Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yankee Fans: A Book List for you

Just so we're clear...

Yes, I am a woman.
Yes, I know the game.
Yes, I am a Yankee fan.

Living in New Jersey takes a thick skin. Living in New Jersey during this World Series is going to be downright ugly. We've got the Yankee fans in Northern New Jersey, and Phillies fans in Southern New Jersey. I live in Central New Jersey...where neighbors are friends no more. There is smacktalk in the schoolyards, throwdowns at the bus stops, tweets are fast, Facebook posts are furious! America's pasttime hasn't been this exciting in years!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge Yankee fan. As a book lover and a Yankee lover, it should come as no surprise that I have a few Yankee books on my bookshelf. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Tales From the Yankee Dugout by Kenneth McMillan

Tales from the Yankee Dugout is a compilation of the funniest, strangest, and most unique stories, anecdotes, and tall tales that have been attributed to the former personalities from baseball's legendary New York Yankees.

The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci

Twelve straight playoff appearances. Six American League pennants. Four World Series titles. This is the definitive story of a dynasty: the Yankee years.
When Joe Torre took over as manager of the New York Yankees in 1996, the most storied franchise in sports had not won a World Series title in eighteen years.

Perfect: Don Larson's Miraculous World Series Game and the Men Who Made It Happen by Lew Paper (review to come)

Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers remains the only no-hit game in World Series history and was described by The New York Times as "the greatest moment" in World Series history.

Pitcher's Story: Innings With David Cone by Roger Angell

Baseballs best writer offers an extraordinarily candid and thorough exploration of the inner craft of pitching from one of the games best, David Cone.There is no big league pitcher who is more respected for his skill than David Cone.

Derek Jeter: A Yankee Hero by B.A. Roth

Something for the kids! This reader book (level 3) is on my son's bookshelf. Derek Jeter is not only one of the greatest Yankees in history, but he also has unparalleled character. Derek Jeter is one of the few athletes that we can call a role model. (He's also a Jersey boy!)

Baseball fans, talk to me! Who are you rooting for? How are you showing your team spirit? Do you have a favorite Yankee/Philly blog? Share it with me!

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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

Emily Post has not been replaced, but Jordan Christy has a few words for the women of this generation...and they had better listen up!

If you're like me and want to throw up whenever you see some young Hollywood starlet give her best "I'm stupid, isn't it so cute?" routine, you'll be glad this book exists.

Christy gives advice to young women, in a very conversational tone, on everything from working hard and first impressions to wardrobe and make-up. I think one of the smartest things the author does is point out talented, successful, and beautiful actresses and businesswomen that other women can look up to. Jordan Christy could put herself on that list in her own right, but instead chooses to site Reese Whitherspoon, Ivanka Trump, and Anne Hathaway as some of the classy women who do not sacrifice their self-respect for a US Weekly cover story.
"We live in a free country with rights, freedoms, and opportunities that women would have killed for a hundred years ago - and instead of voting, getting the CEO spot, going for a doctorate, or volunteering at a women's shelter, many young women today are too busy shaking their badonkadonks in short-lived music videos and diligently bedazzling their cell phones with more pink rhinestones."

Jordan Christy does not preach in her book. Sure, she shines a spotlight on girls like Jessica and Britney and says, no no no no NO. But she also gives us real-world situations, and the common-sense advice women need to make the most of their opportunities. I especially appreciated the Dress To Impress chapter, where I took my style quiz, and found not only pieces to add to my wardrobe, but both a high and a mid-level retailer to find the pieces. (She does the same for make-up too!)

As someone who grew up with a copy of Emily Post on my bookshelf, and a mom who personified grace and class, I fully support any book that might shake some sense into the young girls strutting through he hallways of our high schools with their thongs hanging out of the back and their cleavage hanging out of the front, all the while texting their latest crush 15 times in a row wondering why he's not texting back. (Yep, Jordan gives GREAT relationship advice too!)

