Friday, September 30, 2011

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five (304 pages)

"Brain scientist" John Medina attempts to answer practical questions that all parents have about how to raise a smart, happy child by sharing what the latest research has to say on the topic.

I really enjoyed this book because Medina not only knows about science since he is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant, but he is also a dad and does his best to share the information in a way that makes sense to most everyone, no matter their field of expertise.

I especially appreciated his use of funny stories, some involving his own children; real world examples; and the summary at the end of the book.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Invisible Monsters.

by Chuck Palahniuk, 304 pages.

Loved it the first time, loved it this time. Palahniuk's twisted prose is made more palatable (for me) when talking about pretty people and pretty things and the pretty world they inhabit. Definitely glad I bought this one for my nook. Thanks for making me read a banned book, Danya!

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, 288 pages or 5 discs

I don't know why I waited so long to read this young adult book by an author I very much admire. I've been a fan of Sherman Alexie's for years, since first reading his short-story collection "Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," which inspired the film "Smoke Signals." "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" reminded me why I love this author so much. He writes about contemporary Native American society on a very personal level, and his stories are heartbreaking yet hilarious. In this novel, which I read as part of this month's banned-book challenge, Arnold "Junior" Spirit lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The family is poor and, although they love one another deeply, not without its troubles. His father is an alcoholic, his mother a recovering alcoholic, and his sister never leaves the basement. Junior was born with hydrocephalus and wasn't expected to survive brain surgery. But survive he did, growing up to become a favorite target of bullies. When he's 14, the smart, aspiring cartoonist decides to transfer to a off-reservation high school. He's the only non-Caucasian, but he finds his place in the school. Along the way, he experiences prejudice, suffers profound personal losses, and excels academically, socially, and athletically. I listened to the book on audio because it was read by the author. Alexie's narration in his sing-song reservation accent riveted me. One minute I had tears in my eyes, the next I was snorting with laughter, then I would feel my breath catch because he would read something so quietly beautiful that I wanted to remember it always. The book is based on Alexie's own experiences, so it's perfect that he narrated. As for why "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" has been challenged and banned, presumably it's due to the racism, sexual references, and violence -- all of which I found realistic, not gratuitous, and crucial to the story. I can't say enough good things about this novel. In fact, I loved it so much that, despite giving away most of my books after this May's tornado in an effort to downsize, I'm going to buy my own copy so that it can join the other Sherman Alexie books in my bookcase.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, 306 pages

This little known novel by "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" pentalogy author Douglas Adams keeps the same humour, odd characters and extraordinary surprises as the precedent of his better-known books, but keeps the setting down to earth. A little slower in places than the "Hitchhiker's Guide" books, but still entertaining. Not even making his entrance until about a third of the way through the book, Dirk faces many challenges in solving mysteries, including a murder (and subsequent haunting by the victim), how a sofa can get stuck in a stairway while moving and become situated so that it can never become "un-stuck" and whether or not human beings are actually artificial creations and electric monks, designed and created for the sole purpose of believing preposterous things. I've yet to read the follow-up to this, The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, but it may well work its way into my reading schedule in the months to come.

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt (360 pages)

Readers of Schmidt's previous Newbery honor title The Wednesday Wars have already met Doug Swieteck, though they may not remember him as he was a secondary character. In this companion novel Schmidt has placed Doug center stage and boy, does he shine.

It is the summer of 1968 and while Doug is moving from Long Island to upstate New York with his family, Joe Pepitone is slugging home runs for the New York Yankees, the Apollo space mission team is gearing up to undertake the first lunar landing, and many men, including Doug's eldest brother Lucas, are fighting the Vietnam War.

Marysville, the town Doug and his family move to, seems to have little to offer at first glance, but Doug soon discovers the town library, where he becomes memorized by the plates of John James Audubon's Birds of America. He also befriends spunky Lil Spicer and makes several friends while working as a grocery delivery boy on Saturday mornings.

These outside relationships are important in Doug's life because his home environment is not a stable one. And even though the narrator never spells it out, readers will quickly deduce that the majority of this instability is due to an abusive and hot-headed father that rarely offers the family a glimmer of the truth. Despite Doug's volatile home life he is a survivor and he uses his newfound creativity and friendships to makes the best of his first year in Marysville.

Gary Schmidt has written a clever, engaging novel that will have readers rooting for Doug. Admittedly, readers may not find this title on their own, due to the understated cover,
however, it is worth the hard sell to get it in their hands, because once they do start reading, they will not be able to stop. It is unusual for an author to write a novel that has such broad appeal, from middle school students to high school students and even adults, but Schmidt has outdone himself with this powerful story that shows how hope can shape lives.

