Monday, May 31, 2010

BEA: Day One Recap

My first day of BEA was completely overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time! 

I made a few rookie mistakes - not allowing enough time to drive into the city to get to the Children's Book and Author Breakfast on time, not getting a ticket for the Rick Riordan signing event, and not shipping all the swag out and freeing my shoulders from the heavy heavy bags I was carrying.   Aching feet and shoulders be damned, it was a great experience!

I did get to meet some great authors Mo Willems (Knuffle Bunny), James Dashner (The Maze Runner), and Rachel Vincent (Shifters series).  I also spotted a few celebs:  Rick Springfield (still cute), Kristen Alfonso (doesn't age) and Ken Corday (Days of Our Lives), Louis Gossett Jr. and author Steve Berry (he was walking past while I ogled). 

Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda:

Rachel Vincent, author of Soul Screamers:

The Publishers went all out for YA/MG authors Suzanne Collins (Mockingjay), Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), and Rick Riordan (Red Pyramid).   I couldn't get anywhere near them or their books.  Still, I was in the presence of greatness...

Tonight I attended a welcome reception hosted by Harper Collins and got to meet some of MY favorite book bloggers - Amy/My Friend Amy, Natasha/Maw Books, Sheila/One Person's Journey, among others - and got to meet some new bloggers (to me). 

I have blogger pictures: Kathy/Bermuda Onion and Swapna/S.Krishna's Books; Sheila/Book Journey and Me, Natasha/Maw Books, Amy/My Friend Amy

There were so many amazing book bloggers I met, but didn't photograph because we were just having too much fun! 

All in all, I truly was a fish out of water for the first few hours.  I wasn't sure how anything worked, how to snag the hot ARCs, and how to manage the enormous Jacob Javits Convention Center without retracing my steps.  Just when I thought I was truly going to have a panic attack from being bumped, shoved, and herded, I heard, "Alison!"  I turned around, and looking at me were the two friendliest faces I could possibly have seen - Harvey and Rob from Clinton Book Shop.  Ah, my book whisperers!  And Harvey was bearing gifts - wristbands to meet children's author Mo Willems.  Thank you, guys, for being my breath of fresh air!

What Are You Reading?

Today is Monday, May 31, 2010...What are you reading on this glorious Memorial Day?

This is an extra special edition of It's Monday, What Are You Reading? because last week I met, live in person, the lovely, the talented, and the oh so sweet Sheila, our hostess at Book Journey

Sheila/Book Journey & Me

I am working on my Book Expo America and Book Bloggers Convention posts (having issues with the pics), but a highlight of the week was meeting and chatting with Sheila.  I did not know ANY book bloggers going into any of these events, which was extremely scary, but Sheila went out of her way several times to make me feel welcome and loved and she will never know what that meant to me. 

So, thank you, Sheila, for making me feel a part of the gang!

Now, on to business...which is extremely embarassing.  If it were not for Sheila, I would not have posted this week, because even though I was surrounded by books, books, books, all week long, I didn't get any reading done. 

I actually said to Kristi/The Story Siren while standing on line for a copy of Beautiful Darkness, "This is not normal for me.  I'm on a line for 30 minutes, and I'm not reading!  What's wrong with me!?!"

Lots of books...very little reading.  More on that to come.

Books Completed This Week:

Currently Reading:

Plan to Read This Week:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Welcome to Alison's Book Marks

Welcome to Alison's Book Marks!

I am in New York City this week at the BEA - Book Expo America - and the Book Blogger Convention.

For my readers, I will have a full recap and photos when I return this weekend, as well as plenty of new reviews - including at least one addition to my favorites of 2010!

If this is your first time visiting my book blog, and would like to take a look around, allow me to give you the cook's tour.  Below are some links that might help you find the meal you're looking for, and some extra desserts too yummy to pass up.

Reviews:  Fiction
Reviews:  Young Adult
Reviews:  Children's (MG)

My Thoughts:  Between Books

Thank you for stopping by, feel free to comment, leave me an e-mail, check me out on Twitter @AlisonsBookMrks or click on the Follow button to your left to keep up with all my Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Book Giveaways and More!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: Frindle by Andrew Clements

Add Frindle to your Middle Reader's summer reading list!

I read this book with my 7 year old last week.  He wanted to read a book with me, but didn't want me to read it aloud - he's too big for that, I guess.  So, he and I lay in bed reading quietly to ourselves.  Then, we would talk about each section we had just read.  Often, we would read three or four chapters in a session, because neither one of us wanted to put the book down!

Nick Allen is a smart kid.  He has a knack for asking the right questions to get a teacher off topic for the last 15 minutes of class, in order to distract her from assigning homework.   Mrs. Granger isn't your average teacher and Nick's trick backfires, and he is assigned to do a research project on what makes a word a word.  How do words come to be in the dictionary?  Nick comes up with his greatest idea yet - Frindle.  Frindle is another name for a pen, according to fifth-grade student, Nick Allen!  A word has meaning because you say so, at least that's what his teacher, Mrs. Granger said.  Nick decides to test her theory, and her, by getting all the students in the school to stop using the word "pen" and start using the word "frindle."  Nick's experiment erupts into something bigger than neither he nor Mrs. Granger could ever have imagined. 

I had so much fun reading this book, and it sparked some wonderful discussions with my son, not only about words and how they come to be in the dictionary, but about the power of imagination and creativity.

I highly recommend Frindle.  It's a thought provoking story that's age-appropriate and NOT about gross bodily functions.  My son and I are looking forward to our next book by Andrew Clements.

Andrew Clements website
Andrew Clements NEW series Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School

Message from Author Andrew Clements:

About the Book:
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Aladdin (February 1, 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0689818769
ISBN-13: 978-1111111113

*FTC Statement: A copy of this book was borrowed from my local library.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

When I turned the last page, I half expected the lights to come up and the credits to roll, I felt like I had watched one of the best action-packed movies of all time.

The Millennium Trilogy has sold over 25 million copies worldwide so far – and are just catching fire in the U.S. The novels in the series include, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo(2008), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2009) and now, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (May 25, 2010). 

From Random House/Knopf:  Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge—against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.

Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest picked up exactly where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off. We don't miss a thing. Lisbeth arrived at the hospital and was prepped for surgery after suffering life-threatening injuries at the hands of her father and criminally insane brother, including a bullet to the head. Blomkvist was still handcuffed at Gosseberga farm, which was crawling with police detectives trying to piece together what happened, when he spots Salander's Palm.

Lisbeth Salander is like the female Jason Bourne.  She's brilliant, sexy, sly, and she's mad as hell and isn't going to take it any more.  She fights back, and none but a select few know how, since according to the corrupt government officials and sadists like psychiatrist Dr. Teleborian, she spent the entire novel isolated in her hospital room, unable to have visitors, contact or knowledge of the outside world, aside from her attorney and small medical staff.  Small obstacles to Lisbeth. Due to her supposed isolation, Salander and Blomkvist spend much of the novel apart, and just one of the edge-of-your-seat mysteries is if and when the two will come together. 

Lisbeth Salander is a brilliantly crafted character, but I love all of Stieg Larsson's women.  They are strong, smart, beautiful, and even the victims don't whine, they get even.  Each of the four parts of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest begins with a story of ancient female warriors, and the novel is not only about the corrupt workings of secret government agencies, but the women who are victims of the violence of these men.  Victims turned into warriors.  The literary world should truly lament Larsson's tragic death.  After seeing the hero he made of Lisbeth Salander, I could only imagine what else he could have done with characters like Inspector Monica Figuerola and Susanne Linder.

I don't want to take anything away from Mikael Blomkvist, who is described as, "In the middle of all this mess he's like a hand grenade with the pin pulled."  Yes.  That's Kalle Blomkvist.  Nor do I want to take away from the novel as a whole.  Even though this was supposed to be only the third of a possible ten parts, there are no loose ends, there is no abrupt ending in the last twenty pages.  Each mystery, each hanging thread comes together in its own time leading up to a climactic and satisfying end.

