Monday, September 30, 2013

Death Angel by Linda Fairstein, 369 pages

I've read all the Alex Cooper murder mysteries so far and they're a pretty good read. It's always a good solid mystery, lots of action, and just a little romance.

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig, 468 pages

This may be the last in the Pink Carnation series which makes me a little sad.

Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Mosher, 333 pages

This was another book club book that I wouldn't have picked up on my own. It was an interesting read and I really enjoyed it up to the very end. I won't say more because I don't want to do any spoilers.

Vampires, Bones, and Treacle Scones by Kaitlyn Dunnett, 279 pages

A Scottish-themed murder mystery set in Maine. These are always fun reads.

The House on the Cliff by Franklin Dixon, 180 pages

I'm working my way through some of the early Hardy Boys books. This was book 2.

Night Pilgrims by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 416 pages

I've been a fan of the Saint-Germain novels for a long time. It's a vampire novel with a twist. He feeds on sexual energy but that is a secondary part of the books. Each one features a different time period in his life, jumping back and forth, with the most indepth look at the time period you'd find in a fiction vampire novel. This one covers pilgrims traveling to Egypt and Ethiopia, looking for soul-cleansing or answers to prayers by visiting holy sites in the early 1200s. Not a bad read, but you'd want to be familiar with the previous books.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood (233 pages).

Edited by Henriette Mandel.

A book full of validating essays on choosing not to be a mom? Yes, please. 

I have never wanted nor will I ever have a child and I've always been very vocal about this choice. I've heard all the typical responses ("Oh, you'll change your mind." "They changed my life." "Well, that's selfish!" Etc) that these women have heard on their lives without child. Several of the authors of this book just started telling others they were barren so they'd be left alone. In this life we all have a right to live how we like and this most definitely includes whether or not to be a parent. 

It's nice to read my thoughts echo in others somewhere. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Don't Sit on the Baby by Halley Bondy (127 pgs)

This excellent little book is all about babysitting. It's pretty slim, but it covers the basics very well. What to expect from different aged kids (0-10), diapers, bath-time, meals, resumes, salaries, quitting... It's all here. Even safety and life-saving techniques (though those really are better learned in person than from a book).

The conversational style will make this a go-to book for young sitters. There are even a couple of recipes! There are also resources in the back for further training including the Red Cross Babysitter Training Course.

It should also be a must-read for parents looking for babysitters since it covers what sitters should expect from parents (and therefore what parents should expect from sitters) and includes discussion of salaries, which was the most difficult thing for me as both a babysitter and a parent.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Gardener by S. A. Bodeen (233 pgs)

Everyone in the small town of Melby Falls is enamored of TroDyn Industries--the huge company trying to solve the world's environmental problems in its complex of labs. Everyone is enamored except for Mason's mother who works at the nursing home in town. When Mason snoops into his mother's locked filing cabinet and discovers her hidden TroDyn Industries ID badge, he storms into the nursing home and demands answers.

Mason doesn't get answers, of course. Instead, he discovers that his mother doesn't take care of the elderly as he assumed. She takes care of comatose teenagers. When one of these teenagers, the most beautiful person Mason has ever seen, mysteriously wakes up and demands to be taken away from the nursing home, Mason (who has a bit of a hero complex) is all too willing to oblige.

Thus begins an escape/adventure/quest for answers that unfolds at breakneck speed and takes place over a very short period of time.

Young Mis Holmes: Casebook 1-2 by Kaoru Shintani (384 pgs)

Sherlock Holmes has a niece (his sister's daughter) who is as logical and brilliant as he is. Christie is ten years old and is already as learned as many college students--except in the womanly arts (needle work, singing, etc), of course.

Being young and somewhat less refined than the average girl of her age and status doesn't get in the way of Christie helping her famous uncle solve five cases in Young Miss Holmes: Casebook 1-2. These cases are all pretty much what you would expect from Sherlock Holmes stories, but with a little extra spice in the form of Christie and her crew thrown in.

The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer (432 pgs.?)

This is a memoir, which genre has a huge tendency towards being depressing reading.  In this case, hard times, drinking, depression, repeat... 

Reasonably interesting story.  Seemed mostly believable to me.

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (240 pgs.)

Back again to Fannie Flagg.  This story changes in focus with a male main character.  This time we start in Chicago and move to a tiny town in deep South Alabama. 

This story has all the optimistic hallmarks that I have come to recognize in Flagg's novels.  There are a variety of interesting, believable characters and the scenery is clearly visible in my mind.  Different folks with all sorts of different life problems...from the minor to the life-threatening. 