A Clash of KIngs by George R. R. Martin, 762 pages

This is the sequel to The Game of Thrones, and I must say I enjoyed this one even more. It is a epic, with tons of characters, lots of plot development and intrigue galore. The last hundred pages had me very upset and the cliff hangers make me want to immediately jump into the next book. This series reminds me of the The Eye of the World series by Robert Jordan and a little bit of The Lord of the Rings.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, 132 pages

This book is about Japanese brides coming to America in the early 1900s. It talks about the men they thought were coming to marry, the men they actually married, the lives they left behind, the children they had or didn't had, and finished up with the gathering up of Japanese immigrants in World War II to be put in concentration camps. It was an extremely fast read, giving different viewpoints, and just a quick overview. But I really enjoyed this book and plan on taking a deeper look into these section of American history.

Embers by Sandor Marai, 224 pages

This was the September book for the Readers Without Borders book club. It takes place outside Vienna in what seems to be late 1930s/early 1940s. The General is meeting with his best friend, Konrad, after 41 years. He is hoping to get answers for the last evening he, his wife, and his friend spent together, and to find out how deep the betrayal went.
This was originally published over 40 years ago and has recently seen a new popularity, after being translated into English. It was very deep, dragged on, and seem more like Russian literature than I enjoy. I must say this was a book I wouldn't have read on my own, but that is what I really like about book club.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heavier Than Heaven.

By Charles R Cross, 400 pages.

This book took me forever to read. It was a vastly detailed account of Cobain's entire life. His darkness seeping through those striking Pisces eyes has always intrigued me and with my recent read of Courtney's bio, I found it an imperative to read his...

I'm speechless, haunted, and bereaved. It's all very strange.

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (290 pgs)

I'm the 3rd to post about this book, so you get no summary or pictures from me! Ha!

In all honesty, I read it because of the kerfuffle in Republic. I liked it. It isn't my favorite book, but I liked it well enough to recommend it to teens who like realistic fiction with some drama and romance.

I can understand why Anna and Frankie's behavior in the book would make adults nervous (there's safe and not very detailed sex, under age drinking, lying, sneaking out, and other typical older teen behavior), but I didn't think the content was any worse than things you see on the ABC Family or CW shows aimed at the same age group.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan (211 pages)

Chelsey has already written a fantastic review for this book, so I won't say anything about it other than I loved it. It was a beautifully heartbreaking story that I devoured in one sitting.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (341 pages)

Why have I not read Harry Potter before now!? I'm captivated by this magical world Rowling has created. I'm anxious to read the next book and see what other adventures Harry and the gang find themselves in. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Secret of the White Rose" by Stefanie Pintoff, 370 pages

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of mysteries. I tend to find them dull, and I detest the cutesy ones with puns built into the titles. *Shudder.* That being said, is it strange that some of my favorite writers actually pen mysteries? Perhaps, but don't judge me. Caleb Carr, Will Thomas and Stefanie Pintoff are all must-reads for me. (I know Will Thomas is working on his next Barker-Llewelyn mystery; now if Caleb Carr would write another entry in his "Alienist" series ...) What I like about these writers -- aside from their intriguing characters, deft plotting, and general writing excellence -- is their historical settings. I love books set in late 19th/early 20th century cities, namely New York and London. Stefanie Pintoff's Ziele-Sinclair mysteries fit this bill. Set in very early 20th century New York City, when motor cars are considered a new-fangled luxury, not everyone has electricity, and many of the city's denizens are immigrants living in tenements, "Secret of the White Rose" is the follow-up to Pintoff's "In the Shadow of Gotham" and "A Curtain Falls." Ziele is recruited to investigate a series of high-profile murders that may or may not be connected to the anarchist movement, and may or may not be connected to his secretive friend and crime-solving partner, Alistair Sinclair. If you like a smart hero with a tragic past and a strong moral streak; quickly moving plots filled with lots of action and real historical figures; and forays into a crime-ridden city where grand wealth and extreme poverty co-exist, then Pintoff's books might be for you. But please do read them in order so that you can fully appreciate the characters' development.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stiches by David Small

336 pages

This was my first foray into graphic novels. This autobiographical book came to my attention in of our library journals department heads read on a regular basis. It was a recommended title, and I figured I'd give it a go. I found it amazing that a book with so few words could evoke as many feelings as it did. The bookjacket says this book is a "silent movie masquerading as a book". That is a better description than I would have thought to give!

