Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

Seventh-grader Milo Cruikshank is having a tough time of things since his mother died. He has moved yet again, and once again is the "new kid," which he hates.  One awful and embarrassing thing after another seems to happen to him - like when he sneezes a big, horrible wet sneeze all over Summer, the girl of his dreams.

Normally I am not a huge fan of dead mother books (and most particularly not dying mother books), but since this year I am on the committee to help choose books to feature in my library's summer reading program, I read this recommended title. I liked that it didn't make me live through Milo's mother's death - and that it turned out to be a funny, sensitive story about coping with loss.

While it is from Milo's point of view, it also reveals the struggles of his father and sister as they try to deal with their grief, each in a different way from Milo, and how massive misunderstandings result. The book isn't heavy handed, though - humor pervades the pages (although wimpy me did have some tears to wipe away from time to time), and Milo's honest voice carries the story in an entertaining way that should have a lot of kid appeal, as will the comics and drawings interspersed throughout the pages.

Milo, Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg (Aladdin, 2010)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wisdom's Kiss

I did not realize this was a sequel to Murdock's Princess Ben, a book I've been meaning to read for ages, so unfortunately I had to read this out of order because I was away and I needed a book to read! I hate that, because it does give away details about the previous book that I'd rather not have known. Although I am admittedly a stickler about reading things in order, and most normal people could probably read this one and not feel any angst whatsoever. I totally don't get that, but okay.

At any rate, this one is a sort of princess (the tough, smart kind, not the helpless girly-girl kind) road trip, romantic misadventure, magical misdoings kind of book that always appeals to me. It was fun, but I did not connect with the characters as much as I would have liked (always a risk with the books that switch back and forth among multiple points of view). Still, there is humor and adventure, not to mention strong female characters, and when you think you know what's going to happen - well, think again! I like that in a book.

Wisdom's Kiss (sequel to Princess Ben) by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (Houghton Mifflin, 2011)

Also by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: Dairy Queen

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ever After

This is one of those series where so much happens from book to book  - not just in the lives of the characters, but throughout the major and minor story arcs - that readers absolutely must start reading with the first book (Dead Witch Walking) in order to truly understand and enjoy the story. Spoilers are therefore inevitable when reviewing subsequent books, but I will strive to be as vague as possible.

In this installment, babies suffering from the same (typically fatal) virus that Rachel had as a child have been kidnapped by a deranged demon in a twisted scheme that leaves the ley lines in a shambles and Rachel scrambling to retrieve the babies, restore the ever after, and save herself and the people she cares about. Much action, adventure, mayhem, and even a little romance ensues. As always, fun, fun, fun! Plus it's always fantastic to revisit favorite characters - even though, once again, Rachel Morgan's world is proven to be a very dangerous place, and beloved characters are never, ever to be considered safe from harm.  Sigh.

Books in the Hollows series:
1. Dead Witch Walking
2. The Good, the Bad, and the Undead 
3. Every Which Way but Dead
A Fistful of Charms
For a Few Demons More
6. The Outlaw Demon Wails
7. White Witch, Black Curse

8. Black Magic Sanction
9. Pale Demon
10. A Perfect Blood 
11. Ever After

Ever After (#11 in the Hollows series) by Kim Harrison (Harper Voyager, 2013)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

I picked this one up when I heard it described as a cross between Ferris Bueller's Day Off and La Femme Nikita - and I have to say, that description was delightfully apt. Senior high student Perry Stormaire gets stuck taking the dumpy exchange student who's been staying with his family to the prom, and all he can think about is how much he'd rather be in the city playing with his band at the best gig they've ever managed to get. But what starts out as a pity date turns into a high-speed action/adventure with humor and romance, a cinematic thrill ride that doesn't let up till the final page is turned.

I read this one on a coast-to-coast flight, and it was an excellent, captivating read. I immediately passed the book over to my 14-year-old daughter, and I enjoyed hearing her laugh as she read it. It's also the first book I can remember her reading that she really appreciated the writing style - so much so that she read her favorite passages aloud to me.  I was delighted to find that there is a sequel: Perry's Killer Playlist. I brought it home from the library, but my daughter snatched it up, so I'll have to wait till she's finished!

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (Houghton Mifflin, 2011)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bellwether by Connie Willis

Doctor Sandra Foster is a researcher studying fads (where they come from, how they originate, and, ultimately, if it may be possible to predict or even start one on purpose) for her employer, a company called Hi-Tek, who is interested in cashing in on fad creation if Sandra's research pans out.  Meanwhile, her company is itself at the mercy of all kinds of ridiculous management fads, and Sandra and her co-workers are continually challenged by the worst administrative assistant ever, a young woman who leaves destruction and chaos in her wake.  All the while everyone on staff is being pressured to win a mysterious but highly desirable research grant.

Willis writes such intelligent fiction - full of snarky social commentary and all kinds of wonderful allusions and references (here she manages to weave in Browning's poem "Pippa Passes" in a delightful and hysterical way).  This one is smart, funny, and will definitely appeal to anyone who's ever been at the mercy of knuckle-headed administrative decisions at work.  Plus there are sheep.  Funny sheep.  Give it a try!

Also by Willis:
Inside Job

Bellwether by Connie Willis (Spectra, 1997)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dying on the Vine

It's a happy day for me when a new book in the Gideon Oliver series comes out. It's one of those series that I've been reading for decades - since the early 80s (!), so opening the pages feels like spending time with old friends - with the added fillip of a mystery to be solved, inevitably involving the discovery of some moldering bones. Professor and physical anthropologist Gideon Oliver, also known (to his embarrassment) as the Skeleton Detective, is in Italy.  When he is asked to teach a group of Italian police some of the fundamentals of bone forensics, his findings reopen a case, originally determined to have been a suicide/murder, involving Tuscan winemaker Pietro Cubbiddu and his wife. Once again Elkins has written a compelling mystery with engaging characters and a most enjoyable setting - his affection for Italy and its inhabitants shines through the prose, which made it all that much more fun to read.

Books in the Gideon Oliver (Skeleton Detective) series:
Gideon Oliver series
1. Fellowship of Fear
2. The Dark Place
3. Murder in the Queen's Armies
4. Old Bones
5. Curses
6. Icy Clutches
7. Make No Bones
8. Dead Men's Hearts
9. Twenty Blue Devils
10. Skeleton Dance
11. Good Blood
12. Where There's a Will
13. Unnatural Selection
14. Little Tiny Teeth
15. Uneasy Relations

Dying on the Vine (#16 in the Gideon Oliver series) by Aaron Elkins (Berkley Prime Crime, 2012)