Friday, July 31, 2009

Giveaway: Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind by Phillip Done

School's out for summer, but September is right around the corner! I found the perfect book for all of you parents out there: Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done. Anna at Hachette Book Group was kind enough to offer 5 copies of this book to 5 lucky readers. Be one of the first to receive this book, which will be released on September 5, 2009.
First a little bit about the book:
A twenty-year veteran of the classroom, elementary school teacher Phillip Done takes readers through a lively and hilarious year in the classroom. Starting with the relative calm before the storm of buying school supplies and posting class lists, he shares the distinct personalities of grades K-4, what he learned from two professional trick or treating 8-year-old boys, the art of learning cursive and letter-writing, how kindergartners try to trap leprechauns, and what every child should experience before he or she grows up.

These charming, sweet, and funny tales of Mr. Done's trials and triumphs as an award-winning schoolteacher will touch reader's hearts and remind them of the true joys of childhood. We all have that one special, favorite grade school teacher whom we fondly remember throughout our adult lives - and every teacher also has students whom they will never forget. This is the perfect book for teachers, parents, and anyone else who is looking for a lighthearted, nostalgic read.
Now for the Giveaway Guidelines:
- The Giveaway will run for two whole weeks: July 31, 2009 - August 14, 2009
- Winners will be chosen at random and announced here at Alison's Book Marks on Saturday, August 15th
- To enter, leave a comment below. Be sure to leave your e-mail address!
- For extra entries, comment on any new book review in the month of August, and tell me about it here.
- For even more entries, post a link to my giveaway, and tell me about it here
- Contest is only open to residents of U.S. and Canada
- No P.O. Boxes...sorry!
Good luck to everyone!

Review: South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy is my favorite contemporary author, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned he was publishing his first novel in 14 years. Wow. Has it really been that long? Pat Conroy fans rejoice! You will not be disappointed with South of Broad.

Synopsis From Random House:Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades-from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Once again, Conroy delivers us directly to South Carolina with the beauty of his language that creates crystal clear images of Charleston, a town knee-deep in history and tradition. It's so easy to get swept up in his imagery, that even when we are delivered one horrific blow after another, we, along with his characters, find refuge in the streets and rivers that belong to the South. Charleston is not just a place or setting -- it becomes one of the most powerful characters in the story.

As with previous Pat Conroy's novels, I found myself completely in love with the main character. Leo King is the reason this motley crew bands together and stays together for twenty years. He is not the most handsome, the most athletic, or the most charming. He is real, and he is honest, and he is all heart. Leo's friends answer his prayers with friendships anyone would envy, including me; yet, these same friends who fill the void his brother left, are also the ones that open his eyes to the deepest hurt and heartbreak imaginable.

"If I knew then what I have come to learn, I would never have made a batch of cookies for the new family across the street, never uttered a single word to the orphans, and never introduced myself to the two students who were kicked out of Porter-Gaud School and quickly enrolled at my own Peninsula High for their senior year...But fate comes at you cat-footed, unavoidable, and bloodthirsty."
- Leo King.

One of the things I loved most about this novel was the way the time line flipped back and forth. The story begins in 1969 - how it all began. Then it fast-forwards twenty years into the future - what is to come. We are then brought back to 1969 - how it came to be. Finally, we fast-forward once again to 1989 - wrapping everything up. I've seen this done in other books, but this timeline was done brilliantly.

If you're looking for drama, this book has it. If you're looking for a story full of love, South of Broad has that too. If you're looking for a tale of friendship, look no further. I also have to say, if you're not looking to get your heart broken into a million pieces, you might want to read Beach Music instead. But let's be honest, by the time your heart is broken, you have already fallen in love.

I mentioned above that this is Conroy's first novel in 14 years. In that time, a lot has happened in my life, the greatest of which was becoming a mother. Nothing has changed me more than having children. Anyone who knows me understands how I can become so wrapped up in a well written book, that I have trouble with certain content. I can't handle books that show even a hint of child abuse. My heart aches right now, because there was way too much of it in South of Broad. There are certain books that I will not read, no matter how highly recommended, because I know I can't handle them. I should have known that this would be one of those books. All of Pat Conroy's characters are hurt and broken -- The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini. I had fair warning. In the beginning of South of Broad, there are implications, and I couldn't help but take note of them. I feared that Conroy was going to come back around and tie up a loose end, but I became so invested in the rest of the story and the characters, that I had somehow forced myself to forget, or hoped that he was just going to allow the readers to assume the worst. Looking back, I knew Conroy couldn't leave this implication dangling in the wind. He is too thorough, too precise, and his characters are always fully developed, I knew he had to tell us the whole story, and he had to break our hearts to do it.

I have always said that if a novel can make you feel something - anger, hate, love, fear - it is a success. Pat Conroy conjured up all of these emotions for me with South of Broad. He is my favorite author for a reason. I can still remember where I was sitting - and where my tissues landed - when I read The Water is Wide. All of his books stay with me, and South of Broad will too.

Many thanks to Nan Talese -- Bravo!
Date of Release: August 11, 2009

Book Extras:
Pat Conroy - website
Pat Conroy - Facebook
Nan A. Talese - website
South of Broad page at Random House - read excerpts, Reader's Guide, and more

Now in Paperback! (May 2010)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Teaser Trailer: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games book 2) by Suzanne Collins

I had no idea there was such a thing as teaser trailers for books, but I guess with a book as big as Catching Fire...

