30 December 2012

Dodger- By: Terry Pratchett (Young Adult Fiction)

It's The Artful Dodger, but not quite as you know him. He takes on a newer, and more exciting life when Terry Pratchett writes it. He’s older now, and he makes a living as a Tosher (finding things in the sewer); along with his usual talents. One day he comes to the rescue of a beautiful damsel in distress and becomes embroiled in a dark plot. She's hunted by some dangerous men, and since Dodger knows a thing or two about avoiding hunters he sets off to stop her pursuers. 

Soon he finds himself in the unfamiliar, and uncomfortable, role of "hero". One thing leads to another and Dodger has to start asking himself if he’s turning into a good-guy after all. This cleverly told story keeps you guessing right up until the end.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

22 December 2012

How Santa Really Works - By: Alan Snow (Picture Book)

This is the time of year for all of those really tough-to-answer questions. How does Santa know if you have been good? Where does Santa live? How do all of the toys fit in his sleigh? Don't panic...you can now look your precocious youngster in the eye and tell him/her to read this book.

I loved the illustrations; these diagrams could keep a kid interested for hours. They're so detailed that there's always something new that pops out at you. And that's not even mentioning the fact that you'll learn everything there is to know about The Big Guy. So, it's both entertaining and instructional.

Bookwyrm Rating: Cotton Candy

24 November 2012

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – By: Susan Cain (NonFiction)

It should come as no surprise to anyone that some people would rather stay at home with a good book than go out and party with everyone they've ever met. Yet, they still get crap about it.

It seems obvious to say that there are legitimate differences between introverts and extroverts, but apparently it does still need to be said. This book covers research on personality types and the implications for everyday life. It takes an in depth look at how our social structure, schools and business world are impacted by misperceptions about personalities. This is a great book for introverts, or people looking to understand the introverts in their life.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetable   

13 November 2012

Zoobiquity – By:Barbara Natterson Horowitz MD (Nonfiction)

Here’s a quick synopsis of the argument: veterinarians treat animals, doctors treat people. People are animals. So perhaps doctors and veterinarians should work together a little more closely. It kind of makes sense really.

The authors do make a good case for a broader approach to the treatment of both humans and animals. But, I think the best point they made is to demonstrate how closely we resemble other mammals. It might not have been the full extent of the author's ambition, yet this is an enlightening read. It will at least make you think about your place among all the other animals .

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetables

28 October 2012

How not to read: harnessing the power of a literature-free life – By: Dan Wilbur (Humor)

If nothing I’ve ever posted has appealed to you, it might be because you don’t like to read. If that’s the case, this book will teach you how to continue with your life without having to read all those pesky “classics”. With tongue in cheek humor, Wilbur pokes holes in the idea that literature is important to a well balanced life.

The best section is the “better book titles” with the covers of famous novels, and their more appropriate titles. To see examples, check out the authors blog betterbooktitles.com .I couldn’t stop laughing.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

16 October 2012

OLDIE BUT GOODIE: Anna Karenina – By: Leo Tolstoy

This has been my favorite novel for a long time. So it gets to be the very first of my new segment "Oldie but Goodie". These venerable books have already stood the test of time, but sometimes they get overshadowed in the excitement and hype surrounding the new stuff. 

Part of what I love about Anna Karenina is its pace. It’s not a thriller; you actually have to slow down and try to understand the characters. They’re loveable and frustrating, despicable and fun; usually in those pairs. In all of the grandeur of aristocratic Russian life, it’s the life of the family that really takes center stage.
This book has it all; love, lust, betrayal and the most underrated characters of all time (Levin and Kitty). If you haven’t read it yet, do so now. And if you have read it, Bravo! Now go read it again.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes

14 October 2012

Before I go to Sleep – By: S.J. Watson (Fiction)

Chrissy can’t remember why she woke up in a strange house with a strange man, but soon everything is explained to her. There’s been an accident and every night she loses all the memories made during the day. It’s only been going on for 20 some years. It’s nothing to worry about. Through the strategic use of her journal she begins to realize that not everything is what it seems.