This story might have taken the "magic" a bit too far in the end, but still managed to do it without being sickeningly sweet.  Mostly.  ;-)

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (150 pgs.)

While traveling recently, I dug out my trusty Nook.  Hundreds of books in a small package is good for when I have to carry my own luggage!

It was interesting comparing the story of The Jungle Book to the movies.  I couldn't help but picture Jason Scott Lee as I was reading (which isn't all bad).  Though a "children's story", it captured my imagination quite well.

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks (212 pgs.)

Sparks is a popular contemporary author, so I decided to see what the fuss was about.  I have seen (and enjoyed) the movie for The Notebook, so I went with one that I know a friend of mine likes.

It was enjoyable.  A light, quick read, which is good now and again.  Reasonably predictable in the "tragic romance" category.  Touching without being tooooo sickening. 

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg (493 pgs.)

After being so enthralled by the folks in "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven" (come on!  Elner Shimfissle is a GREAT name.  Just say it!) I was drawn back to Fannie Flagg to find some more.  Imagine my thrill to discover this prequel to that story!  It was great to learn more about the background/ backstory of the folks in the other book.  These people are so real to me.  Not always happy.  Not always perfect.  Just real.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane (181 pages).

By Neil Gaiman.

Reading Gaiman is like stumbling through a half-remembered dream: fuzzy, beautiful, and vaguely terrifying. This is a quick, philosophical, and magic read. I love it.

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers, 344 pages

I picked up the first book of this Juvenille Fiction series because I had recently fallen in love with the author through her teen series, His Fair Assassin, which I have been blogging about. She chooses to separate her two authorly identities, in her Teen series being credited as Robin LaFevers.

Theodosia Throckmorton is a young girl living an extraordinary life in London. Her father is the lead curator at a small but well stocked Museum of Legends and Antiquities. Theodosia finds herself basically living at the museum, (inside a sarcophagus actually) due to her parents being focused more-so on the relics than on her care. This throws her life into turmoil at times because she has special gifts, she can sense and see things others cannot. Specifically for this book's purposes, she can see and feel the powerful ancient curses on Egyptian artifacts.

The book focuses on Egyptian legends, myths, and histories and is a very charming read. However, as a Children's Assistant, I would find this one a tough suggested title to most children. I do not know much about Ancient Egypt, but am sure that Ms. LaFevers has all of her facts straight as she is an ardent historical researcher for her fiction. These lovely anecdotes of the ancient past make for wonderful food for thought, but may not compel most young readers through the 344 pages. The action in the middle and at the end was well done and exciting, but most of it was, like the book's title, a bit slow to get through and convoluted. This would be the perfect read for a very brainy kid who doesn't mind a fairly thick book and enjoys a spunky heroine and a bit of adventure. I liked this one, but probably won't read on.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (336 pages)

This is a delightfully weird little book. There are so many strange characters, from a little girl locked in an attic to a ghost dog-cat (who knows if it's a dog or a cat, it's too blurry to tell!), a greedy, murderous stepmother and an evil, frustrated alchemist who has made (and lost!) the most powerful magic in all the world. And don't get me started on the missing sun, which has been hiding behind clouds and rain for over a thousand days!

I listened to this book (another Jim Dale read, I do adore him) and while I enjoyed it, it wasn't the most amazing thing I've ever read. I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Adventuress by Carole Nelson Douglas, 402 pages

The second book in the wonderfully done Irene Adler series. Re-reading them, I just fall deeper in love with this series. I'm excited to pick up the next one.

Good Night Mr. Holmes by Carole Nelson Douglas, 384 pages

This is one of my all-time favorite series, and while I was sick I wanted to read something enjoyable. This tells the story of Irene Adler from the Sherlock Holmes story "A Scandal in Bohemia" but from her viewpoint. Irene is an opera singer trying to make it, living in London, when she takes in the just fired Miss Penelope Huxleigh. Miss Huxleigh is the daughter of a deceased parson, and she's not sure what to make of American-born Irene Adler, but soon realizes she has a heart of gold. I can't say enough good things about this series, but I will be making my way back through the series.

Stone Angel by Carol O'Connell, 341 pages

Well, I made it to the book that dealt with Mallory's past. I'm just not a fan of this series, the mystery is way too convoluted, and then the author throws out a bunch of clues at the end to wrap it up. I made it through four books, I think I gave it a good go.

Killing Critics by Carol O'Connell, 534 pages

My supervisor at work really loves this series so I've been giving it a try. I'm just not totally into it. But the next book goes into Mallory's past, so I'm hanging on. Not a bad mystery series, just not my favorite.

Lethal Treasure by Jane Cleland, 296 pages

When you're sick, a good mystery can help take your mind off it. I really enjoy this series, it doesn't really require much of me.

The Tower Treasure by Franklin Dixon, 180 pages

I've been on a kick rereading some childhood favorites, so how could I not pick up The Hardy Boys. While dated and trite at times, still a good read.

Zombie Need Love Too by Mark Tatulli, 128 pages

My only regret with these Lio collections is that there aren't more of them. The cartoons are sick, twisted, funny, and sweet all at once, like my family.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (516 pages)

All of the words on the cover are true. Breathtaking. Dazzling. Enchanting. I loved this book so much, it hurt when it was finished.
I will admit that it has a slow start. This is one of those books that takes its time revealing the story. Everything about this book was beautiful. The words were beautiful, the setting was stunning, and the characters were so rich and interesting. I listened to this book through Overdrive, which was a first for me, and I felt mesmerized.
The basic plot is this: there are two very old illusionist/wizards who have two schools of thought on how magic should be taught and utilized. One believes it is a very structured, academic process and that anyone can be taught to harness and use magic. The other believes it is a natural thing, something that you have or you don't, something that should be flaunted and developed through experimentation. These two wizards each choose a pupil and bind them to each other in a game to see which one is best. They have been playing this game with each other for centuries. The story begins when one of the wizards finds out he has a daughter, and decides he wants her to be his next player, and the game begins again.

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens (448 pages)

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens is the second book in The Book of Beginning trilogy.

In this series, there are three orphaned siblings who are the three children of a prophecy. These children are destined to find The Books of Beginning and bring them together. These are books that were written by the greatest and most powerful wizards in the beginning of time, and they wrote down the knowledge of how the world, the knowledge of how the world was created. The first book, the emerald atlas (ie. book 1) belongs to Kate, the eldest sister, and it controls time and space. This book is about the second book, the fire chronicle, which belongs to Michael, the middle child. I won't go into more detail than that, because I don't want to spoil anything.

I adore this series. There are wizards, elves, and dwarves and they all live in our world without us knowing it! It's magical and mysterious and deliciously adventurous and made for an excellent audiobook. I highly recommend this series, especially as it is read by Jim Dale.

Fairyland by Alysia Abbott, 324 pages

Over the past two decades, my love for National Public Radio has introduced me to some terrific authors. Now I can add another name to that list: Alysia Abbott. A few months ago, I tuned in to my daily lunchtime treat, “Fresh Air with Terry Gross,” and became riveted by the story of a single father raising his daughter. It’s not an uncommon situation, but Alysia was a rare creature: She was raised by an openly gay father in San Francisco in the ‘70s and ‘80s, decades that saw tremendous advances but also great tragedies for the gay and lesbian community. Years later, when AIDS claimed Steve Abbott’s life, he left behind a sizeable body of work – poetry, novels, essays and, perhaps most important, letters and journals. Those letters and journals, deeply personal glimpses into his daily life, would provide the basis for Alysia Abbott’s “Fairyland: a Memoir of My Father.” Her moving account of their life together is not simply a story of growing up with a gay father. It’s one of “otherness,” born of the absence of a maternal presence after her mother’s untimely death, of moving almost exclusively in the adult world of writers and activists as a child, of living an itinerant, poor, bohemian existence. “Dad and I weren’t just odd, we were set apart,” she confesses. “As ridiculous and pretentious as this might sound, I sincerely believed and needed to believe that our position in bohemia was born of our separation and that the pain of our separation could be redeemed by our brand of bohemia.” Like many parent-child relationships, theirs was a complex one. Alysia loved her father fiercely, but she alternately pushed him away and pulled him closer. Even during her father’s final days in hospice, she profoundly resented his neediness and dependence on her, yet, understandably, his death devastated her. Through Alysia and Steve’s navigation of life and their relationship, the reader witnesses history being made. Early in “Fairyland,” Steve Abbott is compelled to become a gay-rights activist in the wake of the Stonewall Riots. The city the pair chooses as home, San Francisco, becomes the epicenter for events that would shock a nation and change our world: the murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the mass suicides at Jonestown, the appearance of AIDS and its explosion from a few mysterious illnesses to an epidemic that would decimate a community and a generation. The Abbotts have front-row seats to the devastation AIDS would bring. “Soon the young men ... would age before our eyes, shrinking beneath thick layers of scarves and sweaters and wool caps. They walked with canes or were pushed in wheelchairs, their vitality snuffed out, feathers plucked clean,” Alysia remembers. Through it all, there is tremendous love between father and daughter, as well as tremendous loss. When Alysia describes the moment she realizes the severity of her father’s illness – he has sent her a letter detailing his plummeting T-cell count – I couldn’t breath for a moment as I felt a small portion of her grief. When she writes of his final hours, I wept, not just for her, but for so many, including myself, who have lost people to AIDS. While I read “Fairyland,” it struck me how very lucky Alysia is to have her father’s journals and letters, a strange sentiment, I suppose, considering their challenging life together and her ambivalence about his obsession with writing. However, she does recognize the preciousness of her inheritance, acknowledging, “Until this chapter, I’ve relied on my father’s journals and published work to understand the nature of his creative passions, addictions, and relationships, but rereading these letters I feel him right here with me, like a beloved whispering in my ear.” Like her father, Alysia Abbott has a gift for language. Sometimes her writing is painfully blunt. Other times, she crafts sentences containing such lovely imagery that I often stopped to ponder what I’d just read. In describing a discussion she overhears between her father, the daughter of Jack Kerouac and the writer Richard Brautigan, she writes, “I’ve held on to the memory of this conversation like a stone in my pocket, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger until it’s become flat and smooth.” I prize books like Alysia Abbott’s. They’re well-written and honest, and they move me. If that experience appeals to you, look for “Fairyland” at the Joplin Public Library. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Against Medical Advice by James Patterson and Hal Friedman -- 298 pgs

