Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Marni's Mirror, by Chryl Silva, 110 pages

Marni is 12 going on 13. She's having trouble with school, classmates, family, and even with her best friend. The worst thing is that Marni is convinced that her adopted dad seems to love her little sister, Annie, more than he loves her. It's tough.
Although a champion swimmer, Marni finds herself close to drowning while in the ocean all lone after a particularly hard day. Except she isn't all alone: a strange young boy named Inram shows up to save her. Who is he and why has he come to her? Read the book to find out!

Love on a Midsummer Night by Christy English, 314 pages

Christy English is definitely one of my favorite Regency romance writers with her Shakespearean based romances. In her newest, it's Raymond Olivier's turn to try to find happiness that isn't at the bottom of a bottle. It's been ten years since Arabella stood him up to marry a duke, and now she's turned to Raymond for help. While he's sure he can never forgive Arabella for her gold-digging ways, he can't turn her down since she's in danger. But the longer he's with her, the more he comes to think that the danger is from the man chasing Arabella, but is from him falling in love with Arabella all over again.
Cristy's books are always filled with humor, romance, intrigue, adventure, and seduction, making them a delight to read. I especially liked getting to see favorite characters from the previous book show up. The main problem with finishing one of her books is waiting for the next one. All I can say is that it better be Angelique's turn to find a happy ending.

A Dangerous Inheritance by Alison Weir, 507 pages

This historical fiction book tells the story of Katherine Grey, sister to Lady Jane Grey, and Kate Plantagenet, daughter to Richard III. Both have relatives who reached for the throne and lost their lives because of it, and have tragic links to the Tower of London even though they're separated by years, their stories have similar links. Alison Weir always does a great job of bringing English history to life in a fascinating story.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Master and God by Lindsey Davis, 452 pages

I'm generally a fan of anything historical but this book set in 81 AD Rome was just a little too jumbled to suit my taste.

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy, 480 pages

This is a hilarious series featuring the Prince Charmings who aren't as suave, dashing and heroic as the stories make them out to be. One of the funniest juvenile books I've read. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Kevin by Paul Kupperberg, 156 pages

This book follows Kevin Keller, the first openly gay Archie character, through his coming-of-age story. He must not only make new friends at a new school, but deal with a bully and come to terms with his own sexuality. While I was a little disappointed to find out it wasn't a graphic novel, it was done really well.

The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwall, 374 pages

Nell Gwynn was my favorite of King Charles II's many mistresses. She clawed her way up to becoming a leading lady on the stage when women were just starting to act, and caught the eye of England's newly restored king. She was funny and fascinating, and the author did a great job of bringing her to life.

The Love of Her Life by Laurie John, 230 pages

Another entry in the Sweet Valley University saga.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde (400 pgs.)

Book 7 in the Thursday Next series.  Currently, but, I hope, not permanently, the last in the series.

Thursday isn't as young and healthy as she once was.  Or is she?  What is real, anyway?  Do we have a destiny?  And, if we do, would we know it? 

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (362 pgs.)

Book 5 in the Thursday Next series.  A must read for anyhow who has ever created a character.  Create responsibly.

Can the written Thursday be the real Thursday?  Even she doesn't know.  Does it matter?

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde (384 pgs.)

Book 5 in the Thursday Next series.  This series is a must read for anyone who has wanted to get into...literally into...a good book.

With this book, I went from reading to listening and found that they were actually less stressful.  Maybe I got through the "scary" parts faster this way.  Anyhow, I enjoyed it.  Good voice actor.  Annoyingly loooooong pauses between chapters.

First Among Sequels brings the series from the 1980s into the 2000s.  Interesting to get caught up on the changes that took place during the years that aren't in the books and find out why.  What would happen is books went the path of reality t.v.? 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Paper Towns by John Green (305 pages)

This one has been reviewed previously so I'm not going to describe it.  It's good--read it.  I <3 John Green!

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan (346 pages)

High school student Charlie West awakens bloody and bruised in a concrete bunker, only to discover that he has lost a year of his life and remembers nothing about escaping from prison after being convicted of murdering his former best friend, or why he is being pursued by both the law and a group of terrorists trying to bring down the government of the United States.

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin (295 pgs)

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
When Nicole Castro--a girl who is worshiped for her popularity and kindness, but mostly her beauty--is attacked in the school's hallway with a spray bottle full of acid, Jay Nazzaro is skipping school to pick up a couple of extra hours at work. It isn't until Jay is at home hacking into "cruel people's phones" that he learns half of Nicole's face was severely burned by the acid attack.

