Thursday, August 27, 2009

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

Mr. Done, can I be in YOUR class?

Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood is a celebration of those silly little creatures roaming the halls of our elementary schools.

Anyone who teaches grade-schoolers, parents grade-schoolers, or once was a grade-schooler will love this book by teacher, Phillip Done (rhymes with phone). It is a lesson on why teachers love their jobs -- trust me, it's not because of all the down time! The reason why Mr. Done loves his job? The kids, and all the quirky things kids have said and done for the past 25 years.

"When your stomach growls, they will tell you. When you cut open a pumpkin to count the number of seeds, one child will shout, 'You're killing it!' When they run to tell you that they just kicked the ball over the fence, they will always smile when they announce it...."
I had a grin on my face for the first 4 chapters at least! Phillip Done walks us through the school year, month by month, and shares the funniest and most magical moments he had with his class. He shares memories from the sugar high at Halloween all the way to struggling through long division in the spring. When I wasn't grinning or chuckling out loud, I had tears in my eyes. It's easy to forget how teachers grow to care for their students, and how they love them like a parent for 180 days out of the year. And every so often, there are one or two children that a teacher will never forget.

There were too many quotable passages in this book for me to include them all here. The only thing harder than choosing a quote, is deciding who on my list of teachers is going to receive the first copies of Close Encounters as a gift! I can't wait to share this book.

Many thanks to Hachette Book Group for sending me and 5 of my readers a copy of Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done.

Special thanks to Phillip Done for writing such a wonderful book. You have helped me to appreciate my sons' teachers on a whole new level. You have also helped me to pay closer attention to all the fun and magical things said and done by my own grade-schooler. For that, I will forever be in your debt.

For more on Phillip Done and his books, you may visit his website.

To read the first chapter go here.

To pre-order this book, please visit Amazon , or click the IndieBound icon to your left.

Release Date: September 4, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: The Island at the End of the World by Sam Taylor

The great flood has washed away the whole world, except for Pa, Alice, Finn, and Daisy. Pa saw the signs and built an ark, which delivered the small family safely to an island where they have lived all alone for the past 6 years -- alone until the "dark mark" appears on the horizon, and approaches their island. Their security, their survival, and their trust in all they know is in jeopardy.

The story begins with Pa as the narrator, who speaks almost in tongues. When he's not shouting f**k, his favorite word, he's quoting the bible, describing the old world and their past life as Babylon. He shouts words like greed, celebrity, and money to himself or out loud, we're never sure. His sanity is of question from the first page. Then the narration jumps between Pa and Finn, the eight year-old son, whose phonetic language, which takes a while to understand, was something I never got used to reading. When the children start to question how their memories and the stories their Pa tells them don't match up, Finn says, "The memrys are fine Alice theres no thing rong with em. You orter treasure em. Jus dont be leave in em too strongly cus like mos memrys theyre lusions theyre not real." Of course, young Finn is just repeating what Pa had told him about their memories being contaminated and wrong. Pa especially doesn't want them remembering too much about their mother. Towards the end of the book, Alice, the eldest sibling and teenager of the group, adds her perspective. Since she has only read the bible, Shakespeare, and fairy tales, her voice takes on a romantic feel, exaggerated by the drama every teenager injects into their lives.

Without giving too much away, I can say the "dark mark" turns out to be Finn, a man who Pa knew from the "old world", and turns this family upside down. Everything the children were told by their father will be questioned, especially that which has to do with their mother. They live on an island, but their father refuses to teach them how to swim, and they are finally starting to question why. I found the story as dark as I had expected it to be. The narration, while awkward at first, helped to balance out the psychotic ramblings of the father with the progression of the storyline, which we got more from the children.

The book was predictable in a "haven't I heard this story before?" kind of way, and the reveal of Pa's big secret was something I could have guessed. Yet, just imagining the big secret was terrifying. The father in The Island at the End of the World: A Novel especially reminded me of the father from The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. I felt the ending was awfully abrupt, but the novel had reached a point where it could have continued for another 200 pages, or it could end, and leave us wondering or fearing what was coming next. Despite the deja vu, and the sometimes difficult language, Sam Taylor's latest novel met my expectations, and gave me some well-earned nightmares. If you're looking for a dark, twisty tale of a post-apocalyptic world from the mind of a man having a 6-year long nervous breakdown, this is the book for you.