If you have a young woman between the ages of 15 and 25 in your life, and she spends way too much time watching My Super Sweet Sixteen on MTV instead of reading Jane Austen or (shock and horror) a newspaper, you might want to sneak this one into her backpack. On second thought, you might want to duct tape it to her iPhone.

Tons of book extras at Hachette Book Group:
Self-respect Quiz
Author Interview Video
The iTunes mix
Join the Group
Read an Excerpt

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

A review copy of this book was provided by Hachette Book Group.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville

Very cool book.

The Ghosts of Belfast, Stuart Neville's debut novel, was originally published in the UK as The Twelve.

The Twelve are the ghosts of Belfast. The Twelve have haunted Gerry Fegan day and night since he was released from prison. They come out of the shadows at night, scream as he's drifting off to sleep, and hover around him while he tries to drown them out with whisky at the local pub. "Maybe if he had one more drink they'd leave him alone," is the first line of the novel. (And you know how I feel about first lines. This one's a grabber!) Among the twelve ghosts are a mother and her baby, a butcher, a 17 year old boy, a police officer and seven others. Even though Fegan pulled the trigger and caused each of their deaths, the twelve won't rest until justice is served to the men who gave him the orders. Fegan, and the justice he serves, shows us sooner or later, "everyone pays."

Fegan is both respected and feared in Belfast for the crimes he has committed, but lately people think he is simply crazy. He drinks too much, talks to himself, and has erratic behavior. For those who may not have feared him before, they do now, since crazy beats strong any day. You never underestimate crazy. Fegan has to keep it together long enough not only to complete his tasks and find peace, but also to keep Marie McKenna and her daughter safe and possibly find love and a regular life.
"This is what normal people feel like. He had never thought it possible to feel terror and stillness in the same heart, but both beat in his chest..."

The Ghosts of Belfast was very well written, and the premise could not have been more straightforward and simple, which is why I found it so hard to put down. There are twelve victims whose deaths need to be avenged for Gerry Fegan to get some peace. As the author ticks off each of the executions, he gives us the background of each character, their history, and how they are all intertwined with one another. Neville delves into the heated political battle of Northern Ireland after the Good Friday peace, but doesn't get bogged down in it. Instead, it serves as the perfect canvas on which to paint the pictures of his characters and the tenuous alliances they keep with one another. This is not your good guy vs. bad guy novel. There are no good guys.

I won't give away any more than I already have, but several times while reading this book I gasped out loud, and actually got chills toward the end of the book. This is one ending you won't see coming.

I thought this was a really cool book, and one that The Man will most definitely be reading in the near future. I was also pleasantly surprised when I learned in the author's bio that The Ghosts of Belfast is the first in a series. I will be sure to keep my eyes out for the next book.

Visit the novel's website: The Ghosts of Belfast
where you can learn more about the novel and the author, and read an excerpt as well as deleted scenes.

The Ghosts of Belfast is also one of the November 2009 IndieNext from

Watch the Trailer:

About the Book:
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Soho Crime (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1569476004
ISBN-13: 978-1569476000

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Chin and the Magic Stones by L.J. Salazar

I really wanted to like this book much more than I did.

Chin and the Magic Stones (Book One: Becoming Guardians) is about a 10 year-old boy and his dog, Eagle, who discover a magic stone that gives Chin the ability to talk to animals and opens magical doors beneath the city. Chin quickly discovers that he has been chosen to be a guardian of the stones and a warrior against the Shadow Lord. With the aid of magical friends, Chin engages in his first battle -- one in which deeper lessons are learned.

I love the concept of the book, and the ideas surrounding the different stones, challenges and magical abilities are original and exciting. There is a moral to the first battle, where one must help his friends fight negative thoughts and rise to his own success. I have a feeling that each of Chin's challenges in future books is going to bring a special message to its readers. Chin's ability to talk to animals opens up a delightfully funny dialogue between Chin and his dog. I was also glad to see another strong male lead character. Chin's a good kid, even with his faults, and one that I think boys especially would connect with.