Suspenseful, exciting, smart, and sexy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a must-read. If you haven't read the first two books in the Millennium Trilogy yet, they are both available in paperback now, so go read them, you won't be disappointed.  If you have already read the first two installments, do not deny yourself the genius that is Larsson's final book.  The vividly drawn characters, the forward moving plot, and the quest for justice.  One of my favorites of the year.


Read an excerpt of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.Dragon Tattoo Film

Book Trailer for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - thanks to Knopf who posted this on their Facebook page on Tuesday!

Theatrical Trailer:
The Swedish movie of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has been released at select theaters in the US, but the Millennium Trilogy is currently in negotiations to make an English version.

About the Author:
Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was a journalist. He was the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Expo from 1999, and had previously worked at a major news agency for many years. He was one of the world’s leading experts on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations, and he was often consulted on that account. He was just as ready to give a lecture in a secondary school as at Scotland Yard.

The “Millennium” series is a surprisingly confident debut in the thriller genre. The action in the books takes place in 2003 and later, mainly in Stockholm but in other parts of Sweden and in other countries. Stieg Larsson’s primary strength was his unaffected style, free of clichés. He wrote effectively, his tone spot-on and professional.

In addition, he exhibited a great knowledge of the field he wrote about which gives credibility to his stories. He had a fantastic ability to keep many complicated plots going at the same time. And he didn’t leave any part of the mystery unsolved.

About the Book:
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy #3) by Stieg Larsson
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Knopf (May 25, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 030726999X
ISBN-13: 978-0307269997

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

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Release Date Revealed for Wimpy Kid #5

Release Date Revealed for Wimpy Kid #5


Amulet Books has announced the publication date for the fifth book in Jeff Kinney’s bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The book will go on sale Tuesday, November 9, and for those keeping track: its cover will be purple (the first four books were red, blue, green, and yellow). Promotional events for the book will be disclosed this summer, as will its title.

“I feel like everything in the series has been leading up to the fifth book, which is about change and the different ways Greg and his best friend, Rowley, deal with it,” said Kinney in a statement. “To me, this book is the linchpin in the series, and I’m excited to be writing it.” More than 32 million Wimpy Kid books are in print in the U.S., and the books have been sold in more than 30 countries.

I don't know about you, but we love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in our house.  My son is begging me to get his book signed by Jeff Kinney at BEA.  What a great souvenir that would be!  November 9, 2010 is already marked - we're ready!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Virginia by Susan Hughes

What would happen if a 15 year old girl claimed to have been visited by the angel Gabriel and told that she was chosen to bear the next child of God? 

This is the story of Virginia Donato, as told by Ivy, her childhood friend.  Ivy and Virginia were close friends as girls, but not particularly close as teenagers, which made it all the more strange when Virginia asked Ivy to come over to her house one day.  She said that she had something important, but not terrible, to tell her.  Virginia claims that the angel Gabriel came to her bedroom. 
"I've been chosen to have a child," she said in a low voice.  "A child that will come from God." 
At first, Ivy thought the worst.  Did someone rape her?  Was she delusional?  Was she a mixed up girl trying to cover up an unwanted pregnancy with a wild story about an immaculate conception?  Virginia's large family had always been deeply religious, attending the local Catholic church. After the death of Virginia's father, her eldest brother, Paul, took his place as patriarch of the family. Paul had different ideas about religion, and opened up his own secret church in the vacant house behind theirs.  Paul preached about the End of Time and the final judgement.  Virginia and her brother, Joe, did not attend Paul's church and stayed out of his way, until Ivy made some terrifying discoveries, with Virginia's visit with the angel only being the beginning.  Now it was up to Joe and Ivy to find out the truth about what was going on in the Donato family.