Special thanks to Penguin Books.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

 It's been a long time since I had a hard time expressing in words how I feel about a book. I have written a review for The Help several times already, and each one simply doesn't seem adequate. Either it's too sappy, too cheesy, or too long. Let's hope the third time's a charm.

For a novel with such a deep message and sensitive subject matter, it was very readable. The story is told from three points of view, each with her own voice, and each so well done that you couldn't help but empathize with all three characters.

Skeeter is a 22 year old woman returning home from college, and has dreams of becoming a writer. Her mother, on the other hand, has dreams of her awkward daughter marrying well. Aibleen is a black maid whose specialty is raising white children, even though it breaks her heart when it comes time for her to leave them. She swallows her pride, and pushes her anger down deep often answering with a simple, "Yes, ma'am." Finally, Minny, is also a black maid and Aibleen's best friend. She's tough, she's sassy, and she often loses her jobs because she can't seem to keep her mouth shut. All three women have something to say about Mississippi in 1963...

...1963, a time and place that sees the first black man at Ole Miss, the first color television set, Dr. King had a Dream, rockets were sent into outer space, and a boy gets beaten to blindness with a tire iron for accidentally using the white bathroom. Back in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963, there were rules to be followed and lines that weren't crossed, or people were punished. Miss Skeeter says, "I'm tired of the rules." Thus begins the partnership between Skeeter, Aibleen, and Minny.

When a neighbor asked me what I was reading last week, I told her I was reading The Help, and I didn't expect it to be so beautiful. The first chapter I read from Aibleen's point of view was difficult at first, since I am a Yankee from the North in 2009, not a Southern Black woman living as hired help in 1963. But once I forced myself to slow down and HEAR the words, it was like listening to music.

As heavy as the subject of race relations can be, Kathryn Stockett managed to keep parts of the story light, and more than once I found myself smiling while reading the book. Throughout the book, Skeeter was trying to quit smoking. She says,

"I'm trying not to smoke, but I'm nervous about tonight. Mother's been nagging me about my smoking and I know I should stop, but it's not like it's going to kill me."

Ah, how perspective can be a funny and tragic thing...

I am still amazed that The Help is Kathryn Stockett's first novel. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she has in store for us in the future!

The Help is one of my top five favorite books of 2009, and quite possibly one of my favorite books of all time.

Many thanks to Judi for telling me to read this book.

Visit Kathryn Stockett's website for a complete synopsis and reader's guide.

To order this book, please click on the title above, or go to the IndieBound link at your left.

*Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Review: Two For the Dough (A Stephanie Plum Novel) by Janet Evanovich

I've read my fair share of "first of a series" books. I can honestly say that there are only a few whose #2 books make it to my nightstand. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series didn't make it to my nightstand -- only because I picked up the book in the morning to read as I ate my cereal, and finished it by the time I had dinner that night.

No, I don't only read when I eat, and I don't always eat when I read. Stephanie Plum, however, is a girl who can eat and she makes me hungry -- donuts, drive-thru, and mom's cooking, yum!
Her awesome eating habits aside, Stephanie Plum is still my favorite bad-ass Jersey girl. Joe Morelli makes another appearance in Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum, No. 2) , and I hope he continues to show up in the next book in the series. We see *ahem* more of Morelli, although he and Stephanie fail to seal the deal, so to speak. Joe Morelli is that perfect blend of the cool, funny, and handsome guys I went to high school with. I actually started to formulate a little recipe on this page complete with names of guys from my old neighborhood, but I don't want anyone to feel left out, nor do I want their wives sending me hate mail. Moving on!

Once again, I was cracking up while reading this book. One of my favorite parts was when Stephanie was in the beauty parlor, thinking she's all tough because she is carrying concealed. Meanwhile, it becomes an all-out competition among the ladies as to who's packing the most heat. Hysterical! Illegal, sure, but funny as hell.

Ok, back to Stephanie's eating habits for a quick second. Since this whole book cracks me up, I will be taking my favorite lines and sharing them with you. Here's a conversation between Stephanie and Joe Morelli:

"You have a terrific family, but they'll have you on Valium in forty-eight hours."
"Plums don't do Valium. We mainline cheesecake."

If you're looking for a fun, easy read, I highly recommend Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.
For more, visit Janet Evanovich's website.
Track my progress on the Stephanie Plum Challenge.

Start Me Up Monday

Many book bloggers out there have Mailbox Mondays, where they list the books they've gotten in the past week. Now that I've been up for a full month, I'm starting to understand just how exciting the sight of a UPS truck can be. Here are a few of the books I received this week:

For the Man-Lit shelf:

Perfect: Don Larson's Miraculous World Series and The Men Who Made it Happen
by: Lew Paper

Publisher: Penguin/NAL (September 29, 2009)
Reading Level: 18 - and up
Hardcover: Non-Fiction, 432 pages
ISBN: 9780451228192

"More than just a story about a single game, Perfect is about a window into baseball's glorious past"

The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11
by: John Farmer

Publisher: Riverhead (September 8, 2009)
Reading Level: 18-and up
Hardcover: Non-Fiction, 400 pages
ISBN: 9781594488948

"From the senior counsel to the 9/11 commission, a mesmerizing real-time portrayal of that day, why we weren't told the truth, and why our nation is still at risk"

The Island at the End of the World
by Sam Taylor

Publisher: Penguin (August 25, 2009)
Reading Level: 18-and up
Paperback: Fiction, 224 pages
ISBN: 9780143116257

"A chilling post-apocolyptic tale of how far a father will go to protect his children -- from the author of The Amnesiac."

Rizzo's War
by: Lou Manfredo

Publisher: Macmillan (September 29, 2009)
Reading Level: 18-and up
Hardcover: Fiction, 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-312-53805-7
ISBN10: 0-312-53805-7

"Rizzo's War is an introduction to a wonderful new voice in crime fiction in the Big Apple, ringing with authenticity, full of personality, and taut with the suspense of real, everyday life in the big city."

Monday, August 17, 2009

More From Catching Fire

Scholastic, the publisher of The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins has given me a heads up on some new stuff to get everyone excited about the release of its sequel, Catching Fire.

You can read my review of Catching Fire on September 1, 2009, the day of the book's release (you have no idea how it's killing me not to post it NOW.)

WARNING: If you have not yet read The Hunger Games, and plan to do so, please do not read the first chapter of Catching Fire or listen to the audio files below. I have a strict "no spoiler" policy, but I can't have any fun at all with Catching Fire unless you go read The Hunger Games first. Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way....enjoy!

First, a new teaser trailer for the book, due for release on September 1, 2009:

In case you haven't linked to it yet, here is the first chapter to Catching Fire. Below is an audio file of Suzanne Collins as she reads Chapter 2 of Catching Fire.

Catching Fire will be available in bookstores on September 1, 2009. You may pre-order it through your favorite Indie bookseller (click the Indiebound link to the left, and you can search for your nearest Indie book shop.) You may also pre-order it from Amazon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Review: From Dead to Worse

I'm almost all caught up with the Sookie Stackouse series!

For those of you who are new to Alison's Book Marks, or new to the Southern Vampire Mysteries, here are the three things you need to know:
1. This is the vampire series on which the HBO series, True Blood, is based.
2. Sookie Stackhouse is not a vampire, she is a telepath (she can read minds).
3. There are 9 books in this series so far, and I have taken the challenge to get all caught up from Beth Fish Reads.

In Charlaine Harris's 8th installment of the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse, From Dead to Worse (Southern Vampire Mysteries, No. 8) , we finally find out the details of Sookie's bizarre family tree, thanks to a visit from her great-grandfather. It's a lesson in mythical blood lines. We meet some mysterious new characters, and one that melts your heart right at the end.

Sookie stays in Bon Temps for once -- no plane trips, limos, or hotels. Being close to home doesn't mean she won't find herself in mortal peril. Of course, there are some great fight scenes, battles to the death, and Sookie once again has some crazy luck getting out of all of it alive. On the flip side, Sookie finds herself the peace-maker, rescuer, and finally has some favors of her own she can call in if she needs them.

Her love life has calmed down in this one -- there is some flirting, and some smooching, but it's all PG-13 in From Dead to Worse. Call me a prude, but I was glad not to blush while reading about Sookie's bedroom antics. It was also a relief that we didn't have to read about Sookie's bike shorts and baggy t-shirts or slacks suits. She's mixing navy blue and black, but there are no plastic yellow earrings -- alas, the banana clip is still alive! I haven't seen a banana clip since 1985, but maybe this is the "Worse" Harris refers to in the title of "From Dead to Worse," because there's nothing worse than bad 80s fashion trends. Speaking of the title, I have to get something off my chest. I think Harris was reaching with this title. Most of her other titles are very clever, all including "dead" but always relating to the storyline. I'm still scratching my head over this one.

Now, I just need to decide if I can borrow Dead and Gone from the library, borrow it from a friend, or spring for the's a recession, you know.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Book Giveaway: Today's the Day!

Happy Book Giveaway Day!

I am really excited about reading this book -- and giving it as a gift to the special teachers in my life!

Special thanks to Phillip Done for allowing me to host this giveaway, and to Hachette Book Group for providing FIVE of my lucky readers with copies of Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood.

Thank you to everyone who entered the drawing, for showing such great interest in my book blog, and for your generous support these first few months!

I used to select my five winners. And they are:

Kim M. (you know who you are)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: Sugar Time by Jane Adams

I just finished Sugar Time by Jane Adams this afternoon. Truthfully, it was not my thing. The book's main character, Sugar Kane, is a sassy, spry, Jewish firecracker from New York who is a Television writer/producer. Now, just using the word "spry" should tell you that this lady has been around the block a few times, dropping names from the movie business, the television business, and even publishing. She is trying to get a new television series picked up, is awaiting the birth of her first grandchild, and thinks she finally met the man of her dreams. All the makings of a great character are there, I just felt the storyline fell flat. Call me a prude, but the language was a little too crass for my taste, as were the sex scenes. Hey, but that's just me. All in all, it was just an ok book.

For more, visit Jane Adam's website

Review: That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Sometimes when I read a novel, it takes me a few days before I'm ready to write about it. That Old Cape Magic
by Richard Russo was one such book. I wanted to live with this book for a while, swim in it, let it get under my skin. What I've come up with today is the same conclusion that I came up with when I turned the last page -- what a great book.

The story begins and ends with a wedding, each wedding one year apart from the other. During that time, our main character, Jack Griffin, goes through a mid-life crisis of sorts. We learn why the Cape has such magic for Griffin, "As if happiness were a place." But, what Griffin learns is that the Cape may not have been able to produce miracles after all. When one makes a plan for himself, and follows that plan, at what point is it too late to look back and want to change your mind? Griffin and his wife, Joy, honeymooned on the Cape 34 years ago, and mapped out their lives together, only to second-guess their decisions and wonder if being settled meant they were settling.

Russo's small cast of characters are unique and believable. His mother is that bird constantly whispering in his ear, her sharp, cutting humor never quieting, even after her death. At what point should one stop listening to his parents, stop trying to please them? At the heart of Griffin's midlife crisis is his marriage to Joy. Usually when a couple is married, two families are joined; instead, Griffin and Joy served as gate-keepers between their respective families. Did this keep their marriage from becoming a true union, especially with each one of them so connected to their own parents?

This was not an action/adventure book. No big mystery to solve. No supernatural creatures lurking in the woods. No drugs, sex or violence. This was just a great book that was beautifully written, one that I would recommend to any of my friends

That Old Cape Magic was the first book I've read by Richard Russo, and it has turned me into a fan. I'm looking forward to reading Russo's Empire Falls and Bridge of Sighs.

Many, many thanks to Knopf for sending me a wonderful novel and introducing me to such a talented author.

Read the first chapter here.

Find the readers guide here.

Review: Davey Bighead, Dream Big by Peter J Hayden

Belly laughs coming from the kitchen!

I went to investigate -- if there's something THAT funny, I want to be a part of it!

I ran into the kitchen to find my 7 year old reading Davey Big Head to my 4 year-old, and they were loving it!

Davey is the lovable title character in Peter J. Hayden's new children's book, Davey BigHead: Dream Big . Davey is going off to school for the first time, and worries about fitting in...literally. You see, Davey just doesn't have a big head, he has an enormous head that gets in the way of everything and everyone. Davey can't pull the shirt on over his head, he can't get through the school bus door to ride to school, he blocks all the kids in class who are sitting behind him, and he can't seem to get out of the way while playing the ever-dreaded dodge ball in gym class (my kids' favorite part of the book). Davey is discouraged, and dreads going back to school, until he has a bright idea that makes him the star of the soccer team!

Hayden's children's book has bright, eye-catching illustrations, great flow from page to page, appropriate vocabulary for children, and has a warm-hearted message. My kids, and even my husband, really enjoyed this book, and were even more excited to learn that it is the first in a series. We're looking forward to more adventures from Davey Big Head!

Special thanks to Peter J. Hayden and Bostick for this wonderful children's book.

For more, go visit Davey Big Head's website.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Calling by David Mack

The book bloggers are all buzzing about a new book, and I had to share it with you.

The Calling by David Mack

Synopsis: No one would guess by looking at Tom Nash that he's extraordinary, and that's just fine with him. A tall, broad-shouldered jack-of-all-trades from Sawyer, Pennsylvania, Tom has a knack for fixing things. He also hides a secret talent: he hears people's prayers. Stranger still, he answers them. Maybe it's because he's a handyman, but Tom feels compelled to fix people's problems. Which is all well and good -- until the soul-shattering plea of a terrified girl sends him on the darkest journey of his life.... SEEK THE TRUTH.

Heeding the call and leaving his home for New York City, Tom discovers a secret world beyond the range of mortal perception -- a world of angels and demons and those who serve them. With the guidance of a knowing stranger named Erin, Tom learns that he himself is one of The Called, born with a divine purpose and a daunting task: to help the powers of Heaven in the war against the agents of Hell, an army of fallen angels known as the Scorned. Thrust into an epic battle of the sacred and the profane, Tom Nash must find the girl who prayed for his help -- because her fate will determine whether humanity deserves to be saved, or damned for all eternity....

The Calling by David Mack was first brought to my attention when my friend and fellow book blogger, Nely, at All About {n} posted a raving review. Go check out her review...I'll wait. In the meantime, I have to give a big thanks to Nely for helping me with a technical problem I was having. She's a life saver!

Ok. After you have read the review, and found your way back here, I'm sending you on another journey. If you think you're interested in reading this book with me, let's all go over to SciFiGuy and enter to win a copy, shall we?

Literary News: Week of August 11, 2009

I'm feeling a little under the weather this week, which is just as well with this Seattle-like rain we have here in New Jersey. On the up side, I'm getting a lot of reading done while I rest. On the down side, I haven't really been able to pick my head up off the pillow long enough to write. I'm starting to feel better, though, so don't worry, I have lots of reviews coming. In the meantime, I thought I would hook you up with some news around the book industry. I think I may have to start a weekly News post...what do you think?
Pat Conroy is making a limited number of appearances and book signings for his new novel, released this week, South of Broad. You can view his upcoming speaking engagements here.
South of Broad has also been listed on the Indie Next list for August 2009.

Also, on Pat Conroy's website, you will find the new reader's guide.

Coming September 15th is the much anticipated The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. You can enter to win a free copy of The Lost Symbol from Doubleday here. has listed The Glister: A Novel by John Burnside as one of the 25 Books You Can't Put Down. You can read the first chapter here, as well as the reader's guide.

Also on this list is one book already on my To-Read list - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. To browse through the rest of the list, visit O Magazine.

And, last but not least, let's not forget about the children in our lives. You know how much I rely on the IndieNext book lists to find my next great read. Well, they also have a Kids' Next List. They have four separate lists: a general Top 10 Ages 4 to 8, Ages 9 to 12, and Teen Readers. Since I am an equal-opportunity reader, I must admit that I read books in all of these categories. I have only one suggestion: please read the Young Adult books before passing them to your teens (or read a book review!). I'm finding that some of the content in these novels might not be appropriate for some readers.
For those more mainstream, feel free to check out the NYTimes Bestsellers ListNYTimes Bestsellers List. I'm one of those crazy people that loves to look at this list on Sundays to check against my bookshelf. I'm doing well this week. Still, too many books, too little time!
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Review: The Confessions of Edward Day by Valerie Martin

 The Confessions of Edward Day: A Novelby Valerie Martin
Release Date: August 11, 2009

This fictional memoir surprised and amazed me. Valerie Martin (Mary Rielly, Trepass) vividly captures the life of an actor in New York in the 1970s. This was a time when actors were clammoring to get in class with Sandy Meisner, Stella Adler, and Uta Hagen, and sat over drinks discussing nothing but their methods, their motivations and their roles. Edward Day takes us on his journey to find truth in his life, and, thus, truth in his acting.

Synopsis: Valerie Martin re-creates the seamy theater world of 1970's New York, when rents were cheap, love was free, and nudity on stage was the latest craze. Edward Day, a talented and ambitious young actor, finds his life forever altered during a weekend party on the New Jersey shore. There he seduces the delicious Madeleine Delavergne and is saved from drowning by the mysterious Guy Margate, who becomes Edward's rival on stage and off.

And so, at a time when actors flocked to the great method teachers to hone the art of the "truthful" performance, Edward discovers that truth - in theater and in life - is ever elusive and never inert.

Actors are a strange breed, and Valerie Martin gave us as accurate a portrait as one could hope without spilling over into stereotypes or hyperbole. As someone who has poured over Hagen's Respect for Acting, and Meisner's On Acting, it's no mystery why I got completely swept up in The Confessions of Edward Day. I spent a wee bit of time in New York studying acting, and I used to talk with my fellow actors, all of us in awe over New York in the 1970s. Valerie Martin transports us to that time effortlessly.

Edward Day is on a quest in search of truth in his acting, which,, according to Stella Adler, he should find in the truth of his life. Every conversation, every gesture, every laugh, and every emotion he has in life, he dissects and files away for use in his work. If that is how he lives his life, how can that be truthful? But this is the life of an actor, narcisistic to the core.

Even if you aren't an actor, or don't watch Inside the Actor's Studio, it's fascinating to follow Edward Day from his growing career to his love affairs, with Guy Margate lurking in the wings of both. For the 20+ years of this memoir, Ed is never able to shake Guy, the man who saved his life. At what point is that debt repaid? Beyond the actor's story, this novel is downright dark and creepy, and I loved every minute of it.

Once again, many thanks to Nan Talese.

Visit Valerie Martin's webpage here.
Visit Random House to read an excerpt, view the reading guide, and read more reviews.
Available in Paperback July 13, 2010.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

For anyone who loves supernatural young adult novels, Shiver will give you chills. This book was so well written, and had such complete and lovable characters. I love the way Maggie Stiefvater switches the narrative between Grace's point of view and Sam's, each with a unique voice and set of emotions. The writing really is beautiful and subtle, yet powerful enough to stick with you.

Here is an example, from Chapter 13 - Sam

I was a wolf, but I wasn't Sam yet, either.
I was a leaking womb bulging with the promise of conscious thoughts; the frozen woods far behind me, the girl on the tire swing, the sound of fingers on metal strings. The future and the past, both the same, snow and then summer and then snow again.
A shattered spider's web of many colors, cracked in ice, immeasurably sad.
"Sam," the girl said. "Sam."
She was past present future. I wanted to answer, but I was broken.

It gives me chills just reading those lines again. When this book was recommended to me, I was told that it was better than Twilight, so my expectations were high. Considering that Shiver is about a werewolf and the girl he loves, I was afraid that I would find myself comparing the two books. Without a doubt, there is no comparison. Shiver is completely unique - from the legend of the werewolves all the way to the tender love story between Sam and Grace. The secondary characters were especially powerful. The friends and family surrounding the two main characters were not simply a vehicle in which to get the two lovers together, but they had their own stories, their own motivations, and their own importance in the overall story.

A part of me wants to say that the book ended too abruptly, but another part of me believes that I simply didn't want it to end at all. Shiver is one of those books that I will pass around to my friends, and my friends' teenage daughters.

Speaking of those teenage daughters, I want to say this book is appropriately young adult. There is a love story, and there is definitely chemistry between Sam and Grace, but it often is achieved with the simple touch of a hand. There is kissing and one love scene, but I feel Stiefvater kept it PG-13.

Movie Potential? Definitely. I read this book as if I were watching the movie, everything so easily pictured.

**On Maggie Stiefvater's Goodreads page, I just learned that she is, in fact, writing a sequel to Shiver, entitled Linger expected in 2010. You know I'll be keeping my eyes and ears out for that one, and I'll be sure to keep you all posted.

Visit Maggie Stiefvater's website, where you can listen to the first two chapters, read by Maggie Stiefvater.

Read an excerpt of Shiver here.


Review: All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #7) by Charlaine Harris

It's hard to believe that I'm already finished with the seventh book of the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge. The Southern Vampire Mysteries series has truly been my weekend guilty pleasure, and yesterday I happily flew through All Together Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 7) I found this to have the most detailed and fast-paced storyline of all of the books thus far.

Katrina has hit New Orleans, leaving Louisiana, and it's Queen, in a vulnerable position both financially and politically. Sookie travels to the vamp summit in Illinois, hired by the Queen to serve as her telepath. The Queen may or may not have to go to trial for the murder of her husband. A murder, a bomb, and a series of mysterious events lead Sookie on a non-stop quest to help the vampire queen, and save herself in the process.

There was a lot going on in All Together Dead, and it kept me turning the pages. The ending was somewhat predictable, but was balanced out by all the action it took to reach the conclusion. Sookie did not have a moment's rest on this trip! The queen needed more of her than she thought, Eric sent her on a dangerous errand, she tried to dodge Bill, and she was always on the lookout for her new boyfriend, the weretiger, Quinn, who has a secret past we learn more about as well. Once she was finally able to get some rest, her fellow telepath, Barry the Bellboy, woke her by calling to her thoughts (yep, I thought that part was pretty cool).

Charlaine Harris sets us up nicely for the next book, and leaves us thirsty for more.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Book Giveaway: One Week Left!

With all my reading and reviewing, I almost forgot about my August Book Giveaway! This is a MUST READ for anyone who has grade school children, teaches grade school children, or simply gets a kick out of the hilarity of grade school children.

All you have to do is leave a comment/message with your e-mail address on the original post: Giveaway: Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind by Phillip Done. The details on our guidelines are over there as well.

By the many days left until school starts??

Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

DUDE. Stephanie Plum is a Jersey Girl!!!

As you all know, I was nudged into reading the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich from a few different angles -- especially my friend, Robin, and my fellow blogger, J. Kaye, who offered up a Stephanie Plum Challenge.

I started at the beginning with One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, No. 1), and was pleasantly surprised. Not only is Stephanie Plum a bad ass (not Andrew Jackson bad ass, but good enough) but she's also from New Jersey. Told from her point of view, Stephanie is a thirty-something divorcee who has run into some hard luck, down to her last beer, which she drinks for breakfast, and has her car repossessed. Looking for some quick cash, she turns to her sleazy cousin, Vinnie, for a job as a skip tracer, also known as a bounty hunter. Her first objective is to bring in Joe Morelli. Morelli is not only her first job, he was her "first" in high school, if you know what I mean. Ah, yes, complications. The characters in this book are hilariously on-point, from Connie, Vinnie's secretary, to Ranger Manuso, Stephanie's trainer, for lack of a better word. Stephanie trips over herself as she learns the hard way about being a bounty hunter.

The Man, who is a walking road-map, started to get a little annoyed with me as I kept asking him, "Where's Hamilton Township?" "Where is such-and-such highway near Trenton?" "What's off of Exit 4?" until he realized that I was finally reading a book that made me laugh out loud. I get very wrapped up in my books, so when the storyline is heavy and sad, it affects me in my real life, and The Man has to deal with me moping around the house. Reading One for the Money made me pretty happy. When I read things like this, I can't help but laugh:

Connie handed me the check and plucked at clump of mascara hanging at the end of her left eyelash. "I'm telling you, it's fucking hard to be classy," she said.

Is this New Jersey or what?

I have found my next weekend series. I came to a conclusion a few weeks ago when the pile of books on my nightstand was getting too high, and said books were filled with some heavy content: the weekends were my time for fun reading. I've been spending the weekends with Sookie Stackhouse. Now, Sookie, you're sharing the weekends with Stephanie.

Next Weekend: Two for the Dough (Stephanie Plum, No. 2)

Catching Fire: Download the First Chapter

It's coming September 1st -- are you ready??

I read and reviewed The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I posted the teaser trailer for Catching Fire (The Hunger Games book #2)

For all of you who are on the edge of your seats waiting for Catching Fire, here is a little something to whet your appetite. You can download the first chapter of Catching Fire. You all know I don't believe in spoilers. So, if you have not yet read The Hunger Games...don't watch the trailer, don't read the first chapter.

Coming Soon: My review of Catching Fire

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August '09 Indie Next List

Shop Indie Bookstores

Each month, Indie Bound comes out with its list of the 20 hottest titles (click on the blue logo above to be directed to the website). I have found that these books, even if not yet on the bestsellers lists at major book retailers yet, WILL be the books that everyone is talking about. So, if you want to be ahead of the curve, in the know, or just want to pare your To-Read list down to a manageable 20, check out the Indie Next List. You won't be disappointed! You can also find a nice brochure with all 20 Books, with blurbs, at your local Independent book seller. I have my favorite! Keep it local, people!

Of all 20 titles, this one is at the top of my list.
Shop Indie Bookstores

Unfortunately, I haven't read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yet (on the October '08 Indie Next List). I went in to my favorite book store over the weekend to pick it up, only to learn that the town, and my bookstore, was flooded. Thankfully, the rain has held off, as has the river. I'm giving them time to dry out before I pick up that title, along with my Indie Next List for August '09 (and a few dozen other books, I'm sure). I will be back this week!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Review: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

Oh. I get it now! THIS is what someone means when they talk about a great "summer read."

The Castaways: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand was a great book. It begins with a tragedy, as most good books do. A couple dies in a sailing accident off the coast of Nantucket. They not only leave behind their twin 7 year-olds, but they also leave behind their friends, three other couples, together known as the Castaways.

Hilderbrand takes us up down and backwards into the lives of these 8 friends - how they met, how they fell in love, and how they are each going to get passed this awful tragedy. This group of Castaways that lived on Nantucket was the epitome of the saying "friends are the family you choose."
Each of the 8 characters was different enough from the others that I didn't have to look very far to identify with one of them, yet it was easy to see how they all became and stayed friends. Hilderbrand was able to give each of her characters his/her own identity without falling into stereotypes. This made the whole book so much more believable for me.

[I only had one problem with this book, and it was an editing situation, which I need to check out in the final copy (I read the ARC) before I comment. It was something sloppy which I really really hope the editors fixed before it went to print. I'll get back to you all on that. ]

The Castaways was the first book I have read by Elin Hilderbrand, and I don't think it will be the last. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone looking for a good summer read (now that I'm learning what exactly a summer read is! I need to put down the vampire books, huh?). I'm also looking forward to reading more of Elin Hilderbrand's work. Based on the titles of her other novels, I do believe that her books have found their way into many beach bags this summer!
Check out Elin Hilderbrand's Website.

Buy more books by Elin Hilderbrand here.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

To Kindle or Not to Kindle: Part 2

In my pursuit of finding an answer to our question, "To Kindle or Not to Kindle?" I came across a news article in the LA Times that I had to share.

Amazon apparently had already sold George Orwell's Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four as an e-book download to its Kindle customers, when they realized that the third party from whom they received the files had no rights to sell the e-book in the first place. Amazon promptly refunded the buyers' accounts, and not only deleted the e-books from their catalog, they also remotely deleted the novels from their customers' Kindles. No harm, no foul, right?

High school senior, Justin Garownski, is suing Amazon for deleting his copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four without his permission. Not only did Amazon delete his book, but they also made his notes on the book completely useless for his AP English summer assignment, since they now refer to nothing. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that Amazon never disclosed its ability to view and remove content at will.

Paper and pen are sounding better and better, aren't they?

Here's another fact I'd like to point out. Amazon is only one of the many Internet giants who have access to your information. They know what books you read. They can see your notes. They track your purchases. Even Google sends its users ads based on what someone might write in an e-mail using their GMail account. Technology available in an instant, and taken away just as fast.

Yes, I'm a purist. I like my books. I write my notes in the margins with a pencil (unless I borrowed the book). If you are in the Kindle Camp, the Book Camp, or a little of both, I know one thing. No one, not even Big Brother, is coming to my library and taking away my old and battered copy of 1984.

Then again, it's not doing much good sitting up there on the shelf. I think we should all take out our copies of 1984 and give them another read, don't you?
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