Thursday, December 17, 2009

Most Popular Books at PCHS

I've been librarian at PCHS for five years and sometimes like to look at interesting statistics. It's the former math major in me! Today I ran the Popular Titles report, and look what I found! I'm just thrilled that the Meyer titles don't rule the roost--and you can really tell what books I push on the kids--Colasanti, Dessen, Leitch, Runyon, Green. I'll be honest and say that I never blogged about the Meyer or Cast books. But the rest of them I've read and enjoyed and earn me the title book pusher....

Most Checkouts and Renewals
1. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
2. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
3. Marked: a House of Night by P.C. Cast
4. When It Happens by Susanne Colasanti
5. The Glass Castle: a Memoir by Jeanette Walls
6. Catch by Will Leitch
7. The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon
8. New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
9. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
10. Looking for Alaska by John Green
11. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
12. Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte
13. The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
14. Cut by Patricia McCormick
15. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell

This colorful adult graphic novel surprised me because it isn't a cute and fluffy read like the bright colors suggest. It's a memoir, describing Sandell's relationship with her father. Growing up, she idolized him because his stories were larger than life. He met celebrities and heads of state. He was a hero in Vietnam and graduated from NYU and Columbia and had taught at Stanford. But he also had bad days--grumpy, mean, and depressed. Sandell's world revolved around his father and his moods. As a result, she had negative relationships with men in college and as an adult, even as she became a successful writer.

Eventually she decides to interview her father for a feature story and her doubt grows. She checks her sources and finds inconsistencies and people angry with her father for stealing their money. Hence the title of the book (so I'm not giving away any plot by revealing what the title does). Her world falls apart as her father drops off his pedestal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, Narrated by Rachel Botchman

I always read Sarah Dessen's books and recommend her quite often to high school girls looking for a dramatic or romantic read. This YA novel kind of disappointed me though, mainly because of the slow pace and the constant referral to bikes. Um, I'm not into bicycles.

Auden is seventeen and raised mainly by her mother, an uptight and overbearing professor. Her father has been mainly absent from her life since the divorce a few years ago, but Auden decides to go live with him and his new wife and baby for the summer at the beach. While she plans on studying for her college classes to get a head start, she ends up finding herself a better life. She ends up socializing for the first time in her life, finding some good girlfriends and a boy to love.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb

Need a Christmas gift for your grandma? Buy her this book! Wally Lamb has already produced two of Oprah's book club books, so he's already popular with the ladies. In this holiday tale, it's 1964 and Felix Funicello is attending Catholic school. Think A Christmas Story and Chris Crutcher's autobiography all rolled into one. I laughed and giggled while reading this book and think that anyone who lived in the '60's would appreciate it. And, no, kids, I didn't live in the 1960's. This is a great stocking stuffer!

The Local News by Miriam Gershow

Teenager Lydia Pasternak is torn. Her parents ignore her so she can stay out late and drive without a driver's license. The popular kids at school are starting to pay attention to her. She's getting invited to parties and the dance team captain wants to be-friend her. But in this case, popularity has its price. Lydia's older brother is missing. Lydia's mother is organizing searches and the football players wear black bands on their jerseys. Lydia is torn. She's trying to help find her brother, but a little voice in the back of her head wonders if she's glad he's missing. After all, he bullied and teased her. His friends called her flat-chested and hazed her in the hallways when Danny was present. But now that he's missing, everything has changed.

In a quiet way, this adult novel tells a sad tale. What happened to Danny? What will happen to Lydia? Her parents? The private investigator? I had to read this in two sittings to find out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

I absolutely love it when a book isn't what I expected. I knew Zeitoun was about a family in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and, um, I wasn't too interested in reading it. But, whoa, did I get sucked into Abdulrahman Zeitoun's life. He is a respected contractor who has lived in New Orleans for years. He stays in the city during the evacuation so that he can check on his properties and help people out. And, so he does. For days, he uses his canoe to paddle around the neighborhoods, feeding dogs and rescuing people stranded in their homes. But eventually everyone starts to leave the city. Looters are everywhere and people are getting desparate, even the officers. Zeitoun is arrested for something. Um, really, something. He isn't really told what he's arrested for and he doesn't even get to call his wife or a lawyer. He's kept in a makeshift prison/kennel in the Greyhound station and taken to a maximum security prison north of town. He's denied medical treatment, denied his phone call, and accused of being Taliban and a terrorist. Ha! I'm embarrassed by how this good man was treated by Americans responsible for upholding our laws. Eggers doesn't preach as he writes this book and never even mentions George Bush, but the reader is allowed to draw his or her own conclusions. To me--corruption. New Orleans=corruption.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, Narrated by a Full Cast

