Dec 22, 2010

This is a page from the book Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid by Lemony Snicket, the pseudonym for the author most known for the Series of Unfortunate Events books. I've loved this book since I first picked it up off the bargain book table, as it is sadly out-of-print. Thank you to Mattie for sending me the Dirty Pretty Things post that prompted me to post this.

Dec 15, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by
My first and second WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure reading - romantic (often paranormal) paperback/mass market novels. My third WoW was my first YA mention, and today's selection will be following that new trend:

by Melina Marchetta
9780763647582, $17.99, Candlewick, Pub. Date: March 2011 
Melina Marchetta is my favorite YA author. She's Australian, a really big hit over there, and I recently gave a shout-out to her during last week's Follow Friday blog post which asked, "Do you have an under-noticed author that you think we should all know about?" She's (sadly) under-noticed in the States, despite having won the Printz award for Jellicoe Road. Her first epic fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock came out last year to starred reviews, and basically everything she's ever written has been well-awarded in Australia, but somehow hasn't quite hit the commercial jackpot in the U.S.
What I love, in particular, about her writing is that not only does Ms. Marchetta know how to tell a good story with action, suspense, comic relief, and love, she creates such depth of character and asks both her characters and her readers hard-to-answer coming-of-age questions, all while providing a thoroughly-imagined setting.
Though I'm also anxiously awaiting the next novel in the Finnikin of the Rock trilogy (to be published in the spring 2012), Candlewick will be publishing a new realistic fiction novel entitled The Piper's Son in March 2011. A sequel, though five years later, to the characters in Saving Francesca, this title focuses on Thomas Mackee. While all of Ms. Marchetta's books have had strong male characters that straddle the primary/secondary character line, I believe this is only her second book ever and her first realistic fiction novel to feature a male teenage protagonist. Here is what the publisher's advanced description has to say:
"The award-winning author of Finnikin of the Rock and Jellicoe Road pens a raw, compelling novel about a family's hard-won healing on the other side of trauma.

Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca - but five years have passed, and now it's Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can't forget. Shooting for oblivion, he's hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom's in no shape to mend what's broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper's Son redefines what it means to go home again."
WoW for real.

Dec 12, 2010

Book Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson

(Book 2 in the Leviathan trilogy)
by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson
9781416971757, $18.99, Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)

At the end of Leviathan, book one in the Leviathan trilogy, midshipman-in-disguise female:Deryn/male:Dylan Sharp and fugitive prince-in-disguise Alek had just combined forces to escape a German attack. Using Clanker technology (engines from their fighting machine, the Stormwalker) to help propel the Darwinist airship Leviathan back into the skies, the ship is now back on its way to Constantinople so that Charles Darwin’s granddaughter can deliver her super-secret, as-yet-unhatched, new type of beastie in a peace-keeping attempt.

Yet before they can reach Constantinople, the Leviathan must contend with German aircrafts and a new super-weapon known as a Tesla cannon. The Tesla canon is a lightening generator, a weapon that harnesses the power of electricity to shoot rays at live Darwinist creations, basically causing instant death for the beasties and every living thing on board.

As Alek and Deryn continue to be thrust together, it is growing more difficult for Deryn to deny her growing crush. Alek has shared so many of his secrets with her – who he really is, what happened to his family, what would happen to him if the Germans caught him – that it seems unfair Deryn hasn’t shared any of her own secrets. But can she really trust Alek? If she risks telling him her secret, more than just exposure, she may also be risking her heart, and that may be one risk too many.

Though I'm often disappointed by the second novels in a trilogy, as they sometimes read like placeholders between the action sequences in books 1 & 3, Behemoth lived up to its potential with plenty of action, moral dilemmas, intriguing secondary plots, introducing new secondary characters, and in general sustaining one heck of a good steampunk series.

Dec 11, 2010

This image is made up of thousands of little tiny stars.
Thank you to Sandy for this.
Discovered here.
Own a copy by buying it from here.

Dec 10, 2010

Book Review: Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith
9781416999614, Simon & Schuster, $15.99

I just bought this book today, but fell in love with it to the extent that I had to blog about it immediately.

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a picture book perfect for that in-between 5-8 year-old age group that is learning to read but still loves to be read to, can handle chapter books but still loves looking at pictures, and has a more developed but still distinctly kid sense of humor.

Lulu is an only child and used to getting her way in everything. So when she decides she wants a Brontosaurus, she doesn't care that dinosaurs don't exist anymore, she doesn't care that scientists declared a dinosaur known as a Brontosaurus never existed, and she doesn't care that her parents, for once, said no. All she cares about is getting a Brontosaurus for a pet on her birthday.

And so she goes out to find one. Through the forest, she drags her suitcase, waking all the sleeping animals with her song:
"I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna, gonna get,
A bronto-bronto-bronto Brontosaurus for a pet."

When Lulu finally does find a Brontosaurs, not all goes according to plan, because the Brontosaurus thinks that Lulu would make a great pet for him. How's Lulu going to get out of that one? A temper tantrum, her usual shrieking, and even *gasp* saying "please" for the first time ever doesn't seem to help. Is there a solution to make both Lulu and Brontosaurus happy? Well, with three endings to choose from, you get to decide!

Short chapters, interactive text, black-and-grey illustrations that are delightful for finding the hidden forest animals, all beg for hours spent reading and rereading this book to the delight of the young and the slightly older picture book reader. A perfect storytime book for a large older audience, or just one-on-one where each picture's details can be closely examined. Definitely a keeper for years to come (and perfect for the holidays!).

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday

It's the end of the work week, the weekend looms,
and so do two great memes:

This week's Book Blogger Hop question:

What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs? Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways, or something else entirely?

It would have to be a combination of several things for me. Certainly the reviews of books, because that's the real purpose of this type of network, isn't it? To receive new book recommendations? But I also really enjoy thought-provoking articles about the state of the book industry itself, whether they're about new book awards, banned books, independent bookselling news, new bookstores opening, or anything else topical. Posts like those help me catch up if I've missed something and keep me feeling connected to this wonderful, ever-changing, enormous industry.

This week's Follow Friday question:

Do you have an under-noticed author that you think we should all know about? 

I am a total evangelist for Australian young adult author, Melina Marchetta.

Melina Marchetta? you might say. Isn't she the author that won the Printz award for her young adult novel, Jellicoe Road

Why yes, I would answer. The book that is so good that I read it at least once a year and always sob my heart out in the best way possible each time? Yes, she is. But did you know about her recent epic fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock

No, you might respond.

Ah, I would nod wisely. I thought not. Few seem to, despite it being published by Candlewick Press, a fantastic, Boston-based, independently-owned children's/YA-book-only press.

For my review of Jellicoe Road, click here.
For my review of Finnikin of the Rock, click here.
To find out what the Printz award is, click here.

Both of these books, though completely different in genre and scope (Jellicoe Road is realistic young adult fiction set at an Australian boarding school and Finnikin of the Rock is a sweeping young adult fantasy set in an imagined world), have a similar depth of character, context, and complete world immersion. Her writing is tight, clean, beautifully wrought, and emotionally charged. Please run to your nearest library or independent bookstore to pick up a copy of any of her four books, though Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock are my two personal favorites.

Her complete book list (clicking on the title will bring you to, the independent bookselling website):

Dec 8, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Witch & Wizard: The Gift by James Patterson & Ned Rust

 Waiting on Wednesday (WoW) is a weekly meme hosted by

My first and second WoW posts were about my guilty pleasure choices (mostly mass market paperbacks with romantic and/or paranormal themes). I'm proud to finally introduce my first Young Adult (YA) WoW post!

Shop Indie Bookstores
Witch & Wizard: The Gift
by James Patterson & Ned Rust
9780316036252, $17.99, Little, Brown (Hachette), Pub. Date: December 13, 2010

This book is the sequel to Witch & Wizard published last year, co-authored by James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet. He (James Patterson) has started doing this co-authorship thing; I'm inclined to be somewhat skeptical, but I don't know much about the process, so I'm hesitant to give an uninformed opinion.

For instance, I really enjoyed book 1 in this series. Will I enjoy book 2 as much with a different co-author? Will the voices remain the same? Will the tone of the book remain the same? Will I be able to tell the difference? While I admire, to an extent, what I presume to be one of the inspirations for co-authorship - lesser-known authors gaining greater recognition within the industry by having their name attached to the big J.P. - I'm curious to know who does the bulk of the writing. Do they write chapters back and forth? Do they discuss plot and characterization together? Or does J.P. come up with an idea, the co-author writes it, and J.P. edits it before it gets published? How does it all work, really?

Either way, I'm looking forward to book 2. Here's the synopsis:

When Whit & Wisty were imprisoned by the wicked forces of the totalitarian regime known as the New Order, they were barely able to escape with their lives. Now part of a hidden community of teens like themselves, Whit and Wisty have established themselves as leaders of the Resistance, willing to sacrifice anything to save kids kidnapped and brutally imprisoned by the New Order.

But the One has other plans in store for them: He needs Wisty, for she is "The One Who Has the Gift." While trying to figure out what that means, Whit and Wisty's suspenseful adventures through Overworld and Shadowland lead to a jaw-dropping climax and conclusion: the highly-anticipated fulfillment of the heart-pounding opening prologue of book one... The Execution of the Allgoods.

Dec 7, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Places to Read

The Broke and the Bookish, a brilliant book blog, 
hosts a weekly top ten list meme.

I like this meme because I like lists. I like this meme because it reminds me of the Top 5 lists from High Fidelity (by Nick Hornby as a book, starring John Cusak as a movie). And I like this meme because it causes me to think long and hard about book-related topics. So here goes:

Top 10 Coziest Places to Read/Favorite Places to Read 

1. My first ever favorite place to read was the children's room that used to exist in the main library on the Hanover College campus in southern IN. Sadly, this room no longer exists.

2. In college, a friend of a friend's mother was an upholsterer and had a leftover chair a customer never picked up and had given it to her daughter, who was going to leave it on the side of the road at the end of one school year, and I rescued it, and carted it from home to home until I finally had to downsize a year ago. That was the most comfy, rocks gently back and forth, could sit curled up, or swing your legs over the sides, armchair EVER.

3. In mah bed.

4. In the 1970s swinging couch on my Babci's sun porch in upstate NY in the summertime when the weather is fine.

5. On a blanket outside in a park or near a river or lake somewhere.

6. On anyone else's bed.

7. When I'm traveling. (This is a bit of cheating because it's not one particular place, but I love to read on buses, planes, and trains, no matter how short or long the trip.)

8. On a white, sandy beach in the summer with the waves crashing and the gulls squawking and a big pair of sunglasses on to cut the glare.

9. On the loveseat in my current house with my feet propped up on the wooden chest in front of the wood-burning stove between the living room and the kitchen.

10. Some day, years from now, when I have my own home where my bedroom will have a window seat AND a fireplace in it and so no matter if it's summer (window seat) or winter (in front of the fire) I'll have a cozy place to read, my room will be my favoritest, coziest place.

Dec 3, 2010

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday

How could I almost forget? 

This week's Book Blogger Hop question:

"What very popular and hyped book in the blogosphere did you NOT enjoy and how did you feel about posting your review?"

Sadly, especially considering how much I enjoyed The History of Love, Nicole Krauss's new novel,
Great House
was a big disappointment to me. I found it difficult to relate to the narrator, the story elements I wanted to hear more about were not the ones expanded upon, and frankly, I thought the writing was a little boring. In addition to all of that, I just got the sense that the book was trying so hard to be literary, and I really dislike it when writing is aware of itself. So, I stopped reading it about half-way through. And didn't post a review because I tend to avoid posting negative reviews. This is just my own philosophy, but life's too short to continue reading a book you don't like, and there are so many books I did enjoy to blog about that I don't feel the need to blog about those I didn't.

This week's Follow Friday question:

What do you do besides reading / reviewing as a hobby?

If there's any time left over between work, reading, sleeping, eating, and working out, I craft, I photograph, I play the piano when there's one around, I'm considering learning the harmonica, I knit, I sew, I mixed-media collage, I make cards, I cook, I bake, and I'm always looking for more.

 Now then, nice to meet you all!

Dec 2, 2010

Book Review: Dust City by Robert Paul Weston

by Robert Paul Weston
9781595142962, $16.99, Razorbill (Penguin)

Dust City combines fairy tales, paranormal characters, futuristic science, and a dash of adventure and romance in this new Young Adult novel by the author of Zorgamazoo, a 2008 Booklist top ten debut title.

Henry Whelp is the son of the Big Bad Wolf. You know, the one who murdered Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother? As the son of a famous murderer, Henry is content to keep his head down and not cause any trouble at Dust City’s Home for Wayward Wolves. Unfortunately, most of the other kids at the Home are troublemakers, so that’s a little difficult. Especially in a town like Dust City, known for its black-market dealing of mind-altering fairy dust concoctions.

You see, years ago, fairies used to populate Eden, the city above Dust City. Their fairy dust would grant miracles and wishes by bringing about the fairy dust recipient’s full potential. Within minutes of inhaling the fairy dust, a painter would create a masterpiece, a musician would compose an opus, and so on. Sadly, though, the fairies all disappeared one day, leaving a population hooked on fairy dust but without a reliable source. That’s where the evil steps in. Nimbus Thaumaturgical is a company run by two brothers that found a way to create a synthetic dust substitute using leftover fairy dust mined from the hills of Eden. Some of their medicine is sold over-the-counter for relieving small headaches, healing small cuts, basically small miracles like that. What most people don’t know is that the rest of the dust is sold through Skinner, Dust City’s famed mobster, and his Water Nixie crew, on the underground (literally) black market.

When Henry’s best friend Jack escapes the Home (with the help of a few beans), and a murder takes place, Henry knows it’s time for him to leave as well. A clandestine trip to his father in prison gives Henry some new information – Henry’s father believes the fairies are still alive and have been kidnapped, forced to produce evil dust for Nimbus Thaumaturgical. Henry’s father inhaled some of the evil dust on the night he killed Red and her grandmother. If Henry can find out if the fairies do still exist, he may be able to prove his father’s innocence. AND, he may be able to work a deal with the fairies to bring back the mother who died many years ago, accidentally killed by a Nimbus Thaumaturgical truck. To do this, though, Henry will need to go deep into the underworld, become one of Skinner’s runners in the drug trade, and try to uncover the secret behind the manufactured dust. All without being found out, getting addicted to the dust himself, or ending up dead. With a sexy female wolf named Fiona by his side (who happens to be the sister of his biggest rival, Roy), how can he fail?

Nov 30, 2010

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

by Daisy Whitney
9780316090537, $16.99, Little Brown (Hachette)

E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks meets Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak in this debut novel.

I love the tagline for this book:

“Hush little students, don’t say a word…”

There’s something slightly creepy about nursery rhymes used in non-nursery rhyme contexts. While this isn’t a YA horror novel, the teens at Themis Academy do need to watch their backs. Because while the administration at this private boarding school may believe all their students are perfect, the Mockingbirds are fully aware that not everyone acts honorably all the time. Where the administration fails to enforce any sort of consequence for dishonorable conduct, the Mockingbirds step in to pick up the slack.

When Alexandra Nicole Patrick gets date-raped in her junior year by a popular member of the water polo team, she knows going to the administration is not an option. Neither is going to the police, which will only result in lots of publicity, hysterics from her parents, and Alex getting yanked out of Themis – none of which she wants to deal with. What does Alex want? Justice. And there’s only one place to go for justice at Themis Academy – The Mockingbirds.

An underground system for justice, the Mockingbirds are a student organization set up several years ago by Alex’s older sister. Their purpose is to be judge and jury for student-against-student crimes. There are three tiers of Mockingbird participants, a system of checks-and-balances, and above all, fair justice dealt out to all parties involved.

With the help and support of her roommates T.S. and Maia, Alex accuses Carter Hutchinson of date rape. There’s only one problem – Alex doesn’t remember a lot of details from that night. If she was too drunk to say yes, then it follows that she was too drunk to participate in consensual sex, and therefore Carter raped her. Or did he?

As the Mockingbirds investigate, Maia cross-examines, and T.S. offers moral support, Alex tries to retain some semblance of her before life – before the rape, before she avoided the cafeteria for meals, before she started mapping out new Carter-less routes to class, and before she began having flashbacks to a night she’d almost prefer remain a mystery. Alex just wants to focus on playing the piano, on the possibility of getting into Julliard, and on her new crush-like feelings for Martin, one of the three students on the Mockingbirds’ board of directors. It’s when Alex learns more about the Mockingbirds’ history, when other female students let Alex know similar things have happened to them, and when Alex gets tired of living in the difference of before vs. after that she begins to realize the importance of standing up, speaking out, and ensuring that justice – even an underground, student-run justice – is the only way to finally get back to being just normal.

Nov 28, 2010

Mass Market Monday: Eat Prey Love by Kerrelyn Sparks

Welcome to Mass Market Monday, 
a weekly meme where people share what mass market titles they've read in the previous week.

To participate:

1. Enter your blog into the list below with the main type of books you review.
Example: Blog Name (main type of books you review or "eclectic")
Wildly Read (eclectic children's & adult)

2. Post about this meme on your blog, sharing your Monday mass market review.

3. Visit other blogs on the list, finding great book recommendations, following new blogs, and sharing your own.

And now, for my Mass Market Monday review:
Eat Prey Love
by Kerrelyn Sparks
9780061958038, $7.99, Avon (Harper)

How could I not read a book with this title? Though the story had absolutely nothing to do with the famed Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert nor the movie based on the novel starring Julia Roberts, the title spoof alone was enough to have me pick up this book - which, let's face it, was probably the whole point. Though by no means great literature (and sorry, but I don't consider Eat, Pray, Love GL either), I definitely enjoyed it.

I'm stealing this tagline from the Publisher's Weekly review:

Wanted: Bride. Must love children. Mortals need not apply.

Too bad the one woman who smells perfect also smells human. Carlos Panterra can shapeshift into a jaguar, and possibly one of the last of his kind thanks to a merciless slaughter of two were-jaguar villages. He was able to save a few young, but now he's on a hunt for a woman of his species to not only mother these orphans but to produce more babies to help carry on the were-jaguar line. It's highly unlikely that Caitlyn Whelan would be able to do so, despite her own special skills.

Caitlyn can learn any language in minutes, include the language of animals. Though unable to turn into any other being herself, Caitlyn's special abilities make her much more understanding of the paranormal set, including her sister who happens to be married to a vampire. Caitlyn's father, however, is the head of a CIA agency bent on hunting, killing, and eventually eradicating all vamps and shifters everywhere, even if they haven't committed any crimes. When Caitlyn becomes part of the paranormal agency, she is choosing to stand against her father and to work with Carlos on finding a mate for him, despite her own nearly irresistible attraction.

As Carlos and Caitlyn travel deeper into the jungle on a hunt for rumored were-jaguars, the temperature and their passions get hotter and hotter as they encounter were-tigers, battle evil vampires, and use up another one of Carlos's nine lives. A quick read that includes steamy jungle sex, I highly recommend this for a guilty pleasure book.

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I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

Actually, I'd like to thank Ms. Emily Crowe of As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) for passing on the Versatile Blogger Award! This is my first award on my new blog, and I'm thrilled to receive it from a friend, fellow blogger, and person whose opinion I trust. And now, to pay it forward...

The rules of the award are as follows:

1.  Share 7 things about ourselves.

a. I love flying, especially that moment at takeoff, because I find it exhilarating to have no control over whether I live or die.
b. I love high-heeled shoes but almost never wear them.
c. If I ever get married, I would like pies instead of cake at my wedding.
d. I prefer myself in contacts rather than glasses, but love glasses on other people.
e. I have lived in Massachusetts for 7 years but have yet to get an in-state license. (No, that is not because I like my driver's license picture. It's because I hate the DMV.)
f. My last meal: appetizer: my mother's spanikopita with a glass of my favorite Pinot Grigio; soup: my mother's chicken soup with matzoh balls; main course: filet mignon - medium/rare, seared tuna steak so it has a thin cooked layer of seasoning but is raw on the inside, garlic mashed potatoes with gravy & butter, french cut green beans with toasted almonds, shot of Jack; dessert: my grandmother's cherry pie with one pumpkin, walnut, chocolate chip cookie on the side; shot of Patron silver.
g. Though I like giving my opinion, I'm uncomfortable making seven "I" statements in a row.

2.  Pass the award on to 10 bloggers recently discovered.

a. Bibliophile Brouhaha
b. Walk the Ridgepole
c. There's a Book
d. The Grammarian's Reviews
e. The Broke and the Bookish
f. Got Books?
g. Female Illustrators of the Mid-20th Century
h. Book of Secrets
i. Bloggin' 'bout Books
j. Between the Covers

3.  Notify the blogger recipients. - Done
4.  Link to the blogger who gave us the award. - and Done (see above)

What a great post-Thanksgiving pick-me-up. 

And don't forget to check out tomorrow's Mass Market Monday meme!

Nov 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I struggle with this holiday, like I struggle with most American-history holidays, because we celebrants tend to remember only one side of the holiday story - the White side, the colonizer side, the winning side. Though my people (only 2nd generation here) came over after most of the overt colonizing had taken place, I struggle with the lack of respect for and remembrance of the Native Peoples living in the Americas that is still prevalent in today's society, despite often living next to people from those cultures still alive today.

This isn't intended to be a soapbox, so I'll step down now and simply say this book, published by National Geographic (Random House), does a decent job of taking into consideration both the Wampanoag Indians' history as well as the Pilgrims' history when discussing this holiday. 

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving 
by Catherine O'Neill Grace & Margaret Bruchac, photographs by Sisse Brimberg & Cotton Coulson
Hardcover: 9780792270270, $17.95
Paperback: 9780792261391, $7.95

Reenacted at the Plimoth Plantation, full-color photographs of people in historical regalia accompany sections of text written by various historians of both White and Native American Indian backgrounds. The text, written on a level to be enjoyed by 8-12-year-olds (and up!), may startle you by laying to rest misconceptions and myths you didn't even know you perpetuated/believed.

Also check out Plimoth Plantation's interactive First Thanksgiving website.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate 
and/or commemorate this American holiday!

Nov 24, 2010

Word of the Day: Lagniappe

I can't wait to receive my lagniappe, coming in the mail, and from a Southern-speaking friend at that!

Nov 22, 2010

Mass Market Monday:

Welcome to Mass Market Monday, 
a weekly meme where people share what mass market titles they've read in the previous week.

To participate:

1. Enter your blog into the list below with the main type of books you review.
Example: Blog Name (main type of books you review or "eclectic")
Wildly Read (eclectic children's & adult)

2. Post about this meme on your blog, sharing your Monday mass market review.

3. Visit other blogs on the list, finding great book recommendations, following new blogs, and sharing your own.

And now, for my Mass Market Monday review:

Stars, containing Hidden Star and Captive Star (books 1 & 2 in the Stars of Mithra trilogy)
by Nora Roberts
9780373285624, $7.99, Silhouette (Harlequin)

It's back to the basics this Monday - the tried-and-true - my go-to mass market (MM) author whenever I'm feeling blue - the NYTimes bestselling author, Nora Roberts!

I've been reading NR for over half my life and I'm constantly amazed by the way her writing stays current and new. Even in books such as Stars, a republishing/repackaging of two of her earlier novels, she has a way of gently infusing her writing with an edge, with elements of fringe culture, with unexpected personality traits, and uncommon interests, often years before those influences become more mainstream.

For instance, her female characters, even while meeting a man and falling in love, tend to be strong in their own right, independent, and demanding of equal respect from their male partners (not something all romantic fiction authors write about). In Hidden Star and Captive Star, the two books contained in Stars, though originally published in 1997, reading them now over 10 years later, there are so many character elements that could fit right into daily life now.

In Hidden Star, Bailey James is suffering from amnesia. She can't remember who she is or what she is running from. All she knows is that she woke up in a hotel room with a gun, a bag full of cash, and a large blue diamond. Going to the police isn't an option, so she goes to the next best thing - private investigator Cade Parris. Never one to turn away a damsel in distress, Cade takes the case, and ends up taking Bailey James home - all with the best intentions, of course. As they slowly uncover who she might be (gemologist), who she is running from (evil older step-brother who has already killed once and won't hesitate to do it again), and who else might be involved (her two best girl-friends who have gone MIA with the other two diamonds), they also uncover that they might be in love.

The trilogy continues in Captive Star when friend #2, M.J. O'Leary, gets arrested by bounty hunter Jack Dakota. Though an expert in martial arts, and holding her own in any fight, M.J. ends up handcuffed to Jack Dakota, running for her life when two men start trying to kill them in what was an obvious set-up by the evil men after the diamond. Forced to trust each other in war, if not in love, M.J. and Jack race around trying to lose their tail, but find Bailey and Grace (BFF #3), without losing their lives. In the process, they just may figure out how to make a life together.

Favorite parts? The sexy little tattoos all three women got together in college. M.J. leaning out of a car window to shoot at the men chasing them. Bailey getting all hot-and-bothered in the kitchen but not wanting to let Cade know. And of course, the steamy sex. Bailey's the lingerie-princess-type, while M.J. just happens not to be wearing any underwear on "getting arrested" day. My ultimate favorite part is how I can relate to both characters in different ways (though I gotta be honest, the shooting at people out the window is probably more my style).

Looking forward to reading Treasures, the next MM that contains Secret Star, the third and final book in the Stars of Mithra trilogy.

Nov 21, 2010

Celebrate the Haul-idays with Chronicle Books

Attention Book Bloggers and those who just love books:

Chronicle Books, publisher extraordinaire based in San Francisco, is helping us celebrate the holidays with a chance to win
$500 worth of Chronicle titles!

Celebrate the Haul-idays with Chronicle Books

If you're a blogger, create your own list and add your own blog.
If you're not a blogger, comment in the comments field on my blog for your own chance to win a Chronicle haul.

As the rules request, here is my list of Chronicle titles I would love to haul in if my blog name is picked to win. The hardest part of entering this contest? Keeping my list to only $500! Chronicle is one of my favorite publishers: the innovative design of their books, the unique children's books they acquire, and the saucy adult books they publish all combine to make looking through the Chronicle catalogue similar to looking through a shoe catalogue (for me, anyway) - as in something to savor in my favorite chair with a glass of wine and an open checkbook.


Children's Titles

Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss (9781934706787, $19.99)
(I have been coveting this book for over a year, and included it in my ABC book roundup here.)

Binth Matching Game by Binth (9780811869294, $24.95)

Bruno Munari:
Bruno Munari's ABC by Bruno Munari (9780811854634, $19.99)
Bruno Munari's Zoo by Bruno Munari (9780811848305, $17.99)

Classic Illustrated Editions:
(I love this entire series and have been slowly - slowly - collecting them for myself.)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, compiled by Cooper Edens (9780811875585, $14.99)
Robin Hood by E. Charles Vivian, compiled by Cooper Edens (9780811833998, $19.95)

Creature project:
(I can't decide! One of these for sure, though.)
Creature by Andrew Zuckerman (9780811861533, $60)
Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman (9780811869782, $19.99)

Flash Cards:
Alphabet Flash Cards by Beth Nelson (9780811843942, $14.95)
Alphabet Animals Flash Cards by Lisa DeJohn (9780811864657, $14.95)
Alphabeasties Flash Cards by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss (9781609050030, $15.99)
(I've decided when I have a child, I will buy packages of gorgeous flash cards like these, frame them in sets, and put those up as decorations in my child's room. Read my earlier odes to mixed-media artists [including Lisa DeJohn & Lorena Siminovich] here.)

For Just One Day by Laura Leuck, illustrated by Marc Boutavant (9780811856102, $16.99)
(This was a favorite handsell of mine at the Odyssey Book Shop last winter season, and I still say it's one of the best to give a 2-4 year-old. I can't remember if I ever got a copy for myself!)

A Long Piece of String by William Wondriska (9780811874939, $15.99)

Out of Sight by Pittau & Gervais (9780811877121, $19.99)

Shadow by Suzy Lee (9780811872805, $15.99)
(Suzy Lee stole my heart with her first wordless picture book Wave. I continued to be enamored when I saw Mirror [read my review here] and now can't wait to see what she does with Shadow.)

Wild Horse Winter by Tetsuya Honda (9780811812115, $6.95)

Young Adult Titles

Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel by Michaela MacColl (9780811873000, $16.99)
(Wins the award for my favorite cover design.)

Adult Titles

(Masquerading as a picture book, this is actually intended for snarky-humored adults. I included it in my "Picturebooks for Adults" roundup here.)
Cake Pops by Bakerella: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for Irresistible Mini Treats by Angie Dudley (9780811876377, $19.95)
(Every year, my friend Mattie & I give each other books for various holidays - she gets cupcake books; I get interior decorating with flea market style coffee table books. She doesn't actually bake and I'm not actually an interior decorator, but we both love looking at the pictures. Though these aren't cupcakes, I think they'll do. This book would be for her.)

Hot Type: 30 Sheets of Typographic Fabric Transfers by Brett MacFadden and Scott Thorpe (9780811870863, $12.95)
Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By by Lesley M.M. Blume, illustrated by Grady McFerrin (9780811874137, $19.95) 
(You may remember Ms. Blume as the author of one of my favorite middle grade novels called Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters; you can read my review of it here.)

Paper + Craft: 25 Charming Gifts, Accents, and Accessories to Make from Paper by Minhee and Truman Cho, with Randi Brookman Harris, & photographs by Johnny Miller (9780811874625, $19.95)

The Tagine Deck: 25 Recipes for Slow-Cooked Meals by Joyce Goldstein, photographs by Leigh Beisch (9780811865203, $14.95)
(My mother, international food cook lover, is getting a tagine for the holidays. She'll need some recipes to go along with that, won't she?)

Nov 20, 2010

Young People's Literature National Book Award: Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Congratulations to National Book Award winner for 
Young People's Literature:

In Caitlin's world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That's the stuff Caitlin's older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon's dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger's, she doesn't know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white--the world is full of colors--messy and beautiful.

About the author:
Kathryn Erskine was a lawyer for 15 years before she devoted her time to writing. Her first young adult novel, Quaking, was one of YALSA’s Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Mockingbird is her second novel, and she has a third, The Absolute Value of Mike, coming out in June 2011. To read an early interview with her, check out I am a Reader, Not a Writer. To read a post-award interview, click here.

The mission of the National Book Awards is to "celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America". In 1987, the awards were "reestablished...with an emphasis that the Awards are given by writers to writers. Since 1996, independent panels of five writers have chosen the National Book Award Winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature."

One of the things I find most fascinating about awards like this is that very different novels are considered every year depending on factors like what books were published and submitted for consideration, who the judges are, and (in my opinion) issues like the current political climate.

For instance, let's compare 2008's finalists and judges...

What I Saw and How I Lied: A young girl moves from innocence to desire, from prejudice to justice and from the tumultuous bonds of family into a sad, enduring wisdom.

Chains: In the story of the slave girl Isabel's struggles to claim the freedom bequeathed her, and unjustly denied, Laurie Halse Anderson has created not only an adventure story with a resourceful and intelligent heroine, but also a rich vision of Revolutionary Manhattan, inhabited by imperfect human beings, their judgments and choices impaired by fear, shaped by necessity and greed.
The Underneath: Haunting in tone and resonance, The Underneath weaves a heartrending and magical tale that speaks to love and hope, loneliness and loss, ancestral forgiveness and a deep abiding reverence for the natural world that surrounds us, the ethereal world that entices our imagination and the real world that may bruise us, haunt us, but eventually set us free.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: Sixteen-year-old Frankie, frustrated by the exclusion from her school’s all-male secret society, infiltrates the group, sending the unknowing boys on a spree of ingenious pranks. Subversive and clever, this young adult novel is a stunning story of gender, entitlement, and the making of an anti-heroine.

The Spectacular Now: The Spectacular Now perfectly juxtaposes hilarity and tragedy in the character of Sutter, a high school senior with a bevy of generous and caring ex-girlfriends, a desire to help those in need, a careless charm, and an insistence on being the life and soul of the party. With so much to recommend him, it's easy to overlook how often he's drunk.

(Or in other words noir, historical, haunting fiction, subversive contemporary fiction, contemporary teen social issues.)

...with last year's finalists and judges...

Claudette Colvin: Phillip Hoose’s riveting and intelligent portrait incorporates photographs and other galvanizing primary source illustrations, as well as Claudette Colvin’s own voice, to draw the reader fully into 1950s Montgomery, Alabama.

Charles and Emma: Through meticulous research, vibrant prose, and inspired integration of journals and personal correspondence, Heiligman reveals how, over a lifetime of love and loss, success and setback, the Darwins’ religious differences evolved into a portrait of mutual respect and devotion. 

Stitches: Vivid and assured cartoon illustrations accompanied by evocative, pared-down text bring the reader fully inside a family tortured by anger, repression, lies, and mental illness, and then take the reader along with Small into healing and understanding.

Lips Touch: Lips Touch pulses with vivid imagery yet remains economical in its world-building, its unpredictable plot-spinning, and its compassionate characterization. Taylor draws from multiple literary and historical sources to spin a wholly original and unforgettable reading enchantment that is nothing short of a tour de force. 

Jumped: Acclaimed author Rita Williams-Garcia intertwines the lives of three very different teens in this fast-paced, gritty narrative about choices and the impact that even the most seemingly insignificant ones can have. Weaving in and out of the girls’ perspectives, readers will find themselves engrossed in not one intimate portrayal but three.

(Or in other words: historical, historical, memoir, 3 interwoven stories [based on history, mythology, & folklore], 3 interwoven stories [contemporary].)

...with this year's finalists and judges:

Ship Breaker: In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life. . . .

Mockingbird: In Caitlin's world, everything is black or white. Anything in between is confusing. That's the stuff Caitlin's older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon's dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an 11-year-old girl with Asperger's, she doesn't know how.

Dark Water: Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live California, where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn't pay much attention to them--until Amiel.

Lockdown: When I first got to Progress, it freaked me out to be locked in a room and unable to get out. But after a while, when you got to thinking about it, you knew nobody could get in, either.

One Crazy Summer: In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers in 1968 Oakland, California. And congratulations to Rita Williams-Garcia for making the short list 2 years in a row!

(Or, contemporary political issue, contemporary social issue, contemporary political issue, contemporary social issue, historical.)

Notice a difference in the novels' subject matter from year-to-year?
This isn't meant to be a criticism, a complaint, or a condemnation, but simply a topic to ponder and discuss.

On a personal note, I wonder what it says about my own reading tastes that I had read 3 of the 5 books chosen for the 2008 awards prior to their being chosen, but I have yet to read a single 2009 or 2010 shortlisted title.

Anyone have thoughts on this (or previous years') finalists/winners?

Nov 19, 2010

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday

It's that time again: 
Follow the yellow brick road, follow your dreams, and follow me
because it's 

This week's Book Blogger Hop question:

  "Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!"

Most thankful for - how to answer without being a cliche or a jerk? I'm thankful for all the usual - a loving family, my fairly decent health, the fact that I have a job that allows me to buy fresh, local, and organic food most days of the month. But I'm also thankful for those things most people don't openly talk about:

- I'm thankful I'm recognized as an attractive person by most physical standards. I genuinely believe life is more difficult for those judged as having a less-than-traditional beauty.
- I'm grateful I have some sort of fashion sense (not saying it's good fashion, just that I have a sense of it), so that I know how to dress my non-commercialized body type in attractive ways.
- I'm thankful I was born with a natural intelligence. The educational advantages my parents worked hard to give me, aside, it's undeniable that I have both book and life smarts and I use them.
- I'm thankful I was raised to question life, to give in to curiosity, and to be a "doer", as in one who gets off one's ass to go out and explore the world first-hand (though this really goes back to being thankful for my family).
- In short, I'm thankful to be me, where I am, who I am, right now.

As for Thanksgiving traditions, well, first I try to reconcile Native American history with European American history. Then I travel to Syracuse, NY to have a big Thanksgiving dinner with my Polish grandmother, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother, and my 3 cousins (and whoever they bring [of the paramour variety] to Thanksgiving this year). This will be our first Thanksgiving without my uncle. PJF, may you forever rest in peace. You, and your wine-loosened tongue filling in the awkward conversational gaps with even more awkward family stories, will be missed.

Today's Follow Friday question:
"How long have you been blogging?"

That's a complicated one. As you can tell by the archive on the side of this blog, I've been blogging since February 2009. In reality, I've been blogging since 2007, but the original blog was more for me and my family. Those posts were deleted to make way for a new book-related public blog. BUT to complicate that, the original book blog was actually called Afterthoughts..., accompanied by Afterthoughts for Adults, accompanied by Afterfonts. I also blogged on my former store's blog, A Reading Odyssey, as well as blogging with my former grad school cohort (former grad school, former cohort, current good friends) on The Guinea Pigs blog. 
My current blog, Wildly Read, began in early November when I decided I wanted one blog to rule them all. Collected here are all the posts from all three of my previous blogs, the bookstore blog, and the Guinea Pigs blog, plus all the new posts I now create. Hence the need for new followers. I can import my posts; I can't import my follower list.