Fiction · Jean R · Page-Turner · Thriller · Young Adult

Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game | by Ridley Pearson

Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game by Ridley Pearson
(Hyperion Book, 2012, 560 pages)

Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game is the fifth book in the planned seven book young adult series, Kingdom Keepers, by Ridley Pearson. The sixth book is slated for release in April 2013 with the seventh book following in April 2014. As I mentioned in my review of Kingdom Keepers IV, the series revolves around 5 teens who act as interactive holographic theme park guides for Walt Disney World. In Kingdom Keepers V, the teens move beyond Walt Disney World to one of the newest Disney cruise ships, the Dream. The teens also get to visit Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

In Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game, the teens led by Finn are fighting the Disney villains on two fronts. The Maintenance Base at Walt Disney World is being attacked. But the Disney villains have also increased their ranks and are causing trouble on the Disney Dream cruise ship. This book has plenty of danger, action, and increased attention to boy-girl relationships. It also has a cliff-hanger ending.

In doing research for the Kingdom Keeper series, the author, Ridley Pearson, was given access to many places in Walt Disney World, the Disney Dream cruise ship, and Castaway Cay that most of the public never sees. This behind-the-scenes research adds to the fun of reading the books, especially if you are a Disney fan. The Kingdom Keeper series is getting darker, but I still recommend it as a fast-paced fun read for young adults and beyond.

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Fiction · Julia P · Nature · Young Adult

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate | by Jacqueline Kelly

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
(Henry Holt and Co., 2009, 352 pages)

The year is 1899 and we’re introduced to eleven-year-old Calpurnia Virginia Tate (also known as Callie Vee), the only girl in a family with 6 boys. Along with her brothers, she lives with her parents and her grandfather on her father’s side. Calpurnia’s grandfather isn’t of the “warm and fuzzy” variety. In fact, most of his grandchildren are a little scared of him. Then Callie comes to her grandfather with a “nature” question and a unique relationship blossoms between the two.

Callie gains a deep appreciation for the natural world thanks to her grandfather. She loves all things science and has no desire to participate in any “womanly” duties, like knitting and cooking. Unfortunately, her preferences aren’t quite in line with what’s expected of young women at the turn of the century…

This was an enjoyable read. I can see why it was a Newbery Honor Book.

Fiction · Stephanie T

Home Safe | by Elizabeth Berg

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
(Ballantine Books, 2009, 288 pages)

This novel is about how Helen Ames, a writer, copes with grief after the passing of her husband Dan. Helen and Dan were together for many years. She relied on him for handling the personal finances, the household maintenance, and the parenting of their only daughter, Tessa. Helen spent her life concentrating on creating new literary works and found it devastating when she had to communicate with others and make decisions about her future. Dan withdrew $850,000 from their retirement fund before he died and Helen was at a loss for what he needed it for until Tom revealed that Dan had commissioned him to build her dream house. In the end, Helen sells her dream house and goes on with her life. Berg weaves the themes of emotion, perseverance, and wisdom together to tell a beautiful story about life after death.

Fiction · Stephanie T · Thriller

Unspeakable | by Sandra Brown

Unspeakable by Sandra Brown
(Grand Central Publishing, 1999, 512 pages)

Set in a rural area of Texas, this riveting drama unfolds the life and love of Anna, a deaf woman who has lived a sheltered life due to her physical disability. She is bright, beautiful and brave enough to endure life after the loss of her husband and the birth of her son, David. Anna and her son live for years with her father-in-law DelRay Corbett until Jack Sawyer, a drifter, joins them as a ranch hand. They know little about Jack, except that he is a hard worker. Meanwhile, two awry Herbold brothers escape from prison and are traveling back to Texas to get revenge on those who locked them away.  Sandra Brown keeps the reader spellbound as she writes about everyday life, love, and dangers.

Audiobook · Fiction · Julia P · Young Adult

In Zanesville | by Jo Ann Beard

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard
(Little, Brown and Company, 2011, 304 pages)

This book won an Alex Award (an award given to books written for adults that would also have widespread appeal for young adults) and as I listened to it I kept thinking that it felt more like a YA title than an adult title to me (hence me categorizing it as YA). The story takes place in Zanesville during the 1970s. Our 14-year-old narrator is never named by the author, but we are taken along with her as she enters her freshman year in high school.

The characters are engaging and the reader is taken through various family issues, friendship “struggles,” and, of course, dealing with what happens when boys come into play. I enjoyed In Zanesville, and even though I felt it leaned more heavily toward YA, I can certainly see the appeal for adults who will find themselves reflecting on their own high school experiences as they read.

Celebrities · Humor · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

Girl Walks into a Bar… | by Rachel Dratch

Girl Walks into a Bar…: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle
by Rachel Dratch
(Gotham Books, 2012, 248 pages)

I enjoyed watching Rachel Dratch when she was on Saturday Night Live and I remember all the gossip that came out surrounding her late-in-life pregnancy so I was curious to read her memoir and get the inside scoop. Plus, I figured it would be in the vein of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and was excited for an entertaining read. Girl Walks into a Bar… starts at the beginning and explains how Rachel entered the world of comedy, goes through what happened career-wise post-SNL, addresses her dating obstacles, and ends with the life-changing event of a surprise pregnancy in her early 40s.

I enjoyed this book and while I didn’t laugh as much as I did when I read Bossypants there were still a number of times when I laughed, hard. The chapter that got me the most was near the end of the book, after she’s had her son and is now entering a new stage in life with her son’s father. She became pregnant 6 months after they started dating so she explains that he’s now seeing her in a whole new way… sexy has kind of gone out the window. The chapter is: “First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes the Baby in the Baby Carriage.” It makes me laugh just thinking about it.

Nice, light read if you’re a fan of Rachel Dratch, SNL, or just enjoy celebrity information with a splash of humor.

Essays · Food! · Julia P · Non-Fiction

Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple, Jr. | by R.W. Apple, Jr.

Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple, Jr. by R.W. Apple, Jr.
(St. Martin’s Press, 2009, 432 pages)

R.W. Apple, Jr. was a former editor for The New York Times who didn’t limit himself to just writing about things like war and politics, he had a passion for all things food and he wrote about it. This book is a collection of his food writing and it covers the globe. Apple was certainly a well-traveled (and well-fed!) man. The book is broken up by region and each essay discusses a unique culinary encounter. Apple talks about regional treats (be they food or drink) and almost always offers the reader some sort of historical background to clue them in to what makes the specialty so enjoyable and unique.

I tried to read this book straight through and would argue that this method is not how it’s best-suited to be read. I enjoyed Apple’s writing style and found a NUMBER of places I want to eat/drink at, hopefully sooner than later. The section that focused on North America was one of my favorites because the likelihood of me reliving some of those culinary experiences was slightly more feasible 😉 I enjoyed this book – if you love reading about food you’ll appreciate Apple and his enthusiasm for all things edible.