Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me by Chelsea's Family, Friends, and Other Victims, 292 pages

When I saw this book as I was unpacking Brodart boxes, I thought, "Jeez, yet another book by Chelsea Handler?" She seems to have one coming out every few months. While I'm a fan of her show "Chelsea Lately," I find her books a bit much to get through. I guess I can only stomach so much snark at one time. But when I realized this book was authored by her co-stars and other people who populate her show, I figured it might provide some chuckles. And it was pretty funny -- so much so that I picked it up at every opportunity to read a few more pages. Basically, the entire book is about how Chelsea Handler screws people over with her unbelievable lies, ranging from false pregnancies to fake lesbian relationships. The stories are hilarious. It seems there is no lie that Chelsea Handler *won't* tell in order to screw with her friends, family, and co-workers. But underneath these outrageous stories is evidence that there isn't much she won't do for those she loves. She takes people on lavish vacations; gives them money, jobs or places to live when they're down on their luck; and genuinely is appalled and upset when her pranks have disastrous consequences. Oh, even her dog, Chunk, gets in on the act; the last piece in the book is "authored" by this furry mixed-breed.

Second Chance by Kate William, 133 pages

Quiet, determined Kristin Thompson knows exactly what she wants from life. Since she was little, she has had one goal-to become a world-class tennis player. Now all she has to do is win one more tournament and she'll qualify to turn professional. Then handsome Bruce Patman invites her out and sweeps her off her feet. But there's not enough room in Kristin's life for a boyfriend and professional tennis. She begins to wonder if a romance with Bruce will make her happier than winning the tournament ever could. Will Kristin give up the dream of a lifetime to live like an ordinary teenager?

White Lies by Kate William, 137 pages

John Pfeifer, popular sports reporter for the Sweet Valley High Oracle, is worried that his good friend Jennifer Mitchell is becoming too involved with dropout Rick Andover. When he finds out that Jennifer plans to run away with Rick, he enlists Elizabeth Wakefield's help to stop them. Then Rick is arrested. Jennifer is convinced that her father turned him in. Furious, she refuses to speak to her father. John is the one responsible for Rick's arrest but there's no way he can admit it now that Jennifer has turned to him for comfort. Then Mr. Mitchell becomes seriously ill, and John is faced with a terrible dilemma. Should he tell Jennifer the truth and risk losing her friendship, or let her go on thinking her father is to blame?

Against the Odds by Kate William, 151 pages

Ronnie Edwards is having the time of his life. By betting successfully on high school sports, he's made more money than he knows what to do with. He's even offered Jessica Wakefield a loan. Unfortunately, he hasn't been keeping up with payments to his bookie, Big Al. When Big Al decides to collect, Ronnie's out of cash. So Big Al offers him another option: if Ronnie can fix the state championship soccer game, Big Al will forget about Ronnie's debt. Ronnie turns to the only friend he has-Elizabeth Wakefield's boyfriend, Jeffrey French, star soccer player for Sweet Valley High. A college scout is coming to see the game, and if Jeffrey doesn't play his best, he'll jeopardize his future. But if he doesn't help Ronnie out, his friend may not have a future.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (352 pages)

Jacob has grown up listening to his grandfather's tales of horrible monsters, children with fantastic powers, and a magical boarding school where he lived as a child. After his grandfather mysteriously dies, Jacob sets off for Wales to find some answers to the confusion surrounding his grandfather's life... and his death. He soon discovers that his grandfather's bizarre stories may in fact be true... and the children he lived with over 60 years ago may still be alive.

I've heard quite a bit of hype about this book, and I wasn't disappointed. This was one of the oddest books I have read in quite a while, part mystery, part fantasy, part horror, and peppered throughout with strange vintage photographs. I was very intrigued by the peculiarity of the entire novel, and will definitely be reading the next book in the series. Overall, I'd give it a 4/5. :)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, 451 pages

Well, I think I am one of the last people in America to read this book. There has been so much hoopla about this book that I've put off reading it. Either I want to read a book before everyone else has or I'm likely to avoid a book that everyone is reading. But this one has gotten so many great reviews, plus the movie trailer I saw looked good. And I refuse to see a movie if I haven't read the book first. So, I finally picked this up and knocked it out. I won't go into plot details because you would have to have been living in a cave not to know them, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the book. It had interesting characters, a compelling plot and good writing. I will definitely be going to see the movie now to see how the two measure up against each other.

Playing for Keeps by Kate William, 165 pages

Jessica Wakefield is head over heels in love with handsome A.J. Morgan. She knows he likes her, but Jessica's convinced he'd really fall in love with her if she were studious and reserved, like her twin, Elizabeth. So Jessica sets out to change her personality completely. But her plans are threatened when she hears about a fashion contest she just knows she could win. How can she compete and still be the shy, sweet girl that A.J. thinks she is? When the contest turns into a battle to keep A.J. as well as a competition for a designer wardrobe, Jessica has to make some difficult decisions. Will the old Jessica reappear-and risk losing A.J.-or is the quiet, serious new Jessica hear to stay?

Lost at Sea by Kate William, 150 pages

It's a beautiful, sunny day when a group from Sweet Valley High sets sail for a special science field trip. Jessica Wakefield is looking forward to a few hours of sunbathing and flirting while her twin sister, Elizabeth, can't wait to get to deserted Anacapa Island to study the marine life. Neither of them could have imagined the nightmare the trip will become. On the way back from the island, a violent storm sets in, and the group is forced to abandon ship in the middle of a raging sea. Then, when the lifeboat carrying Jessica and Winston Egbert capsizes, they disappear into the fog. After the storm clears, Jessica's life preserver turns up. And soon the Coast Guard spots the missing lifeboat-but it's empty! Will Jessica and Winston ever be found?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dubliners by James Joyce, 152 pages

A collecetion of short stories about inhabitants of the Dublin area in Joyce's youth. Often times, the story is so short, it seems to leave off right in the middle, just as the plot is moving along; but the stories become longer towards the end and some sense of conclusion is developed as the book progresses. All in all, it gives a good slice of life of the many denizens of the Dublin area and accurately portrays vernacular, slang, and even inflection among the characters, no matter how little time is given to developing them in 5 - 20 pages of story each. One of my favourite authors. After I'm out of school, perhaps Ulysseor Finnegan's wake will make it back to my reading table


by P.C. Cast, 336 pages.

Book 5 in the House of Night series. I think this series could translate to movies quite well. The plot is compelling, but again I just wish someone with more talent (like maybe a Poppy Z Brite-type author?) was writing it.

Out of Reach by Kate William, 151 pages

All Jade Wu wants is to be as all-American as the other girls in Sweet Valley. But her traditional Chinese father won't let her date or do any of the things other teenage girls do, so Jade's sure she'll never fit in. Jade is a talented dancer, and when she wins the solo part in a dance show, she takes the role despite her father's objections. Soon she's happier than she dreamed she could be, especially when the show brings her together with handsome David Prentiss. Jade begins to confide everything in David-until it suddenly looks as if he's betrayed her deepest secret about her family. Can Jade really find happiness in her two world, or was her father right all along?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Vision Impossible by Victoria Laurie, 358 pages

Abby Cooper, psychic extraordinaire, has been requested to help out her government. A highly secret drone that takes pictures of people's auras has been stolen, and Abby and her FBI boyfriend Dutch are crucial to getting it back. Abby knows that if Dutch goes alone he won't make it, but the odds for their survival together aren't much better. But the two go undercover in Canada, and quickly find themselves knee-deep in trouble. Can Abby's spirit guides keep them alive long enough to find the drone and get back home or will Abby end up on the other side of the ether curtain?
"Vision Impossible" by Victoria Laurie is the latest Psychic Eye Mystery in what has been a fabulously quirky series. With great characters, wonderful plots, steamy romance and lots of humor, this series is a must-read on my list. The only thing better than one of these books would be a Ghost Hunter book by Victoria Laurie.

Wicked Plants, The Plant that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart, 236 pages

I had read Wicked Bugs by this author and really enjoyed it, so I eagerly picked this book up. It's comforting to think of how much of the world is actively trying to kill us. Plants that poison, destroy, suffocate, and are just plain dangerous are featured in little vignettes. Ranging from Betel Nuts, Nightshade, Kudzu, Ratbane, Stinging Trees, and Yew, there is something for everyone. I will definitely take a second look at plants I put in my flower beds or bring into my house considering how many things are poisonous to animals and children. This book is well worth picking up for a fun and informative read.

Slam Book Fever by Kate William, 137 pages

Slam books are the newest craze at Sweet Valley High. They're do-it-yourself books of lists and predictions about everyone in school. They start out as fun but soon stir up big trouble. First, Jeffrey French, Elizabeth's Wakefield's boyfriend, gets paired up with another girl under the category, "Couple of the Future." Then Elizabeth gets matched up with the new boy at school, A.J. Morgan-and her twin, Jessica, is furious, because she's the one who's fallen hard for A.J. Will the mysterious slam book entries spell the end of happiness for both Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield?

Troublemaker by Kate William, 166 pages

No one at Sweet Valley High can understand why a shy, sensitive girl like Julie Porter is attracted to someone as conceited as Bruce Patman. But no matter what anyone says, Julie detects a warmth in Bruce's piercing blue eyes that's meant only for her. Julie's longtime neighbor and friend, Josh Bowen, isn't fooled. He's trying to get into Bruce's fraternity, and he knows what the arrogant senior is really like. When he hears that Bruce has invited Julie to a Phi Epsilon party as his date, he's sure that Bruce has a rotten trick in mind. Josh tries to warn Julie and she's furious. She's never had a serious boyfriend before, and she can't understand why everyone's trying to spoil her happiness. But will Bruce make Julie happy, or is he just out to break another heart?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster, 306 pages

Mia is a writer of teen Amish zombie books (there's an underrated genre) and feels confident that her and her husband Mac have watched enough DIY home improvement shows for them to tackle a home improvement project of their own. But it quickly becomes a huge money pit (like the 80s movie reference, read the book and you'll get the joke) that starts to destroy their marriage. But this house becomes a symbol that Mia can't let go of.
I love Jen Lancaster, she is snarky, sarcastic, and one of the funniest writers I've read. She has the same attitude I do to so many things, so I love having someone else with the same dark place in her soul, saying the same mean and evil things I think. I finished this book with a strong craving to watch 16 Candles and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Lisa, you will love this book!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (372 pages)

When Anna gets shipped off to France to spend senior year at a prestigious boarding school, she is furious at her father for making her go. But then she meets gorgeous, charming Etienne St. Clair. Over the course of the school year, they become best friends, on the verge of becoming something else - despite the fact that Etienne has a girlfriend.

I've been in the mood for some good chick lit and this book was funny, sweet, and just all around fantastic. Judging by the cover, I was expecting something a little cheesy, but after I read several reviews I decided I needed to pick it up. I wasn't disappointed! It kind of makes me want to take off for Paris in search of my own Etienne St. Clair! :)

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

I don't know that I'd label this collection as Sookie Stackhouse short stories, though they're packaged like that. They seem more like outtakes to me, and people who haven't read the books in the Sookie Stackhouse series probably wouldn't find them very interesting. As a fan of the series, though, I appreciated how some of these stories seemed to fill in the blanks, so to speak. And the standalone ones, such as "Dracula Night" were good, fluffy fun. Overall, it's a fast, enjoyable read that reminded me of the earlier books in the series.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, 355 pages

This was the July book for the Readers Without Borders book club. I'm not a huge fan of Civil War books except for Gone With The Wind and North & the South, so this book wasn't a favorite of mine. I think most of my dislike is tied up in the fact that I think it was a senseless war, fought because a group of people refused to see blacks as people instead of slaves. They can say state rights as much as they like, but it boils down to slavery. This book though wasn't a bad read. It covers the battle of Gettysburg and the 3 days involved. It tells the story from the viewpoint of just a few soldiers, using some of their actual words, known from historical documents. Basically, if you're a guy who enjoys war books, this is a must read.

Decisions by Kate William, 167 pages

Robin Wilson is having a spectacular year. She's in love with George Warren, she's doing well in school, and she's almost sure to win the upcoming diving championship. Then her rich aunt makes an offer that's incredible-but it may just ruin Robin's happiness. Aunt Fiona will pay for her college education if Robin goes to the school her aunt and grandmother attended back East. If Robin accepts, she'll have to leave George and her diving behind, but without her aunt's help, Robin may not be able to afford college at all. Robin feels as if she's being pulled in two directions. How can she do what's right for her without hurting the people she cares about most?

Family Secrets by Kate William, 149 pages

Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are thrilled when their cousin Kelly Bates arrives in Sweet Valley. Kelly's mother is planning to remarry and hopes that living with the Wakefields for a while will prepare Kelly for life with a new stepfather and two stepbrothers. As soon as Kelly arrives she shocks her cousins by going out with troublemaker Kirk Anderson. Then she announces her plans to stay in Sweet Valley and live with her father. She says he's the perfect dad, but that's not the way it looks to the twins. Their cousin seems to have a blind spot when it comes to her father, as well as to Kirk. Will Kelly find out what's keeping her from seeing the truth?

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, 256 pages

I'll keep this review short because I read this title due to the glowing reviews it got from several of the other girls back here in Children's, who also blogged about it. First of all, you dedicated bloggers might be thinking, what is with this girl and Grimm; reading The Sisters Grimm series, this title, and numerous other fantasy based books? It is a sickness that started from childhood for me, I am a sucker for an interesting, imaginative, "fairy tales" as some people call short works of fantasy. This book which puts a fresh spin, some modern jargon, and a lot of sarcastic wit and humor into the some lesser known original Grimm titles, is less "fairy" and more "Friday the 13th".
Like the book warns incessantly, this is not a story for the faint of heart; but if you don't mind the gore, it is an incredibly interesting, entertaining, and fast read. It's good to get back to the roots of these stories which were in fact scary, gruesome, lesson-teaching, cautionary tales.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


by P.C. Cast, 352 pages.

Either Cast's writing is getting better, or I'm getting used to its atrociousness. I can't stop. It's a sickness.

The Monstrumologist.

by Rick Yancey, 448 pages.

This was my first book I read on my new nook! I really really liked it and will read the whole series. It was full of heady vocabulary and read like a classic. I've been hooked on teen fiction all year and this is the best one so far. Another recommendation from Lisa. She never steers me wrong.

Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton, 320 pages

Anita Blake is on the trail of the Harlequin, the professional killers of the vampire council for hundreds of years, a force so scary that even speaking their name insures your death. They serve the Mother of All Darkness, the original vampire, believed to be dead. She is without a body but plans on taking over Anita's. Anita teams up with Edward to try to track these powerful monsters, but the odds aren't in their favor. Who will survive the coming showdown?
I've been reading the Anita Blake series since the mid 1990s and have really enjoyed. But the series has taken a turn to a more sexually explicit storyline that I didn't always enjoy as much. This book has less sex and much more of the original Anita Blake feel that hooked me in the beginning. I won't go into details to keep from giving away the plot, but this book left me thinking she was close to ending this series.

Darkness Creeping, Twenty Twisted Tales by Neal Shusterman, 291 pages

Neal Shusterman writes some odd and creepy books, so a collection of twisted short stories must be outstanding. These definitely were stories I wouldn't want to read late at night and home alone. Samantha (my 9-year-old) had checked out this book and left it in the van. I discovered it sitting at Sonic waiting for my order and was hooked by the end of the first story. The stories feature the roller coaster from hell, a little girl scared of monkeys, a grandma going crazy (0r is she) and a security blanket that doesn't seem that comforting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lila's Story by Kate William, 214 pages

Lila Fowler is the richest girl at Sweet Valley High. She wears designer clothes, lives in a mansion, and has an allowance at least three times the size of her friends'. And as an only child, she's always had all of her father's affection. Lila has everything a girl could possibly want. But before long Lila's happiness is shattered. Her father brings home a beautiful new girlfriend, Joan. And Joan has a daughter, Jacqueline, who's the same age as Lila. Soon it seems that Joan and Jacqueline are taking over Fowler Crest and Lila is furious. Then Mr. Fowler drops a bombshell-he and Joan are getting married. If Lila can't stop them, her life will change forever!
I never got to read this book as a teenager, so it was kind of neat to get to read it now.

Pretenses by Kate William, 153 pages

Cara Walker feels that her boyfriend, Steven Wakefield, isn't paying enough attention to her. Suddenly he's acting aloof and withdrawn. Cara's good friend Jessica, Steven's sister, suggests that Cara add some mystery to the relationship. When Cara takes Jessica's advice, it backfire. Steven starts to act even more distant, and Cara is sure he's hiding something. He used to confide in her, but now it seems he's turning to his sister Elizabeth's friend Abbie Richardson. Will Cara discover Steven's secret before she's replaced by someone new?

Hard Choices by Kate William, 153 pages

Enid Rollins can hardly wait for her grandmother to come live with her and her mother. But when she arrives, Enid is dismayed that the kind, sprightly woman she remembered is now burdensome and demanding. Because Enid's mother works long hours and is often out with her boyfriend, Enid finds herself making all sorts of sacrifices to please her grandmother. She skips school events and even stand sup her best friend, Elizabeth Wakefield. Worst of all, she never has any time for her boyfriend, Hugh. It's beginning to look as if Enid may have to say goodbye to someone she loves.

Caught in the Middle by Kate William, 138 pages

Sandra Bacon has finally found a boy to love. Manuel Lopez is kind, sensitive, and handsome, and he cares about Sandra as much as she cares about him. But there is one problem: Sandy's parents don't approve of Manuel. So the couple must keep their love and their precious moments together a secret. Then eyewitnesses place Manuel at the scene of a life-threatening accident, and only Sandy can clear his name. If she tells the truth, she may lose her parents' trust and love, but if she doesn't, she will certainly lose Manuel forever.

Outcast by Kate William, 152 pages

Ever since Regina Morrow's tragic death at Molly Hecht's party, everyone has been treating Molly as if she has the plague. Nobody at school wants to talk to her, her parents have permanently grounded her, and even her good friend Justin Belson is avoiding her. Every time Molly tries to make amends, nobody will listen. So when Buzz, a drug dealer who's hiding from the police, calls Molly and announces he's leaving town, she's more than ready to go with him. She'd rather flee to Mexico with Buzz than walk the halls of Sweet Valley High alone. Only Elizabeth senses that Molly is troubled, but even she may be too late to stop her from running away with a fugitive.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Exposed by Kimberly Marcus (272 pages)

In the dim light of the darkroom, I'm alone, but not for long.
As white turns to gray, Kate is with me.
The background of the dance studio blurred, so the focus is all on her
legs extended in a perfect soaring split.
The straight line to my squiggle,
my forever-best friend.

Liz and Kate have always been best friends, and always will be. But after a sleepover at Liz's house one night, Kate starts avoiding her for pretty much no reason at all. Liz confronts her about it and Kate's startling accusation tears their friendship - and their entire world - apart. Beautifully written in verse, Exposed tells the story of how one night can turn your entire life upside down.

I read this entire book in one sitting. It was full of raw emotion and the ending left my mouth hanging open. I can't say too much about the story without giving it away, but it was fast-paced and well-written and I enjoyed it a lot.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen, 318 pages

Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli are back again in another fascinating book. Jane is investigating the murder of a young woman in Boston's Chinatown. It seems to tie into a previous murder that took place nineteen years ago. There also seems to be links to ancient Chinese fighting mythology of the Monkey King.
I always enjoy Tess Gerritsen's book and this was one of her best. My only fault with the book is that Maura Isles didn't figure much into the book. I do recommend reading this series in order, they make a lot more sense that way.

Wicked Bugs, The Louse that conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart, 272 pages

This books explores some of the most deadly and interesting bugs in the insect world. With a variety of flies, spiders, mites and louses, this book makes for an intriguing but disturbing read. There are some very creepy bugs out there. America has some bad bugs but not as many as Africa and other third world countries. These insects won't just bite or sting you, some of them will burrow their way into you to live or lay eggs. UGGGHHH!!!! But this book was so fascinating that I've already picked up another book by this author called Wicked Plants.

Sideshow Edited by Deborah Noyes, 225 pages

This is a collection of short stories about side show freaks, illusionists, and such by some outstanding teen authors. This was a book that Renee had picked up at the library and I found in her pile of books when I was looking for some of her overdue books. One of the oddest stories is called Jargo! about a guy who pretends to be a giraffe at a carnival. There is a few comic book style stories mixed into the collection.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, 163 pages

"Wishful Drinking" is an adaptation of Carrie Fisher's -- aka, Princess Leia's -- one-woman stage show of the same name. She touches on everything from being Princess Leia, life with her famous parents (Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, for those of you not in the know), her drug and alcohol abuse, and her battle with bi-polar disorder. Although I enjoyed being able to read the book in one sitting, I found it too slight. I've always been a fan of Fisher's biting, self-deprecating humor, so I found the book funny in parts. But the structure seemed a little too loose for my liking. It was conversational in tone, presumably to mimic her stage show, but I think I would have liked it presented more as formal essays.

True (...sort of) by Katherine Hannigan (360 pages)

Eleven-year-old Delly Pattison has a reputation for getting in trouble. Most of the time she is trying to help someone or just having fun, but her actions always end up landing her in hot water. Eventually, Delly stops trying to do anything good and resigns herself to the fact that she is going to be a disappointment no matter what. This leads to even more trouble and soon she is getting into fights and causing trouble all the time.

Delly's turning point comes after she sees her mother crying. On that day, she vows that she is going to do her best to make amends and never, ever make her mother cry again. After getting some advice from her little brother, RB, she finds that counting helps keep her out of trouble, though it is incredibly boring and she is literally counting her entire day away. Until she discovers her new classmate Ferris Boyd.

Ferris Boyd does not talk and no one is allowed to touch her, but animals are drawn to her and after following her home from school several days in a row, Delly finds out that she is really interesting and great to be around.

Katherine Hannigan's story of friendship and discovering the truth is well-written and accessible to readers. The characters of Delly, RB, Ferris and Brud jump off the page and beg to be read about. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Until Tuesday, by Luis Carlos Montalvan, 252 pages

I was not prepared for my reaction to this book, nor was it what I expected. I *thought* I was going to casually read yet another dog book, hoped it was written with a modicum of skill, and prayed that the dog wasn't dead by the time the book wrapped up. What I got was a painfully honest, uplifting and utterly compelling memoir about a dog, a soldier, and the bond they forged. Really, the subtitle -- "A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him" -- should have clued me in, but I am, on occasion, quite clueless. Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan is a highly decorated veteran of the war in Iraq. When he returned home after two tours in Iraq, he was plagued by a painful back injury; a traumatic brain injury that resulted in dizziness, migraines, and memory problems; and devastating post-traumatic stress disorder. He withdrew into himself, tried to self-medicate with alcohol, and found himself at loose ends, lost in a terrible loneliness. Gradually, he found a direction in life, as an advocate for veterans and an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. But he continued to struggle with his injuries and PTSD. Only when he was matched with Tuesday, an assistance dog, through a special program did he truly find his confidence as an advocate, critic, and, later, graduate student. He still struggled, but with a constant companion, a four-legged friend and helper, the journey was somewhat easier. This book is essentially divided into three parts: the first part focuses on Tuesday, the puppy in training; the second, on Luis the soldier and veteran; and the third on the bond that dog and soldier share, and what they accomplish together. It's an amazing story, and though my heart broke for Luis, ultimately I am inspired and completely in awe of him. He truly is a hero. Although he'd probably disagree and point out that his dog is the hero. And I wouldn't argue that point.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Magyk by Angie Sage, 564 pages

For years I have seen this book on shelves in various places and have been drawn to it. I have to confess it was the binding, the simplicity and boldness. Plus I love books that have magic in them, and have a huge soft spot for a certain boy-wizard series, Harry Potter, that these books are often compared to. Finally, I decided to take the 564 page plunge on this title in the form of a Playaway audio book, 12 hours long.
The book follows a wizard family, the Heaps, in a magical world that is being taken over by an evil wizard and his crooked cronies, who have worked themselves into political power. However, throw into the mix a long lost princess who has the true right to the throne, and the power to set everything right. That is, if she can be protected long enough for the good guys to conquer the dark side, who seek to kill her.
I was having a hard time with how to review this book. I have a fondness for it, and I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity by finally reading it. But the story was wearyingly long and the big woah-moment conclusion was, to me, painfully obvious throughout the entire story. I think a child would have to LOVE a good long book, (Brian Jacques fans?) to make it through the long journey and simple payoff of this one. As for the sequels, I'll probably put off reading those, possibly forever.

Those That Wake by Jesse Karp (329 pages)

In a post apocalyptic New York City, people literally depend on technology. Gone are the days when a person goes to Starbucks and a human being takes their order; one's order is now programmed into his or her cell phone and scanned at the register. People walk down the street, eyes glued to the screen of their cell phone, rarely interacting face to face with others. One day, Laura discovers that her parents have forgotten her. Mal's brother Tommy has disappeared. The two teens embark on a search for an explanation to the startling realization that not one person they have ever known remember who they are.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. But it just fell flat for me. The premise is interesting and fresh, but it wasn't executed in a way that made me absolutely love the book. It started out strong, but towards the middle of the book it started getting extremely odd and confusing. I finished it, hoping that the ending would clear up some of my confusion, but it just left me feeling like I had missed some important details somewhere along the way.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (432 pages)

Twelve-year-old Gratuity Tucci has been asked to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for a national contest, however, she is not sure where to start. Should she begin with the day the mole on her mother's neck started to glow? Or when the alien's spaceships first appeared on Earth? Or maybe when Earth was renamed Smekday and it was determined that all humans would have to relocate to Florida?

Five pages does not even begin to cover Gratuity's story and thank goodness she does not let the page limit deter her from telling it from beginning to end. Come along as she takes readers on a wild ride, along with her cat named Pig and her clever, alien sidekick J.Lo.

This audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin, won the 2011 Odyssey Award, which is the annual award given to the producer of the best audiobook for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States. While I enjoyed listening to it, honestly, I do not understand why it won the Odyssey Award. The narrator was good and I enjoyed all the characters and the voices she used for them, but it did not seem especially noteworthy as compared to other audios that I have listened to recently. Do not get me wrong though, I really did enjoy the book and would recommend it to children reading longer chapter books, especially those interested in science fiction titles.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook, 108 pages

I had seen the promo for Alice in Zombieland and thought it would be fun and dark to read. Unfortunately, this was not a great "revamped" classic, it reminded me more of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Just because you put zombies in a classic doesn't mean you don't have to do a good job on the writing. But if nothing else, this book is worth picking up for the wonderful dark illustrations that are true to the original book.

The Fisher Boy by Stephen Anable, 332 pages

I had accidentally got the second book by this author, and I hate reading books out of sequence. So I picked this mystery up so I could read the second. This was a murder mystery set in Provincetown on Cape Cod. It features Mark, a standup comedian who is in Provincetown to enjoy the wonderful gay summers the town is known for. But when one of his old prep school friends is killed soon after having a public fight with Mark, he must work to find the killer and clear his name. There also seems to be a flood of hippie, Scandinavian panhandlers and shoplifters flooding the town, do they have anything to do with the murder? Or is it an ex-lover or someone Ian crossed over? Plus, Mark is starting to fall for a fellow member of the comedy troupe, Roberto. Will Mark be able to find the killer, or will the killer find him first?
This was a very odd mystery, convoluted and confusing. It just didn't grab my attention and hold it. I had to come back to the book a few times over the week it took me to read it. I do think I'll pick up this author's second book though to give him a fair chance.

Deadly Summer by Kate William, 201 pages

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are working as summer interns at The Sweet Valley News when they hear that a patient has escaped from a nearby psychiatric hospital. Assigned to research the man's past for an article, the twins discover that Donald Redman was once a student at Sweet Valley High. They learn that his fellow students tormented him and that after a disturbing incident involving one of those students, Redman was expelled. He vowed to get revenge for his humiliation. Now a fugitve, Redman sees Elizabeth and mistakes her for the popular, beautiful girl who hurt him most all those years ago. When their paths cross in the deserted high school stadium, he knows he finally has his chance to get even! Can he be stopped before it's too late?

No Place To Hide by Kate William, 217 pages

When Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield invite Nicholas Morrow on a picnic to help cure his blues, their plan has unexpected results. Nicholas falls in love with Barbara, a beautiful girl who involves the twins in their most dangerous mystery yet. Barbara tells Nicholas they must hide their relationship from the uncle she's visiting. Hearing the fear in her voice, Nicholas decides to tell the twins, and they start investigating. The more they find out, the more desperate Barbara's situation seems. Then Jessica and Elizabeth are threatened by an anonymous caller. Now they face a terrible choice: either give up their search and leave Barbara in deadly trouble, or save Barbara's life-and risk their lives and Nicholas'!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Five Fists of Science by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders, 112 pages

I figured this graphic novel from the teen department would be a fun, fast read, and it didn't disappoint. It's kind of a mash-up of "Iron Man," "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Ghostbusters." Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla have joined forces to put an end to war at the dawn of the 20th century. Tesla has invented a device that when, put into the hands of many countries, could result in peace by compulsion. On the other side of this duo is a group of evil-doers comprised of JP Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Guglielmo Marconi. The story clipped right along, and I enjoyed the creative license taken with historical figures. I also enjoyed the depiction of a humorous, plain-spoken Twain. If you want something to read in one sitting, "The Five Fists of Science" might be for you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Passing Strange by Martha A. Sandweiss, 370 pages

Clarence King was one of the premier geologists in the nineteenth century. He traveled the west, and mapped most of the American West, and was the first director of the United States Geological Survey within the Department of the Interior. He came from an old New England family, hobnobbed with the elite in New York and Washington, traveled Europe and was known as one the wittiest and brightest minds of his age. So why did this privileged white man have a secret second life as an black railroad porter? Because of the woman he evidently loved, a black, uneducated, former slave, Ada Copeland. It's believed that she didn't know he was white up until his death or right before. And most of his family and acquaintance knew nothing of his Negro wife or children until years after King's death, when Ada went to court to try to claim a "trust" left for her. With blacks passing for white in order to lead a better and easier life, why would anyone go the other way? This book explores this fascinating and confusing situation, looking at the people and attitudes involved.
This was a interesting look at a time in American history when the color of your skin was determined by just drops of Negro blood and perceptions were more important than truth. I had never heard of Clarence King before this book, but this was a compelling read that I'm glad I picked up.

On the Run by Kate William, 213 pages

After a chilling encounter with murder, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are now ready for a calm summer in Sweet Valley-until Eric Hankman appears. Like Elizabeth, Eric is a quiet, sensitive writer, and the two of them immediately become friends. But Jessica's not convinced that Eric is as perfect as he seems. Her suspicions are aroused when her new friend, Darcy Kaymen, thinks she recognizes Eric as a boy from her hometown who has a mysterious past. Jessica knows Elizabeth won't believe a word of Darcy's story without evidence, but by the time she has all the proof she needs, it may be too late to save her sister.

Over My Dead Body by Kate Klise, 118 pages

This is the cutest children's series I've read in a while (and I do read a lot). It features a grumpy writer, a unpublished ghost, and a child who illustrates their books. In this book, Ignatius B. Grumply is put in an insane asylum, Seymour Hope is sent to an orphanage, and Olive C. Spence must try to free them both while locating her missing manuscripts. I have to fight my 9-year-old for these books when we are reading them. The worst thing about these books is that there is only three so far. WRITE FASTER KATE KLISE!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


by Tina Fey, 277 pages.

Yes, I already read it. This time, 'twas the audiobook read by Ms. Fey herself and it was just as delightful as one would hope. I am so in love with this book that I want to read it aloud to anyone I'm ever on a road trip with for the rest of my life.


by P.C. Cast, 307 pages.

Another in the House of Night series. I am addicted, and yet I kind of hate it. It's cliche, the writing isn't particularly good, and yet I keep reading with ravenous intrigue. Kind of how I felt about the Twilight series...