David grows up in a supremely dysfunctional family. An operation that supposedly was minor, left him with only one vocal cord, and functionally mute. I generally hate the typical "coming of age" stories, but for this one I will make an exception. I liked it very much; the story of David's survival is worth your time.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray, 398 pages

Selene is the daughter of Cleopatra and Anthony, brought to Rome in chains, determined to return to Egypt to rule. She has vowed to prove her loyalty to Augustus, no matter the cost. But as a bride in name only, sent to rule a distant country, and serve as the living reincarnation of Isis for her people, Selene finds the cost for the throne may be higher than she's willing to pay because it turns out it may not be just her body but her soul as well.
"Song of the Nile" by Stephanie Dray is an outstanding piece of historical fiction. I've read numerous books about Cleopatra, but none about her children. Selene has a fascinating history, being the only one that has more than just one or two mentions in Roman history. She actually was a reigning monarch for Rome, along with her husband, King Juba, with both of them being captives of Rome from a young age. Stephanie Dray has done a wonderful job bringing to life one of history's lesser known women, weaving magic, intrigue and historical characters into a must read novel for fans of historical fiction.

A Midsummer's Night's Sin by Kasey Micheals, 376 pages

Robin Blackhtorn, better known as Puck, is one of the three infamous Blackthorn Bastards. He has decided to enter London society, using his money and blackmail connections to join. On his first outing at a masquerade ball, he finds his interest piqued by a beautiful lady in a scarlet domino. Regina Hackett only wanted one night of flirting and dancing with masked man, but when her cousin is kidnapped by white slavers, she must turn to to intriguing Puck, who stirred her interest and passion. Regina finds that everything she thought she knew and believed in will be challenged on this dangerous escapade. Will she survive, with her heart and virtue intact?
"A Midsummer's Night's Sin by Kasey Michaels is a wonderful historical romance. It's filled with humor, danger, seduction, intrigue, and lots of passion. The characters are interesting, the dialogue well-written, and the plot keeps you eagerly turning each page. My only regret is that I missed the first book in this trilogy about the Blackthorn scoundrels, but I will be reading it soon. This is a definite must read for Regency romance fans.

Mom and Dad Aren't Getting Along: Now That Mom's a Zombie by Garry McNulty, 6 pages

It's hard enough being a teen without having to deal with the family issues of mom being a zombie. Now, Dad's wanting separate bedrooms, Mom has a tendency to nibble on neighbors, and Teddy doesn't know what to do. Maybe a trip to the beach is in order?
This is a short story featuring zombies and is a fun, quick read. I really enjoyed it and would love to see more by Garry McNulty.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan, 211 pages

ineffable, adj.
These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections, devoid of sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.

I think that the message of this fantastic adult novel is pretty much summed up in the entry I quoted above, one of my favorites. This book is such a fast read because it is literally a dictionary format: alphabetical, each word represented standing for a moment or feeling from a committed relationship, for better or worse. Formatted like a dictionary, read like poetry. Even though it took a few pages to get into the flow and used to such a new and exciting way of writing, I loved this book. There is no beginning or end. Just a juxtaposition of experience. I found the snippets and quotations incredibly poignant and very applicable and true to life. A must read for word lovers, or those who have ever been in love. Because with those memories you can recognize the caveat that every moment is not sunshine and roses, a delicious symphony of perfection. But some moments are, and somehow that is enough.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall, 295 pages

I have read the other books in the Penderwick series and thought they were lovely, simple books. Throwbacks to a beloved way of writing the classic girl novels, The Secret Garden, Little Women, etc. No one has superpowers, no one hunts a booger, no one has to save the world. The writing is just as delicate and heartfelt as the cover illustrations.

This time we follow the Penderwick family of four daughters, a father, and an interesting boy, sans the father and oldest daughter. The remaining family members have gone on vacation with their beloved Aunt Claire to a small cottage on the Maine seashore. Athletic and no-nonsense Skye is now the designated OAP or Oldest Available Penderwick and is in charge. Normal family antics ensue.

All of this being said, I listened to this title in two pieces, interspersed by several months. The first time I got about halfway through and had to return it, at the halfway point I was less impressed than I had been with the previous novels. I missed the characters that were absent. But when I checked it out again to finish it, I could hardly stop listening. Although a bit slow to get into, the plot gets much more interesting, exciting and enjoyable. Definitely read this if you like the others in the series. I'm still partial to the original as my favorite though.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me (292 pages)

This title has already been reviewed a few times so I won't say anything more about it as I'm sure by now everyone has a pretty good idea of what it's about. So yeah, I read it. I laughed a few times. The end.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (290 pages)

Cherokee already reviewed this title, but I'm going to add my two cents since it's been in the news so much lately. I'll try to be brief.

