Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Review: Defining Twilight by Brian Leaf

Petulance. Providentially. Surreptitiously. Insolent. Omnipresent.

Did you notice that these are SAT vocabulary words? Did you notice that they are can also be found in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight?

I recently read a review of Twilight, and the reviewer stated how the language felt like a teenager showing off what they learned in their last SAT prep class. I'm not sure I agree, but if it feels like SAT prep, and it looks like SAT prep, then, by all means, let's make it SAT Prep! And that is precisely what Brian Leaf does in his book, Defining Twilight, a vocabulary workbook for unlocking the SAT, ACT, GED, and SSAT.

What better way to make the connection between vocabulary and writing than to choose a book that teens already love to read?

I have to say, Brian Leaf's workbook is relatively painless. The layout of the book is great. Each section begins with 8 vocabulary words and the page you can find them in the Twilight text. Based on the context, you are to come up with your own definition. Then, you check the definition, its synonyms, word parts, and do memorization drills. In all, there are 40 groups of vocabulary words, adding almost 400 words to your vocabulary!

I was worried about the page numbers relating to different editions of Twilight. I checked it against my own copy, which is a first edition hardcover, and all the page numbers matched up.

No, I didn't do the entire workbook, and I was glad to see I knew the majority of the words highlighted in the book, but I had fun finding a few words that aren't currently a part of my everyday vocabulary. I am by no means a wordsmith, but I do enjoy building my bucket of 5-cent words.

If you are preparing for one of those dreaded standardized tests, and want to start out with something a lot less painful than the workbooks I had in high school, you should try Defining Twilight. (for less than $10!)

Now, I'm off to surreptitiously give my son some cough medicine.

Visit Brian Leaf's website.

What Inspired the book?

About the Book:
Defining Twilight by Brian Leaf, M.A.
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Cliffs Notes (July 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0470507438
ISBN-13: 978-0470507438

To Order:

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry took my breath away.

From the first page, I was drawn into Audrey Niffenegger's new novel and could not put it down.

The main storyline is that of "the twins" Valentina and Julia, Americans and mirror-image twins, who come to London to live in a flat that was bequeathed to them by an aunt they had never met. Their aunt, Elspeth, left them the flat with a few conditions, the first of which that they are to live in the flat together for one year. Elsepth is also the identical twin of Valentina and Julia's mother, Edie. Twins of twins.

Within the same week of Elspeth's death, a neighbor, Mariyke, leaves her husband, Martin, who lives in the flat upstairs. In the flat downstairs is Robert, Elspeth's lover. Both figuratively and literally, the twins are caught in the middle of the lives of the men, essential filling the voids left by the other two women. We learn more about these characters upstairs and down and are swept up in their own story lines as well -- especially that of Martin, whose OCD keeps him from leaving the flat. Martin is not the only one who doesn't leave the flat. Have I mentioned that Elspeth has not left the flat? Her ghost resides there, and eventually learns how to communicate with the living. Elspeth's ghost learns learns to do lots of things.

Not a character in the traditional sense, but the building where the twins live in London is adjacent to the famous Highgate Cemetery, which takes on a life of its own. Ironically, the cemetery is not where the spookiest events occur. Instead, it becomes a sanctuary of sorts, or a canvas upon which to tell this ghost story.

Niffenegger explores the twins' relationship, which on its own is compelling, as she peels away each layer and exposes one dysfunction at a time. I don't want to give too much away, but this is the one relationship that Niffenegger develops so completely, that it becomes the heart of the whole piece.

That is not to say the author doesn't develop the other characters and the other relationships in the novel. Martin and Mariyke's relationship alone could have easily supported its own novel. Their relationship was just as fascinating to me as any of the others. Julia and Martin, Valentina and Robert, Edie and Elspeth, Elspeth and Robert, Elspeth and Valentina -- all of these separate relationships were so well developed and in the center of it all were still Valentina and Julia, "the twins."

My friend, Sheri, had asked me to let her know if the book was "scary". Figuring that there were ghosts, cemeteries, mysterious characters, and looming secrets, this element of "scary" wasn't too far off the mark. That being said, this was not Stephen King-I-can't-sleep-without-all-the-lights-on scary. This was a good kind of spooky. I would even venture to say that there is the same kind of science fiction element to Her Fearful Symmetry as there was in The Time Traveler's Wife. No, no more time travel, but the reader must allow themselves the suspense of disbelief. You have to let yourself go there, to this alternate reality that Niffenegger creates for her readers. Once you do, the story will pull you in, and these characters will, pardon the pun, haunt you.

I find that I must say something about The Time Traveler's Wife. While the two books share a certain spirit, they are both beautifully unique. If Ms. Niffenegger chooses to take another 6 years to write her next novel, I am okay with that, as long as she continues to bring us brilliance.

Just a few of Audrey Niffenegger's interviews:

About the Book:
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Scribner (September 29, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439165394
ISBN-13: 978-1439165393

To Order Her Fearful Symmetry:

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009

American Library Association's Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Catcher in the Rye . . . Harry Potter . . . Beloved . . .To Kill A Mockingbird . . .

Every year, there are hundreds of attempts to remove books from schools and libraries. Celebrate YOUR freedom to read and right to choose your book during Banned Books Week, September 27th to October 3rd. For more information, visit

This is a list of the TOP 10 Most frequently challenged books of 2007:
(Out of 420 challenges reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom)

1 .And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, sexism, and unsuited to Age Group
2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: offensive Language, sexually explicity, violence
3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit
4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Reason: religious viewpoint
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reason: racism
6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit
7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reason: sexually explicit
9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: sex education and sexually explicit
10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group

Here is a list of all the books challenged or banned in 2008

Celebrate your freedom to read!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Win a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Win a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger!

Audrey's literary agency, Regal, is giving away ten advanced reader’s copies and three first edition hardcovers of the new Audrey Niffenegger book, Her Fearful Symmetry, on October 1st in a lottery to anyone who joins the facebook page as a fan and sends an e-mail to

Good luck!

Fall into Reading 2009

I love the fall, it's my favorite time of year! The crisp fall air, the smells, the leaves, the apple picking, and, yes, even football.

Alas, this fall I have lost my rhythm. I need to find a new beat, and I think Katrina at Callapidder Days is my maestro. (Don't you love the name? My 7 year-old still says "callapidder" and I refuse to correct him. He's growing up too fast, it's just that small piece of his being a little boy that I'm holding on to.)

I have accepted a Challenge, entitled Fall Into Reading. I set my own goals, listing the books I want to read and review this fall (see below), and boogie my way on toward Winter.

My To-Be-Read pile is once again taking over the office. It's out of control, yet I still continue to discover new books that I want to read. I can't help myself. It's an addiction. I was killing time in a bookstore yesterday, and this woman came up to me and said, "You're addicted, aren't you? I can tell. You have that look in your eye."

The only thing I worry about in joining the Fall Into Reading Challenge is finding even MORE new and exciting books, as all of the book bloggers who are participating in this challenge post their reviews on the reviews page.

I am already discovering some very talented (and witty) book bloggers in this Challenge. If you are visiting my site from the link from Callapidder Days -- welcome and thank you for visiting!

As I read and review my books, I will update this post to link the books to my reviews. If I read a book NOT on my list...I will add it below.

Fall Into Reading Book List:

1. The Year of The Flood - Margaret Atwood
2. Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
3. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
4. Defining Twilight - Brian Leaf
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4 - Jeff Kinney
6. The Blue Star - Tony Earley
7. Three To Get Deadly - Janet Evanovich
8. The Girl Who Played With Fire - Steig Larsson
9. The Gift of An Ordinary Day - Katrina Kenison
10. The Ninth Daughter - Barbara Hamilton
11. Malice - Chris Wooding
12. Rizzo's War - Lou Manfredo
13. The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
14. Chin and The Magic Stones - L.J. Salazar
15. How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World -- Jordan Christy
16. How Successful People Think - John C. Maxwell
17. Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
18. Lisey's Story - Stephen King
19. The Neurology of Angels - Krista Tibbs
20. Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell
21. The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
22. Tempted (House of Night #6) - P.C. Cast/Kristin Cast
23. Shadowland (The Immortals #3) - Alyson Noel
24. Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
25. The Ghosts of Belfast - Stuart Neville
26. The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
27. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
28. Straight Man - Richard Russo
29. Obama's Blackberry - Kasper Hauser
30. *book club pick - November: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
31. True Blue - David Baldacci
**32. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
**33. Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci
**34. A Better High - Matt Bellace, PhD

**Added to list. (I couldn't help myself.)

Ambitious list? 30 books in 12 weeks. What do you think? (I think I'm hoping that this Challenge get re-named Falling into Winter)

If there are any books you think I should add, feel free to comment. If there are any books that you think I should remove from my list, post away! Most of the books above are already on my bookshelf giving me the stink-eye.

I'm off to go read!

Review: Cake Wrecks - When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates

Blog turned book! (We love those around here!)

With hit shows like Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss, we are loving huge elaborate cakes made by pastry chefs with style. What we don't see on those reality shows are the cake disasters. Those of you who enjoy a great mistake, Cake Wrecks is for you!

Cake Wrecks is a funny book -- and if you have checked out the blog, you know what I mean. It has photographs of hilariously wrong mistakes that "professional" bakers make, but what really makes this book funny are the captions that Jen Yates wrote to go along with each photo. Yes, I laughed out loud. Not only did I enjoy the book, but now I'm a follower of the blog as well.

Since I love to share my love of books with my family and friends, the bakers in my life will be seeing this book at Christmas time!

Check out the blog: Cake Wrecks

About the Book:
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0740785370
ISBN-13: 978-0740785375

Buy the Book:
Cake Wreck

Book Giveaway: Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell


Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell looks way too HOT to pass up, and I'm giving away 3 copies thanks to Hachette Book Group!

Contest Runs through Friday, October 9, 2009.

About the Book:
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316032212
ISBN-13: 978-0316032216

Meet Peter Brown, a young Manhattan emergency room doctor with an unusual past that is just about to catch up with him. His morning begins with the quick disarming of a would-be mugger, followed by a steamy elevator encounter with a sexy young pharmaceutical rep, topped off by a visit with a new patient - and from there Peter's day is going to get a whole lot worse and a whole lot weirder. Because that patient knows Peter from his other life, when he had a different name and a very different job. The only reason he's a doctor now is thanks to the Witness Protection Program-and even they can't protect him from the long reach of the New Jersey mob. Now he's got to do whatever it takes to keep his patient alive so he can buy some time...and beat the reaper.

BEAT THE REAPER is not just the only novel that will be compared to Quentin Tarantino's films, Grey's Anatomy, and Chuck Palahniuk-it's also the most original and entertaining debut thriller you'll read this year.

Check out this book trailer!

It should be no surprise that an adaptation of Beat the Reaper is already in development to hit the big screen with Leo DiCaprio in 2010. So, if you're a movie lover AND a book lover, this is one book you need to get your hands on. And you can!

Visit for games and more.

Listen to an audio clip of Beat The Reaper.

Listen to an interview with author Josh Bazell.

Visit Hachette Book Group to read an excerpt and check out the Readers' Group Guide (coming soon).

Here's the Reading Group Guide!

Here's how to enter:

- The contest will run from today through Friday, October 9, 2009

- To enter, leave a comment below. Please include your e-mail address

- For extra entries, become a follower, post a link to my contest, or follow me on Facebook

- Contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada

- No P.O. Boxes -- sorry!

Good Luck to Everyone!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore

So, Alison, what was A Gate at The Stairs about?

This novel wasn't really about anything. A first-person narrative of a 20 year-old girl going back and forth between her home town and her college town, A Gate at the Stairs touches on religion, politics, race, education, gender, sexuality, and morality.

Sounds heavy, yet it wasn't. Other than the predictable jab at Republicans, most of the political comments were subtle, and seemingly innocent, as they were observed through the eyes of a young, impressionable, college student in a "lock-step lefty town." There were times while reading this book that I laughed out loud at some of the witticisms of Tassie Keltjin, our narrator. Unfortunately, I had to pay very close attention to find those little gems. At one point, I found that I had accidentally turned two pages instead of one, but I didn't really notice at first. I did go back, but it really wasn't necessary to understanding anything about the characters, the plot or the underlying themes. My oversight of those two pages did not effect the rhythm of the book, since there was very little plot and a lot of random thoughts and lengthy tangents.

One observation that I can not keep to myself, Lorrie Moore is a master of the simile. I started writing down my favorites, but there were just too many. Turning to just a few random pages of the novel, I can easily find:

"It looked beautiful -- the gold of the mown rye striping the green corn and both undulating through like a performing pair of lovebird dolphins."

"Low on the horizon there were different clouds, like old plowed snow at the end of a street."

"One looked out through the window, when one could, through pointed icicles that were like the incisors of a shark; it was as if one were living the cold, dead mouth of a very mean snowman."

To read an excerpt that was printed in the NY Times in August 2009, go here.

To read the official first chapter from Knopf, go here.

Also check out the Reading Group Guide.

Meet Lorrie Moore on the author's tour.

About This Book:
A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Knopf (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375409289
ISBN-13: 978-0375409288

Now, in her dazzling new novel—her first in more than a decade—Moore turns her eye on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the recklessness thrust on others in the name of love.

As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer—his “Keltjin potatoes” are justifiably famous—has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny.

The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own.

As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is forever changed.

This long-awaited new novel by one of the most heralded writers of the past two decades is lyrical, funny, moving, and devastating; Lorrie Moore’s most ambitious book to date—textured, beguiling, and wise.

To Order:

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New York Times Bestsellers -- Week of 09/20

Each week, I get e-mails announcing the week's bestsellers. I have a feeling the next two weeks are going to turn this list on its head (September is already a HUGE month in new book releases). Still, I love seeing the list -- which books I've read, which books I've reviewed, and which books are on my nightstand waiting for me to pick them up.

Are you reading any of these books?

Do you pay attention to the New York Times Bestsellers list?

Hardcover Fiction:

1. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
2. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
3. The Help by Cathryn Stockett
4. Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson
5. Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler
6. Dark Slayer by Christine Feehan
7. The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory
8. Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay
9. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson (review coming soon)
10. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
11. A Gate at The Stairs by Lorrie Moore (review coming next Monday)
12. 206 Bones: A Novel (Temperance Brennan Novels) by Kathy Reichs
13. Homer and Langley: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow
14. The Eleventh Victim by Nancy Grace
15. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

Trade Paperback Fiction:

1. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
2. The Shack by William P. Young
3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
5. Olive Kitteridge: Fiction by Elizabeth Strout (review coming soon)
6. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
7. The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel by Garth Stein (didn't review, but loved this book)
8. Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson
9. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
10. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance -- Now With Ultraviolent Zombie Mayem! by Jane Austen (review coming in October)
20. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Young Adult/Children's Chapter Books:

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
4. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
5. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Sweet Valley High Adaptation in the Works

Variety is reporting that Diablo Cody (Juno) has accepted an offer from Universal to write and co-produce an adaptation of Sweet Valley High. Read the full article in Variety.

I have to wonder if the franchise wasn't planning this move to the big screen last year when they re-released the book series with snazzy new 21st Century covers. Hm.

I don't know about any of you, but my love of reading probably started with Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield in Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series. When I was looking for a book cover from the series to put up at the top of my post, I came across a bunch of titles like Bitter Rivals, Kidnapped, Perfect Summer, and the unforgettable Christmas special.

Now that I'm a parent, I certainly read Young Adult fiction differently than I did when I was a 'tween myself. If I picked up one of my old copies of Sweet Valley High, would I be horrified or would I laugh at the innocence of it all?
Do you think that the creator of Juno will bring the right amount of edge to the Wakefield twins, or will your nostalgia keep you from finding out?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Review: Blue Moon by Alyson Noël

Blue Moon by Alyson Noël is the second book in The Immortals Series. You can read my review of the first book, Evermore, here. I really enjoyed Evermore, and, I couldn't wait to read Blue Moon. In fact, I suffered through some mild carsickness just so I could finish Blue Moon.

Unfortunately, there was too much teen angst in this book for me. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as Evermore. It made my stomach all queasy -- and it was more than carsickness. Yes, it is young adult, so I should expect a certain amount of drama, but there was too much suffering on Ever's part, that it made the book really hard to read. Think teenager's nightmare come true...and this is a girl that's already lost her family in a tragic car crash. Poor Ever, it doesn't seem like her suffering is going to end anytime soon.

There's a new boy in school, Roman, and Ever knows from minute one that there's something "off" about him, but she just can't figure out what. Her friends, and even Damen, don't see anything wrong with Roman. Quite the contrary, Roman is suddenly the most popular boy in school with everyone rallying around him -- and away from Ever. For my Buffy fans out there, it seems like resident hottie Damen turns into evil Angelus for the duration of Blue Moon. Ever fights to save her friends, her boyfriend, her family, and herself.

Shadowland (The Immortals Series #3) coming February 2010.

The Immortals Series website.

About the Book:

Blue Moon by Alyson Noël
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (July 7, 2009)
Language: English
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0312532768
ISBN-13: 978-0312532765

Synopsis:Eager to learn everything she can about her new abilities as an Immortal, Ever turns to her beloved Damen to show her the way. But just as her powers are increasing, Damen’s are waning. In an attempt to save him, Ever travels to the magical dimension of Summerland, where she learns the secrets of Damen’s tortured past; a past which he has always kept hidden from her. But in her quest to cure Damen, Ever discovers an ancient text that details the workings of time. Now Ever must chose between turning back the past and saving her family from the accident that claimed their lives—or staying in the present and saving Damen, who grows sicker every day...
To Order Blue Moon:

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Giveaway: Today's The Day!

Today is Giveaway Day!!!

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group for allowing me to give away TWO books today!

Let's get right to it, this mom has a soccer game to get to. I have chosen the winners through and will be e-mailing you all to get your mailing addresses.

Winners of The Blue Star by Tony Earley:

Tony Peters

Winners of How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World by Jordan Christy:

Chad Sayban

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Upcoming: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Nifenegger


The new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger arrived today!!

I'm doing my monkey dance...can you picture it? One of these days, I'm going to have to vlog my monkey dance so all of you can truly appreciate it. The Man calls it "The A.P." and has been subjected to this happy little dance for 16 years. I'm doing it now, people!!

I am a HUGE fan of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and since I learned that the author was coming out with another book, I have been asking for (ok begging for) Her Fearful Symmetry. Persistence pays off!

I can't tell you how hard it is not to pick it up right this minute and start devouring this book! Soon...very very soon...and I will post the review on Alison's Book Marks the day of the novel's release: September 29th.

If you haven't read The Time Traveler's must.

In the meantime, you can take a look at an interview with author Audrey Niffenegger here at Simon & Schuster's official website.

About the book:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Scribner (September 29, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN:ISBN-10: 1439165394
ISBN-13: 978-1439165393

If you would like to pre-order Her Fearful Symmetry:

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Review: Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9) by Charlaine Harris

This past weekend, I read Dead and Gone, the 9th installment in the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris. I am all caught up with my Sookie Stackhouse Challenge at Beth Fish Reads!

It hurts to say it, but Dead and Gone was a big mess for me. I have no problem when an author refers back to previous books in the series, for the sake of those who might pick up the book without reading the earlier ones, but I think it only served as confusion this time around. Did Harris bring in Alcide and Quinn for 2 or 3 pages each just so we wouldn't forget about them and "Sookie Stackhouse's All-Male Review"?

This book was all over the place. (Hell, this review is all over the place!) Once again, there's a war going on -- this time between two factions of the faeries. Of course, Sookie has found herself smack dab in the middle. She also has the vampires to deal with, the shifters' revelation, and a murderer on the lose. What would Bon Temps do without Sookie Stackhouse?

Since I read a lot, and sometimes read more than one book at a time, I take notes on little index cards that I use as bookmarks. Then when I sit down to write a review, I refer back to my index card (this also saves me from making notes IN my books -- the horror!). If I'm reading a series, I don't throw away the card when I'm finished writing the review. I hold onto it, and use it in the next book in the series. Yes, I'm anal that way. I may have made a mistake in my note-taking, but I think I found some errors in this book. Usually I let small things slide, but I think it just added to the messiness of the book. There were some consistencies: gratuitous violence, R-rated love scenes, and Bubba (I love Bubba...even though it took me 4 books to figure out who he was).

Even though I may have come down hard on Dead and Gone, I'm sure I will read the 10th Sookie Stackhouse book, entitled Dead in the Family, due out May 2010.

A Touch of Dead, a compilation of previously published Sookie Stackhouse stories, will be on shelves October 2009.

About this Book:
Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9) by Charlaine Harris
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Ace Hardcover (May 5, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0441017150
ISBN-13: 978-0441017157

To Order:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book to Movie: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I LOVE the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series of books by Rick Riordan. For me, Percy Jackson ranks right up there with Harry Potter...seriously! So, if you have a young reader, or you are a reader who feels young, pick up The Lightning Thief, you won't be disappointed.

In the meantime, for those of you who are up-to-date on your Percy Jackson, the first movie, directed by Chris Columbus, will be in theaters February 12, 2010.

Check out the cast in this movie! Uma Thurman is Medusa, Rosario Dawson is Persephone, Pierce Brosnan is Chiron, Kevin McKidd (Owen from Gray's Anatomy) plays Poseidon, and the list goes on and on. Catherine Keener, Joe Pantoliano, Melina Kanakaredes...awesome casting.

Below is the new teaser trailer -- more to come, I'm sure.

Visit the website: Percy Jackson And the Olympians, the Movie

Also visit: Rick Riordan

If you have not read the books, and are interested in purchasing them, here is a boxed set of books 1 - 3:

Or visit your local independent book dealer. To find one in your area, click on the IndieBound link to your left.

Book Giveaway Reminder: Entries Closed Friday, September 18th

A friendly reminder to all!

To enter, please click on one (or both) of the above titles to take you to the original giveaway announcement. Once there, all you have to do is comment below -- please don't forget to include your e-mail address! You may enter for both may win both books!

Good luck to everyone!! Have a happy September!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Twilight Fans: New Moon Trailer

Did anyone see the New Moon trailer on the VMA's last night? If not, here it is, in all its glory. As much as I did not like the Twilight movie (you can throw tomatoes at me later), I am still excited to see New Moon, opening November 20th.

To see the previous trailer, go to The Official New Moon the Movie site.
Jacob're in for a treat!

For more information on The Twilight Saga, visit Stephenie Meyer's official website.

Here it is...enjoy!

Review: Evermore by Alyson Noël

I love the cover, don't you?

Evermore is the first in The Immortals series by Alyson Noel. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. The first thought I had while reading it was, this would make a great TV show. Not a movie. I think they could make a really cool series based off of The Immortals books.

I really don't want to spoil this book by saying anything more than what you can read below in the synopsis. There is one hot guy, (isn't there always?) but I don't even want to say what or who he is, because I don't want to ruin it for anyone. I can say that it's young adult, and moms will not be upset by any of the sexuality that I've been seeing in other young adult books (some read more like NC-17 than a PG or PG-13). Evermore is clean...some hand holding, warm kisses and canoodling, but nothing hot and heavy. Still, it was a suspenseful love story. Evermore was a fast read, and one that I'm going to pass on to my friends who liked Twilight. Let me assure you, Evermore is completely unique -- it's a love story with a twist of the supernatural.

About this book:

Evermore (The Immortals #1) by Alison Noël
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (Grades 8-12)
ISBN-10: 0330512854
ISBN-13: 978-0330512855

Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school— but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste. Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking— and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is— or what he is. Damen is equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies.
More great stuff at Alyson Noel's website

More about The Immortals series, including the second book in the series, NY Times bestseller, Blue Moon and the third book, Shadowland, due out November 2009. There are great book trailers on the website, but I'm having trouble putting them here. Check them out...very cool.

To order Evermore:
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Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Tribute: Robert Wayne Hobson, III

A few weeks ago, I signed up for the 4th annual Project 2996, where over 3,000 bloggers join together to pay tribute to the victims of 9/11. I first heard about the project from Michelle Malkin, and didn't hesitate to join. Each blogger pledges to honor one of the 2996 people who lost their lives on that tragic day.

For me, choosing one person to honor was both simple and sad. Of the handful of people I knew who died on 9/11, the biggest loss was my brother-in-law, Wayne. Not a day goes by where we don't think about him, and miss him terribly. He brought out the best in all of us, and filled our family with laughter. This one's for you, Wayne.

Robert Wayne Hobson, III

Age: 36

Residence: Jersey City, NJ

Occupation: Broker, Cantor Fitzgerald

Location: World Trade Center, Tower 1, 105th Floor

What you won't find in any online tribute:

Wayne was not supposed to be there that day. At that point in his career, he was spending most of his time at the Cantor Fitzgerald offices in Houston, which made it that much more unbelievable that he was there on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. My sister, Cindy, worked in an office downtown that had a perfect view of the Twin Towers. She had spoken to her husband, Wayne, after his building was struck by the first plane. They were all scared, but he told Cindy, "Call my mother. Tell her I'm okay." After exchanging a few more brief, but personal, words, the phone call ended. That was the last time she spoke to him.

My sister wanted to run to the building to go and get him, or wait for him on the street to find him when he came out. Thank goodness, she had a quick-thinking boss who calmly took charge and led her out of the building, and out of the city. I was able to keep in touch with my sister as she made her way north, but never was our conversation more than a few seconds, because she wanted to be free to dial Wayne's number over and over again, hoping that the lines would open up and she would be able to talk to him again. I was able to phone Wayne's mother, Judith, who took up her post at Hobson's Choice, the bar Wayne and Cindy owned in Hoboken. Judith waited for her son, praying that he would walk through the door, grab a pint, and spend the evening regaling the crowd with another one of his great stories. I don't know when Judith left the bar...but he never came...

Wayne left behind a lot of friends and a family who loved him deeply. Wayne was the person you went to if you needed anything -- advice, a friend, a drink, a job, a car. Back in 1997, I got into a pretty bad car accident just a week before he married my sister. He was the first one who arrived on the scene, he took charge, and when it was all over, he handed me the keys to his Jeep. When I looked at him and said, "I can't take your car!" He replied, in all seriousness, "Why not?!?" because in Wayne's world, if someone needed a ride home, you gave her your car, of course! When someone asks me about Wayne, I tell them, he was the type of person that filled a room with his energy and sitting next to him was always the best seat in the house. I have yet to meet another man with his humor, energy and kindness.

I have no doubt that if there is a heaven, Wayne's running the bar and St. Peter is one of his best customers. It's always happy hour, the Redskins are always winning, and there's always a seat outside on the patio.

We miss you, Wayne.

We will never forget.

Read Wayne's Tribute on

Read Wayne's Memorial on

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review: Bran Hambric: The Fairfield Curse by Kaleb Nation

Déjà Vu, anyone? Déjà Vu, anyone?

I first heard of author Kaleb Nation by his alias, The Twilight Guy. In 2008, while fans of The Twilight Saga were waiting for the release of Breaking Dawn, Nation started blogging his journey through each of Stephenie Meyer's books, one chapter at a time. I found his blog extremely funny, well written and sometimes insightful. He got a lot of traffic, and much recognition, even from Stephenie Meyers herself. If you're a Twilight fan, you should go check it out.

When I found out Kaleb Nation was publishing his first book, before he had even graduated college, I was really looking forward to reading it. Lucky me, Sourcebooks sent me an advanced copy! I put aside everything on my To-Read shelf and tore into this book right away. Unfortunately, that was the peak moment of my first experience with Bran Hambric.

I don't want to give too much of the book away, but if you've read Harry Potter, then you get the general idea of Bran Hambric. For me, there were simply too many similarities between the two books, many of which were really hard to swallow.

I understand that six years ago, when Nation first began writing Bran Hambric, J.K. Rowling had already released 5 out of 7 Harry Potter installments, so not only was he at the perfect age to get swept up in the Harry Potter frenzy, but the saturation of the books and movies and merchandising had to have an impact on any young creative mind. No, I don't think it was his intention to steal ideas away from one of the most beloved characters in modern children's literature. He was only fourteen years old!

All of that aside, in spite of his age, the book really was well written. I have read books by adults with post-graduate experience, published around the world ten-times over that don't demonstrate the raw talent that Kaleb Nation has. He can turn a phrase, write fast-paced action scenes, and pull off great dialogue. There were a few dangling modifiers that any high school English teacher would have circled with red ink, but I think it was part of the charm.

On its own, ignoring the Harry Potter comparisons, Bran Hambric: The Fairfield Curse was a good book. If there are any young readers out there who are finished with the Harry Potter series, and can't get enough magic, give Bran Hambric a try. In the meantime, he has a long career ahead of him, and I'm looking forward to when a unique storyline is combined with his writing talent.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks!

About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (September 9, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402218575
ISBN-13: 978-1402218576

Bran Hambric was found locked in a bank vault at six years old, with no memory of his past. For years, he has lived with one of the bankers, wondering why he was left behind- until one night, when he is fourteen, he is suddenly confronted by a maddened creature, speaking of Bran’s true past and trying to kidnap him. Bran finds that he is at the center of a plot which started years before he was even born: the plot of a deadly curse his mother created…and one that her former masters are hunting for him to complete. Haunted by the spirit of his mother’s master and living in a city where magic is illegal, Bran must undo the crimes of his past...if it's not already too late.

Visit Bran Hambric Online for more information and to download the first four preview chapters.

Visit the new Bran Hambric website for tons of cool stuff.

To view a preview trailer, visit the You Tube Link.

To Order:

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Paperback or Hardcover?

Do you have a preference between paperback and hardcover books?

I am very lucky that I have a husband who understands my book habit. He has become more understanding now that he sees my obsession has been passed on to at least one of our children so far. It is extremely satisfying to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Fudge-o-Mania up on the bookshelf next to East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading is just what we do here.

Lately, though, even I have a hard time putting up $29.95 for a hardcover book. I don't do it often anymore, but I will purchase a hardcover book if it fits a few criteria.

1. It is the next book in a series that I am addicted to.

2. It got amazing reviews, and I can not wait until it comes out in paperback.

3. This is a book that I am going to read, re-read, and keep on my bookshelf forever.

4. The waiting list is too long at the library...and I just don't think I can wait another day!

I am finding that publishers are more understanding of the economic situation, and are pushing hard to promote their paperback releases of their previous hardcover bestsellers. Have you noticed?

Sometimes hardcover vs. paperback is just a matter of preference. Sometimes it's a matter of heft. We have a woman in my book club who prefers paperback. Maybe this is because she reads on the train on her way to work, and doesn't feel like lugging around a 15 pound book. I did that to my sister-in-law, Amy, last summer. She was getting on a plane to go back down to Atlanta, and her carry-on tote was sitting by the door. Against her protests, I shoved my First Edition hardcover copy of Twilight in her bag. It was heavy, but she loved it, like I knew she would -- backache and all. Yeah, I had to go all the way down to Georgia to get that sucker back, too!

As a book reviewer, I often get advanced readers copies that come to me in paperback, often without the final cover art. When I see them in the bookstores, I am still surprised to see the book in hardcover - not only does the cover surprise me, but I often forget which books will be released as hardcovers.

I'm not sure you've all noticed, but I've added a few things to the format of my reviews. I will now not only link you to IndieBound'>IndieBound and Amazon for you to purchase the book if you so wish, but I also include whether the book is a hardcover or a paperback. I've also included the number of pages, to give you an idea of just how much that book is going to weigh, and how much time it may take you to read it. Can you get through it on your weekend at the beach? How about your round-trip flight from New York to London?

Many of the books that I am sent to review are released as hardcovers, but I will make a more conscious effort to make sure that my reviews are balanced to include paperbacks, for the commuter crowd!
But, let's discuss! Do you prefer hardcover or paperback?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

In a word? Awesome.

Full disclosure here, because that's how I roll. I must have started and stopped reading this book at least half a dozen times. It has been on my "currently reading" list at for at least three weeks. I heard how great Stieg Larsson's books were, and I wanted to love them, too, but I had a hard time getting into The Girl With the Dragon first. At almost 600 pages, I had better love this book, I thought. After the foreword is an imposing chart of the Vanger family tree. A chart? Not a good sign.

I persevered.
It paid off.
Big time.

The first hundred pages is a lot of background information on the characters, the companies, and the dealings of anyone and anything you will need to know once the story is underway. For anyone who knows about the inner-workings of the financial markets, you'll love this stuff. For anyone, like me, who doesn't know the first thing about banking (my husband doesn't even let me touch the checkbook), it wasn't too painful, but don't get bogged down in it. You won't miss the meat of the book, I promise. Once you've been introduced to all the whos and whats of the book, then they can get all intertwined and interesting!

By page 92, the big mystery was introduced. Around page 300, I read the first big clue, I was hooked and the pages were flying by. By page 400, I was totally engrossed that I hadn't even noticed a basketball that hit my chair while my kids were playing a round of h-o-r-s-e. At page 450, I had no clue what the end was going to be (I love that). On page 455, my stomach turned. On page 457, I gasped out loud. On page 486, I had chills. On page 502, I almost shed a tear. Finally, on page 590, I felt completely satisfied at finishing a great book.

The family tree that intimidated me before the book even started? I won't lie, I needed it. There was a large cast of characters, but each was unique, with his own voice and back story. It was obvious that Larsson took great pains to build a believable, even if not always likable, character in Lisbeth Salander, our title character.

I hate to even call this book a "murder mystery" because it was so much more than that, and unlike any of the other typical mystery books out there. I'm really looking forward to reading Larsson's next book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

About the Book:
Paperback: 608 pages
Publisher: Vintage (June 23, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307454541
ISBN-13: 978-0307454546

A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue.

It’s about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, Henrik, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

And it’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired by Henrik to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old, pierced, tattooed genius hacker, possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age—and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness—who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, an astonishing corruption at the highest echelon of Swedish industrialism—and a surprising connection between themselves.

A contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of whom must face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives.

You may want to read: The New York Times Book Review by Alex Berenson

Here is Stieg Larsson's website with more information regarding the trilogy and Steig Larsson's life.

Here is a trailer for the upcoming movie for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It's not in English:

To Order:

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Release Today: Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind by Phillip Done

One of my new favorite books is being released today! Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done hits bookstores today.

You can read my full review here, but in short, if you have grade-school kids, teach grade-school kids, or once was a grade-school kid, you are sure to love this book, written by a 20+ year veteran of teaching those silly creatures roaming the halls of our elementary schools.

Place your online order through IndieBound (keep it local!!)

Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind

Giveaway: How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World by Jordan Christy

This book needs to win a prize just on the title alone!

My friends over at Hachette Book Group have been too kind in putting up with me this week. I'm a little punchy -- it's a whole puppy/lack of sleep thing, which I'll get to another day -- but I think they are trying really hard to get me out of my funk (and out of their hair) by allowing me to give away two books this month. Actually, I think her words might have been, "Alison, if we give you TEN books to give away this month, will you stop bugging my assistant?"

Of the TEN books, there are FIVE copies of Jordan Christy's new book, How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living With Style, Class and Grace. Nothing makes me happier than sharing the gift of reading. Hopefully, you people won't be doing it at 3am while smelling dog farts. Ok. Enough about my week. On to the sweet smell of the printed page!

Considering this book has something to do with grace and class, I probably shouldn't be talking about dog farts. My bad. Let's hope I learn something from Ms. Christy that would make my Aunt Betsy proud.

About the Book:

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living With Style, Class, and Grace by Jordan Christy
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Center Street (August 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599951835
ISBN-13: 978-1599951836


In a society driven by celebutante news and myspace profiles, women of class, style and charm are hard to come by. The Audrey and Katharines of the world continue to lose their lustre as thongs, rehab and outrageous behaviour burn up the daily headlines. But, despite appearances, guys still want a girl they can take home to their mother, employers still like to see a tailored suit and peers still respect classy conduct. So is it possible to maintain old fashioned virtues in a modern world without looking like a starchy Amish grandma? Christy shows women how in this guide to glamorous style, professional success and true love...the classy way. Full of fun assignments, notable names and real-life examples, Christy offers a new look at seemingly 'old fashioned' advice. She covers diet, speech, work ethic, friends, relationships, manners, makeup and fashionable yet modest clothing, showing modern ladies how they can be beautiful, intelligent and fun while retaining values and morals.

Here's How the Giveaway Works:

- The giveaway will run from today through Friday, September 18, 2009
- Winners will be chosen at random and announced here on Saturday, September 19th
- To enter, leave a comment below. Don't forget to include your e-mail address!
- For an extra entry, mention my giveaway on your blog, and link the post below.
- For an extra-extra entry, answer me this: Have you ever owned an etiquette guide? If so, did you read/reference to it?
- Contest is open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada
- No P.O. Boxes!

Many thanks to Hachette Book Group for making me so happy on such a rough week. I am one lucky book blogger!

Check out my other super-cool September Giveaway: The Blue Star by Tony Earley

Thursday, September 3, 2009

September Giveaway: The Blue Star by Tony Earley

New book giveaways for September!

School supplies, new shoes, fresh haircuts, the sounds of school buses in the morning...these are a few of my favorite things! You know what else I love?? Giving away books!! I love giving away books so much that I will be hosting TWO book giveaways this month.

Today, I am happy to announce that Hachette Book Group has generously offered to giveaway FIVE free copies of The Blue Star by Tony Earley.

About the book:

The Blue Star by Tony Earley
Paperback: 336 pages
Language: English
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co. (Mar. 2008, hardcover; Aug. 2009, paperback)
ISBN: 0316199079
ISBN-13: 9780316199070

Seven years ago, readers everywhere fell in love with Jim Glass, the precocious ten-year-old at the heart of Tony Earley's bestseller Jim the Boy. Now a teenager, Jim returns in another tender and wise story of young love on the eve of World War Two.
Jim Glass has fallen in love, as only a teenage boy can fall in love, with his classmate Chrissie Steppe. Unfortunately, Chrissie is Bucky Bucklaw's girlfriend, and Bucky has joined the Navy on the eve of war. Jim vows to win Chrissie's heart in his absence, but the war makes high school less than a safe haven, and gives a young man's emotions a grown man's gravity. With the uncanny insight into the well-intentioned heart that made Jim the Boy a favorite novel for thousands of readers, Tony Earley has fashioned another nuanced and unforgettable portrait of America in another time—making it again even realer than our own day.

Read a great review of The Blue Star in the New York Times Book Review, written by Scott Turow.

Here's How the Giveaway Works:

  • The Giveaway will run from today through Friday, September 18, 2009
  • Winners will be chosen at random and announced here on Saturday, September 19, 2009
  • To enter, leave a comment below. Be sure to leave your e-mail address!
  • For an extra entry, mention my giveaway on your blog.
  • For an extra-extra entry, answer me this: What is your favorite thing about September?
  • Contest is only open to residents of U.S. and Canada
  • No P.O. Boxes...sorry!

Many, many thanks to Hachette Book Group for putting up with a crazy blogger like me and Good Luck to Everyone who enters!!

(Stay tuned...tomorrow, I announce the second book of my September giveaways!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Review: Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

First of all, let me be clear, I LOVE Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I hate sounding so cliche', I could just gag, but it is one of my favorite novels of all time. Although, I am reluctant to admit, I had not read it until I was 30 years old. My education had previously led me through Persuasion, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, so I was not completely Austen illiterate before then. (Who said an English Major was a waste?) Still, the idea of fan fiction? Jane Austen fan fiction? Really? Should you really mess with perfection? Curiosity got the better of me. I had to check it out.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre picks up right where Ms. Austen left us last, giving us a lovely glimpse of the weddings of the Darcys and the Bingleys, and Mr. Darcy and Lizzie are embarking on their wedding tour. However, a mysterious note prompts Mr. Darcy to change their destination and begin their tour of the Continent, beginning with France. The mysterious note is just the start of what turns out to be a tense and sometimes frightening journey for Lizzie. Since we read the title of the book, we know Mr. Darcy's deep, dark secret, and are allowed to sometimes grin at the unexplained bumps in the night, but Lizzie does not.

Amanda Grange preys on our sentimentalism by referring back to some of our favorite scenes from P&P, which helps to maintain a consistency in the characters and the things we love about the relationship between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy. No, she's not Jane Austen, but she sure knows how to have fun with her reader, and I think she gets it right. The tour of Europe, the people they meet, the balls and dinner parties, the sudden mysterious air to Mr. Darcy -- these are just some of the things you will encounter in this book. All the while, Lizzie writes letters to her sister, Jane, documenting her trip, her questions, and, especially, her fears.

The jury is still out about whether or not Mr. Darcy, Vampyre has turned me into a fan of Jane Austen fan fiction. I love Jane Austen, I like vampire fiction, but I'm just not sure I like them together. I will say, Amanda Grange's book could not be more timely, for we all know how popular vampires are right now!

For any Jane Austen fans out there who would like to try Austen fan fiction on for size, there are dozens of titles from which to choose. Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary: A Novel would be a good place to start if you're not into vampires.

Many thanks to Sourcebooks!

Book Info:

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks (August 11, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN 10: 1402236972
ISBN 13: 978-1402236976

To order:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Release: Homer and Langley: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow

September is going to be a huge month for new releases, including a new book released today, Homer and Langley: A Novel by E.L. Doctorow.

You can read my review here.

Random House, Inc., is also releasing a limited number of special Signed First Editions. This is a great book, and how special to have it signed by E.L. Doctorow!

To order a copy of Homer and Langley: A Novel, you can click the image below, or find your local independent bookseller by clicking the IndieNext banner to your left.

On Our Minds @ Scholastic: Sparks are Flying!

Earlier today, I linked to this blog post over at On Our Minds, the Scholastic Books blog, without any comment whatsoever. My apologies. I got all caught up in the Catching Fire excitement!

Seriously, nobody does it better than Scholastic when it comes to launching a fun young adult series like The Hunger Games. Check out the blog, enter the VERY cool contests and hopefully some of you will win some of the great stuff they have over there!

The best thing about Scholastic's blog? NO SPOILERS. Please, please please, watch out for spoilers. If you have NOT read The Hunger Games, but plan on reading it soon, hold off on reading Catching Fire'll thank me later!

Review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games Book Two) by Suzanne Collins


Wow. Just wow.

I was lucky enough to have gotten my hands on an advanced reader's copy of Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins's second book in The Hunger Games Trilogy (a big thank you to Rob!). Once again, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, and at the end, I still wanted more! I read it too fast!

Before I continue with my review, I have to say one thing. If you haven't yet read The Hunger Games, and don't want me to spoil the first book for you, please don't read any further. I always do my best not to throw any spoilers into my reviews, but I don't think I will be able say much at all if I can't write about the first book. Now that I've given fair warning, here we go.

Once again...Wow. Last we saw Katniss, she was on her way back to District 12, knowing full well that she and Peeta were in great danger. She insulted the authority of the Capitol, and the President himself, when she defiantly pulled out those berries and changed the rules of The Hunger Games. Now, there are rumors of rebellion. Surely, there will be hell to pay.

There is constant tension throughout the book. Even when she is away from the Capitol, Katniss never knows who is listening, and when they are watching. Unfortunately, it turns out they are listening and watching much more closely than she had anticipated. What can she do to make it right and save the people she loves from whatever punishment the Capitol has in store? The danger is everywhere, even when she returns to some of the familiar things that we have already seen Katniss do. It's not the same, nothing is the same.

The 75th Hunger Games is coming up in Panem, as the Capitol continues the annual public execution tournament to remind the Districts of who is in control. Katniss will have some kind of a role. Will they allow her to be a mentor? Who will go into the arena? What will the tributes face this time? How will Katniss be punished for defiance? What will become of Gale? Can they just run away from the cruelty of the Capitol? Will anyone she loves be safe inside or outside the arena?

These are just some of the questions that will come up in Catching Fire. The games become much more important to Panem this year, because of what it will mean for all the people outside of the boundaries of the arena. More than that, this is a book about self-sacrifice for the greater good. In The Hunger Games, Katniss only had to worry about getting herself out of the arena alive; but in Catching Fire, she has to worry about how her actions will affect every single person around her. It seems that the closer someone is to Katniss, the closer they are to danger.

Like its predecessor, I was unable to put this book down. It seemed that every chapter had a twist that kept me turning the pages! When I had only 30 pages left to go, I found myself thinking, No! I'm not ready for the end! And then I realized, we have a whole other book to wait for. Nooooo! It's going to be a long wait, but at least it will give me time to read both books again, so I can catch some of the things I might have missed the first time around. Suzanne Collins has created a very special series with unforgettable characters and a scary world, both of which will haunt you long after you put the book down.

Read the first chapter.

Hear the second chapter and see the teaser trailers for Catching Fire.

If you would like to order Catching Fire, please visit: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, book two) by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, book two) by Suzanne Collins

A special thanks to my friend, Sheri, who told me to read The Hunger Games, and many many thanks to Clinton Book Shop for introducing me to Catching Fire.

To find your local Independent Book Store, please click the IndieBound link to your left.


The book bloggers are buzzing!
Here are just some of the amazing reviews and giveaways going on today!

Presenting Lenore has a Catching Fire Prize Pack (closes 9/15/09)

Scholastic Books' Blog, On Our Minds, has a great article and contest for a SIGNED copy of Catching Fire, as well as runner-up flair in the form of Mockingjay pins!

Booking Mama has a great review and Catching Fire Prize Pack (closes 9/15/09)

Luxury Reading is also giving away a Catching Fire Prize Pack.

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