So many stories use amnesia as a cheap plot devise (soaps anyone?), or it’s used to get the writers out of a jam. This is one of the few times that I can recommend a book because of its use of amnesia. I loved the narrative; it reminded me of the movie “Phonebooth” in the best way. It’s slightly claustrophobic since every entry relives a similar day, but the anxiety builds in this very small space.

With such fantastic writing on a debut novel, I hope to see more from this author. It’s a great thriller, but be careful when you pick it up. It’s hard to put down.
Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer 

11 October 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood – By: Kendare Blake (Horror)

It’s true, I’m a wuss; I just can’t do ghost stories. But this one barely gave me nightmares. Also, it’s for teenagers really, so it shouldn't be that bad. Our hero’s job is to stab murderous apparitions with his magic knife and send them to hell (which is where they rightfully belong). He finally meets his match and maybe an ally, in ghostly Anna.  When people in her vicinity end up gruesomely dead the plot’s just kicking off.  There’s blood and guts in abundance and a really nasty baddie.  So despite the genre, or somehow because of it I actually did enjoy the story. 

P.S. – If you like this, don’t forget to check out the sequel! Girl of Nightmares

P.S.S. – Don’t get too attached to the cat.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

08 October 2012

Slaughterhouse Five – By: Kurt Vonnegut (Fiction)

I cannot believe that it has taken me this long to read something by Vonnegut; I am well and truly ashamed of myself. Yet, despite the guilt trip, I loved this book. It is unlike any other narrative style out there. You’re told everything right in the beginning, so there is no plot. Really, no plot. The narrative jumps between episodes in the protagonist’s life, each one commenting on what’s happened before and after that episode. It's more like an explanation of snapshots from a life. We also get little asides from the author himself, which can be a little disconcerting. When he comments on an episode he spotlights the reality of the scene. And since he was actually a POW in the type of situation described, it's impossible to ignore his aside. So, the whole thing ends up as more of an experience than a story. And I liked that, a lot.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

30 September 2012

Paranormalcy Series – By: Kiersten White (YA Fiction)

This is a great series, with a great teen cast. I mean who doesn’t love snarky teens wielding bedazzled pink tasers? Evie (our heroine) works for a government agency who handles faerie plots and other such abnormalities. She’s an enforcer, sent out to “bag & tag” paranormal offenders. Then she’s pulled into a few evil faerie plots, falls in love, discovers her super-secret past and tries to save the world. 

Part adventure, part fantasy and part coming of age story, this is a purely fun read.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

23 September 2012

Mortality – By: Christopher Hitchens (NonFiction)

When Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer he began to live (as many before him have) in Tumorville. As a terminal case he also became acutely aware of his own mortality, and he shares that experience with his readers.

Our mortality is a by-product of our chance at life yet it’s an uncomfortable or downright painful topic. Christopher Hitchens has proved his worth as a writer and social commentator many times over, and his books are really good. But this is something special, even in comparison to his other great works (of which I’m also a fan). It is a sobering look at the end of a human life, in turns it is funny, frightening and poignant. Just like life, this book is over far too quickly.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes

06 September 2012

Dragon of Trelian – By: Michelle Knudsen (Teen Fiction)

In most of my favorite children’s books, the adventure begins with a new friend, and that’s exactly what happens here. One of the Trelian princesses meets the Mage’s apprentice. He turns out to be someone to be trusted and she shares her greatest secret…she has a pet dragon. Let the fun begin, and it does!
It’s a great adventure with a great cast. I loved every minute of it.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

31 August 2012

The Language of Flowers – By: Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Fiction)

I love it when a book lives up to expectations, but it’s even better when it exceeds expectation. I thought that this novel was completely engrossing. To say I devoured it would be too mild. For four hours I inhaled it like air.

The story is told from the point of view of Victoria, a ward of the state who ages out of the system without a family. She’s had such a traumatic life that she only connects with others through the Victorian Era language of flowers. The story is split between an especially important foster home episode during her childhood, and her present. The two play off each other, giving us a better understanding of Victoria. We know that her past doesn’t include a happy ending which gives us some insight into her present. The narratives progress together, one rushing to its inevitably tragic conclusion while the outcome of the other is more uncertain.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

26 August 2012

Unlocked – By: Ryan G. Van Cleave (Teen Fiction)

In this lyrical story, two violently troubled teens become friends. Soon one suspects that the other is going to take his anger one step too far. It’s an immensely relatable story, written from the viewpoint of a concerned, but eager friend. The story captures his joy at finally having a friend to his realization that something is seriously wrong with that friend, and finally his agonizing decision.

It’s hard to capture adolescence, with all of its wild dreams, insecurities and of course violence. It’s an experience like no other, and approximations always come off as being obscenely patronizing and inauthentic. That’s why it’s so good when it’s done right.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetable

23 August 2012

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky – By: John Claude Bemis (Children’s Fiction)

In a world run by the animals, it’s become criminal for a species to have been allied with the “Skinless Ones” (that’s us creepy humans). But an outcast bear has her world turned upside down when a human crash lands in her meadow. Instead of a menace, she sees a helpless cub who's just like all other cubs. Hunted by the reigning beasts she sets off to find a good home for the boy.

This story is built on good characters and imaginative world-building. When the narrative gets a little preachy for my taste, the plot saves it from disaster. This is a fun children’s read that has the ability to be turned into an interesting conversation.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer 

18 August 2012

Niceville – By: Carsten Stroud (Fiction)

It’s the Deep South in all its haunting glory, and here in Niceville bad things happen regularly. People disappear without a trace, and normally decent people do horrendous things without a second thought. But, it isn’t until a kid disappears on camera that anyone really pays any attention to it.

The plot kicks off in an explosive way. Without a main character to focus on, we’re able to get a better feel for the terrible thing which is Niceville. The chapters switch between different characters, and different plots, and you’re left hoping that you’ll get back to your favorites. The way that it builds the suspense is masterful. Four or five story lines spiral around each other out of control. Like water swirling down the drain they pull closer together until they drag each other down a deep, dark rabbit hole.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

12 August 2012

The Great Escape – By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Fiction)

When you’re ready to run out on your wedding, the best thing to do is to hop of the back of a dangerous stranger’s motorcycle…right? Oh well, that’s where this fun romantic fiction takes off, whether it makes sense or not it is a lot of fun. Lucy (our brilliant and completely composed heroine) decides that she really isn’t ready to get married to the perfect man, so she sets off on an adventure with a completely inappropriate man, Panda.  

If you’re looking for great characters and a fun story, this is the place to start. A perfect end of summer read. And if you’re not ready to say goodbye to this cast you’re in luck, it’s part of a series. Don’t worry about reading the others first, it’s not necessary.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

09 August 2012

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt – By: Christopher Hedges & Joe Sacco (Nonfiction)

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. And other times it causes other men’s misery. What you don’t know can and does hurt you and everyone around you; which is what Messrs. Hedges and Sacco are here to fix. America is full of “sacrifice zones”, areas which have been used up and sold out in the name of profit. Landscapes, cultures and people are mere pawns to be used by corporations that take all of the profit and share none of the misfortune they leave in their wake. The authors do an outstanding job by giving a voice and a face to the suffering that arises from the communities that are left behind.

But this is more than a poke to the conscience; it’s a call to arms. People are currently working to maintain and better their communities and their country, and there are things that we can and should do too. We don’t have to agree with the author politically, and he’s not asking for you to agree with him. But it is important to understand how politics and social policy can impact everyday life for millions of people, and then to do something about it.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetable (Perhaps the most vegetabely vegetable I’ve ever recommended) 

05 August 2012

Amped - By: Daniel H. Wilson (Science Fiction)

In this sci-fi thriller there are two kinds of people; those whose bodies and minds are enhanced by science, and the regular humans. The main conflict revolves around the status of those who are "technologically enhanced" to compensate for deficiencies. Governments, religions and people all try to decide if the "amps" are still human, or if they are somehow separate from the "reggies" because they now perform better than the average human. The characters are well written and sympathetic, and the results of this conflict are frighteningly realistic.

