Monday, December 17, 2012

A Grorn-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. Read by the author.

Love, love, love this audiobook! I just put the rest of the audiobooks by this author on hold!

The Slocumb women are known for being teenage mothers and a family full of drama. When a dead baby's body is found buried under the willow tree in the back yard, Ginny is terrified that Mosey isn't her "real" granddaughter. Her real granddaughter is buried under that tree. Unfortunately she can't ask her daughter any questions because Liza had a stroke. Ginny and Mosey both try to figure out the mystery. The summary sounds boring, but Mosey's voice is unforgettable. The Southern accents are great and the phrases are unforgettable!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sometimes a memoir hits home and this one did. I laughed, I teared up a bit, and, in the end, I was so HAPPY for Jane getting her life straightened out. It's rare for a celebrity memoir to be this well written without a co-author, too! But Jane the actress is also Jane the storyteller and all her years in improv and therapy helped her to tell her story well.

Jane grew up in Dolton, Illinois, and always wanted to be an actress, even through she quit her freshman play because she was scared of failure. In her early years, she suffered with alcoholism and was unable to hold down a relationship for more than 2 months. She finally came out as gay, started going to AA meetings, and met some therapists and friends who really helped her with anxiety and self-esteem.  I LOVE that her friends, family, and therapists were able to get her to realize that she's a good person who has the right to be confident in her abilities. I kinda knew Jane Lynch from Glee, but now I'm a fan for life. I wish her the best!

Monday, December 3, 2012

I laughed my way through this audiobook (and Newbery Medal winner)! Young Jack Gantos suffers from nosebleeds and can never make BOTH his parents happy. He mows his mom's corn to make room for his dad's airfield and gets grounded for the entire summer! Luckily an old woman who writes the town's obituaries befriends him. The plot isn't what makes this book--the storytelling is. You'll laugh--promise!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Expats: a Novel by Chris Pavone.

I downloaded this book from the library and was fascinated while I read it on the plane. Only problem? The constant switching back and forth from time-to-time. This is fine in a hardback book when I can flip back to see what's going on. But while reading on my Kindle, I can't do that. I found myself messing some things up and I just had to keep reading to sort it out in my head.

The author is an editor, so I'm surprised he didn't think about this problem with ePublishing. I'm all for switching time and place, as long as it's consistent and clear.  I also wasn't thrilled with the classic "tell all" scene at the end of the book when the fired-man-turned-monster tells Scooby Doo all his secrets. Yes, I know there isn't Scooby Doo in this book, but you get the idea.

However, let me tell you what I loved about this book--strong female character who is a CIA agent turned mommy. And she struggles with the mothering--she'd rather be standing on a ledge spying on someone. I felt like the male author wrote the woman's POV strongly--something that isn't done often in literature. The setting was amazing--Luxembourg, Paris, everywhere I want to be! The world of Americans living overboard is fascinating--add in the FBI, CIA, and money, and you've got yourself a bestseller!

Wow--I used a lot of dashes in that paragraph....

Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster.

Some books you shouldn't read on planes--and this is one of them. I found myself smiling, giggling, and snickering a lot. This is my first Jen Lancaster book--I downloaded the eBook from my library system because I'm always thinking I need to start a diet, and then stick with them for 2 days. So I wanted to see what this author had to say about her real life experiences with weight loss. I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in the weight busting world, but I hate that she could afford a personal trainer! Normal people can't do that!

By the way, kids, this is an adult book--lots of cuss words and crude humor, but nothing that you don't hear on Saturday Night Live.

Monday, October 29, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King. Read by Craig Wasson.

It's been ages since I've finished reading a Stephen King novel, so I was thrilled to get into this audiobook. I was fascinated for all 30 CDs! No horror or gore here--just historical mystery and drama.

If you suddenly discovered that you had the power to travel back in time and "improve" things, what would you change? For Jake, it's the JFK assassination. If he had lived through 11/22/63, things would be better, right? And so Jake lives a few years back in the late 50's, just so he can try to stop Lee Harvey Oswald.

I knew a little bit about the assassination and now I feel like I know much more. Sure, this is fiction, but it's also based on facts, and I found Oswald's history interesting. I had no idea that he had lived in Russia or that he was drawn to Cuba. Why didn't I learn that in my history classes? I was a history minor, for Pete's sake!

Monday, October 1, 2012

In the Woods by Tana French, Read by Steven Crossley

I'm continuing my theme of Irish audiobooks.

Rob Ryan is haunted by the events of his past--when he was 12, his two friends disappeared and Ryan was found alone in the woods with his shoes filled with blood. Now he's all grown up and he still can't remember what happened. He's now a police detective and, when a 12-year-old girl goes missing in the same forest, he can't help but be haunted by his old case.

