Monday, August 31, 2015

The Bees by Laline Paull, 338 pages

This is one of those books that I am not sure I actually liked, but it was interesting and made me think so I am glad I didn't put it aside.

Flora 717 is born a sanitation bee.  A priestess bee sees that Flora is different from her kin and moves her to the position of nursery bee because Flora is large, can speak (which sanitation bees normally can't) and she can make the flow needed to feed the baby bees.  From there she moves to forager and fierce defender of the hive, when needed. 

Life in a beehive is a brutal caste system and worker bees such as Flora live - and die - to "Accept, Obey and Serve."  The story follows the life of the beehive for about a year.  It is a tumultuous year with rains, hunger, sickness and the Visitation.  These bees did not appreciate sharing their honey. I gotta say, I'm gonna feel a bit guilty the next time I put honey in my tea. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler 384 pages

This book had everything I usually look for in a good fantasy.  Smart characters, interesting twists on magic, and forgive me, but it's all about a library?  Well, sign me up!  I wish it had delivered to its potential.  It had some really interesting and creative stuff going on. The story revolves around a girl whose father dies mere nights after she overhears what appears to be a fairy threatening him.  She is sent off to live with an uncle she never knew she had and finds herself in a houseful of mystery and magic. The coolest touch to the story was that magicians are called Readers and books actually are their source of power.
I listened to this one and I wonder if that was the problem.  I really didn't care for the reader.  She sounded like she was 8 years old, but the book was not told first person and the main character was 12.  Furthermore, I don't think she understands how periods work when found so deliberately at the end of a sentence.  I found myself thinking she'd neglected to finish sentences, or was unsure of their meaning the way her inflection rose.  It was a huge distraction.  So, perhaps the book is better than I'm giving it credit.  I will say that regardless of whether Cassandra Morris has won awards for her reading, I will steer clear of anything else she reads.  I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to give them a fair shake either.

The Greenglass House by Kate Milford 376 pages

The Greenglass House was one of my favorite books I've read lately.  It was quieter, more thoughtful, than many of my recent reads.  The story centers around a boy, Milo, who is of Chinese descent, but has only ever known his adoptive parents.  He loves them very much, but has always wondered what his other family may have been.  This creates some guilt for him and he tries not to think about it.  It's Christmas break and Milo finishes his homework early so he can enjoy his break to its fullest, without surprises or distractions.  Milo also likes things to go as expected, no surprises is the best way to go as far as he's concerned.  However, the very unexpected happens.  Guests begin to arrive at the inn his parents own, and where they all live.  Furthermore, the guests all seem to be very mysterious about why they are there at all.  Milo begins a game with a young girl where he has to use stealth, ingenuity and smarts to outwit a thief.  This was such a great story.  There were stories within the story and it just had a really great feeling to it.  It was constructed as well as any adult mystery and I would recommend it to anyone of any age.

Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton, 308 pages

This is book #3 in Evanovich's Lizzy & Diesel series.  Lizzy is a pastry chef in a Salem, Massachusetts bakery when she is not helping the sexy, mysterious and magical Diesel track down the seven deadly stones that correspond with the seven deadly sins.  We're on avarice (greed) in this one.

The story involved a dead pirate and buried treasure mateys.  The book pretty much follows the pattern Janet Evanovich's books always do but I seem to always read them and be entertained enough to read the next one.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, 337 pages

First of all, for anyone who reads this book, Ove is pronounced "oo-vah."  I had the pleasure of listening to this delightful book that was originally published in Sweden.

Ove is 59, recently widowed and even more recently "retired" against his will from his job.  Ove's pretty much done with life and all of the yahoos who annoy him.

As he's planning his exit, new neighbors scrape his house with their trailer and he unwillingly becomes involved in their life.  I laughed, I cried and I enjoyed every minute of Ove's curmudgeonly story.  If I gave stars, this one would get 5 out of 5.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando 255 pages

This was a really lovely middle grade book about growing up and having to deal with change.  Kate has a lot of things changing in her life.  Her best friend is acting like a different person, one that Kate doesn't always like.  It seems that everyone around her is getting crushes, but Kate is unsure what that even means.  Worst of all, her parents are broke and have to sell the only home Kate has ever known, Big Red, a huge farmhouse with loads of charm.  Kate is heartbroken thinking about leaving the big yard with the stream running nearby, the barn with a resident cat and her kittens, all the memories she has ever known.  Not to mention all her friends.  So, Kate decides to postpone the sale by sabotaging the open house viewings.  Will she be successful and be able to perform in the dance competition still weeks away?  Just in case, or perhaps because she knows it's inevitable, Kate begins making detailed dioramas depicting every room of Big Red.  This was a very touching story with completely believable characters you enjoyed getting to know.  I highly recommend it to 3rd grade readers on up.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout, 330 pages

This is the August reading selection for the Downtown Library's book club.  The book is mostly set in Shirley Falls, Maine and New York City.  It is the story of Jim, Bob and Susan Burgess, whose father died when Jim was 8 and twins Bob and Susan were 4.  All of the children were affected by his death and how it happened.

They are all now adults.  Jim and Bob are both lawyers in NYC.  Jim, is wildly successful with an upper class wife and family.  Bob is divorced, childless and works for Legal Aid.  Susan, also divorced, lives in Maine with her socially awkward 19 year old son Zach who gets sideways with the law.  The siblings all come together to try and help get Zach out of the legal jam.  Pain, anger, growth, reconciliation and a poignant story follows.

Elizabeth Strout writes a great tale.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 133 pages

This is a little philosophy book written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1955.  Each of the chapters is titled for a different shell and she uses that shell to muse about different stages and times in a marriage and a woman's life.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (yes, the wife of the aviator Charles) may have written this book in 1955 but I had no problem applying it to my life in 2015.  What a beautiful book.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been to read it while I was at the ocean.

This is one of those books that I could read over and over again and I'm going to go out on a limb and say one of these days I will read it at the ocean and that will be bliss.

Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School book 1 by Jen Calonita 244 pages

This was another twist on a traditional fairy tale.  Actually, it twisted a bunch of fairy tales together.  The story is set in Enchantasia, where the princesses rule with kindness and generosity.  Villains, many of them, have changed their ways and are now teachers at a reform school for budding villains and general ne'er-do-wells.  The story follows Gilly, one of the cobbler's daughters (one of many children living in the boot), who is trying to help her family the only way she knows how - theft.  Unfortunately, the local Dwarf Patrol knows her and what she's likely to do.  She's nabbed for the third time and sent to Fairy Tale Reform School.  It's not bad.  At all.  She has a room almost all to herself, nice clothes, classes that would never have been offered at her trade school and all the food she could eat.  She even makes some friends.  But Gilly only wants to get back to her family, she worries that her siblings are going hungry and feels guilty with every bite she eats.  However, not every villain has given up their evil ways and mysterious things begin to happen at the school.  Gilly finds herself playing something of a hero and a detective, mostly by accident.  This was a really fun story and I think the series has a lot of potential.

The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith, 399 pages

I read this book because way back when we first added downloadable audibooks, I enjoyed listening to the first book in this series "Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter."

I enjoyed this one too.  Abe is in this book, but the most prominent character is Henry Sturges, who was unwillingly made a vampire when the Roanoke colonists were wiped out in the late 1580s so he's been around a few years.

I got a kick out of the vampiric twist on american and world history.  Great fun.  Maybe not for everyone but Mr. Grahame-Smith totally set it up for a book #3 so I'll be on the look out for that one too.