I must admit that I'm getting sick of Picoult's books, and this one really did almost make me sick. I just couldn't understand the reason why the mother in the book was filing the lawsuit. Her daughter was born with brittle bone disease and the mother sues her obstetrician with a wrongful birth lawsuit. Um, her daughter is alive and kicking. Yes, the daughter Willows has lots of broken bones, but she's brilliant and vibrant and a great kid. So I couldn't see how the mother could assume Willow wouldn't know about the lawsuit. I'm sure glad money isn't worth that much to me. I could never do what the mother does in this book. I was grimacing when I was listening to the audiobook. I can't even vary my sentence structure as I try to review this book because I was so disgusted by the character who lost just everything in her book to get money. Ugh. I think this might have successfully kicked Jodi Picoult books out of my reading lists.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Peter & Max: a Fables novel by Bill Willingham

I've never read the Fables graphic novels, but I'm going to have to hunt them down now! This adult fantasy novel is a twisted fairy tale but is a stand-alone novel in the graphic novel series world.

Everyone has heard of Peter Piper, but Willingham can really tell his tale. Peter and his brother Max are the sons of a traveling piper, but the invasion of the Empire leads them to run away to the Black Forest. Terrible things happen there. Max is selfish and downright evil, while Peter is everything bright and good. Each chapter switches from modern-day Peter and Max to childhood Peter and Max, and the two tales come together in quite the climax. The beautiful dark illustrations by Steve Leialoha help tell the tale and make me want to read the rest of their graphic novels. Anyone who can make Peter Piper marry Bo Peep and have them both be trained assassins is an awesome author in my eyes!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

If you haven't read Hunger Games yet, read it! And make sure you have this copy checked out, too, because you'll want to read it immediately!

And now I'm sad. Because I have to wait for the third book in the trilogy. :(

(Spoilers if you haven't read the first book...)

Katniss and Peeta were the first co-winners of the Hunger Games and the Capitol is threatened by their popularity. You wouldn't know it by the newscasts, but some districts are starting to revolt. The Capitol wants to use the next Hunger Games to squash the rebellion so, um, guess what? Something very, very surprising and dramatic happens. I'm not telling. You have to read this book. I really like Katniss because of her awesomeness. Yes, she is that cool. :D

Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch

I do enjoy reading books with different settings, so I was glad to see that this adult novel started in inner-city Los Angeles and ended up in Unalakleet, Alaska. Just that journey makes a good story! Cesar is a white boy with a Hispanic name, running with Latino gangs in L.A. His older brother is doing the same, and ends up in prison for life for multiple offenses and murder. Cesar's Alaskan native mom doesn't want the same for her other boy and moves them up to Alaska.

Cesar isn't exactly someone you like, once you find out his past history. But his cousin Go-boy is very likable, even though you know his mental health is iffy. The two cousins form a friendship and lean on each to survive. Cesar's narrative is jumpy--traveling back and forth in time, and I'm not sure my high school readers would put up with the unevenness. I had to keep reading to figure out what happened though. The story held my attention though, even when the writing style did not.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Identical by Ellen Hopkins, Read by Laura Flanagan

We're pretty excited here at PCHS that Ellen Hopkins is coming to visit in the Spring. So I'm frantically reading the rest of her books that I haven't read! I listened to the audio version of this verse novel, so I know I missed out on the visual representation of the words on the page, but I don't think I missed much of the action. And this novel had lots of it.

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical twins who lead a picture-perfect life to the public. Mom is running for Congress and Dad is a judge. But Daddy really likes his daughter. Really likes her. As in visiting her room at night. Raeanne is the tough girl who rebels by dating trouble-making boys, while Kaeligh is the good girl daddy likes. Both girls are looking for love and having a difficult time surviving. Kaeleigh starts cutting to control the pain and Raeanne uses drugs to feel better. Of course, everything comes crashing down. One of the girls has to break. And she does. There is quite the twist at the end--I won't give it away but let me know if you recognized the clues!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr.

2010 Alex Award Winner!

I'm not a big fan of apocalyptic novels (see Life as We Knew It), so this adult novel was a bit of struggle with me. Especially when the narrator started out in the womb. Let's see if I can remember all the books I've read lately with that concept....Conception....and I know there are one or two more out there that I can't remember right now. What this book did have going for it was its different construction. The main narrator is Junior Thibodeau, who is born knowing the world will be destroyed in thirty-six years. He also "knows" things about people and is truly gifted intellectually. But he also hears voices in his head. His mother occasionally narrates, as does his brother, who ends up being a star professional baseball player after recovering from cocaine addiction as a child. Yes, I said child. Add is a strong, silent father and a girlfriend who loves Junior in spite of his strangeness and you have an interesting character study.

I wasn't a big fan of the constant "you" in Junior's narration, but I understand what the author was trying to do. I just didn't like it. The book teaches a good lesson about how everything matters in your life, no matter how insignificant, but lessons don't go over well in my reading.

Monday, November 2, 2009

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Sometimes when I'm reading a book, it's so out there that it makes me feel stupid. I think, "I bet a city woman on a subway would understand this thing." Or at least fake it. I can see this book being the subject of coffee table chatter at cocktail hour or at a ivy league campus book club, but not anywhere close to Paris, Illinois. Why? Because it's darn confusing. There are three narrators--Minerva, a yougn lady who suffers from pica (eating stuff like clay and chalk), Ore, a girlfriend Minerva meets in college, and the house. Yep, that's right, one of the narrators is a house. And it's a creepy house. All the women in Minerva's family have been crazy to some extent, so Minerva was bound to suffer from something. She gets away from the house during college, but still is sick and doesn't recover from the pica that institutionalized her during high school. Add in Minerva's twin brother who thinks Ore is beautiful, but Ore is in love with Minerva.

Okay, so the plot isn't that bad. But the switching of narration drove me nuts. There is no indication when it happens, other than things don't make sense. I kept thinking, "What is going on?" and "Why am I reading this?" I kept hoping the book would read easier, but it never happened for me. I strongly disliked this book, except for the cover. It looks reader-friendly, but the mystery of the book was destroyed with the way the mystery was told. I didn't find the house mysterious, just annoying.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Three beautiful Irish sisters are pulled into a dark and twisted tale when they run into Jim, a handsome man on a motorcycle in their small town. He's sexy and irresistible, and even gets the girls' aunt to agree. But Jim is nothing but trouble, and soon tales of murder, rape and bad things fill the countryside. The girls are trapped, but it isn't by whom you think.

The first part of this book grossed me out and I loved it! But the constant presence of diary entries, letters, and flashbacks turned around things so much that by the end that I found myself wishing for better editing. I *loved* the storyline but wished for a better telling, which isn't a good thing to say about a book based around Irish storytelling. However, I can see this as a darn good movie.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I can see why this adult novel is making its rounds around book clubs in public libraries--it's a feel-good novel about middle-aged women. Reminded me of Driving Miss Daisy and To Kill a Mockingbird because of the concentration on race relations and the relationship between white women and their maids. The narration rotates between three characters. Aibileen is a African-American who is on about her seventeenth baby that she has raised for white families. Miss Skeeter is a white woman who lives with parents, wants to be a writer, and believes that black maids have a story to tell. Minny is an African-American maid who has been fired tons of times for smarting off. The three women tell a story of racial injustice in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. Really, I think this is more of a story for adult women than teenagers, but I know some mature female teenagers will enjoy the read.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Flavia is an eleven-year-old character you love to love, but thankful she isn't your daughter! She's into poison and has an advanced chemistry lab in her house. She extracts poison ivy and puts it in her older sister's lipstick. She spies. She picks locks. She's sneaky. And she solves a crime. A stranger is dead in the garden and her father is arrested. With research and interviews, Flavia figures out the story that goes back to her father's schooldays. This is a clean mystery--a more literary Trixie Belden, which I absolutely adored as a kid. Who should read this one? Public library women's book clubs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

I had no idea this audiobook would be as depressing as the cover, but, hey, I was warned! Gwen McKotch is diagnosed with Turner's Syndrome in the 1970s. She is permanently in a young girl's body and her mom doesn't want her to mentally grow up either. All five family members have their story told and they are all pretty messed up. And, um, normal. The mom doesn't want her daughter to grow up. The dad is a scientist who is captivated by pretty women. One brother hides his gayness. The other brother suffers from ADD and suffers from it and its consequences his whole life. I wanted to finish this family drama to figure out what happened, but I must admit that it was rather disheartening.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad

Does the world need another mountaintop survival story? I'm not sure. It seems like there are four or five published every year, but I guess some people out there really love this genre. I have to admit that this one was a little better than most. I wasn't too thrilled with how alternating chapters told about the plane crash and the author's past. I wanted to just read the chapters about the plane crash, since that is really what I was interested in. But, hey, the kid's past is what helped him survive the day on the mountain. At age 11, Ollestad was already a great skier, surfer, skateboarder and hockey player. All those daredevil sports his dad made him do helped him have the tenacity to survive, even when his father didn't. And the writing was great--you can tell the author studied creative writing. The good writing made another mountain survival story bearable. I'm interested to see what book comes next from this author.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Unlikely Discuple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University

Kevin Roose was a journalist at Brown University when he decided to transfer to Liberty University, a very conservative Christian college founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell. Kevin was raised Quaker by pretty liberal parents, has a lesbian aunt and fit right in at Brown, so it was culture shock when he transferred. But Kevin figured out that students at Liberty aren't that different than the students at Brown. In fact, the students at Liberty seem happier, even with the strict rules enforced by the RAs. Nothing beyond short-term hand-holding. No revealing clothes, etc. Kevin leaps into the evangelical college with an open mind and doesn't spend the book bashing conservatives, which I appreciated. Instead, he pretty fairly notes the positives and the negatives of the college and the people who go there. In the end, he interviews Jerry Falwell (the last interview before Falwell's death) and he is greatly impacted by the Rev.'s death. Falwell was "complicated, " Kevin tells his father. Even back at Brown, Kevin still prays occasionally, so the semester at the holy university definitely influenced him. And even though I really enjoyed the first third of the book, the middle and end took me forever to read. I just couldn't breeze through it and I found myself putting the book aside to find something else to read.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis, Read by Stephen Hoye

This adult nonfiction book won the Alex Award in 2007 and I've tried reading it before. But the first part of the book is strictly a book about football and the history of the game, and I grew bored. But then I saw the movie trailer and thought, "I better give this one another chance." So I tried the audio version. My mind still wandered during the football parts, but the parts about Michael Oher were wonderful. Michael was a poor black kid in Memphis who luckily ended up at a ritzy Christian school because of his massive size. He was smart, but never educated. He was physically gifted, but had never been taught to play anything. Everything he learned he learned from the streets. And then he ends up with a rich, white Republican family and his life begins to change. He starts learning how to play football and realizes that he won't ever be a point guard because of his size. He's called a "freak of nature" and is bigger than most NFL linemen as a junior in high school. After a few football games, college scouts are beating down his door. With a great tutor, charitable adopted parents and network of supporting people, Michael Oher ends up being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens for millions of dollars. This is a great inspirational read, if you can handle reading about the growing importance of the left tackle charging the quarterback's blind side.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

2010 Alex Award Winner!

I had such high hopes for this "next Harry Potter" novel and was singing its praises early on in my reading. The first half of the novel is very much like an adult Harry Potter book. Quentin is applying for colleges and doesn't know what he wants out of life. Then he gets a magical invitation to take a difficult test in a room full of smart kids. He makes it and sets off to Brakebills College. There he learns magic, meets friends, and realizes that he still isn't a very happy person. Like many teenagers, Quentin is just plain unhappy, and his unpleasantness got to me by the end of the book. I've read plenty of books where I didn't like the characters, but I found myself rolling my eyes toward the end of this one. The tone was so freakin' negative and I wanted just one kid in the book to be positive and fulfill his/her potential. Just one. I guess I was looking for Ron Weasley, HP or Hermione. I liked the "adult"ness of the book, and loved the inclusion of Quidditch, Lord of the Rings references, and other fantasy staples. But the overall tone of the book isn't good. I don't want to read a sequel, unless it reads like the first third of the book.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Cold Place in Hell by William Blinn

This is one the best westerns I've ever read. And I went through quite the western stage back in high school. The author was a screenwriter for Bonanza and Gunsmoke, and you can tell. Blinn really knows how to tell a story.

The narrator is Wilbur, an older tough guy who helps Cookie and is a friend to almost everyone in the small Wyoming town back in the late 1800s. Billy is his young friend who takes a bet with a wild horse and loses. Billy's leg is smashed and he turns to learning instead of riding. But you can't forget Pearline, Billy's girlfriend who works as a "lady" at the boarding house in town. Put the three together and you have one heck of western!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger, Read by Lily Rabe

Sometimes librarians need to relax on the their way to school. So I selected this fun audiobook from my public library to keep me entertained. The author also wrote The Devil Wears Prada, which was a fun, quick read.

Emmy, Leigh and Adriana have been friends since college. All three are single, approaching 30, and scared. Shouldn't they be married by now? Is their beauty fading? And what's with the men in their lives? Adriana thinks that maybe she should slow down her lifestyle while Emmy just wants to settle down and have babies. Leigh is at the top of her book editing game but thrown for a loop when a sexy author enters her life that already includes a sports star.

Of course, all three are fabulously beautiful, live in New York City and accidently have great things happen to them all the time.

I love fiction!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Talk about your difficult read. Columbine is like the Challenger crash and 9/11 to me--a defining moment in my life. I was in college studying to become a teacher back in 1999.

Cullen takes a different topic and makes it interesting in a non-graphic way. He switches back-and-forth on the narratives which might scare some readers off, but it kept me wanting to find out more. I wanted to read about the kid who rolled out the upstairs window and the girl who became a Christian martyr. I didn't want to hear so much about the media and officers messing things up though, but I know that needs to be written about. Nothing of this scale had happened before. Now schools have crisis plans, ID badges and security systems, but chaos would still ensue if something of this magnitude occurred somewhere else. It's scary to think about. The analysis of Eric and Dylan worried me. Eric seemed to be pretty much a goner psychologically, but Dylan could have been helped. As a teacher, am I doing what I can to help these kinds of kids? The ones who seem normal at school but are hurting inside?

I can see teachers reading this book, but I'm not too sure how popular it will be with teenagers. They don't remember Columbine, and the heft of the title will discourage teen readers. I was expecting pictures, but the author stuck with the simplistic approach and didn't include any. I love how his name isn't even on the cover of the book--great design! I hope to add this book to Mr. Lynch's Criminology reading list--it needs some readers at PCHS.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stitches by David Small

2010 Alex Award Winner!

Well, this adult graphic novel memoir is going to go far. It's something that sticks with you. David Small is known for winning the Caldecott for So, You Want to be President? but this adult memoir proves that he has quite the story to tell. Talk about your dysfunctional family! His mother is abusive because her mother was. His father is distant and thinks that constant x-raying of his small son will cure his son of sinus problems. Um, no.

The black-and-white illustrations are stark and telling, with only a few of the kind that make me want to turn the pages quickly. I'm a word-person so I'm not too into the graphic novels that tell too much of a story in pictures. I don't like sappy.

However. David Small turns out okay. I love the cover with grandma saying durnit, and still ended up with a good feeling after finishing this sad story. A delayed airflight even meant that my boyfriend read it. And that's almost a miracle! :)

It's good. Read it. Everyone will be talking about it after it's published in September.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

I thoroughly enjoy a good read about teen characters in another culture--this one is Iran in the 1970s. Pasha spends a lot of time on the rooftop and his world revolves around his neighborhood. He's in love with a girl who is engaged to someone else and the government won't stop interfering with everyone he knows. The Shah's secret police is after so many people he loves, and Pasha has to learn when to keep his radical (at least in Iran) ideas in check. I wasn't too thrilled with the ending, but think the first 3/4 of the book is well worth a read if you enjoyed Kite-Runner or Finding Nouf.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth

What a satisfying read! This seems like an Oprah book to me--wonder if she's heard of it yet?

Celia grew up in Tobago with an aunt because her father ran off to England after her mother died during childbirth. Always an outsider, Celia then has to deal with a handsy step-uncle who eventually rapes her. But Celia isn't one to give in. She runs away toward her aunt, but gets sidetracked by a sickness that leads her to working as a nanny for a rich family. Celia lives up to the witchwoman's words and hurts one man who loves her and can't have the man she loves. This is so like an Oprah book! It's a romance with a woman who has been wronged, but she can't make the right decisions because of her abuse as a young girl. She isn't quite sure how to be in a positive relationship with a man, and eventually understands that her parents didn't quite have the right idea either.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Longshot by Katie Kitamura

I can't believe I read a book about mixed martial arts fighting and actually liked it, but I did! Anyone who knows me knows that I can't stand to watch this kind of violence on TV or in person, but for some reason I can read about it just fine. Analyze that! :)

Cal is a fighter who is a little bit past his prime mentally. He was winning everything until Rivera came along, a new fighter who rocked his world and destroyed him in the ring. Now Cal is back in peak physical condition and all set to fight Rivera again in Tijuana. The book traces Cal and his trainer Riley for the few days before the fight. Talk about the suspense. I won't tell you who wins the fight, but let's just say that you really get into Cal and Riley's head before the big day. I always wondered what made these guys step into the ring or cage or whatever it is. Personally, I like to think I've evolved past fighting. I might resort to fighting if someone is hurting someone I love. Maybe. But I'd go right for the eyeballs and end it quick. ;) I'm darn proud to say I've never been in a fight and I plan to keep my record clean. lol.

But I'm rambling. Kitamura shows us what a fighter goes through in the days and hours before a fight. It's mind-blowing and scary. But fascinating.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Well, I sure wish this adult fantasy novel had a different cover. Is this cheesy or what? The concept is good though--a world where people have "breaths" and if you collect breaths, you can see brighter colors in the world and have more powers. Slaves don't have any breath and look gray and drab. Fighters are bright and so are those close to the gods and goddesses, many of whom are re-born and forced to collect breaths on a regular basis. Vivenna and Siri are both princesses and when one is forced to marry a god-king, the other is sent in her place, forcing a dramatic rescue attempt. I can't wait to see what some PHS readers think about this one.

Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

This is exactly the kind of adult novel I was reading when I was in high school. I was a huge fan of Victoria Holt, Philippa Gregory, and all the various other historical romance writers out there who can really write an epic.

Isabel is forced to marry by her father for political reasons but ends up with a smart and worthy mother-in-law. Isabel learns the silk trade from her and even apprentices herself to her mother-in-law to learn the ropes and succeed on her own. It's the late 1400s and silk is queen in the world. Another interesting twist is that Isabel's older sister is having an affair with King Edward IV, which makes it easier for Isabel to succeed in a man's world.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

I'm a big fan of Maureen Johnson, especially 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Bermudez Triangle. She writes what I call intelligent chick lit. The witty banter between Scarlett and her brother Spencer is a great example of this in Suite Scarlett.

Scarlett's family runs an old Art Deco hotel in New York City, but they're running out of money. And hotel guests. The help has been let go and the family members have to adopt a suite to care for. Scarlett gets Mrs. A, a whirlwind of a woman who makes things happen with a little lying and stealing. Mrs. A adopts Spencer's Shakespeare group as a pet project and gives Scarlett advice about Eric, an older boy she is crushing on.

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

I'm a big fan of historical fiction and knew I'd enjoy a YA novel about the WASPS--the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Ida Mae Jones is a light-skinned African-American who decides to pass as white during World War II so she can join the WASPs. Ida Mae learned how to fly from her father and helped him spray crops around their berry farm in Louisiana.

There is a lot of talk about race and sex in this novel, obviously. Colored people don't fight with white people, and same goes for men and women. Ida Mae has to deal with men who don't think women should fly and family members who don't think she should pass as white.

The book isn't action-packed, but I thought the history was interesting. Ida Mae is likable, even if a little surface-only. The author's afterword was great, and provided the background I wanted to know about.

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I can see why this YA novel was flying off the shelf last Spring. The cover picture seems to be of the main character's friend though, so I'm not sure why the vintage dress is on the cover.

Camelia is in love with the new boy in town, even though he's been accused of pushing his ex-girlfriend off a cliff. When he touches Camelia, there's something electric between them. But when she starts getting scary notes and pictures in her mailbox, she isn't sure whom to trust. Who's stalking her? And who kidnaps her?

The secondary characters make this book work. Wes pays a girl to be his girlfriend to keep his dad happy. Kimmie re-works vintage dresses. Camelia's mom does yoga and cooks strange concoctions of healthy stuff. And Camelia's dad sneaks them to Taco Bell at least twice a week!

How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle

I needed a fluffy chick lit book and this one provided an easy break from adult novels for me. Vicks, Mel and Jesse are three breakfast joint employees who road trip to Miami. Jesse is running from her wet-T-shirt contest mom who was just diagnosed with cancer. Vicks is pining for her U of Miami football-playing boyfriend who isn't returning her texts or calls. Mel is the new rich girl who just wants to fit in and find some friends and someone to love. This definately isn't a great book, but it was a quick and easy vacation read.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mortal Coils by Eric Nylund

I'm not sure what to think of this adult novel by the author of the Halo books. At first, I was all gung-ho about it, but it slowed in the middle and then picked up in the end. Interesting premise, but I think tighter editing could have sped things up.

Eliot and Fiona are twins who live under the strict rules of their grandmother--no tv, no radio, no social life. But on their birthday, everything starts to change (like Harry Potter!) Their parents become known and they find out they are the children of a fallen angel and an immortal goddess. Both twins have good and evil in them, and both families begin testing them to see which side they lean toward. They are tempted by hotties, chocolates, and just by teenage rebelliousness. Both twins have their weaknesses, and the families attack. But will they choose to stay together? or be driven apart? There will obviously be a sequel.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wedding Belles by Haywood Smith

I listened to this audiobook because I knew the author wrote the Red Hat Club book. And, hey, I'm a sucker for an audiobook read by someone with an accent. I got my fill of southern talk with this one! The four friends still meet for lunch regularly with their red hats and purple clothes, but things aren't going well for Georgia. Her only daughter is getting married to her husband's best friend and Georgia can't stand the embarrassment. I must admit I was a little bored with it all. She just couldn't let it go and be happy for her daughter. She was obsessed with finding out all his faults and trying to "save" her daughter from making a mistake. I guess I'm seeing things from the daughter's perspective. The other red hat friends have their own problems, too, but Georgia is the focus in this one. All in all, an easy summer listen.

Vacations from Hell by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson and Sarah Mlynowski

I like Mlynowski (see As Seen on TV), Clare (see City of Bones) and Bray (see A Great and Terrible Beauty). I've read almost all of Maureen Johnson. So I was sooooo disappointed in this short story collection. The premise was great--five short stories about teenagers on vacations from hell. Of course, the supernatural is involved. But I thought the stories were trite, predictable, and not a joy to read. It fills the need for fluff, but this isn't the kind of fluff I like. I want short stories to be gripping and suspenseful, but I thought these were cheesy and silly.

I can't believe I'm trashing anything written by these authors. I really, really like their novels. But these stories need tighter editing, and I think the collection did need an editor. No editor is listed on the title page. I'm sure it will sell because of their names and this might sooth some kids, but I think a lot of people will be disappointed.

Again, I can't believe I'm dissing the work of these authors. Ugh.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Breathers by S.G. Browne

Zombie books are just as popular as ever, thanks to the whole Twilight craze. I know, I know zombies aren't big stars in the Twilight series, but they do have the whole undead thing going on.

