Friday, November 26, 2010

Preludes and Noctures: The Sandman: Volume 2

Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Year: 1995

Wonderful. That's the only word needed to describe this graphic novel. I must have this entire collection for my library.

I'd Know You Anywhere

Author: Laura Lippman
Year:  2010
Publisher: William Morrow

Eliza Benedict was kidnapped as a teenager and held hostage. She's also the only victim that her kidnapper let live. Now, over 20 years later, she receives a letter from the man who kidnapped her. He's down to his final days on death row and  he wants to talk to her. 

I'm not sure how I felt about this book. It was a good read and entertaining when I was reading it but it wasn't memorable - a book that I can recall in vivid details two weeks later.

The Reversal

Author:  Michael Connelly
Year:  2010
Narrator: Peter Giles

In this book, Michael Connelly combines Harry Bosch with Mickey Haller and I've got to say, the combination worked very well. Harry Bosch is probably my favorite series character and definitely my favorite detective/mystery character. In The Reversal, Mickey Haller joins the prosecution team to retry a man convicted of murder 20 years earlier but DNA evidence has now freed him. Mickey asks Harry to help him find the evidence to put the killer back in prison.

I liked the way this story contrasted the differences between Bosch and Haller but also brought out their similarities. Peter Giles is the perfect narrator for these books. 

I must say, I am continually impressed with Michael Connelly. Over the years, I have tired of almost every long term detective/thriller/mystery character except for Harry Bosch. Somehow, Connelly has managed to keep Harry the same but changing and growing. I forget just how much I love these books until I start reading them. In this case, I again found myself letting a Michael Connelly sit on my ipod for a long period of time and then kicking myself for not listening to it as soon as I got it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fables: Animal Farm

Author: Bill Willingham
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Year: 2003

In this novel of the Fables collection, there has been a murder at the Farm (the place where the fairy creatures that can't pass as human live) - one of the three little pigs has been killed. As Snow White investigates, she learns of a revolution planned by the fairy creatures on the farm against the city fairy creatures led by Goldilocks (I always knew she was trouble). I couldn't believe all the characters from favorite stories Willingham managed to bring into this story. It was like playing a game with myself to see if I could remember what role each one of the characters had been in literature. What fun. One note about these comics: I would be careful about letting younger children read them. They can be quite graphic and some of the material is most definitely for adults.

Fables: Legends in Exile

Author: Bill Willingham
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Year: 2002

This group of graphic novels came highly recommended to me. They're kind of an addition to all the favorite fairy tales that we heard (or read) growing up. In short, Willingham takes the fairy tale characters and places them in modern times. There has been a hostile takeover of the fairy lands and the characters were forced out of their homelands by the Adversary and are living in the New York area. Being immortal, they've been living in America for centuries. They've adapted and have their own underground society. 

In this first novel, Snow White's sister, Rose Red, has disappeared and the only trace is a lot of blood in her apartment building. The Big Bad Wolf (who is now human and goes by the name "Bigby") plays the lead detective with Snow White (who is divorced from Prince Charming) as his sidekick. 

This novel was very imaginative and fun. I can't wait to see where Willingham goes with the story. 

Interpreter of Maladies

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
Year: 1999

Years ago in college I read Jhumpa Lahiri's short story, "A Temporary Matter." The story enchanted me. I found the story jumping to the forefront of my mind any time someone asked what my favorite short story is. The characters are memorable and the story is heart-breaking. It's one of those stories where the situation that the characters are placed in pulls on the reader and makes you wonder what you would do in their situation. I immediately placed on the entire collection, Interpreter of Maladies, on my to be read list; however, I never have got around to it. Well, I finally got it on inter-library loan. And I wasn't disappointed. Not only did I love the title story, but I enjoyed almost every other story in the collection. Most notably, my favorites are: aww, shucks, all of them.

Lahiri writes achingly beautiful stories. You can feel the atmosphere and the little touches that creates the Indian background and heritage of her characters. The characters are easy to identify with and unique in literature. Yet their struggles to succeed and simply fit in are universal to everyone no matter their race or religion. I am very glad I finally got around to reading this book. I recommend this book for anyone that wants to expand their horizons on other cultures or just enjoys stories about human nature.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Baking Cakes in Kigali

Author: Gaile Parkin
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Year: 2009

This book centers on Angel Tungaraza. Angel runs a thriving cake baking business in Rwanda. From her kitchen, Angel seems to be involved in everybody's life. People come in, order cakes, drink tea and tell Angel stories. The stories that Angel hears are beautiful stories of love, loss, grief and hope. The people that live in Angel's neighborhood come from all over the world and they're in Kigali to help Rwanda rebuild after the war and genocide that has destroyed so much of the country and killed so many. They come from different backgrounds and their stories vary as much as the people.

