Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Red Rain by R.L. Stine


Lea is an adventure travel blogger who goes to a little known island off the coast of the Outer Banks.  Not known for a tourist destination, it is instead remembered for the awful storm that wiped out the entire population fifty years ago.  It seems history was determined to repeat itself as a hurricane once again wipes out the island, destroying homes, and leaving piles of bodies in its wake. Down comes a red rain, a phenomenon once before seen in India.  Out of the rain comes two beautiful blond twin boys, whom Lea instantly falls in love with and adopts them into her family. 

Once she arrives home to her husband, daughter and son, the twins adapt to their new life quickly, or so it seems.

Through a series of horrific murders and strange occurrences, the twin boys bring a storm of their own down on Lea's family.

R.L. Stine is best known in my house for his Goosebumps series.  Published in the 90s, the children's series was too young for me, so I had never read any of them, but my 7 year old loves it!  Not knowing much about his books, I didn't know what to expect from R.L. Stine's first adult novel.  I had no expectations, which turned out to be both good and bad (and by bad, I mean frightened beyond all shadow of reason).

He immediately impressed me with his writing - I felt every bump in the road, heard every voice, saw every stare.   I was drawn in from the very beginning, and learned why my son flew through the Goosebumps books.

Here is where I was blindsided - the man is scary!  I do not usually read horror, like Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves, so I don't have much to compare it to.  I also have to believe that reading the genre more than once a year desensitizes one to a point.  Consider me ripe for the picking, because the rookie horror reader that I am was freaked out from the first chapter!  My heart POUNDED during one particular scene with the twin boys, the son and the son's friend.  Oh my gosh, but no sooner did I regain my wits about me then we were treated to a horror scene that I was not expecting at all.  Holy COW!

I admit, I had to put the book down for a few days, just so I could get some sleep.  This was not a book to be read while it was dark and everyone else was sleeping.  Once I promised myself to only read Red Rain in the light of day, things began to go much smoother and easier. 

Don't let me frighten you away from reading RED RAIN, though.  It was scary in the best ways stories can - it's the good kind of scary that you get in the pit of your belly while watching Nightmare on Elm Street.  Who or what is going to pop out from around the corner.

Adults who grew up with Goosebumps or adults who simply love a good horror story are going to love RED RAIN. And, please note, it is adult, so if you have young adults who want to read RED RAIN, I suggest you read it first to make sure it is appropriate for your son or daughter.

Book Extras:
Add to your Goodreads List
Author Website, Twitter,

About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451636121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451636123

  • About the Author:
    R.L. Stine, author of the multimillion-selling Goosebumps and Fear Street series, lives in New York City with his wife, Jane, an editor and publisher, and their dog, Minnie. Visit

    I'm not usually one for book trailers, but this one is cool:

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Review: Capture The Flag by Kate Messner

    Fun middle grade book for both boys and girls!

    Synopsis: (from author website)
    Three kids get caught up in an adventure of historic proportions!

    Anna, José, and Henry are complete strangers with more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington D.C. airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have announced that the famous flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in too, recruits Henry and José to help catch the thieves and bring them to justice.

    But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there's more than justice at stake. As the snow starts clearing, Anna, José, and Henry find themselves in a race against time (and the weather!) to prevent the loss of an American treasure

    Action, adventure, and secret protectors of the real Star Spangled Banner!  Anna, Jose, and Henry are not only snowed in together at a DC airport, they are also connected in more important ways, which they use to trust one another and help each another solve the mystery of the missing flag. 

    A quick read at 240 pages and short chapters, Kate Messner's book captured the attention of all the readers in my house, as it had something for everyone.  I loved the bits of history and facts sprinkled throughout the pages.  The 10 year old thought the near-captures were exciting and enjoyed the three kids and how they helped unravel the mystery.  My little guy liked the bad guys - they were dangerous without being too scary.  All in all, put a W in the Win column for Kate Messner!  Capture the Flag is a winner!

    Author Kate Messner wrote Capture The Flag as an answer to her readers who were looking for more action, and they got it!  She also sets up her main characters Anna, Jose, and Henry for a series of future adventures...I'll see what I can find out, but we're really looking forward to more adventures from these three!

    Book Extras:
    Author Website, Facebook, Twitter
    Read Excerpt
    Goodreads Page
    Capture the Flag Facebook Page

    About the Book:
  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545395399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545395397

  • About the Author:
    Kate Messner is the author of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z., winner of the E. B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers; SUGAR AND ICE; EYE OF THE STORM; CAPTURE THE FLAG; SEA MONSTER'S FIRST DAY; OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW; and the Marty McGuire chapter book series. A former middle-school English teacher, Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family and loves reading, walking in the woods, and traveling. Visit her online at

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Review: In The Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

    Beautifully written!

    You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.
    For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood— the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience

    This story is at once brutal and beautiful.

    Raami and her family are Cambodian royals who are forced to flee their home during the Khmer Rouge Communist regime of 1975, where an estimated two million people lost their lives.  After Raami makes one awful mistake by exposing her family, they are separated and she quickly learns that in order to survive, they must hide their true identities.  All around her, she witnesses the worst kinds of suffering and loss, yet in the middle of it all, she recalls the beauty of her father's poetry. Her father's poetry is like music, and something that no one can take away from her.  It is her lifeline, her sanity, her connection to a father she may never see again.

    Parts of this book are horrific and brutality graphic, yet Ratner finds a way to save us from falling into a dark place - much like Raami fights her way from the brink of insanity by clinging to her father's poetry. Too much for any seven year old to bear witness, too much for anyone, this is a time of history of which I was unaware before reading IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN.  It made it all the more powerful when I learned that this book is based on the author's own experience.

    The author herself lived through this tragic time in history, and this story is loosely based on her life.  In the 1980s, the author and her mother arrived in the United States to begin a new life. 

    A Note On The Audio:  Greta Lee's voice is perfection!  The novel flowed beautifully on the audio, and even though the book is read from a seven year old's point of view, the reader's voice never became too young or distracting.  I can't quite find the word to descrive Greta Lee's voice, but it is unique. When I finished listening to this audio, the first thing I did was search for more of Greta Lee's books. (more, please!!)

    Vaddey Ratner gifts to her readers a labour of love. More than a novel, more than a memoir, more than an anthology of poetry, IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN is unlike anything I have ever read and will stay with me for some time.

    "I told you stories to give you wings, Raami, so that you would never be trapped by anything..."

    Book Extras:
    Simon and Schuster Page (book club resources, excerpt, etc.)
    Goodreads Page
    Author Website

    About the Audiobook:
    by Vaddey Ratner (Author), Greta Lee (Narrator)

  • Listening Length: 13 hours and 19 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Release Date: August 7, 2012
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008U2POYM

  • About the Book:
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451657706
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451657708

  • About the Author:
    Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. In 1981 she arrived in the United States as a refugee not knowing English and ultimately went on to graduate summa cum laude from Cornell University. She lives in Potomac, Maryland


    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Book Spotlight: Swann Dives In by Charles Salzberg

    I have been working on Swann Dives In for a few weeks, but I'm not able to post a review due to a conflict of interest.  That being said, I have been reading so many positive reviews from the bloggers on the virtual book tour, I wanted to be sure to let you all know that it's coming out in a few weeks.  If it sounds like your kind of book, check it out and draw your own conclusions!

    SWANN DIVES IN by Charles Salzberg
    ISBN-13: 9781432826222
    Publisher: Gale Cengage Learning
    Publication date: 11/9/2012
    Pages: 292
    Henry Swann is a retired bounty hunter, but finding people is both a blessing and a curse, as his services are sought out once again. This time, the money is too good, and the case too interesting to turn down. The cast of characters will keep readers entranced as they meet the millionaire, the missing heiress, a Syracuse University Professor, and a seductive librarian. They all come together as sexy, well-read, and wise-cracking Swann dives into this case of rare books and missing girls.
    Author Bio:
    Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer from New York City whose work has appeared in various publications. He is the author of From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, An Oral History of the NBA, and On A Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place:, Baseball’s 10 Worst Teams of the Century (with George Robinson, to be reissued by Bison Books, spring2010) and co-author of My Zany Life and Times, by Soupy Sales, Catch Them Being Good, by Tony DiCicco and Colleen Hacker, PhD., and The Mad Fisherman, by Charlie Moore. His novel, Swann’s Last Song,was published in the fall of 2008. He is also co-author of the screenplay, Undercover Kids which was produced by Hemisphere Entertainment. He has been a Visiting Professor of magazine at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, taught advanced non-fiction at Sarah Lawrence College and the New York Writers Workshop (where he is a Founding Member,) the Writer’s Voice, New York City Open Center, and the Hunter College Writing Program. He was cited by New York Magazine as one of “New York’s Great Teachers.”

    Visit the SWANN DIVES IN page for more information

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Review: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

    Disappointed by the audio.