The whole plot is both thrilling and thought provoking. It actually reminded me of a non-fiction that I recommended a while ago, "An Optimists Tour of the Future", which lays out a lot of the upcoming technology and social issues surrounding it. In fact, anyone watching the Olympic Track and Field competition right now knows that this is already becoming an issue. A more advanced kind of technology is coming in the not so distant future, and it's worth imagining what that future could look like.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes

21 July 2012

Scarlet – By: A.C. Gaughen (Teen Fiction)

This is a new take on Will Scarlet, the cheeky thief who is the best friend of none other than Robin Hood. Unbeknownst to all of Nottingham he also just happens to be a she.  As their crew tries desperately to fight the evils around them, they are pressed even harder by the evil Sir Gisbourne, a dark figure in Scarlet’s past life.   

 I loved the mystery of Scarlet’s past, and her strength as a character. This was a great read, fully able to stand up to the Legend of Robin Hood.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

15 July 2012

One for the Murphys – By: Linda Mullaly Hunt (Teen Fiction)

After an extremely distressing incident our protagonist is placed in foster care with an idyllic family. The situation couldn't be more different from her own troubled home life, so naturally she has some trouble adjusting to the changes. During her time with the Murphys she learns a little bit about life and a lot about herself.

I loved this story; it’s neither “sunshine & roses” or “doom & gloom”, but a life-like combination of highs and lows. Each new development raises and issue that I had to think about for myself and it’s presented in such a way that the reader is encouraged to really consider each turn of events. It sends you away thinking, and that’s a good thing.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetables

11 July 2012

We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons – By: Tim Kreider (Nonfiction)

On the whole, I find collections of essays to be tedious at best and at worst they’re sermons where so-and-so “figured it all out” and now he wants to tell you all about it. This collection was a wonderful kind of slap in the face for being so cynical.

So here’s why I liked it:

There is a dark underlying mood to these essays which are written with both wry humor and unusual candor. Both of these appeal to me, when people take themselves too seriously it is a bad sign. Topics range from close encounters of the fatal kind, to transgendered friends and the novelty of family. As a reader you won’t get bogged down.  There wasn’t an essay that I didn’t enjoy, but there were several that I reread because I enjoyed both the prose and the message enough to go back for seconds.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes with a side of Vegetables

02 July 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – By: Seth Grahame Smith (Fiction)

I’ll admit it; I saw the movie trailer first and thought “Oooh that looks like fun”. But, to be fair, it really is fun. Now it’s obvious to me how all of the bad things that happened in Abe Lincoln’s life were caused by vampires, I don’t know how I missed it.

I loved how matter-of-fact the book was.  Narrated as a history textbook, the story contains all of the familiar Lincoln stories with one itsy-bitsy change; there are a few undead power players. The story is so familiar, it seems like you should know where the story is going, but that’s where the author fools you. It is his story from top to bottom.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

24 June 2012

I’ve got your number – By: Sophie Kinsella (Fiction)

In the course of one really bad day, our poor heroine loses both her heirloom engagement ring and her cell phone.  Like most modern women would be, she’s frantic and overjoyed when she finds a replacement cell phone in the garbage bin.  Following the age-old rule “Finders Keepers” she keeps the phone and uses it as her own. Adventure ensues. This light-hearted novel is full of witty dialogue and just a little bit of romance. Over-all a sugary sweet read.

Bookwyrm Rating: Cotton Candy

17 June 2012

Brain Bugs – By: Dean Buonomano (NonFiction)

You know that feeling; the one where you think that maybe you’re brain has a different agenda than you. Well this book won’t help that to go away. Sorry. But it’s probably better to know why that’s the case than to go on pretending that you’re totally (and consciously) in charge of the situation.