I read this book slowly because I wanted to enjoy it. Parkin does a wonderful job of bringing Kigali and the people in it to life. She also weaves in a story of hope through a wedding in the novel of hope and unity. If you're a person that likes reading about other cultures, then I definitely recommend you give this novel a try. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside The Harry Potter Phenomenon

Author: Melissa Anelli
Publishers: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Year: 2008

I picked this book up right after it came out because I listen to (and love) Pottercast and wanted to read the book written by one of its hosts. The book went directly into my TBR stack and got lost amid the pile of ignored books. Then, last week, I was going through my TBR stack picking out books to read while in Orlando this week, stumbled across this forgotten purchase and decided this would be the perfect book to read while I was visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which was awesome by the way). For those who don't know, Melissa Anelli is first and foremost a Harry Potter fan. She also helps run The Leaky Cauldron, a Harry Potter website, and hosts Pottercast, a Harry Potter podcast. Her book is about the Harry Potter fandom: how it came to be, what it means to the Harry Potter fans and how it is different than most any fandom that existed before or after it. She touches on how the internet influenced the popularity of the Harry Potter books and connected fans all around the world. Oh and we can't forget Wizard Rock.

I loved this book. Of course, I am a fan of both of Anelli's website and podcast. I found Pottercast at a very difficult time in my life. I listened to the first fifty podcasts non-stop. By the time I was "caught up," I felt like the whole crew were friends. Reading Harry, A History reminded just how much I love their show and just how much being a Harry Potter fan has meant to me. I enjoyed seeing how some of the stories and interviews that I'd read about on Leaky or heard about on Pottercast came to be. I also loved reading about the friendships and connections that were made through the love of the Harry Potter books. I've experienced that feeling of belonging to something again first hand this week while at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I saw other fans like myself that were just teeming over with excitement at being there and seeing the world they had imagined in real life. We squirmed with excitement over Ollivander's wand shop, reveled in the sweets at Honeydukes and laughed at the products at Zonkos but the most exciting part was walking through Hogwarts itself. I talked to fans from all over their world that had made their way to Orlando, Florida for this chance to live in the Harry Potter world. Oh, wait, I'm getting off topic. This is supposed to be about Melissa Anelli's book, not The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But, if you're a Harry Potter fan, then you should definitely read this book. 

View of Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Nightingale's Lament

Author:  Simon R. Green
Narrator: Marc Vietor
Year: 2008

This is the third book in Simon R. Green's Nightside series. In this book, John Taylor has been hired to check in on the Nightside's newest singing sensation, nicknamed Nightingale, and find out why so many of her fans are committing suicide after hearing her sing. In doing so, Taylor stumbles into a case that might be just a little bit more than he can handle.

I really like this series a lot. There's nothing outstanding about them but they're good, easy entertainment and make the daily commute a lot easier and quicker. Marc Vietor narrates the books very well.

The Magicians

Author: Lev Grossman
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Year:  2009

Quentin Coldwater is a genius. He's pretty much guaranteed admission to any college he chooses; yet, he's miserable and unhappy with his life. The only time he's really happy is when he's rereading his favorite childhood books set in a magical kingdom called Fillory. One day Quentin finds himself being admitted to a very secret college of magic in upstate New York and his entire life changes. Not only does he learn that magic is real but he also learns that Fillory just might be real also. But will Fillory provide Quentin with the happiness he's been seeking? Or will it end up being a nightmare?

I'm a little bit at a loss as to exactly how I feel about this book. It's obvious that Lev Grossman borrowed ideas from J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis and other fantasy greats; however, he does openly acknowledge his influences and even makes direct references to them inside the story. My problem is not with the basic storyline. I can accept the borrowing (in all honesty, I think it would be very difficult to write an original storyline in the fantasy genre). I was put off a bit by the language, drinking and very adult lifestyles the characters lead. Also, the hero wasn't very heroic. I kept waiting for him to find that inner strength and become the hero of his story but it never came. That bothered me a lot (although that was an original turn in the story). I would tell people to approach the book with an open mind but if you're sensitive to adult themes stay away from it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Year: 2009

Mary lives in a world after The Return filled with the Unconsecrated. Her village has a fence around it to keep the Unconsecrated out and the villagers rely on The Sisterhood to guide them and the Guardians to protect them. But for Mary, there exists more. There's a world that her mother told her in stories passed down for generations of mothers. Stories that tell of a world before and of the ocean. A place with more water than she can imagine and more hope than she can dream of. And things in Mary's world are changing and she must decide whether she will accept the life she's been given or fight for the life she dreams of.

This book has been in my TBR pile for a while. I kept hearing great things about it and bought it on a whim at the bookstore one night but never could bring myself to actually read it. Now, I'm wondering what kept me from reading it for so long. It's awesome. The story is well written and very imaginative. Ryan makes the world of the Forest of Hands and Teeth so real that I could see and feel it. When Mary was attacked by the Unconsecrated, I felt like I was being attacked. The book was so engrossing that I found it more interesting than the theme park I was reading it at. I highly recommend this book.

The Reckoning

Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Year: 2010

In the third book of Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers Trilogy, Chloe Saunders and her friends, Simon (the sorcerer), Tori (the witch) and Derek (the werewolf) are still on the run from the Edison Group. They've taken refuge (at least temporarily) with another group whose purpose is to bring down the Edison Group. The teenagers are still learning about their powers and still trying to figure out where they fit into this world but they are quickly running out of time as the Edison Group closes in and they people that are helping them might just have ulterior motives. 

Like the other books in this series, I devoured The Reckoning. It's a fast paced book with lots of action and I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen to Chloe and how she was going to make her way to safety. Unfortunately, The Reckoning doesn't appear to be the end of Chloe's story and I'm going to have to wait for Armstrong to make her way back to Chloe. I just hope she hurries.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Curse of the Bane: The Last Apprentice: Book 2

Author: Joseph Delaney
Publisher: Harper Trophy/Harper Collins Publishers
Date: 2005

Thomas Ward is the apprentice to the county Spook who teaches Thomas how to fight ghosts, witches and boggarts. Now the two must journey to Priestown to fight a creature so evil and so strong that even the Spook is terrified of it. On top of that The Quisitor has come to Priestown and he's intent on destroying all people who may or may not be witches or wizards. 

This second book is a good continuance in the series. Thomas has grown some since the first book but he's still got a lot to learn. Delaney does a good job of telling this story quickly with a fast pace and lots of drama. He also leaves some little questions in the air that he can build on answer in the books to come.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Vallley

Author: Georgiana C. Kotarski
Publisher: John F. Blair Publisher
Year: 2006

The title pretty much tells you exactly what this book is about - ghosts in the Southern Tennessee Valley area. What I particularly liked about this story is it's about the area that I live in. I know all these places and had heard the stories of some of these ghosts but there are so many more that I didn't know about. I think at least 1/3 of the ghosts described in this book are within ten miles of my house. (I'm getting ideas for a driving tour on Halloween weekend as I write.) I enjoyed reading this book. Ms. Kotarski does a good job of telling the stories, making them human and real. It's very easy to read. I went to the book reading with the author and she did an excellent job of telling the stories in person also.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Capture the Castle

Author: Dodie Smith
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Year: 1948

I Capture the Castle follows seventeen year old Cassandra Mortmain and her family in 1930s England. They live in a falling apart castle in the English countryside in complete poverty. They struggle to for food, clothes, and even warmth on winter nights. Cassandra's father had taken out a 40 year lease on the castle back when his one book was a success. If not for that, the family most likely would be homeless. The story is told in the form of journal entries by Cassandra. She longs to be a writer and practices by writing out the stories of her family's life in what she calls "speed writing" on journals given to her. At times the book reminded me a lot of Pride and Prejudice. The girls worried about finding husbands in the financial state (why they had no money to buy clothes, go to London or even go anywhere that they might meet a man). Then one day, the Cottons come back home with their eligible young sons - Simon and Neil - and everything changes. You know, that whole "a man in possession fortune" thing.

This book took me forever to read but it wasn't because it was a bad book; it was just a slow reader. It had the feel of an Austen or Bronte novel and it needed the time required to savor the art of the writing and to feel the English countryside and time that the characters lived in. Cassandra was such an easy character to fall in love with. She was bright, precocious, and humorous. I  have to admit I had never heard of Dodie Smith when I picked up this book but she was quite a writer. Then, I read in the author bio at the end of the book that she wrote The Hundred and One Dalmations - one of my favorite childhood stories.

In short, if you liked Pride and Prejudice, you'll like this novel.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Year: 2010

So it seems like I'd been waiting forever for this book to be released; not quite as long as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but a really long time. In this final book of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Katniss has been rescued from the Games by the rebels and is tucked away safely in District 13; however, Peeta is being held prisoner by the Capitol and tortured. (Oh no!!) The rebellion has turned into an all out war between the Capitol and the rebels. Katniss must decide whether she will risk everything and everyone she loves and step up and be the face of the rebellion as the Mockingjay.

Mockingjay is just as intense and emotional as the previous two books and I was not disappointed in it. I began this book on audiobook (the narrator is very good). My commute was too short and it was taking too long to listen to the book so I broke down, bought the hardcover and devoured the final six hours in two hours. When I first finished the book, I had to think about the final chapters and decide exactly how I felt about them as I wiped away the tears from my eyes. Those tears in my eyes - that meant the book was good.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Breathe Underwater

Author: Julie Orringer
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: 2003


                                                                         Recently, I've heard a lot about Julie Orringer's 
latest book; so I decided to get it on interlibrary loan. Unfortunately, it wasn't available. But I did come across her first novel, How to Breathe Underwater. I saw it was a collection of short stories and decided to give it a shot because, as I've said in other posts, I love short stories. When a short story comes together and is written right, it is a true work of art. Julie Orringer's collection of stories in this book are a masterpiece. I was hooked after reading the first story entitled "Pilgrims" and completely reeled in by "The Isabel Fish." My mind is still processing some of the stories.