Jay feels a connection to Nicole even though they don't really know each other. It isn't long before he begins to put his considerable hacking skills to use to find her attacker. As Jay peels back the layers surrounding Nicole's attack, his connection to her strengthens as does his resolve to find her attacker even if it means putting himself in harms way.

I very much loved Burning Blue. Like a lot. I knew it would be good and that I would like it because when a best selling author whose work you admire (*cough*Barry Lyga*cough*) recommends a book to you, you expect to like it. What I didn't expect was to fall completely in love with Paul Griffin's writing.

So, read it and let's gush about it together!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Your Body Beautiful by Jennifer Ashton (296 pages)

The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox (288 pages)

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson (292 Pages)

This book was one of the best I have read on really how to simplify your life, and become greener in the process. I don't know if I could live with only the clothes that would fit in a carry on suitcase, like Bea and her family but this I learned a lot of tips and tricks from her. I have realized that the more stuff I have sold or gotten rid of from my house, the happier I have been! Now I have less stuff to clean, mend or repair and my day to day life is a lot smoother. With the help of this book I am going to take simplifying  and greening my home to the next level.

Unhallowed Ground by Heather Graham (362 Pages)

I have read a few books by Heather Graham before and what I like about her books is the creepy ghost factor mixed with the mystery.

The Panera Bread Cookbook: breadmaking essentials and reipes from America's favorite bakery-cafe by Ward Bradshaw (255 pages)

Real Snaks by Lara Ferroni (159 pages)

I am always on the hunt for good snacks for my son that are healthy and wont break the bank. This book took pretty much all my childhood treats and taught me how to make them better and healthier. I will say one of the downfalls of this book is some of the ingredients used are not common place and might require a special trip to the store.

The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town by Jacqueline Guidry, 256 pages

Another Readers Without Borders Book Club book that I wouldn't have picked up on my own, but I totally enjoyed it.

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (296 pgs)

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne
Dean and his younger brother Alex are on different buses headed for school when a massive hail storm hits. Massive. The hail causes Dean's bus to careen into the parking lot of Greenway superstore and flip on its side, killing the bus driver and injuring many of the students. Alex's bus was luckier. His bus driver, no-nonsense Mrs. Wooly, intentionally careens into the parking lot and through the front gate of the store to get her young passengers to safety. Then Mrs. Wooly goes back for the high schoolers in Dean's bus.

Once everyone is inside the Greenway, a series of worsening events ensure that the 14 kids (from kindergarten to high school) are on their own, trapped inside, and must work together to survive.

Monument 14 is not breaking any new ground in the apocalyptic/survival genre, but it's interesting and different enough to make me want to know what happens in book 2.

There are some places when Dean's narration is obviously influenced by adult editorial choices, but the teens who read it for our book club didn't seem as bothered by it as I was, so it certainly might just be a me thing.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (320 pages)

This has already been blogged about, so I won't give you a description.  I (re)read it in honor of Barry Lyga's visit.  It was just as good the second time around and I really enjoyed getting to meet Barry Lyga and hear his 3:30 program talk.  He was great!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Treasury of Cat Mysteries compiled by Matin Greenberg, 354 pages

This collection of mysteries featuring cats has a variety of authors, including Carole Nelson Douglas, Joan Hess, and Nancy Pickard.

A Married Woman by John Laurie, 229 pages

I'm slowly working my way through Sweet Valley University, the final series featuring Elizabeth and Jessica that I'll read. This one has Jessica getting married.

Wonder Woman The Twelve Labors, 229 pages

This graphic novel comic collection features Wonder Woman trying to prove to herself that she deserves to be in the Justice League after the section of time that featured her as only Diana Prince with no powers at all. I'd collected most of these comics but not all, so it was great that I finally got to read them all.

Elvira Transylvania 90210 by John Paragon, 171 pages

Elvira is just hilarious, she makes no bones about being a campy horror babe. This one has Elvira having to deal with a new neighbor who has a fondness for her neck. This was no great piece of literature, but is a great mindless read.

Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small, 461 pages

Skye O'Malley is one of the classics in torrid bodice rippers, filled with adventure, romance and steamy sex. This is one of my favorites, I've read it probably close to 10 times since I was in high school. I especially like how Skye meets up with Queen Elizabeth.

All the Sweet Tomorrows by Bertrice Small, 594 pages

Sometimes there is nothing better than a torrid bodice ripper, and no one does it better than Bertrice Small.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Zom-B Angels by Darren Shan, 182 pages

This has been a keep me on the edge of my seat read, with the plot advancing just enough each book to have me eagerly awaiting each one. This one had a major WTF moment at the end, because revitalized zombies isn't enough of a twist.

Zom-B City, by Darren Shan, 166 pages

Book three in the series, and I'm already looking ahead to book four. B has escaped the underground holding facility where she and the other Zom-Heads were being held by military officials. She wanders through a London fairly devoid of humans but populated by pockets of zombies. She does encounter some interesting people -- namely, an artist who seems a little cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, if you catch my drift, as well as a cult whose members misguidedly believe aliens are keeping them safe from zombie attack. No real plot twists or surprises in this installment of the series, but mysterious, odd, characters from the previous two books make appearances, though without revealing much.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (311 pgs.)

I read this book based on Cari's description of it when she was giving me the books for my son to read for book club.  Loner nerd comic fanboy and goth girl seem, perhaps, an unlikely duo.  But perhaps not. 

Captures the angst and misery that many feel during the high school years.  That feeling of not belonging and thinking that so much is going against you.  Growing can be painful and wonderful and awful and must be done.

Made me glad to not be in high school any more.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green (221 pages)

Looking for Alaska
 Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. 

After. Nothing is ever the same.

Not my favorite John Green, but still super good. I love the way he writes all his characters, I just want to be friends with them all!

*Summary borrowed from Goodreads*

The Madman's Daugher by Megan Shepherd (420 pages)

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)The Madman's Daughter is sort of a spin off story of the classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau.  It's about Dr. Moreau's daughter,  Juliet, who is now 16.  After her father was accused of performing terrible experiments on animals, he disappeared and was assumed to be dead.  A few years later, her mother died of consumption, and left Juliet penniless and homeless.  Through a strange turn of events, she finds out that her father is alive and continuing his work on a remote island, and she sets out to find him and discover whether he really is insane, or simply a misunderstood genius.

I loved The Madman's Daughter,  if only for the fact that it was deliciously creepy and a little bit terrifying.  The writing was alright, although it seemed to drag a little, and I semi-guessed the major twist at the end, but the characters were well developed and identifiable.  I had two major complaints, however.  One, there was this terrible love triangle where she would literally go from thinking about kissing Montgomery to fantasizing about Edward's arms around her in the next sentence. I mean, seriously? And two, when I got to the ending, I was incredibly disappointed to find that it was not a stand alone as I had originally assumed.  I looked it up online and found that it is to be a trilogy.  I don't understand why authors can't seem to write a decent stand alone novel.

Gulp: adventures on the alimentary canal by Mary Roach, 348 pages

This was a fascinating look at how and why we eat, our digestive system and all involved with it. I learned more about spit, feces, and flatulence than I ever imagined and discovered it was not a great book to read while eating. But this book had me going "hmm" and "ooh" throughout because of the completely intriguing information I learned. I always enjoy Mary Roach's books, especially because of the passion she brings to her research.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (184 pgs.)

Book 7 (chronologically) of the Narnia series.  This is the final book. 

I have said for each of these books that the voice acting was good.  I always listen to the intro to hear who the reader is going to be.  Imagine my surprise and delight to hear "read by Patrick Stewart" for this one!  Voice acting EXCELLENT!

In this story, Eustace and Jill are called back into Narnia to help the last king of Narnia in the battle of the last days of that world.  A very powerful and thought-provoking story.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (243 pgs.)

Book 6 (chronologically) in the Narnia series.  Eustace from "Dawn Treader" returns to Narnia bringing schoolmate Jill with him.  Aslan sets them to rescuing Prince Rillian.

Good voice acting.

Color Blind by Tom Dunkel (287 pgs.)

I picked up this book because the description of the story interested me.  It is the story of an integrated baseball team in Bismarck, ND, in the 1930s.  Yes, a midwest, local team that had both black and white players.  Unheard of at that time. 

I really WANTED to like this book, but it was so hard to read.  SO many details and back story upon back story and I lost track of who was who and why I was reading about them.  Honestly, I couldn't finish the book.  I wanted to, but it got to the point of being a homework assignment rather than a pleasure read and so I put it down.  Maybe someone who is more interested in the details of the sport and of every athlete rather than the sociological aspects of it will find this a better book.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Extreme Babymouse by Jennifer Holm, 93 pages

I have to make sure to bring home every new Babymouse book, the struggle is trying to read it before my teenager and tweenager daughters. Babymouse books are always funny, sweet, and a lot of fun to read.