Chock full interesting scientific facts, it feels like you’re peeking behind the curtains of the mind. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn’t wait to explain some of these principles to friends and family. This is one that I could read over and over.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetables

12 June 2012

Tuesdays at the Castle – By: Jessica Day George (Children’s Fiction)

In a special land where castles can be alive, our little princess is obsessed with knowing all the tricks her castle has. She’s methodical and adventurous; she maps out all of the hidden passageways and extra rooms that the castle comes up with on Tuesdays. When disaster strikes, only her special knowledge and affinity with the castle can save the day.

This is a great book for younger readers. It’s pleasant enough for a bedtime read and is sure to make for some interesting dreams.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

09 June 2012

My life in France – By: Julia Child (Nonfiction)

Julia Child and her husband moved to France when she was in her late thirties. Fifty years and a lifetime of achievements later, this book is how she remembered that time in her life.

This woman and her ability to learn and try new things was truly impressive.  It takes a very real determination to be happy even in the most trying of circumstances. I love the way that she talked about her husband and their mutual respect for each other’s pastimes. She had a way of embracing people and opportunities that is so inspiring.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and hope to read it again soon. It was well written with a formidable ability to paint a setting, while being fun, engaging and inspirational.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes, or Dessert (I just couldn’t choose one)   

04 June 2012

I Hunt Killers – By: Barry Lyga (Young Adult)

Whoa, this is one messed up story, but it’s also strangely compelling. It’s the tale of a serial killer’s son who’s trying to prove that he won’t be following in “Dear Old Dad’s” footsteps. Not so easy when The Artist taught our protagonist all of his tricks. “Whoa that’s one messed up story” you might say; well…I agree.

If you’re looking for a great creepy thriller, horror & mystery this is a good place to start. I found it bone-chillingly sinister. To top it all off, there’s still all of the “normal” young adult issues to be dealt with; friendships, love, identity, and serial killer fathers…oh wait, not that last one.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

25 May 2012

Hex Hall Series (1,2 &3) – By: Rachel Hawkins (Teen Fiction)

This series has it all, no really – everything. We’ve got: angsty teenagers who just happen to be witches, vampires and demons, or demon hunters who live in a special super secret wizardy school, with family secrets, betrayal and most importantly a really dramatic and confusing love life for our protagonist…see I told you, everything. So finally I’ve found a completely sugary book that I thoroughly enjoyed! If there is any moral to the story or lesson in there somewhere, it is passed over quickly in a fast moving plot full of twists and turns. But to be honest, most of these twists come up like the bend in an interstate, you can see it coming for miles and miles.

I did enjoy the story and the characters, it was a lot of fun and I burned through all three books. So if you’re looking for a distracting read without too much thought involved, here you go.

Bookwyrm Rating – Cotton Candy

20 May 2012

The Graveyard Book – By: Neil Gaiman (Children’s Fiction)

For a book that starts out with a killing spree, this is a surprisingly great children’s book. This story is about a boy who grows up in a graveyard, raised by a ghostly and supernatural family. The outside world is not safe on account of said killing spree in the beginning, and our hero grows curious about the world outside the graveyard gates.  Although things are surprisingly lively for a cemetery, we can’t really blame him for that curiosity.

I loved the dark humor and complete originality of the story, and I hope to see more about this hero in the future.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

13 May 2012

Subliminal – By: Leonard Mlodinow (Nonfiction)

Recently I read a book which raised the topic of the importance of the unconscious parts of our brains. I was intrigued but it wasn't nearly thorough enough. So when I ran across this book I just couldn’t resist picking it up. I don’t know why, maybe it was that snazzy cover. Luckily for me, it was an informative and fun introduction to the fascinating things that our brains are doing without our knowledge. 

