Tuesday, June 30, 2009

To Kindle or Not to Kindle?

All of my friends know that I am an avid reader. I always have a book with me -- in my car, in my bag, by my bed, on my kitchen counter. If my hands aren't busy doing something else, they are holding a book. Our home office is officially filled to capacity with my books. So, I guess it would be natural that in addition to my friends asking me "What book do you recommend?" they are now asking me, "Will you switch to a Kindle?"

My first instinct was to answer, "HELL no." But, to be fair, I decided to do a little research first. Onto the Amazon website I go. Kindle. There it is. Six inches. The size of a magazine, and lighter than a paperback. Electronic wireless reading device. Kindle is to books as the iPod is to music. I may not have a Blackberry, but I do have an iPod. I'm not that electronically challenged. I'll keep going. WOAH. Retails for $359. Ouch. One point for the $5 bargain book bin at the local indie bookshop. Still. I have an awful lot of those bargain books that I still have yet to read. Oh, but wait. What about book downloads. I have to pay for the music I download to my iPod, so I'm sure there's some kind of fee in here somewhere....yep. There it is. NYTimes Bestsellers are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. Ok, two points for paper.

Paper. Since I brought it up. No, I don't recycle my books. What I mean is, I don't put them in the recycling can each Tuesday morning to be picked up. I do lend my books out to my friends. Many of my friends even remember to give them back to me (thanks, Denise!). Some of my friends, it's not so much loaning them the books, but giving them so they can dog-ear the pages and break the bindings and drop their hair into the pages as they read while blowdrying their hair. Those books I don't expect back. (You're welcome, Danielle). So, my books do get use, but the majority of them are up on my shelf, taking up space, and collecting dust. One point for Kindle.

Space. This Kindle thing is 6". That's small. You can put that in your-carry on and still have room for your laptop (yes, I have left the laptop home in favor of bringing along a few large hardcover books -- Harry Potter was not a small book). According to the description on Amazon, the Kindle can hold 1,500 books. As I said, our home office is filled. The bookshelf in my bedroom, my nightstand, the guest room, even the dining room floor -- all contain stacks of my books. I collect books the way other women collect shoes, jewelry, or figurines of birds. Um, okay, one more point for Kindle.

Up until now, the score is tied, if anyone was keeping track. It's time to watch the commercial video. Oh, wow. Kindle's ad company deserves a bonus. That was pretty convincing. The Kindle even has the ability to store notes and highlights if you want to "mark" a book. I wonder what happens if the technology changes. I once had a Palm Pilot, and I stored a lot of information on it. Once I progressed to other portals of technology, all that information was lost, or is, at most, just sitting idle, forgotten.

In the end, regardless of the score, I can't give up my books. The traditional hard covers, the paperbacks, or even the mass market paperbacks. I look up on my shelf and I am attached to some of the cover art. These books are like members of my family or friends from long ago. Sometimes, they are like trophies. If I haven't accomplished anything this year, just look up on that shelf there. Those are all the books I've read so far. I have memories from what was happening in my life when I read certain books. Some of these books helped me escape. Some other books inspired me. I can pick one up, thumb through the pages, and find a scene I want to experience all over again. I have a number of books that I hold onto because they were gifts, and they make me think of the giver each time I see them. I also am proud of my first editions, my signed copies, and especially my sketched signature from one of my favorite cartoonists. Now you're really going to think I'm nuts, but I love the smell of my books. They probably smell like me more than anything, but books have a smell, especially the older ones.

I remember reading a story about a woman who inherited her mother's book collection. When the woman began reading her mom's books, she discovered that in every one, her mother had written notes along the margins -- thoughts about a character, scene or passage. Her mom had marked her favorite lines, and even had her friend's or family's names next to them. Maybe the passage reminded her of them. Maybe she jotted the line into a card and sent it off to them. Her mother didn't keep a journal, but this woman was able to learn more about her mom through the marks she made in her books. Someday, I wonder if my son will read my books, and I will be able to speak to him through their pages.

No, I'm not giving up my books anytime soon.

Besides what would Denise and Danielle do if they came to my house and couldn't simply borrow one of my books?

I would love to know what all of you think. Do you Kindle? Do you like it? Are you still on the fence? Are you a traditionalist like me?

Review: Shadow of Betrayal by Brett Battles (Jonathan Quinn Series #3)

Release Date: July 7, 2009

Review: If I say nothing else about this book I have to say this: I can't wait for the movie!

I was lucky enough to have received an Advanced Reader's Copy of Brett Battles latest Jonathan Quinn book. I was worried that I had not read the first two books in the series before sitting down to read this one. To my pleasant surprise, it was not a problem. The author does a wonderful job of keeping the reader in the know, with important information without droning on and on about details insignificant to the plot at hand. And what a fast-paced plot it was! The entire story was smart, action-packed, and tense in all the right places.

In Shadow of Betrayal, the "cleaner", Jonathan Quinn, takes on three assignments that he apparently owed one of his employers. He works with an apprentice, Nate, and a feisty, sexy operative, known as Orlando. At first, the three assignments seem quite independent from one another, but Battles slowly and cleverly weaves them all together, pointing to a group known as the LP -- a shadow organization working from both within and without the U.S. government. The L.P. is abducting children, children with special needs. But why? What is the end game? And even though it isn't part of his original agreement with his employer, will Jonathan Quinn and his team be able to stop it?

Now that I have read book #3, I will go back and read the first two books while I anxiously await Book #4. There will be a book 4...right??

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Guilty Pleasure

I was chatting about my newest guilty pleasure, the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, when I was clued in to the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge. Imagine my pleasant surprise! I just picked up book #4, Dead to the World, this afternoon. Talk about perfect timing! Beth Fish Reads issued the challenge, and this was a no-brainer for me -- catch up on and read all of the Sookie Stackhouse books before July 1, 2010. I'm having a hard time keeping my hands off of book #4 until I read the other three books on my nightstand. Thanks, Beth, for feeding my newest obsession! Keep track of my progress, and feel free to share your thoughts on each of Sookie Stackhouse's adventures.

Here are the books:
Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead

All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse

Dead and Gone

Does anyone else love these book titles? They crack me up.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse #2) by Charlaine Harris

I read the first Sookie Stackhouse book simply out of curiosity (I've read the Twilight Saga and the House of Night series). I didn't expect to like the second book. I am happy to say that I really enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed Living Dead in Dallas even more than the first. It has more action, which definitely adds to its entertainment factor. Sookie and Bill are summoned to Dallas so Sookie can use her telepathic gift to find a kidnapped vampire. We are introduced to another group of vampires, as well as a church of sorts whose human members want to bring vampires to "meet the sun." Sookie is also needed back at home to help solve a friend's murder. In Living Dead in Dallas, Sookie's character is developing, and she's really starting to grow on me! I'm hooked.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Review: Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse Series, #1) by Charlaine Harris

Great series!

I'm a fan of Twilight, and the House of Night series, not to mention my early obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so it was only a matter of time before I picked up the first Sookie Stackhouse book. With the buzz surrounding HBO's True Blood, and, quite frankly, all things vampire, I couldn't help myself.

I really liked this book. It is certainly an adult series, with more gore and a lot more sex than I'm used to, but not opposed to. The main character, is Sookie Stackhouse (big shocker there), and is unlike me in every way. I was sure she was going to annoy me, but instead, she really started growing on me. She's a small-town girl, who works as a waitress in a small-town bar, and all her friends have always lived in the same small town...and makes no apologies for her small-town Southern ways. She has pride and guts, and even though she's not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, she is interesting. Sookie has an ability to read minds, which keeps her from becoming too vulnerable. The vampires in the book are your more traditional breed -- they bite, they're sexy, they can't go out in the sunlight, they sleep in coffins, and they can be staked to death. Did I mention the sex and gore? These vamps also came out of the "coffin"into mainstream USA, and one walks into the bar where Sookie works. Enter Bill, the book's main vampire, and Sookie's new boyfriend. I have a feeling I might have found myself a new vampire series.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review: Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

This series is like crack, and for the last two years, I have been one of its crack dealers.

Everyone I have met, I ask, "So, have you read Twilight yet?" Only until the movie hype started, did my friends start asking, "Is this the vampire book you've been telling me to read?" Hells yeah, people!
I will get around to reviewing each of these books on their own. For the record, Eclipse (book #3) is the best of the bunch in my opinion, but I need to re-read them all. It has been a very long while since I read Twilight, and I lent it to my sister-in-law and have yet to get it back. Amy...I need my Twilight back!
I will say this. It is a Young Adult novel. If I were 14 years old, I would have Edward and Jacob stickers all over my Trapper Keeper. I am NOT 14 years old. And if you are not 14, and are closer to 40, do your teenager daughters a favor. Keep your excitement to a minimum please. You're starting to creep out the middle-schoolers, okay?

Edited to add: My first edition Twilight is back on my bookshelf where it belongs. I had to go all the way from New Jersey to Georgia to rescue it! Thank you, Amy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

I picked up the book because one of its reviews had compared The Shadow Year to Stephen King's The Body and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, two of the greatest novels (and movies).

It is most definitely similar to those books, following the life of an 11 year-old boy, his older brother, Jim, and his little sister, Mary, during what he calls The Shadow Year. A typical boy in 1960's Long Island, he knows all the characters in his town, and his brother even made a detailed model of the town and its inhabitants on a big table in their basement. Mary starts to move the clay figures around the model. When a stranger, Mr. White, comes to town, the first of several clay figures is missing from the board. Only Mary knows where the figure, and the boy whom it represents, has gone. The author touches ever so slightly on the mystical explanations behind these disappearances, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the book. It made you wonder, it made you think, and it made me jump at bumps in the night.

Similar genre, but not nearly in the same league as Lee and King. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. I was especially intrigued by the relationship the boy had with his siblings, despite their father's absence and their mother's nightly drinking. There were even times when my heart raced because I was truly a little frightened myself. I found the end a little predictable, which took a little of the wind out of my sails, but all in all, an enjoyable read

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: The Late, Lamented Molly Marx: A Novel by Sally Koslow

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall while your friends and family, loved and loathed, talked about you and your possible murder?

Well, maybe no one dreams about getting murdered, Molly certainly didn't. This is the adventure of Molly Marx. She allows us to join her from the fly on the wall perspective in the present, but also offers us glimpses into past scenes from her life as well.

I was afraid this was going to be heart-wrenching like Lovely Bones, but it was nothing like it at all. Especially in regards to how the author deals with the scene of Molly's death -- Sally Koslow only gives it to us when we're ready, and when Molly's ready to tell us. The characters were colorful, the dialogue was chuckle-worthy at times, and Molly was far from perfect, but in a likable way. I enjoyed this book, and will pass it on the recommendation.

Warning: If you're a 30-something Jewish girl from New York, you might find glimpses of your own family members lurking in these pages!

Thank you again to Goodreads.com for the ARC of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx: A Novel. To the tune of Katy Perry...I read chick-lit and I liked it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Review: The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Anyone who read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and needs some help with their withdrawal from vampires, should read this book.

At first, I was skeptical because The Host is listed as science fiction, and it is also Meyer's first Adult novel. At the time, I needed something to read while waiting for Breaking Dawn to be released.

The Host was romance first and science fiction second. Meyer's main character is a soul from another planet, who has come to Earth to take over the body of one of it's host humans, who is more than a little reluctant to remain quiet. Add that to a complicated, yet passionate, love quadrangle, and you have a page-turner in your hands. I loved it from start to finish. Meyer has a voice that can't be mistaken. So, if you like Stephenie Meyer's other novels, you will enjoy The Host. I would be remiss if I didn't also say that anyone looking for a good summer read, or a romance with an edge of sci-fi, should read it. It may surprise you. Away from all the hype of Twilight, I thought this book is, on its own, a very good read.

About the Book:
Hardcover: 619 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 6, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316068047
ISBN-13: 978-0316068048

*Please note: This is not Young Adult

Review: The Soprano State by Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure

Required reading for anyone who lives, works, and/or pays taxes in the state of New Jersey.

I am anxiously awaiting their updated second book, and reading the updates on their website. My mind was racing after each chapter -- New Jersey has taken corruption to an art form, and McClure and Ingle have exposed it all in a well-written, concise and entertaining way with this book. More than once, the authors have to remind their readers, "I'm not making this up," because what happens in New Jersey seems so outlandish that it wouldn't even be believable in a movie. Speaking of, I heard a rumor that the movie rights have been purchased, and casting is underway. I'll look into it more and get back. If anyone thought The Sopranos had drama, this movie is sure to be a knockout.
Edited to Add: In January 2009, the paperback edition of The Soprano State was released. In the latest edition, Ingle and McClure have brought us up-to-date on all things corrupt in the Garden State. A lot happens in six months...
Edited to Add: Production has begun on The Soprano State: The Movie

Review: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

I just finished re-reading The Deathly Hallows, and I have to say that it was even more brilliant the second time.

I was one of those Potter fans that waited in the driveway for each book of the Harry Potter series to be delivered on the day of its release. When it came, my family knew that I was opening it up that very minute and wouldn't take my nose out of it until I was finished.

Deathly Hallows was a bit different. I knew it was going to be the last, so I tried my best to read it slowly, but Rowling's pace kept me turning the pages as fast and furious as always. I knew that I was going to have to read this one again, because there was so much detail and so many nuances that I knew I was missing the first time around. So, finally, this spring, it was time to re-read it, and I was so glad I did.

In the Wizarding world, young witches and wizards "come of age" when they turn 17. Harry really does come of age in Deathly Hallows, and becomes the true hero we all knew he would be.

All of the loose ends are tied up nicely, but not before watching Harry deal with some very powerful issues of his own -- mortality, abandonment, friendship, love, honor, faith, sacrifice, and, most of all, courage. The elements of this story twist and turn and come back around on you, yet Rowling does so with such grace and ease. Brilliant. I can't wait to read this book again with my own boys someday.

Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I don't think I appreciated The Road until I finished it. The images of this dark journey haunted me for days afterward. It has been some time since I finished it, and I can still remember certain parts so vividly that my heart starts to beat faster. Any book that can make you feel anything with such intensity is a success.

The Road is a journey taken by a father and son across a post-apocalyptic landscape. The sun has been blocked out by ashen skies. There is little water to be found. There are only shadows left of the world as it once was. The reason for the destruction is unknown, but it has brought humans down to the lowest level of being -- and on the Road it is survival of the fittest. The father and son struggle with staying alive, while maintaining their humanity.

In 2007, The Road earned the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and easily became one of my favorite books.

Review: The Camel Club (Camel Club #1) by David Baldacci

Good book, but you can tell it's the first in a series.

There were a lot of character introductions and "set up" that weighed down some of the chapters. I felt like the actual plot of the book didn't start until I was more than half-way through. Once I got there, though, it was great.

Washington DC, Government secrets, former CIA Agents, clandestine organizations, murders, mysteries, action, suspense -- these are a few of my favorite things! I also enjoy a good book series, and I love Baldacci's writing style, so I will be picking up the next Camel Club book.

Review: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

The Shipping News is one of my first Book Club reads.

It's a Pulitzer Prize winner...so I knew it had potential to be a good one! It took me a while to get used to the language and rhythm of her writing. Once I settled into the dialect, I was better able to connect with the characters in the story. I did find parts of it to be so interesting, I was completely immersed and wished I could have heard more, while other parts were a little dull and I found myself tempted to skip over passages. I found it different than anything I had ever read before. Unfortunately, the reviews from the rest of the Book Club were mixed, and the story left little in way of discussion.

Review: Marked (House of Night, #1) by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast

Sink your teeth into this one!

I was given this book to read as I waited for another popular vampire book to be released. Marked took me by surprise. I enjoyed the plot, I found the characters immediately likable, and it was just what I was looking for at that time. It was a quick read (less than 3 days) and I headed right out to get book #2. This is listed as young adult, and has more high school angst than I'm used to, but I actually think this would make a better movie than the other vampire series I was reading...but that's just my opinion.

In P.C and Kristin Cast's world, House of Night is a school for "marked" vampires, or young vampires to come and learn about their new abilities and lives before they experience the change into full-fledge vampires. Vampyres (instead of Vampires) are known and identified by their markings, but are not truly accepted in the human world. In Marked, we follow the new fledling vampire, Zoey Redbird. Zoey is in high school when she is first marked, and has trouble transitioning from her old friends and boyfriend to her new friends, her new school, and her new identity. She is no longer like her human friends, but she is different from other vampires as well. She has exceptional abilities and is marked in a special way by their goddess, even before she is changed to a fully grown vampire. This makes her both revered and a threatened.

There are two things that make the House of Night series different from other vampire books that I've read: 1. The vampires are a part of society. Even though they go to a different school in the beginning, once they are full-fledged adult vampires, they intermingle with humans. Movie stars and professional athletes are very often vampires -- and why shouldn't they be with their super strength and beauty? 2. The vampires are more like traditional witches than they are stereotypical vampires. They call the four corners, cast spells, and use herbs and blood in potions -- a cool twist to the storyline.

MOVIE POTENTIAL: The "other" vampire series I was referring to here is Twilight. After finishing up the Twilight saga, and seeing the first movie, I stand by my last statement. I do believe that the House of Night series would make a better movie. If anyone has any thoughts on that, I'd love to hear it!

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I knew after the first hundred pages, that I was reading my next favorite book.

My local independent bookshop guy, Rob, recommended The Shadow of the Wind and told me I would love it. He was right again.

The author transported me to 1940'sBarcelona, and into the lives of some of the most memorable characters I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Ten year old, Daniel Sempere, is brought to the Cemetary of Lost Books (how badly did I want to go to this place myself?) and is told by his father that he is to choose one book. Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax and becomes guardian to this special tome. Intrigued by the book, and especially the author, Daniel brings us on his decade long journey in search of any information he can find. What he finds is mystery, murder, betrayal, and corruption. Daniel quickly learns that he may have the only copy of Carax's work in existence, because someone is systematically burning them all, leaving a trail of death and destruction in his wake. Can Daniel keep the book, and himself, safe yet satisfy his growing need to learn more about a man whose life parallels his own?

The Shadow of the Wind centers around Daniel in his father's bookshop - one of my favorite places to be in the whole world. But first, Zafon brings us to the Cemetary of Forgotten Books -- a secret place only for people who love books like they are living, breathing beings. With these two facts securely in place, I couldn't wait to dive into the rest of the story. I felt like Zafon wrote this book for a secret club of book lovers, and his readers are exclusive members. Where do I sign up?

I found myself trying to solve the big mysteries of the story, but there was no way I was going to stay a step ahead of Zafon, so I eventually gave myself over to the twists and turns and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. This book will stay with me for a long time. I already can not wait to read it again, so I can absorb even more of the details I may have missed the first time.

About the Book:
Paperback: 487 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics); Later Printing edition (January 25, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0143034901
ISBN-13: 978-0143034902

Review: Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I rarely read chick lit, but this book was sent to me (thank you, Goodreads.com) so I decided to give it a try.

I didn't expect the next Great American Novel, but once in a while, chick lit surprises me with a good read. This was not one of those times.

Within the first 30 pages of the book, our main character, Rachel, sleeps with her best friend's fiance, yet we are supposed to love her anyway. Giffin tries to make us feel okay about Rachel's betrayal by persuading us into not liking Rachel's BFF. Giffin drones on about Rachel's inner conflict: she's in love with this man, and has great sex with him, but she's the maid of honor to his bride-to-be. What is a woman to do? Well, the BFF lied to her 10 years ago about getting into Notre Dame, so that makes them even, right? The moral of the story is this: it's okay to fall in love with and steal your BFF's fiance, as long as she's a bitch. I'm not buying it. I was not rooting for this woman. I also did not feel all warm and fuzzy with the happy couple at the end of the book. You know what I think? I think the cheating fiance should have been left alone while his bride-to-be ran off with one of his friends. Oh, and Rachel should have moved to another country to start a new life on her own, having had some major personal breakthrough and learned from her mistake. THAT would have been satisfying.

At the end of the edition I read, we get a sneak peak into the first few pages of Something Blue, which picks up the story where this one leaves off, but from the BFF's point of view. So, after Giffin spends 300 pages convincing us that the BFF is shallow, immoral, and deserved to be crushed, we are now supposed to rally around her side of the story? Not interested.

Review: Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl

Great book, especially for food lovers!

With over 15,000 restaurants in New York City, how is one to decide where to eat on any given night? Manhattan restaurants live and die by food critics. The New York Times food critic wields the power to fill a reservation book, or to turn a once profitable establishment into a a barren wasteland of tables and chairs. Enter Ruth Reichl, the NYTimes newest restaurant critic. The only problem? She's been made before her first day on the job. Her picture is in every kitchen in every food joint in New York, and she has yet to write a review. How can she be sure that she's receiving the "normal" treatment her reader's would get upon entering restaurants like Le Cirque or Daniel? She has to become someone else. Garlic and Sapphires is Reichl's account of her sometimes crazy experiences as a New York Times food critic while donning different disguises and personalities to match them. What started out on a quest to become anonymous, turned into a journey of self-discovery.

This book was delicious. Truthfully, I made a reservation with the newest "it" restaurant in NYC as soon as I finished this book. It not only made my mouth water, but it peaked my curiosity as to how a certain restaurant would treat someone like me.

This was the first Ruth Reichl book I've read, but I don't think it will be my last. The only downside with this book was that I was finding myself questioning how much the author stretched the truth about her experiences. Putting that aside, I enjoyed this undercover glimpse into the world of cuisine. Reichl understands and appreciates food like I never could, but it made me want to try. I have a new found appreciation for the editor of Gourmet.

Review: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max

Tucker Max. Oh, boy. Tucker Max.

Tucker Max is the guy who walks into a bar, and it immediately gets louder and everyone is suddenly having a great time. Tucker Max is the guy who always has a story to tell, and a story everyone wants to hear. Tucker Max is the guy who has no fear, enough money to do pretty much anything he wants, and a group of friends willing to go along for the ride. Tucker Max started a blog, a place for him to tell his stories to anyone who wanted to hear them. Tucker Max turned his blog into this book.

The book is a series of stories. The first few are hilarious, lewd, and shocking. By the time I was half way through the book, I realized that Tucker Max made a very good living on gross exaggeration. Still, exaggerating or not, a lot of his stories are verified by his posse of friends, and, hyperbole aside, there is some seriously funny shit in this book.

If you're looking for a good laugh, a glimpse into what guys really think, or something for the man in your life to read, go for it. BE WARNED: this is not for the easily offended, or for the extremely gullible.

About the Book
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Citadel; Mti edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0806532254
ISBN-13: 978-0806532257

Review: The Last of Her Kind: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez

This was like looking through a peephole at someone else's life in the late 1960s...and what a strange life at that.
We follow Ann from 1968, her Freshman year of college at Barnard, through her adult life. Ann comes from a life of privilege and affluence, but she blames people like her parents for all the injustices of the world. If I had to put it simply, she had a case of "the grass is always greener," but that would only scratch the surface of Ann's problems.
The story centers around Ann's relationship with her college roommate, George.

Actually, it's more like Ann's story was a whirlwind around her often calm, centered, relationship with her roommate, George. Ann had hoped her college roommate would be someone so completely unlike her, and was disappointed when she learned that George was not black. This was the first of many statements Ann would make that would cause everyone around her to question whether she was being rebellious or just plain offensive.

Through college, drug experimentation, protests, and jail, we follow Ann's journey into and out of self discovery. I'm still not sure if Ann didn't have some sort of mental illness, or if that was the drugs, or if she was simply someone who was wired to be obsessive about something. George is her one constant, the one person who never wavered and always believed in Ann's authenticity. After the age of Aquarius had died out, Ann's radical passion for those things in which she believed never faltered. For this, I had to admire her. Unlike many of the hippies of the time, who eventually grew up, stopped dropping acid and got a job, the late 1960's were not a passing craze for Ann.

I loved reading this book, if for nothing else then for having this amazing look into New York City's counterculture of the time. The Last of Her Kind was believable, and a great read.

About the Book:
Paperback: 391 pages
Publisher: Picador (December 12, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312425945

Review: The Maze of Bones (39 Clues, Book #1) by Rick Riordan

I am a HUGE fan of Rick Riordan, having read all of his Percy Jackson books. I wanted to read the first of his 39 Clues books to see if my 6 year-old was ready for it. I may wait until the summer, but he's going to love it -- and maybe even learn a few things about history, geography, and math along the way!

The story opens, as two children, Amy and Dan, suffer the loss of their beloved grandmother, Grace. Being a wealthy woman, left a last will and testament message for her large family, but they were all in for a surprise. They are given a choice: take one million dollars and walk away, or trade in your million dollar check for the first of 39 clues that will lead to the Cahill family secret. Upon discovering the family secret, the team that wins will then become the most powerful Cahill in the world. Teams are forms, alliances made, and broken, and this book is cover to cover excitement.

As a parent, I was thrilled to have a book in my hands that is not only entertaining and exciting, but also brings history to life. Rick Riordan knows how to write amazing children's books that teach children (without them knowing it).
39 Clues is a multi-platform entertainment experience (book, playing cards, website, games, prizes). Each book comes with a set of playing cards, containing clues. You log onto the website, create an account, and after you are assigned to one of the branches of the family tree, you're off to begin solving the puzzle. You can also win prizes along the way.

Very cool.

Review: Untamed (House of Night #4) by P.C. Cast, Kristin Cast

As good as the first!

I was worried that this book, being the fourth in the series, was going to disappoint me. To be honest, the third book was such a predictable mess, that when I saw this on the "new release" shelf at Barnes and Noble, I hesitated.

I am glad I picked it up. Keeping in mind that this series is Young Adult, there is some high school angst that some adults might find trite. Z's friends turn their backs on her, and I didn't look forward to the familiar knot in my stomach that kept me awake during my teenage years. Luckily, the stomach stayed knot-free. The Casts kept a perfect pace in which to read all of Z's anxiety, without having it needlessly dragged on for 200 pages.

The fourth was just as good as the first, as long as you can get past the third, and I'm looking forward to more.

About the Book:

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (September 29, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312596308
ISBN-13: 978-0312596309

Review: Step on a Crack by James Patterson

My first James Patterson novel.

I believe it was my friend, Amanda, who said to me, "You never read James Patterson, and you call yourself a reader?!?" I felt the shame. Lucky for me, shortly after this beating, I won a humungo basket of books at a fundraiser. It included not one, but two, James Patterson novels! Yippie for me! Since the other is the 8th in a series, I decided to try Step on a Crack first.

I liked the book, but I didn't love it. There is no denying that Patterson is a good writer, with a knack for entertaining his readers from start to finish. On the flip side, it felt a little like a writing exercise for me, and was underwhelmed. It was as if Patterson should have just written the screenplay and skipped the novel altogether. It will make a good movie -- although, if they do make the movie, remind me not to go to NYC during the filming on 5th Avenue. The traffic!

The city is really one of the characters of the story, and any New Yorker could appreciate that. However, I feel that too many of these action-packed, twist-and-turn, suspenseful novels use the Post 9/11 subplot as a cop-out. Any good writer shouldn't need the drama from 9/11 to support their storyline, unless it's already too lame and predictable to be any good on its own. I feel that this story didn't need it, but Patterson used it, and slightly exploited it. A good writer can make any city sexy and strong and dramatic.

All in all, I was disappointed with my first James Patterson novel. Maybe the expectations were too high. I don't judge a writer on only one book, especially one so successful, so I will try again. I'm open to suggestions!

Review: You Could Do Better by Stephanie Lehmann

"You Could Do Better" is more of the mantra than the title -- meaning, I could have chosen a better book.

This is the type of book that aspiring writers read and say to themselves, "I can do this." And, to all you writers out there, GO and WRITE WELL and I will read and be happy. For such a short book, it was slow, predictable and boring.

On the positive side, the book's main character worked in the Museum of Television and Radio, and had a passion for old television shows. I did enjoy her analysis of television in the 70's and 80's. Like the television shows of our past, this book had a happy ending. It was just a little long in getting there.

Review: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Surprisingly enjoyable!

I don't usually read historical fiction, but one of my friends gave it to me -- thank you, Joanne -- and I'm glad she did. Gregory paints such a vivid picture of kings, queens, their court, the fashion and the etiquette of the time, it's hard not to get swept up and transported to another time. There is action and suspense, romance and betrayal, lust and greed, all in the quest for power. The Boleyns are leading that quest, and their name is their largest currency, and they are willing to sell a daughter in order to obtain the power that would then become attached to the Boleyn name.

It took a little while for me to get into the book - it's not short - but once I allowed myself to become immersed in this other world, and let go of the raging misogyny, you'll be hooked.

Those of us who paid attention to our Shakespeare professors, remember how the story ends for Anne Boleyn, so no great surprises there, but it's the story of her sister that captivates and intrigues. Gregory brings us this story from a very different point of view than what we're used to. She does occasionally stray from historical facts, for dramatic purposes, but this is why we call it FICTION, people.

A note on the movie, The Other Boleyn Girl. I am one of those people who feel that movies never live up to the books from which they originate, yet I am always compelled to see how the books are interpreted into a film. Movies usually disappoint me, and this was no exception. This book was way too packed with character development, plot twists, and time, that it may have been simply impossible to capture it all into a two-hour film. Eric Bana, while easy on the eyes, was not a strong King Henry and the only casting I found believable was that of Natalie Portman. I can't believe I'm saying this, but it would have been a better mini-series. Great book, bad movie. We see that all too often, don't we?

Review: The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum

Lisa Mangum's first book stands alone in this currently over-crowded genre. 

I've been reading a lot of YA supernatural fiction lately, and I was afraid that this would be the same-old, same-old.  I think it added a few surprising elements that we haven't seen before.

High school senior, Abby, meets a mysterious new student, Dante. Enter the gorgeous, sexy, strong, supernatural male character. What is he? Vampire? no. Werewolf? no. Shape-shifter? no. We spend the whole book answering not who is he, but what is he. We also try and find out why he has entered Abby's world, and how long he'll be staying.

I needed something to read one day while I was home sick with the flu, and this book fit the bill. The pages turned quickly, the love story was exciting, and there was mystery throughout.  One of the reasons why I choose this book was that it is that Twilight/girl meets boy/high school/supernatural/mystery/romance genre that I find entertaining, so I can't complain that I found myself comparing this book to the ones I've read previous to it.   Comparisons aside, I think this book held its own.   Will I read the sequel?  You bet.

About the Book:
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (May 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606410938
ISBN-13: 978-1606410936

Review: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

My friend, Nancy, loaned me this book, and I am so glad she did. (She gives me some great books!) I was surprised to have fallen in love with this book like I did. If you can allow yourself to "go there" I highly recommend giving this one a try.

Synopsis: Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, and adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Claire was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible, but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler's Wife is, at its core, a love story. If you can allow yourself to let go of reality, and accept that Henry visits Claire throughout her life, from different points in his own, you will be drawn into this love story like I was. Imagine your husband disappearing one night, only to return a few days later. Where was he? He was visiting you when you were 14. Vaguely, you remember this visit from 16 years ago. Crazy, right? I'm getting chills just remembering certain scenes of this book, which is both hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Audrey Niffenegger's second novel is due out this fall, entitled, Her Fearful Symmetry and is a supernatural story about American twins who inherit an apartment near a London cemetery and become embroiled in the lives of the other tenants and the ghost of their aunt, who left them the flat. Look for this one at the end of September!

Review: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg

I would be remiss if I didn't include in my book review blog, my #1 choice in parenting books -- The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.

Tracy Hogg got me through those first scary months with my newborns. I had no help, other than my equally clueless partner in crime, The Man. I gave birth to a precious, perfect baby, and after only two days, they let us take him home! Didn't they understand that we didn't know what we were doing? This was a whole other person! A lot of meditative deep breaths, and The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer in hand, we marched home, as ordered.

Tracy Hogg gives it to you straight. She's not an advocate of attachment parenting, but she will certainly guide you on how to care for your baby's needs, and, most importantly, how to read the cues your baby gives in order to meet her needs. Her methods worked for me, and my two sons.

This is the book that I give to all new mothers. I not only recommend the first of Hogg's books, but I am a big fan of the second book, Secrets of the Baby WhispererFor Toddlers, as well as the companion to both, The Baby Whisperer Solves all Your Problems: Sleeping Feeding and Behavior, in which Tracy Hogg answers the most common questions parents ask her about her methods.

Sadly, Tracy Hogg lost her battle with melanoma in 2004. She got me through infancy and toddlerhood, and I am selfishly upset that she will not be here to help me through the school-age years too! For that, I'm on my own. In the meantime, however, there is a Baby Whisperer website, where parents come together to discuss the trials and tribulations of parenthood on the message boards, and in the chat room.

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief is best book I have read so far this year. I have to give a big thank you to Rob at Clinton Book Shop for recommending this book to me. His only words were, "you will love it, trust me." And I did. My only problem is writing a review truly worthy enough. Allow me to try.
The Book Thief can be found in the Young Adult section of your local bookstore, even though it doesn't read like your typical YA book. Not at all. In fact, I found this to be one of the few books in my library that a family could read and discuss. But that's still not the greatest part!
See? I'm already tripping over the review. Let me just get right to the good stuff. The narrator. The Book Thief is narrated by Death himself, but Death, as it turns out, has emotions, empathy and a sense of humor. He warns us of the bad stuff to come. He allows us to prepare, so we're not too shocked or horrified. Even though he gives us fair warning, we can't help but feel the heartbreak and rage that is inevitable when reading a book set in Germany during WWII. We also find that Death is somehow intrigued by Liesel, the young girl who is our book thief. Death first sees her when he comes for her brother, and follows her between his visits to those around her, making profound statements about Hitler. It is through Liesel and Death that we see the Holocaust from a point of new that we have never experienced before.
Zusak is brilliant. The Book Thief is hauntingly beautiful. And I think not only is this one of the best books I've read so far this year, I believe that it ranks among my favorite books of all time, up there with East of Eden, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Little Women.

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