Thursday, January 31, 2013

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy

The story opens in 1950 in New Orleans. Josie's mother was a prostitute who worked in a house run by a madam named Willie. Josie shared nothing with her mother - no love, no good memories. When she was twelve Josie started hiding in a book store so she could spend the night there. The owner, an old gentleman named Charlie, fixed up a little apartment above the store and let her stay there. When she was older she started working there with Charlie's son, Patrick.

Josie successfully finished high school and Willie had promised to pay for her college as long as it was located in New Orleans so Josie could continue cleaning the house in the morning after all the parties have ended. Josie, understandably, wanted to get as far from New Orleans as she could. One day, a student from Smith College, Charlotte, came into the store. They feelt an instant affinity and Josie dreamed of attending Smith. The only problems were being accepted and raising the considerable amount of money needed to attend.

Josie's mother was implicated in the death of a tourist who had, that same day, visited the book store and bought two books. Josie drew the attention of police and mobsters protecting her mother and her mother's gangster boyfriend. Will Josie manage to get out from under her mother's baggage, avoid falling into the same bad career, and follow her dream?

An added plus for this book (in my opinion) is that Josie loved books. I received an advance copy of this book for early review.

My rating for this book: 

Red Shirts by John Scalzi

Red Shirts

Fans of the Star Trek series will be familiar with the Redshirts phenomenon where there is always the 'expendable crew member' who must die. The movie, Galaxy Quest, had a character known only as Guy since he didn't last long enough in the episode where he appeared, to get a full name. Well on the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, it is noticed by the newest crew members that this ship has the highest mortality rate on away teams of any ship in the fleet and these new crew members want to avoid becoming more statistics.

This was a quick read and totally delighted me. I love the twisted reality of the Thursday Next books and my teen years were formed with Captain Kirk and his crew. This book falls in with these alternate reality stories.

My rating for this book:

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant

Irish author Derek Landy gives young readers a rollicking adventure full of fights with fist and feet, swords, scythes, scepters, and magic. Lots of magic.

At the reading of Gordon's will, Stephanie Edgley is surprised to learn that her uncle has left her his mansion, fortune, and royalty to all the horror books he has written. A stranger she had noticed at the funeral, called Skulduggery Pleasant, is given a mysterious message. Her jealous aunt and uncle get a brooch and her parents a villa in southern France. 

She and her mother visit the house one day and due to circumstances, she ends up spending the night alone in the house. Nothing strange there! What is unexpected is a call to her dead uncle's phone, followed by someone banging on the door demanding entrance. He eventually breaks in and demands a key from Stephanie. Luckily Skulduggery is there to save the day and start her on an amazing adventure.

Hard to see in the picture of the cover is a line at the bottom reading "AND HE'S THE GOOD GUY. Skulduggery is the character on the cover, a dapperly dressed skeleton with a fist full of fire. I have had this book on my shelf for three years and I can't for the life of me remember buying it. I'm sure I didn't realize it was written for middle school aged children and up. But I did have fun after slogging through the first part of the book full of character introductions. Once the reader has met everyone, it's a non-stop roller coaster ride.

I would recommend this for seventh grade readers and older.

My rating for this book:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief
Few books are worth the time to reread. Even rarer are those books that are worth rereading and reblogging. This is one such book.

I originally bought this copy at a library book sale for my daughter who had never read it. When she handed it back to me I knew I had to read it again. It is such a gift! It is not just another Holocaust book; it is a book about people surviving, growing, existing, and loving in the worst possible circumstances.

It is one of those books that everyone should give a couple of hours of their lives to read.

The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester

The Man Who Loved China

Joseph Needham was a modern Renaissance man who made his life work to chronicle the history of Chinese scientific inventions and posed what was known as the "Needham question" which was the reason why these advances came to a halt around AD 1500. Winchester must have waded through thousands of pages of chronicles, letters, books, etc. to whittle Needham's life and travels down to this book.

Being interested in things scientific and things Asian, this book was a natural for me. I loved reading about his travels and inquiries along his way as he trekked around China in his search for information for what would become the premier source of information on his topics. 

This book was well worth the time to read it. Fun for adventurers, sinophiles, and those with scientific curiosity.

My rating for this book:

Tiger Lily by Jody Lynn Anderson

I have to start by saying that I am not a fan of the Peter Pan stories. I attribute that to a general distaste for stories that have been Disneyfied. The story is told by Tinkerbell, a fairie who, unlike Julia Roberts, cannot speak and is generally ignored when she tries to warn her human friends by biting them and performing other mischief. Luckily for us she can read the minds of humans and shares their thoughts with the reader. Tink is intrigued by Tiger Lily who is taciturn, stronger, and more interesting than the other young women of her tribe.

That Tiger Lily does not communicate much makes the first half of this book drag. Wendy comes on the scene, Hook tries to take out the lost boys, Tiger Lily has to marry an odious tribe member, and the mermaids are up to their shenanigans. It seems that it is not possible to be a young woman in Neverland and not be in love with Peter. He has no less that two girls, one mermaid, and one fairie in love with him. This is what leads to the climax of the story which is as interesting as watching the tide rise, surely and inexorably.

More fun for Pan fans than anyone.

My rating for this book:

I'm back after a rather long hiatus and will try to catch up on a few books from the library that I have read. To start with however, I would like to mention a reading challenge sponsored by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) to encourage reading the excellent books on their lists of Best Books and award winners. The link to information about this challenge can be found by going to their blog site, The Hub, at and scroll down to the entry describing the challenge.
I, for one, can't resist a chance to win a bag full of new books and many of the books on these lists are ones I intend to read anyway, so why not! There are fiction and nonfiction titles, graphic novels, audio books, as well as movies. I'd love to hear if you are participating and what titles you have read/seen/listened to for the challenge.