Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hello... You Won Afraid

I'm so sorry for the delay in announcing the winners of AFRAID by Jack Kilborn, but I've been busy for the past few days in New York at BEA. I will definitely share more later about BEA and the terrific bloggers I met-- it was just an amazing experience!

Without further ado, the winners are:





Lady Roxi

I will be e-mailing you shortly. You have three days to send me your name and address so I can forward the information to Hachette.

Check out my other giveaways:



Hachette Mother's Day Giveaway

Review: Fern Verdant and the Silver Rose

Summary: Fern wishes she had normal parents and a normal name. Instead, she has eccentric botanist parents who named her Fern, after her father’s favorite plant. Lily, Fern’s mother, assures her one day she’ll understand their love of plants, but Fern can’t believe it. She hates plants and could do with less of them in her life.

Then Lily disappears suddenly while attending to a mysterious and rare Silver Rose. Fern and her dad are heartbroken, but have no idea what could have happened, until one day, Fern learns she has a one-of-a-kind talent: she can communicate with plants, and so could her mother! Using her newfound skill, she learns that her mother is in terrible danger, and she is the only one who can save her. With a little help from her friends, the plants . . . -- Knopf

I have been reading a lot of middle-grade fiction lately, and I can't believe how many terrific books are out there for our kids. FERN VERDANT AND THE SILVER ROSE by Diana Leszczynski is another great middle-grade novel that I will be recommending to our friends. This book had a little bit of everything -- interesting characters, action, adventure, and important messages. It also was a very fun book to read!

I really enjoyed this book; however, when I first started it, I was a little disappointed in the character of Fern. I thought she was kind of disrespectful to her parents (probably not that unusual for a child turning 13,) and I was worried that she would make a bad impression on children who were reading this book. I was so happy to see that Fern's selfish behavior only lasted for a few pages. She quickly realized her responsibilities and what was important in her life; and I loved how she developed and matured by the end of the story. She ended up being a wonderful, strong, and resourceful young girl who was anything but self-absorbed.

FERN VERDANT AND THE SILVER ROSE was definitely action-packed, and I think kids will love following Fern and her friends on their adventure. There is definitely enough excitement and strange characters in this story to attract even the most reluctant reader. The "bad guys" in this story are just so unique, and I especially liked how the author created such a vivid picture of them. I could so see this book as a movie!

I was impressed with Ms. Leszczynski and her ability to create memorable characters and an intriguing story. She certainly has a way with words and her descriptions are just incredible. Not only could I picture all of the characters, but I could "see" the trees, flowers, and plant-life too. It is evident to me that she is very passionate about saving the earth, and the message was very clear throughout the entire story. I am hoping that the author intends to write more books about Fern -- the ending of this book is pretty open-ended and even gives a hint as to Fern's next adventure. I am a fan of both Ms. Leszczynski and the character Fern and definitely intend to read the next novel in this series when it comes out.

One of the things that I liked most about this book was that the author chose to discuss so many important social issues in this novel. In fact, FERN VERDANT AND THE SILVER ROSE was the winner of the 2008 Green Earth Book Award Honor. This novel definitely showed children the importance of respecting our planet, but it also showed characters who wear natural clothes and only buy clothes made in countries with safe working conditions. I love that children who read this book will pick up on the many "green" messages; and, hopefully, they will become more conscious of the many ways that they can help to preserve the environment.

Besides the wonderful message out protecting our planet, I also liked some of the other messages that I found in this story. As the character of Fern grew up, she began to realize very important things. For example, she became much less focused on herself and her desires and began looking at the larger picture. In addition, she learned to appreciate her family and especially her parents; and she also learned how to be a good friend. I definitely think Fern's behavior in this book will go a long way in showing kids some of the character traits that make up a "good" person.

Thanks to the author and Knopf for sending me a copy of this book!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book Blogger Panel

I'm sure that most of you already know by now that I'm at Book Expo America in New York! Today is a very big day for me because I will be participating in a Book Bloggers Panel hosted by Book Club Girl. The idea is that we'll "explore the publisher-blogger-bookseller relationship and what we can do to make it better and maximize all of our efforts to help readers find books that they'll love." Besides me, Natasha of Maw Books, Stephanie of Stephanie's Written Word, Amy of My Friend Amy, Dawn of She is Too Fond of Books, and Candace of Beth Fish Reads all will be participating. It's an amazing bunch of bloggers and I feel very humbled that I was asked to join them (and really a bit out of my league if I'm being honest!)