This is a slow-moving detective story with lots of leads, but I did guess the culprit. Ryan isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but his female partner, Cassie, sure is! She was great--I'd love to read another book based around her!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Sage isn't thrilled when he's caught stealing a roast to share with others at his orphanage. But it's even worse when a nobleman buys him for some unknown purpose. Sage is one of four orphans that Sir Conner has purchased for his devious plan. The prince disappeared years ago in a shipwreck, but Conner wants to train the boys to be the long-lost prince. And that means that the boys who don't live up to the task will die!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Ballroom on Magnolia Street by Sharon Owens. Read by Caroline Winterson.

I'm looking forward to my Ireland trip and listening to audiobooks with Irish sounding narrators to get me in the mood. I've never heard of this author, but I was really reminded of Maeve Binchy.

The action centers around a ballroom in Belfast--it's the happening place to hang out for years. Couples meet there, fight there, and the owner, Hollywood Hogan, knows everyone in town. Two sisters, Kate and Shirley, are not doing well in the romance area, but end up meeting two men who just might be the men of their dreams.

I like books like this because all the stories are intertwined and everything ends up okay in the end. It's a relaxing read--just what I needed!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri, Performed by JD Jackson

I'm working my way through the 2012 Odyssey Awards, and this title won an honor. I understand why! The narrator's voice is deep, expressive, and somehow sounds just like a 12-year-old boy.

Cole's mom has had enough of him--he's skipping school and getting in trouble with the police. So she drives him from Detroit to Philadelphia and drops him off at his dad's. Cole has never seen his dad, and he isn't thrilled to be at his deadbeat dad's doorstep. And he doesn't know what to think about the HORSES. In buildings in urban Philly---what the heck? That's right--Cole's dad has a street of illegal stables full of horses saved from the slaughterhouse. Cole is resistant, but he realizes that his dad is a good person, as well as the other cowboys who dedicate their lives to take care of the horses. When the city threatens to bulldoze the stables, Cole and his new friends must try to save it, and his new family.

Recommended for tweens.

Rotters by Daniel Kraus, Read by Kirby Heyborne

Mr. Kraus, I applaud you, because you are one sick puppy! I had no idea your mind was so twisted when I was sitting next to you a few months ago!

This audiobook won the 2012 Odyssey Award, which means it's one darn good produced audiobook. I was thrilled when I received a copy for attending the Odyssey Award program in Anaheim last June, and can't wait to get some students to listen this Fall.

This book is disgusting. Gross. Yucky. The kind of audiobook where you do NOT want to be eating in your car because you might throw up. Seriously. And I don't have a weak stomach. I found myself thinking of Roach's Stiff--so many details about decomposing bodies, cadavers and corpses (including the difference between the two), and odors/fluids/colors. Ewwww.

But I should get back to the plot. Poor Joey's mom dies, leaving him to live with his absent father in Iowa. Thanks to a pretty (but incompetent) social worker, a cruel science teacher, and mean farm kids, Joey's life is horrible. He's bullied and ostracized, but it doesn't help that he doesn't take showers, has no food in the house/shack, and has a garbageman for a father.

Without giving away too many details, I'll tell you that Joey's life takes a turn for the worst--every time it's possible. But in with the dreariness and hopelessness comes redemption and hope. Thank God, because I wasn't sure how this book was going to turn out. The dark part of me was hoping for a YA title where there ISN'T the light at the end of the tunnel, but I guess that would freak out too many adults. :)

Thanks, Mr. Kraus, for writing a book for some of the teens in my school. This will gross them out and make them look at me with new respect!

FYI--Kirby Heyborne, the reader of this book, is a newly minted librarian idol. He won us over during the Odyssey presentation with his acting, grace, cuteness, and song. See his blog for the YouTube video of his song, pics, and other details about his encounter with thousands of librarians.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Love's Tender Fury by Jennifer Wilde

All you adults can take your Fifty Shades of Grey and shove it! If I'm going to read smut, it has to be historical smut, like the stuff I was reading when I was in junior high! I'm on vacation this week and the resort office has an excellent selection of reading material--Nora Roberts, Clive Cussler, John Rutherford, and classic 70s romance like the one I selected.

Marietta is just a good girl trying to make it in the world as a governess. When she is framed by the Lord of the House because she doesn't want him to rape her, she is sold into indentured servitude and shipped to the Carolinas. Bought by the highest bidder, Derek, she becomes a plantation mistress, but is sold quickly when she helps two slaves escape. She moves onto Natchez and New Orleans with Jeff and sets up a gambling house. She's quite the sophisticated lady in New Orleans, but when Jeff dies without marrying her, she is left with nothing but some jewels to sell. She can't make it as a seamstress in Natchez and marries the rich German who owns everything around Natchez. But he harbors secrets and he turns against Marietta when she helps her sister-in-law escape from the clutches of her evil brother. Luckily, Derek still loves Marietta though, and saves the day.

Ahhhh, romance! These are the books I was raised on and now I know why my perception of romance is completely skewed! Marietta is raped, sold, bought, used, objectified, and beaten, but I had to keep reading. This is one old romance book that is worth it--I loved the history of the West that was included.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, Read by Orlagh Cassidy

I would like to think that I would be like Frankie in this novel if I lived in the 1940s. Frankie is an American radio reporter and she wants to travel to England during the bombings in the 1940s to report the news back to America. She does, and she's good at it. She pulls at the heartstrings of the Americans, and tries her best to get them involved in the war, even though we were trying to ignore the Germans. Frankie travels the trains in France and interviews hundreds of Jews--all escaping from their homes and trying to get as far away as possible. Meanwhile, America is ignoring the problem.

There are other subplots involved in this novel, but Frankie's is what spoke to me. There isn't much battle in this book--just the people who were bombed and people fleeing their homes. Yet it speaks powerfully about the horrors of war. I really felt like I was in an English bomb shelter at times, and the fear in the French trains was easily felt by the reader. I actually could have done without the postmistress--give me more Frankie!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why I haven't been posting much lately....

So some of you know that I'm serving on the Printz award commitee. This means that I'm pretty much only blogging about the adult books and audiobooks that I listen to. Sorry for the small number of posts this year, but just wait until the end of January 2013, when I'll have hundreds of posts from this year's readings! :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Drama by Raina Telfemeier. Review from Uncorrected Proof. Pub Date 9/12.

Guest Post by Addie, my 9-year-old daughter

DRAMA is about girl named Callie who is in a acting class at school. She likes a boy who finds out he is gay in acting class. Callie loves to read acting books at the library. In this book Callie is a set designer and at the end of the she becomes the stage manager.

I would recommend this book to my friends because I think they would like it. Callie learns about gay people and how she can still be friends with them.

My reaction:  Well, I guess I probably should have read this first before giving it to Addie! I think the topics covered were a bit over her going-into-4th-grade mind. She'll understand it better when she's in 6th or 7th. I do think it's funny that when I asked what she liked about the book or what she learned from it, she wrote the 2nd paragraph. She then told me that she doesn't have any gay kids in her class at school, so I had to explain that they may not know it yet or not want to share. It was quite the interesting conversation!

I thought the book was adorable. Sweet read about junior high romance--for those who are straight, bi, gay or questioning.  The graphic novel is written like a play in acts, and the fact that the characters are all involved in the middle school play only supports the play-within-a-play concept.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory, Read by Bianca Amato

Philippa Gregory has always been one of my fav authors. When I was growing up, my high school librarian didn't really buy any YA books--I had to buy those at Waldenbooks at the mall or read books from my mom's library. But my H.S. librarian loved historical romances, so there was plenty of Philippa Carr and Victoria Holt.

In this title, Jacquetta meets Joan of Arc as a young girl, and then rises through the English and French monarchy. Jacquetta has to marry the old Duke of Bedford, but he doesn't want her physically--he just wants her powers of seeing the future. This is the time when alchemy is frowned upon by the church, but the rich are exploring it anyway. As a widow duchess, Jacquetta rebels and marries her husband's squire. But the wheels of fate are still nice to Jacquetta and they rise through the ranks to be very close to the House of Lancaster in England.

I found this fascinating because I didn't know this story. Usually historical fiction of this era starts with Henry VIII and his women, so I liked this earlier time. The narrator's voice was soothing, the accents wonderful, and the 15 disks went quickly!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, Read by Sarah Drew

I really enjoyed Delirium last year, so I was anxious to read this sequel. I wanted to wait and listen to the audio though--Sarah Drew is one of the narrators that I really like!

Lena is back and living in the wilds, with the help of her new friends. Eventually Lena ends up going undercover and working for the Resistance, which is where she meets Julian. She is thrown together with someone she shouldn't care about, but, of course, they end up falling in love. I'm really, really hoping that the 3rd book doesn't have a love triangle between Lena, Julian, and Alex, her love from the first book. Lena seems to have a habit of falling in love with every cute boy she comes into close contact with--stop that, Lena!

On the other hand, this was an enjoyable, fast listen, and I'm looking forward to the third book. :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

It's summer, and even lovers of YA books need a beach read sometimes! I picked this up at my local public library because the cover was about worn out--proof it has been loved!

