Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks, 104 pages

Danya recommended this teen graphic novel to me. She knows I love graphic novels *and* zombies, so she thought this would be right up my alley. It was great fun. Joss is an England-obsessed university student in Canada just trying to make it through her exams and not stress about her student loans. Suddenly, zombies invade the campus, and Joss and her friends Sonnet and Robyn are left to fend for themselves in their dorm. Luckily, Joss is a fan of zombie movies, so she knows the rules of zombie survival. Joss is a fun heroine; she's witty, spunky, and not afraid to kick some zombie butt. I especially enjoyed all the pop culture references. A conversation about where they can get some guns leads to Michael Moore and "Bowling for Columbine." Posters on the dorm room wall include "Hot Fuzz," a British film starring Simon Pegg, who played the lead character in the Brit zombie-comedy "Shaun of the Dead" (which happens to be one of my favorite movies ever). For a fast, fun read, I recommend "Zombies Calling." And, as an aside, I wonder if "Zombies Calling" is a reference to The Clash album and song "London Calling"? Makes sense for someone as England-obsessed as Joss.

Courtney Love: the Real Story.

by Poppy Z. Brite, 252 pages.

I can't remember a time that I wasn't inexorably drawn to/hopelessly empathetic towards Courtney Love, and to a slightly lesser extent, Kurt Cobain (reading one of his biographies next--or after another terrible teen book, haven't decided...), and this may be partly Poppy Z Brite's fault. I fell in love with her fiction back in 1996ish and read Courtney's bio simply because Poppy wrote it. She is so intriguing, a strangely classy (in her classlessness, if that makes sense) full-of-life, brash Hollywood tragedy. Her vocabulary is enviously much more prosey and extensive than mine, she reads like a maniac, she writes feverishly like I wish I did, and she still has time to do a ton of drugs and get into fights.

So, needless to say (except for the fighting and drugs part), Courtney has become my new role model. I like that she never seemed to shy from anything (keep in mind this bio was written in the late '90s so I have no idea what's transpired in her life since the millennium [it seems she's had all kinds of work done, so I'm pretending she exists only in the grunge era]) and didn't compose herself like a lady in public or sugar-coat anything, ever. And if you ever wanted an insight into how my journals read, they are sort of like a less lyrical, slightly less crazy version of hers. I want to live my life out loud, rudely, like Love.

Lest I wax too long on the subject, I'll leave you with a quote from one of Courtney's journals:

"I AM FREE TO VOMIT MY OWN BEING." (For some reason, this resonates with me...not entirely because I love the word "vomit".)

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, 694 pages

This is a series that is getting a lot of attention because of the HBO show based on the books. It is an epic series that reminds me a lot of Robert Jordan's Eye of the World series. It's a world where summers last for years and winter can last for decades. There seems to be a plot to overthrow the king, but the question is where is the threat coming from. With treachery and intrigue, direwolves and dragons, lords and knights, this series promises to be filled with lots of excitement and adventure. This book was a little slow at times but I think this first book was laying a lot of groundwork for the following books.

License to Pawn by Rick Harrison, 256 pages

I'm a big fan of Pawn Stars on the History Channel so I was excited to see this book on the new nonfiction shelf. The show is about a pawn shop in Las Vegas that specializes in odd and unusual items along with the normal pawned items. It features history, little known facts and really odd people, so it's always funny. I have this book for three weeks and have about 30 other books I need to read but this one got read the day I checked it out. I knew I would have to fight off my husband and oldest daughter for the book, plus I wanted to read something fun and light. If you don't watch the show on tv, this might not be the greatest book for you since it reads better if you have a lot of back info from the show.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen (176 pages)

I've been a Gary Paulsen fan since I had the pleasure of devouring Hatchet, and while Hatchet remains my favorite Paulsen book to date, Woods Runner is another gem.

The year is 1776 and thirteen-year-old Samuel lives in the Pennsylvania wilderness with his parents. While Samuel has heard rumors of fighting in the cities to the East, he does not give it much thought since he and his family seem so far away.

Despite the distance, the war does come to Samuel, in the form of a British and Iroquois attack on his village, in which his parents are kidnapped. Samuel is hunting when the attack happens, but has enough knowledge of tracking and the wilderness to pick up the group's trail several hours later. It is his hope to rescue his parents, but along the way he encounters many obstacles and witnesses unspeakable violence. Thankfully, he also meets unexpected allies and it is with their help that he is able to continue his journey.

The American Revolution comes alive through Paulsen's writing. His unique perspective outside of the "formal" fighting gives readers a sense of what the war was really like for everyday people. Readers will be hard pressed to stop reading Samuel's story and some might be intrigued enough to use the information in the book as a starting point for their own research about the long and bloody war that claimed so many lives.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Here We Go Again by Betty White, 303 pages

Betty White has been been acting for decades, with Golden Girls still being one my favorite shows. Heck, I even saw all of The Golden Palace episodes, so I've really enjoyed her repopularity. This book is a re-released memoir covering her television career from 1949 to 1995. I hadn't realized just how many shows she had been in, that one of her husbands had been the host of Password, and all the talk shows and games shows she's done. While the book wasn't as funny as I thought it would be (blame Betty White's hilarious SNL performance and Hot in Cleveland) it was still a good read. I learned a lot about the the early days of television and it was neat to hear some of the behind the scenes stories.

The Dating Game by Kate William, 154 pages

Neither Jean West nor her friend Claire Middleton has had a date in ages. So when they each receive a passionate love letter, they're thrilled. But when the girls compare the letters, they discover something horrible: The letters come from the same guy-Scott Trost! Jean and Claire confront the handsome, arrogant Scott. Instead of apologizing, he suggests a dating contest with him as a grand prize. Elizabeth Wakefield is stunned when Jean and Claire agree to the outrageous plan; her twin sister, Jessica, sees nothing wrong with a little romantic competition. But what neither Elizabeth nor Jessica knows is that their friends are secretly plotting to use the contest for revenge. Everything goes as planned, until the unthinkable happens. It looks as if Jean is falling in love with the enemy.

Cheating to Win by Kate Wiliam, 150 pages

When track star Tony Esteban tears a tendon in his knee, it looks like he's lost his chance of being an Olympic star. But Tony refuses to give up. Against his doctor's advice, he trains harder and harder. Not even his girlfriend, Annie Whitman, can convince him to slow down. Then a weightlifter gives Tony "magic vitamins," and suddenly Tony is running faster than ever-and acting mean and aggressive. When Annie discovers Tony is taking a dangerous steroid drug, she knows she has to help him stop-before he destroys his whole life along with his Olympic dreams!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin, 424 pages

Lavinia Warren Bump might have been less than three feet tall but her personality and determination more than made up for any shortcomings in height. In a time in American history when women were limited only to marriage, nursing or teaching, Lavinia traveled much of America as a perfect miniature lady, first with Wood's traveling steamboat, and then with P. T. Barnum. Just a few short months after meeting Barnum, Lavinia married General Tom Thumb (also known as Charles Stratton), and the two became a superstar couple, with details about their wedding pushing the Civil War off the front pages of the newspapers. Following Lavinia's life up to just after her husband's death, this book covers one of America's most interesting women.
"The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb" by Melanie Benjamin is an outstanding fictionalized biography of a woman whose story has been largely ignored. She traveled much of the world, meet many reigning heads of countries, and shook more hands than probably anybody else in her time. One of my guilty pleasures has always been reading about "freaks" and human oddities such as Eng and Chang, the famous Siamese twins, and other personalities who performed for Barnum. This was well written, entertaining, and a treat for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Miss Teen Sweet Valley by Kate William, 152 pages

When the first annual Miss Teen Sweet Valley beauty pageant is announced, Jessica Wakefield is confident she'll be crowned the winner. But Elizabeth Wakefield is trying her best to get the pageant canceled. Elizabeth thinks beauty pageants are old-fashioned and sexist, and she can't understand why her sister would even want to enter one. The twins have had fights before-but never like this! It's a standoff for the twins. If Jessica participates, she'll lose her sister's respect. If Elizabeth succeeds, she'll lose her sister's love...

Friday, August 26, 2011


by P.C. Cast, 323 pages.

book 7 of the House of Night series. The plot has become ever more intriguing and slightly less tiresome. The characters are growing up and acting more mature. Glad I have the next one on hold for me already!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (309 pages)

I know I'm extremely late getting into the Harry Potter series, but honestly they just never intrigued me. Chelsey and Jeana convinced me to start on them the other day, and I'm so glad I did! The writing is beautiful and the characters are fantastic. I absolutely devoured the first book and can't wait to read the rest of the series. Too bad now that school has started again, I have next to no extra time on my hands... :/

Deadly Threads by Jane Cleland, 279 pages

This is another Josie Prescott antiques murder mystery, featuring vintage clothing, shoes, and handbags. I really enjoy this series but recommend reading them in order.

Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me, by Chelsea's Family, Friends, and Other Victims, 6 discs or 292 pages

So I really wanted to like this audiobook. I thought the print version of the book was funny, and I loved listening to Handler's "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea," narrated by the author. But the audio version of "Lies" didn't ring my bell. I think that's because many of the narrators aren't professional performers. They're writers, relatives, producers, and assistants, and they just don't have the personality required for comedy. Most of them sounded like they were reading essays in a high-school English class. Yawn. I was also disappointed that Handler herself didn't make an appearance to narrate the rebuttals she contributed to each essay in the book. Ah, well, guess that would have cost too much. Anyway, I recommend reading the print version of the book if you want a laugh. The audio, not so much.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Amy's True Love by Kate William, 135 pages

Boy-crazy Amy Sutton has finally found the guy of her dreams-tennis star Tom McKay. But Tom's not at all interested in dating her. Amy just can't believe it and refuses to give up! Tom asks his friend Barry Rork to help him convince Amy that she's wasting her time. Barry's fallen for Amy himself, and he tries to make her see how much he cares about her. But Amy just gets furious with Barry for interfering. Will she ever set aside her pride and find true love?
What's really great about this book is that they introduce their first homosexual character. We've had drugs, anorexia, teens dying and now one coming out. What's next Sweet Valley, a teen pregnancy?

Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks, 112 pages

This happens to be the very last graphic novel in the teen section so it happened to catch my eye at the end of the shelf. Joss is a college student in Canada who is worried about finals, the amount of her student loans, and loves all things England. She fights off zombies one evening but her roommates don't believe her. But luckily Joss is familiar with "The Rules" of surviving a zombie attack so she knows how to make it against the undead.
This was a funny zombie comic, light-hearted, making fun of the zombie genre in a great way. A great way to spend an half hour.

The Perfect Girl by Kate William, 135 pages

Robin Wilson is pretty, smart, and athletic, and her boyfriend, George Warren, adores her. Most students at Sweet Valley High have forgotten that Robin used to be an overweight loner. But Robin remembers. When George becomes friends with a beautiful girl named Vicky, Robin feels George slipping away. If only Robin were thinner, George would drop Vicky in a second! Before long, Robin is obsessed with her weight. Elizabeth Wakefield suspects Robin is taking her diet too far, but Robin insists she's fine. What will it take to get Robin to admit that starving herself is not the answer to her problems?

Classy by Derek Blasburg (256 pages)

I normally love books like this, and this one looked smart and funny as one of the tag lines states, "Be a lady - not a tramp!" It covers everything from how to dress like a lady to how to act at a party to how to act when traveling abroad. It also covers topics such as finding "Mr. Right", sexting, cigarettes and alcohol, and how to deal with a breakup in a classy way. That being said, this one really fell flat for me. I felt like the author spent most of the book talking about how awesome he is and how he knows all these celebrities. He really didn't give any advice other than "do this" or "don't do this" and the book wasn't all that humorous.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Four Eyes, Vol. 1, Forged in Flames, by Joe Kelly, 96 pages

I picked up this teen graphic novel on Danya and Chris/Jake's recommendation, and I wasn't disappointed. The setting is Depression-era New York City, with one difference: the addition of dragons. Some deny their existence, but others make money by capturing, breeding and fighting dragons. Too late, young Enrico discovers the truth about how his Italian immigrant father earns his living; after his father's death, Enrico finds himself working for a mobster type who exploits dragons for profit. The story is gritty, and the plot took turns I wasn't expecting. I look forward to future entries in the series.