I was lucky enough to have gotten my hands on an advance copy, and I finished it last night. All I will say for now is...WOW.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review: Homer and Langley: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow

Release Date: September 1, 2009

Intriguing novel.

Here is what I found out about the real lives of the Collyer brothers: Homer and Langley Collyer grew up in a privileged New York City brownstone, not really needing much in the way of professions. The Collyers were a part of New York society until both of their parents died in the 1920s. Langley Collyer went off to the Great War, and returned a changed, and somewhat broken, man. Homer Collyer slowly went blind and became more and more dependent on his brother. The two brothers became recluses, seldom leaving their brownstone, which eventually became shuttered and boarded up, cutting themselves off from the outside world. Homer and Langley Collyer were a mystery until March 21, 1947, when police entered the house on the tip of a possible dead body. It took two hours and seven men to reach the body of Homer Collyer. On April 8th, eighteen days later, Langley's body was found just 10 feet from where Homer's body had been found. It took a team of men to gain access to the bodies of the brothers, because of a mountain of, well, stuff blocking every step they took.

What happened to Homer and Langley Collyer between their social years of the 1920s and their death in 1947 is a mystery. E.L. Doctorow explores the possible hows and whys of what came to be of these two strange, possibly mad, brothers, in Homer & Langley: A Novel

I absolutely loved this book. I think I am completely enamored by the idea of taking a real-life mystery and constructing answers to the multitude of questions that surround it. In the book, it is Langley, the older brother, who begins obsessively collecting things -- beginning with newspapers and pianos, and branching out into anything and everything from art and figurines, to typewriters and bicycles. There are reasons for every single object being in that house -- even the Model T Ford in the Dining Room. Langley, I believe, uses Homer's blindness as an excuse to feed his own obsessions, but in the book, it becomes Langley's obsessions that essentially causes the two brothers to cut themselves off from the world. Only occasionally do we get an idea of their ages, or passing time, by the few people that come in and out of their lives. A newspaper article displays the picture of a girl they once knew turned into a middle-aged woman. A well-known mobster gets arrested, and then shows up at their front door shot. They once host society-type dances, playing big band music, but then we find them serving as host to a bunch of Hippies.

The dialogue is witty and fast paced, and the household completely bizarre.

Below is a picture of the actual house where Homer and Langley Collyer' were found. It may give you an idea of its state...and E.L. Doctorow brilliantly takes us on the journey of how these two brothers and this house became to be so completely and utterly mad.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shop Indie Bookstores

I moved into my neck of the woods exactly two years ago. Sometime in the last year, I discovered the greatest bookstore in the world. It's an independent book store, The Clinton Book Shop in the quaint town of Clinton, New Jersey. Never have I walked out without a great book. With a few key questions, they always point me in the right direction. They have great events, booksignings, children's storytime, and always a great section of staff recommendations for that quick in/quick out trip. I like to buy my produce locally, so why not my books too?

During my last visit, the guys at Clinton Book Shop directed me to, a great website to check out new books, authors and to search for other local independent bookstores. I have been browsing around that site all morning, and I had to share it with all of you. I especially love the Indie Next lists, showcasing all the great upcoming books that everyone will be talking about!

Please check out the site, find a local book store, and give them a visit. They may not have $7 lattes, but once they know your name, you'll never shop in those big anonymous book stores again! Shop Indie Bookstores Oh, and to Rob and Harvey, I'll be in later this afternoon to pick up the book I ordered! That was quick, thanks!
If any of you already shop at a local independent book store, share it with the class!

Why shop Indie?
When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy
■Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
■Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
■More of your taxes are reinvested in your community--where they belong.

The Environment
■Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
■Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.

The Community
■Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
■Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
■More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

Challenge: Stephanie Plum Series

"You've never read James Patterson, Janet Evanovich or Nora Roberts? And you call yourself an avid reader?!? I don't think I can be your friend anymore."

This was what my friend, Robin, said to me a few weeks ago. I am embarrassed to admit...she was right. Up until very recently, I had not read any books by any of these bestselling authors. For shame!

All I needed was a nudge -- or in this case, a big fat shove, from my fellow book blogger, J. Kaye.

There are 15 books in the Stephenie Plum series, not including the "Between the Numbers" books. Below is the list of the books 1-15. I will be reading and reviewing each of them here. For all of you Stephanie Plum fans, feel free to help guide me through my journey. Also, for those of you who are Stephanie Plum virgins like me, or are rounding second base in the middle of the series, feel free to head over to J.Kaye's Book Blog to check out the details of the Challenge and join me.

1. One for the Money (1994)
2. Two for the Dough (1995)
3. Three to Get Deadly (1997)
4. Four to Score (1998)
5. High Five (1999)
6. Hot Six (2000)
7. Seven Up (2001)
8. Hard Eight (2002)
* (2003). Visions of Sugar Plums. A short Christmas special.
9. To the Nines (2003)
10. Ten Big Ones (2004)
11. Eleven on Top (2005)
12. Twelve Sharp (2006)
*(2007). Plum Lovin'.

13. Lean Mean Thirteen (2007)
*(2008). Plum Lucky.
14. Fearless Fourteen (2008)
15. Finger Lickin' Fifteen (2009)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book Giveaway: July 23rd Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is July 23rd, and I am passing on some love today! Today is the drawing for my very first book giveaway! A very special thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, who has hooked us up with 5 copies of My Name is Will by Jess Winfield. Thank you also to all of you who entered, and an extra thank you to everyone who followed the instructions. Thankfully, all five of my winners left me their e-mail addresses. Whew! I used to choose my five winners. (which was also a lot easier than I had expected!) Hopefully, this will all go smoothly, and I will be hosting another book giveaway in the near future. But, first thing's first. The winners of the My Name Is Will giveaway are:

1. Kelly H.

2. Kathleen

3. Mary D. (the Ghost Blogger)

4. Susan

5. Judi M.

Congratulations!! I will be e-mailing each of you with further instructions.

In the meantime, while I am off celebrating MY big day, I am not going to leave you all high and dry. My friend over at A Book Blogger's Diary, is having an awesome giveaway. Check it out...there are 10 books in this giveaway. TEN. That should get you through the rest of the summer, huh? To find out more, click on the link above. Good Luck to you all!

Oops, Book Blogger's Diary is having a bit of technical difficulty this morning, and, again, I don't want to leave you guys with nothing while I'm out eating cake and playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, so here is another blogger that's giving away a beach bag of books (not to mention a great blog for you all to check out) : A Sea of Books

Try this link if the one above doesn't work: Beach Bag of Books giveaway

Review: Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #6) by Charlaine Harris

Yes, I'm still reading the Sookie Stackhouse series. Those of you who know me, aren't surprised that I can't back down from a Challenge. Then again, those of you who really know me, aren't surprised that I'm finding it hard to leave a vampire book unread on my shelf.

I am happy to say, Sookie Stackhouse narrows down her suitor list in Definitely Dead. If my math is correct, I believe the count is down to a manageable 3. Of the previous six, Sookie lets one down easy, another takes himself out of the running with a hearbreaking confession, and she realizes that she never had a chance with another. Of the potential love interests remaining, she still has quite a few yummy honeys to choose from -- one already comfortably calling her "Babe".

Sookie finds a new girl friend, Amelia, who I wasn't sure about when we were first introduced to her character. Turns out, she's funny, she's a straight shooter, and she's one powerful witch. Amelia is heading back to Bon Temps to stay with Sookie for a while, so we'll be seeing her in the next book. I'm so glad that Sookie has a gal pal!

We learn a big secret about Sookie in Definitely Dead (no, I'm not going to spoil it). It's a cool little Sookie-fact, that opens up a lot of doors for the next books, and answers some questions about who she is and why she is.

There's some sexual tension between Sookie and her remaining men, but none of it is as explicit as in the first book, which I appreciate from Ms. Harris once again.

There is one thing that is starting to bug me, and I have to get it off my chest. I think Ms. Harris needs to open up an issue of InStyle from sometime this past decade. I can't get past the "slack sets in pastel colors" and "knit pants" that the women are wearing. Slack Sets? I'm at a loss. I'm not sure what knit pants are, but I can't help but think of one's grandmother -- and not my own, she had great style. It's the little things, you know?

I have to share my very favorite line of the book. I loved it so much I had to underline it:

"Did anyone ever tell you that you smell enchantingly like a fairy?" Rasul said.
"Oh, I've been with my fairy godmother, " I explained, "She took me shopping."

love it.

One thing was brought to my attention that I had to share with you all -- an anthology of short stories, called Bite
, written by Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson (Undead's Betsy Taylor), Laurel Hamilton (Anita Blake series), Angela Knight, and Vickie Taylor. I learned from Elizabeth at Moonlight to Twilight, that it is most helpful to read the short story by Charline Harris entitled "One Word Answer" before reading Definitely Dead. It sounds like there is more of a background story on the Vampire Queen of Louisiana and cousin Hadley. Thanks to Elizabeth, our expert on all things Vampire.

Book To Movie: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I am a huge fan of Harry Potter. If this makes me a nerd, so be it. The hardest part of being a fan of J.K. Rowling's books is avoiding the media before actually reading one of the books or seeing one of the movies. Don't get me wrong, they are deserved of every minute of press, but I hate spoilers. Once again, I'll do my best to keep my review spoiler-free.

After avoiding as many trailers as I could, and not reading a single review, I finally headed out to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last night. I laughed, I cried, and my heart raced throughout.
There was not as much action as I had anticipated, with director David Yates leaving out one spectacularly written fight sequence from the book. What lacked in action, though, was certainly made up for in drama. I mean that in a good way. The acting was spot-on, and grown-up, without being heavy or cheesy. Ok, maybe there was some cheese, but it was a comedic break from the dark, dark world of Voldemort's childhood. Half-Blood Prince is a transitional chapter in the series, and the movie relied heavily on the characters and the plot instead of the crazy CGI effects we saw in Goblet of Fire and Prisoner of Azkaban. I am happy to say that the actors were more than ready for such a challenge.
My 7 year-old has seen the first two movies in the Harry Potter series, and he wanted to come with me to see this one as well. I'm glad I left him home. The readers followed Harry from Years 1 through 7, as he got older, more mature, and the story line grew more serious, more scary, and really dark. The movies, obviously, follow suit. There were quite a few teenagers in the movie theater last night, which surprised me at first, thinking that they would have rather seen the latest Transformers movie. Then I realized, these teenagers were the perfect age when the Harry Potter books were released, and are the perfect audience for the HBP now. Sure enough, I heard comments like, "Harry's hiding up there," "the Phoenix song!" and "That's the cave where Tom took the kids and scared them!" -- things only a reader of the books could know and appreciate.
Most book-to-movie attempts fail miserably, but the Harry Potter movies have yet to disappoint me.
For more:

Harry Potter Store

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Giveaway: 2 Days Left to Enter!

Just a friendly reminder that you only have 2 more days to enter Hachette Book Club's giveaway of My Name Is Will by Jess Winfield. Thanks again to Valerie at Hachette!

