Fiction · Jean R · Page-Turner · Quick Read! · Young Adult

Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play | by Ridley Pearson

Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play by Ridley Pearson
(Hyperion, 2011, 448 pages)

Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play is the fourth installment in the young adult series, Kingdom Keepers, by Ridley Pearson. The premise of the series is that 5 teens are chosen by Disney to act as interactive holographic theme park guides. The images of the five teens are projected in the Walt Disney World theme parks to greet the park visitors and provide information about the parks. The five teens are very popular with the park visitors and are referred to as the “Kingdom Keepers.” The five teens, led by Finn, are happy in their roles as Kingdom Keepers until the Disney villains, also known as the Overtakers, start to cause trouble.

In Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play, the Disney villains (led by the Evil Queen and Cruella De Vil) are trying to free their imprisoned fellow villains, Maleficent and Chernabog. The Disney villains have found a way to use the Kingdom Keepers friends and classmates as allies. Meanwhile, the Kingdom Keepers discover that they have allies in the Disney parks, including Ariel, Pluto, and Minnie. This fourth book in the series is filled with evil spells, missteps, and adventures.

Ridley Pearson’s Kingdom Keepers series is well-written, fast paced, and encourages the use of imagination. I would suggest that if you decide to read this series that you begin with the first title in the series, Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark, as it sets the background for the rest of the books. This series is recommended for all ages and especially for fans of “all things Disney.”

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Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Page-Turner · Quick Read!

Signs of Life | by Natalie Taylor

Signs of Life: A Memoir by Natalie Taylor
(Broadway Books, 2011, 306 pages)

Can you imagine being widowed and five months pregnant at the age of 24?  Natalie Taylor found herself in this position when her husband, Josh, suddenly died after falling and hitting his head.  Signs of Life tells her story as she works to get past the pain of grief and focus on the new man in her life, her son, Kai.  This book is incredibly hard to read because her pain so clearly comes across the page, and yet it’s a book you won’t want to put down.  You’re rooting for Natalie as she tries to regain her footing in her life.  Thanks to the support of her family, in-laws, and close friends Natalie is constantly reminded that though she has lost Josh her life hasn’t ended.  She also finds comfort in the form of classic books and poems – she is able to turn to them as a secondary means of support that help her to find clarity in the midst of her situation.

Once Kai is born you can see the transformation in Natalie.  She still fights through bouts of grief, but Kai has given her a new identity, a new focus for her life, and you can feel her love for him radiating through the book.  One of the passages that stuck with me was what she wrote about how she felt shortly after giving birth:

There is no literary connection for the birth of my son.  No author has done justice to this miracle.  There aren’t words to describe this day or the magic and power that surround the moment a baby is born.  Emerson claims the only eye who can truly observe the beauty of a natural landscape is the poet.  And while the natural world may hold its mysteries and miracles, it pales in comparison to the incredible experience of childbirth and the natural landscape of the human body.  The best way I can say it is that when a baby is born, the ghosts of the world’s greatest poets stand and listen to the cry of a life that just took its first breath and even they can’t find the words” (99).

I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons.  Once I started reading it I didn’t want to put it down.  This is both because I think the book is very well-written and quickly draws the reader in and because I’ve known Natalie since elementary school.  You can’t imagine a nicer person than Natalie and I think that makes it doubly hard to read this book and then come to grips with the fact that this actually happened to her.  It’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea of having been married for a year and a half, expecting your first child, and then to suddenly and without warning lose the love of your life, the father of your unborn child.  Natalie walks you through her pain and shows you that it is possible to come through the other side of grief a stronger person.

Audiobook · Humor · Julia P · Non-Fiction

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence | by Amy Sedaris

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
(Grand Central Publishing, 2008, 304 pages)

I listened to this as an audiobook because I love listening to David Sedaris’s books in the audiobook format as well.  After a quick glance through the book (thanks Amazon) I’m starting to secretly regret my decision.  Amy Sedaris is hilarious and she’s the reader on her audiobook so it’s perfect being able to hear her read things the way she had them sounding in her head.  But the pictures in the book look pretty amazing… 🙂

This is a fun, tongue-in-cheek book about entertaining.  In addition to being funny, I picked up a few quality pointers I’ll be sure to make use of.  There’s a little bit of everything in here, from how to simultaneously make money while you’re entertaining and how not to kill your rabbit to helpful recipes for almost any occasion.

I Like You is definitely entertaining and it’s a light read.  I’d recommend listening to the audiobook and “reading” the physical book simultaneously so you don’t miss out on any of the excitement 😉

Audiobook · Fiction · History · Julia P · Page-Turner

City of Thieves | by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff
(Viking Adult, 2008, 272 pages)

I picked up the audiobook version of City of Thieves when my fiancé and I headed out on a long road trip.  He graciously said he’d be up to listening to an audiobook (during our 14.5 hour drive), I just had to make sure it was something he would like – no pressure there.  This book had been on my “to-read” list for a while because it got such good reviews and it was highlighted as a good cross-over book for teens (especially guys!).  The protagonist of this novel is a 17-year-old boy named Lev, the story takes place during World War II so it has war AND history…  These were the three main selling points to me because I knew it had a good shot at keeping my fiancé’s attention past the first track.