    Synopsis: (from publisher)
    Imaginary friend Budo narrates this heartwarming story of love, loyalty, and the power of the imagination—the perfect read for anyone who has ever had a friend . . . real or otherwise
    Budo is lucky as imaginary friends go. He's been alive for more than five years, which is positively ancient in the world of imaginary friends. But Budo feels his age, and thinks constantly of the day when eight-year-old Max Delaney will stop believing in him. When that happens, Budo will disappear.

    Max is different from other children. Some people say that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, but most just say he’s “on the spectrum.” None of this matters to Budo, who loves Max and is charged with protecting him from the class bully, from awkward situations in the cafeteria, and even in the bathroom stalls. But he can’t protect Max from Mrs. Patterson, the woman who works with Max in the Learning Center and who believes that she alone is qualified to care for this young boy.

    When Mrs. Patterson does the unthinkable and kidnaps Max, it is up to Budo and a team of imaginary friends to save him—and Budo must ultimately decide which is more important: Max’s happiness or Budo's very existence.

    Narrated by Budo, a character with a unique ability to have a foot in many worlds—imaginary, real, child, and adult— Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend touches on the truths of life, love, and friendship as it races to a heartwarming . . . and heartbreaking conclusion.

    My hopes were high for this book, as I was extremely intrigued by the original premise.  Unfortunately, either the book as a whole disappointed me or it was simply not a good fit for audio.  I will give the author the benefit of the doubt and say it was the audio.

    If I had the option of speeding up the sound on the CDs, I would have taken full advantage.  As it was, I had to stop myself from fast-forwarding through some parts of the book.  For example, when Budo is finally in the house where Max has been taken, Budo looks for him in all the bedrooms. As he goes through the house, the descriptions of each and every room are painstakingly detailed, which go beyond suspenseful and fall into downright frustrating.  Maybe this was on purpose to remind readers that this is an imaginary person, created in the mind of a boy who is both young and autistic.

    My expectations were exceeded, however, with Max's character.  I found the author's approach to Max to be genuine and heartfelt, without becoming too sentimental.  Matthew Dicks's career as a world-class teacher shines through in his understanding of this autistic boy, and the challenges his parents and teachers face.  The frustrations and fears, the celebrations and the love - it's all there as only someone with true understanding could portray.

    As I said, the audio did not work for me, but that is not to say it won't work for you.  This book has been compared to Emma Donoghue's ROOM, which I thought was a masterpiece, but not a book I would have listened to on audio. If you don't like a slower reading style, skip it, but if it's something that you feel will lend depth to the reading, go for it and come back and tell me how wrong I am. 

    So, even though I wish I would have read the text version of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend instead of listening to the audio, I did find the idea interesting and Max's character genuine.

    Whenever a book doesn't work for me, I try and provide my readers with some other points of view from book bloggers that I respect.  Feel free to visit their reviews as well (links below).

    Other Blogger Reviews:
    Literate Housewife (on audiobook)
    Books on the Nightstand
    Crazy for Books (on audiobook)
    Jenn's Bookshelves

    Book Extras:
    Author Website, Facebook, Twitter
    Publisher Page
    Goodreads Page

    About the AudioBook:
    Matthew Dicks (Author), Matthew Brown (Reader)
  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (August 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1427225885
  • ISBN-13: 978-1427225887

    About the Author: (from publisher)
    MATTHEW DICKS is a writer and elementary school teacher. His articles have been published in the Hartford Courant and he has been a featured author at the Books on the Nightstand retreat. He is also a Moth storyteller and a two-time StorySLAM champion. Dicks is the author of two previous novels, Something Missing and Unexpectedly Milo. He lives in Newington, Connecticut, with his wife, Elysha, and their children, Clara and Charlie.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Review: Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck

    Surprised me in so many ways, loving every moment!

    Synopsis: (from author)
    In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match...and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.

    When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation...even as the reliable Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most. Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams? As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths...and the possibility of losing everything she loves.

    I met Erika Robuck at BEA in June, and she seemed like someone I would be friends with if we lived in the same town.  She was lovely! Sometimes, I worry that my personal connection with an author skews my objectivity when reviewing a book.  Before I wrote this review, I told several of my reader friends about how much I loved HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, in hopes they would read it.  They did.  I am happy to report that they loved the book as much as I did, quieting my fears that my gushing was purely for the book, and not just for the author.

    Erika Robuck felt an early connection to Ernest Hemingway's work, and that love and respect comes through in the pages of HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, which is both a dramatic novel and an homage to the legendary author lovingly referred to as "Papa".