Three women arrive on Nantucket for the summer. Vicki needs to get away from home because she has lung cancer and needs to begin chemotherapy. She doesn't know how to handle it--but at least her two boys can play at the beach if she's at the family cabin. Brenda is running away--she was just fired as a university professor for sleeping with one of her lit students, even though he was older than her. She's hoping to write a screenplay and make her problems disappear. And, I guess, she is trying to help with her sister's kids. Melanie is there on a fluke--she found out that her husband is sleeping with a butch co-worker and doesn't want to stop cheating. Melanie, however, knows that after years of trying, she is now finally pregnant.

All three women have some stories to tell and I was fascinated. Josh, the boys' babysitter, adds in the romance/intrigue, but also has a great story to read about. All in all, this was the perfect poolside read--I'm going to add this author's other books to my Goodreads to-read list.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott, Read by Susan Duerden

Tess isn't a maid, but she's trying to work as one. Her dream is to be a seamstress, and when she learns that the new ship Titanic is hiring workers, she escapes her dreary position and takes a chance on a new life. She's extremely lucky that the Lady Duff Gordon takes her on as a maid. Lady Lucille is a talented English seamstress headed to NYC for a clothing design show. Tess and Lucille have an interesting relationship--Lucille is a witch who demands servitude, while Tess is independent enough to be thankful of her new position, but secretly hoping that she can use Lucille to launch her own success.

And then the Titanic goes down. Both women survive, but Lady Duff Gordon is in an almost empty lifeboat. The media maelstrom attacks the Duff Gordons, and Tess is forced to take sides. If she shows support for her boss, she might go down with the ship. But if she breaks ties with Lady Lucille, she might lose her chance in the design world.

Of course, there's love in the air, too. Tess must choose between a handsome woodworker she met on the ship, and the divorced rich man who tries to woo her. Oh, decisions!

I loved this audiobook--just the type of romance I like. Lots of history thrown in, along with some independent women. The reporter Pinky Wade is a great supportive character--female reporter for the Times demanding a raise? Heck, yeah!

This is another audio performer that I will be looking for--I thought her accents were great, the speed perfect for me, and I wanted to keep listening when I stopped driving!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare, Narrated by Ed Westwick and Heather Lind

I've been listening to audiobooks for years now, and I believe I'm becoming quite the audio snob. I managed to listen to 6 disks of this before moving on. Why? I'm not sure. I've loved Cassandra Clare's works before, and couldn't get enough of the first book in this series, Clockwork Angel. But this one never grabbed me. I was bored with the plot, and the male narrator spoke so slowly that my eyes were getting droopy in the car--not a good thing! And then the voice of Jessamine was so high-pitched that I found myself wincing when she spoke! I just didn't like the narration, but I will have to try the print version of the book soon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, Performed by Blair Brown

Allende is an author I've heard a lot about, but I'd never read anything by her. I'm glad I did!

Eliza is an orphan raised by three siblings in Chile. Their life is fascinating--I loved the information given about how whites live in Chile in the early 1800s and how the locals are treated. Eventually Eliza falls in love with a man she shouldn't, and she leaves Chile for California to find him during the Gold Rush. Along the way, she has many adventures--stowing away in a ship, dressing like a man, learning medicine, and befriending a Chinese herbalist.

I love good historical fiction, and this one had me hooked. I wanted to keep driving so I didn't have to stop listening! Blair Brown was a great narrator, too. Her voice was very pleasing and didn't distract from the story at all.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, Performed by Nicola Barber

Rory is a teen who is thrilled at the prospect of going to a London boarding school. It's just like all the books she's read! Separate boys and girls dorms, hard classes, and the freedom to drink a pint or two at the local pub. But things take a dark twist when she is a witness to a murder. Even scarier is that the murderer is imitating Jack the Ripper's killings from years ago--right down to the location. Rory's life gets complicated--a new roommate, a romantic interest, and some strange new friends. I believe this is Johnson's first attempt at supernatural and I enjoyed it in a fluffy way. This book won't leave you on the edge of your seat, but I enjoyed the voices of the narrator and will probably listen to the next book in the Shades of London series.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka, Read by Carrington MacDuffie and Samantha Quan

Oddly written, but I still wanted to hear how it ended. This novel loosely tells us what happened to Japanese women who came to America to be brides. We don't get to know any of the characters personally--rather their story is told in 3rd person. For example, "One is married to a short man who farms. One is married to a thin man who works in a laundry." Those aren't the exact words she used, but the entire book is written in that format. Of course, the women are told their lives in America will be dreamy, but most of them end up working in the fields of California and married to old men who look nothing like their picture.  Eventually the stories focus on their children who are trying to improve their lifestyles, but the tale ends with the Japanese being taken to camps. We never hear what life was like in the camp--just what the locals remember of when the Japanese Americans disappeared. Interesting way to tell a story, but I would have preferred following the lives of a few women.