I’ll admit, this wouldn’t have been the first book I would have picked up, but I’m glad I had an excellent excuse to listen to it.  It really drew you in and you wanted to know what was going to happen next.  Lev is living in Leningrad while it is under siege.  His mother and sister left while they could in an effort to find somewhere safer to live.  Lev remained in his apartment building with a few of his friends, serving his country by volunteering to serve on a local fire brigade.  One night, a lone German paratrooper lands, dead on arrival, on the street nearby.  As Lev and his friends steal what they can find on his body, they are soon running from the local Russian Army for breaking curfew.  Lev is the only one caught and he is placed into The Crosses, a formidable jail, sure that he will be executed in the morning.

While Lev is worrying over the fact that his life will soon be over, the door opens and another prisoner joins him.  This is how Lev meets Kolya.  Kolya is only a few years older and has found his way to The Crosses because he is believed to be a Russian Army deserter.  The next morning, Lev and Kolya are taken to the home of a powerful Colonel who says he will spare their lives if they will do him one favor – he needs a dozen eggs to ensure his daughter has a wedding cake.  Keep in mind that this is Russia in the middle of a war when the black market is alive and well (though if you want something you can count on it costing you) and people are eating bread made out of sawdust.  I know it doesn’t sound like much of a catalyst, searching for a bunch of eggs, but this “mission” is much harder than it sounds.

Lev and Kolya are given a strict timeline, their ration cards are taken, and they are sent out with a little money and a letter of permission in case they are stopped by any military officials.  Needless to say, as they traverse Russia and are forced to engage with both German and Russian soldiers this quest for eggs becomes a life or death adventure.

This novel will keep you interested until the very end.  I’d definitely recommend it as a summer read for the men in your life, be they teenagers or adults.

Fiction · Gwen B · In the Library · Page-Turner · Thriller

10th Anniversary | by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

10th Anniversary by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
(Little, Brown & Co.,2011, 395 pages)

For every secret
Detective Lindsay Boxer’s long-awaited wedding celebration becomes a distant memory when she is called to investigate a horrendous crime: a badly injured teenage girl is left for dead, and her newborn baby is nowhere to be found. Lindsay discovers that not only is there no trace of the criminals—but that the victim may be keeping secrets as well.

For every lie
At the same time, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano is prosecuting the biggest case of her life—a woman who has been accused of murdering her husband in front of her two young children. Yuki’s career rests on a guilty verdict, so when Lindsay finds evidence that could save the defendant, she is forced to choose. Should she trust her best friend or follow her instincts?

There’s a different way to die
Lindsay’s every move is watched by her new boss, Lieutenant Jackson Brady, and when the pressure to find the baby begins interfering with her new marriage to Joe, she wonders if she’ll ever be able to start a family.

James did not disappoint!! I have read all the books in this series, this one being the 10th one of the Women’s Murder Club, and each one of them is wonderful!!  James brings every character to life and makes you feel like you’re right there with them solving the mysteries.  You feel like you’re a part of the Women’s Murder Club.  He pulls you out of your comfort zone and takes you to another world.  It’s named 10th Anniversary because Lindsay has been friends with the medical examiner for ten years and they are celebrating the anniversary of their friendship along with the other ladies.  But, before the celebration starts, all chaos breaks loose right after Lindsay gets married.  The other ladies help Lindsay solve the crime cases she’s been assigned.  One is a lawyer, one a news reporter and one a medical examiner. All with their own life issues to deal with.

James’ stories are always intriguing, to say the least. Each book has been different but with the same characters that are very believable and that you really bond with. It was definitely a page-turner with lots of suspense and action.  I couldn’t put it down.  I’m now ready for the next installment of the series.

Fiction · History · Theresa F

Bedlam: A Novel of Love and Madness | by Greg Hollingshead

Bedlam: A Novel of Love and Madness by Greg Hollingshead
(Picador, 2007, 400 pages)

This is a historical novel about a time in England’s history when madness was on everyone’s mind, their king was afflicted with insanity!  Set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in a London asylum, Bethlam, this novel follows the incarceration of James Tilly Matthews and his relationship with the Bethlam apothecary, John Haslem.  Matthews is insane but is mostly kept locked up because of what he knows about England’s war with France and his role in republican fervor in that time in history.  Much of it is also about Matthews’ wife, Margaret, who works tirelessly to get her husband out of Bethlam.

I really wanted to enjoy this novel but it was a chore to finish and that is never a good thing to say about a book.  I wondered if it was just me because the description of the book was good and I think it received good reviews but when I looked at people’s comments about it they all said pretty much what I was feeling.  It was a well written book about an interesting time in history with some interesting characters but some parts were kind of awful and some parts were absolutely wonderful.  I enjoyed the love story between James and Margaret and the historical aspects of how mental illness was viewed during that time period but I can’t recommend the book.  I was really glad when I reached the last page.