I'll be completely honest, I don't know how I would classify this novel.  Even though there are definitely spiritual and Christian themes, none of them are true to their foundation, and blatantly misinterpreted by some of the characters in the book, so I don't think I would consider this Christian Fiction.   While it posed some interesting questions of faith, there were few answers.  I also don't know if I would recommend it to a YA reader.  The themes of a religious cult, alcoholic parents, among other things, may not be appropriate for some readers.  If your teen wants to read Virginia, I highly recommend reading it with her, and discussing it.  I do think the questions Susan Hughes presents her readers are thought-provoking and worthy of discussion.

Unfortunately, the end of the book left me with a huge question mark and too many loose ends.  I found the storyline interesting and compelling, but it never quite took me where I wanted it to go.  I enjoyed it as I read it, but there was not enough to satisfy me in the end.  I think I may need to talk to someone about the many themes of this book, so if you've read it, give me a shout. 

About the Author:
Susan Hughes is a children s book writer and editor. Her 2002 book Canada Invents was shortlisted for the Red Cedar Book Award and the Hackmatack Award, and was an Our Choice starred selection of the Canadian Children s Book Centre.
Visit Susan Hughes Online.

About the Book:
Virginia by Susan Hughes
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Ltd. (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1554533074
ISBN-13: 978-1554533077

*FTC Statement:  A review copy of this book was provided by the author

Monday, May 17, 2010

What are You Reading?

For some reason, this post did not post I am just realizing today.  So, no, today is not Monday...but roll with it, okay?  Thanks!
Today is Monday, May 17, 2010...and I HAVE A NEW NIECE!!!  I am tickled pink by the arrival of Lyla Elizabeth!!

I had to get that out.  Now, back to business. 

As always, let's give a great big Good Monday to our lovely host, Sheila, at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.  Good Monday, Sheila!!

It's been a solid month since my last What Are You Reading, and I have lots to catch up on.  That being said, I read several hefty books, so while my list of completed books might look sparse, the page count is way high.  

Books Completed (since April 19th):

Book I am Currently Reading:

Books I Plan to Read This Week:


Review: The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

Literary Brilliance. 

Before I go into the synopsis of The Rehearsal, I just have to say that this book is not for everyone, but it certainly was my kind of book.  It reminded me of the way I felt after I read The Confessions of Edward Day by Valerie Martin (click for review).  This was a world into which I could escape and understand and long for.  It was full of drama and script notes, angst and insecurity, scandal and lies.  I loved it!

Synopsis from Publisher:
All the world’s a stage—and nowhere more than at an all-girls high school, particularly one where a scandal has just erupted. When news spreads of a high school teacher’s relationship with his underage student, participants and observers alike soon take part in an elaborate show of concern and dismay. But beneath the surface of the teenage girls’ display, there simmers a new awareness of their own power. They obsessively examine the details of the affair with the curiosity, jealousy and approbation native to any adolescent girl, under the watchful eye of their stern and enigmatic saxophone teacher, whose focus may not be as strictly on their upcoming recital as she implies.

Shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award, The Rehearsal is an exhilarating, darkly funny, provocative novel about the complications of human desire, a tender portrait of teenage yearning and adult regret. It marks the arrival of a boldly inventive new voice in contemporary fiction.

There are two separate story lines in this book, until they inevitably come together about two-thirds of the way in. 

On the one side is the saxophone teacher and the small group of girls that she tutors individually.  All the girls attend the same school, but it is during their sax lessons that we hear about the drama that takes place at the school  There is especially juicy gossip to tell when the director of jazz band allegedly has an affair with one of his students.  When the girls tell their stories to the sax teacher, something happens.  It's as if the girls are on stage.  The lights.  The music.  The performance.  The girls are judged as much on their story-telling prowess as they are of their saxophone playing skills...and judged harshly.  The saxophone wants a performance from the girls.  She wants the lights to change.  She wants the scene to unfold before her eyes.