Chime by Franny Billingsley, Read by Susan Duerden

Yet another audiobook I didn't want to finish. I made it to Disk 3, and then started to look longingly to the other audiobooks in my basket in the passenger seat. And I moved on.

Why? Because of the annoying repetitiveness.  I liked Briony, the main character who is a witch. But, really, how many times do I need to be told that she can't let people know she's a witch because she doesn't want to hang? I felt like I was told that information about ten times. I also didn't like sentences were repeated with additional information at the end. Since this is audio, I can't go back and find what I mean, but here is an example of the type of writing that annoyed me....

I am a car.
I am a car that is red.
I am a car that is red that is parked in the south lot.

When I'm listening to a book in the car, this is really, really annoying because I can't skim it, like I would if I were reading it in the print version.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham

There has been a lot of fuss about this novel--a Printz Honor award winner and an Odyssey Honor award winner, so I wanted to take a listen. Honestly, it moved a bit slowly for me and I'm usually a lover of horse stories. I think I read almost everything Dick Francis wrote back in the day and grew up reading the Black Stallion and Black Beauty books.

Puck is trying to save her family's house by winning the annual Scorpio races. She's a good horse rider, but the problem is the (insert strange name of horses here). The problem with listening to audio is that I have no idea how to spell new words! But these horses are evil--they're fast, vicious, and like to eat other horses and people. So trying to rein them in is dangerous. However, the riders take the risk for the money and the pride. Sean Kendrick is used to winning the races--he's the great (insert name of evil horse) trainer. He and Puck team up--part love interest, part trying to survive.

The audiobook was great except for the voice of the mean horse owner. I really hate when I have to turn the volume down in the car for different characters--and his voice was so loud and grating that I had to turn it down several notches!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

A student of mine said I should read this, and I'm glad I took his advice! It's a sweet read--like The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Help.

Auggie is about to start the first day of 5th grade and he's more than a little nervous. He's been homeschooled because he's a little abnormal. He was born with a genetic issue that led to multiple surgeries and people constantly staring at him. I couldn't help but think of the old movie Mask as I read the descriptions of what Auggie looked like.  Told through Auggie and the people around him, this is the story of his first year at a prep school in New York.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, Performed by Various Narrators

I don't usually blog about books I don't finish, but I'm going to this time. I listened to this audiobook until Disk 6 (out of 10) and I just couldn't take it anymore.

I loved the parts about the young boy, Oskar, and his trouble dealing with the death of his father on 9/11. Oskar is cute and odd. But then there were points-of-view from people I didn't care about....and too much of them. I need to see the movie and see if it sticks with Oskar's story.  Now, I know I sound like a young kid with a short attention span, but I didn't want to wait and see how the stories came together at the end.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Ahhh, these are the kind of books that give hope to this aging divorced lady.  :)

Hadley is 17 and suffering through airports and long plane rides to London to see the marriage of her dad and his British woman. Hadley isn't thrilled at all--she's claustrophobic, has never met the girlfriend, and resents her dad for moving to England and divorcing her mother. But Oliver, her plane seatmate, makes everything seem better. She falls in love--hard. So hard that she's willing to leave her dad's wedding in order to find Oliver again when she finds out something important about him.

This is one heck of a cross-Atlantic love story! And, um, if some Brit wants to sit next to me on my next flight, I'll be fine with it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski, Translated by Judith Pattinson

Along the same vein as Ready Player One, this is a book about a gaming experience that takes over your real life. Nick is a teenager in London and all of his friends begin playing this mysterious game. But no one is supposed to be talking about it. It's scary how the game KNOWS things about you--why? how? And why is the game giving you real-life tasks to complete?

If you're into gaming at all, take a look at this fast-paced thriller! It's been translated into 23 languages already!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards, Book #2 in The Lacey Chronicles

It wasn't until a few chapters in that I discovered there was a Book 1, but, no worries! You don't need to read the first book to understand what's going on.

Lady Jane Rievaulx is a widow. At age 18. Her elderly husband has recently died and now she must fend off his sons and her father to stay independent. That is difficult to do in England in 1583. She becomes a lady's maid to Queen Elizabeth, but still isn't free to love who she wants.

This is historical romance--big skirts and all! Plenty of love, intrigue, and humor to keep you reading.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Final Four by Paul Volponi

Just a little late for March Madness! Two teams are meeting in the Final Four--powerhouse Michigan State and tiny Troy University. Chapters are from different players points-of-view. Michigan State's freshman phenom is playing one year and heading to the NBA and has the attitude to match his skill. But his teammate Michael Jordan (try living up to THAT name!) tells his side, too. For Troy, Crispin Rice is a delivery boy dating the cute cheerleader named Helen. When he proposes after a win in the tournament, their romance takes the national spotlight. Troy's star, Roko Bacic, is a Croatian who moved to the States during high school to escape the war. He's a sweetheart who you'll root for.