Chin and The Magic Stones is geared towards readers between the ages of 7 and 11. I am no stranger to this type of writing -- I am a big fan of both the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series of books -- so I was excited to get started on a new adventure within this genre. While the ideas and concepts behind this series are unique and compelling, I felt that the writing was unable to capture the reader's attention. While I completely believe that reading should improve one's vocabulary, there is a certain rhythm that is lost when a fourth-grader has to open up his dictionary five times on one page -- "decipher", "obscure", "silhouette", "perceived", and "subtle" all appear on page 25. The young reader that I surveyed to help me review this book did not make it past this page, even though he thought the story was "cool". The language broke his attention instead of engaging him.

So, in the end, this book is full of wonderful ideas that should capture the hearts and imaginations of 7 to 11 year-olds, but I didn't feel that the writing was strong enough to hold their attention.

Maybe L.J. Salazar should start working on the screenplay, because I could easily see this story on the big screen!

For more on Chin and the Magic Stones, visit the website, L.J. Salazar's website,facebook page, or the publisher's book page.

This book was furnished by Bostick Communications and the author.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teen Read Week: A Brilliant Idea

This week is Teen Read Week. I have been browsing the web finding various ways that high schools and libraries are celebrating Teen Read Week, and I came across one of the best ideas and had to share it.

Hunterdon Central High School, in Flemington, New Jersey, calls it One School, One Book. Not only does HCHS have a great book club, called Bookworms, which meets every two weeks to discuss a great book outside the school curriculum, but they were a part of the YALSA Young Adult Galley, the group that chooses the Teen Read Week Top 10. Hats off to you, Bookworms!

From the HCHS webpage:

Why is everyone carrying around the same book? Why is my teacher reading the same book as the custodian, my bus driver, the cafeteria staff, the secretary, and the librarian?

It's One School, One Book! Before the second week of October, the entire school (staff and students) is invited to share one reading experience. There will be activities of all kinds...something for everyone! So don't be left out! Copies are available for $7.99 at Borders, or you can check a copy out from the IMC starting Monday, June 15th. Throughout the summer, books can be checked-out or returned Monday - Thursday. Don't forget your ID! Go, share, and experience - One School, One Book!

HCHS chose Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter for it's One School, One Book initiative. The Bookworms are currently reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

One of the first times I entered what is now my favorite book shop, Rob, the manager, told me to read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. "A memoir? Nah. Not for me," I thought. I still walked out with an amazing book, as I always do, but it took me almost two years to finally read The Glass Castle. I shouldn't have waited one day. I can say without exaggeration that this book has changed me.

The first line: "I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster."

Walls then takes us back to the beginning, to her earliest memory of when she was three years old, and making herself hot dogs. Her mother was painting in the next room, and her father was off somewhere, probably at a bar, leaving Jeannette to fend for herself, standing on a chair by the stove. Her dress caught fire. The six weeks Jeannette had spent in the hospital had been the only time in her childhood that she was clean, clothed, ate three meals a day, and had electricity and someone to look after her.

The Walls parents: Rex, the alcoholic father who could never hold a steady job, fueled his children's creativity when sober, but left them to survive the horrors of his own deceitfulness when he was drunk; and the artist mother who was a bit manic without the aid of alcohol, so the children never knew if they were going to wake up to an able teacher who worked and saved money and occasionally paid bills and put food on the table or the depressed irresponsible woman who doesn't work because it's her time to be taken care of. These two are madly in love...or just simply mad.

The Walls children: Lori, the eldest sister, was the smart one; Brian, the only brother, was the brave one; and Maureen, the baby sister, was the pretty one. Jeannette went without description, as they were never quite sure where she fit in. All of the children were extremely bright and capable. Their parents taught them reading, writing, arithmetic and survival by way of throwing them into the deep-end of life and told to sink or swim. As the children grew up, not being able to count on their parents for basic human needs, they supported and protected one another.

Jeannette Walls takes us through 13 years of her family's life with painful honesty, yet maintaining a graceful and humorous courage. From reading descriptions of this memoir, one would think it would be heavy, emotional and downright depressing, but that's not the case with The Glass Castle. Not at all. This book is beautifully written, and I turned the pages with ease.

In fact, Jeannette compares herself to Francie Nolan, the main character in one of my favorite books of all time, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. I found it befitting that she would make this connection, since I felt the same way after reading A Tree Grows In Brooklyn as I did when I finished The Glass Castle and they now sit on my shelf side-by-side.

The Walls children not only survived, but prospered. It actually made me wonder if maybe their parents weren't all that mad in teaching their children self-sufficiency. Maybe.

Book Video:

Jeannette Walls's second book, Half Broke Horses, was released October 6, 2009.

For more from Simon and Schuster, visit their Jeannette Walls Author Page.

About This Book:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (January 9, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 074324754X
ISBN-13: 978-0743247542

(This copy of The Glass Castle came from my own library.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell

In a time when too many people act first and think later, I sincerely hope that thinking is making a comeback.

When I finished reading this book, I immediately thought of half a dozen people who would love it. All six of those people are successful, and are most likely already thinkers themselves. Still, it can't hurt to fine-tune your skills!

How Successful People Think is divided into 11 parts, each focusing on a different method of thinking, and the skills in which to master them and put them into practice.

I have to admit, when I began reading this book, I found myself reading the words, but not understanding the meaning until I came to the chapter entitled "Harness Creative Thinking" and read about the creativity killers. It was that "Aha!" moment for me in which I took everything in this book and put a goal behind it.

If you have a goal, whether it be to write a novel, start your own business or to change your life in a big way, you should read this book with your specific goals in mind. Then you will be able to take Maxwell's tutorial and put it into practice.

I am one of those people who read and enjoy books like The Wisdom of Teams, The Tipping Point, and Who Stole My Cheese?, so this book is not too far out of my comfort zone.

Why should someone want to read this book?

"Good thinkers rarely find themselves at the mercy of ruthless people who would take advantage of them or try to deceive them, people like Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, who once boasted, 'What luck for rulers that men do not think.'"

For more visit John Maxwell On Leadership

About This Book:

How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by John C. Maxwell
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Center Street (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599951681
ISBN-13: 978-1599951683

A review copy of this book was furnished by Hachette Book Group.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teen Read Week 2009

The American Library Association (ALA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) are sponsoring the 11th annual Teen Read Week. From October 18th through October 24th teens across the country will take place in Teen Read Week 2009. For more information, visit the Teen Week website, or visit the Teen Week Wiki (tons of info here!).

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Young Adult books, and some of the books on this year's Top Ten list are now on my To-Read shelf. These were books nominated and voted on by teens.

2009 Teens’ Top Ten Nominations

Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. Harcourt/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (9780152063962).2008. Lady Katsa is born with a Grace (super talent) of killing and her uncle, the king, makes her his brute squad. When she meets Po, a rival kingdom's Graceling, she becomes more powerful as a woman of justice, self knowledge, and romance.

Cast, Kristin & P.C. Untamed. St. Martin's Griffin. (9780312379834). 2008.
At finishing school for young vampyres, Zoey makes a shocking discovery about the
school's leader, but no one will listen to her as her undead friends and 3 boyfriends turn against her. Loyalties are strained, truths are revealed, and an ancient evil is awakened in Cast's fourth House of Night novel.

Clare, Cassandra. City of Ashes. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry.
(9781416914297). 2008.
The second in the Mortal Instruments trilogy, this volume continues the saga of Clary and her best friend Simon as they struggle to find their place in a magical world parallel to their NYC home. Demon-fighting shadowhunters, vampires, warlocks, werewolves,faeries, and a master villain named Valentine provide a heart-pounding backdrop as Clary uncovers secrets about her past.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic. (9780439023481). 2008.
To save her young sister from competing, Katniss Everdeen takes her place in the annual Hunger Games, a televised competition in which only one person, the winner, survives. By turns an adventure, a love story, and a futuristic thriller, this is the first in a planned trilogy.

Fukui , Isamu. Truancy. For Teen.(9780765317674). 2008.
In the totalitarian society that Tack lives in, a rebel group called the Truancy is fighting for freedom. But Tack vows revenge on the Truancy when someone he loves is killed accidentally during one of their attacks on the government.Fukui ,

Isamu. Truancy: Origins. Tor Teen. (9780765322623). 2009.
Umasi and Zen, adopted and raised in a life of privilege, are horrified to discover that their father is behind the restrictive policies of their city. One brother will be driven to rebellion.

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. HarperCollins. (9780060530921). 2008.
When a toddler wanders away from his home just before assassins slay his family, he ends up in a graveyard. Named Nobody Owens, the ghosts and other denizens of the
cemetery adopt him and teach him important skills he will need to survive.

Green, John. Paper Towns. Penguin/Dutton. (978025478188). 2008.
When they were little, Margo Roth Spiegelman was Q’s best friend. Now, a month before high school graduation, she disappears after taking Q on a night of pranks involving dead fish and a depilatory, sending him on a quest to find her.

Harris, Joanne. Runemarks. Random House/Alfred A. Knopf. (9780375844447). 2008.
Maddie is shunned by the town because of the mysterious rune mark on her hand. This same rune mark will shatter her dull existence as it propels her into the center of a war between the new controlling religious government and the Norse gods of old.

Hopkins, Ellen. Identical. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry. (9781416950059).
Identical teenage twins, Raeanne and Kaeleigh, respond in totally opposite ways to the abuse and abandonment from their parents. One twin finds bulimia and cutting eases the pain and helps her to maintain her passivity, while the other, more rebellious twin sinks into the world of drugs and sex.

Lockhart, E. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Disney-Hyperion.
(9780786838189). 2008.
When Frankie's boyfriend joins a secret society that she isn't supposed to know anything about, she surprises everyone—including herself—by trying to beat them and become the biggest prankster of them all.

Marriott, Zoё. Daughter of the Flames. Candlewick Press. (9780763637491). 2009.
Zira bears scars from the battle that left her orphaned and in the care of the Ruan people. When a tyrant king threatens her home, Zira seeks help from an unlikely romantic interest and uncovers the truth about her past.

McMann, Lisa. Wake. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. (9781416953579). 2008.
Going to sleep isn't a big deal for most of us, but for Janie, falling asleep means getting sucked into other people's dreams. The supernatural ability she's always considered a nuisance quickly becomes a nightmare when she blunders into a dream and witnesses a murder.

Meyer, Stephenie. Breaking Dawn. Megan Tingley/Little, Brown. (978316067928).
In this, the fourth and final installment of the Twilight Saga, Bella’s new life as the wife of vampire Edward Cullen is wrought with unexpected obstacles, difficult decisions, and potentially overwhelming outcomes.

Moran, Katy. Bloodline. Candlewick Press. (9780763640835). 2009.
In the brutal world of Dark Age Britain, Essa fights for his life, his identity, and the lives of those he loves. Paolini and Tolkien fans will be drawn in.

Ness, Patrick. The Knife of Never Letting Go. (Chaos Walking. Book 1). Candlewick
Press. (9780763639310). 2008.
Dangerous secrets can even be hidden in a world where all men and animals hear each others' thoughts. Because all women died shortly after he was born, Todd Hewitt is the last boy left in his town. When he learns a dangerous secret, he runs for his life with his dog and finds something even more surprising: a girl!

Noёl, Alyson. Evermore. St. Martin's Griffin. (9780312532758). 2009.
Her life ripped apart by a tragic accident that killed her family, Ever struggles with her newfound ability to hear people’s thoughts. Enter Damen, the new boy who seems the perfect distraction — except he doesn’t eat or drink, and soon Ever discovers a supernatural new world of which she is now part.

Palmer, Robin. Geek Charming. Penguin/Puffin. (9780142411223 ). 2009.
Dylan’s middle name is “crisis.” It seems to follow her wherever she goes. First she catches her boyfriend staring at another girl. Then her beautiful designer bag takes a swim in a fountain. However, along with crisis comes opportunity, and Dylan's Beverly Hills world is about to be turned upside-down.

Pierce, Tamora. Melting Stones. Scholastic/Scholastic Press. (9780545052641). 2008.
All life, both plant and animal, on the Battle Islands is mysteriously dying. Stone mage Evvy responds to the islander’s call for help. They need her magic to solve the mystery. Accompanied by her friend and mentor, Luvo, she uncovers the deep secret revealed by the stones and the volcano. Will it be in time to rescue the children?

Scott, Elizabeth. Living Dead Girl. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse. (9781416960591).
Alice was kidnapped when she was young and is forced to pretend to be a little girl to please Ray. She could never escape and wishes for death. Soon her wish will become true, as she had become too old and now she must find Ray a replacement for her.

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Eternal. Candlewick Press. (9780763635732). 2009.
Zachary, a guardian angel has, against all rules, fallen in love with his charge. When he sees Miranda sleeping in the shadow of death, his attempt to save her hurls her into life as a vampire princess and exiles him from heaven.

Smith, Sherri L. Flygirl. Penguin/G.P. Putnam's Sons. (9780399247095). 2009.
Because she wants to fly and to support her soldier brother, 18-year-old Ida May Jones passes for white amidst obstacles of race and gender and joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during World War II .

Weingarten, Lynn. Wherever Nina Lies. Scholastic/Point. (9780545066310). 2009.
Two years after 16-year-old Ellie's older sister, Nina, disappeared, Ellie pieces together clues to her whereabouts and heads out on a road trip that leads to murder and mystery with her hot new boyfriend, Sean.

Werlin, Nancy. Impossible. Penguin/Dial. (978080373001). 2008.
This gentle story details young teen Lucy's rape and subsequent pregnancy, with an amazingly supportive cast of a faithful boyfriend and loving parents. A fairy tale set in the present, with flashes of realism and romance.

Yee, Lisa. Absolutely Maybe. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. (9780439838443). 2009.
Maybe (short for Maybelline, her mother's favorite mascara) leaves home and heads to California on a mission to find her biological father, and avoid her mother's planned wedding number seven.

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy is described as one of the greatest novelists of all time, and Anna Karenina, his masterpiece.

Like many classics, the first line is one that will stay with you:

"All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

My book club chose this monster of a book as our summer read. We had three whole months to read it, and of course I procrastinated. I didn't open it until a week before our meeting, and I finished the night before. No, it is not a fast read, but I actually wish I would have taken more time with it.

This was my second reading of Anna Karenina. The first time I read it was almost 10 years ago, and not only am I glad that I re-read it, but I feel that I got more out of it this time around

Of the seven main characters, there are two couples - Oblonsky (Anna's brother) and Dolly; Levin and Kitty (Dolly's sister) - and a love triangle of Anna, her husband, and her lover, Count Vronksy. All of the couples are intertwined by family and by society.

It is inevitable that a reader compares the relationship between Anna and Vronsky with that of Levin and Kitty. While Anna and Vronsky are dark and passionate, Kitty and Levin are tender and calm. The reader also can't help but take note of the dichotomy of life in the country, Petersburg, and life in the city, Moscow.

The biggest difference between my first and second reading is how I view the women, especially Anna and Kitty. Now that I am a mother, I judge a woman's character by the type of mother she is. Anna and Kitty could not have been two more different mothers, and I found myself judging one more harshly and one much less so once their maternal sides came to light. I sympathized with Anna's being stuck in an arranged loveless marriage, only finding happiness years later when she meets Vronsky, the true love of her life. At least I did until she abandoned her son, and became so selfish that she all but ignored her baby daughter. Kitty, on the other hand, seemed shallow and fickle until she came into her own as a tender and caring mother.

There were parts of the book that I found a bit heavy and long-winded. I'm sure that if I had used my three months more efficiently, I would have taken my time with the Russian history and politics, so I could better understand the political debates among the characters throughout the novel. Even as they were, I found them interesting and strangely current to modern world affairs. If nothing else, the debates shined a light on the different cast members' true characters. Nothing brings our your true colors better than the combination of politics and vodka.

Everyone in our book club agreed that Anna Karenina was one novel that we were glad to have read. It's one of those books that can sit on a reader's To-Read shelf for years until something finally inspires you to pick it up.

If nothing else inspires you to finally get around to reading Anna Karenina, it has to be this comment by one of the women in my book club:

"It's 19th Century chick-lit"

Now, I am told that enjoying Anna Karenina is completely dependent upon which of the half dozen translations you choose to read. I read the Norton Critical edition, translated by George Gibian. Oprah's Book Club used the award-winning translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a husband and wife team published by Penguin Classics (information of this translation below).

About the Book:
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Paperback: 864 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics; First Printing edition (May 31, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0143035002
ISBN-13: 978-0143035008

The copy of Anna Karenina I read was from my own library.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Win a Signed Copy of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood

Nan A. Talese is offering the chance to win one of five signed copies of Margaret Atwood's latest novel, The Year of the Flood.

To enter for a chance to win go here.

To read my review of The Year of the Flood, go here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Review: Obama's Blackberry by Kasper Hauser

As the first US President in history to take a Blackberry into the Oval Office, Obama has left the door wide open for satirist Kasper Hauser.

Just so we are clear, I will not discuss politics on my book review blog. I am a voracious debater outside the realm of Alison's Book Marks, so feel free to contact me off-line if you want to discuss healthcare reform, Gitmo, Afghanistan, or the NJ Gubernatorial race. Maybe someday I'll start a political blog...but not today.

Back to the review. I actually chuckled a bit while reading this very clever book! Joe Biden is incessantly asking if he can leave the office early, Arnold Schwartzenegger has taken it upon himself to "Terminate" Osama bin Laden, and Oprah is secretly dictating foreign policy. Sure, there are the jabs at W, Cheney, Palin, and the like, but it's all in good fun. There is some funny stuff in this book.

Leave your voter registration card at the door, and you'll enjoy Obama's Blackberry. Easily read in less than 30 minutes, I would say that this is a good gift book, but not something I would normally pick up for myself.

To read some of the texts from the book, you can go to Obama's Blackberry website.

You can also visit Kasper Hauser's website.

About the Book:
Obama's Blackberry by Kasper Hauser
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316074357
ISBN-13: 978-0316074353

I received this book from a book giveaway at Drey's Libaray.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Giveaway: Today's The Day!

Happy Book Giveaway Day!

I am really excited about reading this book -- and seeing the movie in 2010.

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group for allowing me to host this giveaway, and for providing THREE of my lucky readers with copies of Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell.

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 THREE winners. And they are:

Etriv (Delilah0180)
Mike Draper

Congratulations to the winners! I will be contacting you via e-mail with further instructions.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Giveaway: Last Day to Enter!

Today is the last day to enter to win one of only THREE copies of Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell.

Next year, everyone is going to be talking about this book, as Leo DiCaprio brings Beat the Reaper to the big screen. It's a hot one!

To enter, please head back to the original post and leave me a message. (Extra entries for being a follower!)

Good Luck to all!

Visit Hachette Book Group to read an excerpt, check out the different covers, and take a look at the reading group guide.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm reading...

I finally started reading Anna Karenina for my book club. We chose a monster of a book to read over our summer break -- I know, I know, it's not summer anymore! I'm a procrastinator. Sue me.

Right now, I'm only 200 pages in and enjoying it even more than I did the first time I read it 7 years ago. Sometimes I can take on more than one book at a time, but for some reason I have not been able to do that with Anna Karenina. Tolstoy needs my full attention.

Alas, you will all be without new reviews from Alison's Book Marks for at least a few more days. OK, more like a week. I want to take my time with Anna.

Would I leave you all hung out to dry? No new reviews to read? No new contests to enter? What do you think I am? A barbarian?

First, there is a HUGE book giveaway from Book Reviews by Bobbie. It's a first anniversary celebration for the blog -- a "Blogoversary". 50 books will be given away, so feel free to visit and enter.

Next, here are a few of MY favorite book blogs. Let them know I sent you!

Maw Books Blog
Stephanie's Written Word
My Friend Amy
The Book Book (which has many great reviewers on one blog)

Lastly, if you are visiting me for the first time, or simply to find a really good book, here are a few of my favorite books:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Help by Cathryn Stockett
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

One more thing. If audiobooks are your thing, you can listen to the first chapter of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol from Random House audio at Knopf Doubleday. Enjoy!

I'm off to read...

Thanks, all!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Review: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood is unlike anything I had ever read before.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I'll get to that. Bear with me.

Before starting my blog, I thought I was a well-read individual. I was an English Major! Then, I became introduced to writers like Richard Russo, Valerie Martin and Margaret Atwood. I had not read Janet Evanovich or James Patterson prior to July 2009 either!

When picking up a book by a well-known writer, there is a certain amount of pressure for a reviewer. I WANT to love this book, because I'm SUPPOSED to love this book. What if I don't? Does that mean I don't get it? Could it mean that it's over my head? Does that mean I had better take up blogging about photography?

I was panicking during the first 100 pages of Margaret Atwood's new book, which was being praised as a masterpiece before it was even released. What is this? Is it science fiction? Is this an alternate universe? What is dystopian literature anyway? Was Atwood high when she wrote this book? Should I be high while reading this book? What the hell is a "violet biolet"? I took a deep breath, put my note cards down, and just let myself fall into this book. Once I did that, I really enjoyed it.

One thing I figured out is even though The Year of the Flood is not the second book of a series, there are characters who make an appearance from her earlier work, Oryx and Crake, which took place in a section of the world in which The Year of the Flood is set. I am told, if you have already read and enjoyed Oryx and Crake, you'll love The Year of the Flood.

For those of you who, like me, have not read Oryx and Crake, this book was a mind freak. There were so many layers to this book, I could write a dissertation if I had the space. I am new to dystopian literature, and it was a fascinating introduction.

The actual Year of the "waterless flood" is Year 25. Our two main characters are Ren, who is the narrator of her chapters, and Toby, whose story is told from the 3rd person. Atwood not only flips back and forth between these two characters' perspectives, she also takes her readers between Year 25 and the years leading up to Year 25. Eventually, the stories of the two women, and the world they are in, are intertwined and the full story comes together.

The method in which the story is written was masterful, but the actual story is what I found so compelling. It's not that far off from what could actually happen in our world. There is a "waterless flood" or massive epidemic that kills off most of the population. Whether or not the epidemic was created in a lab is unknown, but assumed. Even if the epidemic was not intentional, certain illnesses were purposefully given to test subjects who had thought they were taking vitamin supplements. (Just a thought like that could make a person a little paranoid in the year 2009.) Within this story is a cult of sorts, God's Gardeners, which believes in a pure way of life, not using too much energy, eating only from the earth and not from the Corporation's labs and they somehow survive. Years and years earlier, they would have been considered a part of the "green" movement. Since the majority of the early world had ignored that green movement, the world they are left with is polluted, society is collapsing on itself, and many of the animal species are extinct.

Makes you think.

So, The Year of the Flood was unlike anything I had ever read before. Good or bad? I think I have to fall on the side of good. Really good. This was a cool book, I am thrilled to have been introduced to another amazing writer. It's never too late, and you're never too far out of the loop as a reader to try out a new writer or a new genre.

One more thing: A "violet biolet" is the futuristic term for a toilet.

Visit The Year of the Flood website, where you can read an excerpt

Here is a list of more dystopian novels, if that's your thing.

About the Book:
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Printing edition (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385528779
ISBN-13: 978-0385528771

To Order:

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