I started reading this teen book because I was curious why the Republic school district would remove it from their collection. And as most people are aware, an easy way to get people interested in a book is to remove if from a library's collection. Plus, the author Sarah Ockler is going to be making a special appearance at the Springfield-Greene County Library next Friday evening in honor of Banned Book Week and I'm hoping to get to attend her program.

Basically, the book is the story of two friends, Anna and Frankie, mourning the loss of Matt--Frankie's brother and Anna's best guy friend/secret love interest. The three teens had been pretty much inseparable their whole lives and after Matt dies, both girls struggle to cope with the reality that he's gone.

While the girls do not always make the best choices--sneaking out, lying to their parents, etc--and some parents might struggle with the realization that their teens could be doing similar things, Frankie and Anna's characters portray typical teenage girls, making it easy for readers to relate to their story. Recommended for teens who are searching for an atypical romance story--maybe fans of Jennifer Brown, Sarah Dessen, or Gayle Forman.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence" by Amy Sedaris, 4 discs or 304 pages

I read "I Like You" when it first came out and liked it so much that I bought my best friend a copy for her birthday that year. (Funnily enough, another friend of ours also gave her a copy!) I've been a fan of Amy Sedaris since her "Strangers with Candy" days, and I'm an even bigger fan of her brother, the humorist David Sedaris. I thought I'd give this book a whirl on audio, and it didn't disappoint. Although I missed the funny pictures and illustrations from the print version of the book, the author's narration was hilarious. She strikes the right tone, that of a whacked-out Martha Stewart. The food she serves is pretty basic, but the book's real emphasis is on party planning, which covers everything from selecting a theme to inviting the right mix of people. Again, not a lot of new ground is covered here for people who have experience throwing or attending parties. However, I did like her idea of keeping a party journal in which you record your menu, theme, invitees, etc.

Eve's Revenge by Tama Starr, 271 pages

This is a collection of quotes, poems and witty bon mots, all about men, love, sex, and woman's struggle with man. It contains quite a bit of funny items, but is really harsh, especially at the end, toward men. It says very little that is nice or flattering about our relationship with men, and love in general. Towards the end, it even made me feel a little guilty about having a monogamous marriage with a man.

Twice As Dead by Sue Ann Jaffarian, 295 pages

Odelia Grey has a talent for stumbling over dead bodies. This time it is the wedding planner at her best friend's daughter's wedding. Odelia starts investigating, and quickly finds that the deaths are piling up, with some people having died twice. Odelia, her husband, half-brother, friends, and even her boss, all get involved in the mystery.
These are always fun mysteries, light-hearted and fast reads.

The New Dead Edited by Christopher Golden, 384 pages

Zombies are the new vampire right now, riding the wave of popularity. This anthology features a variety of zombie stories, showcasing the many types of zombies. Lazarus is the first story and one of my favorites. Lazarus, raised from the tomb by Jesus, looks at the story from Lazarus' point of view, and is a very dark look at it. The last story is told entirely by Twitter and is funny, original and increasingly creepy as it develops. There are fast zombies, slow zombies, voodoo zombies, government created zombies and everything in between.
I think part of the fascination with zombies is our fascination with death. Zombies are the ultimate death, with everything that was us being gone, but the body remaining. Just as vampires are the avoidance of death, with eternal life, zombies are eternal death.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Malled: My Unintentional Life in Retail by Caitlin Kelly, 226 pages

Caitlin Kelly was a journalist, who due to downsizing at her newspaper, decided to take a part-time retail position with The North Face, a adventure clothing store. This book details her experience, starting with the interview, training, dealing with corporate expectations, demanding customers, and an ever growing sense of the lack of respect shown to customer service employees. Businesses pride themselves on their excellent customer service, but many pay their frontline people a low wage, give few benefits, create unsafe work environments and show little respect to those employees. Caitlin intersperses her experiences with actual facts about retail work, making this an informative and entertaining read. While I've worked fast-food, I've been lucky enough to not work retail with sales quotas and such and I will count my blessings. It's hard enough working in a field with a lot of public contact, I can't imagine doing so where I also had to sell so much every shift.

Stepsisters by Kate William, 154 pages

Jessica and Elizabeth have a new neighbor-their friend and sorority sister Annie Whitman. Annie's mother is getting married to a famous African-American photographer from New York City, and the new family is moving in next door. Annie can't wait to introduce her stepsister-to-be to all her Sweet Valley High friends. She tries her best to make Cheryl feel at home in Sweet Valley, but Cheryl, used to the excitement of New York City, doesn't seem interested in fading into the crowd. Annie is hurt and thinks Cheryl's a snob. Can two such different people ever become sisters?