The other story line is that of Stanley, an awkward eighteen year old Actor and student at The Institute, which shares the same building as the music studio where the girls take their saxophone lessons.  Stanley goes through a coming of age metamorphosis during his first year at The Institute.  Strangely enough, there is considerably less theatrics in Stanley's quest to impress his teachers.

The timeline jumps back and forth a bit as the action, characters, and stories intersect, but it is never confusing.  In fact, I barely noticed the month headings at the beginning of each section, there was such a clear idea of the timing.   The technique is used in such a subtle way that lends more toward understanding and excitement.

The first-year actors at The Institute, including Stanley, were putting on a play about a scandal they read about in the newspaper; meanwhile, the details of the scandal itself were unwrapped by the gossiping girls and relayed to the reader through their performances, their re-creations of the scenes they experienced,  all the while they were in the music studio mere steps away.  There was more acting and theatrics taking place in the saxophone lessons than on the stage of the theater academy. 

I read The Rehearsal as part of the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, hosted by Kathy/Bermuda Onion and Julie/Booking Mama.  Thanks again to Reagan Arthur  for providing me with a review copy of such a wonderful book!

For more information regarding the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, click on the link and it will take you directly to the Challenge website. 

About the Author:
Eleanor Catton was born in 1985 in Canada, grew up in New Zealand, and is currently attending the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her highly acclaimed first novel, The Rehearsal, has been sold in 10 countries and will appear in the summer of 2010.

About the Book:
The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (May 17, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316074330
ISBN-13: 978-0316074339

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

Friday, May 14, 2010

Review: Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky

I was so swept up in this book, I forgot to take notes for my review!  I'm shocked that we're not hearing more about this book.

Broken Glass Park is a story told from the point of view of seventeen year old Sascha Naimann. 

Synopsis from the publisher:
The heroine of this engrossing and thoroughly contemporary novel is seventeen-year-old Sascha Naimann. Sascha was born in Moscow, but now lives in Berlin with her two younger siblings and, until recently, her mother. She is precocious, independent, street-wise, and, since her stepfather murdered her mother several months ago, an orphan. Unlike most of her companions, she doesn’t dream of escaping from the tough housing project where they live. Sascha’s dreams are different: she longs to write a novel about her beautiful but naïve mother and she wants to end the life of Vadim, the man who brutally murdered her. Sascha’s story, as touching as any in recent literature, is that of a young woman consumed by two competing impulses, one celebrative and redemptive, the other murderous. In a voice that is candid and self-confident, at times childlike and at others all too mature, Sascha relates the universal and timeless struggle between those forces that can destroy us, and those that lead us back from sorrow and pain to life itself. Germany’s Freundin Magazine called Broken Glass Park “a gripping portrayal of life on the margins of society.” But Sascha’s story does not remain on the margins; it goes straight to the heart of what it means to be young, alive, and conscious in these first decades of the new century.

Sascha, the main character, may only be seventeen, but she is gritty, feisty and angry enough to make the reader question whether or not we should root for her.  She is described in the book as "prickly" and "defensive" but we catch glimpses of her softness, especially towards her two younger siblings, that make us fall in love with her. Sascha struggles between her age and her maturity, as she was thrust into adulthood way before the murder of her mother.  I couldn't help but sympathize for her situation - she watched her mother be gunned down by her stepfather, Vadim, who was nothing but awful to all three of the children - but at the same time she takes risks and is at times utterly cruel to the rest of the world.  Maybe she feels she has the right, since the world has been nothing but cruel to her.

I have to share the first few lines with you:
"Sometimes I think I'm the only one in our neighborhood with any worthwhile dreams.  I have two, and there's no reason to be ashamed of either one.  I want to kill Vadim.  And I want to write a book about my mother.  I already have a title:  The Story of an Idiotic Readheaded Woman Who Would Still Be Alive If Only She Had Listened To Her Smart Oldest Daughter."

Broken Glass Park is an amazing debut novel unlike anything I had ever read before.  This is one of those books that I never would have discovered if I didn't have Alison's Book Marks.  Many thanks to Regal Literary for bringing Alina Bronsky into my world! 

Powerful writing, compelling characters, and a storyline that kept the pages turning. What more could a reader ask for?

 Visit the Europa website for sample chapters, news and reviews.
About the Author:
  Russian-born Alina Bronsky has been the subject of constant praise and debate since her debut novel, Broken Glass Park, was published in Germany in 2008. She has been hailed as a literary prodigy and her novel as “an explosive debut” (Emma Magazine). Now, Broken Glass Park makes its first appearance in English in Tim Mohr’s masterful translation.

About the Book:
Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky
Paperback: 366 pages
Publisher: Europa Editions (March 30, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1933372966
ISBN-13: 978-1933372969

*FTC Statement:  A review copy of this book was provided by the publicist.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Scholastic Summer Challenge

Summer is around the corner...are you ready?

Not only am I a book lover, but I'm the proud mom of two boys who love books.  I don't think there are many moms that feel more passionately than I do about reading, but Scholastic brings the Summer Reading Challenge to a whole new level.  Visit the Scholastic website to Join the Challenge!

Check out the Parents' Page

Check out the Teachers' Page

Is your Governor's Spouse one of the 42 Summer Reading Ambassadors?
Hooray for New Jersey's First Lady, Mary Pat Christie!

Scholastic is also a proud supporter of a non-profit organization called Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) as well as National Summer Learning Association.  Scholastic is challenging kids to Read for the World Record, to help keep kids reading and learning all summer long. Launched on April 30th, the Scholastic Summer Challenge is a free summer reading program with a robust online community for kids, plus expert advice, engaging activities on Facebook and summer book lists for parents, and resources for librarians and educators.

Read with your child, swap books with your child, or read to your child.
Here's a great place to start:

Did you know that two-thirds of low-income children in the U.S. have no books in their homes?  Learn more about Reading is Fundamental at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: To the Nines (Stephanie Plum #9) by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie's new sunshine yellow Ford Escape doesn't get blown up - but the body count is unusually high in the ninth installment of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

To The Nines brings us out west to Las Vegas where the girls - Stephenie, Lula, and Connie - track down a new kind of FTA, one for a Visa Bond.  Unfortunately, he is a player in a deadly web game, where the bullets are real and the players kill one another off in order to find out who their final target is.  Morelli and Ranger work double time trying to protect Stephanie, and keeping every hair on her head safe might not be realistic this time.  Did I mention Lula's on a diet?!?

In my opinion, To The Nines was missing something.  Maybe it needed a trip to Silva's Funeral Home.  Maybe it needed more family dinners with Grandma Mazur.  I'm not sure.  We still had Morelli.  We still had Ranger.  Plenty of people were still breaking into Steph's apartment.  Most importantly, there was still plenty of action and one-liners!

Here are a few of my favorites:

"Lula was a ho in a previous life.  One night while plying her trade she had a near-death experience and decided to change everything but her wardrobe.  Not even a near-death experience could get Lula out of spandex."

The review wouldn't be complete without a great line about New Jersey and all her glory:

"Fancy-pants wimps in L.A. rated their pollution and curtailed activity.  In Jersey we just call it AIR and get on with life.  If you're born in Jersey, you know how to rise to a challenge.  Bring on the Mob.  Bring on bad air.  Bring on taxes and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and macaroni at every meal.   Nothing defeats us in Jersey."

AMEN, sister!

To all my friends in New Jersey:  if you haven't started reading this series yet, you're missing out on a great time.  These books are my candy, and I absolutely love them!  Throw the first book, One for the Money, into your beach bag this summer, you'll be thanking me before it's time to reapply your sunblock!

Visit Janet Evanovich's website:

About the Book:
To The Nines (Stephanie Plum Series #9) by Janet Evanovich
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks; First Thus edition (May 14, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312991460
ISBN-13: 978-0312991463

*FTC Statement:  A copy of this book was borrowed from my local library.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Release Today!

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez is available today!

I have not yet read this book by Tenner Christina Gonzalez, but it is one that captured my attention months ago.

Synopsis:  The Red Umbrella is the moving tale of a 14-year-old girl's journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan—an organized exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, whose parents sent them away to escape Fidel Castro's revolution.

In 1961, two years after the Communist revolution, Lucía Álvarez still leads a carefree life, dreaming of parties and her first crush. But when the soldiers come to her sleepy Cuban town, everything begins to change. Freedoms are stripped away. Neighbors disappear. Her friends feel like strangers. And her family is being watched.

As the revolution's impact becomes more oppressive, Lucía's parents make the heart-wrenching decision to send her and her little brother to the United States—on their own.

Suddenly plunked down in Nebraska with well-meaning strangers, Lucía struggles to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new way of life. But what of her old life? Will she ever see her home or her parents again? And if she does, will she still be the same girl?

The Red Umbrella is a moving story of country, culture, family, and the true meaning of home.

About the Book:
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (May 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0375861904
ISBN-13: 978-0375861901

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

Loved the premise.  Couldn't put it down. 

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano is about a woman who has been in the Witness Protection Program since she was a child.  She and her parents witnessed a mob murder and testified against the Bovaro family.  Every few years, she gets bored of her job, the town, her house, or her life, and she conjures up some false threat in order to get WITSEC to move her again.  Each time, she takes on a new identity and a new job, never making any meaningful friendships or romances.  Then one day, a man approaches her and calls her by her real name, the name that no one has called her since she was a child.  Who is this man?  Is she still safe?  Was she ever safe?  How did he find her?

My book club read The Girl She Used to Be and it got mixed reviews from the seven of us.  The majority loved it - for the pace, the intrigue, and the love interest - but for some, it fell short.  I am somewhere in between.  Melody Grace McCartney, the main character, has issues.  Who wouldn't after living as a stranger her whole life, always afraid, forever wondering if this day will be her last?  Imagine living this way as a teenager - we get a glimpse of just how awful that time period was for her and her family.  There were moments when I sympathized with Melody, but other times I wanted to smack her for feeling so sorry for herself.  But then I would come across a passage like this one, and I would once again feel for her:

One of the worst parts of being in the Federal Witness Protection that you will never be any of those things you dreamed about as a child, unless your dream was of cold anonymity.  You will never be a famous ballet dancer or an all-star shortstop.  You will never be an Oscar-winning actor or a world-class journalist.  You will never be a congressman, a judge, a CEO, a rock star.
You will never be. 
My heart broke for Melody when I read that. 

The man who knows her by her real name is obviously the turning point for the whole book, but she finds herself kidnapped, and her reaction is not what any normal person would feel if she were in a car taking us to an unknown fate:
For the first time in twenty years I am not running.  Because I am captured.
I have never felt freer than I do right now. 
Melody is a complex character, to say the least, but I am blown away that a man created this character so fully and honestly.  I don't know how David Cristofano did it - he must have grown up with a lot of sisters or has an amazing relationship with his wife.  Whatever it is, he got Melody right.  Her character never felt forced or contrived. 

I couldn't help but reflect on Melody's parents in this book.  They chose this life for her, she was too young to have an opinion, yet she would never be able to escape and be her true self.  Who would do that to their child?  Maybe this is one of the reasons people don't snitch on the mafia.

Despite one scene which made me cringe a bit, I highly recommend The Girl She Used to Be.  It wasn't one of my favorites, but I really enjoyed it.  I think it's a great summer read, the pages will fly by, and you'll enjoy the possibly love story.

Hachette Book Group's The Girl She Used to Be page
Reading Group Guide

About the Author:
David Cristofano has earned degrees in Government & Politics and Computer Science from the University of Maryland at College Park and has worked for different branches of the Federal Government for over a decade. His short works have been published by Like Water Burning and McSweeneys. He currently works in the Washington, D.C. area where he lives with his wife, son and daughter. THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is his first novel.

About the Book:
The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (March 10, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446582212
ISBN-13: 978-0446582216

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

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