Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen, 416 pages

Georginia is a daughter of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch. She has family ties with the Queen. Georgie is living in Scotland in a drafty castle with her half brother Binky. The Queen wants her to marry someone that she doesn't want to marry, so she takes off. She decides to stay at one of their houses in London by herself. She didn't even bring her maid so she had to dress herself, cook her own food and even light her own fire. Things she has never had to do before in her life.

A stranger appears at her door looking for her brother. It seems that Binky's father used the castle in Scotland as a gambling bet and lost. Georgie and Binky's life-threatening troubles are just beginning.

Thanks to Danya again for suggesting this book. I thought it was excellent.

The Sisters Grimm, bk 1: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley, 284 pages

Sabrina and Daphne Grimm might be orphans, but they are no pushovers. About a 18 months before the book takes place, the girls arrived home one day to find that their parents had mysteriously vanished. Now street-wise and no-nonsense from their experiences in one bizarre foster family after another, they simply don't buy the story that their grandmother, they had long believed to be dead, is not... and wants to raise them.
From the moment the girls arrive in Ferryport Landing and are greeted by their eccentric but seemingly genuine "grandmother", strange things begin to happen. The more we learn about this quaint little town and the characters within, who will all seem very familiar to you (perhaps because they were the stars of your childhood bedtime stories), the more beautiful, rich, and funny the story becomes.
This book was wonderful, the best juvenille fiction I have read in awhile. I had known several of my co-workers loved the series and I finally read this first title. The story has such a huge heart, belly-laughs, plenty of excitement for the kids while still having enough intrigue and off-the-cuff humor to keep adults engaged. The Playaway audio was wonderfully narrated L.J. Ganser. I definitely recommend this for any kid or kid-at-heart who loves a good fairy tale with a modern twist.

A Touch of Dead: Sookie Stackhouse: The Complete Stories, by Charlaine Harris, 192 pgs

I'll admit it, I became hooked on HBO's "True Blood" and saw the first two seasons before I even knew it was based on a book series. Which is hard for a book-nerd for me to divulge. So, "True Blood" and the love of Playaway audios, (which I slip into my pocket while doing chores) brought me to this collection of short stories.
This is was my first exposure to Sookie Stackhouse from the written word and now that I see that HBO really has captured the essence of the character dead-on (no pun intended). I loved these short stories, all featuring the innerworkings of the complicated mind of telepathic waitress Sookie. They were funny, ironic, and saucy, just like the show. She works out many of the same problems we all do. Family dynamics, relationship highs and lows, annoyances on the job, etc-just in a much stranger and more interesting way. This results from the fact that her world is filled with vampires, werewolves, faeries, and other various oddities.
The playaway was narrated by Johanna Parker and I swear I actually thought it was Anna Paquin's voice at times. She is narration perfection.
If you are the type that likes a campy, funny, steamy romp and doesn't get grossed out by a little (ok, a lot) of gore, do yourself a favor and check out this book series or the TV show. I'm hooked. However - do take note- this particular collection of short stories did hold a couple of spoilers for me, having seen only seasons one and two of the show.

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, 424 pages

In this 4th installment of the Mortal Instruments series, we are again plunged into the hidden fantastical world of Downworlders that live unseen by humans in modern day New York City. I have been excited to read this title, I enjoyed the previous three and at the end of the third, City of Glass, it seemed as if all of our weary characters had finally overcome all obstacles and would live happily ever after. But this is never the case, is it?
In this installment, our heroine Clary is still fighting dark forces with mysterious agendas ripping apart her happy world. She is also battling the quintessential conundrum that perplexes all teenage girls: Why doesn't he call? Between all her relationship and otherworldly dramas, this book is mostly angst and little payoff.
Overall, I liked the book. As with the others, it is a fun and entertaining adventure. The distinct personalities of each character still shine through. Although it seems that with each 400 page novel in the series, you take one step forward and two steps back toward plot resolution. If you ever read these, and don't care for the characters, don't waste your time, because love for them is what will keep you enjoying the series.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dead Reckoning By Chalaine Harris, 325 pages

Sookie Stackhouse is just trying to recover from the insane twists and turns her life has taken but the calm is just a momentary quiet before everything in life starts to go crazy again. Her vampire lover Eric is keeping something from her, someone has firebombed the bar she works out, and an enemy from the past has reappeared. All in all, Sookie's life is back to normal.
This was a great book to read to just enjoy a fun dose of what I call mind candy. I have enjoyed this series from book one, I watch the tv show (new season next month, yippee) and I'm even collecting the comic books. Charlaine Harris is a great author with multiple series, now I just need to get her to come to the Joplin Public Library.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lamplighter by D. M. Cornish, 715 pages

This was recommended to me by a staff person at Books-A-Million. It's the second in the series, kind of a cross between Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Very good, now I just need to track down book 3.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater, 139 pages

I have read this book a few times over the years and love it every time. I really hope they don't screw it up when they make the movie, but what I've seen so far doesn't bode well.

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier, 252 pages

I really enjoyed this book. It was deep and thought-provoking while being an easy read.

Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson, 471 pages

I'm not going to go into a lot of description on this book. I mainly wanted to just get it posted so I can check it in and I don't have internet at my house right now because of the tornado.
This is the newest Goldie catering mystery and isn't one of the best. The series is slowing down and isn't as good as the early ones were. I found myself reading this just to finish it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Villa Mirabella. by Peter Pezzelli, 351 pages

Jason Mirabella left the town of Providence, Rhode Island for a life in Los Angeles. Armed with a business degree he lands a job at Med-Device Technologies. A product called ProCardia One could help many people with various disorders. The firm had high hopes for making big money off of it.

Only thing was,the test results showed it wasn't working like it was supposed to and some patients had to have theirs taken out or they would have died. His superiors at the company talked him into burying this new information and that no one would ever find out about it. A few months later other people did learn about it. Jason promptly lost his job and after that all he owned. With no where else to turn, he goes back to Providence to live with his father. The family owns an inn and his father asks him to help around the place. Jason isn't quite sure about that. He is used to the fast life and the money he used to make. Eventually he realizes he isn't ready to face his fears by going back to LA...at least not yet. With his father, brother and sister he helps at the inn. His job is to try and get more people to stay at the inn using his marketing strategies. He comes to grips with his past and looks to the future. It will be a different future than he thought it would be.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dangerous Love by Kate William, 132 pages

One of the strictest rules in the Wakefield house is "No motorcycles." Ever since their cousin was killed in a crash, Elizabeth and Jessica have been forbidden to go near them. So when Elizabeth's boyfriend Todd drives up on a shiny new Yamaha, she knows there's trouble ahead. She can't ride Todd's bike, but other girls can-and do. And the sight of those girls riding with their arms around Todd is making Elizabeth crazy with jealousy. Todd tells her not to worry, but Elizabeth's scared of losing him. Will Todd's new bike drive them apart?
This one has an especially dramatic ending, whatever will happen in the next book? Still campy and fun.

All Night Long by Kate William, 134 pages

Elizabeth Wakefield knows her beautiful twin can handle almost any guy-most boys are just no match for Jessica's seductive charms. But Scott Daniels, Jessica's latest love, is more of a man than a boy, much older and much more experienced than anyone Jessica's ever dated.
When Jessica sneaks off to a college beach party with Scott, Elizabeth's afraid of what could happen. And when her twin isn't back by morning, Elizabeth's fear turns to alarm. Where's Jessica? Why has she stayed out all night long?

You: on a Diet.

by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, 369 pages.

First of all, I HATE the word diet. The title of this book makes me cringe...but if you ignore the word diet and a lot of the cheesy language employed within the book, it's a pretty useful guide for how to eat and how much to exercise to be at your "factory settings", the term the authors call each person's ideal healthy self. They even suggest that your factory settings are probably the weight/shape you were in at the ages of 18-21, as that's when your body was most likely at its most metabolically efficient. There's a LOT of detail on digestion and brain chemicals related to eating. It can get tedious to read and the writing style is weird to follow, but the main ideas in the book seem pretty logical and helpful. There's recipes, meal plans, and exercise routines. I might even try some of the recipes and I will definitely employ some of the main ideas, such as walking 30 minutes per day and eating more nuts and fruits. I'm always trying to be healthier, so this book was a good reminder for me.

Secrets by Kate William, 118 pages

This is the 2nd book in the Sweet Valley High Series. I think for the posts from now on I'll just list the description on the back. Jessica would stop at nothing... Beautiful and ruthless Jessica Wakefield is determined to be chosen queen of the dance at Sweet Valley High. If she can win the contest, she's sure to win Bruce Patman, the most sought after boy in school. The only person standing in Jessica's way is Enid Rollins. When Jessica discovers the truth about Enid's past, she is sure the crown is within her grasp. She doesn't care that Enid is her twin sister Elizabeth's best friend-or that revealing the secret may cost Enid both her reputation and the boy she loves. Only Elizabeth can stop Enid from Jessica's vicious gossip-but can she stop her scheming twin in time...
These books are completely hooky, but still lots of fun.

Author Postings

I just had to mention that I've had 2 authors see the reviews I'd written about their books and comment about it. I got so excited thinking "Actual authors are reading something I wrote, whoo-hoo!" Stephen Fried of Appetite for America and Randy Russell of Dead Rules totally rock!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Aunt Dimity & the Family Tree by Nancy Atherton, 229 pages

This is the 16th book in the Aunt Dimity mystery series and I've enjoyed every single one. Aunt Dimity is a ghost who only shows up as writing in a lovely diary that Lori can see. With Aunt Dimity's help, Lori always manages to solve the mystery, but usually stirs up one or two more mysteries along the way. These are fun, light, tea cozy English mysteries, perfect for a rainy afternoon with a spot of tea.

Double Love by Kate William, 182 pages

1st book in the Sweet Valley High Series and the one that started the decades of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield fandom.

Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, 140 pages

This is probably one of the oddest books I have read so far this year. I saw it mentioned on my Unshelved library comic strip and was intrigued. The premise of this graphic novel is that on February 3, 1979, chickens gained intelligence. There were massive uprisings at some places with chickens running rampant and killing people (but considering how chickens are killed at a poultry plant do you blame them?) People reacted to the chickens talking by killing many of them. It took about 6 months for the world governments to give chickens equal rights to humans. That is till about 20 years later when the bird flu hit, and chickens were killed by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
This was extremely well-written and well-drawn, if you've enjoyed the graphic novel Maus you would like this. If you haven't read Maus, you should!

Power Play by Kate William, 150 pages

Book 4 in the series. Elizabeth and Jessica go up against each other! Still fun and full of teenage drama.

Playing with Fire by Kate William, 149 pages

This is the 3rd Sweet Valley High Book in the series. I read the brand new Sweet Valley Confidential book which features everyone all grown up and felt a need to revisit my middle-school years, which I spent reading every single one of these. I won't go into plot details in these books, but they are nice light fluff, and fun for remembering reading for the first time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (448 pages)

In Portland, Maine, the closed community where Lena Haloway lives, the government is in complete control. They tell you who to marry, where to live, what time to be home, how many children to have and they also require all citizens to undergo brain surgery when they turn 18, in an effort to cure citizens of love, a.k.a. deliria.

Up until now Lena has been happy that her future is mapped out, and that she does not have to worry about falling in love, however, after meeting a mysterious young man named Alex she begins to see loop holes in the governmental-way of thinking.

Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona, 427 pages

Stanislas-Adelaide, known as Lili, is the daughter of Emilie du Chatelet, has grown up knowing very little about her her mother, who died when Lili was only six days old. Her father has handed her care off to others, contributing only a stipend towards her upkeep, but never seeing her. Lili grows up with two women, adopted aunt Julie de Bercy who is known for her Paris salon and Baronne Lomont, a prudish religious aunt. Both women contribute different aspects to Lili's upbringing. As Lili gets older, she starts to learn more about her shocking and talented mother. Emilie was responsible for translating Newton's Principia Mathematica and providing mathematical proofs to make Newton understandable. She was also known for her scandalous relationship with famed writer Voltaire. Lili must decide what of her mother she will emulate and what of Julie and Baronne Lomont, while still staying true to herself.

"Finding Emilie" by Laurel Corona is an imaginative telling of what might have happened to Emilie du Chatelet's youngest child if she had survived childhood. It is always interesting to read about some of woman's eternal struggle to gain the ability to use their intellect and make choices about their life. This is a sweeping novel, filled with interesting characters, and tumultuous ideas. For fans of great historical fiction, this will be a welcome addition to their collections.

Dead Rules by Randy Russell, 376 pages

Jana Webster has much of her life and personality tied up in being half of the couple known as Jana Webster/Michael Haynes. She knew that they were meant to be together forever, that is until she dies from a tragic bowling accident while on a double date with another couple. Jana then wakes up on the bus to Dead School, without Michael. She knows that she must work hard to figure out how to kill Michael so they can be together again. Nothing will stop her, not even her attraction to the darkly handsome and mysterious Mars Dreamcote.
This is an advance reader's copy that Renee had sent to her to review. I picked it up because I was stuck in a slow drive-thru lane and this was in the van. I figured I would read just the first few pages until I was done waiting. But this book was so funny that I kept reading the book. It's a teen Romeo and Juliet retelling, with a hilarious twist. My daughter knew that she would be one to die from a bowling accident! I really recommend that Cari get this for the teen department when it comes out next month.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

White Man's Heaven by Kimberly Harper, 325 pages

The subtitle for this book describes it perfectly: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894-1909. I had heard about the mobs that had drove blacks out of Joplin at the beginning of the 1900s but didn't know much about it, so I was interested in reading this book when I found it at the library. It covers Peirce City, Monett, Springfield, southern Arkansas, and Joplin. There were lynchings of blacks pulled out of jail cells, including 3 in Springfield on Easter morning, 2 of which are believed to be innocent men. Mobs after most of the lynchings drove black communities out of the towns, leaving this area empty of the African American population. This is a good look at one of the most shameful times of this area. While dry at times, this is still an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn more about this time period.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bon Appetit, by Sandra Byrd, 289 pages

The cover picture grabbed me first..pastries!!!!!!

Lexi Stuart moves from Seattle to France. She works for a family that owns bakeries in both places. She was offered a job in one of their bakeries in France and they would also pay her tuition to go to school to become a Pastry Chef. She has always wanted to go to France, but it was lonely without someone to see the sights with. Along comes the owner's son and his little daughter. Lexi is lonely no more.

The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman, 329 pages

I saw the blog on this book and decided I had to read it.
The story starts out at the beginnings of a town in 1750 and follows the years as it grows and new people settle there. I especially liked the story of the Fisherman's Wife.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Meditations on the Tarot, Letters XV - XVIII, (pp 399 - 524)

Letter XV addresses the card of The Devil, and discusses the various aspects of trial, temptation, and tribualtion -- and glorification upon passing such trials. The letters quote extensively from great Christians who overcame many trials, including St. Ignatius of Loyola, Origen, St. Anthony, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross. The themes they express contain counting one's trials as blessings and as fires of spiritual purification, and re-emphasize that The Light Shines in the Darkness, and the Darkness can Never Extinguish It! Letter XVI, concerns the card of The Tower of Destruction, and analyzes the evil of humanity, as opposed to the evil of purely spiritual and non-corporeal forces -- as the Genesis account tells of the constructing of the Tower of Babel by those who wished to usurp the power of Divinity with human power and endeavour. I have always found it quite fitting that humanity should be in this struggle, as humanity is such a blend of good and evil intentions and actions, unlike angels which the Kabbalah teaches are compelled to ALWAYS choose and do good. Letter XVII concerns the card of The Star and teaches that spiritual growth is imperative to the health and well-being of the church and body of Christ; that the "Screw it, I'm forgiven by my Faith in the Grace of Paul" attitude of many modern churches is unacceptable, and that faith without works is truly dead. Why has the modern church turned away from Christ's plan for salvation given on the Mount: "Repent, turn from your sins, and be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect" and instead grasped onto the "Faith and Grace" spiel of Paul? : This is a question that has bothered me for over a decade and one of the primary reasons I will no longer attend any church that teaches that the letters of Paul are the word of God. I was excited when beginning my reading of Letter XVIII, concerning the card of The Moon, as its evolutionary, rhythmical, waxing and waning symbology has always been one of my favorite subjects in other books concerning Tarot symbolism; however the author took this letter as an opportunity not to address these common themes of the card, but rather to make an overview of the philosophical works of Henri Bergson, a writer the author admires greatly -- but which I found to be a better sleeping pill than exciting philosopher -- but I agreed with and respected much of what he had to say. Well, that's all for now. More soon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


by Tina Fey, 275 pages.

This book was feminist hilarity from start to finish. I literally laughed out loud twice as often as I ever have reading a book, and I'm not a laugh-out-loud kind of person. It was really really super awesome. Read it. I know I will do so several more times in my life.

An excerpt (this is an entire chapter):

What Turning Forty Means to Me:
I need to take my pants off as soon as I get home. I didn't used to have to do this. But now I do.

The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, 311 pages

Josey Cirrini is a 27 year old that lives at home. She feels that she has to take care of her Mom because of the guilt she feels from when she was a mean little girl. Her mother is getting older and her mother wants Josey to take care of her forever.

Josey likes to spend a lot of time in her closet that's full of books and tons of junk food.

One day she opens up the closet and a woman is inside. The woman's name is Della Lee and she wants to help Josey. Della Lee ran away from her boyfriend and says she needs a place to stay for awhile. Every time Josey opens the closet she smells a river water scent. With Della Lee's advice, Josey becomes more social with the outside world. She meets Chloe who just happens to have books magically popping up by her all the time. In a relationship going bad, relationship books show up. She throws them away, but they always come back to her. All her life books have been coming to her...so many she had to get a storage unit for all of them. The story follows Josey and her new love interest and finally trying to break free from her self imposed prison.

This was another great book.

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman, 421 pages

A young woman is found dead, and police detective Milo Sturgis comes to his friend and consultant Alex Delaware, to gain the psychologist's insight into the case. What is shocking is that Alex saw the victim the night before at the closing of the Fauborg Hotel, with the beautiful woman sitting alone at the bar waiting for someone. As Milo and Alex try to discover her identity, each clue they find seems to stir up even more confusion. This case promises to be one of their more difficult to solve.
This was a dark but fun mystery, like all of Kellerman's books. I've read all of his mysteries and it's a toss up on if I enjoy his or his wife's books more (Faye Kellerman). His books always have a dark undertone, but still make for a fast read.

The Bone Yard by Jefferson Bass, 215 pages

This is the latest book in the Body Farm novels by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson who write under the pen name Jefferson Bass. Dr. Bass is the creator of the University of Tennessee's Body Farm that is mentioned in the Patricia Cornwell books.
Dr. Bill Brockton, creator of the body farm at U of Tennessee is leading a training session for law enforcement when one of the participants gets some disturbing news. Her sister has committed suicide, but Angie St. Claire, forensic analyst in Florida is sure it's murder. Dr. Brockton heads down to Florida to help out, and quickly finds himself embroiled in a decades old murder case. A reform school that burned down years ago proves to be the site of young boys' bodies, who may have met a early death at the hands of the people who were supposed to keep them safe. Dr. Brockton finds himself trying to not only solve this crime but also stay alive long enough to do so.
This is one of my favorite series, it's similar to Patricia Cornwell, but her books have gotten odd over the years, so I don't enjoy them as much. It's also a lot like Kathy Reichs "Bones" series, with some CSI thrown in. Great plots, interesting characters, and well-written, what more can you ask for in a series.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris, 8 discs or 311 pages

OK, I'm not really sure what happened. I posted a longer review of this yesterday, and now it's gone. Grrr. So here's a truncated version of my review: "Dead in the Family" is the 10th book in the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mystery series that serves as the inspiration for HBO's hit series, "True Blood." I read it. It was good. The end.

It's Not Really About the Hair by Tabatha Coffey, 212 pages

Although I'm not a big fan of reality shows, I always tune in to Bravo TV's "Tabatha's Salon Takeover," in which hairdresser Tabatha Coffey marches in, takes over a salon in trouble, and whips the owners and staff into shape, all in a week's time. And, to quote the title of her memoir, it's not really about the hair. It's about being a good business owner, employer, and employee. I love her take-charge attitude and her willingness to call someone on their BS, and I always learn something from her. I also adore her bitchy attitude. She spends this entire book embracing the word "bitch"; in fact, she turns it into an acronym: Brave, Intelligent, Tenacious, Creative and Honest. Sing it, sister. I find her inspiring. And her story about how she got to where she is today is an interesting one. From spending her childhood in the transexual strip clubs that her parents ran in Australia, to opening her first salon in the aftermath of 9/11, in a town devastated by the attacks, to unexpectedly finding fame as a TV personality, she'll keep you interested. Reading her book is like watching her on TV. It's blunt, short on BS, and peppered with f-bombs. And so fun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Soldier by Grace Burrowes, 406 pages

Emmaline Farnum is the only family that Winnie has, but Devlin St. Just has been given the estate they live on, and feels a responsibility to Winnie. His care for Winnie quickly deepens, and Devlin finds himself fighting an attraction to the not appropriate but oh so attractive Emmaline. Emmie knows that she can never have a future with Devlin, and that he can provide a better future for Winnie, but it doesn't keep her heart from falling for both. Secrets from the past threaten Emmaline and Devlin's future happiness, if they aren't willing to sacrifice everything for their hearts.
"The Soldier" by Grace Burrowes is another entry in this fun Regency romance series featuring a crotchety and determined duke, intent on seeing his sons married, and the succession secured. Each son is just as strong willed, falling in love on their own terms. With lots of humor and steamy romance, these books are always a delightful read, a treat for fans of Regency romance at it's best.

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson (233 pages)

Twelve-year-old Emma Freke is convinced that her mother did not said her name out loud before naming her. Otherwise why would she have given her a name that sounds like Am a Freak? And to make thinks worse, Emma stands out from her sixth grade classmates like a sore thumb due to her height, she's 5 feet 10 inches tall, and her very noticeable, bright red hair.

Emma longs to fit in and she thinks she might get the chance after a mysterious letter arrives inviting her to The Freke Family Reunion, in Wisconsin. Emma has never met her father, nor his relatives, but as she sets off for a long weekend in Wisconsin, she thinks she might finally discover where she fits.

A Gathering Place, by Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer, 360 pages

This is the 3rd book in the Cape Light series. Emily, the town's mayor is re-evaluating what she wants out of life..and it comes as a surprise. Sarah, her daughter, has a new job writing for the newspaper and is enjoying it. Emily's mother is still as grouchy as ever, but is getting just a speck less crabbier.

Many new things are happening to the other townspeople's.

This was another very good book.

Appetite for America by Stephen Fried, 518 pages

Fred Harvey created the first chain of restaurants, and was the first famous brand name before Coca-Cola even become a household name. This book explores the man who created this chain of railroad eating houses, gave us the phenomenon Harvey Girls, and changed America forever. This book was a fascinating read. I hadn't realized that the Kansas City Union Station was pretty much completely designed by "Fred Harvey", with them owning every shop in it. Joplin had even had a Fred Harvey restaurant up to 1930. If you love history, Americana, and lots of information, this is a must read.

Narcissus in Chains by Laurell K. Hamilton, 424 pages

Richard no longer wants Anita to be lupa of his werewolves, a new leader for the wereleopards is in town, and Anita finds herself overwhelmed by the ardeur, a thirst that must be fed by blood or lust. All in all, another normal time for Anita.
This is the book that took this series from a fun and dark vampire/werewolf series to an almost sexually disturbing series, but I still read the books. Now, I'm just creeped out when I see my mother-in-law reading them.

The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato, 387 pages

The Palio is a dangerous, no holds barred horse race ran a twice a year in Siena. Pia Tolomei has been informed that she is to be married to one of the riders, a brute who evil is surpassed only by his brother's and father's. When her fiance is killed during the race, Riccardo, another racer, jeopardizes his chance at winning to try to save him. Because of his act, Riccardo is drawn into a plan to take over the city, and Pia and Riccardo are thrown together into a dangerous attraction. Who, if any, will survive the next race just a month away, and do Riccardo and Pia have any chance for a life together?
"The Daughter of Siena" by Marina Fiorato is a rich, lush novel covering a time filled with intrigue, violence and interesting characters. Weaving a tender romance with a plot to overthrow the Medicis rule of Siena, this is a book that keeps you reading, eagerly turning pages.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know.

by Shari Graydon, 115 pages.

I knew a lot of the information contained within these pages, but it's nice to remind myself every once in awhile. I like to think that because I don't watch television (I watch TV shows and movies, but I don't do so at the time they're broadcast, with the commercials spliced in. However, I occasionally watch PBS, but that totally doesn't count) I am unaffected by ads, but they are ubiquitous. This book helped me look at the world more critically to see the ads I've become complacent to everywhere around me. I've always been really label-averse, ripping all signs of branding from my clothing and accessories, so this book is really preachin' to the choir. That said, I learned some really basic "no-duh" type information one doesn't normally think about. For example, the fact that items cost more that are advertised more is something painfully obvious I was never consciously cognizant of before reading this book. My label-loathing no-name-grocery-brand lovin' instincts feel even more justified and less cheap now!

As a side note: I really like reading kid's nonfiction when I want to get a quick no-nonsense summary of a topic. It's definitely a guilty pleasure of mine to read about nerdy topics via this fast-track vehicle of elegant simplicity. They don't screw around with fluffy details in these books, and I admire that!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Gegor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (311 pgs)

Gregor is a poor 11 year old boy living in New York City with his mother two sisters (Boots, age 2 and Lizzie, age 7) and senile grandmother whose father has been missing for 2 years. One hot summer day, he and his younger sister Boots are in the basement of their apartment building doing laundry when Boots falls down a vent shaft. Gregor, like any good big brother, falls down after her. They fall for a long, long, long time. When they finally (gently) hit bottom, they're in the Underland where cockroaches, bats, and rats are all big enough to ride on (though you don't really want to mess with the rats) and can all talk. There are people in the Underland too. Pale, violet eyed people who think Gegor is the "warrior" of their prophecies come to save the Underland from certain doom. And maybe he can find his dad on the way?

This was Suzanne Collins' (of Hunger Games fame) first novel and it's just brilliant. As Jeana put it, "If you don't like this book, I don't think I can help you find books that you do like..."

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (603 pgs)

And this completes the Chaos Walking trilogy. It was a good read with a satisfying ending even if it too many gasps and tears to get there. I highly recommend this series to fans of The Hunger Games trilogy, fans of science fiction, fans of good literature, etc. Beware: bad things happen in these books that will make you curse Patrick Ness and his evil ways. But it's worth it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Weird Sisters.

by Eleanor Brown, 314 pages.

I was very drawn into the lives of these three women and their parents. I liked their lazy reading habits. I also really enjoyed the writer's description of everything from the characters' enjoyment of food to their free-flowing way of reading and running through the woods, and conversely, their lives. I was a little annoyed by the religious stuff towards the end, but it wasn't terribly intrusive. I think this one has already been reviewed, so this is all I'll say. It was a very nice spring book.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Probable Future, by Alice Hoffman, 322 pages

In a small town in Massachusetts there is a home called the Cake House. It has been the home of the Sparrow family for hundreds of years. When each Sparrow daughter turns thirteen, she wakes up to find she has a special gift. It could be feeling no pain, dreaming others dreams, being able to tell if someone is lying or even to tell how someone will die. The story follows the life of Elinor, her daughter Jenny and her daughter, Stella Sparrow. As they each deal with their special gifts they also feel the past with them all the time. The first Sparrow woman had been drowned in their lake by superstitious townspeople many years ago. Stella Sparrow is the one that can tell how someone will die. Stella and her father went out to eat one night and Stella saw a woman at the next table. She sees the woman, in her mind, murdered. She talks her father into going to the police where he tells them what his daughter said. When the woman from the restaurant is found dead, just like the father said, he is accused of her murder. Stella is sent to live at the Cake House with her grandmother Elinor. The story follows the past and present Sparrow Women and the men who loved them.

I thought this was a great book.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Zombies by Ian Edginton and Davide Fabbri, 144 pages

I love all things Victorian England and all things zombie, so Danya's daughter Renee was kind enough to lend me this graphic novel. The book opens with a mysterious comet lighting the sky in mid-19th century England; soon after, people start dying, then immediately re-animating and attacking anything that moves. (I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite cheesy '80s films, "Night of the Comet," which features Valley Girls battling comet zombies.) Flash forward about 45 years to Sherlock Holmes' day. Life has long since returned to normal after the "cholera" epidemic decades earlier. But Holmes and Dr. Watson soon discover that things are not what they seem, and an old foe might be behind new attacks. Like all graphic novels, this was a fast read. The story clips along, and the artwork is great. I love the cover, which features a zombie in traditional Holmes garb, albeit with plenty of flies and maggots. There are also some steampunk elements, which I wasn't expecting. Overall, it's a good read, though for more in-depth zombie storytelling, you should pick up the granddaddy of zombie comics, Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan (209 pages)

National Book Award winning author Gloria Whelan is a master at writing historical fiction chapter books for children in upper-elementary and junior high and her latest title is no exception.

While the story seems to be a simple tale revolving around Rosalind James' ability to get into trouble while helping other, it is also the tale of India's push for its freedom from England in 1918.

The opening line is perfect. "How can kindness get you into so much trouble?" That basically sums up Rosalind's life, but despite all the trouble she seems to bring on herself she is never detered from helping others and readers are sure to appreciate this quality the most.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd (336 pages)

Twelve-year-old Ted and his older sister Kat rarely see eye-to-eye, but they quickly become partners after their cousin Salim disappears while riding the London Eye. They develop nine theories to explain what happened to him and while the grown-ups are not interested in what Ted and Kat think happen, this does not stop them from attempting to solve the case.

Siobhan Dowd's use of Ted to narrate the story, makes for interesting mystery tale. While it is only mentioned that Ted's brain "runs on a different operating system", readers will assume that he has Asperger's Syndrome, though this is not the major focus of the story. There is much more to Dowd's chapter book, with family relationships getting top billing.

Obsidian Butterfly by Laurell K. Hamilton, 596 pages

Another entry in the Anita Blake series. Significantly darker, with some scenes of child abuse, lots of blood and gore, this is not a book for the faint of heart.

Murder by Gaslight by Leonard Piper, 219 pages

This was an examination of some actual murder cases from Victorian and Edwardian England. It covers the crime, the investigation and trial. It's amazing how people never change and there really is nothing new under the sun. But when it's English, murder seems more civilized.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family by Christy Jordan, 272 pages

I was kind of ambivalent about this cookbook when I checked it out. I knew that, as a vegetarian, I most likely wouldn't find a lot of meat-free recipes. (I'm also a bit of a food snob, which I freely admit.) And I was right, but I'm OK with that because I can easily adapt most recipes to suit my diet. However, I'm not really fond of recipes that involve Velveeta, vegetable shortening, peaches from a can, and the liberal use of mayonnaise. And there were plenty of those to be found here. Reading this book was like flipping through "Taste of Home" magazine or reading Cheryle Finley's supposed "food" column in the Joplin Globe. (I live for her white-trash cooking tips.) The quaint, cutesy names annoyed me: meme's mashed potatoes, ms. millie's best coleslaw, daddy's rise-and-shine biscuits. I did enjoy the writer's explanation of the origins of some of the food. And a few of the recipes brought back memories of my grandmother's blackberry cobbler and fried potatoes with cream gravy. But there were very few things in this cookbook that I'd care to replicate. The okra with tomatoes and the fried green tomatoes look yummy, so I can't wait to hit the farmer's markets this summer. Other than that, this book was a waste of my time.

The Queen's Pawn, by Christy English, 378 pages

The King Of France sent his daughter Princess Alais to England to marry Prince Richard, one of King Henry's sons.
She was met by Queen Eleanor of England, her father's ex-wife. As soon as they met each other they bonded and forever loved each other as mother and daughter. Since she was so young, Queen Eleanor sent Alais to a nunnery for a couple of years. When the queen sent for her to come to the castle she introduced her to her betrothed, Richard. It didn't take long for the two of them to fall in love. But things change when Princess Alais found Richard with one of his mistresses. She was so upset that she set her sights on King Henry who by now was enamoured with her...and the story goes from there.
Thanks to Danya for telling me about this book. I really liked it and can hardly wait for the author to write another.