The panel will be held at 2:00 p.m. in Room 1E15. I'd love for you to stop by and be part of this discussion; but if you aren't going to be able to make it, you can still listen on Blog Talk Radio. Set your reminder for the live broadcast on May 20th at 2 pm EST here.

I really hope I can fairly represent the book blogging community. Wish me luck!!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Review: Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully

Summary: Freckleface Strawberry loves her school’s Early Bird program because it means extra time on the playground—except when it rains. On rainy days Early Birds have playtime indoors . . . and that usually means facing the school bully Windy Pants Patrick in a hairy, scary game of dodgeball. Ignoring Patrick seems the safest thing to do, but when all the other kids get struck out, Freckleface Strawberry is forced to confront him alone. Can she beat him at his own game without lifting a finger? Funny and inspiring, this is an all-too-familiar problem with a clever solution that kids, families, and teachers will find easy to relate to. -- Bloomsbury

When the opportunity came up to participate in a book blog tour for FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY AND THE DODGEBALL BULLY by Julianne Moore and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, I jumped at the chance. I had heard good things about the first book in the Freckleface Strawberry series, and I figured it would be a book that my four year son would enjoy. He actually did like this book and we've read it a few times already. He really thought it was cool when we were at Barnes and Noble last week, and the book was featured on a big display right in front of the store.

The author of this book is a name that most of you will recognize -- Julianne Moore. Yes, it's that Julianne Moore, the four-time Academy Award nominee. I have been a big fan of hers ever since she was on As the World Turns much earlier in her acting career. (I am desperately hoping that I will get to meet her at BEA this week!) Like many people who read lots of picture books, Ms. Moore is a mother of young children; and I thought it was evident that she understands children and what types of books they like. While I was familiar with Ms. Moore's acting and writing careers, I was amazed to learn just how much charity work she does. She is a U.S. Ambassador for Save the Children, and she is also a member of Reach Out and Read, a children's literary organization dedicated to educating parents on the importance of reading tot heir children.

FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY AND THE DODGEBALL BULLY is just an adorable book! My son thought it was hilarious, and I liked it a lot too. The character of Freckleface Strawberry is based on Ms. Moore and her children and actually was her nickname when she was a child. In this book, the seven-year-old Freckleface Strawberry encounters a bully during a game of dodgeball. She manages to find her own special way to deal with this problem that kids will certainly appreciate!

I can't recommend this book enough! Freckleface Strawberry is such a memorable character, and I think kids will just love her. As I read this book to my son, I found myself laughing quite a bit -- both at the story and his reaction to it. I especially thought it was hilarious when the reader learns why Freckleface Strawberry doesn't like dodgeball -- the sound effects alone were just too funny.

Not only did my son and I like the story, but I also thought the illustrations by LeUyen Pham were fantastic. The pictures are bright and colorful, and I especially enjoyed the facial expressions on the characters. I loved that each page had a lot going on -- loads of pictures and limited text -- because it definitely kept my son's attention while I read the story. He says that he liked all of the pictures; but being a normal four year old, he really liked the purple monster.

As a mother, I really appreciated the messages in this book. I think most school age children can relate to being afraid of things like dodgeball and a bully. In this book, Freckleface Strawberry showed that it is normal to be scared, but she also shows that there are ways to handle your fears. I also like that Freckleface Strawberry learned that anticipating the fear was much worse than when it actually happened. That's something that I try to tell my children all the time, but I think seeing a character in a book realize this might actually have a deeper impression on them. I also liked how the story ended -- the bully gained respect for Freckleface Strawberry and they began to play together.

If you want to learn more about FRECKLEFACE STRAWBERRY AND THE DODGEBALL BULLY as well as Ms. Moore, make sure you check out the Promo 101 Virtual Blog Tour announcement page. In addition, there is a Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully activity kit that you can download here. To order your very own copy, click here.

Make sure you take a look at the video where Ms. Moore talks about balancing work and family! If you'd like to see some more videos, click here.

A big thanks to Promo 101 Virtual Book Tours for selecting me to be part of this tour.

Blogger Signing

I'm the first to admit that this sounds kind of crazy (and more than a little fun), but I am participating in a blogger "signing"at the Firebrand booth (#4077) on Friday from 4:00-5:00 p.m. Amy from My Friend Amy will be there with me (I'm hoping that by mentioning her name more people will stop by!)

The idea behind this "blogger signing" isn't really for people to come by and get my autograph -- come one, who would really want that? Rather, it's a great way to get bloggers, publishers, and authors to meet each other. So if you're in the area, I'd love to meet you.

There are 40+ other bloggers who are "signing autographs" too at the Firebrand booth! Take a look at the schedule and make sure you stop by!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Review: Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass

Summary: Nick Rostov's father is the worst stage magician in Las Vegas. He can barely pull a rabbit out of a hat. So it is a strange morning indeed when Nick wakes up to find himself on the top floor of the Winter Palace Casino with a promise from the greatest magician in the world to teach him magic.

And not just stage magic. Real magic. Nick sets out to learn about his mother's family, the strange Russian clan of magicians that secretly run the Winter Palace. But there is a catch: Nick has the sight, the ability to see into the past. And so it must fall to him, with only his cousin Isabella to help, to pick up the long-buried clues and unravel the mystery of The Eternal Hourglass, the only magic artifact ever created that can actually stop time. -- Sourcebooks

I am so glad that I have a daughter who loves to read because it forces me to read books that I probably wouldn't have picked up otherwise. Thanks to her, I have recently discovered how many great middle-grade books are out there. MAGICKEEPERS: THE ETERNAL HOURGLASS BOOK ONE by Erica Kirov is another example of a terrific book for young readers that I really enjoyed.

I thought the basic premise of this novel is terrific. On his 13th birthday, Nick realizes that he can see into the past while looking through a crystal ball in a magic shop. He also learns that his mother, who died when he was a baby, was a member of a family of Russian magicians. His grandfather takes him to live with his "family;" and they begin to train Nick so he can learn how to use his powers. The book really takes off when Nick gets involved in a battle with the Shadowkeepers over an Eternal Hourglass that can stop time. There is a ton of action in this novel, and it's actually a very fast-paced read.

So many of the characters in this novel are extremely interesting, but I absolutely loved Nick. Nick was just a terrific character who, despite his abilities, seemed very real to me. He is a young boy who is forced to grow up very quickly and accept that his life will never be the same. Although he was constantly facing challenges that appeared to be impossible, he handled everything that came his way with a sense of maturity and intelligence. I think children will not only relate to Nick and his "normal" young teen feelings, but they will also look up to him as a hero and someone who did the right things for his family.

As is often the case in books like this, the characters must face off against evil; and in this story, it was the Shadowkeepers who were the enemy. I especially liked that Nick used not only his physical skills but also his intellectual prowess against the bad guys. There were riddles and spells that he had to figure out, and he also had to use his magical powers; however, I liked that he eventually was successful because he outsmarted them!

Not only did I find the story and characters interesting, but I really liked that there was a little historical information thrown in. The book doesn't get bogged down and read like a history lesson, but I thought it was a great idea for the author to mix in real-life historical characters like Harry Houdini and Rasputin. I can imagine that there will be some readers who are interested in learning more about Houdini and Rasputin, and this book might just make them do a little more research.

My daughter hasn't had a chance to read MAGICKEEPERS yet, but I'm pretty sure that she's going to love it. This book has all the criteria to make it a great read for middle-graders including action, suspense, and adventure. Plus there's the element of magic that certainly doesn't hurt! I think this book will appeal to both boys and girls (and their parents as well.) I am not alone in my praise for THE ETERNAL HOURGLASS because this novel is already generating some terrific buzz. Check out this review in Publishers Weekly and this review in April Kirkus.

While the actual story about the Eternal Hourglass was resolved, the author definitely leaves the reader with some questions about Nick and his family's past. It's clear to me that there are a lot more stories to tell in the MAGICKEEPERS series; and I, for one, can't wait until the next book comes out. In the meantime, if you'd like to read a sample chapter from the first book, click here.

Thanks to Paul from Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of this terrific book!

Check out these other sites and their reviews of MAGICKEEPERS.

YA Books Central
Books For Your Kids
The Reading Tub
Book Loons
Dolce Bellezza
The Written World
Blog Critics (5/27)
Abby the Librarian (5/28)
A Childhood of Dreams (5/29)
Eva’s Book Addiction (5/29)
Word Candy (5/29)
Book Views (6/1)
Looking Glass Review (6/5)
Alea Pop Culture (6/18)
Beth Fish Reads (6/23)

Hello...You Won Frenchman's Creek

And the winner of FRENCHMAN'S CREEK by Daphne du Maurier is:


Please send me your name and mailing address so I can forward the information to the publisher. I am heading out of town to BEA so there might be a slight delay.