    After the first few chapters, I thought I knew where the storyline was going, but I was wrong - and I have never been so happy to be wrong! Erika Robuck completely drew me in, surprising me at every turn, and I found it easy to wrap myself up in this book. 

    Key West is as much one of the characters as Mariella or Gavin.  Vivid in her descriptions, the author brings us there with the sights, sounds, smells and highly charged emotion that is Hemingway's Key West. 

    From the little that I remembered of Ernest Hemingway before reading this novel, I had an image of a misogynistic, testosterone-filled, angry drunk. After reading HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, I'm not sure those notions have been erased, but I can add lonely to this portrait.  Only someone with a love for Hemingway could take what we already know of him and add complex layers in order to make him a man that is not only larger than life, but also fierce in both his loyalty and his love.  I'm not sure how she did it on the page, but I felt the energy change whenever he entered a scene.

    As much as I anticipated the scenes with Hemingway, Mariella was the driving force in this novel, and not just because she is the title character.  Her morality and fierce convictions lend a solid dichotomy to her relationship with Hemingway, becoming almost as electric as he is.

    I am a fan of historical fiction, especially when it's done right. Erika Robuck does everything right.  I highly recommend HEMINGWAY'S GIRL!

    Book Extras:
    Erika Robuck: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter
    Goodreads Page

    About the Book
  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (Penguin); Original edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451237889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451237880

  • About the Author: (from author site)
    ERIKA ROBUCK was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Inspired by the cobblestones, old churches, Georgian homes, and mingling of past and present from the Eastern Shore, to the Annapolis City Dock, to the Baltimore Harbor, her passion for history is well nourished.

    Her first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, is a best books awards finalist in historical fiction from USA Book News. Her second novel, HEMINGWAY'S GIRL, was published by NAL/Penguin on September 4, 2012. Her third novel, CALL ME ZELDA, will follow in 2013.

    Erika is a contributor to popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, and maintains her own blog called Muse. She is a member of the Maryland Writer's Association, The Hemingway Society, and The Historical Novel Society. She spends her time on the East Coast with her husband and three sons.

    Meet R.L. Stine!

    Join me tonight, October 17, 2012
     meet author R.L. Stine at Clinton Book Shop!

    7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

    An author who defined a genre! 

    R.L. Stine will be reading and signing copies of his first adult novel, RED RAIN.

    R.L. Stine, New York Times bestselling author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series—two of the bestselling children’s book series of all time—now sets his sights on adults with a terrifying new horror novel centered on a town in the grip of a sinister revolt.

    Before there was J. K. Rowling, before there was Stephenie Meyer or Suzanne Collins, there was R.L. Stine. Witty, creepy, and compulsively readable, his books defined horror for a generation of young readers— readers who have now come of age. In Red Rain, Stine uses his unerring knack for creating terror to tap into some very grownup fears. Travel writer Lea Sutter finds herself on a small island off the coast of South Carolina, the wrong place at the wrong time. A merciless, unanticipated hurricane cuts a path of destruction through the island and Lea barely escapes with her life.
    In the storm’s aftermath, she discovers two orphaned boys—twins. Filled with a desire to do something to help, to make something good of all she witnessed, Lea impulsively decides to adopt them. The boys, Samuel and Daniel, seem amiable and immensely grateful; Lea’s family back on Long Island—husband Mark, a child psychologist, and their two children, Ira and Elena—aren’t quite so pleased. But even they can’t anticipate the twins’ true nature—or predict that, within a few weeks’ time, Mark will wind up implicated in two brutal murders, with the police narrowing in.
    For the millions of readers who grew up on Goosebumps, and for every fan of deviously inventive horror, this is a must-read from a beloved master of the genre.
    Clinton Book Shop
    12 East Main St
    Clinton, New Jersey

    **Please note that this is a ticketed event and you must register in advance. All books presented for signing must be purchased through the Clinton Book Shop

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    National Coming Out Day

    No, I'm not coming out, but I am what's called a Straight Ally.  I stand side-by-side with the GLBTX community today and every day.  I send my thoughts, prayers and support for anyone who decides today is your day.  Embrace who you are.  You are not alone.  You are lovable and capable.
    Helpful Links:
    Human Rights Campaign
    PFLAG - Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

    It Gets Better

    From Pixar:

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Mailbox Monday

    Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme where bloggers come together to share the books they receive for review, buy from bookstores and book fairs, and borrow from the library. 

    Since I buy, borrow and recieve books for review across all age groups and genres, I thought it might be a good idea to break up my kids' books (Middle Grade through Young Adult) and my Adult books. This, my friends, is where you will find my adult books. Find my MG and YA books on Sundays at In My Mailbox.

    RED RAIN by R.L. Stine
    (Touchstone Hardcover; Simon & Schuster; October 9, 2012; 384pgs)
    R.L. Stine, New York Times bestselling author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series—two of the bestselling children’s book series of all time—now sets his sights on adults with a terrifying new horror novel centered on a town in the grip of a sinister revolt. Before there was J. K. Rowling, before there was Stephenie Meyer or Suzanne Collins, there was R.L. Stine. Witty, creepy, and compulsively readable, his books defined horror for a generation of young readers— readers who have now come of age. In Red Rain, Stine uses his unerring knack for creating terror to tap into some very grownup fears. Travel writer Lea Sutter finds herself on a small island off the coast of South Carolina, the wrong place at the wrong time. A merciless, unanticipated hurricane cuts a path of destruction through the island and Lea barely escapes with her life. In the storm’s aftermath, she discovers two orphaned boys—twins. Filled with a desire to do something to help, to make something good of all she witnessed, Lea impulsively decides to adopt them. The boys, Samuel and Daniel, seem amiable and immensely grateful; Lea’s family back on Long Island—husband Mark, a child psychologist, and their two children, Ira and Elena—aren’t quite so pleased. But even they can’t anticipate the twins’ true nature—or predict that, within a few weeks’ time, Mark will wind up implicated in two brutal murders, with the police narrowing in

    MADAME SERPENT (A Catherine De'Medici Novel) by Jean Plaidy (Touchstone Paperback; Simon & Schuster; July 3, 2012)
    Fourteen-year-old Catherine de’ Medici arrives in Marseilles to marry Henry, Duke of Orleans, second son of the King of France. The brokenhearted Catherine has left her true love in Italy, forced into trading her future happiness for marriage into the French royal family.

    Amid the glittering fêtes and banquets of the most immoral court in sixteenth-century Europe, the reluctant bride becomes a passionate but unwanted wife. Humiliated and unloved, Catherine spies on Henry and his lover, the infamous Diane de Poitiers. Tortured by what she sees, Catherine becomes consumed by a ruthless ambition destined to make her the most despised woman in France: the dream that one day the French crown will be worn by a Medici heir. . . .

    BECOMING CLEMENTINE by Jennifer Niven
    (Plume Original/Penguin; September 25, 2012)
    For fans of Alan Furst and Sarah Blake, a spellbinding story of a secret mission and dangerous passion in World War II Paris:
    After delivering a B-17 Flying Fortress to Britain, an American volunteers to copilot a plane carrying special agents to their drop spot over Normandy. Her personal mission: to find her brother, who is missing in action. Their plane is shot down, and only she and five agents survive. Now they are on the run for their lives.

    As they head to Paris, the beautiful aviatrix Velva Jean Hart becomes Clementine Roux, a daring woman on an epic adventure with her team to capture an operative known only as "Swan." Once settled on Rue de la Néva, Clementine works as a spy with the Resistance and finds herself falling in love with her fellow agent, Émile, a handsome and mysterious Frenchman with secrets of his own. When Clementine ends up in the most brutal prison in Paris, trying to help Émile and the team rescue Swan, she discovers the depths of human cruelty, the triumph of her own spirit, and the bravery of her team, who will stop at nothing to carry out their mission

    ACCELERATED: A NOVEL by Bronwen Hruska
    (Pegasus Books; October 2, 2012; HC, 288pgs)
    Every afternoon Sean Benning picks up his son, Toby, on the marble steps that lead into the prestigious Bradley School. Everything at Bradley is accelerated--3rd graders read at the 6th grade level, they have labs and facilities to rival most universities, and the chess champions are the bullies. A single dad and struggling artist, Sean sticks out like a sore thumb amongst the power-soccer-mom cliques and ladies-who-lunch that congregate on the steps every afternoon. But at least Toby is thriving and getting the best education money can buy. Or is he?  When Sean starts getting pressure from the school to put Toby on medication for ADD, something smells fishy, and it isn't the caviar that was served at last week's PTA meeting. Toby's "issues" in school seem, to Sean, to be nothing more than normal behavior for an eight-year-old boy. But maybe Sean just isn't seeing things clearly, which has been harder and harder to do since Toby's new teacher, Jess, started at Bradley. And the school has Toby's best interests at heart, right? But what happens when the pressure to not just keep up, but to exceed, takes hold? When things take a tragic turn, Sean realizes that the price of this accelerated life is higher than he could have ever imagined

    BOOKS TO DIE FOR: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels Edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke

    (Atria/Emily Bestler Books; October 2, 2012; Hardcover 560pgs)
    The world’s greatest mystery writers on the world’s greatest mystery novels: Michael Connelly on The Little Sister . . . Kathy Reichs on The Silence of the Lambs . . . Mark Billingham on The Maltese Falcon . . . Ian Rankin on I Was Dora Suarez . . . With so many mystery novels to choose among, and so many new titles appearing each year, where should a reader start? What are the classics of the genre? Which are the hidden gems? In the most ambitious anthology of its kind yet attempted, the world’s leading mystery writers have come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that often reveal as much about the authors and their own work as they do about the books that they love, 119 authors from 20 countries have created a guide that will be indispensable for generations of readers and writers. From Agatha Christie to Lee Child, from Edgar Allan Poe to P. D. James, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal Lecter and Philip Marlowe to Lord Peter Wimsey, Books to Die For brings together the cream of the mystery world for a feast of reading pleasure, a treasure trove for those new to the genre and for those who believe that there is nothing new left to discover. This is the one essential book for every reader who has ever finished a mystery novel and thought . . . I want more!

    ONE LAST STRIKE by Tony La Russa with Rick hummel
    (William Morrow; September 25, 2012; HC 432pgs)
    The team that refused to give up
    their manager in his final season
    A comeback that changed baseball

    After thirty-three seasons managing in Major League Baseball, Tony La Russa thought he had seen it all—that is, until the 2011 Cardinals. Down ten and a half games with little more than a month to play, the Cardinals had long been ruled out as serious postseason contenders. Yet in the face of those steep odds, this team mounted one of the most dramatic and impressive comebacks in baseball history, making the playoffs on the night of the final game of the season and going on to win the World Series despite being down to their last strike—twice

    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    In My Mailbox

    So many terrific books came in this week, too many! Which is why I am only highlighting my very favorite Young Adult and Middle Grade books here today.  I am in kids' books heaven!!!
    Middle Grade (ages 9-12)
    A WRINKLE IN TIME: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL by Madeleine L'Engle; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
    (FSG/Macmillan; October 2, 2012; HC 392pgs; Ages 10+)
    The world already knows Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, Calvin O'Keefe, and the three Mrs--Who, Whatsit, and Which--the memorable and wonderful characters who fight off a dark force and save our universe in the Newbery award-winning classic A Wrinkle in Time. But in 50 years of publication, the book has never been illustrated. Now, Hope Larson takes the classic story to a new level with her vividly imagined interpretations of tessering and favorite characters like the Happy Medium and Aunt Beast. Perfect for old fans and winning over new ones, this graphic novel adaptation is a must-read.

    LUNCH LADY #8: Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
    (Knopf BFYR; September 11, 2012; Ages 7-10; HC 96 page; graphic novel)
    It's picture day at Thompson Brook, but the students are plagued by a freak acne epidemic. While the Breakfast Bunch scrambles to put their best faces forward, their hifalutin photographer raises Lunch Lady's eyebrows. She suspects the photographer may have an underhanded plan to break into the world of high fashion that puts the students in danger! Will Lunch Lady be able to storm the runway and stop the vogue rogue without blowing her cover

    SQUISH #4: Captain Disaster by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
    (Random House BFYR; September 25, 2012; Ages 7-10; PB 96 pgs; graphic novel)
    It's soccer season! But the Waterfleas (hey, it could be worse--Okay, maybe it couldn't) are getting pummelled game after game. Squish knows winning isn't everything, but it's something right? Can Squish turn the losing streak around when he becomes team captain? Will Pod figure out how to harness the power of lightning? And how can amoebas play soccer when they don't have any feet? Find out in the fourth electrifyingly hilarious, action packed Squish graphic novel adventure: Captain Disaster! Just right for fans of Babymouse, Lunch Lady, Sidekicks, and Captain Underpants


    THE CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau; Adapted by Dallas Middaugh; art by Niklas Ashker
    (Random House BFYR; September 25, 2012; Ages 8-12; HC 144 pgs; graphic novel)
    Modern-day classic THE CITY OF EMBER returns as a stunning, full-color graphic novel.
    In the spring 2003, kids, parents, teachers, librarians—whole communities—discovered and fell in love with Jeanne DuPrau's story about a doomed city, and the two children who found a way out. Nearly 10 years later, that story, The City of Ember, is a bona fide classic, with over 1.7 million copies sold. Now experience Jeanne DuPrau's vision anew as artist Niklas Asker faithfully brings to life the glare of the lamps, the dinginess of the streets, and the brilliance of the first sunrise

    MELONHEAD AND THE VAGALICIOUS DISASTER by Katy Kelly; Ill by Gillian Johnson
    (Delacorte Press BFYR; September 11, 2012; Ages 8-12; HC 224 pages)
    It's not fair! Not only is Melonhead's new fifth-grade teacher notoriously strict and mean, his mother is making him eat more and more vegetables. So Melonhead and his pals come up with a genius idea to get out of eating his mom's vegalicious meals, all the while convincing her that they actually love them. But the genius idea leads to totally unexpected and stinky results!

    OUTCASTS UNITED by Warren St. John
    (Delacorte Press BFYR; September 11, 2012; Ages 8-12; HC 224 pgs)
    This young people's version of the adult bestseller, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference, is a complex and inspirational story about the Fugees, a youth soccer team made up of diverse refugees from around the world, and their formidable female coach, Luma Mufleh. Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical southern town until it became a refugee resettlement center. The author explores how the community changed with the influx of refugees and how the dedication of Lumah Mufleh and the entire Fugees soccer team inspired an entire community
    SUPER by Matthew Cody
    (Knopf BFYR; September 25, 2012; Ages 8-12; HC 304pgs)
    Daniel Corrigan is as regular as can be, especially when compared to the Supers: kids in his new hometown with actual powers like flight and super strength. But Daniel's not powerless. Only he was able to stop the Shroud, a supervillian bent on stealing his newfound friends' powers. And thanks to him, his friends got to keep those powers.

    Now Daniel himself is starting to display powers, while at the same time, his friends are losing theirs. His friend Eric thinks Daniel is just becoming a Super himself, a late-blooming one. But Daniel worries there may be something more sinister at work, since his power-stealing ability is uncomfortably like the Shroud's. Of course, the Shroud is gone now . . . or is he? And could Daniel himself be his new vessel?

    Young Adult Titles

    THE LOST PRINCE (The Iron Fey: Call of The Forgotten #1) by Julie Kagawa
    (Harlequin Teen; October 23, 2012; PB 400pgs; Young Adult)
    Don't look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.
    That is Ethan Chase's unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he'd dare to fall for. Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister's world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

    THE FITZOSBORNES AT WAR (The Montmary Journals #3) by Michelle Cooper(Knopf BFYR; October 9, 2012; Ages 12+; HC 560pgs)
    Michelle Cooper completes her heart-stealing epic drama of history and romance with The FitzOsbornes at War.
    Sophie FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Nazis attacked. But as war breaks out in England and around the world, nowhere is safe. Sophie fills her journal with tales of a life during wartime. Blackouts and the Blitz. Dancing in nightclubs with soliders on leave. And endlessly waiting for news of her brother Toby, whose plane was shot down over enemy territory.
    But even as bombs rain down on London, hope springs up, and love blooms for this most endearing princess. And when the Allies begin to drive their way across Europe, the FitzOsbornes take heart—maybe, just maybe, there will be a way to liberate Montmaray as well

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    Happy Star Wars Reads Day!

    Thursday, October 4, 2012

    Star Wars Reads Day - October 6, 2012

    On October 6, 2012, LucasFilm and its publishing partners of STAR WARS books are coming together to promote literacy and fun in schools, libraries and bookstores everywhere for STAR WARS READS DAY.

    I am blessed that my two boys love to read - they also love all things Star Wars!  So, when I found any good Star Wars books at the library or bookstore, home they came.  Below is just a sampling of some of our favorite Star Wars books for children. 


    Wow, we've read quite a few STAR WARS books in our home! 

    Happy Reading!!


    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Review: Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

    Dark, intricate, and exciting!

    Synopsis (from Goodreads)
    In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures--if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.

    All Mallory knows of The City is that her father--and every other witch there--fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

    From Melissa Marr, bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series and "Graveminder," comes a brand-new tale of lush secrets, dark love, and the struggle to forge one's own destiny.

    I really enjoyed the first book in Melissa Marr's new series.  She pulled me right in, and I wouldn't let the book out of my sight until I was finished.  CARNIVAL OF SOULS is full of fantastic and complicated characters - some you will love, and some you will love to hate!

    There is a lot of mystery among the characters.  They are all connected, but exactly how and why is unknown.  In fact, I think Melissa Marr enjoys tantalizing her readers with little clues without dropping the bomb on us until we're least expecting it. 

    Speaking of characters, you all know how excited I get about strong female characters and Melissa Marr gives us three of them!  Mallory's character is the most mysterious.  We're not completely sure who or what she is, but she has a gun and isn't afraid to use it.  Aya is kick-ass -  she's smart, she's strong and she is breaking all the rules!  Evelyn, while some will hate her heartlessness, she's the character I would want to play in the movie.  (insert evil laugh)

    This may sound strange, but CARNIVAL OF SOULS is extremely visual.  Melissa Marr creates this world with such depth and darkness, whenever I recall a scene I am immediately and vividly transported to a very specific place full of sounds and smells, but especially full of interesting visual detail.

    Just a warning, though.  The only thing that I would change about this book is the cliffhanger ending.  It's my pet peeve when authors feel like they don't have to finish a book if it's part of a series.  Don't expect to feel satisfied in any way when you finish.  You will turn the last page wanting more...but you might be frustrated to learn that you have to wait a year for it. 

    I just hope that by the time the next book comes out that I can remember all the intricate details and relationships that make this book so interesting.  I'll put the re-read on my calendar in preparation.

    Oh, here's a little treat for you Buffy fans out there.  James Marsters narrates the audio!  He is so charming and dark...forget the re-read next year, I'll be listening to the audio!

    I loved this book, and so glad that I stole the ARC from Clinton Books - thanks, guys!!

    Book Extras:
    Harper Teen Book page (lots of stuff here)
    Author Website, Twitter,
    Carnival of Souls Facebook Page, Website

    About the Book:
  • Reading level: Ages 13 and up
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061659282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061659287

  • About the Author: (from publisher)
    Melissa Marr grew up believing in faeries, ghosts, and various other creatures. After teaching college literature for a decade, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing. Wicked Lovely was her first novel. Currently, Marr lives in the Washington, D.C., area, writes full-time, and still believes in faeries and ghosts.


    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay by Paul Vitagliano

    Banned Books Week.  Unfortunately, many of the challenged books in schools and libraries deal with GLBTX (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Exploring) issues, such as And Tango Makes Three; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Gossip Girls; My Sister's Keeper; etc..  Instead of banning these books, we should be celebrating them, reminding our GLBT youth they are not alone. 

    I got an e-mail last week from a friend at Quirk Books, who told me about a book that is hitting the shelves on October 9th entitled BORN THIS WAY by Paul Vitagliano.  Allow me to steal a bit from the publisher's website. 

    Born This Way shares and celebrates all kinds of growing up LBGTQ stories through personal memories and childhood photographs. With more than 100 profiles, Born This Way is a delightful celebration of growing up gay.

    Based on the hugely popular (3 million views and counting since its launch in January 2011) blog of the same name, this hip, gifty little hardcover belongs in the homes of America and the world. It's a book for members of the LBGTQ community, as well as friends, family, and anyone who has followed the tragic stories of gay teen suicides. It will tap into the same vein as Dan Savage's "It Gets Better Project," giving people everywhere the courage to say "Yes, I'm gay. And I was born this way. I've known it since I was very young, and this is my story."

    Ellen DeGeneres has said many times that young people need examples.  They need to see someone who has been there before them, and come out the other side okay.  Much like the It Gets Better project, BORN THIS WAY lends to that example, not only within the GLBTX community, but far far beyond it as well.

    For anyone who isn't gay, I still think books like BORN THIS WAY are extremely important.  I hope it inspires understanding, acceptance, and support of the GLBTX youth around us who might be looking for a little kindness.  Together, let's erase the hate, and make the world a better place.

    I recently saw an interview with the mother of Matthew Shepard, in which she said that parents of gay teens are often not surprised when their children come out. If you think, or know, your son or daughter is gay, have this book on the shelf for them. It may bring great comfort to them, not only in reading it, but as another small gesture of acceptance they need from you. 

    Quirk Books is allowing me to give away FIVE copies of BORN THIS WAY to my readers!  Read it, give it as a gift, put it in the hands of someone who is looking for a little support, or in the hands of someone who could be a little more supportive. 

    Simply fill out the form below to enter.  You may also comment below if the form doesn't work for you.

    (Contest ends 10/26/12)

    Many thanks to Quirk Books! 

    Book Extras:
    Random House book Page
    Born This Way blog, Facebook, Twitter
    It Gets
    Matthew Shepard Foundation

    About the Book:
    Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay by Paul Vitagliano
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594745994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745997

  • About the Author:
    Paul Vitagliano is DJ Paul V., a club and radio DJ, events promoter, music-reviews writer, blogger, and self-titled “promosexual.” His blog ( has achieved more than 3 million views since its debut in January 2011. He lives in Los Angeles

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