Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd




Midnight Gulch used to be a town with magic—a town where people could bake secrets into pies, sing up rainstorms, and catch shadows.  Currently the town’s welcome sign reads, “Midnight Gulch, Tennessee—a proper place to call home” but as Felicity Pickle, her wanderlust mother, and her younger sister drive their dilapidated van, affectionately know as the Pickled JalapeƱo, into town, she can see through the layers of paint that the sign used to boast, “Midnight Gulch, Tennessee—a magical place to call home.” 

The idea of magic is an exciting one to Felicity.  She hopes that with the help of Midnight Gulch’s magic and a little luck she will finally be able to make her dream of finding a place to call home come true.

Twelve-year-old Felicity possesses a “snicker of magic” of her own. She has a unique gift that allows her to see words that people are thinking or feeling.  She glimpses words everywhere—looped above people’s heads, perched on bookshelves, streaming down walls, and shining in windows—and the words, at least the interesting ones, have personalities of their own.  Some dance, some sparkle, some fly, and many showcase themselves in color—polka dots, zebra stripes, and neon hues. 

It is through her magical word collecting that she meets and befriends Jonah, an amazing boy who uses his alter ego—the Beedle—to secretly help people in the community.  According to his grandmother, he has a knack for “fixing what’s ailing” folks and he is making good on his promise not to waste his “know-how.” 

It is with the help of Jonah’s “know-how” and his unfailing friendship that Felicity discovers the town’s magical past and learns the complete story of the feuding Brothers Threadbare, their ill-fated romances, and a mysterious curse.  A curse that Felicity believes is the key to changing her mother’s wandering ways.

Debut author Natalie Lloyd’s foray into the world of children’s literature is charming.  Lloyd’s ability to weave together tidbits from several seemingly separate stories to form a cohesive thread is inspired and clever.  Combined that with her use of language and description and her book comes alive, much like Felicity’s collected words.  Captivating characters steal the show and one would be hard-pressed not to discover someone to adore in this enchanting story about friendship, perseverance, and ultimately, love. 


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, 390 pages

An England where ghosts are prevalent and sometimes cause death through ghost-touch. Most adults are unable to see them, so ghost fighters are children. Lockwood & Co. is made up of 3 youngsters not afraid to face those things that go bump in the night. This was extremely dark, but a great read.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks -- 398 pages

Told in alternating viewpoints, this tells the story of two couples -- one at the end of their journey, and the other just beginning their journey.  Though not connected in any way, the two sets of lives intersect each others.

Luke is a bull rider; Sophia is a college student.  Ira is a 91 year old Jewish man whose wife, Ruth, has been dead nine years.

Interject rodeos, college life, car wrecks, art collecting.

In typical Sparks fashion, it's kind of sappy, but enjoyable.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, 320 pages

This book was a wonderful treat. Our book club read it, and I was delighted to find how much I enjoyed it. It made me want to make sure my husband and I don't grow apart.

She's Turning Into One of Them! by Lynn Johnston, 136 pages

I made my 13-year-old read this, way too close to home.

Seniors' Discount by Lynn Johnston, 143 pages

Luckily I'm still a few years and a few gray hairs away from the senior's discount.

Home Sweat Home by Lynn Johnston, 127 pages

I could emphasize with Elly and John in moving to a new place. I drove my husband crazy when we were house hunting, because I kept talking about finding a place we could grow old in.

Just a Simple Wedding by Lynn Johnston, 119 pages

This was the final collection, it was hard to say good bye to all the characters.

Teaching is a Learning Experience by Lynn Johnston, 143 pages

I'd forgotten how good the later strips were. It's been fun watching the kids grow up.

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming, 294 pages

Linda had reviewed this for our weekly newspaper reviews, and was raving about it. Alan Cumming's childhood was pretty horrendous, and I can understand cutting a parent out of your life. He seems to have used the bad parts to help push himself forward.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How to be a Woman (320 pages).

by Caitlin Moran.

Re"read" this book as an audiobook this week. SO. FREAKING. GOOD. This is THE feminist book as far as I'm concerned. Readable, funny, and smart.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice, 458 pages

Finally Anne Rice has returned to Lestat, after a hiatus writing books about the early Christian faith. This was a wonderful book, a return to the writing that made me fall in love with Lestat back as a teenager. This book is filled with more vampires than ever, telling us there early day stories and seeing them in the current world. I'm seriously considering buying a copy of this book to keep on my shelf along with Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Time and Again by Jack Finney (304 pgs)

I have probably reviewed this before because I have read and re-read this one SO many times.  The story is good and the concept is fascinating.  Time always is.  There isn't past, present, future.  It is possible to move between them because they always there.

Simon Morley learns how to move from 1972 to 1882 by separating himself from the ties that bind him to his current time.  He goes back intending to just observe, but finds how difficult it is to not become involved in the reality that these are real, living people.

And then it becomes apparent that the military is involved.

Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield (174 pgs.)

Mix tapes mean different things to different people.  Personally, I think the best ones are those made when sitting next to the radio with a tape recorder waiting for THE right song to come on, but they come in many different forms and styles.  These days, they are rarely even tapes.

This story follows the storyteller's life through memories brought on by a collection of mix tapes.  Each chapter begins with an image of the tape including the full play list.

Blankets by Craig Thompson (582 pgs)

I chose this book based on a review that I had read.

The premise in the somewhat auto-biographical book is to follow the path through the writer's life with the importance of various blankets as the tie together.  The story is quite interesting, though often disturbing or downright depressing.  The experience of religion in his younger years was law oriented and oppressive.  It made me sad to read it.

This book is an adult graphic novel.  The themes place it there quite rightly.

The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde (405 pgs)

Book 3 in the Chronicles of Kazam series.  I am glad to say that there is promise of more to come.

The story follows Jennifer Strange and her NOT a quest (or is it) for the legendary Eye of Zoltar in a deal made with The Mighty Shandar.

There are twists and turns as always in Fforde's writing, but you never quite know which way the twist is going to turn.  The end was not what I was expecting.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Boy: Tales of Childhood, by Roald Dahl 160 pages

Roald Dahl is one of my all time favorite authors. I came across this "not quite autobiography" while shelving and was thrilled to read it.

Fables: Camelot by Bill Willingham, 256 pages

This series has me so invested in the characters. I welled up at the scene between Bigby and Dare. It's hard waiting for each new collection to come out.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Drama by Raina Telgemeier, 233 pages

I love Telgemeier's graphic novels. They ring so true, with all the highs and lows of being a preteen and teen. I would love my youngest daughter to read this, with her love of acting and involvement in school plays, but being a teenager, she won't read anything I recommend. Maybe I can sneakily get our teen librarian to recommend it. I would love for Samantha to have Callie's confidence, but I see so much of Sam in the crushes, and feeling like gay theater guys would make better boyfriends, except for that whole liking boys thing, lol.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Not My Father's Son (305 pages).

by Alan Cumming

I feel a bit like a tragedy whore reading (and enjoying) this book. It's mostly about Cumming's abuses from his father throughout his life and it is horrific. I wouldn't be able to withstand reading the descriptions of violence had I been subjected to similar treatment as a child, so I would NOT recommend reading this if you had the misfortune of an abusive parent. My father was no peach, but his abuses of me were almost exclusively verbal and I got away from him early in life, at 13.

Disclaimers and oddly personal revelations aside, this book was moving and truly a tale of the perseverance of the human "spirit". I listened to the audiobook version read by the author, making it feel even more moving and personal. Good on you, Alan, for making a life from the ashes of a decimated childhood.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier, 214 pages

This reminded me so much of my ordeals with braces. I love these books.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, 186 pages

I brought home the graphic novel for my daughter to read, but I'm incapable of having a book enter my house without me reading it. While I didn't enjoy it as much as the movie (and I hate to say that) it was still a dark and creepy read.

The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson, 117 pages

The Herdmans are at it again, this time, their shenanigans could cost the whole town trick-or-treating.

The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson, 117 pages

My daughter is going to be in the Christmas play, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" so I'd re-read the book. Then I discovered there was a sequel. While I felt like the book covered some of the same ground as the first book, it was still funny and an enjoyable read.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money by Geneen Roth, 253 pages

Death Overdue by Mary Lou Kirwin, 261 pages

This book features how I would most likely be murdered, found beneath a knocked over bookcase. I would say this is how my husband would "find me" since we have 2 tall and wide bookcases that are heavily loaded with alphabetized books.
Karen Nash is back in England with her "boyfriend" Caldwell Perkins, trying to decide if she's ready to completely uproot her life by moving to England fulltime and opening an used bookstore with him. But before she's ready to make a decision, his old girlfriend shows up, only to end up dead with a day. Now with the investigators looking at either Caldwell or her as main suspects, Karen must figure out how the killer is, before she ends up under a pile of books herself.
This is the second book in this series and I love them both. I can't wait for the author to write more, I really enjoy the characters passion for books.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Rosie Project (295 pages).

by Graeme Simsion.

This is basically a Nora Ephron-style rom-com with an autistic (though never explicitly stated as such) male and a Manic Pixie Dream Girl....but wait!

It's GOOD. Like really good. And Rosie, the MPDG has depth and is a feminist and while she does perform the function of a typical MPDG, she isn't solely there to prop up the dude or provide contrast to his craziness. She has her own sets of crazy and is fully realized.

For the movie I'd like the casting to be reimagined as a lesbian couple with Ruth Negga (I'd also accept Rosario Dawson) as Dawn and Zooey Deschanel as Rosie. Make that happen please, Hollywood!

Love is a Mix Tape (240 pages).

by Rob Sheffield.

This is one of my top five all time favorite books. It has everything I look for in a book:

*frank and not-too-pervasive angst (dealing with the loss of a wife at a young age)

*music (each chapter begins with the playlist from a cassette and everything in the book is told through the lens of the music Rob loves)

*a larger-than-life female protagonist

Just reread this for a book club and I loved every word of it...again. Also just acquired the Audible version of the audiobook read by the author and it's spectacular.

The Selection by Kiera Cass -- 336 pgs

Think The Bachelor meets Princess Diaries meets Survivor.  Taking place in the former USA many years in the future, it is a nation of castes.  From Ones (royalty) to Eights (almost untouchables).  The Prince is of an age to select a bride.  It is their custom the Prince chooses a bride  from the commoners.  One person is selected from each state/province(?).  They come to live at the palace and are eliminated by choice, circumstances, behavior, or the Prince until one remains. 

America Singer is a Five chosen to represent her area.  She has a love interest, unknown to all, that is a caste below her.  She wants to marry him.  He wants to marry her.  He encourages American to apply for the Selection, because he doesn't want to feel like he has held her back.  Then, abruptly, he decides he cannot propose to her, because of the hardships it will cause for America.

America goes to the palace and thus begins a life that includes palace intrigue, rebel forces attacking the palace, and a Prince that is not what she thought.

Unfortunately, this is a series, and I didn't know it ahead of time.  It was just a random checkout that was available on MP3 the day I was searching for something to listen to on Overdrive.  Now, I'm on hold for the remaining titles.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee, 260 pages

This was a wonderful first entry in what I hope becomes a long series. Maura Beth Mayhew has been the director of Cherico, Mississippi, library for 6 years and while the library hasn't taken off, it's struggled along. But when the city council decides to close the library and use the money to develop an industrial park, Maura Beth decides to fight with all she has. Founding the Cherry Cola Book Club, Maura Beth must raise circulation to keep the library doors open.

Reality Check by Lynn Johnston, 136 pages

I've really enjoyed watching Michael and his wife deal with the early days of marriage and parenthood.

Striking a Chord by Lynn Johnston, 128 pages

Another fun collection.

Graduation A Time for Change by Lynn Johnston, 136 pages

I love seeing the kids grow up in this series. I feel like Lynn Johnston has captured a lot of my life.

Starting From Scratch by Lynn Johnston, 140 pages

These are a great way to wind down before bed, they funny and relaxing.

French Pastry Murder by Leslie Meier, 280 pages

Another case of murder following Lucy Stone. The cops really ought to just have someone follow her around, as many bodies as she stumbles over. I would think twice about hanging out with her socially.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, 254 pages

I love anything that is a behind the scenes look, especially if it deals with odd topics. So when I'd seen Jacque's review for this book about working at a crematory, I had to pick it up. It was well written and really interesting.

The Vanishing Thief by Kate Parker, 296 pages

Set in Victorian London, this book follows the adventures of Georgia Fenchurch, owner of an antiquarian bookstore and private investigator. Called to look into the disappearance of a man who turns out to be not so nice, Georgia and the other members of the Archivist Society will come close to losing their lives before this mystery is solved.
This wasn't a bad book, just not one of the best I've read. But I'm going to read the second book and see if the author finds her feeting a little better.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lod of the Libraries by Mel Odom, 384 pages

It had been a few years since I'd read this series. I'd forgotten how much it resembles The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. I'm excited to find out there is an additional trilogy that follows.

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton, 294 pages

I love M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin series, but I'm starting to feel sorry for Agatha. I would like to see her actually be happy, instead of constantly getting beat down. I love the fact that Agatha never feels sorry for herself for long but continues to get back up and fight.

Family Business by Lynn Johnston, 144 pages

I love seeing Elly and John start a new passion, while watching their kids grow up.

It's All Downhill From Here by Lynn Johnston, 126 pages

Another fun look back at the early days of this strip.

Growing Like a Weed by Lynn Johnston, 144 pages

Looking at the strips of April growing up makes me miss those days with my youngest, but not enough to do it again!

Middle Age Spread by Lynn Johnston, 127 pages

All I can say is that there is no way my husband and I are adding another kid to our mix this late in life like Elly and John.

Sunshine and Shadow by Lynn Johnston, 127 pages

I think I enjoy the later strips more and more, because they reflect my life more and more.