All four players tell their stories and describe how they got to be basketball players in the Final Four. Along the way, you'll read about an awesome basketball game--quadruple overtime? Really?

This is the best basketball book (okay, the only) I've read since Rebound last year.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

The cover and title alone of this one will draw in teen readers, won't it? And they won't be disappointed. Jazz is a teenage boy trying to live a normal life. But that's difficult when your dad is in prison for murdering lots of people--his dad is a famous serial killer. Jazz isn't normal either--his dad raised him. So Jazz knows how to manipulate others, how to commit crimes, and how to be the perfect murderer. But he doesn't want to be------right? Jazz has quite the internal dialogue with his EVIL side about whether or not it wants to show itself. As much as the social worker and sheriff and his girlfriend try to help, Jazz still thinks he has something to prove. So when dead bodies start showing up in town again, he wants to help solve the case. He knows serial killers--he was raised by one. Jazz wants redemption, and possibly this is the way to get it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Daughter of Winter by Pat Lowery Collins, Performed by Kate Rudd

Addie is a twelve-year-old who has to learn how to be by herself. Her dad left weeks ago for the gold fields, leaving her behind with her mother and little brother. But soon after he leaves, her family becomes sick and Addie has to take care of them herself. She does the best that she can, but they don't make it. Addie is terrified. It's 1849 and she isn't sure how long she can fool the neighbors into thinking her ma is still alive. She doesn't want to be shipped away somewhere else though--what will happen if her pa returns and she isn't there? And so Addie is determined to make it on her own. An old Wampanoag woman helps her, and Addie soon realizes that there is much more to her heritage than she realizes. Nokummus isn't just an old lady--she's an elderly lady who has the answers to questions that Addie doesn't even know she has.

I had to listen to this because the main character's name is Addie! It's a sweet historical read, even if parts are a bit unbelievable.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Riding Out the Storm by Sis Deans

The entire book is a Greyhound bus ride, but there's plenty of stories to keep you interested! Zach is riding with his Grandpa to see his brother Derek, and, as you read, you find out more and more about Derek. Zach is only in 8th grade, but is fascinated by the sophomore girl sitting next to him on the bus. Zach calls her "Purplehead" and the two swap life stories. She's pierced and painted black, and he's a basketball star, yet they get along just fine. It's a sweet, gentle read.

Friday, March 30, 2012

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Felicita is rich, but sheltered (think Jasmine from Alladin) and wants to escape. When her brother wants to marry her to a distant family, she decides it's better to be poor. She runs away, finds some help with some street kids, and gets involved in a plot against her own wealthy family.

That's a quick little summary, but the unique fantasy elements are what makes this book interesting. Sure, there are vampires, but they're called bats and you're not quite sure what's going on when they are first mentioned. There's violence in Pelimburg, as well as strange, dark relationships between the characters.

Recommended for upperclassmen and adults.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

Why read YA books? Because it deals with us old fogies, too! Sadie is in love with her best friend, Garrett. When he goes away to a writing workshop for the summer, she swears that she is going to try to get over him. He doesn't love her and she has spent the last two years turning into a female Garrett. She likes his music, reads his authors, dresses the way he likes girls to dress, and basically doesn't know herself.  It takes some new (and older) friends at a local coffee shop to help Sadie get over him. And, listen to this, girls. She DOES NOT date someone else to get over him! She tries to find herself--what does she like? How does she want to dress? What kind of boy does she even like? What does she want to do with her life?  Sadie starts to find all the answers and must fight temptation when Garrett comes home from class at the end of the summer. Does she give him a chance to love her? Is he worth it? Or, better yet, is she going to lower herself to date him?

What I love about this book is that Sadie's older friend finds herself losing her own dreams in the man she is dating and does the only thing she can think of--runs away. Did Dominique make the right decision? Yep! Which is more important? Law school? or a man who kinda likes you? DUH!!!!

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

All you girls who love to read dark, realistic fiction, this is the book for you! Jenna has an alcoholic mother, a cheating and distant father, a brother who escapes the family to fight overseas, and friends who aren't there.  Jenna is a cutter, too, so I know this book will be popular at my high school.

The entire book is told from Jenna's point-of-view into a police recorder. Jenna is in the hospital for some reason, and she's explaining her story to the officer.  But, whoa, is Jenna telling the truth? Did all this really happen? How much is made up? Or what she wanted to happen? Add in a freaky manipulative male teacher at school, and you have one heck of a dramatic read!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Read by Grayce Wey

So glad I finally got around to reading this 2011 Alex Award winner! I can see why it's still a bestseller.

Kimberly escapes Hong Kong when she's 11, but her life in New York City isn't very good.  Her aunt pays their way and for her mother's TB medications, and then forces them to live in a gross roach-infested room with no heat besides an oven.  Kimberly and her mother work in the aunt's factory for almost nothing, but eventually they are able to work their way out of the sweatshop. How? Through Kimberly's brain.  She's brilliant and able to receive scholarships to the best private schools in NYC and then into an Ivy League college. Through it all, she loves her mother and tries her best to "save" the two of them.

My one problem with the story is this. If Kimberly is so smart, you know she was learning about workers' rights and minimum wage laws in school in junior high. She knew child labor was illegal. So why didn't she try to help her mother get a better job? Why did Kimberly agree to work from after school to 9 pm to help get the paltry amount of money they received for working in the garment factory? It just didn't seem like Kim was the type of girl to accept her problem, especially when she was in high school.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Love? maybe. by Heather Hepler

Sometimes I'm just in the mood for a light love story and this book hit the spot. Piper isn't into Valentine's Day--she doesn't have a boyfriend, her dad hasn't spoken to her in two years, and her mom is screwed up in love, too.  So Piper is a cynic--so much that she develops Consternation Hearts to sell at the candy store where she works. lol.  Piper thinks that she'll be happy if she could date her boy-crush, Ben Donovan (yes, you must use first and last name when talking about him), but even Ben disappoints her.  Like many a love story, Piper finds that the perfect boy for her is right under her nose.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Read by Jim Dale

I'd heard great things about this Alex Award winner and knew it was a huge bestseller for adult fiction. However, I was disappointed. Here's why.  The actual plot of the book in interesting---two old men sorcerers with nothing better to do use a person as a pawn in their own sad game. Winner lives, loser dies. The two children, Celia and Marco, are raised to be the best--surrounded by magic and fantasy, but not much love. That story I loved--and the characters in the circus like the young twins and the contortionists.  But, whoa, the story-telling took forever. Once the circus started, I felt like the action slowed--much like the ticking of the dying clock, and I found myself looking longingly at the other audiobook in my car. But, no, I couldn't give up after listening to more than half the book.  All in all, I don't think I would have fought for this one to be on the Alex list--I'm purchasing a copy for my school, but I bet it won't be popular here.  We'll see if I'm right...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve

In this YA novel, Voorhoeve tells a story that isn't told very often about World War II and the Holocaust--children who lived in foster homes.

Franziska Mangold doesn't have much religion in her life growing up in Germany. She wears a cross around her neck, but her family is considered Jewish by the Nazi government.  Her concerned mother places her on a kindertransport with other children to escape to England to be safe during the troubles. Newly named Frances, she must learn English quickly and try to get her parents moved over to England, too.  But then the war comes to England and Frances is moved again to the countryside of England.

I've thought about how tough it would have been to leave home and move to a different country without parents.  But I never thought about how the children might become attached to their new families and NOT want to go back home! Children do adapt easily, so I'm sure this happened to many. Going home to a broken family suffering from post-traumatic stress would not have been easy.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

There seems to be a proliferation of road trip novels lately (Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, Going Bovine, Wherever Nina Lies, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors) but I don't mind.  I think every teenager wishes he or she could drop everything and drive somewhere with no adults, right?

Colby is graduating from high school and has been planning his road trip for years. His best friend Bev is going with him to Europe--they're going to see the tulips, and his mom in Paris, and all sorts of other landmarks that wandering teens should see.  But Bev changes her plans without telling Colby and he's left in the lurch. They still have a roadtrip up the West coast with Bev's band, The Disenchantments, but the road trip is a stressful one. Colby still ends up finding his way, though, and discovers that love is one complicated emotion.

This is different from LaCour's first novel, Hold Still, which was on the Morris Award short list. That one was a tearjerker. No tears here, but it's a good coming of age story about learning to love.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Agency: the Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

Mary Quinn is back for the 4th book of the series.  This time she's working as a servant in Queen Victoria's castle and trying to find out who the thief is.  While there, she overhears all sorts of secrets.  Who killed the man with the Prince of Wales? Is it her thought-to-be-dead Chinese father? and what will happen with the lovely James Easton? Will there be romance for Mary? Or will she solve the mystery of the stolen goods and save the Queen?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

It's always fun to find books that are a little different--Chopsticks is told like a journal or scrapbook.  Last month I read the adult novel The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, and this young adult novel is very similar in format.