She's Not What She Seems by Kate William, 156 pages

Jessica Wakefield has landed the starring role in Sweet Valley High's production of Macbeth, and suddenly she's too busy for anyone except Paula Perrine, a timid new transfer student who idolizes her. At first Paula spends all her time fawning over Jessica and helping her to prepare for her role. But before long, Paula seems to be better friends with Jessica's crowd than Jessica is. Jessica is pleased that her new friend is coming out of her shell, but when Paula fails to tell Jessica that she's been made her understudy, Jessica wonders if Paula is trying to steal not only her friends but her role as Lady Macbeth as well! No one else, not even Jessica's twin, Elizabeth, believes shy Paula could do such a thing. Can Jessica convince her friends of the truth before it's too late?

In Love With a Prince by Kate William, 151 pages

When Elizabeth Wakefield announces that her long-time pen pal, Prince Arthur of Santa Dora, is coming to Sweet Valley for a visit, everyone's excited about meeting him-except for Dana Larson, lead singer of Sweet Valley's favorite band, the Droids. Dana thinks the only place for royalty is in the history books-until she actually gets to know Prince Arthur, and the sparks begin to fly! Soon Dana and the Prince have fallen in love. Then Arthur suddenly asks Dana to marry him, and she faces the most serious decision of her life. Dana knows she's too young to get married to anyone, much less the Prince of Santa Dora. But if she says no, she might lose him forever.

Don't Go Home With John by Kate William, 152 pages

John Pfeifer, handsome sports editor for The Oracle, is suddenly showing a lot of interest in popular Sweet Valley High junior Lila Fowler. Lila's never dated a guy like John before-serious, intense, and supersmart-and she's definitely interested. When John finally asks her out, Lila can hardly wait for their first date. But the evening turns sour when John tries to take things too far. Though Lila manages to get away without getting hurt, she's too embarrassed to tell anyone what happened. When John crashes Lila's long-planned costume party, Lila blurts out the whole story to her guests. Now all of Sweet Valley High knows about Lila's dangerous date, and everyone has an opinion about who's responsible. The school has become a jury. Will they find John guilty? Or Lila?

Murder on the Line by Kate William, 214 pages

Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are looking forward to another summer as interns at the Sweet Valley News. Elizabeth can't wait to get to work as a reporter; Jessica can't wait to spend time with the gorgeous news editor. Jessica is even more excited when she discovers that a crossed telephone line allows her to eavesdrop on other people's conversations. She loves listening in on the private lives of Sweet Valley-until she overhears plans for a murder! Elizabeth thinks Jessica's imagination is working overtime, until the body of a teenage girl washes up on the beach. The police make a connection between the girl and a local drug ring-and Jessica makes the connection between the voice on the phone and someone who works in the newspaper office! When the twins start to get threatening calls at home, it's time to put the killer's plans on hold before he disconnects them forever!

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork (352 pages)

A series of tragic events, first the death of his father and then the death of his older sister Rosa, bring an angry and hardened Poncho to live at a group home for boys in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It is at this home that he meets D.Q. A perceptive young man who is attempting to live each day to the fullest despite having a rare form of brain cancer.

D.Q. is in the process of writing a how to guide on embracing life called the Death Warrior Manifesto and he shares it with Poncho. Poncho does not have much respect for life when he first comes to St. Anthony's, with getting revenge for his sister's death being his top priority, but it is through his friendship with D.Q. that he learns just how precious a gift life can be.

While this might be a hard sell to most teens it is worth the effort. Stork, who previously authored Marcelo in the Real World, has developed complex characters, that readers can relate to and with those well rounded characters he chooses to cover difficult topics that beg for further discussion.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Best Friend's Boyfriend by Kate William, 156 pages

Denise Hadley is poised, elegant, and beautiful. Her best friend, Ginny Belasca, isn't any of these things, and she's always comparing herself to Denise. So when Ginny decides to do volunteer work for a teen phone hot line, Denise hopes that it will give Ginny some self-confidence. It looks as is she's right when Ginny helps a guy named Mike, who says he wants to meet her in person! But now Ginny's terrified that her looks won't meet Mike's expectations. In desperation, she asks Denise to meet Mike in her place. Denise agrees and falls for Mike. Can Denise and Ginny's friendship survive a battle for the boy they both love?

Love Letters for Sale by Kate William, 156 pages

Jessica Wakefield is sure that her newest get-rich-quick scheme is the perfect way to make the extra money she badly needs. Even her twin sister, Elizabeth, loves Jessica's latest idea: a letter-writing service for people who don't want to write their own. Elizabeth agrees to write the letters in exchange for half the profits, which she plans to spend on a special gift for her boyfriend, Todd Wilkins. But this "perfect" money-making solution turns into a nightmare when Jessica reads a girl's request for a love letter-to Todd! Jessica knows that Elizabeth has been neglecting Todd lately, and she's afraid that Todd might leave Elizabeth for a more attentive girlfriend if given the opportunity. Can Jessica find a way to save Elizabeth and Todd's relationship and the letter-writing business, too?

Soap Star by Kate William, 156 pages

When Jessica Wakefield's favorite soap opera, The Young and the Beautiful, announces that it's looking for a set of beautiful blond twins for a special weeklong storyline, she's sure that she's just a step away from getting both an acting career and handsome Brandon Hunter-star of daytime TV! When she and her twin sister, Elizabeth, actually get the parts, their lives change even more dramatically than either had expected! Jessica gets carried away with all the publicity about her supposed relationship with Brandon and dumps Sam, the boy she really loves. Will Jessica realize that she's just another starlet to the conceited Brandon in time to salvage her relationship with Sam?

The Stolen Diary by Kate William, 154 pages

Todd Wilkins has decided that he and Elizabeth Wakefield should start dating other people. At her twin sister Jessica's urging, Elizabeth accepts a date with handsome Kris Lynch, a cartoonist for The Oracle. After a few dates with Kris, Elizabeth is more certain than ever that she'd rather be with Todd, and Todd is realizing that he made a mistake-he still loves Elizabeth, too. Elizabeth tells Kris she can't go out with him anymore, and that's when the trouble begins. Rumors about Elizabeth spread throughout Sweet Valley High. It's up to Jessica to find out who's behind the gossip before it's too late.

Steven's Bride by Kate William, 154 pages

When Cara Walker announces that she and her mother are moving to London, no one is more shocked than Steven Wakefield. After losing his first love, Tricia Martin, to leukemia, Steven can't bear the thought of losing another girlfriend. Jessica Wakefield knows a way for Cara to stay in Sweet Valley-as her brother's bride! Steven thinks an elopement is the perfect solution, and at first Cara agrees. Then Cara begins to wonder if she's ready to sacrifice her future to stay with Steven now. Does Cara have the courage to follow her heart-no matter what it's telling her?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 190 pages

Banned Book Baby!

Ranger's Apprentice, Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan, 249 pages

Will is an orphan being brought up in a functional and seemingly prosperous fifedom ruled over by a just and friendly baron. (So far everything is seemingly neat and tidy for an adventure set in the middle ages, right?) All Will has ever dreamed of is being accepted as an apprentice into battle school and becoming a knight. However, when due to his small stature, he is turned down by battle school but accepted as an apprentice by the Ranger Halt, his life takes an unexpected turn. (What the heck is a ranger, and why is he so weird? Will asks himself.)
As time goes on Will discovers the secrets and skills required to be a ranger and finds himself a better fit than he could have imagined. Then throw into the mix an evil overlord, some freaky pagan-esque monsters, and a compelling mini battle throwing the whole nation into the brink of war, and things get good.
I wanted to read this book because I know it is a very popular Juvenile Fiction series and I think they are working on a movie version. Which will make it even more popular. At first, the writing and character development were pleasant, but not much happened, so I wasn't necessarily feeling that it lived up to the hype. But then, the last half of the book was truly riveting and beautifully paced. I really liked it. The audio performance is nearly perfect as well. I plan on following the series.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jessica Against Bruce by Kate William, 156 pages

When Bruce Patman complains that things at Sweet Valley High have gotten too boring, Jessica Wakefield agrees. Then Bruce starts a secret club to liven things up. Soon Club X has Sweet Valley Hight roaring with unscheduled fire drills and other practical jokes. But when Jessica joins the club, events take a dangerous turn. Furious that a girl had the guts to join, Bruce dares Jessica to perform more and more dangerous stunts, hoping to scare her away. Jessica's twin sister, Elizabeth, urges her to stop before things get out of control, but Jessica has to show Bruce that she can do anything-even though it may mean risking her life.

Roseannearchy by Roseanne Barr, 284 pages

I have always been a big fan of Roseanne Barr, back when she was Roseanne Connor, and recently on her reality tv show. So I eagerly started reading this book by her, thinking it would be filled with tons of humor. It seems that this is more a platform for Roseanne to talk about her belief in God (a female God), growing up Jewish in a Mormon town, and a lot of pyscho babble. It wasn't a horrible book, it just wasn't as good and funny as I had hoped.