I found this book in the seat pocket of my plane on a recent trip to visit family out West.  It looked intriguing, and it was.  I finished the book during the two legs of my trip home.

Cory woke up one morning, a normal four year old.  By the afternoon he had the urge to shake his head.  This begins his trip into a life of Tourette Syndrome and OCD.  Over the course of his years he and his family had to battle the medical establishment and the educational system to do what was best for him.

It chronicles the story of Cory's trip to hell and eventual ascent into life. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sky Pirates of Neo Terra by Josh Wagner, Art by Camilla D'Errico (128 pgs)

Sky Pirates of Neo Terra by Josh Wagner, Art by Camilla D'Errico
Neo Terra is a world of tribes, magic, and fast-flying Glidewings. Much entertainment and importance surrounds Glidewing races. For years, the Pirate King has been undefeated, but this year young and reckless Billy may finally break the streak.

But first, Billy has to face the Pirate King to rescue a friend's father... Once the adventure begins, Billy soon discovers that the Pirate King is the least of his worries. Will the Forgotten Isle and the evil that lurks there be too much for Billy and his friends?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, 387 pages

Last month I blogged about my love for the first book in this, His Fair Assassin trilogy, Grave Mercy. This title is set in the same world at the same time but focuses on a different daughter of Mortain, Sybella. The characters are interlinked with those from the first novel and woven throughout. This plot takes place directly following the events of the first, so I don't want to give away plot points from the first book trying to explain this one.

I really enjoyed this installment. However, I felt that it took a long time for the action to get going. Also, the environment that Sybella is in is bleak and twisted, so the first third of the book is a bit hard to slog through, waiting for her to be able to make her move. I'm excited for the third book which is not released until 2014 (or maybe later...) But if you enjoy kick-butt heroines or historical (1400s Brittany) fiction, these books are lots of fun.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turn Around Bright Eyes (270 pages).

By Rob Sheffield.

Rob is my favoritest music writer. He likes Depeche Mode, he sings karaoke, he writes about women as if they're complex goddesses and about music with emotion and simplicity. His books never disappoint.

The Vagina Monologues, the V-Day Edition, by Eve Ensler, 185 pages

Vagina Vagina Vagina! I love The Vagina Monologues, I love V-Day's mission to end violence against women and to promote respect and reverence to women, girls, and to their lady parts. If you've never been to a performance, go! V-Day is on Valentine's Day, so that's usually when many groups do a production of The Vagina Monologues (MSSU does it here). You can borrow my copy of the book, if you're so inclined. One Billion Rising. End of Violence. Vagina. Victory!!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, 391 pages

I love this trilogy and can't wait to read the next title. Katniss Everdeen is my kind of hero! She's brave, smart, strong, a nature girl, and a rebel. My favorite line came at the beginning when she was talking with President Snow about her perceived rebellion against "the system." She says, "It must be very fragile, if a handful of berries can bring it down." Loved this book.