Monday, July 15, 2013

There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom by Louis Sachar (195 pages)

Bradley Chalkers is eleven years old, the oldest kid in fifth grade. He sits in Mrs. Ebbel's classroom, last seat, last row.  No one sits near him because quite frankly, nobody likes him.  He is an island.  But then Jeff moves to town and takes the seat next to him, and the school hires Carla as the new counselor, and Bradley is forever changed by Jeff's friendship and Carla's belief in his ability to be good.

I cannot express how much I love this book.  I read it for the first time when I was probably ten or eleven, and I have read it probably five times since then.  I don't know that I have ever read a book that touches my heart like this one does.  As a future teacher of children with learning disabilities and behavioral problems, I definitely had a new appreciation for it this time.  If you haven't read this book, I highly suggest you do so.  You will laugh and cry your way through, and you will come to love this strange, trouble-making little boy named Bradley Chalkers.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis (224 pgs.)

Book 3 (chronological) of the Narnia series.  This story takes place during the reign of High King Peter, King Edmund, Queen Susan, and Queen Lucy, though they are rather minor characters to the story.  This is the story that reminds me that Narnia is a country and not the whole world.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (256 pgs.)

Book 5 (chronological) in the Narnia series.  Good voice acting.

This adventure features a somewhat older King Caspian X and Queen Lucy, King Edmund, and their cousin Eustace on a voyage in search of Narnian lords and to the edge of the world.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (195 pgs.)

Book 4 (in the chronological order) of the Narnia series.  Good voice actor.

Every time I read (or, in this case, listen) to these books, I can't choose a favourite. It's usually whichever one I am listening to.

In this one, a young prince battles his usurper uncle for the throne of Narnia and returns the land to its old splendor.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (208 pgs.)

Continuing through the series in chronological (not published) order.  Each book seems to have a different voice actor.  Done well.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Haunted Joplin by Lisa Livingston-Martin (142 pages)

I enjoyed this book and really felt like I learned a lot of history about Joplin and the surrounding areas. I would read a section and then ask my husband did you know that...? This would be a good read, even for those who don't believe in ghost.

Hidden by Helen Frost (160 pages)

Hidden is on of this year's Mark Twain Award nominees. 

Here's the Amazon description:  "When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra's father steals a minivan. He doesn't know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.

Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth—that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain."

It was short, sweet and well-written.  I'm pretty sure most of the children reading the Mark Twain Award nominees will enjoy it.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (336 pages)

Not long after setting a personal best at a track meet, the life of 16-year-old Jessica Carlisle is dramatically altered by a bus accident. One of her teammates loses her life, and Jessica wakes up in the hospital with only a stump below her right knee. The doctors are upbeat about her recovery—she’s young, healthy, in great shape and a below-the-knee amputee—but Jessica is sure that her life is over.

She wants to know, why her? Feeling hopeless and alone, she mourns the loss of her leg and everything that makes her who she is, specifically the freedom to run. Along with the depressing loss of her identity, she also has to battle a host of everyday problems and obstacles. 

For example, the first couple of days after her amputation, it takes all of her strength and determination to make it to the restroom using her crutches. This leaves her wondering if she will ever be strong enough to go home or, honestly, if she really wants to. But eventually she is able to leave the hospital, and with the support of her family, her amazingly supportive best friend and her therapists, she reluctantly returns to school in a wheelchair.

The wheelchair embarrasses Jessica, but her school’s campus is so large that she has little choice in the matter. It is because of the wheelchair and not being able to fit into a regular desk that she meets fellow wheelchair user Rosa at the back table in her math class. 

Rosa has cerebral palsy, which makes it difficult to understand her, but after passing notes back and forth with her, Jessica soon discovers how witty, smart and caring Rosa is. The two become fast friends and are soon spending lunches together and working on math homework after school. It is through her friendship with Rosa that Jessica starts to think about someone other than herself. She realizes that she may be stuck in a wheelchair right now, but Rosa is stuck in one for life.

Quicker than expected, Jessica begins to learn to walk with a prosthetic leg, and her teammates and coach petition her to consider running again. While at first it seems like a pipe dream, the idea becomes real once the fundraising for a special running prosthetic for her starts. Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money for a leg, but Jessica is determined to make her teammates proud, while at the same time giving Rosa a shot at standing out from the crowd, if she gets the chance to run. 

Readers will be hooked from the beginning thanks to the pacing and believable, well-built characters. Not only will readers feel Jessica's pain and eventual growth, but they will identify with her parents, her friends and even her coach.  The thoroughness of Van Draanen's research on amputees, prosthetic limbs and track athletes is showcased in this exceptional book about someone who loses a large piece of her identity, but gains so much more.  Jessica is an inspiration to everyone, runners and non-runners alike.