This collection focuses on girls and women struggling to deal with love and loss and religion. She reminded me of Flannery O'Conner (and that's high praise coming from me). Like O'Conner, a number of Orringer's protagonists struggled coming to grips with their sexuality and religion and finding that balance between the two. Some of the stories were harsh and brutal and reminiscent of "Good Country People" and "A Good Man is Hard to Find." There was one major difference between O'Conner and Orringer: O'Conner told her stories from a distance whereas Orringer invited her readers to step into her characters minds and hearts and feel their struggles, love and loss and maybe, just maybe, when you're thrown to the bottom of the lake, grasping for air, you'll remember her words and breathe.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I have to admit, I didn't exactly know what I was getting into when I started this book. I just really liked the cover. In short, this story is about a girl named Grace who falls in love with a guy named Sam. The problem? He's a werewolf and every winter, as the temperature drops, he changes to a wolf. Even bigger problem? This is his last year as a human. 

This was a really good book. The two main characters are very well developed and Maggie Stiefvater does a good job of conveying their emotions. She switches back and forth between Sam and Grace's thoughts but it's not difficult to follow because each chapter is labeled with the name of the person whose point of view the story comes from. Plus, it was really nice to read a werewolf book that (1) had no vampires and (2) the werewolf didn't lose the girl to the vampire.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Irresistible Henry House

This book has an amazingly unique premise. It tells the story of Henry House a/k/a Henry Gaines. Henry is a practice baby. This means that he was born as an orphan and began his life living in a practice house at Wilton College. A practice house program is part of the home economics department. Here prospective mothers take turns learning how to raise a baby using the practice baby of the year. I had no clue that such a program ever existed and found the whole idea fascinating. The book continues to follow Henry through his life and shows how having numerous mothers influenced the person that Henry became.

I really enjoyed the first 1/3 of this book. About halfway the book was dragging big time. I think that Lisa Grunwald spent too much time growing Henry up. She could have easily skipped some of the troublesome teenage years and the book wouldn't have suffered (maybe even improved). But, once Henry starts working, the book picks back up. I don't think it was Henry's story got interesting so much as his jobs were interesting. Henry gets to work on projects that were iconic to pop culture history and it was fun imaging being a part of those worlds. 

I listened to this one on audiobook and the narrator did a pretty good job. I don't think the lag in the middle had anything to do with Oliver Wyman's narration. 

Give the book a try if you're interested in this sort of thing but don't feel guilty if you want to skip the middle.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Awakening

This is the second book in The Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong. It continues the story of Chloe Saunders and her friends as they try to escape from the Edison Group - a bunch of scientists that are using the supernatural teens as genetic altering experiences. I enjoyed this book as much, if not more, than I did the first book. Armstrong continues to develop the characters. I felt for them even more and rooted for them - I even started liking Tori. Somehow, Armstrong manages to write stories that are non-stop action and fast paced and still believable. (Well, as long as you have no problem believing in supernatural powers.) I recommend this series even more now. Wonder how long it'll be before the third book comes in from the library? At least I've got Mockingjay to read until then.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Unwritten: Volume 2: Inside Man

Author: Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Year: 2010

Inside Man picks up where Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity leaves off. Tommy is in prison for the murders that took place in the last story and has been extradited to France. But Tommy's enemies follow him to France intent on killing him. 

I think my favorite thing about this graphic novel series is the way that it plays on fact and fiction and how so many facts become a fiction in the telling and stretching of stories through time. The comics also highlight the importance of stories on our lives. The authors even use the most popular children's story books of our time (maybe of any time) - Harry Potter. This story in particular showed how children embrace the stories, live the stories and make them real; thus, blurring that line between fact and fiction even more. 

This graphic novel series is not just for comic readers but also for lovers of literature in general.

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

Author: Alan Bradley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Year: 2010

This is the second of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mystery novels. For those who know nothing of little Flavia, she is an eleven year girl living in the 1950s English countryside. Flavia is obsessed with poisons and various ways to kill people with poisons. Yet, she manages to find herself in the midst of solving murders with both books. 

In The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, a traveling puppeteer comes to Bishops Lacey and ends up dead and, of course, Flavia is right in the middle of the mystery. Flavia's biggest problem ends up being the sheer number of people who had reason to want the puppeteer dead.

I love these books. They're great little mysteries (cozy mysteries). They're humorous, Flavia is enchanting and the stories are well written. Some people might worry that they'd have a hard time believing an eleven year old could solve murders but Flavia is believable. She's like a younger version of Nancy Drew. If you're a plain old mystery reader, you need to be reading these books.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Summoning

Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Year: 2008

Chloe Saunders sees ghosts. What's more, they've started showing up everywhere - at home, on the street and at school. They're talking to her and following her around. When she sees a ghost at school, it lands her at Lyle House for teens with problems for a "couple of weeks." At Lyle House, Chloe meets some more teens with abilities similar to hers. She also learns that there is someone - or something - out there that doesn't have her best interests at heart.