A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story by Brnda Ashford, 304 pages

The true story of who has been termed Britain's longest-serving nanny, Brenda Ashford. She was trained at the Norland College, an institute for British nannies, and has cared for more than 100 children. She started before World War II and has seen significant changes in society, women's rights and childcare throughout her long career. A little bit Mary Poppins and a little bit Super Nanny, this was an interesting and entertaining read.

Child Sense by Priscilla J Dunstan (*170 pages)

I found this book while doing my August shelf reading and boy, am I glad I did.

You may have heard of the author Priscilla Dunstan already--she's the founder of "Dunstan Baby Language" and she believes she has unlocked the secret to understanding newborn babies' cries.  She appeared on Oprah and was the talk of the parenting community for a while. 

In her latest offering she focuses on the five senses in an effort to help parents understand how their children interact with the world.  It is her belief that children have a dominate sense and if we know what that is it is easier to form bonds with our children and understand their behavior.

I was hooked from page one.  First you identify your child's sense mode and then you identify your own.  Not that you and your child can't have characteristics from more than one pool, you can, but most everyone has a dominate sense that is the strongest.  

Surprisingly, everyone in my household has a stronger Tactile sense.  Tactile kids are usual social, active, and when trying to get them to do something, "mental persuasion" is usually the way to go.  Tactile kids love be given jobs and imitate the big people in their lives.  Which explains why my little guy loves to sweep, mop and vacuum.

This book was really helpful to me.  I only wish I had found it about a year ago.  If you have a baby or young children I highly recommend you read it.      

*Note: The book has 288 pages, but I only read the sections that I though pertained to my family. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America by Leslie Zemeckis, 360 pages

This was an extremely fascinating read covering Burlesque from it's early start in the 1880s up to it's dying breath in the 1960s. A lot of famous comedians got their start doing burlesque shows, including Abbot and Costello and Red Buttons, with Alan Alda even growing up offstage watching his dad be a straight man to comedians. This indepth look includes a multitude of interviews with former dancers, strippers, comedians, singers (one type was even called a tit singer), and club owners. Burlesque was considered an act or art form, until flashing become the norm and it started a downhill slide. Shows were a cheap entertainment, especially during the Depression where a man could get hours of variety entertainment for very little money. I hadn't realized that circuses of the time featured burlesque shows as well. I have a new appreciation for a truly American art that has started to feature a comeback, but will never enjoy a heyday like it did in the early 1900s.

Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead, 310 pages

As a fan of anything English, historical, and with a non-fiction bent, I was all set to love this book that followed the career of Harry Gordon Selfridge, the man who really brought the department store to England. Unfortunately, this wasn't a bad read, it just wasn't a great read. While it was interesting to see how Selfridge made shopping at his store an entertainment experience, and changed how Londoners shopped, this book just didn't grab me. I will say it could be the fact that I was sick at the time, so please pick this book up with an open mind.

Discover Europe (844 pages)

This is part of the Lonely Planet books and it was amazing to look at. My family and I love to travel and I enjoyed looking at all the pictures and daydreaming of all the trips that I want to take in my life time. I really enjoyed how the book is broken up into regional areas and had a special page on how to prepare your travels to that region broken down into "6 Months before," "Month of," Week of" etc which is very helpful. If you love to travel this book is worth just looking at, or maybe if you have never left the country this book might inspire you to take a trip and pack your bags.

Saving Savvy:Smart and easy eays to cut your spending in half and rasie your standard of living and giving by Kelly Hancock (217 pages)

Style Me Vintage: Wedding: an inspirational guide to stlyinh the perfect vintage wedding by Annabel Beefoth (176 pages)

This book caught my attention with the stunning pictures on the cover and with a quick thumb through all the amazing pictures on the inside as well. I am already married and I am not planning a wedding but this book was great just for the pictures and the history of how clothing in general has evolved. This books looks at and discusses the overall fashion trends in clothing, makeup and wedding styles from the Edwardian era to the 1970's. I really enjoyed all the historical photographs along with current photos of modern day brides who had a vintage weddings. If you are planning the big day or even just want a little history on fashion then you will enjoy this book.