As with all nonfiction, the skill of the author has to match his knowledge of the subject, and I loved this presentation. Leonard Mlodinow can make you laugh, even while he’s exposing your brain for what it really is. Honestly, now it seems like the brain is a deep and dark rabbit hole, full of fantastic and eerie surprises.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetables

08 May 2012

Stupendous Sequels (Fiction)

Last week two great authors published new installments in their fabulous series. I’ve previously recommended both series and now having read both of these sequels I can honestly say that they live up to their promise.

 The first of these is Insurgent by Veronica Roth, which is the highly anticipated sequel to Divergent. The story does not disappoint as our heroine continues to both navigate and shape her world. Once again we have a strong and believable heroine who demonstrates real growth and complexity.  

Then we have Bitterblue, which is the sequel to Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. In a gorgeous example of world-building we are allowed to continue to adventure with some of our favorite characters. If you’re looking for an exciting read this week, try picking up these series.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

06 May 2012

Pegasus – By: Robin McKinley (Fantasy)

How important is honest communication between different parties? That is exactly what this book investigates through our main characters. When two delegates for their respective races find that they can communicate directly, they learn that the traditional “translators” have been anything but honest with either side.

This is a great teen fantasy which introduces a new kind of mythology, and intermingles magical zoology with race relations. The premise was intriguing and the characters were enchanting. The end was…a cliffhanger, to say the least. So the sequel cannot come soon enough for me.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert 

30 April 2012

The Unruly Queen – By: E.S. Redmond (Picture Book)

Here’s a picture book that even I could spend hours staring at, and I have all the attention span of a sugar-crazed squirrel. So I think the 2 to 5 year olds in your life will love it. The story is slightly reminiscent of a Mary Poppins character (the book not the movie), who comes to deal with a bratty little girl.  The clever wording and beautiful illustrations really make this children’s book stand out from the crowd.

Bookwyrm Rating - Dessert

22 April 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth – By: Richard Dawkins (Nonfiction)

There are a few subjects that I hardly ever get tired of exploring, and natural history is one of them. It’s never a bad idea to learn more about the world you live in. It has the power to shape the way you perceive yourself and everything around you. What’s not to love?

Dawkins writing style makes this an interesting and exciting piece of scientific literature. The level of self-awareness exhibited by the author makes the entire book feel like a private tutorial from the best in the field. His obvious enthusiasm and love of his subject makes the reader fall in love with science as well. I truly feel more aware of this amazing world for having read it.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes 

15 April 2012

H.I.V.E. - By: Mark Walden (Children’s Fiction)

In a multi-part series reminiscent of Harry Potter, young villains learn to be all that they can be at an ├╝ber secretive school hidden away from the regular people.  The protagonists of this story (we can’t call them heroes after all) don’t have any magical powers; they’re just really good at what they do. Despite the fact that they are definitely NOT law abiding citizens, they do make pretty good role models for young fans.

This is a fun adventure, and a great coming of age story with a hero that’s relatable. The issues of destiny, right and wrong, and embracing your own strengths are scattered throughout the various plots. But don’t let the title fool you, sometimes labels like “hero” and “villain” can be ambiguous.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

11 April 2012

Dear Me: A letter to my 16 year old self (NonFiction)

Oh to be 16 again…or not.  If there’s a more self-critical, hyper-emotional and maudlin time in a person’s life I sincerely hope to not experience it. It’s nice to know that awkwardness was not unique to my adolescence, even if it felt that way at the time. This collection of letters from authors, celebrities and seemingly well adjusted people was so cathartic it inspired me to jot my own note to my 16 year old self.

While this book is full of funny reminiscences it’s more important as a mark of progress. It’s nice to see how other people look back on their own development, what they would change, and how they would advise the person that they were. Writing your own letter can help you to see where you think you are going in light of where you’ve been.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

07 April 2012

The False Prince – By: Jennifer A. Nielsen (Teen Fiction)

Dragged into a desperate plot against his will, our hero is forced to become the lost prince of his country or he loses his life. In a book that has so much to do with responsibility and life threatening situations I wouldn't change a thing. Sage is a great hero for all age groups, he’s smart, rebellious and utterly snarky.  Despite his situation, he does things his own way or not at all. Sometimes it works out well for him, and sometimes it doesn't. 