Glory is an awesome piano player--her dad is her teacher and she has been playing her entire life.  Her life starts to fall apart when her mom dies, but a boy moving next door is her saving grace.  Frank is from South America and the two teens fall in love when he moves next door to Glory.  Her father isn't sure how to handle the romance, so he takes Glory to Europe for a whirlwind musical performance tour.  The two teens stay in touch with chats, emails, and postcards, but it seems like Glory is starting to slip.  For some reason, playing Chopsticks pleases her, and we think that perhaps she is slipping into an unstable mental state.  And this is when the book is up to the reader. What really happens to Glory? It's a mystery and a romance all wrapped up into one beautiful book. I'm looking forward to sharing this with our art teacher....

This One Time with Julia by David Lampson

For all of you who like weird books, this one is for you! Joe isn't the brightest boy in the bunch--he'd rather gamble than learn to read or be lazy instead of be productive. He might be LD or have Asberger's  or something else, but no one has cared enough to find out for him. His twin brother Alvin likes that Joe never changes, but Alvin isn't the most mentally stable kid in town either.

When Alvin disappears, Joe escapes with Alvin's ex-girlfriend and basically takes his place as pool boy. Joe falls in love (he thinks), but he isn't exactly sure what is going on with Julia's family or Alvin.

I'm really surprised Joe is able to feed himself or survive in his world--he seems so completely out of it. From the front cover, the reader thinks Joe is gorgeous, but he seems so dense that he doesn't seem able to function. It's always difficult to read about characters that are difficult to understand, and Joe, Alvin, and Julia are just not in my world. Thankfully!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No-Name Baby by Nancy Bo Flood

Sophie thinks it's all her fault when her mom goes into labor early, almost losing the baby. Her mom has lost many babies before, and having Aunt Rae in the household doesn't make things easier. There are many secrets crowding the small house and Sophie is in the dark about most of them. Through lots of listening and connecting the dots, Sophie discovers a lot about her family, but comes to accept them.

Good for reluctant readers--the chapters are titled and short, and the entire book is only 103 pages with large font. Most of the plot is told through dialogue. I was a little worried about the oven scene--you'll see what I mean if you read it!

FYI Illinois school librarians--the setting is rural northern Illinois--there is mention of Joliet and Illinois Normal College.  Sophie's family is Italian-American and the boy she has a crush on is Polish-American.

The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherford, Read by John Keating

I LOVE Edward Rutherford and all his huge epics (see New York: the Novel) so I was thrilled to see that he broke The Dublin Saga up into two audiobooks for me--much more manageable! Irish, Welsh, and English accents liven us this audiobook--love it!

In true epic fashion, Rutherford follows a few families from the beginning of Ireland up to the beginning of Protestantism in England and the problems it causes in Ireland. I listened to the abridged audio, which may have caused me to not get too attached to the stories of the families. I felt like there was too much history and not enough personal drama to keep me interested. However, I'll listen to the next one just so I can hear the accents again!

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck, Read by Jayne Entwistle

I'll always read Peck's new book--even if it's for children and about talking mice! He's been writing award winners since I was a child--and it's even better that he writes about central Illinois sometimes.  See On the Wings of Heroes and A Season of Gifts.

 In his latest novel, a family of young mice go on the adventure of a lifetime when their human family travels to England to find a husband. The mice are extremely well behaved aboard the ship (not vermin, at all!) It's a cute little read--good for the whole family to read together.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

I'm starting to like graphic novels--I can flip through one pretty fast during a slow hour in the library! This artwork is familiar--I've read Brain Camp and Zombies Calling, so I knew the artwork would be clean and crisp.

Maggie is starting school for the first time as a 9th grader--her mom always home schooled her, but now her mom has left the family. Maggie has to depend on her police chief dad and three older brothers to help her. Making friends is difficult, especially when there is a ghost following you around and you've spend so much time with your family!

Recommended for junior high and secondary libraries. It's clean and handles topics like peer pressure, bullying, first loves, and friendship very well. My favorite page? Man hug!

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

I really enjoy books like this. Ever see Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Where the whole movie tells what happened in one crazy day in the life of Ferris? That's what this book is like. Reminded me of Finding Lubchenko and The Rise of Lubchenko, which are two books that I highly recommend to boy readers.

Perry is a senior who had high hopes when he heard his family was getting a Lithuanian foreign exchange student. Unfortunately, she wasn't hot and interesting.  In fact, she was boring and he felt obligated to be nice to her.  When she all of a sudden wants to go to senior prom with Perry, he is forced to take Gobi by his parents.  And then the action starts! Gobi isn't what Perry thought she was. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the night consists of high-speed car chases, the police, the mob, evil people, gunshots, murder, and revenge. I couldn't put this book down!