning 18 and having the procedure that will cure her of the deliria. She can't wait for that day, for she believes it's the only way she'll be able to forget about her mother, who died when she was six. Lena thinks that once she's cured, she'll be forever happy. But then she meets Alex, whose charming personality and dashing good looks cause her to fall head over heels for him. But love is forbidden and if Lena and Alex are caught, the consequences will be disastrous.

I am completely fascinated with dystopian fiction and Delirium was fantastic! It reminded me somewhat of Matched by Ally Condie but I liked this one much better. There was no love triangle which I found refreshing, and Alex is totally book crush-worthy! ;)

You're Smokin' Now, Mr. Butts! by G.D. Trudeau, 96 pages, 1990.

Oh, how I love Doonesbury. This compilation of cartoons from the 80's is filled with just my type of social commentary, ranging from Ron Headrest (The 80's US President presented on TV as a "Max Headroom" character -- sorry to all you youngsters born in the 90s that have no idea who that is) to Donald Trump to Tiananmen Square to AIDS. For example: Andy, a young professional who relocated to San Francisco, finally tells his conservative mother that he didn't actually get the disease from a mosquito, leaving her aghast, but then excites her and she beams with pride when he reveals he contracted AIDS while dating a doctor. Of course, the anthropomorphized cigarette, Mr. Butts, is a recurring figure throughout the book, along with Mr Jay, and Nickie (anthropomorphized nicotine gum). I am compelled to quote my favorite dialog between Mr. Butts and Mr. Jay. "B: Today you're many times more potent, much more dangerous! J: Dangerous? This from a drug that claims over 250,000 lives a year? B: Yeah, well, at least I'm not a gateway drug! At least I don't lead kids to crack! J: Hey, Buttsy, lighten up, bro. B: I'm sorry ... that's Mr. Caffeine speaking." --- Wot can I say; I loved it, start to finish.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (201 pgs)

I am still stalling until I read/listen to the final installment of the Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness (see the review on The Ask and the Answer for why), so I asked Jeana to recommend a light-hearted, fun audio. I'm so glad I did!

This is a beautiful story about Peter who believes his sister lives (even though his guardian told him she was stillborn). When Peter asks a fortuneteller about his sister and how to find her, he is told to "follow the elephant." Since there aren't any elephants in his town, Peter believes the fortuneteller lied to him. But of course, a magician conjures one up to spice up a very boring magic show--he says he meant only lilies... The elephant crashes into the lap of a noble woman and sparks an incredible story.

I loved this audio so much. It's only 3 discs long, so it's a quick read, but it was so touching and lovely and a little whimsical. So good.

Crap by Erin Conley, Karen Macklin, and Jake Miller, 96 pages

This book is dedicated to learning how to recognize and deal with the crap in your book. You will become a crapologist and learn how to deal with crap dumplings. This was a fun and entertaining read that contained some actually useful techniques.

Unbearable Lightness.

by Portia de Rossi, 305 pages.

Wow. This book made me feel like a closeted anorexic lesbian. I even dreamed about it. I love reading books that help me understand a different perspective. It was devastating to read, but I'm glad I did because it made me feel a little more understanding of anorexia. I can understand how it can happen now. I've never worried much about my appearance, but I've never had a profession that required me to look a certain way either. Portia writes very well too. So, if you're thinking of embarking upon a journey with Portia de Rossi into the world of being ashamed of both her body and her sexuality, just know that there's a VERY happy ending that involves Ellen DeGeneres, probably one of the nicest celebrities ever. And read it fast, because the bulk of this book is pretty bleak...

The Radleys by Matt Haig, 370 pages

It is interesting how many different types of vampire books there are. This book is about a family of abstainers, vampires who are non-practicing. Peter and Helen decided to give up their wild vampire life and settle down in a quiet English village when she became pregnant. Their children Rowan and Clara grow up into teenagers never knowing that they are vampires (you can either be born vampires or be converted.) One night Clara is consumed by bloodlust and attacks a fellow teen. The family is forced to face the secrets that they have been hiding, and not just the ones about being vampires.
This book combined vampires with a story about marriage (some people would say both are life-sucking monsters) and accepting what makes us different. This was very British, stiff upper lip, and all that. I'm still trying to decide if I liked it or not, this was very different.

