Thursday, May 31, 2012

Choose Kind

A few weeks ago, I reviewed the book, WONDER by R.J. Palacio, and told you all not to miss it.   I'm not the only one who has been touched by this phenomenal book.  So many people have been inspired by WONDER, using the Twitter hashtag #TheWonderOfWonder, and sharing their stories of being bullied or wishing they had stood up for someone else.  In turn, the outpouring of stories has prompted Random House Children's Books to start a campaign called Choose Kind.

At first, I was just going to link to the campaign from my Facebook page. Then, the more I thought about it, the more I knew that I needed to dedicate a post to such a terrific idea. 

In the book, the main character, Auggie, is victim to a very different kind of bullying, one that is not so easily identifiable.  Silence.  A kid can't exactly tell a teacher his fellow classmates are bullying another because they're not talking to him/her.  Instead, that kid CAN dig deep, and find the courage to choose to be KIND. 

Choose Kind is an anti-bullying campaign inspired by R.J. Palacio's debut novel, Wonder. Random House Children’s Books invites you to share your story and pledge to Choose Kind every day: is the online home of the campaign, designed as a next step for the ardent supporters of the novel who have been asking for additional resources to use in sharing WONDER and its message with families, schools, and communities across the country. Each section of the site offers an interactive user experience.

  • SHARE: Fans can contribute a post, ranging from personal experiences of being bullied to moments where they wished they had stood up for someone else.
  • SIGN THE PLEDGE: Pledge to Choose Kind in an effort to end bullying, and print a certificate to display.
  • THE BOOK: Watch the trailer for WONDER, read reviews, and find links to the novel’s social media channels.
  • THE AUTHOR: Read about R. J. Palacio, and how to connect with her on Twitter and Tumblr.
  • RESOURCES: A Digital Toolkit of stickers and Web badges, as well as links to other anti-bullying efforts such as the It Gets Better project and the National Education Association’s Bully Free: It Starts with Me.

TWITTER HASHTAG:  #theWonderOfWonder

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

Another exciting installment from Vince Flynn!

The second story, in chronological order, of the Mitch Rapp series, but a prequel for anyone who has been following the Rapp stories since Transfer of Power.  I have read a few books from this series, but I admit, I've read them out of order (I started with Memorial Day...and loved it).  I know full well that I would get a whole lot more out of these books if I had read them in order, without skipping, thus, knowing all the back-stories of all the bad guys and good guys, but I still love them.  When I get my hands on one, it doesn't matter which number it is, I have to read it.

So, even with my fragmented knowledge of Mitch Rapp's story, I was able to enjoy KILL SHOT on its own.  Vince Flynn does an excellent job of telling his story, without leaving out the necessary information, while hinting at some of the clues for the fully initiated fans.

I knew there were things I missed, but it didn't matter.  The young Mitch Rapp is just as kick ass as his future self. I like to think that we really have a team of Mitch Rapps out there, counter terrorism operatives putting bullets in bad guys' heads while we sleep soundly in our beds.  Maybe this is why I find these books so compelling.  They make my heart race as I'm reading them, but help me sleep at night.

A note on the audio production:  I love my audio books, but lately I have found that suspenseful books like this don't always work on audio.  The narrator, George Guidall, was excellent. He gave the right amount of gravitas to the big scenes without sounding forced.  At first, he sounded a bit like that satellite TV commercial that says, "Don't have a grandson with a dog collar."  By the end of the first CD, I was completely immersed. 

My brother-in-law gave me my first Vince Flynn novel, so thanks Paul!

If you're new to Vince Flynn, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning - all the books can be found, in order, on the author's website.  If you're already a fan, don't miss this one!

A personal note to Vince Flynn:  Thank you for finishing this book, despite the challenges with your health.  Your readers, your fans, and the book community as a whole are cheering for you.  My prayers are with you, Mr. Flynn.

 Synopsis: (from Publisher)
#1 New York Times bestselling author Vince Flynn is back with another nail-biting political thriller that follows the young Mitch Rapp on a deadly mission to hunt down the men responsible for the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist attack.       For months, Mitch Rapp has been steadily working his way through a list of men, bullet by bullet. With each kill, the tangled network of monsters responsible for the slaughter of 270 civilians becomes increasingly clear. He is given his next target: a plump Libyan diplomat who is prone to drink and is currently in Paris without a single bodyguard.
Rapp finds him completely unprotected and asleep in his bed. With confidence in his well-honed skills and conviction of the man’s guilt, he easily sends a bullet into the man’s skull. But in the split second it takes the bullet to leave the silenced pistol, everything changes. The door to the hotel room is kicked open and gunfire erupts all around Rapp. In an instant the hunter has become the hunted. Rapp is left wounded and must flee for his life.
       The next morning, the news breaks in Washington that Libya’s Oil Minister has been killed along with three innocent civilians and four unidentified men. The French authorities are certain that the gunman is wounded and on the loose in Paris. As the finger pointing begins, Rapp’s handlers have only one choice—deny any responsibility for the incident and pray that their newest secret weapon stays that way, avoiding capture and dying quietly. One person in the group, however, is not prone to leaving things to chance. Rapp has become a liability, and he absolutely cannot be allowed to be taken alive by the French authorities. But it will soon become clear that nothing is more dangerous than a wounded and cornered Mitch Rapp.

Book Extras:
 Vince Flynn website, Facebook,
Read an Excerpt of KILL SHOT

About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books; 1 edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416595201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416595205
  • About the Audiobook:
  • Audio CD read by George Guidall
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Unabridged edition (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442344067
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442344068

  • *Disclosure:  The audio CD was a prize in a contest hosted by

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Towel Day!

    Towel Day is an annual celebration on the 25th of May, as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001).  On this day, fans carry a towel with them to demonstrate their love for the books and the author, as referred to in Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The commemoration was first held in 2001, two weeks after Adams's death on May 11, 2001.  According to THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, a towel is the most helpful item a traveler could possess.

    You can find out more about Towel Day on Facebook, Twitter (#towelday), or several websites which claim to be the official Towel Day sites. 

    The original quotation that referenced the importance of towels is found in Chapter 3 of Adams's work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
    — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Review: Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

    Perfect book club book!

    Invisible...and no one seemed to notice.

    Have you ever felt unappreciated, unimportant...invisible?  Now imagine waking up one morning, looking at yourself in the mirror, only to find your face is not looking back.  Literally.

    Such is the story of Clover, who finds herself literally, and figuratively, invisible.  Her best friend, Gilda, and her mother-in-law both notice, and give her encouragement and support.  Her husband and children, on the other hand, are so wrapped up in their own lives and trials they don't notice.  I feel like I need to repeat that...her husband and her adult children did not notice that she was nothing but pants and a shirt walking around their house! 

    In fact, Clover was not sure how long she had been invisible herself, which did not seemed all that far-fetched to me.  Sure, I look at myself for five minutes in the morning to brush my hair and throw on some mascara, but it's not unrealistic for me to not look in the mirror again until the following morning.  The more I thought about that, the more I wondered.  How much attention do I pay to myself?  How much attention to I pay to others? How long would it take me to notice my own invisibility?  How long would it take me to believe it?

    I was so afraid that this book was going to become weepy and sentimental, but Jeanne Ray managed to give us a realistic portrait of this woman who not only became invisible on an intellectual and material level, but she became invisible to herself.  For some reason, I found this easier to accept once I learned there was a scientific explanation - and not a sentimental one (even though they are closely related).  Her literal, scientific invisibility became her wake-up call.  Once Clover was able to find her path, she became a bit of a superhero. 

    My hope is that CALLING INVISIBLE WOMEN makes its way to book clubs everywhere.   More than a quick read, this book is thought-provoking and poignant. 

    Book Extras:
    Random House book page

    About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (May 22, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395054

  • About the Author:
    Jeanne Ray is the mother of novelist Ann Patchett and has written six novels. She published her first novel, Julie & Romeo, at the age of 60. She continues to inspire women to find their voices, follow their passions and become truly visible.

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

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Review: The Expats


    I loved the premise of THE EXPATS.  Woman turns away from the spy world to enjoy the normal life she has created with her husband and children, only to find out that the spy world has followed her.  

    The books I like, but don't love are the hardest to review.  First off, let me say that this was an enjoyable book and one that makes for good discussion.  The pages turned quickly, and there was a good amount of suspense, the reader never knowing who to trust, or what was lurking behind the next corner. 

    Unfortunately, when it comes to breaking a book apart - the characters, the predictability, the inconsistencies, I could very easily be all over this one.  I don't want to pull it apart, though, because I did like it.  I just didn't love it.

    Probably the toughest thing for me, which many people won't care about at all, is the flawed heroine.  I wanted her to be fierce.  I wanted her to kick some ass.  I wanted her to be smarter and quicker and stronger than everyone around her, putting to task her own skills as a spy.  Alas, this is not the character Chris Pavone wrote.  Kate didn't want to see the truth.  She wanted so badly to keep her past hidden and safe that she didn't act on those doubts tugging at her.  I get that, but her one big spy scene, she made a rookie mistake!  You can make her flawed, Mr. Pavone, but don't make her incompetent.  And was there an error of convenience to let her get away with it or was she actually caught? 

    The range of responses THE EXPATS has been receiving makes this a good Book Club candidate.  I guarantee you that no two readers will have the same opinion of Kate, her family, her friends, or the story itself.  Lukewarm for me, sure, but go find out for yourself...then, grab a glass of wine and come talk to me. 

    It might not have been one of my favorites, but there are enough readers gushing over THE EXPATS, you should go give it a try. 

    Other Reviews:
    Mysteries Etc:  "Outstanding!"
    Popcorn Reads: "The Expats grabbed me immediately and I didn't want to stop until I reached the end of this thrill ride!"

    Book Extras:
    Chris Pavone: website
    Author talks about The Expats

    About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307956350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307956354

  • About the Author:
    Chris Pavone grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from Cornell. For nearly two decades he was a book editor and ghostwriter; he is also the author of The Wine Log. Chris and his family have lived in Luxembourg, but recently returned to New York City. The Expats is his first novel.

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

    Sunday, May 20, 2012

    In My Mailbox

    Welcome to today's edition of In My Mailbox!

    This is my opportunity to share with you what books are sent to me for review, what my kids and I pick up from the library, and which books I MUST buy from my local Indie Bookshop (to find your local indie follow THIS LINK).  I love to peek inside other readers' mailboxes as well.  Call me a book voyeur.

    I have very happy bookshelves this week, check out the wonderful books we have! This week, I am only going to feature the Adult titles that came in.  Next week...just you wait and see...I will bring you the kids' books! 

    Happy Reading!

    THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D.: A NOVEL by Nichole Bernier (Crown Trade; June 5, 2012; Hardcover; $24.00; 320 pgs) Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.  Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.

    DEFENDING JACOB by William Landay (Delacorte; January 31, 2012; Hardcover; 432 pgs)
    Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.

    THE BOOKLOVER by Maryann McFadden (Three Women Press; May 2012; Paperback; 329 pgs)
    Ruth Hardaway has had one passion all her life: books. For thirty years she's devoted her life to her book store, trying to bury her painful past. But now the store is in jeopardy, and the past is catching up with her. Lucinda Barrett lost everything in a life-shattering betrayal. Desperate, she goes after one last dream—to be an author. Alone and broke, she embarks on a journey, eventually landing on Ruth's doorstep. Ruth takes Lucy under her wing, championing her book and even offering her refuge at a nearby lake cabin. In return, she wants Lucy to keep an eye on her son, Colin, who's recovering from a war injury. As the two women grow closer and begin to face the past, neither has any idea that their toughest decisions lie ahead—or that their friendship is about to fall apart because of a little white lie.

    A DOG'S PURPOSE by W. Bruce Cameron (Forge; May 2011; Paperback; 333pgs)
    "A Dog's Purpose" is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches that love never dies, that true friends are always here, and that every creature on Earth is born with a purpose.

    THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMMAGE OF HAROLD FRY: A NOVEL by Rachel Joyce (Random House: July 24, 2012; Hardcover; 336 pgs) [debut novel]
    Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.

    Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.

    THE AGE OF MIRACLES: A NOVEL by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House; June 26, 2012; Hardcover; 288 pgs)
    On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

    OK.  Now everyone leave me alone so I can read! 

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Winners Announced!

    The nice folks at Doubleday have invited me to host a contest to give away TWO copies of John Grisham's latest novel about fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption, and Major League Baseball.

    The winners, chosen using, are:

    David M. (Texas)


    Dina N

    Congratulations to the winners!!

    *winners have been contacted via e-mail.  Books will be sent directly from the publisher.

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (Audio)

    Hilarious!  I was caught guffawing and driving!

    If anyone could succeed in bringing their blog to book form, it's The Bloggess

    Jenny's stories are brought to readers in LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED.  She has been sharing the ups and downs of her odd existence on her blog, but these are the highlights. These are her life stories, which don't always blend together or have an overall point, but they are highly entertaining.

    A note on the audio production:  While Jenny's voice isn't as "smooth" as professional voice-over actors are (hard "g" on the end of words like running), she does not sound like she's reading, which is one of my pet peeves.  Her Texas accent is in full effect - adding to the humor and charm of her memoir. 

    While her listeners are treated to Jenny's own narration, I missed seeing all the photographs that are in the printed book.  I flipped through the book in the bookstore to see some of the pictures, and if faced with a choice between audio and's a tough call. 

     I might want to mention that if you're at all offended by swearing or uncomfortable with the use of the word "vagina" this might not be the book for you.  The language is not excessive, in my opinion, so don't be scared away by this.  In fact, there is something about the way Jenny says the word "vagina" that makes me giggle.  I'm adolescent in my humor, it's OK.

    I think one of my favorite parts about this book are the notes to and from her editor.  When I took a closer look and realized that this was an Amy Einhorn book, it all fell into place.  (I have an editor-crush on Amy Einhorn and will read anything from her imprint...genius!!)

    Now that Jenny has gone from Blog to book, she needs to take her stories to prime-time.  The banter between her and her husband, Victor, is hilarious, and reminds me of Jamie and Paul from Mad About You...but more dysfunctional...and with more dead animals.


    Book Extras:
    The Bloggess Blog
    Indie Next List - May 2012

    About the Book:
    Audio production, read by Jenny Lawson

  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam (April 17, 2012) /Penguin Audio
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399159010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399159015

  • *Disclosure:  A copy of this audio book was provided by the publisher via Audio Jukebox

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Review: What's Wrong With My Kid? by George E. Leary Jr.

    A must-read for parents.

    Even though I do not usually review parenting books like this on my blog, I felt the need to talk about this one.  Full disclosure time, folks.  I helped work on the PR campaign for this book.  Still, even outside of media contacts and radio talk show hosts, I found myself talking about this book a lot and realized it was something I wanted to share here.  So, forgive me for mixing my professional life with my blogging life - it was only a matter of time.

    WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY KID? is a handbook for parents of kids entering into those dreaded teen years.  Prepare yourself early.

    My children are still little, so I'm hoping that I don't need any of the information in this book for a long time.  In fact, I hope I never need it, which is probably why so many parents miss the warning signs.  Author George E. Leary Jr missed the warning signs once, and has made it his life's mission to help parents see their worst fears, and takes them step-by-step on what to do next.

    I have good news and I have bad news.  The bad news first:  The statistics on teens abusing drugs and alcohol are getting worse.  The good news is, studies show that kids who have the tough talks with their parents about drugs and alcohol are SIGNIFICANTLY less likely to use these substances than the kids that don't. 

    I'm not a betting girl, but if there is any way I can help tip the odds in my kid's favor, I'm going for it.  Tough talk?  Easy compared to calling your 15 year old at rehab.  Oh, you don't know what to say?  You're not sure what drugs "the kids" are using these days?  It's in the book.

    Leary pulls no punches, and takes no chances.  He gives parents the facts, gives it to us straight, and gives us all a kick in the pants we need to have those tough talks with our kids. 

    Here is the thing I was most impressed with - this book is highly readable. It doesn't read like a high school science textbook, like some other addiction/recovery books I've seen.  Leary understands that his readers are the parents of teens, who not only want knowledge, they want it fast, before trouble begins...or gets worse.

    Well done, Mr. Leary.

    Book Extras:
    Parenting Addicts Website, Twitter, Facebook
    TLC Book Tour Page for What's Wrong With My Kid?
    Hazelden Website

    About the Book:
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hazelden (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616491191
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616491192

  • About the Author:
    George E. Leary Jr., M.A. was a youth counselor, surrounded by kids all day, and yet he failed to see that his own child was using and abusing drugs. Denial, fear, grief—Leary experienced these emotions firsthand and he has since made it his purpose in life to work with addicts and educate parents on how to help their kids.
    George E. Leary Jr., M.A., provides mental health services to addicts and those living with HIV/AIDS. He established and operated two recovery houses in Baltimore, Maryland, and served for nine years on a mobile crisis intervention team.

    Disclosure:  I have worked directly on the publicity campaign for this book.

    Friday, May 11, 2012


    Hear Ye!  Hear Ye!
    We have something a little different today!

    My friends over at Walden Pond Press have generously allowed me to giveaway an AUDIO download as well as a HARDCOVER copy of the hilarious adventure:

     by Christopher Healy

    Audio books are becoming more and more popular with adults AND with kids too!

    Does your middle grade reader have a road trip coming up this summer? 

    Has s/he ever tried listening to an audio book on his iPod before bed?

    This is a great opportunity to test the audio waters with your middle grade reader!

    Below is an audio excerpt for your listening pleasure:

    To enter the contest, enter the form below:

    (If you have trouble with the contest form above, I will also include comments with e-mail addresses below as entries.)

    Blog Tour/Review: The Hero's Guide To Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, ill by Todd Harris

    Great fun!  I'm so happy to reviewing this book during Children's Book Week!

    I could see the movie animation in my head as I read HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM.  Funny, smart, action-packed, and engaging, I have a feeling this book is going to be a huge hit!

    Synopsis: (from publisher)
    Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.
    Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes—a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.
    Christopher Healy does an amazing job creating this world, and the characters in it, right down to the plumage on their hats and the weapons in their belts.  The images he creates are so vivid, kids will find themselves swept up in this crazy adventure. 

    I loved this motley crew of princes, flaws and all!  It's like Band of Brothers for the middle grade set.  Their flaws become their assets as they work together to save their respective kingdoms from the evil witch Zabuera.  Only, it's not as easy as the fairy tales make it seem!  They have some (several) hiccoughs on their path toward heroism, and find themselves in unlikely (hilarious) predicaments. 

    Don't throw stones at me for generalizing, but the girls have had their fair share of princess stories, princess movies, princess costumes - you get the idea.  Do you have a boy that loves to read adventure stories?  This one's for them!  Ever since HERO'S GUIDE came into my house, I've had to hide it from my 9 year old.  (Hands Off my book, kid!) I think he's expecting an anti-princess story, instead of a pro-princes story, but I think he's going to enjoy it all the same.

    The guys don't have ALL the fun, though.  Girl readers will be happy to know that there is at least one very strong female amongst the cast of characters.  Not all princesses are interested in tea parties and croquet - they have adventures all their own!  (The mom in me is also happy to see strong female characters in "boy books").

    Unfortunately, the advanced readers' copy I read did not include many of the wonderful illustrations by Todd. Stop by one of the other blogs, or go to the Walden Pond Press website for a peek at them!

    Already one of my favorite Middle Grade books for 2012, THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is a must-read! 

    PS  Author Christopher Healy is from New Jersey!!!!

    Book Extras:
    Christopher Healy website, Twitter, Facebook
    Harper Collins Book page
    Author on Tour: Here and Here
    Sample the AUDIO
    Official BLOG TOUR page
    About the Book:

  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 448 pages 
  • Publisher: Walden Pond Press (May 1, 2012) 
  • Language: English 
  • ISBN-10: 0062117432 
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062117434

  • About the Author: (from publisher)
    Christopher Healy spent years reviewing children's books and media online and in print before setting off to write The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, his first children's book. He lives with his wife and their two children in New Jersey.

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

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    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Blog Tour: Alissa Grosso - THE OTHER NJ

    I am pleased to welcome author Alissa Grosso to Alison's Book Marks, her fourth stop on her Blog Tour Road Trip to promote her new book FEROCITY SUMMER, which is now out in the world. Don't forget to read to the end of this post to find out how you can enter yourself in a drawing for your very own summer survival pack which includes a signed copy of FEROCITY SUMMER.

    Take it away, Alissa!

    "The Other New Jersey"

    Ferocity Summer is set in New Jersey. Let's face it, just reading that sentence brings up certain images. New Jersey has something a reputation. Whether it's Jersey Shore, The Sopranos, those crazy housewives or perhaps your own trips on the dreaded Jersey Turnpike you probably have a pretty clear idea of what the Garden State looks like.

    Ferocity Summer's not set there. What few outside of New Jersey know is that large parts of the state are free of tract homes, oil refineries and that notorious Jersey accent. Ferocity Summer is set in the very real Byram Township, in Sussex County. To be honest, Byram does have a few tract homes, but mostly what it has are trees and lakes.

    According to the US Census, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the union, a fact which is hard to believe when you visit some of the more remote parts of the state , the parts where cows outnumber people or the parts of the state where you can drive for miles and miles without ever coming across a gas station, though when you do eventually coast into gas station on fumes an attendant will be there to pump your gas for you. There is no self service in New Jersey.

    Of course, probably New Jersey's best feature is its diversity. I'm not talking about all the different cultures represented in the state (when I was in college our campus, Rutgers Newark, was ranked as the most ethnically diverse campus in the nation) though, admittedly, that's cool too. I'm talking about all the different environments you can find in such a relatively small area. Whether it's all the lakes referenced in Ferocity Summer, traditional suburbia, urban areas, farm land, horse country or the shore, the state has a little bit of everything. You can get a glimpse of that in Ferocity Summer or you can get a first hand look at it on your next road trip - provided you're willing to take a back roads detour or two.

    AMEN, SISTER!  Alissa is from a beautiful part of New Jersey, very close to the town where I now live.  I am a Jersey girl, you all know that, but before I met my husband 19 years ago, I did not know this part of the state existed.  I used to get twitchy when I couldn't see the NYC skyline. These days, it's rare I see an airplane in the sky, and when I do it's a biplane circling a hot air balloon. Trust me when I tell you, there is a reason New Jersey is called the Garden State, and my town is proof. 

    Even though this is the FEROCITY SUMMER ROAD TRIP TOUR, and blog hosts were asked to share our road trip experiences, I want to share some of my favorite pictures from our home, Alissa's and mine, "THE OTHER NEW JERSEY." 
    Taken from my driveway on 5/6/12
    View from a high point in town.  No oil refineries! No highway! No shopping mall!

    Alas, not my pond, but so peaceful!

    So, even though there are great parts of the state that share some land with the Garden State Parkway, and the best Italian bread you'll ever find, there are also very rural parts of New Jersey...the "Other New Jersey" that Alissa and I are so proud of.  If this is the part of NJ that FEROCITY SUMMER readers will experience, we're all in for a treat!

    Don't forget to visit the Giveaway Link below, author Alissa Grosso's website, and check out the FEROCITY SUMMER trailer!

    Many thanks to Alissa Grosso for coming to Alison's Book Marks today.  My apologies for the technical difficulties - but I just had to make that hot air balloon shot work! 

    Giveaway Link:
    Alissa Grosso website:
    Ferocity Summer Trailer:

    About the Book:
  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Flux; Original edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073873070X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738730707
  • Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

    Don't miss this one.

    Halloween is Auggie's favorite holiday, because he can wear a mask.  August Pullman, or Auggie to his family and friends, is an ordinary kid in most ways.  He was born with facial deformities, and despite countless surgeries, he still looks different on the outside.  On the inside, where few people are allowed, he is funny and smart and so so brave. Auggie embarks on a journey much more scary than any surgery - the 5th grade. 

    You will be hard-pressed to find any character as courageous as Auggie in children's literature this year.  RJ Palacio gifts her readers with a fast-paced, heart-wrenching, honest look at a great family who was dealt a great challenge. 

    Told from different points of view, the reader not only gets to see inside Auggie's mind, but that of his sister, his friends, and even someone who sees his situation from afar.  The role of the sister really got to me (those of you who know me understand why this is so) and I applaud RJ Palacio for giving her such an honest voice.

    One of the most powerful parts of the book was not how loudly the other kids made fun of Auggie, it was how QUIET they were.  It sucks to be called names, but it's even worse to be ignored.  The kids at school had a secret game called The Plague, which was compared to the Cheese Touch.  No one could touch Auggie without getting The Plague.  The thing is, all the kids thought he didn't could he not?  This is bullying that no one sees coming.  It's hard to identify, and even harder to stop, but it hurts the worst.

    WONDER has stuck with me since I read it, and there are so many scenes I could point to and gush all over, but I don't want to give anything away.  (The Precepts!!!)  Do yourself a favor - read the book, give it to a middle grader to read, and then talk about it. 

    If your school has a summer reading Book Club for 9-12 year olds, this book gives you so much to discuss.

    Book Extras:
    Official Author Website

    About the Book:
  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (February 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375869026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375869020

  • About the Author: (from the author's website)
    I live in NYC with my husband, two sons, and two dogs. For many years, I was an art director and book jacket designer, designing covers for countless well-known and not so well-known writers in every genre of fiction and nonfiction. I always wanted to write, though. I kept waiting for the perfect time in my life to start writing, but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, I realized that the perfect time would never really present itself. It's never the perfect time to start writing a book. So I decided to just go for it. Wonder is my first novel. And no, I didn't design the cover, but I sure do love it.

    twitter: @rjpalacio

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

    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (YA)

    Vampires are back!

    Synopsis (from publisher)
    In a future world, Vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

    Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

    Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

    Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

    But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

    Known for her Iron Fey series, Julie Kawaga takes a bite out of Vampire fiction...and draws blood!  Did I try to hard for a catch-phrase there?  Well, Julie deserves it.  

    Julie Kagawa knows how to capture my attention, and keep it.  Her writing is fast-paced and exciting.  She finds a way to draw readers in, and become connected to her characters, while always keeping the action and movement flowing.

    THE IMMORTAL RULES is a story of vampires in a dystopian world - something I have not seen before!  If anyone could mash together the two hottest genres in YA fiction, Julie Kagawa can, and she did it well.

    It's the first in a series, and while it leaves us wanting for more, I feel like she did a great job in concluding this first piece of Allison's story. 

    I can't get enough of The Iron Fey this was a nice book to read while I wait for The Lost Prince.  For anyone who doesn't know Julie's work, go to your local library, find the K aisle, and read your little heart out! 

    Book Extras:
    Julie Kagawa website, Facebook, Twitter, blog
    Harlequin Page
    About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Teen (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373210515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373210510

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

    Children's Choice Book Awards!

    Last night, the winners of the Children's Choice Book Awards were announced! 
     Congratulations to the winners! 
    Bravo to the finalists, who are among my favorites!!

    K-2nd Grade
    Winner:  THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK by Lester L. Laminack, illustrated by Henry Cole (Peachtree)
    Finalists: Bailey by Harry Bliss (Scholastic)
    Dot by Patricia Intriago (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)
    Pirates Don’t Take Baths by John Segal (Philomel/Penguin)
    Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Scott Campbell (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)

    3rd - 4th Grade Winner: BAD KITTY MEETS THE BABY by Nick Bruel
    Finalists: A Funeral in the Bathroom: And Other School Bathroom Poems by Kalli Dakos, illustrated by Mark Beech (Albert Whitman)
    The Monstrous Book of Monsters by Libby Hamilton, illustrated by Jonny Duddle and Aleksei Bitskoff (Templar/Candlewick)
    Sidekicks by Dan Santat (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
    Squish #1: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House)

    5th - 6th Grade Winner: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt
    Finalists: Bad Island by Doug TenNapel (GRAPHIX/Scholastic)
    How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz, illustrated by Chris Philpot (National Geographic)
    Lost & Found by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
    Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein (HarperCollins)

    Teen Choice Winner: CLOCKWORK PRINCE The Infernal Devices, Book Two by Cassandra Clare
    Finalists: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Little, Brown)
    Divergent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins)
    Passion: A Fallen Novel by Lauren Kate (Delacorte/Random House)
    Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)

    Author of the Year: Jeff Kinney for Diary of A Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever
    Finalists: Christopher Paolini for Inheritance(Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
    James Patterson for Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life(Little, Brown)
    Rick Riordan for The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 2) (Disney Hyperion)
    Rachel Renée Russell for Dork Diaries 3: Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)

    Illustrator of the Year: Brian Selznick for Wonderstruck Finalists: Felicia Bond for If You Give a Dog a Donut(Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
    Eric Carle for The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse(Philomel/Penguin)
    Anna Dewdney for Llama Llama Home With Mama(Viking/Penguin)
    Victoria Kann for Silverlicious(HarperCollins)

    Children's Book Apps

    As a part of Children's Book Week, I could not go through the week without mentioning some of my favorite Children's book Apps.  Personally, I do not think that ANYTHING can replace an actual book in the hands of a child, but there is also room for Children's Book Apps.  If you're looking for something new to add to your iStuffs, check out these children's book apps:

    Random House Digital $4.99

    THE GOING TO BED BOOK by Sandra Boynton
    (Loud Crow Interactive, $2.99)

    (Oceanhouse Media, $2.99)

    (Auren Inc., $4.99)

    (Egmont UK, $4.99)

    (Octopus Kite; $0.99; Age 4+)

    (Callaway Digital Arts; $2.99)

     (Oceanhouse Media, $1.99 to $3.99)

    (Sesame Workshop Apps, $3.99)

    (Callaway Digital Arts, $7.99)**Free for limited time!

    BATS! by Mary Kay Carson
    (Story Worldwide, $0.99)

    (Electric Eggplant; $2.99)

    Created by the learning experts at Scholastic, Scholastic Storia is the FREE eReading app designed to help kids learn and love to read in a fun and interactive way. Scholastic Storia comes with 5 FREE eBooks, and introduces a growing collection of children’s digital picture, chapter, and interactive books. Download the Scholastic Storia app to access age-appropriate eBooks for children ages 3 to 14.

    Scholastic Storia allows parents to set up individual bookshelves for each of their children, purchase new eBooks for their children to read, and track a child’s progress through each eBook. Children can customize their bookshelves and use a variety of features that help them read in an independent and engaged way.

    Download Scholastic Storia and instantly start a child reading! Explore all the features that the app has to offer. 

    If you already participate in Scholastic Book Clubs, your Scholastic eBook purchases will earn your child’s teacher rewards that can be redeemed for more books and classroom supplies.

    LAST MINUTE ADDITION: (downloaded it this morning! My kids are going to love it!!)

    (Workman Publishing Group; FREE)

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Children's Book Week 2012

    Poster designed by David Weisner, the 2011 Illustrator of the Year!


    Children's Book Week is the national celebration of books and reading for youth.
    Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running literacy initiative in the country. Each year, books for young people and the joy of reading are feted for a full week with author and illustrator appearances, storytelling, parties, and other book-related events at schools, libraries, bookstores, museums, and homes from coast to coast!

    Find a Children's Book Week EVENT near you!
    Take a look at the Children's Book Award FINALISTS!

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    You all know how I feel about Children's books, so this week, my blog is going to be FLOODED with Children's Book Love!  I will post about my favorite picture books, talk about Children's Book Apps, I will be reviewing and giving away one of my favorite new Middle Grade books, and I will end the week as a stop on a YA blog tour. 


    Other Promotions:

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    For Children’s Book Week, Sylvan Dell will be offering all 70 of their titles’ eBooks free on their website for families, educators, and students to read and explore! Sylvan Dell authors will also be appearing at events nationwide all week long! See listings here

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