5 Lucky winners will be chosen at random on July 23rd (my birthday!). Please reply to the original thread: Book Giveaway

Thank you for all the interest! I'm really looking forward to reading My Name Is Will with you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I am happy to say The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins lives up to all expectations. Several people told me that I was going to love this book, which is usually the kiss of death for any book. Not in this case! I was very careful not to read any reviews or synopses so as not to ruin the experience. I am so glad I did. Still, here I am writing a review, part of which is a synopsis. I will do my best to give you an overview without giving anything away. (yes, the book was that good) No spoilers, I promise.

The story takes place in the distant future in the ruins once known as North America, now known as the country of Panem, divided between the Capital and it's twelve Districts. As dictated by the Capital, each year, one boy and one girl from each district are forced to play in The Hunger Games. Only the winner will survive. Every moment is televised.

This book is, in a word, intense. Put Lord of the Flies, The Lottery, Survivor and Running Man in a blender, and you'll come up with The Hunger Games. The story is told from the perspective of our heroine. I am having a hard time coming up with a comparable female protagonist as powerful as Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is from the poorest neighborhood of the poorest District in Panem, and already knows a bit about survival. For one thing, she knows what it feels like to be hungry. For another, she knows how to hunt. She is brutal, cold, and cunning, yet I was still able to really like her and root for her. Sure, there are a few quirks in her personality that didn't sit well with me, but I'll give her some slack, she's only 16. Aside from hating her name, the girl is fierce.

The games, however, are downright brutal. Twenty-four children, ages 12 to 18 go into the arena, and I can promise you that they don't all survive. We don't necessarily get a good look at all of the deaths, but I have a vivid imagination, and Suzanne Collins is especially talented with the turn of a phrase. For this reason, I have to caution as to how young the Young Adult reader should be. I think that the lessons on government and communism are strong and could launch amazing conversations about governments throughout history and throughout the world, not to mention the social and political implications of televising the Hunger Games, turning it into some voyeuristic reality show.

The pacing of this book is supersonic. I had a really hard time putting it down, and when I did, I found myself thinking and wondering about the book, the location, the characters, the government, and, especially, the Game.

The Hunger Games has huge crossover potential -- not only to adult readers, but to boys as well. You know me, I am always on the lookout for Man-Lit, but having two sons of my own, I keep my eyes wide open for books that appeal to boys. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Katniss Everdeen will be the heroes on my boys' bookshelves.

Movie Potential? I can't wait to see who gets their hands on this series! This was one powerful book, but I can only imagine how much more intense the story will be when we can see, for example, the images of the shining Capital in comparison to Katniss's gray, coal-covered, District 12. Then again, I'm not sure if putting a fight-to-the-death game on the big screen will be able retain its Young Adult audience. I can only hope that they do The Hunger Games the same justice that Chris Columbus did Harry Potter. Something tells me we won't have to wait long to find out. UPDATE: Ok, the Hunger Games fans are on the ball! It didn't take long for them to tell me that Lions Gate has optioned the movie rights, and Suzanne Collins herself will be writing the screenplay. Cool. Thanks, Amy!

There you have it. The Hunger Games is one of the best books I've read this year, and THE favorite YA book this year, hands down.

Read the first chapter
Check out
Scholastic's Hunger Games page (AFTER you've read the book, unless you want to be spoiled...I'm only trying to help you here.)

The Sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire is due out September 1, 2009. If you have not yet read The Hunger Games, DO NOT read the synopsis of Catching Fire. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games)
You can pre-order Catching Fire here:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What Crazy Writer Are You?

This morning, I was wandering around some of my favorite book blogger's sites, when I came across a quiz that J.Kaye posted (J.Kaye found it on Cafe of Dreams). Anyone who's been on Facebook knows that there are more quizzes out there than there are Legos on a 7 year-old's floor. This one not only perked my curiosity, I LOVE the answer! What Crazy Writer am I?
You are funny, witty, charming...and, um, "unique" personal
tastes. You like to have fun, you don't hide who you are, and you don't
particularly give a damn what people think about you; you're just as likely to
be seen in an all-male Amsterdam brothel as a London literary society
dinner. You see beauty in life, and humor in tragedy. If it weren't
for the hosts' fears of you saying or doing something indecent, you might very
well be the perfect dinner companion.
Ok! This makes me sound much more interesting than I can possibly hope to be. I have always loved the work of Oscar Wilde, ever since I read aloud The Importance of Being Ernest in an acting workshop back when I was a teenager. The smart, witty banter stuck with me as not only being funny, but poignant. I'm sure that I am nothing like Oscar Wilde, but a girl can dream! There is only one, but it was nice that some random quiz on the Internet thought I was witty and charming.
To share a few of my favorite quotes from The Importance of Being Ernest:
  • "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
  • "It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."
  • "The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"
I want to know, What crazy writer are YOU? Be sure to check back here when you've taken the quiz and let me know who you are and what you think!
Have a great weekend all!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Review: The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

A must-read for any Yankee Fan!

I am a Yankee fan. Growing up, I had listened to countless games on the radio in my dad's car, and watched the games on TV every weekend at my grandmother's house in Belleville, New Jersey. I went to my first Yankee game when I was 18 years old, with a bunch of friends, and we sat in the bleachers eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks, just how the song goes. It was a day game and the stands were fairly empty. The Yankees won that game, and I was hooked. It wasn't until I was fresh out of college in '96 with my first job, that I had the money to go and sit in the good seats -- about 14 rows up behind third base. My favorite date with my then-boyfriend/future husband, was a Friday night Yankee game. It was him, me, a cold beer, and my Yanks. I got to escape for nine innings. I will never forget that 1996 season...where The Yankee Years begin for Joe Torre, and for me.

