Thursday, May 31, 2012


By A.C. Gaughen
Walker & Co., 2012. 292 pgs. Young Adult

Will Scarlet is Robin Hood's right-hand man, an expert thief, who snatches food and riches to help the people from starving or being dragged off to prison as the sheriff of Nottingham subjects them to extreme taxation. He is also an expert knife-thrower and can sneak in and out of just about anywhere without being seen. But he is really a she, and she has a past that she doesn't want anyone to know about. While Robin and the other members of their small band--John Little and Much--know she's a girl, they don't know what Scarlet is hiding from. Then Guy of Gisbourne, the infamous thief catcher, is hired by the sheriff to find Robin and his band, and Scarlet's past comes back to haunt her.

With lots of action, a quick-moving plot, and a love triangle, this retelling of the Robin Hood legend is fun from start to finish. Readers will probably be able to guess early on who Scarlet really is, but that doesn't detract from the unfolding of the additional details about who she is and what she has experienced. This is one that will leave readers hoping there's a sequel, because they won't be ready to say good-bye to Scarlet, Robin, or the rest of the characters. Some violence and a little bit of language, but nothing too bad.


Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky
by Veronica Rossi
Harper, 2012. 376 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Aria is part of a group of people known as dwellers who live in large dome-like bunkers and spend their days partying in virtual realms. But when Aria is exiled to the outside after she and her friends break into an old bunker and things go horribly wrong, she meets Perry, a young man who has grown up outside fighting to survive in a world ravaged by terrible Æther storms.

Aria wants to find her mother who has recently moved to another dwelling and Perry is looking for his young nephew who was taken by the dwellers. They realize that neither one can achieve their goal on their own and so start a journey that changes both of their lives.

Alternating chapters tell the story from both Aria and Perry’s point of view. If I was rating this book, I would give it 3 out of 5 stars. It’s an enjoyable read, but it’s not amazing or anything. Though not as good, I would recommend it if you really enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How We Got the Book of Mormon

How We Got the Book of Mormon
By Richard E. Turley, Jr. and William W. Slaughter
Deseret Book, 2011. 154 pages. Nonfiction.

The stated purpose of this book is to help readers "better understand the history of the Book of Mormon." The text covers briefly how the record came to be, how it was translated, and then gives details regarding the printing of six different editions of the book: the first edition (1830), the second edition (1837), the third edition (1840), the first European edition (1841), the 1920 edition, and the 1981 edition. Also included is a chapter explaining how and when the book came to be divided into chapter and verse. This slim volume provides background on the circumstances under which each edition was produced and the developments (or setbacks) involved in the formatting, presentation, and text of each edition. The book is very nicely illustrated with color images from each edition as well as with photographs of key players in the printing history.

Although many students of Mormonism will be somewhat familiar with how the first edition came about, most of this book will be new information for most readers. One interesting tidbit: Lorenzo Snow, on behalf of Brigham Young, presented Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with a copy of the first European edition which was included in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon
Picador/Random House, 2000. 648 pages. Fiction

Joe Kavalier escapes from Nazi-infested Prague of the later 1930s and winds up in New York City. He has really no other intention that to earn money to rescue the rest of his family, but when he partners with his cousin in the creation of "The Escapist" his life takes unexpected turns.

Having been a big comic book fan growing up, this story of a couple of guys creating a successful comic book character was truly engaging on several levels. There's adventure and romance, but the real adventure and romance is in the minds of these two young men. The story is rife with imagination. A fantastic story.


Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey
By Jane Austen
Clio Press, 1991. 234 pgs. Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is given the opportunity to go to Bath, where she meets the handsome Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor. Although another friend, Isabella Thorpe and her brother John, seem determined to monopolize all of Catherine's time, she cultivates the friendship with Eleanor and Henry and soon their father, who is almost excessively friendly to Catherine, invites her to visit them at their estate, Northanger Abbey. While there, Catherine, who is a fan of gothic novels, finds her imagination swayed by her reading and fears that there is a dreadful mystery hidden within the walls of the abbey.

This is the most lighthearted of Austen's novels and perhaps the most tongue-in-cheek, as the opinions of even the most likable of the characters can seem ridiculous. The first part of the book serves to illustrate Catherine's utter naivete and lack of understanding of people's characters and intentions, particularly that of Isabella and John. While that serves to firmly establish Catherine as unsuspecting and innocent, it can also serve to slightly annoy the reader, since Isabella and John prattle on and on and Catherine doesn't seem to understand anything that's going on. It's a relief when her visit to Northanger Abbey finally happens and her imagination runs wild. I probably liked this least of all of Austen's novels, perhaps because the romance wasn't as strong as in her other books, but I did like that I could just breeze through it. It'd be a fun one to read with a friend and laugh at all of the silliness of the society and the characters.


Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?
by Jeanette Winterson
Grove Press, 2011.  230 pgs. Biography

     Suppose you were adopted by a Fundamentalist mother, a "religious" woman without a hint of compassion, who is so disappointed with you that she tells you the Devil led her to the wrong crib when she picked you out. This is Jeanette Winterson's story as told in her new memoir, a rich, exquisitely painful look at the childhood of a genius who ended up in a household that could hardly have been less fitting. Winterson's mother did not want her to read books, locked her in the dark in the coal hole for any infraction--real or imagined, locked her out of the house all night for any offense. And when Jeanette realized she was gay, her mother went up like a Roman candle. Winterson was saved by the kindness of friends, teachers and neighbors, by her own stubborn will and intelligence, and by libraries and reading. Working her way through the Classics of British Literature, from A to Z, she found voices that spoke to her and directed her to a life previously beyond her imagining. Winterson recognizes and documents the psychological problems she would have later in life because of her difficult upbringing, and, surprisingly, dedicates the book to her adoptive mother, showing forgiveness and compassion for a woman who simply did not know how to love her. Beautifully thoughtful and well written.  (A few sex scenes.)


Darker than Any Shadow

Darker than Any Shadow
By Tina Whittle
Poisoned Pen Press, 2012. 291 pgs. Mystery

Tai owns and operates her deceased uncle’s gun store in Atlanta which remains solvent thanks to a healthy trade in Civil War reenactment guns and supplies. She is dating the gorgeous but deadly Trey Seaver whose personality was severely altered after a car crash leaving him unable to discern all the shades of grey life’s is wrought with. Tai, on the other hand, only sees the grey and when her best friend is being charged with murder she is unable to keep from investigating despite the danger she creates for herself and those she loves.

This is the second book in Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph Mysteries. It is similar in tone to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels without quite as much graphic language or sex. It also lacks the eternal love triangle which is a huge selling point in my book. Nothing spectacular here, but a satisfying mystery with a few laughs thrown in.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

By Katherine Boo
Random House,2012. 256 pgs. Nonfiction.

“Beautiful Forever!“ proclaims the flooring advertisement on the wall separating the Mumbai airport from the Annawadi slum. Behind the wall,  the 3,000 inhabitants of Annawadi struggle to find a reason and a way to live. The squalor of the slum and the endurance of the slum dwellers come to life through Katherine Boo’s sketches of the lives and dilemmas of the children and adults of Annawadi. There is no condescension or indictment in her tone; the tragedy and heartbreak are more real because you are never aware of seeing through her eyes. 