Amazing...But False by David Diefendorf, 256 pages

This book examines all the facts that get passed around that are totally false, like the fact that it takes 7 years for bubblegum to digest in the stomach. One that I had never heard but is evidently very popular with boys the supposed fact that you will die if you burp and fart at the same time. This book is filled with tons of "facts" and the actual truth behind them.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig, 339 pages

This is the continuation of the flower spies books that started with The Secret of the Pink Carnation. This one was different in that is doesn't feature research student Eloise in modern day London. Instead, the story is completely set in historical England. Turnip finally gets his love story. Arabella's expectations have been dashed by a elderly aunt so she is forced to find work in an elite school for young ladies as a teacher. Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh's sister is a student. When Turnip goes to drop off a Christmas basket for his sister, him and Arabella discover a Christmas pudding with a secret message that seems to be for a French spy. The two quickly find themselves investigating, and fighting feelings for each other.
This was sweet and funny, a great continuation of the series. I think it was one of my favorites so far. I enjoyed the appearance by Jane Austen. If you liked The Scarlet Pimpernal, you should pick up this great series.

The Good, The Bad, And the Babie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us by Tanya Lee Stone, 130 pages

Stephanie reviewed this a month or two so I won't go into it too much. Basically it gave a little history of how Barbie got started and how everyone either loves or hates Barbie. I must say I'm one of those who loves Barbie. My favorite thing to do in the toy store is to walk the Barbie aisle and see all the new ones. I even bought a Scarlett O'Hara Barbie doll at a flea market last year because I've always wanted one. This was a good read. It makes me want to get some on my female friends together with a bunch of Barbie dolls to play. You're never too old for Barbie.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper, 295 pages: audiobook narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson, 7 hours

Can you imagine a world where your thoughts became trapped, banging around inside your head and you could not express them: not in writing, not in art, not in speech? They just rattled around until forgotten or disregarded? This is ten-year-old Melody's life, she has cerebral palsy. Melody's body is disabled and she is confined to a wheelchair with basically zero mobility or speech capability, however, her mind is brill ant and astoundingly active. In fact, she is blessed with a photographic memory. Facts, words, songs, that enter her mind, never leave. Frustratingly, no one, not even her loving but exasperated parents even know how brilliant she is until finally with the help of a few stellar adult influences in her life, and a couple of fateful discoveries, she gets a Meditalker computer for her wheelchair and can painstakingly but stubbornly type out her feelings with her only functional body part, her thumb. This breakthrough, although wonderful for her, only seems to complicate Melody's life as she navigates the rough waters of middle school.

This is a beautiful and real story. Melody's thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and triumphs are very similar to those that you and I feel, except complicated by the humongous obstacle of her impediments. This is one of those stories that remind us how thankful we should all be each day for the health and function of our bodies, something that is easy to take for granted.

The audiobook is wonderfully narrated. You should definitely check this one out.

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley, 306 pages : Playaway narrated by Johnny Heller, 6.25 hours

Elementary school is a breeze for Jackson Jones. He is popular, athletic, and the girls in his class think he's pretty cute - as if he cares. But that all changes one day when - EEEK! - Jackson is subjected to every 10-year-old's nightmare, he has to get braces. Not just regular braces, but layers upon layers of metal.. headgear.. the whole plethora of embarrassment. This causes the death of his popularity, he is cut from the football team, and is basically left alone. Until one day, he stumbles through a locker and into the world of N.E.R.D.S.-National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. This secret, uber lethal group of super spies operates out of his elementary school, is aided by staff members, and if that's not weird enough, the team is made up of well, nerds. Geeks. Goobers. Spazzes. Four-eyed kids with hyperactivity and allergies. Jackson's newfound geekiness might just qualify him to join the team. But will he every really fit in? And most importantly, how do you maintain your grades when you are busy saving the world?

I orginally picked this title up to give me ammo when I get the very popular request of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney and have to apologize to all our second grade patrons because the books are NEVER on the shelf. There is good and bad to this one. There is goofy humor, big action, and sharp sarcasm. But I feel like this is too long a title for the on-the-edge-readers that the Diary series seems to attract. Definitley meant for a more developed and committed reader. But still a nice addition to the boy-centric, action fiction juvenille genre.

The playaways is nicely narrated by the multiple character voice genious of Johnny Heller, who voices all six team members so distinctly, you automatically know who is talking. But I think the title loses a little something without the aid of illustrations.