Andy is reborn undead after a car accident and is forced to live in his parents' basement, attend therapy sessions, and get food thrown at him. Zombies aren't citizens in his world, and they can't even get their social security number back. He's stuck in limbo, so he just sits around and drinks his parents' expensive wine. But then Andy meets Ray, who introduces him to the wonderful jarred venison that starts to make Andy feel better. But, um, we all know what makes zombies tick, right? Breathers (better known as humans) make excellent casseroles. And I don't mean cooking! Andy's unlife starts to turn around with fellow zombie Rita at his side and a potful of Breathers curing his wounds. The plot thickens as Andy becomes the poster child for zombie rights, but, hey, eventually people are going to figure out that zombies eat people. And, um, people don't like that. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson

If you look through the books I read, you won't find many story collections. I'm not really a fan, but Kevin Wilson may have changed my mind. If he keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them. He rocks! This adult collection of stories has eleven stories that aren't connected, other than the fact that they are all good. They are so *different* and almost unbelievable, but he makes everything work. There's a guy who sorts letters in a Scrabble factory. A cheerleader who has no pep. A woman who is paid to be a grandmother for other families. And all sorts of interesting people in interesting situations.

Chuck out your reader's digest and make this your short-term reading material.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fall by Colin McAdam

First off, a disclaimer. I love the book cover, the author's name, the book title, and the awesome photograph. On the back jacket, a quote from the Aryn Kyle (author of The God of Animals) praises the book. So, um, I was a little biased before I even started reading.

The adult novel mainly alternates between the voices of two teenage upperclassmen at an elite boarding school. Both are sons of ambassadors/diplomats and used to a priveleged life. Julius is handsome, friendly, athletic and dating the hottest girl at school. Noel has a lazy eye, was bullied as a youngster, and has anger issues. The two boys end up rooming together on a lark and a friendship ensues. Noel is falling in love with Fallon (Fall for short), too. But Fall disappears, Julius falls apart, and Noel starts picking fights. The mystery is intense. I couldn't help but think about my fav YA novel, Looking for Alaska, as I read this one since the plot is very similar.

I'm still contemplating this one. I think I really enjoyed it, even though the ending wasn't satisfying. I wanted to keep reading and I felt like I knew silly Julius and starnge Noel pretty well. The author really gets you inside their heads, which is great. Fall is an object, of course, but that's how the two boys see her. How about you? Have you read it? What do you think?

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

So glad they changed the hardback cover on this one. I'm read the ARC and it's the shadowy picture of the back of a girl's neck. I like the bright pic much better!

This is an adult novel, but it doesn't read like one. I kept thinking, "This seems like a movie script!" Melody Grace McCartney has been in the Witness Protection Program most of her life (since she was six) because her family witnessed a murder at a local restaurant. Unfortunately the mob continued to come after her family, murdering her parents and constantly forcing her to be on the run. But, now that Melody is 26, she finds herself running just because she can irritate the Witness Protection Program. They have ruined her life, after all. So when the son of the mafia guy shows up to "rescue" her, she figures that's better than nothing, which is what she has had her entire life. Melody is sucked into the world of day spas, hotel suites and convertibles and finds herself in love with her worst enemy. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Mystery of Grace by Charles De Lint

I've always heard of Charles De Lint but never read any of his books (that I can remember) until this one. It's his latest adult novel and luckily a stand-alone. Grace is in an unusual position because she's dead. But she learns that she can cross over twice a year and return home. She does, and finds herself in love with John, and living life like she never did when she was alive. And so Grace and her best dead friend decide to figure out why they are stuck in the afterlife. With a little bit of luck, a lot of faith, and some magic, Grace straightens things out, but not without a lot of philosophy. Honestly, my attention wandered in the last half of the book because I didn't like all the discussions about the afterlife, blah, blah, blah. I want action!

Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell, Read by Mary Stuart Masterson

I was a huge fan of Cornwell, but her last few books have been rather disappointing, so I decided to listen to the abridged version of her latest novel. I think that's the route I'm going from now on. I picked the bad guy out before the Pete Marino did, and I really think his character is smarter than me. ;)

Kay Scarpetta is married to Benton now and the two of them are advising the NYPD on an important case involving murdered women, a slanderous blog, a dwarf, and a multiple aliases. heehee. Basically it's another twisted tale of someone out to get Scarpetta, so her niece Lucy, Benton, and Marino have to come to her rescue. Haven't we all read this plot before in earlier Scarpetta novels? Maybe it's time to write a novel based on Lucy. I think she rocks!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling

Sometimes there really are reasons to listen to your mother. A few months ago, my mom (a h.s. librarian in central Illinois) told me to read this young adult novel. So, when I saw it in May while completing inventory, I added it to my "to read" collection. Heehee. I'm glad I did. Poor, poor Abby lives in a family that most people would call white trash. I, um, saw a lot of similarities between her life and some of the people around me. I'm not naming names. But Abby's step-dad is the father of her sister's baby. And her step-dad dated her other sister, too. And Abby is worried that her cute admirer could be the father of her sister's baby, until a blood type lab at school puts her at ease. Take into account her mothers rusting Benz and the fights in the front yard, and Abby has quite a life. Oh, and don't forget her male best friend who finally figures out that he's gay and decides to come out. This book is hilarious and a must-read YA chick book for the summer!

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Words can't explain how disappointed I was in this young adult book. First YA book of the summer that I picked up and I stopped on page 159! Argh! I was expecting an epic tale of a young girl during the French Revolution and instead was bored and trying to figure out what age level this book was for. I wasn't engrossed and I'm 33. How exactly to 12 year old girls find this book engrossing? Did I miss something? I guess I am engrossed by the cover.....

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

I was excited to see the third book of the Spellman series in my public library last week. It came out in March and somehow I forgot all about reading it. I have to admit that this one read a little bit slower for me, but you can't help but love the Spellman family.

Isabel Spellman is rebelling against her family's private investigation firm by being a bartender and bascially a bum. Isabel is in a state of arrested development and her parents finally give her an ultimatum--run the business or you get nothing. With court-mandated therapy and the help of her friends, Isabel matures enough to solve a case, find a place to live, and get at least some of the things in her life straightened out. Her love life is another story!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko

When was the last time you read a science fiction novel with doppelgangers? Yeah, that's right, I didn't think so! Do you know what a doppelganger is? It's your parallel self that lives in an alternate universe. The main character of this adult novel is John Rayburn, who is your typical Ohio farm kid. But then he meets himself from another universe and is tricked into strapping on a device and skipping to the next universe. There are thousands of universes in this world and John Rayburn is in everyone. Sometimes he's successful, sometimes he's a troublemaker, and sometimes he's a physical laborer in a stark world. John is stuck with the device and determined to get back to his original world. So he has to skip ahead and learn some physics. He gets some money from selling the concept of a pinball machine in his new world, but finds other universe travelers who are determined to steal his device. Of course, things work out in the end, but the Johns must work together to out-smart the evil ones.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Being Elizabeth by Barbara Taylor Bradford, Read by Katerhine Kellgren

Well, this was the cheesiest thing I've listened to in quite awhile! But I couldn't stop because it was the only audiobook I had in the car!

Elizabeth Deravenel is the CEO of her family's company and fighting to keep it in her possession. Of course, she's an awesome businesswoman, but I feel like I'm missing something. The entire book is very distant and the posh British accent of the narrator doesn't help. I really didn't like Elizabeth that much and her adultery ticked me off. I don't really care that they ended up marrying--he was still married. I guess I now know to stay away from Barbara Taylor Bradford books--she's not my type.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum, Read by Ariadne Meyers

It's the end of the school year and it's time for me to start frequenting the awesome Casey Public Library again! And I mean that. They do a wonderful job of weeding the old titles in their small space, and I love the selection of audiobooks. Just right to entertain me in my vehicle during the summer!

This adult novel intrigued me by the cover, but it almost needs a more chick lit-ish one. Emily Haxby is a power attorney, dealing with a boss who sexually harasses her, an important father who ignores her, and a boyfriend, who, well, seems perfect. So what does Emily do? She breaks up with Andrew when he starts showing signs of flashing an engagement ring. And thus continues Emily's self-destruction. With the help of best friends and a good therapist, Emily starts to turn her life around, but this book does a good job showing what the bottom of the depression pit is like. But don't think this is deep fiction. It's chick lit, plain and simple. But I enjoyed it. It's not fluffy! :)

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman deserves her starred review in Booklist, but I'm just not really sure what to think of her latest adult novel. Her writing is beautiful, but I like to become attached to my characters and Hoffman has a deliberate way of separating the reader from her characters.

Elv, Claire and Meg are three sisters who create their own language and fantasy world to escape the troubles of their parents' divorce. I love the descriptions of the world and even the way the sisters communicate and feed off each other. But then they start to drift apart. And as the sisters drift apart, so did my interest in them as people. Elv goes downhill until she crashes. And I won't even mention what happens to one of the sisters. But let's just say that tragedy strikes. The girls become women I wouldn't like, so the book was difficult to read. I zipped through the first half, but the last half bogged down a bit.

The Last Child by John Hart

Johnny is 13 and has lost his twin sister. She's disappeared, kidnapped and killed probably, and his family has paid the consequences. His father left. His mother drinks too much and medicates herself. And Johnny is haunted by the feeling that he can still help her. So Johnny is on the hunt for her abuser, because there is always the chance she's still alive, right? With the help of a local cop, Johnny embarks on a remarkable chase and string of coincidences to solve the mysteries of his life. But real life doesn't always work out smoothly, and neither does Johnny's life.

I was up really late reading this one because I just had to know the ending. It's a nail-biter and I really was rooting for Johnny to be happy.