If you read this book the depressing realities of life for the poor in modern day India will be impossible for you to forget. Nonetheless I highly recommend you read it. SH

The Return of Captain John Emmett

The Return of Captain John Emmett
by Elizabeth Speller
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.  442 pgs. Mystery

     Devastated by his experiences in the war, and the deaths of his wife and infant son in his absence, Laurence Bartram comes home to England with little interest in resuming his teaching and writing careers. But when Mary Emmett, sister of an acquaintance from his school days, asks him to look into why her brother might have killed himself he agrees because he so much admired John Emmett and because he remembers Mary with a greater affection than just fondness. What seems to be a simple inquiry becomes increasingly complicated as Captain Emmett's participation on a firing squad leads Laurence and his friend Charles to the almost ritualistic deaths of other participants. Along with the mystery, what gradually and richly emerges from these pages is a picture of the horror wrought by World War I--so many lives physically, spiritually, and emotionally destroyed on the homefront as well as on the fields of battle. Speller's prose is subtle, evocative, spot-on. In her bibliography of sources she lists Paul Fussell's masterful The Great War and Modern Memory, and her novel reflects richly the spirit of that great work. Readers of Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries should enjoy this book as well.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Notes from a Small island

Notes from a Small Island
By Bill Bryson
Morrow, 1995. 324 pgs. Nonfiction

About to return to the States after twenty years of living in England, Bryson realized he wanted to take a trip of the British Isles, visiting every place he'd ever heard of and revisiting some old favorites. In recounting his experience, Bryson makes readers laugh and has them wanting to pack their bags and fly across the ocean to discover these little known places for themselves. Although he drags out a few points that he's particularly passionate about, and there is some strong language, in the end, this is a delightful read, even if you are a couch traveler.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


By Chris Pavone
Crown, 2012. 327 pgs. Fiction
Quitting her job is only the first major change required of Kate when her husband’s new job in Luxembourg takes the family out of the country and to a whole new life. Now a stay-at-home mom, she tries to create a circle of friends among the other expats and adjust. But she is still uncomfortable. She is uncomfortable with the mysterious nature of her husband’s work. She is uncomfortable trusting her new acquaintances, especially Bill and Julia whose sudden appearance seems far too convenient. Finally, her curiosity and unease lead her back to the professional skill she so recently abandoned. Skills that may save her family’s lives.
This was a fantastic thriller! The storytelling is exciting and energetic switching time periods often and slowly unveiling Kate’s past, present, and future. Kate herself is a great character with more depth than would be expected from this type of novel. She is a wife and mother, but has also had a shady past that puts her family at risk while simultaneously giving her the skills to keep them safe. This is a great first novel and I look forward to more from this promising new author.



By Matthew Pearl
Random House, 2012. 480 pgs. Fiction
In 1868 the Civil War was finally over and Bostonians, and Americans in general, were able to get back to the business of building their country through industry and innovation. Technology was beginning to emerge and the academic world was at odds with this new application of the sciences. M.I.T. was just about to graduate their first class of students and were poised to succeed in providing a new and accepted kind of education to engineers and researchers. However, a number of catastrophic and unexplained incidents in Boston place all that progress in jeopardy and a number of M.I.T. students seem to be the future’s only hope.
‘The Technologists’ provides what Matthew Pearl fans have come to expect. A bit of history, a bit of science, a bit of adventure, and even a bit of romance. I’ll admit this wasn’t my favorite of his books, but for anyone seeking an even paced historical adventure, this will certainly be worth picking up.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror
By Jay Anson
Pocket Star Books, 1977 (1991). 239 pgs. Nonfiction.

When the Lutz family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York they thought they were getting a great bargain on an amazing house, complete with swimming pool and boat house. George and Kathleen knew that there had been a mass murder there a year before, but that kind of thing didn’t bother them. They didn’t believe in ghosts. That all changed in the course of twenty-eight days when they finally fled the house, leaving all their possessions behind, never to return again. This is the true story of a haunted house, full of terrifying psychic phenomena that still draws the eye of ghost hunters and parapsychologists today.