Mary, Queen of Scots, queen without a country by Kathryn Lasky (202 pages)

This is book that was written for young readers. It is part of a series were all the books are written in a diary format. This was a quick  and easy book and yet was very informative. I really enjoyed how the author included actual time lines, photos and additional information Mary and her family. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Get Real by Mara Rockcliff (112 pages)

I found this little gem of a book in the Teen section of our library and I was thrilled to see a book like this written and geared towards teens. I enjoyed reading this book and the humorous approach the writer took while addressing a very real problem in our world, our desire and need for more and more stuff. I hope this books finds its way into the hands of many teens and even adults who want to help clean up our world to leave a better greener world for the future generations.

Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster, 110 pages

I've been re-reading some of the amazing children's fiction that was written around 100 years ago, especially those featuring spunky female characters. Jerusha (Patty) Abbott was an orphan girl, who at 17 was given the chance to go to college to become a writer through the beneficence of a anonymous donor. Patty got a glimpse of "Mr. Smith", and titles him Daddy Long Legs in the monthly letters she writes him. Patty grabs hold of each and every experience, gathering happiness after what has been a long drought in the orphanage. She is determined to gain all she can through college, and become a self sufficient writer as soon as possible. Her letters to Daddy Long Legs soon start to alter his hands off approach, and Patty's enthusiasm for life and those around her works it's magic on him. This is yet another classic that leaves the reader smiling, and serves as a good example of the wonderful literature dating from the early twentieth century.

Cut to the Bone by Jefferson Bass, 368 pages

This book serves as a prequel for the Bill Brockton series and shows the creation of the Body Farm, and his first encounter with a deadly serial killer. In 1992 Bill Brockton is the head of the Anthropology Department at the University of Tennessee, and is upset by the lack of proper guidelines for proving time of death. So he creates a rather macabre research facility devoted to studying the decay of bodies after death. Meanwhile, Dr. Brockton is called in to help investigate some deaths that bear an uncanny resemblance to previous cases. Soon Dr. Brockton realizes he is in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a serial killer out for revenge. And the game could end up costing him all he loves along with his life.
This series is a must read for fans of Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, along with any CSI fanatics. The authors use their background to create a realistic and attention-grabbing book, that has the reader eagerly turning each page.

Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, 320 pages

I've been hooked on Gail Carriger since her Soulless series. So when I discovered she had a new teen series set in the same world, it was a must read. This steampunk spy series features a finishing school for ladies that trains them to be the best spies. It's filled with intrigue, humor, and a great steampunk twist on Regency romance and paranormal creatures.

What gloves go best with foxglove poison? What is the seating arrangement for a deadly dinner party? Sophronia is sure to discover the answers to these pressing problems at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Her first year was a success in that she survived, and Sophronia is determined to continue her winning streak. A field trip to London though promises adventure and intrigue that could take down a nation, along with ending Sophronia's life, or worse, leaving her in public with a wrinkled dress.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory, 544 pages

Nobody does English history like Philippa Gregory. Princess Elizabeth of York has lost her father, her brothers have died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and she is waiting to see who her husband will be. The candidates are Richard III or Henry Tudor. When Richard falls at Bosworth, Elizabeth is slated to marry Henry to help legitimatize his rule. But their marriage promises to be no love match, especially with Henry's ambitious mother calling the shots. Henry struggles to hold onto England, a country that remembers and loves the York rule with fondness. Henry's overwhelming fear is that there is still a York claimant (or pretender) waiting to take his throne. Elizabeth must decide whether her loyalty is to her husband and children, or to what may be a possibly long-lost brother.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge, 400 pages

This was a really intriguing look at servants in Britain from the 1800s up to modern times, including their relationships with each other and the families they served. It was amazing how fast the system collapsed after WWII, though it was on it's last legs after WWI. Servants were considered indispensable, yet required to be invisible. The different types of servants, the attitudes toward them, and how long it took for society to accept women's changing roles are all discussed in this fascinating book. This is a must read for fans of all things Britain and Downton Abbey.

Undead and Unsure by Mary Janice Davidson, 301 pages

I've been reading this vampire series since the very first book, and it has definitely taken a much darker turn, but I'm glad to see that this book lightened up a little. Though I almost hate reading the last chapter anymore in these books, there always seems to be some dark, depressing twist.

Big Nate Flips Out by Lincoln Peirce, 216 pages

I'm just as hooked on the Big Nate series as my kids are. So I was excited to see that I could get the newest Big Nate book as a review book through Night Owl Reviews. It was funny as always, it was nice to have the comic fleshed out with more of a storyline than they can do in the newspaper.

Ella of All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, 133 pages

This was the final book in a really sweet children's series. While I enjoyed all the books, I felt like this one just didn't measure up to the previous books.