I was totally surprised by this book. It is not a literature type book. It follows most all YA paranormal conventions; yet, I couldn't stop reading it. I ended up staying up until the wee hours of the night reading it on a work night. Then, I couldn't wait to get to the library's website and order the next books in the series. It was a fun, little book that got a little scary in a couple of parts and has me eager to finish the series.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

This novella is an extension of the Twilight world. It tells the story of Bree Tanner. She is one of the newbie vampires created by Victoria and Riley as a part of their vampire army to fight the Cullens. The story tells how Bree felt being a new vampire and dealing with the emotions created in her new life and her confusion as to exactly what she was feeling and doing in this world. All of us who have read the Twilight novels know that Bree comes to a bad end but it was nice getting a little glimpse at the story from an outsider's point of view. All in all it was a quick, easy read that was fairly enjoyable.

Y: The Last Man: Book 3: One Small Step and Book 4: Safeword

These two volumes continue the story of Yorick Brown and his adventures as the last man left on earth after a deadly virus kills all male mammals except for Yorkick and his monkey, Ampersand. Yorick, 355 and Dr. Mann are still working their way across America to Dr. Mann's lab in San Francisco and they are still encountering all kinds of trouble along the way. I'm getting more invested in these characters as the story goes along. I am also really enjoying the story but I'm still not sure whether it's a book that most girls would like. It's more a guy's novel.

The Complete Maus

More than once while I was reading this graphic novel, I stopped and thought "wow." Maus is the story of Art Spiegelman's father, Vladek's experiences as a Jew during World War II. It follows him as a wealthy businessman at the beginning of the war, the loss of his property, hiding out, becoming a prisoner in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. As the younger Spiegelman tells the story of his father's experiences, he also weaves in the tale of his and his father's relationship and how the war affected them. It shows little nuances his father developed as a result of his time as a prisoner and how the son became a survivor of the war through his father's experiences. To some point, it also asks whether the survivors of the concentration camps were the winners and the victims losers or was it the other way around?

Art Spiegelman's book should be required reading in school. I felt more emotion in this graphic novel than I ever felt while reading Anne Frank. And in the end, the only word I could come up to describe this book was "wow." 

Sunday, August 1, 2010


As an old man lies dying, he remembers back on his life - his successes, failures, career, and his turbulent relationship with his father who left when he was a child. That pretty much sums up this book but it makes it too simple. There are beautiful sentences in this book that have to be read and reread (you can definitely tell that it's a former English major showing off). But Harding does write very well. The story is complicated yet simple at the same time. It's a short novel but it felt longer than The Passage. I don't know if that's because the book took me so much physical time to read because I've been so busy and had to read it in spurts here and there or if it was because I was rereading so many parts because I was getting lost in the language and didn't realize what the story was telling me. I recommend giving this book a try but be sure and bring your thinking cap with you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Soul to Keep

In this installment of the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, Kaylee and her boyfriend, Nash, discover that someone is selling demon's breath to their fellow high school students as the newest and coolest drug. And, people are dying. Now, they're in a race to find the culprit before someone else dies. Not to mention that Kaylee's world gets shattered when things hit way too close to home and she's forced to make decisions no person should have to face.

I get more and more invested in these characters with every book. This one was my favorite of the books. Hopefully, Rachel Vincent does not intend on ending the series any time soon as I could easily pick up the next book and start listening right now. I think that Rachel Vincent does a very good job of developing the characters with each book. This time, I found myself wishing for something to happen that I never would have suspected but, alas, I can't tell you what that is or I  might spoil things for somebody. Now, if somebody's read them and wants to talk, let me know. Oh, yeah, Amanda Roncini does an excellent job narrating as well.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Y: The Last Man: Cycles: Book 2

Cycles continues the story of Yorick Brown and his journey as the last man left on earth after a plague kills all male mammals on Earth. In this volume, Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann are working their way across America to California. I am enjoying these graphic novels and feel that the second volume improved a lot over the first volume and was much more women-reader friendly.

Book 7 in the Graphic Novels Challenge

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son which means that he doesn't inherit the family farm and that there aren't many choices for him when it comes to to apprentice him out for a job. That's why he ends up being apprenticed to Old Gregory - the county Spook. Twenty-nine apprentices have tried out for the job before Thomas and all have failed. Thomas is the end of the line - but can he survive the job?

I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy and fun read. The story was entertaining and even a little bit scary at one point. I can't wait to go to the bookstore and get more of the series.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sizzling Sixteen

The latest Stephanie Plum novels finds Stephanie, Lula and Connie trying to come up with the money to pay the ransom rescue Vinny from his bookie. Of course, there are lots of failed plans, a destroyed car, doughnuts, Cluck-in-a-Bucket, a new diet for Lula and more Ranger (forget about Stephanie and just come get me, Ranger).

Lorelei King does another excellent job of narrating this audiobook. I am never disappointed in one of her performances. I can see the characters she's reading. This isn't my favorite Stephanie Plum novel but it was another solid entry in the series.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Passage

I've heard a lot of hype about this book for a couple of months. It had a lot of pre-publication publicity. I really wanted to read it when I first heard about it but then when I started hearing about it everywhere, I got somewhat leery. As a brief description, this is a post-apocalyptic novel. A government experiment goes wrong and in one night the entire world changes. A virus spreads quickly killing most people it encounters, others it changes into vampires. But Cronin does not romanticize his vampires at all. They are cruel, evil, deadly creatures who are out to kill any humans they can find still alive in America. 

I think the best way to describe this novel is to say that Cronin took The Stand, The Road and I Am Legend and stirred them all together in a pot and out popped The Passage. I think I've read comparisons to all three books in different reviews of this book and there is echoes of all of them there. The most important idea that Cronin brings from all those novels is that of humanity and the survival of the human spirit. It wasn't a great piece of literature but there were sentences and turns of phrase that were absolutely beautiful. Cronin knows how to perfectly foreshadow something to where you read the line and almost miss the fact that he just told you what's about to happen. It also isn't one of those books where you get so invested in the characters that  you have to know what is going to happen to them (maybe because there are so many characters) but at the same time I found that I had an almost impossible time putting the book down. I kept saying "one more chapter and then I'll go to bed" or "I've got time to read a few more pages before lunch is over".  

If you like horror novels or old school Stephen King, you'll like this. But be forewarned, the nearly 800 page tome is the first in a series of I think three books. Oh, and the cliffhanger at the end is huge. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Graveyard Book

Nobody Owens lives in the graveyard. He has all his life. Well, at least as long has he can remember. He loves living in the graveyard and learning and playing from the ghosts that live there. Yet, a part of him longs to venture outside the graveyard and to live among the, well, living. But to go outside the graveyard is dangerous for Bod (as Nobody is called) for there are people out there who want to kill him like they did his parents the night Bod was brought to the graveyard.

I listened to this book last week. It's is narrated by Neil Gaiman. Let me just say right up front, Gaiman is the exception to the rule that authors are terrible  narrators. He's a fantastic narrator. I've loved every book I've heard him narrate and this one was no exception. It was a book that was very well produced. The book is never really scary (at least it wasn't for me) but Gaiman has a sarcasm and sense of humor about him that makes the book well worth listening to. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Maze Runner

Thomas wakes up in an elevator remembering nothing about his prior life except his first name. When the elevator doors open, Thomas learns that he's in an enclosed area, surrounded by a maze with a group of boys. The boys live in the center of the maze, grow their own food and have their own society. Each day a group of boys called Runners go out and try to solve the maze and find a way out. But everyone finds their way back in from the maze before dark or else they'd surely be killed by the Grievers - a mysterious monster that lives inside the walls of the maze. The other Gladers expected Thomas' arrival. Every thirty days another boy is delivered to them through the elevator. But the day after Thomas arrives, a newbie comes through the elevator - this time it's a comatose girl and Thomas feels like he already knows her.

I enjoyed this book a lot but it wasn't absolutely great. It was a unique concept. The action kept moving very quickly. It had some echoes of Lord of the Flies. The author kept a bit of the mystery in exactly why the boys are in the maze. I realized when I was getting close to the end of the novel that the author was going to have a hard time wrapping it all up before I got through the pages that were left but, lo and behold, it's the first book in a series. How did I miss that in all the reviews I read before I finally picked up the book? I'll definitely read the other books in the series but they'll be library books not books that I buy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Y: The Last Man: Volume 1: Unmanned

A mysterious plague destroys every male on the planet - human, mammal, sperm or otherwise - except for Yorick and his male pet monkey. Nobody knows why or how just that a lot of women are left behind to pick up the pieces. Now, a mysterious Agent is left to protect Yorick from extremists wanting to kill him and at the same time help find the answer as to why he was the only male left alive. 

I really like the premise of this storyline and there were a couple of parts in this first volume that really got to me. Mainly that was parts where it was talking about just what would be lost in this world if we lost every male on earth. It's very well drawn although I must admit I'm pretty sure the artist was drawing for men as most of the women are fairly scantily clad. I guess that's to be expected in graphic novels (Watchmen anyone?).  This volume really just sets the stage for the books to come. Guess I need to head over to Amazon and see how much they cost.

Book 6 in the Graphic Novels Challenge.

Agents of Light and Darkness: Nightside, Book 2

Angels have invaded the Nightside. Angels from both above and below; and they're searching for something. As luck would have it, John Taylor is searching for the same item. And, he needs to find it before either set of angels finds it. If he doesn't then there could be serious consequences for the entire world - Armageddon type consequences.

I listened to this book a couple of weeks ago (I'm a wee bit behind on my blogging). It's a fairly short listen but it's a good listen. This is just the second book in this series that I have listened to but both books drew me in and kept me very interested in them. The narrator is very good.  I was also surprised at the deeper meaning that the author put in this book. It definitely gave me something to think about. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Grave Surprise

Harper Connelly was struck by lightning at the age of fifteen. Since then, she has been able to tell how any person died. In Grave Surprise, Harper is in Memphis, Tennessee doing a demonstration for a college class when she discovers that the grave she's analyzing contains more than one body. One is the original inhabitant of the grave. The other is a young, teenage girl that Harper had once tried, and failed, to find. Then, later, a third body is put in the grave.

This book is a fun and easy read. It's not great literature but makes a good book to carry around with you for when you get extra little pieces of time to read.

The Help

The Help is a beautiful story by Kathryn Stockett. It takes place in Jackson, Mississippi during the height of the civil rights unrest in the south. The story follows three women, two black maids and one white woman, as they work together writing a book about what it's like to be a black maid work for white families in the south. Not only was the story amazing, I felt like the flavor of living in the south was captured. I know it's fifty years after the time of the story, but I swear, I still saw the south that I live in today in the book.

I listened to this book and the narration was amazing. The publishers used four different  narrators to tell the story and it worked perfectly. I was in love with the characters and didn't want the story to end. I feel like if I had actually read the book, I wouldn't have become quite so connected with the characters. I highly recommend that you listen to this book instead of reading it if you have the opportunity. In any manner, I suggest that you don't pass on reading this book.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Red Pyramid: The Kane Chronicles: Book 1

Carter and Sadie Kane are brother and sister; yet, they hardly know each other. Since their mother's death, Sadie has lived with their grandparents in London while Carter globetrotted around the world with their Egyptologist father. Then, on a Christmas Eve trip to the British Museum with their father, Sadie and Carter's lives are turned completely upside down. Now Carter and Sadie must deal with Egyptian gods meddling in their lives and find a way to defeat the most evil of Egyptian gods, Set, in order to save their father.

Rick Riordan uses both children as narrators in this book and I found it to be an interesting storytelling device; although I would sometimes get confused as to who was telling the story at times.There is a whole plethora of characters introduced along with various stories about their backgrounds and at times that can get confusing. But I think a lot of that exposition is necessary just because as a whole, we (the general public) know less about Egyptian mythology than Greek mythology so we've got to be educated. Overall, it's a very good story, well told with lots of action. This book is a lot like the later Percy Jackson books except it deals with Egyptian gods instead of Greek gods; so, if you're a Percy Jackson fan, it's a must read. In truth, there's a chance I might end up liking this series better than Percy Jackson.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literatures 50 Greatest Hits

Beowulf on the Beach is a fun, quick little read. Murnighan uses his background in medieval and renaissance literature to give readers his opinions of some of the best classic books or pieces of literature. He does quick little synopses of the stories, plot lines, best lines, and the things that you should skip in the books (and you won't miss anything by skipping those parts of the books). I enjoyed seeing another opinion on some books I really loved and getting a good idea of what other books I might (or might not) want to tackle in the near future. It was an entertaining book that inspired me to read some classic literature. I just don't know if it will be any of the ones recommended by Murnighan.

9 Dragons

In Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch novel, Harry faces his most emotional case ever. While investigating the murder of a Chinese store owner, Harry brings in a local Chinese gang member as his suspect. At the time he brings the suspect, his daughter is kidnapped all the way over in Hong Kong where she lives with her mother. Harry rushes to Hong Kong to chase down his daughter and bring her home.

I love the Harry Bosch books and have been reading them for a long time. Each year I look forward to the new book in two series: Harry Bosch and Stephanie Plum. And this book was no exception - I loved it. And I was surprised by it. It wasn't so much the mystery that surprised but the emotion that this book had in it. When Harry Bosch's daughter gets kidnapped, the reader gets to see a side of Harry that I don't recall ever seeing. He's emotional, determined and a man on a mission. Oh, and I cried in a Harry Bosch book! It wasn't just a little tearing up either, it was straight out bawling. I couldn't believe it when that happened. 

I listened to this book. It was narrated by Len Cariou who does a good job reading the books and bringing the characters to life although I did sometimes feel that Harry's daughter's voice was a little off. 


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge follows the title character through thirteen short stories in which Olive plays a role - sometimes as the main character other times, she's just a person mentioned in passing. The stories take place in a small coastal town in Maine. Olive is a retired schoolteacher that most of the children in her classes were scared of. Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

A part of me is at a loss for words on what to say about this book. Not because it was bad or that it I didn't like it. In fact, I think I liked it too much. I am always impressed when I read a really good short story because it takes so much talent to write a story in a small amount of pages that has the power to get someone invested in the characters and pull at their heartstrings and make them want to know more about that person. Even more so, to have to the ability to make you feel for that person. Elizabeth Strout manages to do this thirteen times and not just with the title character. In each story, she paints pictures of people who are desperate, lonely, harboring secret fears and/or loves. And the thread that weaves each story together is Olive Kitteridge - the gruff, old lady that most people don't really like. I knew by the time I finished the first story (which focused on Olive's husband, Henry - a person that everybody in town loved) that I was reading a great book.  There were times I would read passages and phrases and have to stop and read them again because they were not only beautiful, they were poetic. It took me much longer to read this book than normal because I kept rereading parts of it and savoring the stories. I couldn't read one story and move directly into the next. I had put the book down and think about it for a while. Give the story a chance to sink in with me.  I can definitely see why this book was a Pulitzer Prize winner. It has that extra little something that all writers strive to achieve. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Await Your Reply

Await Your Reply tells the story of three strangers and how their lives interconnect in mysterious ways. Miles Cheshire knows he should get on with his life and live it. Yet, he can't help but long to find his brother, Hayden. He searches endlessly to find Hayden. Lucy Lattimore runs away from her hometown in Ohio with her high school teacher. Then, days later, amid discussions of changing identities, Lucy starts to think twice about her decision. Finally, Ryan can't help but believe his whole life is a lie after learning during his sophomore year of college that his dad isn't really his dad. He walks off his college campus and begins a new life.

This book came highly recommended to me from numerous sources so I was quite anxious to read it. I ended up listening to it (it's narrated by Kirby Heyborne). The author does an excellent job of keeping the reader guessing how the stories are going to tie together. I figured out most of the big twist at the end about an hour from the end of the story. But there were pieces that still surprised me. When I was finished listening, I kept thinking about the book and all the little ties and I wanted to actually sit down with a paper copy of the book and see if I could find some of the little clues that may have been hidden in the book. There are books that a reader gets more out of by reading and I think this is one of them. No offense to Kirby Heyborne because he did an excellent job reading. I just think the storyline was a little too complicated to listen to during my daily commute. 

I do recommend the book though - just read it, don't listen to it.

This World We Live In

This World We Live In is Susan Beth Pfeffer's third book in her The Last Survivors series. This book brings the characters of the first two books together into one place. Miranda's dad returns to her house with his wife, new baby and three strangers (to Miranda - Alex and Julie from the second book, The Dead and the Gone for the rest of us). Life is already near impossible for Miranda and her family before her dad brings the extra mouths to feed. Despite her initial dislike of Alex, Miranda can't help falling in love with him. But can Miranda make the decisions that could change not only her life but also the lives of her family and everyone she loves?

OK, I love these books. Once I start them, I can't stop reading them. I find myself truly vested in these characters. I cry, I laugh, I fear for them. I recommend these books to everybody I know or come in contact with. They're fabulous. Also, they have really beautiful covers.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary: Fablehaven: Book 5

The Society of the Evening Star is relentlessly pursuing the the hidden artifacts to unlock the demon prison. The Knights of the Dawn are forced to try to recover the artifacts to keep the safe from evil hands. Two have already been found. Kendra discovers the location of a key guarding one of the vaults in Patton Burgess' journals - the dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost. Retrieving the key is a suicide mission, yet the Knights must attempt to get the key before the Evening Star. Who will survive? And who can be trusted?

These books continue to get better as they go along. I enjoyed have Kendra, Seth and the rest of the gang going somewhere outside of Fablehaven and seeing what the magical world is like outside of Fablehaven.  I did feel like a lot of this book was set up for the final book in the series but it was still very good. I definitely didn't suspect one of the twists at the end and I'm still not too sure I'm happy about that! 

Book 12 in the 101 Fantasy Challenge.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Grip of the Shadow Plague: Fablehaven Book 3

There's a plague spreading across Fablehaven that is turning creatures of light to dark and the Sorenson's have no clue how to fight it or who they can trust. At the same time, Kendra travels to another secret preserve in a race to recover one of the other hidden artifacts before the Society of the Evening Star gets to it first.

This was the best Fablehaven book so far. As the Sorenson children have matured so have the contents of the books. The creatures get just a little bit darker and the challenges more complex. Mull also brings in some new characters and introduces us to other characters that we've heard about but never met in the story. These aren't the most brilliantly written books and they're not very complex but they are fun, fast reads and the author is very imaginative with his magical creatures. Grip of the Shadow Plague had some very touching scenes in it that I enjoyed a lot. I'm excited to see where this series is going to go - especially since the next book as a big dragon on the front. I love dragons!

Book 11 in the 101 Fantasy Challenge.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Soul to Save: Soul Screamers Book 2

Kaylee Cavanaugh is a banshee. That means when someone dies, she screams uncontrollably. So how come when she and her boyfriend, Nash, are at a rock concert and the pop star falls down dead before them, Kaylee doesn't scream? Maybe because the pop star had no soul? Looks like someone is convincing teenagers to sell their souls for fame and fortune and Kaylee is caught in the middle and the only way to get out is to travel to the Netherworld.

I really enjoy this series of books. They're fun, easy to listen to and a bit captivating. The author does a good job of selling her story and making me want to keep listening to it. They're narrated by Amanda Ronconi and she does a wonderful job reading the books. Her voices are convincing and believable and she seems to capture the attitude and voice nuances of teenagers.

Book Ten in the 101 Fantasy Challenge.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Demigod Files

This is a cute companion book to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. It presents itself as a "wow, we're sorry you're a demigod and look at all the horrible stuff you're going to face now" guide to being a half-blood. It has a few short stories about other adventures that Percy and his friends had in between the other books that are meant to give the new demigod an idea of the kinds of adventures he can expect with this bad turn in his life. It also has a map of Camp Half-Blood, some charts telling who the gods are and what they do, puzzles and other things one needs to know to be a demigod. It was fun and entertaining.