Originally I knew nothing about this book or the story behind it, just that there was a movie with the same name. When I decided to give it a try, I was surprised to see that it was nonfiction. I’m not typically a jumpy person so I didn’t think it would be too bad. It was terrifying! Scared as I was I felt compelled to continue because I wanted to know what happened next. To me, that’s a mark of a good book, getting so absorbed in the story that you have to continue. This is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone looking for a fright. But if you scare easily, stay away from it, unless you plan on sleeping with the lights on…away from windows… on a calm night… with other people around.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Mental Floss History of the World

The Mental Floss History of the World
By Eric Sass
New York: Collins Publishing, 2008, 416 pgs, Nonfiction

The authors of this entertaining book take you on a wild ride through 60,000 worth of world history. Not like any textbook you've ever read. At times hilarious, other times bizarre, but never boring. You will come away from reading this book with a head full of knowledge that you'll remember a lot longer than what you learned in school.



by Kristin Cashore
Dial Books, 2012. 563 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

This is considered a sequel to Graceling and a companion novel to Fire because it incorporates characters from Cashore’s first two fantasy novels. Now eight years after the terrible reign of King Leck has come to an end, his daughter, Bitterblue, is trying to move past the horrors to a new bright future for her kingdom. But Bitterblue has been cut off from direct access to her people by her advisors. Feeling out of touch she decides to disguise herself and visit the taverns of her city late at night to listen to what her people are saying. There she meets Teddy and Saf, two clever, Robin Hood-like thieves that help her learn about the strange things happening in the kingdom of Monsea.

To make matters worse there is political unrest throughout the Seven Kingdoms stirred up by Katsa and Po’s Council. Barely 18, Bitterblue feels overwhelmed by all that is happening around her and with conflicting stories from her advisors and Teddy and Saf, she doesn’t know whom to trust.

After reading this book, I could understand why Kristin Cashore felt she need to write it. She needed a conclusion to the horrors that happened while Leck was alive. However, as a reader I was a disappointed. This novel lacks the romance and adventure from Graceling and the strange and wild world of Fire. The novel also goes to some dark places as Bitterblue learns more of the specific tortures of King Leck. Unless you just really need a conclusion to Cashore’s fantasy series, I might pass on it.


Black Heart

Black Heart
by Holly Black
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012. 296 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Cassel Sharpe is trying to do the right thing, but it’s hard when you come from a family of con artists, the woman you think you love is the daughter of a mob boss, and you’ve just discovered you are one of the most rare and powerful curse workers in the world; a transformation worker who can turn anyone into anything living or inanimate. When Cassel and his brother are forced to work for the Feds, the lines between right and wrong continue to be blurred. Cassel must figure out for himself what it means to be good.

This is a very satisfying conclusion to Holly Black’s Curse Workers trilogy. Cassel is one of my favorite characters. He’s witty and always figures out ways to solve problems by relying on his intuition and creativeness.


What Money Can't Buy: the Moral Limits of Markets

What Money Can't Buy:  The Moral Limits of Markets
By Michael J. Sandel
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. 244 pgs. Nonfiction

Black market trafficking in items not legally for sale has long been a staple of criminal enterprise, but these days, just about everything is for sale, including stuff that would make a decent person's eyeballs roll back in his/her head. The right to bear children, children themselves, organs for transplant, chances on when a person will die or a life insurance policy on someone you don't even know, naming rights to classic ballparks, the right to put advertising stickers for movies on grocery-store apples, are only a few of the examples Dr. Sandel gives in this enlightening, often cringe-worthy text. That there should be limits on what money can and cannot buy is made abundantly clear in these pages. That there are unlikely to be any restraints in a country which has forsaken a market economy for a market society is also clear--and icky.


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Clockwork Prince

The Clockwork Prince
by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 502 pgs. Young Adult Fiction

Cassandra Clare’s popular Mortal Instruments’ series gets a reboot with a Victorian historical setting in her Infernal Devices prequel series. Book two, The Clockwork Prince, continues the search for the Magister who has vowed to kill all Shadow Hunters and rule the world. Tessa Gray, the young American woman who was kidnapped by the Magister in the first book for her unique ability to transform herself into any living being is still trying to discover what she is since she does not have any demon mark as all half-demons do. She also finds herself attracted to two Shadow Hunters, the handsome, yet emotionally distant Will, and tender-hearted Jem.

I have enjoyed this series as much or some times more than the original series. Cassandra Clare does a great job with the historical setting that enhances the story.


The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg
Random House, 2012. 371 pgs. Nonfiction

Charles Duhigg believes that anyone can achieve lasting, successful change by focusing on the patterns and habits that shape our lives. Duhigg shows through examples in scientific discoveries why habits exist and how we can use the power in habits to make new habits to replace the bad ones. First, we need to analyze our bad habits to discover the reasons behind why we do them. The reasons may actually surprise you. For example, craving an afternoon snack may actually be a need for stimulation instead of hunger. Try chatting with a co-worker for a few minutes or taking a walk around the building. You may find you no longer need that snack.

Throughout the book are many examples of how critical the right habits have been to the success of individuals and businesses including Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement, Starbucks, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, and the U.S. Military.

This is an interesting behavioral science book that definitely had a few “a-ha” movements for me. I felt the material was presented in a very interesting way.


New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change

New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change
by Winifred Gallagher Penguin Press, 2012. 250 pgs. Nonfiction

In her newest book, acclaimed behavioral science writer, Winifred Gallagher shows through examples of science experiments and evidence found in ancient archeological sites that humans have always had an affinity for novelty and change. Our desire to explore and experiment with the new is unique to our species, but can vary greatly from one person to the next. The majority of us are “neophiles,” but around 15% of the population are what Gallagher calls “neophiliacs,” who are obsessed with new experiences. Another 15% are “neophobes,” who feel anxiety and discomfort in new experiences and change. It is this balance that actually benefits our well-being.

Gallagher concludes that our fascination with the new is a great strength to the human species, but that we have gotten off track in the last 30 years with the mass amounts of new information bombarding us every day. Her book explains that we need get back to focusing on what really matters and shows how we can navigate more skillfully through this rapidly changing world.

This is an fascinating piece of science writing that I would recommend reading if you enjoyed other books like Willpower and Quiet.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Crack in the Edge of the World

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
By Simon Winchester
HarperCollins, 2005. 462 pgs. Nonfiction

In 1906, a magnitude 8.25 earthquake struck practically beneath the foundations of San Francisco, and the resulting damage and especially fires caused such destruction that it is still well-known today.  This book recounts the events of the earthquake and fires, with many first-person narratives and historical background, as well as the scientific setting for the quake, specifically the geology of the San Andreas fault and how vulnerable are our human creations built astride it, back then as well as today.

I was expecting this book to be mainly about the events immediately surrounding and including the earthquake itself, I was surprised to find that the author actually spent extensive portions of the book on the supporting issues surrounding the quake: mainly geology but also some historical background and the context of California and the city at the time of the quake.  While I felt this was a little misleading, I still couldn't help loving this book.  Winchester uses imaginative writing and an illustrative and evocative vocabulary that he twists to bring to life whatever subject he is talking about. Also, as I listened to the audiobook, his lively and entertaining performance brought everything to life even more. He has a sonorous Oxford accent, and a drama and passion in his reading that I have never heard from a nonfiction narrator. 

I think if you are a looking for an in-depth description of the San Francisco quake itself, you might be a little disappointed with this book, as it spends so much time covering other bases (scientific, historical, and contextual).  But if you're looking for an interesting history, and have even a remote interest in California, geology, or natural disasters, this audiobook is recommended.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
By Eva Stachniak
Bantam Books, 2012.  444 pgs.  Historical Fiction

Left an orphan in an unfamiliar country, Barbara turns to a friend of her father’s for a way to support herself.  Her new position is as an unskilled seamstress in the Russian court of Empress Elizabeth.  But her aspirations are much higher and thanks to the education her father provided and her own quick wit she soon comes to the monarch’s attention and is taught to be a spy within the castle walls.  Barbara’s future becomes unalterably connected to those of the royal family as she befriends Sophia, the young bride that will one day become Catherine the Great.

Historical detail and lots of soapy drama make this an easy recommendation to fans of Philippa Gregory or Hilary Mantel.  I was a little disappointed in the story and felt it focused a lot more on Barbara and less on Catherine’s actual rise to the throne or her accomplishments once she took control.  But it was still an entertaining dramatization of an interesting period in Russian history.


Friday, May 11, 2012


By Elmore Leonard
William Morrow, 2012. 263 pgs. Mystery

Raylan Givens is a U.S. Marshall recently reassigned to his hometown in the backwoods of Kentucky. His local connections act as both an asset and a liability. He knows the residents and key players in the community but some of them already want him dead. From criminals holding human organs hostage to coal-mining executives willing to level homes, or people, that may stand in her way, Harlan County is anything but dull. Raylan certainly has his hand full keeping the peace.

Elmore Leonard first introduced us to Marshall Givens in a short story titled “Fire in the Hole”. From that humble beginning came Fox’s TV series ‘Justified’. Now we can enjoy this full length novel featuring Leonard’s modern Wyatt Earp. The plot line includes some aspects of the TV show, but is more a spin on those storylines. ‘Raylan’ is a lot of fun but contains the same gritty content as the television series, so sensitive readers should be cautious.


Monday, May 7, 2012

The Serpent's Shadow

The Serpent's Shadow
By Rick Riordan
Disney/Hyperion, 2012. 406 pgs. Young Adult

Carter and Sadie Kane have only a few days to save the world from Chaos. Apophis, the god of Chaos, is determined to wipe out the entire world. He has already killed or converted many magicians to his side, leaving Carter, Sadie, and their young magicians-in-training to try to save the world. The only option open to them is to trust an evil dead magician to lead them to a secret spell that will allow them to trap Apophis's shadow and then execrate the god. As if that's not enough, they need the help of the gods, particularly Ra, the senile old sun god, who might not be ready in time. With the fate of the world in their hands, Carter and Sadie face their most dangerous quest yet.

As can be expected from Rick Riordan, this book is thrilling good fun. Readers will be swept along with Sadie and Carter as they move, top-speed, to try to save the world. There's a dash of romance, a fair dose of humor, and extra helpings of action and adventure.


Saturday, May 5, 2012


Edenbrooke: A Proper Romance
By Julianne Donaldson
Shadow Mountain, 2012. 264 pgs. Romance

After her mother's death, Marianne Daventry was sent to Bath to live with her grandmother, while her twin sister, Cecily, who has always seemed to shine brighter than Marianne, goes off to London to stay with family there. While Cecily has written to Marianne that she's found the man for her--the brother of a new friend who is the heir of a vast estate--Marianne is stuck trying to escape the attentions of an unwanted suitor. Then Marianne is extended an invitation to stay with Cecily and her friends at the friends' country estate, Edenbrooke. Marianne arrives ahead of her sister and develops a friendship with the second son, Philip, but can't quite believe that his flirtatious comments could mean anything real...but she also can't stop her heart from wishing that they were.

This is a perfectly delightful romance that will leave readers wishing Edenbrooke were real and they could go there to find a gentleman of their own. The witty banter between Marianne and Philip, the setting, and the plot line are all pretty much perfectly developed. There's not much not to like about this one.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Before the Poison

Before the Poison
By Peter Robinson
William Morrow, 2012.  358 pgs.  Mystery

After enjoying a successful career in California, Yorkshire native Chris Lowndes decides to move home after losing his wife to cancer.  He purchases a large mansion deep in the country and is hoping to escape the world and finish composing his symphony.  Chris certainly manages to escape the world but the old house becomes as much a trap as his career was.  Chris feels compelled to find the truth behind the house’s mysterious history which involves a beautiful woman who was hanged for poisoning her prominent husband.  These ghosts from the past haunt the house and Chris struggles to keep a grasp on reality and truth.

This is not a fast-paced supernatural thriller.  It is, however, a fascinating detective story filled with historical, as well as personal, revelations.  While I didn’t always connect with Chris, particularly when the storyline involved his romantic adventures, I was surprised with how much I liked him and felt invested in his investigations.  Again, ‘Before the Poison’ is not a thriller, but it is certainly a solid mystery with surprising depth and, best of all, a couple truly unexpected plot twists.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Garden Intrigue

The Garden Intrigue
By Lauren Willig
Dutton, 2012.  388 pgs.  Fiction

American expat Emma Delagardie has been living in Paris since the death of her husband.  With a comfortable annual income and impressive connections to Napoleon’s court she is ideally situated to assist the Pink Carnation in infiltrating Parisian society and politics.  Augustus Whittlesby has been in Paris for a long decade establishing the foppish persona of a mediocre poet and providing the British government with valuable military intelligence.  As cover for the Carnation’s espionage, Emma and Augustus will have to work together to write a masque for Napoleon’s entertainment.  But their true mission is to uncover the top-secret device that may give France the ability to defeat England.

This is book eight of the Pink Carnation series.  Each historic novel in the series is told alongside the modern storyline of Eloise Kelly an American graduate student writing a thesis on English spies in France.  Eloise’s adventures in research and romance do not add a great deal to the novel but they do add continuity to the series.  Maybe not the best installment, but this one actually features the Pink Carnation which is fun.



By Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books, 2012. 525 pgs. Young Adult

Now that the Erudite faction has wiped out much of the Abnegation factor, a society that once thrived on its five factions each filling specific rolls is thrown into chaos. With Dauntless split between those who support Erudite and those who don't, Tris, Tobias, and the others who have managed to escape the Eruite now appeal to the other factions--Amity and Candor--for help, but find that neither of them may be in the position to prevent Erudite from killing anyone who gets in their way. When the opportunity arises for an unexpected alliance, Tobias thinks it's their best option, but Tris has reservations and thinks they might have to trust the unlikeliest of people in order to figure out why Erudite launched their attack in the first place and what they can do to stop further destruction.

This second book in the Divergent trilogy takes readers on just as breathtaking ride as the first one. With palpable fear and tension as Tris is trying to understand more about what it means to be Divergent, who she can trust, and why her world has suddenly crumbled, readers are going to be on the edge of their seats, anxious to find out what is going on and why! There's a twist that's hinted at that unfolds into a cliffhanger ending, so readers are going to be groaning that they'll have to wait another year or so to see how things play out.


The Pregnancy Project

By Gaby Rodriguez
Simon & Schuster, 2012. 218 pgs. Biography.

Gaby has been surrounded by the topic of teen pregnancy her whole life. Her mom had her first child at 14 and most of her older brothers and sisters had babies as teens or young adults. Gaby is determined to break the cycle and works hard in school so she can go to college. When it is time to do her senior project however, she decides to do a social experiment to see how people would treat her if she became pregnant. She wanted to see what stereotypes she would face and what, if any, support she would face as a teen mom.

With her mother and boyfriends permission, Gaby decides to fake being pregnant for 6 months of her senior year. She talked with her doctor and a mentor at the hospital to be sure that she was showing the adequate symptoms at the right time. She saw first-hand how difficult it is emotionally to deal with being a pregnant teen. When she presented her project at a school assembly her classmates and teachers alike were shocked to learn about her experiment. Some were angry that she had lied to them, but many were amazed at her bravery and learned a lot about living above stereotypes. I found this book to be fascinating! Gaby’s story has been made into a Lifetime movie and you can find news clips of interviews she did after revealing her secret. This is a hopeful book about how we can each be kinder to those around us and rise above our circumstances.