Jillicious Reading: July 2011

7.28.2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
by Laini Taylor

Summary:  Karou, an art student in Prague, creates amazing drawings of chimera in her sketchbook.  Her classmates assume the mythological creatures come from Karou’s imagination.  But, the chimera are actually real … the only family Karou has ever known.  And, now they are threatened.  The doorways that lead to their enchanted world are being scorched with a single hand print from winged strangers – a warning of what is to come.  When Karou locks eyes with one of these breathtakingly handsome strangers, she begins on a journey that leads to the revelation of many secrets … secrets she may not have been ready to learn.

Thoughts:  Author Laini Taylor immediately pulled me into this fiercely original novel.  Through her eloquent writing, Ms. Taylor builds a vivid, magical world and also beautifully describes the fascinating city of Prague.  The reader wants to catch the next plane to the Czech Republic that surely brims with the magic the author describes!  I loved the characters as well as the Ms. Taylor’s fresh take on angels & demons.  I also liked the gradual unveiling of the character’s secrets and back stories throughout the novel.  Daughter of Smoke & Bone is not just another paranormal romance. It is clearly in a class of its own.  

Visit Laini Taylor’s website to learn more about this talented, pink-haired author!  🙂       

Dirty Little Secrets
by C.J. Omololu

Summary:  Lucy has a secret.  Her mother is a hoarder.  Lucy doesn’t let people get too close, so there is no danger of them finding out about the chaos at her house.  But, she has a friend for the first time and things are starting to spin out of control.  How much longer can she hold things together?  And, what would everyone do if they found out?        

ThoughtsDirty Little Secrets is a fascinating novel.  I had never thought about what it must be like for a child of a hoarder.  The tense, heartbreaking story gives the reader a view into this life and an idea of how difficult it must be to live with someone suffering from this illness.  The end leaves one with a lot to ponder.  I am so glad I read this book and gained a new perspective.  It is always good to be reminded that we may not have any idea what someone in our life is dealing with everyday.     

Read more on C.J. Omololu’s blog and the Children of Hoarders website.

7.27.2011

Once
by Morris Gleitzman

Summary: Felix has been living in an orphanage for years in Nazi-occupied Poland.  He is Jewish and completely unaware of what is going on beyond the walls of the orphanage.  Convinced his parents are searching for him, Felix runs away, literally taking his life into his hands as he tries to find his family.

ThoughtsOnce is a true standout among Holocaust novels.  Morris Gleitzman brilliantly juxtaposes Felix’s innocence against the atrocities carried out by the Nazi regime.  The understanding reader views the happenings through the naive eyes of a child.  It is incredibly powerful and heartbreaking as Felix begins to realize what is going on around him and is forced to grow up way too fast.  I really loved this main character and the other characters he meets along his journey, one based on a real-life hero from this time.  Although it is difficult to read about the Holocaust, I look forward to reading more about these characters in the sequel, Then.     

Visit author Morris Gleitzman’s website to learn more about him and his books. 

7.21.2011

Shelter
by Harlan Coben

Summary:  After his father is killed in a car accident and his mother (not dealing well with his father’s death) has to check into rehab, Mickey must move to a new area and live with his uncle.  But fitting into his new school is the least of Mickey’s worries.  His girlfriend has disappeared and a mysterious lady in town has told him that his father is not dead.  Mickey is determined to discover the truth. 

Thoughts:  I love that one of my favorite adult authors, Harlan Coben, is now also writing for young adults!  In Shelter, Mr. Coben brings his trademark fast-paced plotting to the teen audience.  Mickey, like his uncle Myron Bolitar (the star of several of the author’s adult novels), is a smart, quick-witted main character.  Having traveled the world with his parents, he has an interesting perspective and skill set.  He is also a friend to the friendless and not afraid to stand up for them as well as for himself.  The mystery is suspenseful, with lots of plot twists and intrigue.  I like how Mr. Coben chose to create a spin-off with a younger Bolitar and look forward to his next adventure!    

Visit the Mickey Bolitar website to read more about Shelter and Harlan Coben’s website to read more about the author and his adult books.   

7.17.2011

Jillicious Dessert Menu: Adult Summer Reading

Need some adult reading ideas for the rest of the summer? Try any of these great titles or series you might have missed!  






The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
It is 1946 and author Juliet is looking for a new writing project.  Inspiration comes when she receives a letter from a member of “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society”, a special book club formed on the island of Guernsey during the Nazi occupation.  The tales of the author and the Guernsey inhabitants are shared in this charming epistolary novel that celebrates the power of books and the human spirit. 

The Flavia de Luce Mysteries
by Alan Bradley
(1st in the series: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie)
Flavia de Luce is the hilarious young sleuth at the heart of this series.  Flavia, a spunky 11-yr-old with a love for science, lives in a small town in the British countryside in the 1950s. Her curiosity constantly leads her into the middle of a local mystery and her smarts lead her to the clues necessary to unravel the crime.  Flavia is an absolute delight!  Her constant scheming and attempts to outwit her older sisters, the criminals, and the police are laugh-out-loud funny.  Going on a road trip this summer?  Pop one of these in the CD player; these stories are wonderful on audio.       

Maisie Dobbs 
by Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs runs a private investigation agency in England in the 1920s and 30s.  This first installment in the series tells of how Maisie, a bright, steadfast young lady, worked her way up from service to running her own business with the help of a wealthy benefactor and a mentor.  She takes on her first case which begins as a simple investigation into infidelity that leads to something much more.   
           
Any thriller by Harlan Coben
Looking for more complex, edge-of-your-seat, plot-twisting mysteries?  Try a novel by Harlan Coben such as Tell No One, Hold Tight, The Woods or any of the Myron Bolitar Mysteries.  They are fast-paced, entertaining and always keep the reader guessing.         

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
If you haven’t read The Help, you’ve just got to do it before the movie comes out August 10!  This novel tells the story of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan who returns home to Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 after graduating college.  A budding writer, Skeeter decides to pen a daring book that sheds light on the lives of the African-American help that run the white households and raise the children but are treated like second-class citizens.  A must-read.   

American Wife
by Curtis Sittenfeld 
This fictionalized account of a life strikingly similar to Laura Bush’s imagines what might motivate the reserved former First Lady.  A touching, compelling look at life within a political family. 

Loving Frank
by Nancy Horan
This fascinating novel describes the love affair between the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the wife of one of his clients, Mamah Cheney.  The story successfully blends historical facts, scandalous love, an early 20th-century woman’s desire for an intellectual life, and insight into the brilliant architecture of the eccentric Frank Lloyd Wright.  A huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, I really enjoyed an inside look at this fascinating man.   


Bossypants
by Tina Fey 
Tina Fey talks about her nerdy childhood, improv comedy, marriage, and parenting in this hilarious autobiography.  Her observations, told with her trademark wit and self-deprecating humor, are laugh-out-loud funny.  If you are a Tina Fey fan, definitely check this one out (preferably the audio book read by the author)!       



Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind 
(and others in the Miss Julia series) 
by Ann B. Ross
Wealthy widow Miss Julia is shocked when a blonde bombshell shows up on her doorstep with a 9-year-old son claiming that the boy’s father is Miss Julia’s late husband of over 40 years.  This is quite a shock for the spunky Southern, Presbyterian lady, but Julia Springer takes this on as she takes on everything, in her own unique (and hilarious!) way.  This delightful series pokes fun at the church, small towns, and Southern customs in an amusing, charming way.  Great summer reads!   

Twenties Girl

(and anything else … )  
by Sophie Kinsella
Lara starts receiving visits from her great-aunt Sadie who has recently passed away.  Is it her overactive imagination again?  Or, is there more to these visions of Sadie, the feisty flapper asking Lara for help in finding her treasured necklace?  Twenties Girl is a heart-warming, hilarious romp.  


These are a few books on my “to read” list.  They might be of interest to you too: 

  
Untold Story 
by Monica Ali
What if Princess Di had not died in that awful car crash in Paris?  Where might she be today?  This novel imagines a possible different ending.  
  
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
by Helen Simonsen

The story of Major Ernest Pettigrew, an honor-bound British widower who is struggling to get along with his changing family and falls for a local shop owner, a very unlikely match. 


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford
Set in the 1940s in Seattle during the Japanese internment period and alternately in the same area in the 1980s, Hotel of the Corner of Bitter Sweet is the story of Henry a Chinese-American widower and Keiko, the Japanese-American girl he loved in grade school.

Check out USA Today’s summer reading lists for more ideas.   

7.13.2011

Wonderstruck
by Brian Selznick

Summary:  Wonderstruck, “a novel in words and pictures,” tells two stories, one of Ben and one of Rose.  Ben lives at Gunflint Lake, Michigan in 1977.  After his mother passes away, he sets out to New York City to find the father he never knew.  Fifty years earlier, Rose lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, and she, too, set out for the City to find what her life her was missing.     

Thoughts:  Brian Selznick has created another masterpiece of storytelling and art in Wonderstruck.  He uses the same format of his Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret, yet brings a new freshness in this wholly original tale.  The stories are told side by side, Ben’s through text, and Rose’s through pictures.  Rose is deaf, and I was impressed with the way her story was told visually; the quiet experienced as the reader “reads” the illustrations is the perfect accompaniment to her journey.  The cinematic quality of the illustrations and Selznick’s brilliant spreads, zooming in and out, are truly mesmerizing.  It is impossible not to be pulled in from the very first page!  From there the reader is taken on a fascinating adventure as Ben grieves for his mother, struggles with his own hearing, and seeks answers about his father, a quest that leads him to the American Museum of Natural History.  


The author includes many references to the beloved novel, The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and the classic journey taken to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Claudia and her little brother Jamie.  (I have found a few and may have to reread both books so I can catch more!)  I loved this tribute to the classic novel (a lifetime favorite of mine) and also loved that Ben’s mother, described by the author as a strong, independent, revolutionary, was a librarian.  🙂  The “Acknowledgments” at the end of the book are worth reading as they tell of the author’s inspirations and how things all came together in this new work.  Wonderstruck will surely be a favorite of readers of all ages, those who loved Hugo as well as those who are just meeting Brian Selznick for the first time.    

If you haven’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, take the time to do so before this story hits the big screen in November 2011 (directed by Martin Scorsese).  Brian Selznick’s first “novel in words and pictures” tells the story of Hugo, an orphan living secretly in a Paris train station in the 1930s, and a mystery involving his father and an automaton found in a museum.  This groundbreaking book was the perfect format to tell this intriguing story involving a father, a son, a toy-maker, friendship, clocks, train stations, silent movies, invention, and dreams.  


Visit Brian Selznick’s website to learn more about The Invention of Hugo Cabret (both the book and upcoming movie) and to get a sneak peek of Wonderstruck.      
  

7.11.2011

Paranormalcy
by Kiersten White

Summary:  For as long as she can remember, Evie has lived and worked at the International Paranormal Containment Agency.  Her unique talent of seeing beneath a paranormal’s “glamour” to what lurks below makes her a valuable asset to the agency.  Then Lend, a handsome shape-shifter, is captured at the IPCA while trying to find information about the mysterious murders taking place around the world.  Evie is immediately drawn to Lend, a paranormal who leads a normal, teen life, the kind of life Evie has always wanted.  Together they set out to solve the mystery of the killings and encounter a lot of unexpected surprises along the way.

ThoughtsParanormalcy is a clever novel that stands out in the myriad of paranormal romances being published today.  The tone is light and sassy, the pace quick and engaging.  The star of the show, main character Evie, is a spunky, fun heroine with a big heart.  I found her longing for a normal life (with things like a locker, a driver’s license and the prom!) very endearing.  It creates an interesting contrast to the high-tech, fantasy world where she lives.  Paranormalcy is a creative blend of adventure, mystery, supernatural, and romance.  A must-read for paranormal fans as well as realistic fiction readers who like a touch of magic in their romances.  It’s the first in a trilogy with the sequel Supernaturally coming out later this summer; both installments are the perfect addition to your beach bag!  

Visit Kiersten White’s website to learn more about this debut author.  You can also follow her on Twitter.  She’s definitely one to watch!         

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