Friday, August 31, 2012

The Empress's Tomb by Kirsten Miller

To read my review of the first book in this series click here: Inside the Shadow City.


Title: The Empress's Tomb (Kiki Strike #2)
Author: Kirsten Miller
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YAMystery
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Fourteen-year-olds Ananka Fishbein, Kiki Strike, and the other Irregulars encounter a Chinese mummy, a ghost, trained squirrels, and old enemies as they try to stop an art forgery ring and safeguard the secret streets hidden beneath New York City" (King County Library System).
Opinions:  The group of Irregulars, who were founded in book one (Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City), continue to be a fantastic mix of personalities and talents.  The Empress's Tomb is a perfect sequel in that it retained several aspects of the first book that I adored, but still increased the level of intrigue dramatically.  I still LOVE Ananka.  I loved seeing her delve into issues of faith in others.  I loved wondering if the Irregulars would stand through amazing trials as true friends, or be torn apart by mistrust. I love the diversity in characters.  I also enjoyed seeing the interactions between several of the girls and their "parents".  This series is a brilliant one for focusing on the inner strength and self-worth of teen girls. The plot is intriguing and the twists engaging.  I highly recommend this for anyone who enjoys a great adventure.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Council of Mirrors by Michael Buckley

To read my review of the first book in this series click here: The Sisters Grimm: Fairy-Tale Detectives.

Title: The Council of Mirrors (Sister Grimm #9)
Author: Michael Buckley
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Death related to fantastical battles
Premise: "Hoping to save their family and the citizens of Ferryport Landing from the evil plans of Mirror, Sabrina and Daphne Grimm seek counsel from the other magic mirrors, who advise them to join forces with the Scarlet Hand." (King County Library System)
Opinions: This series is brilliant on so many levels and this book provides an awesome conclusion.  Mr. Canis remains one of my favorite characters throughout the series, as well as Puck, The Trickster King.  But overall I still LOVE the sisters, Sabrina and Daphne and the sacrifices and growth they make in this final story. In fact, this book left me bawling, in a happy-resolved sort of way when we finished it last night.

Michael Buckley does a fantastic job of weaving in all sorts of fairytale characters in such a brilliant manner that they come alive for a whole new generation of readers.  I'm really hoping that this series will trigger kids of all ages to reevaluate classic fairy tales for themselves. In fact, this series made the Fabulous Reads list of Top 100 favorite books (to see what other books were on the list click here) a few years ago and it still belongs there,  So, if you haven't read this series, then stop waiting and go to your library right now and check it out.  Parents: This is one of those series that can entice even the most reluctant young reader out there and pique their interest.  Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Devil's Food Cake by Josi S. Kilpack

To read my reviews of the first two books in this series click here: Lemon Tart, English Trifle.

Title: Devil's Food Cake (A Culinary Mystery #3)
Author: Josi S. Kilpack
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "When a literary agent dies at a library fundraiser, Sadie Hoffmiller finds herself on the trail of the murderer. As she digs deeper into the mystery she discovers connections to an unsolved decade-old murder-suicide" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Sadie strikes again and my kids suffered for it. I spent all day with my nose in this book.  I did take a break to feed my kids lunch, but opted for a granola bar for myself so that I could return to this book's pages.

I love how easy and smooth Ms. Kilpack's writing is and yet I was still surprised by some of the twists and turns...let alone the culprit.  I love how everything revolves around food when it comes to Sadie Hoffmiller.  I love her tenacity and her spunk.  I also love how she mentally reevaluates the choices that she makes along the way.  I was glad to get to see her son, Shawn, in this book which allowed a deeper entrance for the reader into a different aspect of Sadie's life.  Overall, if you want to read a fun mystery, then this series is for you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by Arbinger Institute

Title: The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict
Author: Arbinger Institute
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Self-Help/Non-Fiction/Fiction (I'll explain below)
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "The world over, seemingly intractable situations are a source of frustration and anxiety. Sometimes it seems like no matter how much people may try to make things work, their best efforts continually fail. Whether a thorny relationship with a parent, a boss that just doesn't get it, or even warring people on the nightly news, these difficult situations often lead to waves of bitterness and regret. "The Anatomy of Peace" offers a potent solution to this devastating problem. Written as an engaging story, the book shows how mistaken views of ourselves can cause us to misread situations and exacerbate the issues we wish to improve. Arguing that it is only after we understand ourselves and get our internal house in order that we can correctly confront external conflicts, the book shows what can be done to make that happen, and how to make inner peace a potent tool for achieving outer satisfaction" (King County Library System)
Opinions:This book is FANTASTIC!!! I originally wasn't sure what to think when my husband came home from work reading this book.  When he was finished he told me that his boss had given it to his entire team and even suggested that their spouses read it as well.  Now I love a good self-help book, but when someone else tells you that you need help, if you are like me, my guard instantly went up and it may take a while to let it down again.  I was well prepared not to like this book. 

What surprised me is that even though this is a leadership training self-help book it is written in the style of a story--and a great one at that.  The characters are compelling and easy to relate to. The thoughts discussed throughout the story are profound and enlightening.  And the creativity superb.  What a powerful method of teaching how to see within oneself and honestly find areas that need improvement in order to establish an environment of peace that helps while dealing with all types of outer conflict. 

That is why I was unclear as to where this book fits within a genre, because its a self-help about non-fiction issues, but presented through a story. When I put this book down I kept thinking about the characters and how they might have implemented the changes in their life, and wished that there was a sequel.  Well, guess what? There sort of is.  Technically it was written six years prior to this book, but Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box carries on the premise of this book describing how to implement the changes from this story within a work environment.  I look forward to reading that as well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Reviewer: Stephanie
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: LOVE!!
Alerts/Warnings: This book deals with prejudice and hatred of someone who is different.  So there are instances of cruelty toward the main character, but it is tastefully done and very realistic to true life.
Premise: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? (

Opinions: This is an amazing, amazing book.  I have to say, one of my favorite books that has been published this year.  RJ Palacio has written a book that takes you into the world of Auggie and the people around him (his sister, some of the kids he meets at school) and shows you realistically how people think and feel about people who are different.  Even people we love who are different.

The whole time I was reading this book I kept thinking of a line from a song that says, "We don't like what we don't understand.  And it scares us."  I felt it was fitting.  Auggie knows he is different.  He knows people stare.  But he is smart and wants friends and wants people to see beyond his physical appearance.

This is a touching story and RJ Palacio wrote it so beautifully.  It flows seamlessly and realistically.  It shows a loving and flawed family.  I think that is one of the best things she does in this story is to show the reality of people's emotions and motivations.  She is a talented writer and I am excited to see what she writes next.

Monday, August 13, 2012

English Trifle by Josi S. Kilpack

To read my review of the first book in this series click here: Lemon Tart.

Title: English Trifle (Culinary Mystery #2)
Author: Josi S. Kilpack
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings:  None
Premise: "What begins as a holiday trip for amateur sleuth and cooking aficionado Sadie Hoffmiller and her daughter, Breanna, turns into a bizarre mystery. First comes the discovery of a dead body in the sitting room of an English manor belonging to the family of Breanna's boyfriend, who is also heir to the family title. When the body comes up missing, Sadie begins her own investigation to find the killer" (King County Library System).
Opinions: So far, I am really enjoying this series.  I still love Sadie Hoffmiller.  This time around I was a little envious of her tenacity.  She sure gives the English Gentry (and their staff) a run for their money.  I would not have the gall to pull some of the stuff that she did, but good for her.  What is doubly great is that, with Sadie, everything revolves around food.  When she finds a food she loves she will hound the cook/chef for the recipe and then, whether or not she gets said recipe, she will go home and try to recreate and modify the recipe until she gets it perfect (according to Sadie).  Now, that's the way to go. 

I also loved getting to see more of Breanna and watch her develop through some difficult issues.  My favorite character has to be Grant, the butler.  I like him for many reasons, but especially because he is a complex character...and he stands up to Sadie when she pushes the social barriers.  I also still adore that there are recipes scattered throughout the book for the culinary reader to delve into and try out.  I dare you to try them yourself.  .As for's time to get in the library queue for book 3 - Devil's Food Cake.  Yummy!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Title: Found (Missing #1)
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Science-Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "When thirteen-year-olds Jonah and Chip, who are both adopted, learn they were discovered on a plane that appeared out of nowhere, full of babies with no adults on board, they realize that they have uncovered a mystery involving time travel and two opposing forces, each trying to repair the fabric of time" (American Fork Library System)
Opinions: I'm not sure what I fully think about this book, other than I think that I like it.  Margaret Peterson Haddix wrote several books/series that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE.  One specific series called The Shadow Children (the first book is called Among the Hidden) is a must read. So I was excited to realize that she had come out with another series that I had not yet read.  This book threw me for a loop.  It's about adoption and time-travel . . . not two topics that I would normally connect together, but Ms. Haddix combines them well. 

Her characters are highly believable and intriguing.  I enjoyed Jonah and Chip and seeing how they work together to discover the secrets around their adoptions, but I ADORE Jonah's sister, Katherine.  She is a hoot and a pure-bred little sister.  I enjoy her spunk and her creativity.  Ms. Haddix also does a brilliant job of showing the struggles that various parents go through in regards to dealing with adoption and whether or not to tell their child that they are adopted.  Overall, I like the promise of where this was going and look forward to checking out the rest of her Missing series.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

To see my reviews of the first two books in this series click here:  The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire.

Title: The Serpent's Shadow (Kane Chronicles #3)
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Sci-Fantasy
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Some Fantastical Violence
Premise:"Despite their best efforts, Carter and Sade Kane can't seem to keep Apophis, the chaos snake, down. Their only hope: find an ancient spell that might turn the serpent's own shadow into a weapon." (American Fork Library System)
Opinion:  This book is an exciting conclusion to the series.  I love seeing Sadie's growth and her continual struggle between liking both Walt (who is marked for death) and Anubis (the God of Death).  I also loved seeing the relationship between Zia and Carter and the intriguing tie that Zia has with the Sun God Ra. In fact, Zia has to be my favorite character in this particular novel, followed closely by Hapi the hippy God of the Nile. Seriously LOVE the fascinating characters that Mr. Riordan came up with.

This book, and the whole series, was an intriguing way to make Egyptian history fascinating to a new generation. I love the twists and turns and wondering who the characters could trust to help them fight against Apophis.  You never know if enemies will become allies, or will friends betray the siblings.  I also was intrigued and the continual enigmatic mention of characters/gods from Mr. Riordan's other series leaving me wonder if the author plans on doing a cross-over series between the Kane Chronicles and his Heroes of Olympus series.  Only time will tell.