It's no wonder why I loved this book, and why it took me so long to drink in the pages. The "mystique and aura" of New York, and Yankee Stadium, that other teams learned to fear, showed itself in the 12 years of Joe Torre's career as the Yankees Manager. Those early years, especially. This book gives fans such a clear memory of New York, the fans, the Red Sox Rivalry, and the greatest team ever to play in baseball. Joe Torre and Tom Verducci takes us through each of some of the greatest moments in baseball: Jeter's catch and throw behind his back to home plate; Wells' perfect game in '96; Cone's perfect game in '98 with Don Larson and Yogi Berra watching from the stands; the boy's glove catching the ball over the right outfield wall during the Playoffs (I was there for that one!); and more rallies from behind and walk-off home runs that the post-season had ever seen before, like Aaron Boone's in the bottom of the 11th Inning, Game 7 of 2003.
Baseball in New York was not all hearts and flowers, though, and The Yankee Years address each ugly factor of being a Yankee. The "Evil Empire" had as many enemies as it did fans. The Boston rivalry created especially tense moments, like when Pedro Martinez and Jorge Posada had words, before Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground. Torre and Verducci address the issues of steroids and HGH in the Mitchell report, and their players that were named. The media added to the tension of playing in New York, as displayed by Alex Rodriguez. The authors also talk at length of aging pitchers, "pitching is an act of violence," without whom they could not win. The enormous profits generated by the Yankees sparked the creation of some of the highest salaries ever known to major league baseball.
I am a huge fan, yes, but The Yankee Years can be a little erratic, since they chose to organize the book into themed chapters, instead of writing in chronological order. So, it did seem a little all over the place and, at times, a bit repetitive.

If you're a guy, and like to read pages of baseball stats, this book is right up your ally. The stats were not overdone, though, in my opinion. I found the relationship between Joe Torre and Derek Jeter to dominate this book, but again, not in a way that was overdone. Instead, I want my sons to read this book so they learn what makes a great player, a great teammate, and a great sportsman.

All in all, The Yankee Years is a great read for any baseball fan, but especially to anyone who wants to relive those magical games of Joe Torre's early Yankee years. I found myself smiling, remembering those moments.

"...never forget, there is a hearbeat in this game." -- Joe Torre

About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527408
  • Review: Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse #5) by Charlaine Harris

    Book #5 was an unfortunate turning point for me. For the first time so far, not only did I not want to run out and get the next book in the series (instead of reading one of the books on my oh-so-very-high To-Read stack) but I also wasn't excited about writing the review. I didn't hate it, don't get me wrong. Sookie is still as sassy and witty as ever. The men in her life -- both the living and the undead -- are still pining for her. There is still violence and mystery, supplied in the form of a serial shooter, who is targeting the two-natured. Of course, since shifters are still in hiding, Sookie can't tip off the police, so it's up to her and her band of boy-toys to solve the mystery, before she herself gets killed.

    I think my one problem with Dead as a Doornail, is Ms. Harris has introduced even more potential love interests. No woman can be that attractive to so many men. I feel that when you overpopulate the possibilities, that romantic tension is lost. Eric and Bill are still around, but on the periphery. We're still left unsure of what is going on with Sam, Calvin, Alcide, and Quinn (the new bald were-tiger dude). Six love interests for one girl? Hopefully, Sookie will focus one one or two in the next one.

    I still feel Club Dead was my favorite of the bunch so far, and the series has great potential in where it can go next. The Sookie Stackhouse series are fun, light reads (yes, even with the guns, guts, and gore) and I'm sure I will be back sooner than even I expect. It's kind of like television. If you watch enough Lost, CSI, and Law and Order, sometimes you need a little Chuck thrown in to balance out your mood. Sookie is my Chuck.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    The Man's Review: Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

    My husband, also known as The Man, reads (see Man-Lit, a definition). Every once in a while, I am able to pull a review from him. It's like pulling teeth. Since this is a book that I really wanted to read myself, I worked extra hard at obtaining a coherent review. After the conversation we had about his latest read, Playing for Pizza by John Grisham, I thought his reviews should be represented here at Alison's Book Marks. So, here is the very first of what may just be a series entitled: The Man's Review. I wasn't sure how to capture the humor of our banter, so I am just going to relay our conversation. I hope you all get something out of the review, and maybe have a little chuckle in the process. Here's how the conversation went down:

    Me: You finished Playing For Pizza?
    The Man: Yeah
    Me: How was it?
    The Man: It was good.
    Me: Just "good"?
    The Man: Yeah. It was good.
    Me: Well, would you recommend it?
    The Man: Yeah, I guess.
    Me: Did you like any of the characters?
    The Man: Yeah, the guy was cool.
    Me: It was about sports?
    The Man: Football
    Me: Is it strictly Man-Lit, or would I like it?
    The Man: Well, you don't really need to know a lot about football to like the book. You might like it, but it's more Man-Lit.
    Me: Were there any scenes that you particularly enjoyed?
    The Man: A few, actually.
    Me: Can you tell me about any of them?
    The Man: I don't
    Me: Where does the "Pizza" fit?
    The Man: He's in Italy.
    Me: Was there a love interest?
    The Man: Uck, yes, but it wasn't too bad. She was the reason he got to see Italy, and went traveling around. That part was cool. The geography and stuff, that was neat to read about different parts of Italy.
    Me: So, it was a travelogue of Italy?
    The Man: Huh?
    Me: Never mind. So, Italy was cool. What about the ending?
    The Man: Eh. It was okay. Too predictable. The whole book was good, but then it was like he cut it off too quickly, like he took the easy way out. I could have guessed the ending. The ending sucked.
    Me: Hm. Interesting. Most of John Grisham's books become movies. Do you think this would make a good movie?
    The Man: Um...Yeah. Yeah, I think it would, but they have to change the ending.
    Me: They need to blow something up at the end?
    The Man: Huh?
    Me: Never mind. So it was good?
    The Man: Yes, it was good.

    So, there you have it. The very first of The Man's Review series! Don't get too excited, The Man takes a while to read, and it takes a few days for me to muster up the stamina to have such a deep intellectual conversation. I am ecstatic that he's a reader, and thrilled that he let me post our Playing For Pizza banter.

    As a side note: As you can tell, I can't write conversations unless it's formatted like I'm writing lines from a play. I have such high respect for those authors that can write great dialogue!

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead by Saralee Rosenberg

    How do you choose your books? Does the cover art attract your attention? Do you choose only books on a recommendation from your favorite book blogger (ahem!)? Bestsellers list? Do you choose your book on the title? Well, this is one book that I could NOT pass up. Let me first say, I love my neighbors...most of the time. But when I saw the title of Saralee Rosenberg's book, Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead, I laughed out loud. I have lived in my current suburbia for two years now, and my husband has told me endlessly that I need to write a book on the hilarity of it all. Trust me, none of my neighbors will dispute me on this: there is always drama. After reading the Author Interview over at Brenda Janowitz, a talented author in her own right, not only did I know what my next read was going to be, but I had to share it with all of you. So all you neighbor-friends of mine, and my non-neighbor friends of mine, run, don't walk, to the bookstore and read this book with me. Could you be? Would you be? Won't you neighbor?

    Read an excerpt from Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead. Prepare to laugh.
    More about the author, Saralee Rosenberg, on her website.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Book Giveaway: My Name Is Will by Jess Winfield

    My birthday is coming up in a few days, and I love, love, love getting presents!! So, this year, I'm passing on some love. Valerie, at Hachette Book Group, has hooked me up with 5 copies of My Name is Will by Jess Winfield. I will be posting a review of this amazing book soon, but before I do, I need to make sure that at least five of my friends are going to feel the love with me, and join me in chatting about this great book!
    First, a little bit about the book:
    My Name Is Will
    A Novel of
    Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare
    by Jess Winfield

    A Tale of two Shakespeares....

    Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student, Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about
    the Bard. Kind of....

    Cut off by his father for laziness, and desperate for dough, Willie agrees to deliver a single giant, psychedelic mushroom to a mysterious collector, making himself an unwitting target in Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs.

    Meanwhile, would-be playwright (and oppressed Catholic) William Shakespeare is eighteen years old and stuck teaching Latin in the boondocks of Stratford-upon-Avon. The future Bard's life is turned upside down when a stranger entrusts him with a sacred relic from Rome...This, at a time when adherents of the "Old Faith" are being hanged, drawn and quartered as traitors.

    Seemingly separated in time and place, the lives of Willie and William begin to intersect in curious ways, from harrowing encounters with the law (and a few ex-girlfriends) to dubious experiments with mind-altering substances. Their misadventures could be dismissed as youthful folly. But wise or foolish, the bold choices they make will shape not only the 'Shakespeare' each is destined to come...but the very course of history itself.

    Now, for the giveaway guidelines:
    • - We will run the giveaway from today, July 14th through July 22nd.
    • - The five winners will be chosen at random and posted on July 23rd -- my birthday! Cake will be served.
    • - Contest is open only to residents of the US and Canada, and we can not send to P.O. Boxes, sorry!
    • - To enter, simply post a comment below, making sure that I can find your e-mail. To increase your chances of winning, post a link to my giveaway on your blog (provide me with a link), and/or let me know if you're a follower/subscriber.

    To learn more about Jess Winfield, go to the author's website: or her blog:

    Man-Lit: A Definition

    One night last summer, I had experienced something in my marriage for the very first time. My husband, freshly showered, smelling of soap and shampoo, gave me a longing look. He bounded into bed beside me full of vigor and expectations. I had chills, feeling the excitement surrounding him. He leaned over me, and I felt the full weight of him, catching my breath ever so slightly. He took something off my nightstand, fell back onto his side of the bed with a sigh, and opened a book. It was one of the proudest moments of our marriage. I had turned The Man into a reader. Since that time, The Man has read quite a few books, but most of them I would have to categorize as "Man-Lit". I have tagged some of the books in my book reviews as "Man-Lit" and after fielding some questions, I realized it was time for further explanation.

    I was turned on to the idea of Man-Lit when I read a blogger, Twilight Guy, who took us through the Twilight series from his point of view, chapter by chapter. I found his take on a series with a predominantly female fan base down right hysterical. It made me wonder, are there books out there that appeal more to men? Why is Chick-Lit classified, for easier finding, but men have to search? If men read differently, and have different taste, shouldn't they have their own classification?

    Some of the books that fall into the Man-Lit category are: I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by Tucker Max, Too Fat to Fish by Artie Lange, and A Pitcher's Story by David Cone. Man-lit is often non-fiction, but it's not a requirement, as in The Man's latest read, Playing for Pizza by John Grisham, which I will have in my The Man's Review later this week. When searching for a book for The Man, I do look for more traditionally manly subject matter -- sports, violence, military, CIA/Government, humor, or anything with lots of action. Think of the movies you might find on Spike TV, these are the books I might pick up for The Man.

    I have to make one quick note. My husband is a private person. He has asked to remain nameless on Book Marks. I asked him if he wanted me to use an alias, like Mr. Darcy, Edward, or Jay (he didn't get any of those references...he's a work in progress), but he prefers to be called The Man -- as in , "You're The Man." This was my idea. He's my man, thus, in my life, he is The man. And I must admit, I am one lucky woman to be married to this man. So, from this point forward, my husband will be known as...The Man. Oh, boy, do I have my hands full or what?

    Back to Man-Lit. Before I get a ton of hate mail from angry women telling me how I'm being sexist or discriminatory, hold your handbags, ladies. I myself am a fan of Man-Lit. Conversely, chick-lit often lets me down. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I'll leave the psychoanalysis for later. My point is, most of the books that The Man reads have simply moved from my nightstand to his own. Only lately has he been choosing his own reading material. Actually, it's quite nice. He now gives me his reviews of the books he reads, and knows which to recommend to me, since he has a very good idea of what I like, and how much manliness I can tolerate without nausea setting in. It's all a matter of personal preference.

    I will always let my readers know what is on The Man's nightstand, and occasionally, I am able to pry a review out of him. If you read the tags on my posts, and see "Man-Lit" now you know what that means, I hope.

    Ladies, do you read Man-Lit?
    Do your men read Man-Lit?
    Gentlemen, what do you read?
    Is it the same stuff that the woman in your life reads?
    Talk to me about your Man-Lit!

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    This is one of those books that everyone tells you, "read it, you'll love it, it's like nothing you've ever read before." I have to agree on one thing, it was completely unique to anything I had ever read before.

    Synopsis: An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

    When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

    I believe my expectations of Water for Elephants was simply too high, because I came out the other side let down. The mood throughout the book left me very tense, and even melancholy. The characters seemed in a perpetual state of suffering and sacrifice. It was like a war between the different classes in the hierarchy of the circus people. The Great Depression was not only a background but a reality for the circus, as the lower class never had enough to eat. There was raging alcoholism and depression. Finally, one of the reasons I don't go to the circus myself, is that worry that the animals were not being treated kindly.

    On the other hand, I have to say, with many books on the shelves that all seem to be different degrees of sameness, Water for Elephants stands on its own. It truly is unique, and I had to appreciate the writing skill, and development of the characters. This is not a book I would talk someone out of reading, certainly not. In fact, I welcome you to read this book and share your thoughts with me. This would be a great Book Club read.

    Thursday, July 9, 2009

    Summer Reading List?

    What's on your summer reading list? This is the question I hear from friends, the question that leads into many articles on booksellers' sites, and the question that has me a little perplexed this week. Do you dive into Les Miserables by the pool, or is there more chick lit in your beach bag? What makes a good "Summer Read"?

    Is a book read during the summer any different than a book read any other time of the year? Sometimes a good book is a good book, end of story. Would To Kill A Mockingbird, for example, be on your typical summer book list (outside of school reading lists) or are you more inclined to wait until a chilly November day to read it?

    How about Anna Karenina? This one's going to weigh down the tote bag. I bring up this book because it's what my Book Club has decided on for our Big Summer Read. We give our meetings a break for the summer, and we will gather again in the fall to discuss it. If you have two months to read one book, I guess it should be a biggie, a classic, an epic tale. It's been about 8 years since I read Anna Karenina, and I'm looking forward to diving into it again. Maybe we should wait until the summer to open up those ten-pound novels sitting on the shelf that might just take some of us two months to read them, or two months to savor them, as the case of Anna Karenina might be. Drink it in while you're drinking margaritas by the pool? Sounds good to me!

    C'mon, Alison! It's vacation! I don't want to read something that's going to make my brain hurt! Ok, ok. So, there is something to be said for a "leave your brain at the door" book. I try not to be a book snob, and have my fair share of guilty pleasures (that damn Sookie Stackhouse!). I'm sure a fair number of you out there are more inclined to read fluffier books during the summer. My sister tells me that we read fluff because we can, and we enjoy it, and dammit why shouldn't we? Life is too serious, our books should help us escape from that. Ok, I get that. So, is that what all the Best Summer Books lists are all about? Fluff?

    It's not about the brain power, it's about the story! Oh, escapism. I get it now. Should the story take place during the summer in order to be included in a summer book list? The first book that comes to mind is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Then again, if I recall correctly, Scout ran back and forth to the courthouse during a dusty summer as well.

    Once again, I find that I can not come to a conclusive decision. What are the ingredients for a good summer read?

    For me, summer doesn't mean that I open up a whole new shelf of my library. I choose whatever calls out to me on any given day -- warm and sunny, or cold and breezy. Oh, and I have to say, I love reading the school's summer reading lists. I was in the library last week, and these kids are reading the best of the best. What a fun project that would be.

    What is on your summer reading list? Is this list different from your winter reading list?

    Review: Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse #4) by Charlaine Harris

    Sookie Stackhouse #4. It's a new year in Bon Temps, and Sookie makes a Resolution: "I just hope to not be beaten up...I don't want to go to the hospital. I don't want to see a my resolution is to stay out of trouble." Yes, I actually chuckled out loud.
    All along, Sookie has been telling us, once the vampires came out into the open, who knows what other supernatural creatures were lurking in the shadows? We find out about some other supernatural creatures, alright. Bill is out of the country, so we don't see much of him at all; Eric had his memory wiped out, so we get to see a vulnerable side of him, along with his perfect backside; the witches are out in full force; the weres have more family members than we expected; and we are introduced to one character whose existence still has me scratching my head.

    Like the other books in this series, there was a lot of action, a lot of blood, and Sookie is growing into one tough cookie.

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009

    Review: Limitations by Scott Turow

    The only other Scott Turow book I had read previous to this one was One L, which I loved. My sister had just started Law School, and told me to read the book so I could understand what she was going through. It's a good thing I read it, because she took me through law school blow-by-blow, tort-by-tort. By the time she graduated, I thought I should have received my own law degree. I find the law fascinating, which is what made me pick up Limitations in the first place.

    Synopsis: Life would seem to have gone well for George Mason.
    His days as a criminal defense lawyer are long behind him. At fifty-nine,
    he has sat as a judge on the Court of Appeals in Kindle County for nearly a
    decade. Yet, when a disturbing rape case is brought before him, the judge
    begins to question the very nature of the law and his role within it. What
    is troubling George Mason so deeply? Is it his wife's recent
    diagnosis? Or the strange and threatening e-mails he has started to
    receive? And what is it about this horrific case of sexual assault, now on
    trial in his courtroom, that has led him to question his fitness as a

    I really really got into this book. Turow is a master at pulling your conscience in different directions. Yes, it was heavy on the law, but for anyone that finds the law as interesting as I do, this is a good thing. Limitations takes one of the most horrific sexual assault cases you can imagine and puts a very human spin on it that makes you question not only the limitations of the law, but the limitations of one's humanity. For anyone that enjoys courtroom drama, I highly recommend this book.

    Saturday, July 4, 2009

    What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

    One of my favorite book bloggers, My Friend Amy, issued a challenge to her fellow book bloggers. Apparently, Newsweek has issued a list of 50 Books for Our Times. My Friend Amy feels this list is, in her word, "strange" and needed another opinion. Well, make that 50 opinions -- one (or more) book blogger's opinion for each book on the list. I have this freaky thing called pride, so I can't ignore a challenge when one is issued. I couldn't help myself. There was only one problem -- which book to choose? There were only three books left unclaimed by the time I made the decision to take on the challenge: City, Rediscovering the Center by William H. White; Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus; and American Journeys by Don Watson. Knowing nothing of any of these three books, I chose Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus. It's the Fourth of July, I'm feeling patriotic, and Whittaker Chambers was, in the words of William F. Buckley, Jr., "the most important American defector from Communism." Sounds like an interesting read. Does anyone want to join me?
    From the Newsweek article:

    Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus

    Whittaker Chambers (along with his friend William F. Buckley, Jr.) was a crucial avatar of the modern right. The forces are all here, embodied to one degree or another within Chambers himself: religion, a tragic sensibility, a fear of centralized control, and a Manichean view of good versus evil.

    Friday, July 3, 2009

    Review: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

    I loved this book...right up until the last 100 pages.
    Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of Leukemia, and needs bone marrow in order to keep her alive. Her sister, Anna, is a perfect match. She should be -- she was specifically chosen out of several embryos to match her sister. The parents created a donor for their one daughter, Kate, in the form of another daughter, Anna. After 13 years of hospital visits, painful procedures and medical treatments, Anna enlists the help of an attorney, Campbell Alexander, to help her obtain medical emancipation from her parents. She has had enough, but what about her sister? This is the story of My Sister's Keeper.
    Let me explain why I love the first 3/4 of this book. In my opinion, any book that makes you feel, or makes you question your own morals on any given topic, is a success (like The Reader or The Road). This was the first Picoult book I ever read, but I think it will be my last. I am a mother, and my heart broke for the parents; but I also have a sister, and my heart broke for Anna as well. I felt like Picoult manipulated me somehow and sucked me into her formulaic novel just to lead me to a cheap ending.
    Without ruining the ending, (I won't, I promise), I have to explain why the ending was so horrible. Did you ever see movies like Con Air, that just when you think the movie is over and everything is wrapped up, all of a sudden you're watching 30 more minutes of gratuitous violence and airplanes being blown up on the Las Vegas Strip because some prop master had some extra M-80s in the store room or they needed to stretch the time? This is how the ending felt. Gratuitous, self-serving, and disconnected with the overall sentiment of the story. My question is this: Was it the editor's decision or the author's? Without knowing the answer, I have a feeling this might be my last Picoult book.
    Note #1, dated 3/09: I have yet to find a Picoult book jacket that doesn't make me want to jump off a bridge just from reading the blurb. Any suggestions?
    Note #2, dated 6/09: I am usually the first person to go see a movie based on one of the books I've read, but I have yet to see My Sister's Keeper. Has anyone seen it yet? Thoughts?

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Review: Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #3) by Charlaine Harris

    Review: The third book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and I'm still into it. This book feeds into every woman's fantasy -- all the men that you meet will undoubtedly fall in love with you, think you're the most beautiful woman on the planet, and find you irresistibly sexy. This, unfortunately, isn't Sookie's biggest problem in Club Dead. Her men -- how many there are, you'll have to read the book to find out -- are the best of her troubles. The worst? She almost dies a few times, her vampire boyfriend is kidnapped, and possibly might not even be her boyfriend any longer, and she makes her first official kill herself. Cool. Exciting stuff. I'll be reading #4 before the week is out, I'm sure. Welcome to Alison's newest guilty pleasure.
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