Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Alice's beloved Aunt Polly makes the best pies in the world. She has won the prestigious Blueberry award for 13 consecutive years. Alice spends as much as possible working in her aunt's pie shop along with Polly's cranky cat Lardo. When Polly dies suddenly everyone is grief-stricken, but also curious about who will inherit Polly's secret pie crust recipe. At the reading of the will it is revealed that the recipe is to go to Lardo and that Alice will inherit her aunt's cat. Suddenly everyone in town is struck by a desire to bake pies in order to try to win the Blueberry but someone is trying to win it by finding the secret recipe. When Lardo goes missing from her house, Alice has to use all of her detective skills to figure out who would want the disagreeable cat and how he can possibly have the crust recipe. This is a quick read but very much on the light side. The revelation about where the crust recipe actually is was a surprise to me, however.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Ten-year-old Ian is librarian Lucy's favorite patron. Ian loves to read almost anything but his mother insists that he can only read books that have the "breath of God" in them so Lucy conspires with Ian to sneak other books home. Lucy is further concerned about Ian's home life when she discovers that he is enrolled in a religious program designed to keep young boys from being gay. When Lucy comes to the library early one day she finds Ian hiding there and begins a road trip with him to take him away from the family she believes is stifling him. Together they travel to the east coast meeting odd members of Lucy's family and their friends all while being tailed by a mysterious man. The longer Lucy travels with Ian the more she believes that she will never be able to return him to home without being arrested as a kidnapper, even though Ian pressured her to go with him in the first place. Although the premise of this book sounded somewhat light I found that it dwelled too much on the heavier aspects of their adventure. Of course Lucy is actually a kidnapper which in reality is a serious thing, but I expected the story to be a bit more fantasy-esque and ignore the implications. Unlike most of what I write about, this is a book for adults, not YA.

Girl's Best Friend by Leslie Margolis

Maggie has a secret job as a dog walker for three families in the neighborhood. She also has a crush on Milo, a quiet boy at school. Maggie thinks she has found the perfect opening line for a conversation with Milo when she tells him that one of the dogs she walks is also named Milo, but human Milo has his earbuds in and doesn't even hear her at first. Maggie's personal life is further complicated when her ex-best friend enlists her help to get back her dog which has been stolen. Since Maggie loves Kermit the dog, she agrees to help and soon finds that she has several suspects as to who the dognapper might be, including someone she never would have suspected! This is a light but entertaining mystery with some good red herrings thrown in to keep you guessing.

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

A vacant lot in the city is transformed from a dumping ground for trash into a community garden that brings people together. Each chapter of Seedfolks is told from the point of view of a different person who is drawn to the the garden for a different reason - one to impress his girlfriend, one to recapture his childhood, one a pregnant girl who doesn't want to be there, and many others. This is a short book but filled with lots of different stories to get you thinking about what it takes to make a community. Although everyone was living in the same neighborhood, they weren't a community or even very good neighbors. Lots of meat for something so short.

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement Moore

Amy Goodnight comes from a family of witches but she prides herself on being the normal one in the bunch. She has worked hard to downplay the family's weirdness and ignores any paranormal tendencies she might have herself. While she and her sister Phin are housesitting for their aunt the girls hear about the local mystery of the "Mad Monk", a ghost who is supposedly hurting people to keep them away from his treasure. Amy wants nothing to do with the ghost but finds that she can't stay uninvolved when the ghost visits her in her bedroom and asks her to find him. Only wanting to stop her own haunting Amy begins working with a group of college students who are excavating some remains nearby the farm. As the number of skeletons grows so do Amy's feelings of dread both that she will never get rid of the ghost haunting her and that she can't ignore her Goodnight tendencies anymore. She is further troubled by handsome, brooding Ben who runs the neighboring ranch. Although she finds him annoying, she can't keep her mind off of him... This is a fun romance with lots of scary bits as well. Amy's family is eccentric and perfectly at ease with themselves so they provide lots of interesting secondary characters and events. The unusual setting makes for something new in the world of paranormal romance. Really fun and a good page-turner as well!

LIE by Caroline Bock

Told from the point of view of several characters LIE takes place after two Hispanic boys are attacked and beaten by two high schoolers. Skylar's boyfriend Jimmy is the main perpetrator of the crime and is in jail. As Skylar's best friend keeps telling her, "everyone knows but no one's talking" - a reminder that Jimmy and the other members of the baseball team went "beaner-hopping" every weekend and everyone at school knew it. The more Skylar learns about the El Salvadorean boys who were beaten, the worse she feels. But how can she betray Jimmy who has been there for her through all sorts of problems? This is a well-written thinker about racism and hate crimes. The characters are well drawn and the author really takes you into their thoughts which allows you to see why it is more difficult to do the right thing than it ought to be. I highly recommend it, although it is gritty and not for readers who like lighter fare or books that resolve neatly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Waverly and Kieran were born on a ship traveling through the galaxy to New Earth to restart human civilization. Life on their ship Empyrean is happy and Waverly's life seems perfect, especially after Kieran proposes. Even though she loves Kieran and everyone expects them to marry, she is strangely drawn to moody Seth. Life on the Empyrean changes, however, when the other ship traveling to New Earth suddenly appears despite the fact that the New Horizon should be millions of miles ahead of them. The peace on Empyrean disintigrates when they are attacked and all the young girls are kidnapped by the New Horizon crew. They girls are told that they have been rescued in the nick of time from damages to their ship and that everyone else on board died. Although the girls are welcomed on the ship, Waverly is suspicious of their motives and their story. The captain of the New Horizon, Anne, is also their religious leader and everyone on the ship seems to follow whatever she says is the word of God. Desperate to find her mother and return to Kieran, Waverly leads the other girls in their attempts to find out what is really happening. This is a fantastic sci fi story with lots to think about as well as paying homage to other works. Life among those still on the Empyrean is reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies while life on the New Horizon seems like A Handmaid's Tale. So much to discuss and think about!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ghoul Strike by Andrew Newbound

12 year old Alannah uses her strong psychic powers to hunt and banish ghosts and demons in order to take their treasure. She is assisted by her friend Wortley who is an expert at breaking through security systems. They have been very successful with their business until they are hired to see what's happening at an old house. Alannah and Wortley arrive at the house on exactly the same night it is being investigated by a member of the A.N.G.E.L. squad since it is the site of a portal between two worlds. Inspector Fhli is surprised to find that Alannah can see her since they are usually invisible to humans. Fhli is even more surprised to find that Alannah is able to fight against the huge gargoyle who is emerging from the portal. Although the humans and A.N.G.E.L.s don't get along, they find that they have to stop their squabbling in the face of a greater threat to them all. This is intended as a comedy but the fighting between Alannah and Fhli just went on too long for me to be interested or invested.

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis

Chet is new to town, living with his uncle and working in his restaurant. He has just managed to befriend three local boys and they are all fascinated by the stories of a shark attack in the ocean off New Jersey. When Chet pulls a prank on his new friends to get back at them for something they did to him he goes a little too far in scaring them. So when he really sees a shark in the creek where everyone swims, no one believes him. This book is based on the true story of shark attacks that killed four people and injured one in 1916. People were surprised by the attacks in the ocean but absolutely stunned by the attacks in a local river. Although the real story of the shark attacks is fascinating this book is much too simple for my tastes. However, it is a good introduction to this event for a low reader or younger student.

Picture the Dead by Lisa Brown

Jennie receives word that her fiance Will died honorably in battle during the Civil War. Although he is gone, Jennie senses that Will's spirit might still be around and trying to communicate with her. When Will's brother Quinn comes home he seems withdrawn and he hints that Will might not have been as honorable as everyone thinks. Disturbed by his comments, Jennie faces even more problems from her aunt who is slowly shutting Jennie out of the house and treating her as a servant now that Will is gone. When Quinn makes it clear that he is interested in Jennie himself her sense that Will is trying to communicate with her becomes even stronger and she is even led to some places that were important to her and Will. Is Will trying to harm or protect her? This is an unusual ghost story in that there are many pictures in the book, all supposedly taken from Jennie's scrapbook. The mystery of what is going on with Will, Quinn and Jennie kept me guessing until the end.

Hold me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Sam is a college dropout working at a fast food restaurant. He damages a car in the parking lot while playing potato hockey with his friends. When the owner of the car comes into the restaurant he senses a strange power in Sam and begins to question him. Sam and the two other boys who work there run the man off and believe that they have seen the last of him. But they find out otherwise when their friend Brooke arrives at their door - or, at least her head arrives. She has been killed but her head is still alive and sent with a warning for Sam from the car owner. His name is Douglas and he is a powerful necromancer who has sensed that Sam has the same abilities even though they are hidden. Sam decides to investigate his own life and hears a strange story from his mother about her own powers and why she never told him about his own abilities before. This is a great book with fun characters and chapters named after songs. The sarcastic humor is infused throughout the book, even in the midst of some very serious circumstances. Sam's friends are great secondary characters who add lots of depth to the book along with some other people with unusual abilities. It's hard to imagine that there could be something new in paranormal stories but this is different from anything else.

Entwined by Heather Dixon

After the death of their mother Azalea and her 11 sisters are forbidden to dance in public. When they follow a secret passage through an enchanted forest of silver trees they find a mysterious man named Keeper who allows them to dance in his hall every night. At first the girls are delighted with their good fortune but they soon begin to see that Keeper has some sinister motives for allowing them to visit each night. When the king learns that they have been dancing despite the ban he devises a plan to figure out where they are going - young men can try to discover the princess's secret in exchange for one of their hands in marriage. This is a lush retelling of the fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Azalea is feisty girl who takes care of all her sisters while trying to get their father more involved in their lives. Keeper emerges slowly as a villain but he is a nasty one once he shows his true colors! If you like romance, magic and fairy tales, this is the book for you!