Kidnapped by the Cult by Kate William, 154 pages

Jessica Wakefield's parents have grounded her, she's angry at her boyfriend, Sam, and her friends don't care what happens to her. Then, just when she's at her lowest, Jessica meets a magnetic stranger. Adam Marvel is the leader of the Good Friends, a mysterious cult that pretends to help the poor and needy. Adam's slick talk wins Jessica over, and before long she's given up parties and cheerleading for group meetings and collecting money at the mall. When Elizabeth hears rumors about a dangerous cult in Sweet Valley, she realizes Jessica has fallen under its spell. It's up to Elizabeth to save her sister from the grasp of Adam Marvel-before Jessica helps commit a terrible crime!

Olivia's Story by Kate William, 216 pages

Olivia Davidson's offbeat style sets her apart from the other students at Sweet Valley High. And until now, her mother has always encourage Olivia in her artistic pursuits. But ever since Olivia started spending time with James Yates, another intense artist, Mrs. Davidson has been pushing Olivia to change her ways and begin thinking about college and earning a living. Then Olivia's career-oriented cousin Emily comes to town, and it's more than Olivia can take. Emily's got her whole life planned and organized in color-coded files; meanwhile, Olivia doesn't even have the money to buy a paintbrush! She's ready to give up her art and James forever. Then Mrs. Davidson reveals a startling secret about her own past that forces Olivia to make what could be the most difficult and important decision of her whole life.

The Long-Lost Brother by Kate William, 152 pages

It's no secret that pretty, popular Sara Eastborne has a twin brother named Tim. Sara had told her friends at Sweet Valley High that Tim choose to live with their father on the East Coast when their parents were divorced. But she didn't ell them that Tim was in reform school? Now Tim's out of reform school and ready to start a new life in Sweet Valley with Sara and their mother. Sara desperately wants Tim to keep his criminal past a secret. When Tim becomes friends with Elizabeth Wakefield and starts dating Sara's best friend, Amanda Hayes, Sara is afraid that the truth will come out and her social life at Sweet Valley High will be ruined. Tim has betrayed her before, and she isn't going to let him do it again, no matter what.

Rosa's Lie by Kate William, 155 pages

Rosa Jameson, daughter of immigrant parents, decides to start a new life at Sweet Valley High as Rose. When Jessica Wakefield and Lila Fowler ask her to pledge their exclusive sorority, Pi Beta Alpha, Rose believes her scheme is working. She's sure they would never have asked her if they knew she was Mexican. Rose's secret is safe-until her grandmother from rural Mexico pays an unexpected visit. Rose is determined to hide Nana from her friends during sorority pledge week. But as Nana teaches her to be proud of her heritage, Rose becomes ashamed of her deception. Will being true to her heritage mean losing her friends' trust and friendship forever?

A Kiss in Tim by Alex Flinn, 371 pages

Talia has been cursed by an evil witch that by her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle and die. But a fairy changes it to that she will sleep, along with the whole kingdom, until her true love's first kiss. Sounds familiar, right? Jack is on tour in Europe because his parents think it will look great on a college application. Escaping for a day hoping to hit a nude beach, he instead stumbles across what looks like an abandoned village, but it's occupied by sleeping people. In a castle he finds a beautiful girl sleeping, and kisses her. That's just the beginning of the story.
Alex Flinn does some of the best retelling of fairy tales, taking them, and setting them in modern times. So far he's done Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince and now Sleeping Beauty. They are fun, well-written, and original teen books that I whole-heartedly recommend.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


by P.C. Cast, 290 pages.

I have really developed a taste for trashy-teen-vampyre fiction. I thought I had left it behind in my late teens, but alas, I have not. I will continue reading this series and have thrown in the towel and opened the doors to others of its kind. I will probably start reading Cast's Goddess Summoning series as well. What the hell, right? I did read the frickin' Twilight series, so I have no room to pretend I'm above it...

Teen vampyre fiction is like reality TV. I simply cannot turn the channel once I've invested a whole of 30 seconds...

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Various Authors (415 pages)

Zombies vs. Unicorns is a collection of short stories written by various well-known authors such as Cassandra Clare, Carrie Ryan, Scott Westerfeld, and Meg Cabot and compiled by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. The stories alternate between featuring zombies and unicorns and in between each short story is a section where Black and Larbalestier argue over which is better, zombies or unicorns. As an adamant zombie fan, I will admit I sometimes skimmed over the unicorn parts, but there were a few unicorn tales I did actually enjoy. The zombies however, were of course the best. :) My favorite was a deliciously strange and creepy story by Maureen Johnson called The Children of the Revolution.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pampered to Death by Laura Levine, 228 pages

Jaine Austen has been given a week at a luxury spa by her friend Lance as a thank you for saving him from murder charges. Unfortunately, when Jane gets to The Haven, she discovers it's actually a diet spa, not something this Ben & Jerry fanatic is looking forward to. Before Jaine has a chance to leave, one of the fellow guests is discovered killed. Who had it out for this not-so-nice B-list starlet? The better question is, who didn't? Jaine must discover the killer is she wants any chance of getting to eat a real meal again, or she may have had her last pint of Chunky Monkey ever.
These books are always hilarious, Jaine has my outlook on food, curves, exercise, and life in general. I always enjoy the subplots featuring the emails from her parents. I wholeheartedly recommend this mystery series if you enjoy murder with a hefty side of humor.

Sweet Valley Saga: The Wakefield Legacy by Kate William, 345 pages

Frontiersman Theodore Wakefield thought he'd lost his heart forever; will Dancing Wind make him love again? Turn-of-the-century beauty Sarah Wakefield marries against her father's wishes-only to become the mother of a fatherless child. Betrayed by his true love, Ted Wakefield must forget his past to find happiness with brilliant journalist Julia Marks. During World War II Robert Wakefield receives vital radio messages from P.O.W. Hannah Weiss and vows to find her when the war ends. Ned Wakefield struggles against injustice in the idealistic sixties, then fights for the heart of beautiful Alice Robertson.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rondeau by Jennifer Linforth, 173 pages

Erik and Anna have been on the run for years, but seem to have found peace in a quiet Germany village with their two children. But ghosts from the past rise up and threaten to destroy everything. When Anna is captured by Loup, Raoul's bounty hunter, Erik must return to Paris and face Raoul and Christine one last time. But this time his family may be the ones to pay the price.
"Rondeau" is the stunning end to a wonderfully penned trilogy by Jennifer Linforth that continues Gaston LeRoux's "The Phantom of the Opera." Each book had me remembering why I empathized with and loved Erik so much over the years, despised Christine for not being able to see behind the Phantom's mask to Erik, and hated Raoul for destroying Erik's chances for happiness. Jennifer Linforth has done a superb job of staying true to LeRoux's original madman of a Phantom while showing the heartbroken man who lay behind the mask. Anna, as someone abused and beaten by life, while refusing to be broken by it, was the one woman who could love Erik and help him to have a chance at happiness. During this trilogy, I found myself tearing up, desperate for Erik and Anna to achieve happiness, wondering if it was ever possible. These books grabbed me and I found myself immersed in the storyline. While it is possible to read them as standalone novels, they would be better appreciated read together. My two regrets with this book is that it ends the story, leaving me nothing to look forward to, and that I got it as an e-book, so I'm unable to relish the story again and again. I believe I will be asking for this as a Christmas present.

Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters (273 pgs)

Amelia Peabody is no ordinary Victorian woman. Nope. She's quite bossy and opinionated and educated and, since the death of her father, well financed. She is smart enough to know that the proposals for marriage she has received are simply because of her inheritance--she's a plain old (32 year old) spinster after all--and she is, quite frankly, tired of being in England. She decides to travel to Egypt. Being Amelia Peabody, she has quite efficiently arranged everything. Her plans run into a snag when her paid companion falls ill in Rome, but she happens to run into the beautiful Evelyn. Evelyn is reluctant to travel with Amelia since Evelyn is "ruined," but Amelia has no time or patience with such silly ideas. They proceed to Egypt.

When Amelia and Evelyn stop at a site of particular interest to Amelia, they encounter the Emerson brothers who are excavating the site. Radcliffe, the older, gruffer Emerson is sick and must be nursed back to health by none other than our Amelia, which gives Evelyn and Walter time to fall madly in love. Of course, the ladies' stay sparks all sorts of happenings... Mummies disappear and then come to life, people are kidnapped, and strange things are afoot. Great times!

I read this book many years ago, but decided to reread it after finishing the two Agency books (previously blogged about here). It's a very light-hearted read full of Victorian sentiments that are just fun.

The Angel of Blythe Hall by Darci Hannah, 512 pages

Lady Isabeau Blythe has had the family named tainted by her father's mad search for angels and her brother Julius' betrayal of king and country. She is determined to be a good leader for her people and take care of the family fortress on the Scottish border. But the first evening she's home, Isabeau discovers all her sheep are missing, a devilish rogue knight Sir George is determined to have her and her land, and her brother Julius is back, for what evil ploys she has no idea. Isabeau doesn't know who to believe or trust, but knows she can't succumb to the visions of angels she has, until she must call on Gabriel for help. But instead of finding heaven, will Isabeau find herself in hell?
This was an unusual romance, unlike most others I've read. There were numerous plots, and the good guys kept changing, plus when you through in an angel as the romantic lead, it makes this a different but good read.