Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lola and the Boy Next DoorLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 3.7
Companion to: Anna and the French Kiss
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's the summer before her Junior year in high school. Lola lives with her two dads in a cool Victorian house in San Francisco. She likes to dress in costume and she's incredibly creative. She's already getting her Winter Formal outfit ready--a Marie Antoinette number with combat boots.  Lola thinks she's in love with her rocker boyfriend, Max. He's 22 and her parents are none too pleased about her seeing him.

But then Cricket Bell moves back next door. Cricket had broken her heart a few years before and now Lola's not sure how Cricket is going to fit back into her life, or if he even should at all. But since their bedroom windows face each other, she doesn't really have a choice.

Lola is delightfully quirky. It was fun seeing characters from Anna and the French Kiss woven into the plot, although they were certainly background to Lola, Max and Cricket. I probably liked Anna a teensy bit more, but this book was just super cute, upbeat and romantic. I would recommend it for older teens because of some mature content.

Also reviewed by: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ It's All About Books ~ One Literature Nut ~ Book Nut ~ Ticket to Anywhere ~ write meg!
Source: Library Audiobook - I thought the reader was good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Out of Sight, Out of Time

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls, #5)Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 4.7
Series: Book #5 of 6 (Gallagher Girls)
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this series is adorable. My 6th grader is currently inhaling them like candy. However, I must admit that this 5th installment is my least favorite of the series so far.

Cammie Morgan has woken up in a convent in Europe. Shockingly, she doesn't know how she got there. On top of that, she can't believe the date. The summer is entirely over and she doesn't remember any of it.

Back home at Gallagher Academy, a spy school for girls, Cammie is desperate to find out what she was doing all summer. Her friends at school, although distant at first, have come around and are trying to help Cammie solve the mystery and to keep her safe from the evil Circle of Cavan.

This book felt a little frantic. It seemed to jump from one thing to the next making it feel choppy and rushed. There was certainly a lot going on, but I felt a little more rattled than entertained. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. I just didn't think the writing was as strong as the others in the series. However, I do think Carter is setting up the series for a great conclusion that I'm definitely looking forward to.

Also reviewed by: Girl Who Loves to Read ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ Your link here?
Source: Gift

Monday, May 28, 2012


Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

On the library stacks: Young Adult Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.4
Series: Book 2 of 3 (Delirium)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't really want to delve too much into the plot of this second book in the Delirium trilogy. If you have read Delirium but it has been awhile, I suggest giving yourself a refresher before starting this one. I was a little lost at first. And if you haven't read Delirium, I highly recommend you do!

I actually liked this book even better than Delirium.  That's pretty shocking since it's the second book in the series and I have found that rarely happens to me. It was a book I did not want to put down. It was fast-paced and I liked how it alternated between the past and the present. I liked the love interest and the cliffhanger ending is sure to simultaneously shock, irritate and delight fans of this dystopian series.

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews ~ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ Book Addiction ~ A Bookworm's World ~ Bart's Bookshelf
Source: Library

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
AR Reading Level: 5.5
Awards: Kirkus Editors Choice; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Michael Printz Honor Book; SLJ Best Book
Recommended for: Ages 13+

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Puck Connolly loves her island home of Thisby. She can't understand why her brother Gabe wants to leave the land she loves. So she signs up as the first woman ever to run in the annual Scorpio Races in the hopes that Gabe will stay and change his mind. Dangerous carnivorous water horses come up out of the sea each year on Thisby. Some are captured and tamed enough to ride in The Scorpio Races. Puck doesn't have a water horse, but that won't stop her.

Sean Kendrick, who has won the race four times trains water horses at the Malvern yards. Mr. Malvern is the richest man on the island has agreed to sell Sean is beloved horse named Corr if he wins. Sean feels drawn to help Puck train, even if they both can't win the race.

This book is told in the first person and alternates between Puck and Sean. I listened to the audiobook and the readers who played Puck and Sean were fabulous. The readers had British accents, so I was bothered just a little that Stiefvater used the word "pants" quite often instead of "trousers." But it's a minor quibble. Well, that and for the life of me I could not understand why anyone would want to live on an island with man-eating horses, let alone ride one. But, I was drawn into this world and I ultimately had to find jobs to do around the house that would allow me to finish listening quicker. Highly recommended.

Also reviewed by: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer ~ Not Enough Bookshelves ~ Emily's Reading Room ~ Silly Little Mischief ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Audiobook

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight In The Garden Of Good And EvilMidnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil by John Berendt

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
AR Reading Level: 6.2

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the 1980s John Berendt spent 8 years splitting his time between New York City and Savannah, Georgia. While this book is partly a memoir of Berendt's time in Savannah, it's also the true crime story of an antique dealer and preservationist named Jim Williams who was tried for the same murder four times.

Savannah is one of my favorite cities. While this book is a little dated, the essence of Savannah that Berendt depicts is exactly the same today as it was 30 years ago. I love the homage the author pays to the city's history, architecture, culture, and natural beauty.

Berendt also gets himself hooked up with some of the more interesting characters in town. There's the high class party house where no one ever pays rent and utilities are obtained illegally. There's Lady Chablis, the exotic dancer who is really a he. There's a voodoo witch doctor. And of course, the story of Jim Williams who shot and killed Danny Hansford, a troubled young man who had worked for him and whom he had tried to help, even bailing him out of jail.

This book hooked me from the beginning, and was a really quick read. The only thing that kind of bothered me is at the end the author's note says that he did take some "storytelling liberties, particularly having to do with the timing of events." I did do some research online and most everything checks out. Like the movie (which I didn't see), the book is definitely rated R. But if you like true crime stories or you want to know more about Savannah, I would recommend it.

Also reviewed by: eclectic/eccentric ~ Open Mind, Insert Book
Source: Purchased

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Out of My Mind

Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

AR Reading Level: 4.3
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Award: NAACP Outstanding Literary Work
Appropriate for: Grades 4+

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I'll just say up front that my feelings about this book are certainly in the minority. I LOVED the concept of this book. But I had problems with the execution.

Melody is a 5th grader with cerebral palsy. She is unable to talk and she is confined to a wheelchair. While some doctors and teachers had considered her severely mentally disabled, Melody is very smart and soaks in everything she hears in school and on TV. With the help of an amazing next door neighbor, a teacher's aide and a new speaking device, Melody is able to prove to others that she has a great mind and she eventually makes the school's quiz bowl team.

Although I really liked the premise, at times I felt the book was unrealistic and melodramatic. I had some issues with the writing--mixed tenses, dated slang and definitely some language that didn't sound like a 5th grader to me (I have a 4th and 6th grader). I felt like Melody came off as more snarky than spunky and I didn't really like how Melody and her mom chose to fight their battles with the one-dimensional mean doctors, teachers and school bullies.

This was my book club's pick for this month. We all agreed this book was good for raising awareness and helping us think about how we interact with adults and kids with disabilities.

Also reviewed by: Confessions of a Book Habitue ~ Book Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sister of My Heart

Sister of My HeartSister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing on with my recent obsession with all things Indian (I found a great new restaurant that I love too!) I decided to read a more modern novel set in India. While I don't think it was totally clear, I think this novel was set from the 1960s through the 1980s.

This book is told from the alternating points of view of Anju and Sudha, two cousins of an upper-caste family in Calcutta. The girls were born on the same day and were best friends growing up. They are raised in a strict home under the care of three mother figures who try to protect the girls from a serious family secret.

Both girls are forced into arranged marriages and must make their own journey in a changing world where women are breaking barriers but traditional values are still clung to in their caste. The girls are pulled apart by their circumstances as one goes to California and the other stays behind. While their paths diverge for a time, eventually their relationship is stronger than everything that threatens to pull them apart.

I enjoyed getting to know Anju and Sudha. Their characters were well-developed and I liked both of them for the unique women they were. I felt their anguish at the decisions they had to make and found myself debating through their thought processes with them. I liked that I didn't see the ending coming, but I wasn't totally surprised by it either. I can definitely see the appeal this book would have with book clubs.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Borrowed

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Twentieth Wife

The Twentieth WifeThe Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
Series: Book 1 of 3 (Taj Mahal Trilogy)
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This historical fiction novel is the story of a girl named Mehrunnisa (also known as Nur Jahan) who was born in 1577. Her family were Persian refugees that made their way into royal court life in India, and Mehrunnisa spends quite a bit of time growing up in the royal harem. Although her life does not go according to her plan, she does eventually marry her childhood crush, Prince Salim, becoming his "twentieth wife."

For a frame of reference, Mehrunnisa is actually the aunt of the woman for whom the Taj Majal was built. This novel stops at the point that Mehrunnisa begins her reign as Empress. While there are moments the book reads like a history book, I appreciated how much of this novel is based on fact.

I was fascinated reading about life during this Golden Age in India. I really liked Mehrunnisa as a person and I felt like the author gave all her characters interesting personalities. I felt like there was a good balance between the story and the history. I would definitely recommend this enjoyable novel for anyone who is interested in India and its rich culture.

Also reviewed by: Shweta's Book Journal ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1)The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

AR Reading Level: 7.0
On the library stacks: Adult Mystery
Series: Book 1 of 11 (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary Russell is a teenage girl who lives with her Aunt near the Sussex Downs. One day as she is ambling along, she quite literally runs into Sherlock Holmes, now (mostly) retired. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and Mary becomes Sherlock's protege.

I should admit this is the second time I've tried to read this book. My last attempt was about 7 years ago and just couldn't get into it. However, I was determined this time and once I got past the first 70 pages and got into the mystery parts of the book, I did quite enjoy myself. I think Mary seemed a little too modern for 1915 and I'm not 100% sold on the chess and beekeeping analogies. But I'm a sucker for mysteries and I liked how this one unfolded.

I should probably NOT admit that I've never read any original Arthur Conan Doyle. But this book has definitely intrigued me enough to possibly give it a whirl. I am definitely glad I read this book before I started watching Sherlock (LOVE!) because I did at least have a context for the characters and their personalities.

Also reviewed by: Puss Reboots ~ Book Nut ~ cucullus non facit monachum ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Year of Wonders

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the PlagueYear of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
AR Reading Level: 6.9
Awards: Alex Award/Honor; Book Sense Book of the Year 

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's 1666 in a rural English mining village when the inhabitants are struck by the Plague. Inspired by their dynamic vicar, most of the villagers decide on a self-imposed quarantine as a way to protect other nearby towns from their same fate. Before the disease has run its course, nearly 2/3 of the population will be dead. But not Anna Frith, the vicar's maid, who is also our narrator.

Let's face it, bubonic plague is kind of depressing, but this is a well-written book. I love that Brooks based her novel on the so-called "Plague Village"--a town called Eyam in northern England. Brooks had not only clearly checked her facts and figures, but I also liked the complexities of her characters. This book not a quick or easy read and I thought the ending was kind of frantic and a little weird. But I do feel more knowledgeable for having read this and I think the story will stay with me.

Also reviewed by: Jules' Book Reviews ~ At Home With Books ~ 1morechapter ~ Linus's Blanket ~ Good Clean Reads ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch