Monthly Archives: June 2011

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz

HEADS YOU LOSE is an innovative and hilarious new crime novel written collaboratively. The formula is simple: the authors write alternating chapters, each one picking up where the other has left off.

The novel stars Paul and Lacey Hansen, a pair of orphaned, pot-growing, 20-something siblings eking out a living in rural northern California. They each dream of escaping Mercer, with varying degrees of vigor. But when a headless corpse shows up on their property late one night, they obviously can’t call the police. They move the corpse as surreptitiously as possible (utilizing skills learned on CSI), and wait for some good samaritan to find it. When the corpse instead reappears — a few days riper — on their doorstep, the Hansens realize they might be in over their heads.

Okay, this book was hilarious.  However, it was not the storyline itself, but the back and forth between the authors that made it worth reading.  I have to say, though, the ending had a twist I did not foresee.  I read so many books that I generally have them figured out before the end.  Not this one, it completely surprised me.

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Filed under Contemporary, Humor, Mystery

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t. (from Goodreads)

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another one of those books I didn’t mean to like. The genre is not something I normally read, but with the movie coming out I felt that I had to read it first.

Although I have southern parents, I was not raised in the South. I do remember my aunt having black maids throughout my childhood though. Just like in the book, they did more to raise the kids than their parents did. Of course that is my opinion, an outsider looking in.

This book is extremely well written. It is not however a book that I felt I could read in one sitting. I think that is one of its strengths. It is so powerful, I could only take it a little at a time.

Did I like the book? I am still not really sure, but I don’t think I will ever forget it.

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Filed under Historical

Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher


Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline—poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools. In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by: · valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers; · mandating breadth over depth in instruction; · requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support; · insisting that students focus solely on academic texts; · drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia; · ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading; and · losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures. Kelly doesn’t settle for only identifyingthe problems. Readicide provides teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators with specific steps to reverse the downward spiral in reading—steps that will help prevent the loss of another generation of readers. (from Goodreads)

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about ItReadicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It by Kelly Gallagher

I have mixed feelings about this book. The problem is I completely agree with what the author has to say (with one exception, that I’ll address later). I believe Gallagher is preaching to the choir. The people who read this book are already going to be interested in reading and the growing trend of illiteracy amongst our students. They do not need convincing that students need to read more.

Once I got past that though, I felt he had some really useful methods of assisting students in understanding difficult texts. I particularly liked his idea of bringing in current articles that address the theme of a book prior to the students reading the book.

I also agreed with his statement that the point is not that all the students like a particular book. The point is that they get something from it.

And the one exception I mentioned is he believes that the students should not be expected to use the library. He thinks the books should be available primarily in the classroom.

As a school librarian, I agree that all classes should have a well stocked library. However, there is no way a classroom can encompass the thousands of books that the library can offer.

Perhaps the students won’t be bothered to come to the library to check out books on their own . . . so bring them! Give them time in the library to browse and read. That is the point after all.

Okay, rant over.

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Filed under Literacy, Professional Development

Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum. The bail bonds office has burned to the ground, and bodies are turning up in the empty construction lot.  To make matters worse, Stephanie is working out of a motor home she shares with a dancing bear, and Joe Morelli’s old world grandmother has declared a vendetta against her.  And just when Stephanie decides it might be time to choose between the two men in her life, Morelli and Ranger, a third man from Stephanie’s past moves back to Trenton…

Okay, I read this one straight through and I am already wanting Explosive Eighteen which will be released in November.  Of course, that is nothing new.  I always want the next book right away.

Stephanie’s relationships with Ranger AND Joe are heating up and I have no idea where this is going.  For the longest time, Stephanie was in love with Joe and in lust with Ranger.  Now, she is in love with both of them.  It was obvious this was the way things were going in the last book, but it is a major plot point now.

There are interweaving storylines and people trying to kill Stephanie . . . or is she just in the wrong place at the wrong time?  This is Stephanie after all.