This is a well devised plot, full of twists and turns, with plenty of dark little corners where all sorts of ugly things can happen. I absolutely fell in love with this story. And you probably will too.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

01 April 2012

When She Woke – By: Hillary Jordan (Fiction)

This book disturbed me for days after reading it, if not longer. In the world that Hillary Jordan created criminals are color coded according to the level of crime that they committed, by dyeing their skin. These chromatic people are then released back into the public, literally wearing the proof of their crime. This book takes the themes of “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and puts it all in a frighteningly realistic future dystopia. This is not like the story you read in high school though, it’s much rawer emotionally than the original.  Hillary Jordan does a fantastic job showing the human cost of discriminatory legislation and paranoia. What seems like a moral solution to “criminal activity” ends up as an excuse to harass and harm others.

Even though I found it so disturbing, I have to say this was extraordinarily well written. Let’s face it this story shouldn't be a relaxing read.The characters are realistic and sympathetic, but unlike the original story, they don’t sit back and accept that society is right. This one is a thriller that challenges your preconceptions.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetables

24 March 2012

Kenny and the Dragon - By: Tony DiTerlizzi (Children’s Fiction)

Is it so hard to believe that a rabbit and a dragon might become friends? In this lovely little tale that’s exactly what happens. There’s exploration, discovery, true friendship, and danger surrounding our little friend Kenny and his dragon. Especially when the villagers find out that there’s a dragon in the vicinity. After-all, everyone knows that dragons are trouble.

Kenny is a great protagonist, he’s smart and strong, but he also knows what he can do alone and what he can’t. This is a great adventure with great life lessons, I absolutely loved it.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

18 March 2012

Graceling - Kristin Cashore (Fantasy)

This is the first book in what is shaping up to be one of my new favorite series. “Graceling” is set in a land where people who have two eye colors are “Graced” with a special affinity for something. The protagonist’s Grace is apparently the ability to kill. Unfortunately she discovers this when she’s six and she is subsequently turned into a thug by her uncle (a wicked king). This book is set with a full cast of wonderful characters; both the good and the bad are displayed in all their glory.

I loved the themes at work throughout the story. Questions of love, identity and responsibility are worked out realistically for a fantasy novel. The plot is fast paced, and by the end you’re sad to see it go. Luckily for us there’s a second book “Fire” and a third book in the works. These work well as standalones, but together they flesh out the background of this great new world.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

11 March 2012

A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie – By: Matt Blackstone (Teen Fiction)

Sometimes it’s good to get away from it all, and the furthest you can get from your own worries is to get into someone else’s head. Our protagonist and narrator in this book is a young man with OCD who’s just trying to live his life, and as with so many good stories, that begins with him making a new friend. Adventures ensue and his life is irrevocably changed.

Although it’s occasionally funny, this book is chock full of serious issues and OCD isn’t the worst of them. Happily, these issues all serve to turn our protagonist into his own hero. And I think that’s a great message for younger and older readers alike.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes

06 March 2012

Hugless Douglas – By: David Melling (Children's Fiction)

A little bear wakes up realizing that he needs a hug, so off he goes in search of that perfect embrace.

What a sweet story, with such an adorable protagonist. I couldn’t ask for anything more, except sequels.

Bookwyrm Rating- Dessert

01 March 2012

An Optimist’s Tour of the Future – By: Mark Stevenson (NonFiction)

After reading recent headlines and watching network news a person can really start needing some good news. So when I saw this title I just couldn’t resist its siren song, and I’m glad I didn’t. The good news from this book is that really nifty things are happening right now that have the potential to make things better for tomorrow.