Scalped: Vol 2, Casino Boogie, by Jason Aaron, 144 pages

I was perusing the adult graphic novels and found "Scalped," volumes 1 and 2, jammed haphazardly onto the bookshelf. This less than careful treatment caught my attention, so I decided to check them out. I'm glad I did. The first two volumes of "Scalped" -- the only ones the library owns -- were funny, violent, and a look into a world not a lot of people experience. Dashiell "Dash" Bad Horse has returned to the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation where he grew up. He's angry, estranged from his mother, attracted to the wrong woman, and prone to using his fists to make his point. He's also not entirely what he seems. He soon gets recruited by a tribal leader to enforce the law on the reservation. It's a riveting read. The characters and plotting are fascinating; the book reads like a classic crime-noire novel. It's also definitely not for kids. It's dark, with lots of violence, rough language, nudity and emphasis placed on problems that plague Native Americans living on the reservation, such as poverty, diabetes, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. I wish we had more of Jason Aaron's work in our collection. We probably should, as, according to the Wikipedia entry I read about him, he lives just a couple hours away in Kansas City.

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare, 400 pages

Victor Bramwell, or Bram as he's known to his friends, has come to Spindle Cove hoping that he is to soon be joining his company fighting Napoleon. Instead, he finds himself made the Earl of Rycliff, and set in charge of forming a company of soldiers from the local men to protect the coast. But Spindle Cove seems to be made up of nothing but women, with Susanna Finch at their head. Susanna has formed a retreat for ladies in Spindle Cove, a spot safe from overbearing husbands, fortune-hunting dandies, and quack doctors. Bram's company threatens all that she holds dear, including her perceptions about wooing and seduction. But Susanna's heart isn't the only one under siege, Bram finds himself falling under Susanna's spell. Will these two people be able to overcome their scars from the past and have a future together, or will forces conspire to pull them apart forever?
"A Night to Surrender" by be Tessa Dare's first book, but it it one of the best historical romances I've ever read. It's humorous and light-hearted, steamy and seductive, filled with intriguing characters and wonderful dialogue. There were additional characters introduced that will hopefully get their own stories told in later books. Tessa Dare has shown herself to be an author to watch with this outstanding romance.

Scalped: Vol 1, Indian Country, by Jason Aaron, 126 pages

I was perusing the adult graphic novels and found "Scalped," volumes 1 and 2, jammed haphazardly onto the bookshelf. This less than careful treatment caught my attention, so I decided to check them out. I'm glad I did. The first two volumes of "Scalped" -- the only ones the library owns -- were funny, violent, and a look into a world not a lot of people experience. Dashiell "Dash" Bad Horse has returned to the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation where he grew up. He's angry, estranged from his mother, attracted to the wrong woman, and prone to using his fists to make his point. He's also not entirely what he seems. He soon gets recruited by a tribal leader to enforce the law on the reservation. It's a riveting read. The characters and plotting are fascinating; the book reads like a classic crime-noire novel. It's also definitely not for kids. It's dark, with lots of violence, rough language, nudity and emphasis placed on problems that plague Native Americans living on the reservation, such as poverty, diabetes, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. I wish we had more of Jason Aaron's work in our collection. We probably should, as, according to the Wikipedia entry I read about him, he lives just a couple hours away in Kansas City.

Bossypants by Tina Fey, 5 discs or 288 pages

I read the print form of this book a couple months ago and found it hilarious, so I couldn't wait to hear Ms. Fey read it herself. She did not disappoint. Her narrative is spot-on. By turns, she's funny, snarky, sweet, sincere, and honest. She does great impressions of people, including herself at certain points in her life. When I previously read the book, my favorite section detailed her unfortunate honeymoon cruise. This time around, her anecdotes about her awkward teen and college years had me giggling and cringing in my car. An added bonus of the audio edition of "Bossypants" is that Fey slips in some asides specific to the audio and even plays an entire sketch, her now-classic first appearance as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. I never get tired of that impersonation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (235 pages)

Ten-year-old Caitlin is looking for Closure--a word she hears on a local newscast--after her brother Devon is killed during a school shooting, but finding it is not as simple as looking the definition up in her dictionary.

However, things for Caitlin are rarely simple, especially since living with Asperger's syndrome makes her view the world dramatically different from most of the people around her, so she is not deterred.

Luckily, Caitlin has a good school counselor to help her in her quest and eventually, she does discover what she and her father must do to help each other cope with the loss of Devon, plus she makes several new friends and learns (and teaches) some valuable life lessons along the way.

According to an author's note, Kathryn Erskine was driven to write Caitlin's story after the devastating Virginia Tech shootings rocked her Virginian community. She felt it important to research and relate how families with special-needs children dealt with the violent event. And in doing so she has written an outstanding novel that is sure to inspire anyone who reads it.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano, 358 pages

Both Cherokee and Jeana have already blogged and raved about this book, and I will say, it was fantastic. DeStefano's writing is so engaging! You feel like you are there with the characters. I absolutely devoured this one, could hardly put it down, and when I did, was thinking about it. It has practically everything I look for in a read. Really, who can pull off elegance in a book set in America's dark future as the rest of the world lies smoldering in ruins?... Lauren DeStefano apparently. Best book I've read since Hunger Games.
If I had any complaints (I usually do), some of the plot points seem a bit artificial to fit with the storyline, such as the very specific ages (20 for females, 25 for males) that people are dying. Also, the final chapter/climax to the huge conflict feels rushed and overly simplified. Regardless, I can't wait for the sequel Fever to come out so I can see what she does with our characters.
Read this book!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Undead and Undermined by Mary Janice Davidson, 279 pages

Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, has just returned from hell with her half sister, the Anti-Christ. It turns out she's now in an altered time line and must work to prevent the horrible future she visited where she is a horribly evil dictator that has destroyed the world. But will the cost of changing the future be more than Betsy be willing to pay?
I love this series, it's funny and well-written, but Mary Janice Davidson has taken a very dark turn with this and the previous book in what she says will be a trilogy within the series. I really hope it turns out well, it's kind of sad and scary the twist is has taken. But it's still a great read.

Quiet , Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas, 330 pages

This is the August book for the Readers Without Borders Book Club and I loved this book. It was funny reading about someone else's issues with library policy and management, dealings with patrons both pleasant and problem, and why they went into library work. I do have to disagree with his belief that most library workers don't like to read. I would like to say that I am living proof that that isn't true. I'm going to suggest this book for purchase at our library.

Lauren Conrad Style by Lauren Conrad (240 pages)

Okay, I love fashion books and magazines and even though I saw this and went, "Lauren Conrad? Seriously?" I couldn't help it. This was mostly stuff I already knew, such as how to take basic pieces from your wardrobe and mix and match to create dozens of different looks. Lauren also covers everything from hair and makeup to what to pack when going on vacation.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Heretic's Wife by Brenda Rickman Vantrease, 408 pages

Kate Gough and her brother John are booksellers in Tudor England, whose shop carries English Bibles, illegal and dangerous to have. When John is caught up in a sweep and forced to recant his beliefs, Kate takes his place on a smuggler's run to restock their shop. She meets up with John Frith, a student and translator who has escaped the reach of Thomas More, who wants nothing more to burn all heretics. Kate and John quickly fall in love and marry, creating a life together in Antwerp, helping translate the Bible into English until John goes back to England to gather support for the effort. Will John be able to escape the clutches of Thomas More and the heretic's fire to return to Kate?
"The Heretic's Wife" is an exciting and heartbreaking novel about the people involved in translating and sharing the Bible with the common man, set against Henry VIII's determination to set aside his queen for Anne Boleyn. Religion, and the Church, as all knew it was threatened by the thought of anyone being able to read and understand the Bible, and by the thought of the Pope not being the head of the Church in England. Brenda Rickman Vantrease has brought history alive with this book, combining actual historical figures with fictional creations. Fans of Philippa Gregory and Carolly Erickson will consider this a must read treat. It definitely made me think about how lightly we take the privilege of being able to own and read anything we want, much less the Bible, here in America.

Centuries of June by Keith Donohue, 342 pages

Jake is heading to the bathroom in the middle of the night when the next thing he knows is that he's on the floor with a hole in his head, and there are eight women in his bed. Telling the story of how he ended up on the floor, Jake keeps getting interrupted by the women attempting to kill him one by one, and then sharing their stories. Each of the women come from a different time in American history and all share the link of being done wrong by their man.
This was an extremely odd and different read, a mystery crossed with a ghost story with humor and history mixed in for good measure. The reader almost needs a scorecard to help keep track of the women and murder attempts. This is a multi-layered story, rich with detail and wonderfully quirky characters. While this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, it wasn't a bad read.

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

Lisa has reviewed this book already so I won't go into a ton of detail. Jacob has heard stories about his grandfather's childhood, especially the orphanage he lived in and the wonderfully odd children who were also there. But it's not long before Jacob realizes that the stories are just fairy tales, or so he thinks until his grandfather's death. Jacob goes to the small Welsh island to see if he can discover the truth but the cost may be too high.
I have to say I really enjoyed this wonderfully quirky and dark book. The pictures added an extra layer to the story, showcasing some of the abilities of the children. I will be awaiting the next book, I can't wait to see what happens to Jacob next.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Curse of the Wendigo.

by Rick Yancey, 424 pages.

"One can write fiction--it is possible, I hear--and not be delusional. Fiction itself could be characterized as highly organized delusional thinking."

This book was even more gruesome than the first (The Monstrumologist). Utterly thrilling. These books have the potential of becoming classics; they have a timeless feel to them in the writer's prose and use of vocabulary. Furthermore, the escalation of the details surrounding the "monster" is suspenseful and a refreshing, yet classic take on an overdone horror theme.

There is a LOT of really yicky description in this book, however. Don't read it if you're the squeamish type.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall (304 pages)

The Penderwicks are back!

This summer Skye, Jane, and Batty are going to Maine with their aunt Claire, while their Dad, his new wife and baby Ben head to Paris, and their oldest sister Rosalind vacations at the beach with her friend from school.

Skye is the official OAP (oldest available Penderwick) for the summer and though she has her doubts about being able to handle everything, things look promising from the start. Their old friend Jeffrey surprises them by joining them at Point Mouette, the cottage is picturesque, there is a charming country store nearby and they befriend the charming next door neighbor Alec. Skye is not letting down her guard though, especially after she loses all her notes from Rosalind on what to do in certain situations.

Join the Penderwicks for another feel-good adventure and find out whether Skye can survive being in charge for the summer.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (471 pages)

I have a tendency to read books based on recommendations, usually by the girls back here or Cari. Because of this, I know this book has been reviewed several times already.
So, the short version is, I really liked it. The main character Katsa is strong and likable, the plotline was interesting and the romance was fiery. Some even said this book was as good as Hunger Games. For me, a HUGE Hunger Games fan, this title was just a little too long and lacking that voracious "can't put it down" feeling to be at that high standard, but still a great read.
Also to note, one problem I also had was that I listened to it on audio. For me, to really immerse myself in a book, it has to be a book. I think when I listen I get too distracted. The full cast audio was at times just a little hokey and jarring. The lead characters delivered their lines well but sometimes the supporting characters were a little overzealous and the result was unintentionally comical. But definitely give it a try.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner (336 pages)

Oh, Jennifer Weiner, I heart you!

Seriously, I love that her stories are written from multiple character points of view, that they focus on women's issues, and that there is always a juicy story that keeps you turning page after page.

Then Came
You is no different. Its timely topics include wealth, egg donation, surrogacy, and parental rights all rolled into one story that will leave you smiling.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Ax and the Oath: Ordinary Life in the Middle Ages by Robert Fossier, 384 pages

I really enjoy historical non-fiction books, so this one about everyday people in medieval France caught my eye. I always try to give a book 50-100 pages but this was pretty boring and dry from page 1. I found myself rereading sentences trying to figure out what they meant and losing my place many times. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person but this book made me feel stupid. I reached a point where I refused to stop reading this book just so the book wouldn't win and this book took over six weeks for me to read. The author has a tendency to use foreign quotes and then only translate half of them (because doesn't every speak French and Latin?) and to never use an easy word when there is a fifteen-syllable word that would work instead. Putting your obscure words in italics doesn't not make them easier to translate! I wholeheartedly say, don't pick this book up unless you're working on your thesis in Medieval French peasantry, and even then you might want to choose something else.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meditations on Tarot, Letters XXI & XXII by Anonymous and Afterword by Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar, pp.587 - 665

Here ends my several month long study of this book; it has been most rewarding. The 21 st letter concerns the Tarot Trump, "The Fool" and begins with an examination of Don Quixote and those who go contrary to the world; yet who are and do good. From there it examines many different archetypes and avatars, ending with a comparison of Christ and Buddha, and of the Gospels and the Dhammapada. The 22nd letter concludes with "The World" and synthesizes the previous letters into a congruent whole, showing "The Dance of Life", the miracle of existence, and the emannating of the Divine throughout all nature. It also points out esoteric and astrological symbolism throughout art and culture, especially within the Catholic Church. In the Afterword, the Cardinal praises the author of these letters for not indulging in nor advising cartomancy, divination with Tarot, but rather using them as a collection of archetypes and symbols that reveal the nature and illumination of the Soul. The author, near the end, advises the reader that he is too old to begin a similar collection of letters concerning the Minor Arcana (Ace through Ten of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Discs), and proposes that an inclined reader may be called to pick up this work where he left off. I'm too busy to do so now, but maybe after meditating upon these cards exhaustively, I will not be too old to begin such a work myself in later life.

Greek Myths by Ann Turnbull (165 pages)

I love Greek mythology! This collection has several lesser known myths along with more familiar ones such as the story of Persephone, and Pandora's box. And the illustrations are absolutely beautiful! :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survuval, Resilience, and Redemption

By Laura Hillenbrand (same author as Seabiscuit). 473 pages

Incredible story. Amazing man. The human spirit is astounding. It is incredible what our WWII guys went through and this book highlights the story of one such guy. I'll do my next Globe review on this book, so you'll have to wait and read that for the full-meal deal on it.

Mobbed by Carol Higgins Clark, 255 pages

Regan Reilly, private investigator, is called down to the Jersey Shore by her mother, Nora Reilly, to help out with a friend's situation. Heading to a friend's house to keep an eye on a garage sale soon leads to a mystery involving a missing guest at the house, actress Cleo Paradise. Regan soon discovers that there is something odd with the situation. Can they figure it out before Cleo ends up gone for good?
I've read all the books in this series, and always enjoy them. They are fun, light-hearted mysteries that are a breeze to read. The only drawback to them is that there seems to be a multitude of characters and subplots introduced, and then all is resolved in just 10 pages or less.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, by Chelsea Handler, 6 discs or 272 pages

I'm glad I gave this book another try. I tried to read it when it was released, but I just wasn't feeling it, so I never made it past the first chapter. The audiobook, narrated by Chelsea Handler herself, was hilarious. She covers subjects ranging from her first DUI to traveling to Costa Rica with her recently widowed father, who scores them an upgrade to first class by telling people they were on their honeymoon. It was all very funny. But definitely vulgar. If you're offended by swearing and other not-so-nice language, this might not be the book for you.

Days Missing, volume 1, by Phil Hester, 160 hours

I'm back to graphic novel land for a little while. I find them a nice palate cleanser between longer books. This graphic novel from the teen department caught my attention because above the title were the words "Roddenberry Presents" -- as in Gene Roddenberry of "Star Trek" fame. The central character of this volume is a being called The Steward who appears during crucial times in human history to avert crises. He has the ability to fold time, to hit rewind on a 24-hour period and let things start over in the hopes that the crisis will not occur. He reminded me somewhat of "Dr. Who," only without the TARDIS. The novel covers a variety of events, from the spread of a disease worse that ebola in modern-day Africa, to a night that inspired Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." It was interesting, and The Steward is an intriguing character -- emotionally invested in human beings and their future, yet always having to remain apart from them.

The Wednesday Conspiracy by Sergio Bleda, 150 pages

I found this book in the teen section with the new graphic novels, and the cover looked interesting, so I thought I would pick it up. It's a support group for people with special gifts to help them learn how to deal with them. One girl has a jar of demons, one can see her dead parents in the mirror, one guy can hear thoughts, another is pyrokinetic, and another is an exorcist. All in all, just your normal support group members. Turns out there may be an evil group out for world control (isn't there always) and they start trying to kill off the members.
This was at times difficult because I almost felt like I was missing some of the back story, but it is nice that this is a standalone graphic novel. I have to say it's one of the darker ones, and I could see the foreign influence in it also. If you like graphic novels with a harder twist to them, this is a must read.

Four Eyes-Forged in Flames by Joe Kelly, Max Fiumara & Nestor Pereyra, 110 pages

Chris/Jake recommended this graphic novel to me so I gave it a try. Enrico is just a young boy when his father dies collecting a dragon's egg. It is the Depression-era, and dragons exist. There is a huge underground for betting on dragon fights and to get the dragons, special hunters must collect the eggs, with high fatalities. Enrico and his mother are barely eking out an existence when Enrico decides that he hates dragons for killing his father, he wants to see them die, and what better way than collecting the eggs for the fights.
This is a very dark book, but with a great storyline and amazing artwork. I will have to pick up the second volume and see what happens to Enrico next.

Sentenced to Death by Lorna Barrett, 340 pages

I have read all of Lorna Barrett's Booktown Mysteries and really enjoy them. One of my dreams is owning an used book store, the only problem would be not letting people buy books that I haven't read yet!
Tricia owns the store Haven't Got a Clue, a mystery bookstore, and has a tendency to stumble across dead bodies. This time, the death is a plane crash right in front of her that kills one of her closest friends in Stoneham. Tricia immediately becomes suspicious of the not-grieving husband and starts looking into the accident. Of course, not everything is as perfect as it seems in this storybook town.
I definitely recommend reading this series in order, to better appreciate the back stories, and character development, but this series is well worth picking up.

Regina's Legacy by Kate William, 149 pages

When Elizabeth Wakefield receives a camera as a memento of her friend Regina Morrow, who died recently, she never expects it to plunge her into a dangerous mystery. Then she takes a picture of three suspicious-looking men. One of them tries to grab her new camera, and Elizabeth only narrowly escapes. Watching TV that night, Elizabeth thinks she sees one of the same men on the news. But this man is accused of being involved in a drug-smuggling operation. Could this be the man in her picture? When the darkroom at school is trashed, Elizabeth knows that something really strange is going on. Someone wants that picture-and will do anything to get it!

Rock Star's Girl by Kate William, 150 pages

Jessica can't believe it! Her idol, rock star Jamie Peters, has moved to Sweet Valley. If only she could meet him, her career as a "star" would really take off! Peeking through the bushes bordering his estate, hoping to find a way to talk to him, Jessica sees something shocking. Andrea Slade, the quiet new girl at Sweet Valley High, is lounging by the pool with Jamie-and she's acting as if they are more than just good friends. Could a sixteen-year-old nobody like Andrea really be a rock star's girlfriend?

Starring Jessica by Kate William, 149 pages

When TV talk-show host Eric Parker comes to Sweet Valley and announces a contest to find the perfect American teen, Jessica Wakefield vows to win the coveted spot as Eric's special TV guest. She's meant to be a star! Then Lila Fowler, Jessica's best friend, announces she's going to win the spot, and the contest becomes a battle of wills and wits. With the help of Bruce Patman, who has his own score to settle with Jessica's shot at stardom. Will Jessica have her moment in the limelight, or will Lila succeed in stealing the show?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

English Tea Murder by Leslie Meier, 265 pages

Lucy Stone is on her way to England as part of a college-sponsored tour. Unfortunately, the tour leader dies on the plane after an asthma attack. The replacement leader sent turns out to be a teacher from Lucy's past who had set her heart aflutter years ago. Lucy must deal with that situation while battling suspicions that members of the tour may have had something to do with the tour leader's death. All that, while fitting in visiting attractions and shopping is sure to leave Lucy exhausted, if not dead!
I always enjoy the Lucy Stone series, and I have always dreamed about visiting England, so this book was doubly good. Leslie Meier delivers a great, light-hearted murder mystery.

Ms. Quarterback by Kate William, 150 pages

Ken Matthews has regained his sight, only to face another battle. Now that he's recovered, everyone assumes that Ken is sure to win back his old position as quarterback for the Gladiators. But Sweet Valley High is stunned when Ken's toughest competition comes from the shy new junior-Claire Middleton! Terri Adams, Ken Matthew's girlfriend, sees Claire not only as threat to Ken's football career, but also to her own relationship with Ken. Can Terri find a way to get Claire off the field so that Ken can resume his rightful place on the team?

Friend Against Friend by Kate William, 138 pages

Andy Jenkins and Neil Freemount have been best friends for years. They hang out together, double-date, and help each other with their homework. But bully Charlie Cashman sets out to make life miserable for Andy, just because Andy is black. First Andy finds trash in his locker. Then his girlfriend is taunted, and he is pushed around in the school parking lot. Neil wants to help his best friend, but suddenly Andy turns against him, and Neil doesn't know why. The two boys are about to face the greatest challenge of their lives. Can their friendship survive the test?