I am really glad we don’t have to wait the normal year for the next book!

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Filed under Contemporary, Humor, Mystery, Realistic, Romance

Red Moon Rising by Peter Moore

Being only half-vamp in a high school like Carpathia Night makes you a whole loser. But Danny Gray manages to escape the worst of the specists at his school. Thanks to genetic treatments he had as an infant, most people assume Danny’s other half is human. Which is a good thing.

Ever since the development of synthetic blood – SynHeme – vamps have become society’s elite, while wulves like his father work menial jobs and live in bad neighborhoods. Wulves are less than second class citizens; once a month they become inmates, forced to undergo their Change in dangerous government compounds.

For Danny, living with his vamp mother and going to a school with a nearly all-vamp student body, it’s best to pretend his wulf half doesn’t even exist. But lately Danny’s been having some weird symptoms — fantastic night vision; a keener-than-usual sense of smell; and headaches, right around the full moon.

Even though it’s easy to be in denial, it’s hard to ignore evidence. There’s only a month until the next few moon, and Danny’s time is running out.

Peter Moore speaks to adolescents in a voice that will have them laughing, set in a world that will get them thinking.

This is a completely different take on the vampire/werewolf legend.  No sparkles here, although the vampires are considered the superior race.  And that is where the problem really begins.  Vampires are more intelligent and more attractive than humans, but the societies are well integrated.  The fact that vampires only drink synthetic blood probably helps.

Werewulves (not a typo, that’s how they spell it) however, are not even second class.  They are slightly higher than animals.  They are considered the least intelligent and are required to register before their first turning.  If they don’t, they are “moonrunners” and can be shot on sight.  Every month during  the full moon, all registered wulves are shipped to compounds and many of them never return.  Many vampires and humans believe they should be exterminated, or at the least, should not be allowed to associate with “civilized” people.

I kept thinking of blacks in America before the civil rights era and Japanese containment camps during World War II.  There is even a mention of Nazis and it is not in a negative way.

I would recommend this book simply on the basis it was a good read.  The addition of the societal aspects make it even more compelling.

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Filed under Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

Dangerous Desire by Diane Escalera

Dangerous DesireDangerous Desire by Diane Escalera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first started this book, I was concerned I would not be able to finish it. I am an animal lover and dog fighting is part of the plot line. Fortunately, it is not too graphic in that area and definitely represents the evils of the “sport.”

The sex, however, is graphic . . . and hot. There is a plot to the story, so it is not just one sex scene after another. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Sienna tries to check Cruz out without him noticing. It never seemed to work. Whenever, she looked at him, she caught him looking at her. He was most definitely an ass man while she drooled over his chest and abs. I have to say, they way they were described, I would be drooling too.

What I did not like is the fact that they immediately fell in bed with each other. Sienna has just lost her dog that she considers her child. She is distraught and heartbroken. There are several scenes where she breaks down in tears. I completely understand her emotions. Then a few scenes later, she is laughing and partying with her friends or making out with Cruz. I just didn’t find it believable.

I liked the book well enough that I would probably read a sequel. The ending of the book hinted at one. I did not like it enough to add this author to my autobuy list.


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Filed under Contemporary, Realistic, Romance

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.

I did not mean to like this book.  It is a National Book Award Winner and nominated for the Georgia Book Award and therefore, to me, it is important literature.  Which must mean, I will not like it.  I rarely like things that win awards.

However, this book is an exception.  It is written in first person by an eleven years old girl with Aspergers syndrome.  She is trying to make sense of a world in which her beloved older brother has just died and her father is falling apart.  Fortunately, she has a wonderful counselor in her school to work with her.

Although there are no laugh out loud moments, there are scenes that make you smile . . . and there are scenes that bring tears to your eyes.

I cannot say why, but I really did like this book . . . even if I didn’t mean to.

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Filed under Contemporary, Realistic, Young Adult