Reading this book was both encouraging and exciting. There are so many advances being made by intrepid science pioneers, and we should be aware of them. This book got me so excited about new technology that I’ve actually been looking up some of these things instead of reading the “breaking news”.  So I’ve been telling anyone who will listen all about these innovations for the past week.

The best things about this title are:
1)      You learn a heck of a lot of nifty things (yes I like the word “nifty” today)
2)      It is realistic, both the good and the bad are presented, but the whole picture is pretty optimistic.
3)      It promotes discussion, and if there is something the world needs more of, it is informed discussion on topics that matter.

So go out and get on this fabulous tour of the future before you get left behind.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes 

22 February 2012

The One and Only Ivan – By: Katherine Applegate (Children’s Fiction)

Here’s a great new book by the author of one of my favorite series as a child. It's centered on a gorilla who lives in captivity in a mall circus, who realizes that things have to change when a baby elephant is brought to the circus.

I loved that the narrator is Ivan, the way "he" tells this story is both witty and sad. As time goes by, it seems like our narrator becomes more eloquent as he finds his voice in the desire to act. While the book (somewhat heavy-handedly) pushes our responsibilities towards animals, I appreciate the sentiment wholeheartedly.  However, the story is also about the end of complacency and the need to act when we see a change worth making. Together, these two morals make a great story.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

15 February 2012

Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That? – By: Henry Alford (Nonfiction)

Here is a delightful book on the subject of manners, but it’s not an encyclopedic tome detailing every nuance of behavior. Rather, it’s a treatise on why we have manners, and how we demonstrate them. In some cases it's about how our manners fail spectacularly. This is a great look into our behavior in general which proves to be both though provoking and hilarious.

I always love reading, but I especially love it when the author makes English work for its living. In my opinion a well turned phrase is worth ten decent plotlines, and I’m happy to say that this is an author who makes his work sing and dance. He has the unique ability among writers to make a phrase that is actually worth reading more than once. If the piquant observations don’t ensnare you, the writing surely will.

Bookwyrm Rating: Haute Cuisine 

04 February 2012

All There Is: Love Stories from Storycorps – By: Dave Isay (Nonfiction)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes a new offering from an old favorite. For those of you who don’t know Storycorp, this is an organization who travels around the country in order to record stories from real people. People can be interviewed by family, friends or facilitators, these recordings are then put on a CD and archived at the Library of Congress. For more information on Storycorp, visit their website, www.storycorp.org.

This new collection is all about love, which makes it an incredibly positive and endearing book. It seems to me that it’s impossible to not feel affinity with people once you know what or who they love. Love brings us all closer, and that’s what this book is all about.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

28 January 2012

The Rook –By: Daniel O’Malley (Fiction)

James Bond meets Men in Black and a girl with amnesia, does anything more really need to be said? With so much going on the author manages to juggle the plots very gracefully. He balances between secret government agencies, a woman preparing to lose her mind (literally), treason and the supernatural, and he does it with the grace of a tightrope walker.

I loved this thriller, it has a little bit of everything, so nothing grows tiresome or overdone. And I have to say that it’s not every day that you read a book whose heroine is actually two people who happened to have used the same body. While you grow to love both of them, the whole plot does bring up some interesting questions about identity. This is a great weekend read because you won’t want to be interrupted, trust me.

Book wyrm Rating: Dessert

21 January 2012

May B. – By: Caroline Starr Rose (Children’s Fiction)

Unfortunately for May B. her parents have rented her out to work for some rather flighty people, and so through mischance she ends up on the prairie all alone waiting for Christmas, which is when her father will come to rescue her. I absolutely loved this book and devoured it in one sitting. Our heroine is plucky and able to do what needs to be done. She shows that there’s more than one kind of smart, but she doesn’t stop trying to be all kinds of smart.  And as if the poor girl didn’t have enough on her plate, she uses what little spare time she has trying to overcome her difficulty reading.

The writing is poetic and introduces a younger audience to train-of-thought writing in a way that seems totally natural. Perfect for these long winter night, this story is easy to read, but still a page-turner.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer