Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse #11)

A fun break from my more serious reading.

DEAD RECKONING is the most recent of the Sookie Stackhouse series of books by Charlaine Harris - the book series on which the show TRUE BLOOD is based. 

I started reading this series before the show aired, and really enjoyed it.  As with any book-turned-movie/TV show, I hesitated watching it.  I don't watch TRUE BLOOD regularly, but I have seen a handful of episodes. As I feared, the show somewhat ruined the book series for me.  I can no longer read about these characters without picturing the actors in my head - none of which I find attractive.  Since attractiveness is a matter of personal taste, I hope I'm not offending Anna Paquin, and the rest of the True Blood cast. But, where there used to be passion and tension among the characters, I'm left flat.

Reviewing this book on its own, it was OK.  It was not my favorite of the series, but it was a nice break from other reading.  I've been in a reading slump - I have a bit of ADD lately and had a hard time finishing any of the books I started.  Charlaine Harris usually writes fast-paced, sexy books, and this one was much of the same, with a few disappointments. 

I found the one sex scene a bit...disturbing.  Let's just say Sookie needed, and alluded to the fact that she frequently needs, an icepack for her hoo hoo afterwards.  Ew.

There were parts that seemed to drag.  Unfortunately, either Sookie is slow, or Harris thinks little of her audience.  Any time Sookie has a serious conversation with someone with the hopes of finding out more information about her, her family, or the vampire/faerie/shifter world, she feels the need to sum things up.  I guess this is to save the readers whose minds may have wandered or couldn't follow along with the Q and A feel of the conversation.  In her earlier books, Harris's dialogue was more punchy and witty.  This dialogue in DEAD RECKONING felt forced.

Even though this was not my favorite in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I will keep reading the series! I promise to stop watching TRUE BLOOD, get the actors' faces out of my head, and give you a better review of the next one.  It's my reading candy!

Book Extras:
Charlaine Harris website
Chapter One: Dead Reckoning

About the Book:

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1 Mti edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441020313
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441020317

  • About the Author:
    Charlaine Harris (born November 25, 1951 in Tunica, Mississippi) is a New York Times bestselling author who has been writing for over twenty years.

    *Disclosure:  I was not given a review copy of this book by the publisher.  I borrowed it from my library.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Review: Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire

    A literary fairy tale for well-read middle well as a magical story for the rest of us.

    BREADCRUMBS is the story of Hazel and her best friend, Jack.  They have been best friends for a long time, but Jack suddenly starts to change and they have a big fight.  Soon after, he goes into the woods with The White Witch and Hazel sets off on a quest to save him and bring him home.  She encounters good and evil in the woods...but nothing is as it seems.

    "The woods does strange things to people." 

    There are numerous references to classic children's literature - both new and old - that make their way into BREADCRUMBS.  Author Anne Ursu manages to sneak in everything from The Red Shoes and Chronicles of Narnia to When You Reach Me and Harry Potter.  For the well-read middle grader, BREADCRUMBS is a homecoming, a celebration of these wonderful books as the characters, references, and legends become intertwined.  For the rest of us, it still is a wonderful story.

    As someone who has Narnia and Hogwarts fresh in my memory, I loved all of these little Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the book.  Some references were more literal than others - like the White Witch (a reference to The Snow Queen).  Other references were more subtle, only noticed if  paying close attention.

    But what about the references I may have missed? While I have read most of the literature Ursu touches upon, I have not read them all.  I still haven't read L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time for example.  I couldn't help but worry at certain points - am I missing anything?  This made me worry about the kids who have not yet read The Chronicles of Narnia or Alice in Wonderland.  I can only think of one, maybe two, middle-grade readers that would truly appreciate all the nuances of BREADCRUMBS, but those who would not are still in for a treat. 

    BREADCRUMBS is wonderful.  The writing is beautiful, the characters are interesting and flawed, and the storyline is captivating.  My friends at Walden Pond Press told me it was one of their favorites, and now I see why! 

    The story is exciting, suspenseful, creepy, touching, sad and triumphant!  The woods are a magical wonderland that are at once intriguing and frightening.  It has been a long time since I have met a heroine quite like our brave Hazel - she is a dreamer full of imagination and possibility, yet no one in her world understands her.  She pulls the readers into the book, because the readers understand her - we are dreamers, writers, dancers and artists just like her. 

    If you have a middle grade reader who enjoys fantasies and fairy tales, this would make a superb addition to his/her collection!

    A note on the illustrations:  My copy only has one illustration included, not counting the cover.  The one illustration I saw makes me want to run out to the bookstore the day of release and take a look at the finished copy. 

    Book Extras:
    Author, Annd Ursu Website
    Breadcrumbs page at HarperCollins - reading guide, excerpts and more

    About the Book:
    Reading level: Ages 9-12
    Hardcover: 320 pages
    Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 27, 2011)
    Language: English 
    ISBN-10: 0062015052
    ISBN-13: 978-0062015051

    About the Author: (From publisher)
    Anne Ursu is the author of the three middle-grade novels that comprise the Cronus Chronicles trilogy: The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She teaches at Hamline University's MFA program in Writing for Children and is a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her son and cats.

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

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Review: Virals by Kathy Reichs

    Exciting from start to finish!

    I recommended VIRALS to someone recently and told them to check my site for the review.  When they told me it wasn't there, I was shocked.  So, first and foremost, my apologies for keeping this book from you for so long.  The good news is, the second book, SEIZURE, is due out October 18, 2011.

    This book initially caught my eye because of the author. I am a big fan of the show BONES, which is inspired by the Temperance Brennan novels by Kathy Reichs.   VIRALS is from the point of view of Tory Brennan, the fourteen year old niece of Tempe Brennan. 

    I flew through this book, absolutely devoured it.  The first line of the prologue will give you an idea of what I mean:

    "A gunshot is the loudest sound in the universe."

    In addition to the fast-paced scenes, gripping mystery, and the great writing, Kathy Reichs knows how to create interesting characters.  All of the characters in the book, including the teenagers, were smart, well drawn, and complete.  Each one had a story to tell, with their own pull for the reader.  When I'm reading a book that I know is going to be the start of a series, I am drawn in if the entire cast is interesting, not just the protagonist. 

    It has been a while since I read VIRALS, but when I picked up my copy to write this better-late-than-never review, it all came back to me.  There is nothing worse than picking up a book six months after you've read it and don't have a spark of memory - not VIRALS! 

    I am just as excited about it now as I was when I first read it, and now I can't wait for the sequel next month!

    Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

    As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot-if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

    Fortunately, they are now more than friends- they’re a pack. They are Virals.

    Book Extras:
    Kathy Reichs website
    Kathy on Facebook, Twitter

    About the Book:
    Reading level: Young Adult

    Hardcover: 464 pages
    Publisher: Razorbill; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1595143424
    ISBN-13: 978-1595143426

    About the Author:
    Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist, like her character Temperance Brennan, and creator of the Fox television hit Bones, now in its fifth season. Reichs has written twelve books in the Bones series, all New York Times bestsellers. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Virals is her first novel for young readers

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

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    In My Mailbox

    In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren. It's our opportunity to get a peek into what books everyone is receiving for review, borrowing from libraries, buying in bookshops and download onto eReaders.
    Adult Books:

    READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline (Crown; August 16, 2011; Hardcover; 384 pages)
    DEAD RECKONING (Sookie Stackhouse #11) by Charlaine Harris (Ace; May 3, 2011; Hardcover; 336 pages)
    Young Adult Books:

    UNDER DOGS by Markus Zusak (Arthur A. Levine Books, Hardcover, 9780545354424, 512pp.)
    Children's Books:

    MAGIC TREE HOUSE #8: MIDNIGHT ON THE MOON by Mary Pope Osbourne (Random House; Paperback; 80 pages; ages 9-12)
    EDWIN SPEAKS UP by April Stevens and Sophie Blackall (Schwartz & Wade; June 14, 2011; Hardcover; 40 pages; Ages 4-8
    MINE! by Shutta Crum; illustrated by Patrice Barton (Knopf; June 14, 2011; Hardcover; Ages 1-4)

    SCHOOL FOR BANDITS by Hannah Shaw (Knopf; June 28, 2011; Hardcover; 32 pages; Ages 5-8)
    MOO, MOO, BROWN COW! HAVE YOU ANY MILK? by Phillis Gershator; illustrated by Giselle Potter (Random House; June 28, 2011; Hardcover; 40 pages; Ages 2-5)
    LITTLE BLUE AND LITTLE YELLOW by Leo Lionni (Knopf; June 14, 2011; Board Book; 42 pages; ages 2-5)

    FARMYARD BEAT by Lindsey Craid; illustrated by Marc Brown (Knopf; June 14, 2011; hardcover; 32 pages; ages 1-4)
    WE LOVE OUR SCHOOL! by Judy Sierra; illustrated by Lina Davick (Knopf; June 28, 2011; Hardcover; 24 pages; ages 4-6)

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Review: Bobby Flay's Bar Americain Cookbook

    When you can't get to Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, let Bar Americain come to you!

    There is something about Bobby Flay that I find captivating.  I met him in person at the Borgata in Atlantic City about 5 years ago at a Women in Wine event, and he's just got the "it" factor that celebrities have.  I could have talked to him for hours.

    Aside from his persona, the man can cook!   I have had the pleasure of eating at both his Bar Americain restaurant in Connecticut as well as the location in New York City.  Actually, the last time I was in the city with my husband, we stopped in.  We know what we're getting when we go there - the food is familiar with a twist, it's consistently good, and the atmosphere is elegant without being stuffy, and that's a comfort we enjoy after a busy day.

    If you go to the Bar Americain website and take a look at the menu, you are looking at the contents for the cookbook.  The cookbook leaves nothing off the menu, from your cocktails to dessert.  Anything that I have ordered, and wished I could make at home - hello pizza! - is in Bobby Flay's Bar Americain cookbook.   Chef Bobby Flay takes traditional American cuisine and puts his own spin on it.

    A few of my personal favorites include:  Chopped Apple Salad with Toasted Walnut, Vidalia Onion Soup, Hot Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Sauce and the Oven Baked Pizza.  These appetizers are worth the time and effort, and can be made into a meal all on their own.  I haven't even gotten to the entrees or sides! 

    There are a few recipes that will definitely be joining my Thanksgiving table this year:   Pumpkin Soup with cranberry-maple creme fraiche and the Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

    The color photographs are beautiful and helpful to those who have not seen the finished product in person. Not every recipe has a photograph, but those that need it do.

    A word of warning, many of these tasty dishes are not for the novice cook, especially the first time around.  There are not many dinners from this cookbook you will get on the table in less than 30 minutes. (That being said, there is a reason Rachel Ray doesn't have her own restaurant)  While I was excited to try out these dishes I love in my own kitchen, I have come to appreciate Bobby Flay and the menu he has put together in his restaurants.  

    One of my good friends and neighbor is a wonderful cook, and she often turns to Bobby Flay's cookbooks for inspiration, so I have wanted to try some of his recipes for a long time. If you want to impress guests or your family, but want to stay within a certain comfort-zone of food choices, turn to Bobby Flay's Bar Americain cookbook.

    Even though the publisher sent me a digital copy for review, this is one cookbook I am going to buy to have in my kitchen!

    Book Extras:
    Bobby Flay website
    Bar Americain - restaurant site
    Bar Americain - menu
    Bobby Flay - FoodTV

    About the Book:
    Hardcover: 272 pages
    Publisher: Clarkson Potter (September 20, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0307461386
    ISBN-13: 978-0307461384

    About the Author:
    Author/Chef Bobby Flay has such an extensive biography of cookbooks and television shows, I could not even begin to fit it in on this page.  Go to to take a closer look at his incredible story.

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

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011


    Deliciously spooky!

    What do you get when you take ten of the best-of-the-best kids' action-thriller writers, an imaginative editor, and a innovative publisher and mix them all together?  GUYS READ: THRILLER. 

    This anthology is the second in the GUYS READ library (GUYS READ: FUNNY BUSINESS was the first).  The books take a collection of short stories written by truly the best middle grade writers of our time.  In THRILLERS, we get M.T. Anderson (Strange Mr. Satie, Feed), Patrick Carman (Atherton, 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts), Matt de la Pena (Ball Don't Lie), Margaret Peterson Haddix (Shadow Children series, Say What?), Bruce Hale (Chet Gecko series, Underwhere series), Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider series), Jarrett Krosoczka (Lunch Lady series), Walter Dean Myers (Monster, Game), and James Patterson (Daniel X, Witch & Wizard).

    My 9 year old son is an avid reader, and devoured FUNNY BUSINESS (after reading Jeff Kinney's story first), so I wasn't surprised when he stole THRILLERS from me the minute it came in.  It took a while to get it back from him!  It really is the perfect book for middle grade boys.  He could pick it up, read a story in 40 pages, and put it down again.  It doesn't detract from school work - my son would rather read "his" book than what he's supposed to be reading for school.  The best part, according to him, was, "The stories are just scary enough to be exciting, but not too scary to make me have nightmares." 

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    GUYS READ books are not just for boys, as I enjoyed all the stories myself, especially the ghost stories, but, let's be honest, these books are perfect for boys.  That was the whole point of GUYS READ! 

    Just in time for Halloween, GUYS READ: THRILLERS is another winner from author/editor/Children's Book Ambassador extraordinaire Jon Scieszka and company! Bravo!

    Book Extras:
    Guys Read Website - Great stuff for guys of all ages!!
    (links to authors' sites by clicking on their names above)
    Video from BEA

    About the Book:

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061963755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061963759

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

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Giveaway: Amulet Book Four: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

    My son loved the first three books in the middle grade graphic novel series, AMULET, I'm sure he's going to steal this one from me! 

    Thanks to Big Honcho Media and Scholastic,
    I am thrilled to host a giveaway for
    TWO Winners of:

    AMULET Book Four: The Last Council
    By Kazu Kibuishi

    To Enter:
    Fill Out the Form Below
    US and Canada Only
    No P.O. Boxes
    Contest closes: Friday, September 30, 2011

    Book Extras:
    Amulet Page via Bolt City
    Amulet Page via Scholastic
    Read an Excerpt
    Meet the Characters

    About the Book:
    Reading level: Ages8-12
    Paperback: 224 pages
    Publisher: GRAPHIX (September 1, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0545208874
    ISBN-13: 978-0545208871

    Kazu Kibuishi's thrilling, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series continues!

    Emily and her friends think they'll find the help they need in Cielis, but something isn't right. Streets that were once busy are deserted, and the townspeople who are left live in fear. Emily is soon escorted to the Academy, where she's expected to compete for a spot on the Guardian Coucil, a group of the most powerful Stonekeepers. But as the number of competitors gets smaller and smaller, an awful secret is slowly uncovered - a secret that, if left buried, means the certain destruction of everything Emily fights for.

    "Five - no, three pages into Amulet and you'll be hooked."
    -Jeff Smith, creator of Bone

    The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)The Stonekeeper's Curse (Amulet, Book 2)The Amulet #3: The Cloud SearchersAmulet #4: The Last Council

    What Are You Reading?

    Today is Monday, September 19, 2011....What Are You Reading?

    This weekly meme (that I have failed to post in weeks!) is hosted by the reliable, the consistent, the steadfast, the tried and true, the always-there-when-you-need-her, Sheila from Book Journey

    First, let me apologize for the lack of pretty pictures - I have a new laptop, and I am still transferring my photo files over.  I am loving the new laptop, but it's taking some getting used to.  My favorite thing so far?  I can comment on ALL blogs (my old computer had this problem with Blogger, believe it or not.  Hello?  I have a Blogger blog!) and I can finally get on Goodreads again without my computer seizing up!!  Yes, it was time to retire the ol' gal.  We had some good times. 

    I have not posted What Are You Reading? in a while because I have lost my attention span.  If anyone finds it, please return it to me ASAP.  I have STARTED a ton of books, but have not finished many of them.  I will put up the list of books I have started in my "Currently Reading" section.  This is NOT a reflection of the quality or gripping power of the books, it is me.  It's my stressing over my kids starting school.  It's my not having as much time to read.  It's my working instead of lingering over my coffee and "one more chapter".  It's my playing with my new laptop and getting it set up. (thank goodness I can get on Goodreads again!!)  Is there such a thing as adult-onset ADD?  Because I have it.  I'm a blogger with ADD.  Not good.

    Without further ado, here are some of the books I have read in the past few weeks, and what is coming up at Alison's Book Marks:

    Books Completed in the last few weeks:

    UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand

    CROSSED by Ally Condie


    GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen

    FIFTH AVENUE, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson

    Books Currently Reading: (don't laugh, I have a problem!)

    THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker

    ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick

    THE SOLDIER'S WIFE by Margaret Leroy

    DON'T SING AT THE TABLE by Adriana Trigiani

    READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

    GUYS READ: THRILLER by various artists, edited by Jon Scieszka

    BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu

    Books I Plan to Read This Week:

    In addition to finishing ANY of the above books, I would like to read the following book to help my son with his very first book report for 4th grade.  Not what I would have chosen, but it's up to him! Great book AND author, but I would rather he have chosen a stand-alone book...he didn't want to take a break from the series, and this was the next one. Thankfully, there is only one more book left in the series, and then we can choose a stand-alone for his next book report - I need to write a post on his book assignments for the year.  We are BOTH so excited!!

    39 CLUES #9:  STORM WARNING by Linda Sue Park

    Happy Reading! 

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    In My Mailbox

    In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren. It's our opportunity to get a peek into what books everyone is receiving for review, borrowing from libraries, buying in bookshops and download onto eReaders.


    UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand (Random House; November 16, 2010: hardcover; 473 pages) 

    The Winters in Bloom: A Novel

    THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker (Atria Books; September 13, 2011; hardcover; 304 pages)

    WAITING FOR ROBERT CAPA by Susana Fortes (Harper Perennial; September 27, 2011; Paperback; 208 pgs)

    Young Adult:

    THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy (Putnam, October 4, 2011; hardcover; 368 pages)

    Middle Grade:

    DARTH PAPER STRIKES BACK by Tom Angelberger (Amulet; August 23, 2011; Hardcover; 223 pages; Ages 9-12)

    The Black Stallion and the Lost CityMason Dixon: Pet DisastersPocket CatsSylvia & Aki

    THE BLACK STALLION AND THE LOST CITY by Steve Farley (Random House; June 28, 2011; Ages 9-13; hardcover; 256 pages)

    MASON DIXON: PET DISASTERS by Claudia Mills; illustrated by Guy Francis (Alfred A Knopf; July 12, 2011; Ages 10 and up; hardcover 320 pages)

    POCKET CATS: SHADOW MAGIC by Kitty Wells (David Fickling; July 12, 2011; Ages 10 and up; hardcover 336 pages)

    SYLVIA & AKI by Winifred Conkling (Tricycle Press; July 12, 2011; Ages 9-12; hardcover; 160 pages)


    Sleeping Bootsie (Step into Reading)Little Lucy (Step into Reading)

    SLEEPING BOOTSIE by Maribeth Boelts; illustrated by Patricia Cantor (Random House; June 28, 2011; Ages 5-9; Paperback; 48 pages)

    LITTLE LUCY by Ilene Cooper; illustrated by John Kanzler (Random House; July 12, 2011; Ages 5-8; paperback; 48 pages)

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

    A new favorite!  Another imaginative, captivating novel from YA queen, Maggie Stiefvater!

    There are no werewolves, faeries, or shape-shifters in this novel.  Instead, Maggie Stiefvater introduces the capaill uisce, wild water horses which are as vicious and strong as they are beautiful.  These large beasts emerge from the sea onto the shores of Thisby once a year, when the islanders attempt to tame these wild horses to run in the Scorpio Races. 

    The Races are not for the weak or faint of heart - many people have been killed by the capaill uisce.  No one knows this more than Kate Connelly, also known as Puck.  Her parents were killed by a water horse, but she may have to run her own mare, Dove, in the races in order to avoid losing her home and her two brothers.  The favorite to win the Races is island horse whisperer-type, Sean Kendrick.  Sean has his own cross to bear, also known as the Malvern family, who also happens to be his employer.  The bond between Sean and Corr, his water horse, will pull at your heartstrings.

    I read this book while on vacation.  Among the bag full of books I brought with me, I picked up THE SCORPIO RACES to read the first few pages to see if it was the one I would bring to the beach...and I don't think I put it down until it was finished. 

    The story drew me in and wouldn't let go.  Interesting, exciting, and frightening all at the same time.  Pair this with Maggie's beautiful writing, and you have one of my new favorite YA books!

    I highly recommend THE SCORPIO RACES!

    Note:  This book will be loved by boys and girls alike! 

    Book Extras:
    Maggie Stiefvater's website
    Maggie's LiveJournal
    Merry Sisters of Fate
    Maggie on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

    About the Book:
    The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
    Hardcover: 416 pages
    Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 18, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 054522490X
    ISBN-13: 978-0545224901

    About the Author:
    Maggie Stiefvater is the bestselling author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy, which includes Shiver, Linger and Forever. She also has a Faerie collection of novels entitled Ballad and Lament. October 2011 will see the release of her new book, The Scorpio Races. 2012 will see her collaboration in The Merry Sisters of Fate Anthology, her second collaboration (Kiss Me Deadly). Maggie is a nomad, loves her red camaro, has an addiction to drawing on musical instruments with a sharpie and isn't afraid to run with scissors.

    Maggie does her own trailers, which are works of are unto themselves. 

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