Check out my other giveaways:

Hachette's Mother's Day Giveaway

- audio



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: Mating Rituals of the North American WASP & Giveaway

Summary: After arguing with her live-in boyfriend about his inability to commit, Peggy Adams flies to a friend's bachelorette party in Las Vegas, and wakes up next to a man she can't remember. Hung-over and miserable, she sneaks out of the sleeping man's hotel room and returns home to New York, where her boyfriend apologizes for the fight and gives her a Tiffany box containing a pre-engagement ring. Not what she expected, but close enough! The next day she receives a phone call from the Las Vegas one-night stand, Luke, claiming she's already married to him¬-and he faxes her the license for proof! Both are ready for an annulment, until Peggy arrives in quaint New Nineveh, CT, where Luke cares for his Great Aunt, and the old woman makes Peggy an offer she can't refuse.-- 5 Spot

The first time I heard about MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP by Lauren Lipton was when I was sent a link for the Facebook fan page. I just thought the title was so smart and the cover was precious, and I have to admit that both things attracted me to this novel. (Of course, I am a child of the 80s and probably owned a shirt just like this one twenty-five years ago. I still love preppy clothes; and, I have to admit I was a little tempted when I was shopping last week and saw a Tommy Hilfiger shirt this exact style and color.....but I digress.)

I enjoyed MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP very much. It is a light, fun story; and I have a feeling that a lot of women will enjoy reading it this summer. It really is an ideal book to read while you're at the pool or beach. The plot is basically a cute and funny romance story that takes place in reverse. The book begins when Peggy goes to Las Vegas with some friends and wakes up next to a stranger, Luke. She has no idea who he is or what she did with him (yes, there was alcohol involved.) She returns home to New York and her fiance to find that she married a stranger who just happens to live in Connecticut. This book points out that "what happens in Vegas" doesn't always "stay in Vegas." For a variety of monetary reasons, Peggy and Luke decide to stay together and pretend that they married for love. You can probably guess that they eventually do fall in love; however there are lots of ups and downs in their relationship until they both realize their feelings. See what I mean about in reverse?

I'm going to be honest and tell you that I didn't love Peggy for most of the book, and I only liked Luke, her husband, slightly better. In fact, I didn't like Peggy's long-time boyfriend or Luke's bimbo girlfriend either (but I don't think I was supposed to.) Having said that, I don't think it mattered one little bit to my enjoyment of the book. I think the negative aspects of Peggy's and Luke's characters were necessary to tell this story; and I will say that I was rooting for them the entire time! Both had serious moments of stubbornness and stupidity, but they eventually matured and realized what's important.

I liked that this book was filled with some tension between the main characters. It made it kind of a juicy read (or at least juicy for this reader.) There was a lot of confusion and many misunderstandings between Peggy and Luke (or basically Peggy and everyone) that made the story very funny. I also liked that the author kept things interesting by putting in a few twists and turns throughout the novel. I think those surprise elements are important to chick-lit, romance genre books because the basic story lines are often times predictable. I mean you basically know how the story is going to end, but it's the stuff that happens along the way that makes the book interesting.

I did find this book to be very witty, and I loved how the author poked fun of the entire WASP social set. All of the stereotypes (plus a few new ones) were in there, and I found myself laughing at some of the WASPier characters. I especially appreciated the descriptions of the food at the parties, and I thought the tailgating scenes at the football game were hilarious.

This is the first book that I've read by Lauren Lipton; however, I wouldn't hesitate to read her first novel IT'S ABOUT YOUR HUSBAND. Her writing in MATING RITUALS is very witty and smart, and I definitely thought the book was a page-turner. Besides writing novels, she is also a journalist with articles appearing in Forbes Woman, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. If you want to learn more about Ms. Lipton, you can check out her website, blog, and this Q&A; and you can read this article entitled "I Knew I'd Turned a ..."

I recommend MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP if you are looking for a light, chick-lit type read this summer. It is an extremely entertaining book, and the characters are a hoot! It's one of those books where you can just sit back and enjoy the story.

I just happen to have an extra copy of MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP that I'd love to giveaway to one lucky reader. To enter, please leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me one of your favorite chick lit books. To double or triple your chances, blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. This contest will be open until June 10th, and I will announce the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

This tour is huge! Check out some of the other participants:

Participants include:

Thanks to Miriam from Hachette for allowing me to participate in this tour!

Hello... You Won the Chosen One

Congrats to:



You just won an ARC of THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams. I absolutely loved this book, so I hope you will enjoy reading it! I will be sending you an e-mail shortly asking for your name and mailing address. I am heading to New York for BEA first thing Thursday morning, so I won't be able to mail your books until I return. I'm sorry for the delay!

Check out my other great giveaways:

Hachette Mother's Day Giveaway




Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fastasy Road Trip Contest & Giveaway

ATTN: Teens and Parents of Teens! I just received a terrific e-mail that I have to share with you!

"Even if you’re stuck at home this summer, you can still get away—just use your imagination!

Listening Library is sponsoring the
Fantasy Road Trip Contest, challenging teens to create videos based on an imaginary road trip with characters from one of three great fantasy series.

Making their entries is a great way to engage teens in what they’re reading and encourage them to be creative. And since many families will be forgoing expensive vacations and summer camps this year, the Fantasy Road Trip Contest is a perfect (and free!) summer activity.


CONTEST INFO: Teens ages 13-18 should create short films that answer the questions, “If you could go on a road trip with a character from your favorite audio series, where would you go? What would you do along the way? How would you travel?”

Libba Bray, author of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing), Tamora Pierce, author of, among many, many titles, the Beka Cooper series (her current series, so far it includes Terrier and Bloodhound), and Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (including the latest, The Last Olympian).

HOW TO ENTER: Teens can visit to watch a video about how to enter, see video requirements and find out lots of information about the authors and their books.

WINNERS: Authors will judge the videos, each picking a winner (for a total of three), who will receive an 8GB iPod Touch and a collection of signed audiobooks.

DATES: The contest will be open from June 1-August 17; it’s a great activity to keep kids entertained while they’re home for the summer!

The contest is running in conjunction with our summer marketing campaign, “
Listen Up, Florida!” This campaign is focused in the Orlando Metro area (the online contest is open nationwide) and encourages families to listen to audiobooks during their summer vacation drives, increasing awareness of audiobooks as an alternative to traditional books. They’re a great literacy tool, especially for reluctant readers and kids with learning disabilities."

Check out this video which gives you some more information about the contest:

Random House Audio and Listening Library has graciously offered to giveaway an audio copy of Libby Bray's A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY to one lucky person. This is the first book in a series, and I have been dying to "read" these books. To enter, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you enjoy listening to books. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. This contest is open until June 9th, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

Review: Frederica

Summary: One of readers favorites, Frederica is full of surprises

When Frederica brings her younger siblings to London determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, she seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

Lord Alverstoke can't resist wanting to help her

Normally wary of his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers, Lord Alverstoke does his best to keep his distance. But with his enterprising - and altogether entertaining - country cousins getting into one scrape after another right on his doorstep, before he knows it the Marquis finds himself dangerously embroiled...-- Sourcebooks

FREDERICA is the second Georgette Heyer book that I've read in the past few weeks -- you can read my review of A CONVENIENT MARRIAGE here. After missing out on her books all these years, I'm on a little Heyer kick right now. I'm so glad that Sourcebooks is re-releasing her books so people like me have a chance to discover her.

I enjoyed FREDERICA, but I don't think I liked it as much as A CONVENIENT MARRIAGE. Maybe it was because I'm not a huge romance reader, and it was just too soon to read such a similar book. However, I think it was because I thought A CONVENIENT MARRIAGE was just a better story with wittier writing. That's not to say that I didn't really like FREDERICA -- I definitely did. It's just that while I was reading it, I kept comparing the two books.

FREDERICA is a pretty long book -- well over 400 pages; and it did take me about 150 pages to really get into the story. It started kind of slow for me and I didn't really feel an affinity to any of the characters until I got to know them a little better. Eventually, I did really like Frederica and her family; and by the end of the story, I especially liked Lord Alverstoke.

Once again, I was impressed with how Ms. Heyer developed her characters. Frederica is a case in point -- she is still a young woman (all of 24 years old) but she feels like she must be the protector of her family. Her sole purpose in life is to find a suitable husband for her beautiful sister Charis. She never puts herself first in this story -- always her sister and her two younger brothers. As a reader, I found myself feeling a great deal of compassion towards her because she had so much responsibility. She could have been a boring, resentful character; however, I liked that Ms. Heyer gave her a smart, playful side too. It made her seem very human and very likable to me!

While Frederica was the title character of the book and the reader couldn't help but love her, I actually found myself really enjoying the character of Lord Alverstoke. I absolutely loved how his character changed throughout the course of this story. At the beginning of the book, he was a very wealthy bachelor who didn't really give much thought to anyone but himself. I loved how Frederica and her family came into his life and turned it upside down. Not only did I enjoy seeing how he fell in love with Frederica, but I also thought it was interesting to see how he came to be almost a father-figure to the two young boys.

I can definitely say that Ms. Heyer's books are well-written. I never really would have thought that I'd be a big fan of regency romances, but I think I am. I appreciate how Ms. Heyer describes the details from this time period; and I absolutely love reading about all of the styles especially the clothes. She definitely knows how to tell a story and draw the reader into the lives of the characters. In both of the books that I've read, I grew to really like the characters and I found myself rooting for them to realize (and act on) their feelings.

As was the case in A CONVENIENT MARRIAGE, I was again surprised by the humor in this book. I think Ms. Heyer's writing is just so smart and witty, especially the banter between Frederica and Lord Alverstoke. (I love how she created so much chemistry between these two characters just through their conversations.) I also found Frederica's younger brothers' behavior and their interactions with Lord Alverstoke to be hilarious. And, the family's dog even provided some of the funnier moments in this story. I think all of the humor in these books (rather than the romance) is what really makes them so special to me.

I highly recommend FREDERICA if you are looking for a good summer read. It is a very entertaining story with lots of romance. Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of FREDERICA.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: The Middle Place

Summary: For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything. At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, two funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous Irish-American charmer George Corrigan. She was living deep within what she calls the Middle Place--“that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap”--comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents’ care. But Kelly is abruptly shoved into coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast--and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear. When George, too, learns that he has late-stage cancer, it is Kelly’s turn to take care of the man who had always taken care of her--and to show us a woman who finally takes the leap and grows up. -- Hyperion Books

When I found out that Book Club Girl was doing a BlogTalk Radio show with Kelly Corrigan, author of THE MIDDLE PLACE, I was so excited. I have been wanting to read this book for months, and the radio show was the perfect opportunity to move it up to the top of my list. I absolutely loved this book, and I will be recommending it to every woman I know.

When I started THE MIDDLE PLACE, I knew I was in for a treat. I had only read three or four chapters, when I went to Twitter to share my thoughts. I loved Ms. Corrigan's writing style, and I actually felt like she was one of my girlfriends and just telling me about her life. I have to warn you that this book is very absorbing and I didn't want to put it down. In fact, I actually went up to my room, crawled into bed, and pulled up the covers -- I didn't come back out until I finished the entire book.

I just love the title of this book -- THE MIDDLE PLACE. The Middle Place refers to the time in our life when we are both mother to our own children and still a child to our parents or "that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap" -- I am definitely in the Middle Place right now. It's not that I'm still dependent on my parents, but I am very close to them and I want to share good news with them (immediately after I tell my husband -- I'm not that bad.) I thought the title was just perfect because Ms. Corrigan was certainly living in her own middle place until she is forced to grow up when she has to face breast cancer.

Ms. Corrigan's story of beating breast cancer while also dealing with her father's own battle with cancer is an amazing story on so many levels. First and foremost, I was deeply touched by the way the author handled her cancer while also being a great mom. I think so many women my age fear that this could happen to them -- I know it's one of my worst nightmares; and to see someone share her story and handle it with so much grace and dignity, is absolutely inspiring. In adddition, I greatly appreciated how Ms. Corrigan portrayed the relationship between herself and her father. I know there's something special between a daddy and his little girl, but their relationship transcends even that. What a special person George Corrigan is and I feel lucky that I got to "meet" him even though it was only through a book!

I especially enjoyed seeing how Ms. Corrigan grew up and matured throughout this book. I know a cancer scare and fear of losing your father are major wake-up calls, but not everyone would handle these problems like she did. Just that she became aware that she was living in the Middle Place and needed to "bury her childhood" is incredibly insightful, and I'd suspect very difficult to do -- I'm not sure I'm quite "there" yet. This book definitely struck a chord with me. In so many ways, I could relate to Ms. Corrigan and her relationship with her family; and I found myself laughing about how similar our husbands are (or at least in some of the ways that they deal with us.)

I have to say that Ms. Corrigan knows how to tell a story. Even when dealing with the most horrific nightmare -- getting cancer in her 30s when she has two young daughters -- she managed to infuse so much humor into this book. (If you've seen any of her videos, you will clearly see what I'm talking about.) This book could have been such a dark, depressing story; and yet, it was funny, poignant, and definitely hopeful. I loved all of her stories, especially those about her father who is larger-than-life; and I actually felt as if I "knew" her family after reading about them for 250+ pages.

THE MIDDLE PLACE would make an incredible book for your next book club meeting. Not only is it a wonderful read, but there is so much to talk about. I know for a fact that my book club would just love this book because I think we can all relate in at least one way to Ms. Corrigan. And while we might not be facing the exact same issues, the themes is this book are universal to all women. I think there are so many interesting things to talk about in this book including loss, marriage, family, parent-child relationships, faith, growing up, etc. -- the list could go on and on. I was excited to find out that there are discussion questions available which will help direct the discussion.

The BlogTalk Radio show is scheduled for this week -- Wednesday, May 27th at 7:00 p.m. You can set a reminder or listen to the show live here. If you can't make it on Wednesday night, don't despair -- you will still be able to listen to the tape at a later time. I am so excited about this show and can't wait to hear Ms. Corrigan talk about her incredible book.

As I was preparing to write this review, I watched quite a few terrific videos about Kelly Corrigan and THE MIDDLE PLACE; however, none touched me like this one -- "Transcending." This essay actually appears in the back of the paperback version of THE MIDDLE PLACE, and I cried again when I read it. I know most of you have probably already seen it, but just in case....

Mailbox Monday, May 25th, 2009

Whew! What a week; and so many are books that both my kids and I will love. We've already read a few of them, and we're doing our best to read the other ones too.

THE SLEEPY LITTLE ALPHABET by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Melissa Sweet - We have already read the book many times. It is one of my new favorite picture books.

PRINCESS PIG by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Tim Bowers - Booking Son and I have also read this one already. It's very cute too.

ALVIN HO: ALLERGIC TO CAMPING, HIKING, AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS (ARC) by Lenore Look and pictures by LeUyem Pham - I think Booking Daughter is going to enjoy this one.

by Lucinda Fleeson

LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL by Emily St. John Mandel - I'm hoping to have this finished for a book tour the first week of June.


by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

by Michael Scott - I'm familiar with this middle grade series but I'd really like to read the first two books in the series first to get the full effect.

(ARC) by Margot Berwin

LOST BOY (ARC) by Brent W. Jeffs and Maia Szalavitz - This was from the April batch of Library Thing Early Reviewers.

THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE (ARC) by Alan Bradley - I think the neighbors heard me scream when I opened this package.

THE CRYING TREE by Naseem Rakha

SWEEPING UP GLASS by Carolyn Wall - I have already heard wonderful things about this one!

by Julie Lessman - This one finally showed up! I am so excited since I loved the first two books in the Daughters of Boston series.

by Victoria Laurie

REAL LIFE AND LIARS by Kristina Riggle - I won this one!

by Adeline Yen Mah

by Barbara Gail Techel - I'm participating in a tour for this one in June.

(ARC) by Jane Porter - I love Jane Porter's books and am so happy to have an early look at this one.

by Claire Cook -- I won this one from Bookin' with Bingo!

TEMPO CHANGE by Barbara Hall

by Lara Vapnyar -- This is a collection of short stories that I'm really excited to read (since I am trying to read more of them.)

What did you get last week?

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review: Obama - The Historic Journey

Summary: Including his inauguration as the 44th president of the United States, this beautifully designed book tells the extraordinary story of Barack Obama's life and rise to power in both words and photographs.

The young readers hardcover edition is specifically written and designed to appeal to and inspire the 8-12 age group, with age-appropriate text and a different selection of photographs and illustrations. It is in a slightly smaller format (9" x 10 7/8") and includes 96 pages, with 200 full-color photographs. -- The New York Times

Regardless of your political preferences, there is no question that history was made in January 2009 when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Like many Americans, my husband and I follow politics pretty closely (especially this election), and we found ourselves discussing it at the dinner table many times over the past year. Our kids, nine and four, couldn't help but pick up on it; and as a result, they became extremely interested in the election too. (See my little aside comment at the end of this post.)

Books about Obama's journey have been everywhere, but I was so excited to see that there was a wonderful book written especially for young readers -- OBAMA: THE HISTORIC JOURNEY YOUNG READER'S EDITION. This book is published by The New York Times and is just filled with over 200 beautiful color photographs. It does a fantastic job of capturing the entire journey of Barack Obama from his early childhood right up through the inauguration and his first few weeks in office.

I know this book is supposed to be geared towards young readers, but I absolutely loved reading it. This book contained loads of historical information about Mr. Obama and his family, but it was extremely easy to read. It had just enough information to explain the entire journey without bogging down the reader with unnecessary details. The book was divided into small chapters and then had small features within these chapters. It was also filled with tons of gorgeous photos that make this book nice enough to sit out on your coffee table.

I know I sound like a broken record, but the photos in this book are amazing! I love how so many of them captured the essence of Obama as a man rather than a political figure. It's hard to pick just one or two that really stand out because there are tens of dozens that are memorable; however, there is one of President Obama with his daughters that I absolutely adore. The way he is looking at them is just so special, and I think it really shows that he is a loving father to his girls.

I was pleasantly surprised by the coverage of the events in this book. Not only did I think the coverage was very thorough, but I also thought it was unbiased. I enjoyed the sections where I could learn about Obama's youth; however, I thought the strength of this book was on the coverage of the election. I thought the book did a fair job of showing the brilliant way that Mr. Obama ran this historic election, but it also showed some of his mishaps along the way. I also thought the book did an excellent job of capturing not only Obama's run, but also McCain's attempt and where things went wrong for him.

My nine year old daughter claims that she is a little on the young side to read the entire book; however, I did find her looking at the pictures over and over again! Of course, she did manage to read all of the sections about the Obama girls and comment on all of Michelle's dresses. I have a feeling that we will be referencing this book many times in the next few years -- hopefully to learn more about President Obama rather than his family and their wardrobe!

I highly recommend this gorgeous, yet informative, book for both children and adults alike. A big thanks to Mothertalk for allowing me to participate in this book blog tour!

A little aside: I wasn't aware that my four year old son was learning about each of the candidates at his preschool. He came home one day telling me that John "The King" and Barock Obama (he said it with a heavy emphasis on the O and then rushed the bama part -- very funny) both wanted to be president. I wasn't sure I heard him correctly because it came from nowhere. I asked him to point out each of them from pictures and he didn't hesitate for a second. He told me that "The King" was old and Obama had funny ears and a funny smile. Out of the mouth of babes!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Guest Review: The Unlikely Disciple

I'd like to welcome back Booking Pap Pap. Today, he is reviewing THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE: A SINNER'S SEMESTER AT AMERICA'S HOLIEST UNIVERSITY by Kevin Roose. I am so glad he had the chance to read this book because I have been hearing such wonderful things about it. After reading his review, I am even more certain that I need to read this book.

No drinking. No smoking. No cursing. No dancing. No R-rated movies.

Kevin Roose wasn't used to rules like these. As a sophomore at Brown University, he spent his days drinking fair-trade coffee, singing in an a cappella group, and fitting right in with Brown's free-spirited, ultra-liberal student body. But when Roose leaves his Ivy League confines to spend a semester at Liberty University, a conservative Baptist school in Lynchburg, Virginia, obedience is no longer optional.

Liberty is the late Reverend Jerry Falwell's "Bible Boot Camp" for young evangelicals, his training ground for the next generation of America's Religious Right. Liberty's ten thousand undergraduates take courses like Evangelism 101, hear from guest speakers like Sean Hannity and Karl Rove, and follow a forty-six-page code of conduct that regulates every aspect of their social lives. Hoping to connect with his evangelical peers, Roose decides to enroll at Liberty as a new transfer student, leaping across the God Divide and chronicling his adventures in this daring report from the front lines of America's culture war.

His journey takes him from an evangelical hip-hop concert to choir practice at Falwell's legendary Thomas Road Baptist Church. He experiments with prayer, participates in a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach (where he learns to preach the gospel to partying coeds), and pays a visit to Every Man's Battle, an on-campus support group for chronic masturbators. He meets pastors' kids, closet doubters, Christian rebels, and conducts what would be the last print interview of Rev. Falwell's life.

Hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought-provoking, THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE will inspire and entertain believers and nonbelievers alike. -- Grand Central Publishing

When I first became aware of THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE by Kevin Roose, I envisioned a book written by a liberal Ivy League self-described agnostic that would ridicule Liberty University and Evangelism. What I found instead was a well written, open-minded and respectful account of life at Liberty University.

Kevin Roose became a real student at Liberty and completely immersed himself in the student life. He enrolled in classes, dated Liberty women, participated in spiritual counseling, joined the Thomas Road Baptist Church choir and took part in a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach. He even had the opportunity to interview Jerry Falwell, the founder of Liberty.

Roose found the atmosphere at Liberty supportive and warm. When he later told the friends at Liberty that he turned their lives into a book, to his surprise he found them forgiving and not angry. In fact, THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE is found in the Liberty library.

The book gives the reader an inside look at one of the largest conservative schools in the country. You discover that the students are typical college students in many ways despite the strong influence of the conservative right on issues such as abortion, global warming, evolution and gay rights. Not all students are religious zealots or political activists; some even express doubts about their faith. The fact that Roose’s family (particularly his gay aunt) and his secular friends were quite concerned that he was being brainwashed at Liberty adds an interesting and humorous aspect to the book.

Roose never fully buys into the “The Liberty Way” but does express self-doubt in some of his own ways of thinking. The experiment probably taught Kevin Roose as much about himself as it did about Liberty University. I believe he now considers himself a Christian and continues the practice of prayer he learned at Liberty.

I strongly recommend THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE. Anyone who reads it will find it entertaining, witty and thought provoking.

A big thanks to Booking Pap Pap for reviewing this book and to the folks at Hachette for sending me a copy! Check out the book's trailer: