Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

I don't know what it is about Anna Godbersen's novels, but they simply have the best covers and the best titles an author could ask for. Easily capturing the excess and intrigue of turn of the century New York in her Luxe series, she has now turned her attention to the liberating Jazz Age in her latest, Bright Young Things.

In 1929 hundreds of girls make their way to New York City from all across the nation for different reasons. For small town beauty Letty Larkspur, that means a chance at fame and fortune and hopes of seeing her name in lights. But Letty would have never gotten on that train from Ohio to New York if her best friend Cordelia Grey had not planned their escape. Throughout her entire life, Cordelia has lived under the shadow of her self-righteous and overbearing aunt with the one dream: traveling to New York to reunite with her real father. Although once they actually arrive, these naive farm girls find a city full of flappers, booze and men with less than impure intentions ready to swallow them whole. By pure luck, Cordelia becomes fast friends with the stunning yet jaded Astrid Donal who is everything the girls dream of becoming. Wealthy and beautiful, Astrid seems to have it all but in reality this debutante has no ambition beyond the next party or her next beautiful dress. All three possess qualities that could make them into stars of one kind or another yet it remains to be seen where these bright young things will end up.

Oh my word. What incredibly dishy, fun reads Anna Godbersen's novels are! Her books simply are my definition of a guilty pleasure. And what a fabulous way to indulge. The prose of Bright Young Things is breezy yet full of underlying tension and her characters are simply stunning. Even though Cordelia, Letty, and Astrid are three vastly distinct personalities with their own demons to conquer they are what make this book truly shine.

Cordelia (who is by far my favorite) has spent her entire life under the shadow of her disapproving aunt, yet she is determined to get exactly what she wants out of life. Nothing fazes this girl. She's got the nerve to wear red to a white-dress only exclusive country club and never spares a thought for the social consequences. Honestly, I didn't lose any sleep over her ability to come out on top - but I can't say the same for naive little Letty. I truly worry about that girl. She's got a buckets to learn about being an independent flapper and I just hope she figures it out before something truly bad happens to her.

As for Astrid... well, I'm torn. While she does show a few glimpses of being able to take control of her future beyond the selection of her next party dress, girl spends an inordinate amount of time brushing her hair. And sighing. And being bored. Not exactly attractive qualities but that's not to say I'm not curious. She's got an intriguing past with potential galore so she goes on my 'to-watch' list for sure.

Each girl has a complicated history and a definite future. I'm ready the sequel Beautiful Days now, please.

series reading order:
~ Bright Young Things
~ Beautiful Days (September 2011)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Scout review
The Book Smugglers review
Forever Young Adult review
Inkcrush review
The Story Siren review

book source: The Teen {Book} Scene book tour

Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty

Finally finished with her expensive college experience, Jessica has no clue what to do with her future. She's freelancing for an obscure journal, which doesn't even begin to cover her student loans - and looking for that perfect job to come her way. Although Jessica and Marcus have reunited after his long absence, she's feeling particularly unsettled in their relationship especially with Marcus' newest decision to attend Princeton University as a freshman at age 23. And most confusing of all is that Marcus wants her to marry him (!!!). Understandably, Jessica asks for time to consider this crazy proposal from her soul mate and is given a week to come up with an answer. To help explain all her different reasons for her final choice to Marcus she decides to keep a detailed journal for the next week and therein documents all her experiences with job hunting, family drama, her relationship with friends, and most of all her conflicted feelings for Marcus.  

Even though I had gotten really fed up with Jessica (and Marcus) in the previous book, I decided to give our heroine one more chance. And I am so glad I did! Fourth Comings returned to everything I loved about Sloppy Firsts - mainly Jessica's intense daily observations (not the filtered time-warp jumps we were getting before) and time away from Marcus to just be herself. Yes, she talks about Marcus and their past, but he's not physically around for the week written about in Fourth Comings. Frankly, I still was pretty fed up with Marcus from the previous couple of books and was very glad to see him take a backseat to Jessica's running dialogue here. Fourth Comings is simply Jessica living her life without anyone trying to pull the strings. Trust me, she's drama enough to handle without all that extra added in. 

As far as development goes, I felt like in Fourth Comings, Jessica and Marcus both finally grew up a bit and really got what they needed. Oh, they are both still very young and make stupid choices - but they seem to recognize that now. There was so much character growth and overall development that I couldn't help but be enthralled with Jessica's insightful, no-holds-barred narrative. It's like Jessica especially finally became comfortable enough in her own skin to be able to do those things she knows are hard but that are still best for her. And although it couldn't have been a more difficult road for Jessica to walk, I fully love the ending Megan McCafferty crafted. Hard as it was for her to decide, it was time and I'm glad the author was able to take that crucial step.

series reading order:
~ Sloppy Firsts - my review
~ Second Helpings - my review
~ Charmed Thirds - my review
~ Fourth Comings
~ Perfect Fifths

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Liv's Book Reviews
Great Books and Fresh Coffee review
Oops...Wrong Cookie review
Reading and Ruminations review
The YA YA YAs review

book source: my local library

Second Helpings & Charmed Thirds

A few months ago I read and absolutely fell in love with one Jessica Darling from Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts. From page one, I fell in love with her humor, her sarcasm and of course her brains. And so I blithely tripped along to the library hoping for more of Jessica (and of course, Mr. Marcus Flutie). But then the unthinkable happened. I got bogged down in the middle of the series and really had a hard time continuing. But luckily I did. Very luckily in fact. Second Helpings and Charmed Thirds were really my Achilles heels in this series so I decided to do a double-mini review in hopes of off-setting some of my disappointment. 

Also, let's talk about these covers! I'm so in love with the titles first of all, but I'm also head over heels for those unique little objects on each cover that specifically relate to the story. The t-shirt, the postcard, etc. All very clever and intriguing.

***Just be warned - if you haven't read this series, there WILL BE SPOILERS. I hate to do that, but to talk about one book to the next, you gotta know the plot developments.

Annndddd.... here we go!

After learning of Marcus' betrayal and vowing to never speak his name again, Jessica prepares for her senior year by getting the heck out of by enrolling in a teenage writers camp called SPECIAL. SPECIAL doesn't really turn out to be the escape Jessica hopes. As if lusting after her writing mentor weren't enough, Jessica is now stuck for the next six weeks dealing with a bunch of hormone-crazed or suicidal teens she has nothing in common with. That is until she accidentally turns in her actual journal instead of her class-required journal for credit and her mentor is suitably impressed. Embarrassed by his praise but full of new ambitions for college and life after Pineville High, Jessica returns to face her senior year and the one boy she wishes she'd never laid eyes on. That is until he turns her world upside down. Again.

Since I fell hard and fast for practically every single thing about Sloppy Firsts I couldn't help but be a little disappointed with Second Helpings. There were tons of great things about this book - Jessica is dead-on with her descriptions of the sheer terror every teen faces in trying to decided what college to attend (I mean really, it's only your ENTIRE FUTURE we're talking about here people) and the odd, bittersweet goodbyes of any senior year. Every bit of that was totally relate-able and hilarious as always. It was Jessica's somewhat subtle change in tone and her sex-crazed mission that put me off this time. Instead of finding her voice snarky and irreverent, she became whiny and pessimistic and downright annoying. But that's not what really got me - it was her whole 'I'm not with Marcus, so I'm gonna be with somebody' motto that lead to her ill-advised quest to lose her virginity with Len. To be honest, I was actually a bit bored until Marcus entered the picture once again - so of course, I was delighted with the ending, it was just a lot of the details leading up to the big finale that left me with mixed feelings on this one.


Finally free of dull Pineville, Jessica makes her way to prestigious Columbia University full of wide-eyed enthusiasm. Well as much enthusiasm Jessica is capable of when her boyfriend Marcus is also heading off to college, just all the way across the country in California. And once again, Jessica, who over-thinks everything, begins to over-think their odd relationship. Especially after Marcus begins sending cryptic one-word postcards does she feel like losing her sanity. But financial and family troubles quickly send Jessica into college-overdrive mode and there isn't much room left in her life for anything else.

If I was mildly annoyed with Second Helpings, then Charmed Thirds frustrated me to no end. For the first half of the novel Jessica spends all her time complaining to Marcus that she doesn't want to be 'that girl' who doesn't have a life without her boyfriend (BUT SHE IS). And then the second half is spent complaining about their lack of communication - but doesn't really do anything about it - and that she's too poor. I had truly been looking forward to Jessica's descriptions of college life and the people she meets, yet Megan McCafferty completely blanks out that entire period of Jessica's life. Charmed Thirds covers her entire three years at Columbia yet never once do we hear about it. The narrative simply stops and starts around each school holiday break or return to Pineville. Not exactly what I was hoping for. 

Maybe it was the almost complete lack of Marcus in this installment but I also became seriously disillusioned with the Game Master. Perhaps it was Jessica's narrative influencing me, but I was so annoyed with his vow of silence and his choice to go to 'cowboy camp' that allowed him no outside contact for two years -- yet never having the decency to break up with Jessica. Grrr. I'm sorry, but little to no communication over an almost three year period does not a relationship make.

But don't worry, I'll be back in a couple of days with my thoughts on Fourth Comings (which are MUCH nicer, I promise!).

series reading order:
~ Sloppy Firsts - my review
~ Second Helpings
~ Charmed Thirds
~ Fourth Comings
~ Perfect Fifths

book source: my local library

Bull Rider Winner!

Congrats to Serena who won a signed copy of Bull Rider!!

I've already got your address so hopefully the book will be on it's way soon. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the giveaway and in the book tour and to the author for stopping by.

Esther Friesner Interview

Today I'm happy to welcome the distinguished writer Esther Friesner. Ms. Friesner is the author of many, many novels -- including her newest release Threads and Flames, which is a historical fiction novel about a young immigrant girl coming to New York City at the turn of the century who finds work at the historically ill-fated Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (check out my full review here). Since much of Threads and Flames is historically accurate, I was happy for the chance to sit down with Ms. Friesner to learn a little bit more about her writing process.

From Raisa's point of view, her job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a dream job, at least in comparison to many others. Yet the company owners still treated their employees as something less than human. As many companies do today. What type of discussions or actions were you hoping to foster after readers discovered such injustices?

What I’m hoping for most is that readers will become more aware of such injustices, pay attention to them, and do what they can to stop them, even if it’s no more than standing up and saying, “I see what you’re doing there and it’s not right!” That sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? And it is, in theory. In practice, it’s another story. Our lives are busy, filled with our own problems. Everything from the big worries (Will I pass this course/get into a good college? Will I get a good job/keep a good job? Will I be able to make the rent/buy a house/meet the mortgage payments? Will I find love? Will I stay healthy? What about the people I love? Who’s going to take care of me when I’m old?) to the minor ones (Where are my car keys? Why won’t my jeans close? What’s that thing on my face? What’s that smell? What did the cat do this time?) chips away at us. We’re so preoccupied and worn out from our own concerns that it’s easy to pretend that social inequities don’t exist, or aren’t as bad as all that, or are so huge that there’s nothing that one person can do to change things so why even try?

I’d like to see more people realize that they should try. Even if all you do is speak up when you see something that’s wrong, it counts.

Someone once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” I say we should at least put up a fight.

When Raisa first comes to New York - alone - not only can she barely read in her native language, she cannot read or write or even speak English. What were some of the main reasons you decided to saddle her with so many giant obstacles?

The decision wasn’t mine to make. It was typical of the situation many immigrants faced on their arrival in the United States. Like other girls of her time and society, Raisa wouldn’t have received much education in the old country, nor—given her economic situation--would she have had the time to spare for lessons. America gave her precious opportunities to change that.

I've read that Raisa's story is in part a connection to your own ancestors who also immigrated to America around the same period. How much of Raisa's story patterns that of your grandparents?

Not a lot, from what I can gather. Only my mother’s parents were fortunate enough to come to America. My father’s parents and the rest of his family were murdered during the Holocaust. My maternal grandfather was the first to come over, later sending for my grandmother. Their children were born here. Unfortunately, my grandfather died long before I was born and I never thought to ask my mother much about his immigrant experiences. I do know that he was not a garment-maker, like Raisa. He was a cigar-maker, and when he had saved enough money, he bought a candy and sundries store in Brooklyn which he later lost during the Depression. Even though he didn’t share Raisa’s experience, he did get to meet the great labor leader, Samuel Gompers. (That is yet another family story about which I wish I’d asked Mom for more details. Hint to anyone interested in history: Get your relatives to tell you the old family stories before it’s too late!)

Along those same lines, were there sections of the novel where you were not able to find many first-hand accounts and had to simply use your imagination?

I wish I could remember!

What books do you find yourself recommending over and over (and over) again?
Just about anything by Colette, especially her short stories.

Just about everything by Terry Pratchett.

The short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (An Edwardian trip up the Thames and it’s still funny!)

The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick (All of the volumes. A great, memorable, painless way to learn about world history.)

The novels of Jorge Amado, such as Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Gabriela, etc. (In translation, of course. He was a great Brazilian author and I can’t read Portuguese. Many men love women, but he also liked us. That’s important.)

And many more!


Many thanks to the lovely Ms. Esther for taking the time to stop by today. I for one was astounded at the many facts woven into Raisa's story after researching the topic a bit online myself . Threads and Flames is a very satisfying novel for anyone who loves historical fiction.

Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

All her life Raisa has dreamed of leaving her small Polish shetl and following her older sister to that golden land, America. At only thirteen years old however in 1910, she isn't the best equipped for traveling half-way across the world, alone, to a country she's never stepped foot in before. But Raisa is determined to reunite with her sister and begins her perilous journey across Europe, the ocean, before finally landing in Ellis Island, New York. Everything is new and confusing to young Raisa who cannot read or write English (or even her own language) and who unexpectedly finds herself the caretaker of a young orphan toddler, Brina.

Neither does America turn out to be the paradise Raisa expected either. Having no idea how to contact her sister, Raisa knows she must find a place for her and Brina while also finding a job in the sprawling city. Her only options are at small sweatshops or factories in the garment district. Even the most coveted positions at these factories are still no picnic as quickly Raisa learns one fateful Sunday morning.

Esther Friesner took on a very ambitious project when she decided to bring Raisa's story of immigration to life in Threads and Flames. The sheer amount of trials Raisa faces would be enough to discourage even the most optimistic youth but Raisa doggedly keeps going, holding onto the hope that she will be able to find her sister, keep Brina off the streets, and learn English. As a character, you can't but help love Raisa. She's so very loyal and honest and fiercely determined to get what she wants out of life. It's no wonder so many people are drawn to her in the book - I would be too.

Historical fiction is a genre I always enjoy and Threads and Flames proved to be a fascinating look at the challenges a youth would face in trying to immigrate to New York at the turn of the century. I particularly enjoyed Ms. Friesner's descriptions of the various cultural neighborhoods that immigrants naturally flocked too. How Italians would find other Italians, Jews looked for other Jews, etc. in order to infuse that area with their own language, culture, food, and religion. This mini-country within a country phenomenon obviously still remains today (although not as strongly) as evidenced by the many distinct cultural neighborhoods in New York. Even more intriguing was to learn that Esther Friesner based Raisa's tale on her own ancestors immigration experiences. Fascinating stuff.

Even though Ms. Friesner obviously took the time to detail the tragedy and heartbreak experienced by those affected by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, I felt as if she tried too hard to tie up a happily ever after for Raisa. Don't get me wrong, I was rooting for this hard-working girl from day one, but the eventual unfolding of events seemed a little forced in my mind. Other than that, Threads and Flames was a compelling read with a worthwhile message to tell that even the youngest historical fiction fan can enjoy.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
A Good Addiction review
The Book Scout review
Squeaky Books review

book source: review copy via The Teen {Book} Scene tour

Heroes Return by Moira J. Moore

Taro and Lee couldn't be in more of a fix.

On the Emperor's orders, Source and Shield Pair Shintaro Karish and Dunleavy Mallorough have been sent to Taro's backwater home, Flown Raven. Knowing that Taro spent a hellish childhood in Flown Raven, Lee isn't exactly thrilled with forcing him to face those painful memories all over again. Or facing his dragon of a mother, the Dowager Duchess, who lives just down the road and makes your average villainess look positively sweet. Until recently, Flown Raven had never experienced the natural disasters usually associated with the posting of a Pair but recent occurrences have proved otherwise. After Taro gave up his right to rule his ancestral home (much to his mother's fury), the townspeople of Flown Raven have endured a string of bad luck which they believe is solely the fault of their newest titleholder, Taro's cousin Fiona. Things aren't looking much better once our favorite Pair actually arrive, quickly followed by a group of Imperial Guards, who nobody wants around.

So let's see, technically Lee and Taro have been posted in a city they shouldn't be in, by someone who should have no power over them (the Emperor). Their bosses, the Triple S Council, are breathing down their necks for a detailed accounting of their past deeds (which they can't divulge). While they are constantly plagued by Taro's awful mother and her schemes to break them up and to return control of Flown Raven to Taro (which he does not want). And to top it off, the Pair are having trouble channeling - something that should not be happening. Nothing ever is easy for these two, is it?

As always, Moria J. Moore delivers quite a story. As I've come to expect from her previous Hero books, Taro and Lee always wind up in the craziest circumstances - usually ones way beyond their control - with the barest amount of information and Heroes Return is no different. In a series that has such uniquely brilliant world building and stunning characters, I can only say these books are fast becoming more layered and developed with each installment. The author tempts you with glimpses of political maneuverings and tidbits of historical context that leave you clamoring for more. I just know this series is heading for some major developments as Lee and Taro seemed a bit more out of their league than usually. Which is saying a lot really.

Most importantly, after the crazy (good crazy - mind you) events of Heroes at Risk, I was so sure Taro and Lee had finally taken that first crucial step in learning how to function as a couple but sadly, no. Once again Heroes Return is crammed full with Taro and Lee's inability to communicate effectively. [insert my long-suffering sigh here]. I don't know what it will take for these two to finally figure things out (how many books do we even have left Ms. Moore?!?) but I just want to gather them both into a giant hug and just make everything all right. Because they are perfect for each other. Absolutely perfect. Aside from all the misunderstandings, Taro and Lee two trust each other implicitly. They crave the other's good opinion. And most importantly, they would do anything for each other. Really, anything. That's why I think I have such a hard time with all the frustrations in between since it is obvious how much they mean to one another. And to this reader.

series reading order:
~ Resenting the Hero
~ The Hero Strikes Back
~ Heroes Adrift
~ Heroes at Risk - my review
~ Heroes Return

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
The Book Smugglers review
Skunk Cat Book Reviews

book source: my local library

This might explain a few things...

I've seen this meme wandering around the blogosphere (here and here and here) and just couldn't resist joining in, because frankly, I think it explains a lot about me. Also because I like that it contains a nice mix of classic and contemporary books.

"The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here."
(**okay, try as I might, I couldn't find the direct quote for this anywhere. If anyone knows where this originally came from - or if it's simply a bit of blogger/Facebook lore - I'd love to know.)


•Copy this list.
•Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
•Italicise the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.
•Highlight in red the ones that you have but haven't read.

Simple enough, right? Here we go!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien  (heck to the YES!)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (oh my, swoon!)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (anyone out there that hasn't yet??)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (I've read most of his plays - not all - and hardly any poetry. Kudos to anyone who checks this one off their list.)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot (I NEED to read this one. It calls to me)
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (this is shameful. I think I have to turn in my southerner card now or something)
22 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (all because of my hubby)
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (favorite book in HS - I was a weird kid)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (best Austen ever!)
36 The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (folks you are seriously missing out on some crazy humor if you haven't picked up these gems recently.)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt (saw the movie... but that doesn't really count)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Alborn
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (in the original French no less! -- Okay, even I know that's pretty nerdy)
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adam
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 

Total Books Read: 51

Well, my fellow book nerds, after going through this list all I have to say is...yup. I'm a book geek. And proud of it. But really BBC! Do you honestly think most people have only read less than 6 of these titles? How depressing..

To me, the biggest surprise was discovering that even though I did read many of these while in school - either for college or HS classes - a large percentage are actually ones I picked up on my own in the last couple of years for pleasure reading. So yes, you could say this exercise amply proves that I am a bit of a geek. And very happy that way.

How well read are you?

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

The holidays are just around the corner and once again I was so happy to be participating in the most awesome Book Blogger Holiday Swap. Frankly, this program is fast becoming one of my favorite holiday traditions! Last year, the lovely Melissa of Book Nut sent me some wonderful treasures and this year was no different.

A few days ago I received this lovely package from Jennifer of The Introverted Reader (Yay! Yay!). I've been following her site for some time now so I just knew she'd pick some winners for me.
Included in the package was a copy of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (which I have been dying to read) and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The latter one I may have to wait a bit on since I've already seen the movie and don't know if can handle something that sad during Christmastime (but I'm still really, really looking forward to it). Also included were a mountain of lindt truffles, peppermint bark, page markers, and a batch of home-made Creole Candy (kind of like pralines) with the recipe included. Yum, yum.

Thank you! Thank you Jennifer! This is the best package ever and I appreciate your thoughtfulness in putting it together for me. Merry Christmas!

Suzanne Morgan Williams Guest Post & Giveaway

A couple of days ago I read and reviewed the wonderfully unique Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. Today I am lucky enough to have Suzanne to stop by herself to talk about those books she wishes she had read as a fifteen year old. Get ready for some fabulous suggestions folks - I am in love wither her list!


You asked which YA books I would give my fifteen year old self to read. I read more when I was fifteen. I had demanding teachers, a voracious reading appetite and a lot more time than I do now.  I put away a lot of books back then. I’ll never forget Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. These are books, by and large, that speak to social justice and, if there are women characters, they are powerful. Looking over this list it doesn’t surprise me that I was driven to write Bull Rider – which is about the real cost and sacrifice of war. These days I’m still drawn to that type of book.

So what books do I wish I’d read then that I’ve read since? Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson because it’s beautifully written and puts such an accessible and female face on slavery.  Reading that book might have helped me see that some people are really, really bad.  As a teen, I knew some ideas were bad, but it took me a long time to accept that some people turn out mean. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie because it honestly portrays a world on the reservation that I didn’t know existed then – and that’s always a good thing. And Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe. It presents a giant question and no answer – why did Kyle shoot and kill his friend? He can’t remember and through the book the reader has to decide what is important about the event. Everything is gray, no black and white answers here. That might have helped me understand some nuances of morality. 

But here’s the book that I most wish I’d read as a teen – The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter. I love this book because it speaks to valuing what is important to you, not what the greater society says you should be. And then it shows how regular folks might actually act on those values and create a life that makes sense to them.   I wish I’d known that then. I’m learning now.


Wow! Thank you again Suzanne! I'm going to have to track down both Freeze Frame and The Education of Little Tree - both of which I've never read but seem like ones I shouldn't miss out on.

So now for a chance to win your own copy of Bull Rider just fill out the form below. The giveaway is open to US residents only and will run until December 17th. For an added entry (or anyone feel free to chime in with this one -- I'm curious) answer the following question: What books would you have given your fifteen (or twelve) year old self? Good luck!

2011 Debut Author Challenge

This year I'm making it all official-like - I'm going to actually join in The Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge and join in for all the fun and games included. Want to join in too? Click here for more details.
The rules state that you read at least 12 debuts by the end of the year but I'm thinking I might end up doing a few more than that...

Here's the books I'm planning on reading in 2011 (so far):
1. The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
2. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
3. Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
4. Enclave by Ann Aguirre
5. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
6. XVI by Julia Karr
7. Vesper by Jeff Sampsen
8. The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

I'm thinking there'll be lots more!!

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams

In the small town of Salt Lick, Nevada Cam O'Mara knows how to do two things real well. One is how to work cows on his family's ranch and the other is skateboarding. Which is a bit unusual since everyone in Salt Like knows that the O'Mara family is famous for turning out champion bull riders like Cam's Grandpa Roy and his older brother, Ben. But skateboarding is Cam's passion and nothing can change that. That is until his larger-than-life older brother returns home from his tour in Iraq with severe and life-changing injuries. That quickly, everything in the O'Mara household changes - Cam included. As the family draws closer in hopes of finding ways to simply stay afloat while trying to lift Ben's spirits in the process, Cam finds himself drawn to the rodeo ring. Putting himself on the back of a bull has always been the stupidest idea Cam could ever imagine, but suddenly the rush of adrenaline and those eight seconds of no thought seem to be just what he needs. And it just so happens that those eight seconds could also mean the best means for reaching Ben's wounded mind and body in a way nothing else can.

So I'm always on the lookout for good books for boys (mainly because I want to be prepared for when my own little man starts looking for good things to read) and Bull Rider offered an extremely intriguing premise. Skateboarding, rodeos, bull riding, the war in Iraq and soldiers -- you couldn't find a book more chock-full of attention grabbing hot topics than that. Nonetheless, it's the compelling family dynamics and the emotional struggles faced by the O'Mara family that will truly win over any reader - male or female, young or old. Suzanne Morgan Williams easily captures the voice of a teenage boy who loves his family but who also desperately wants to prove himself to the world around him. But where Cam's voice really shines is when he is describing his decision to ride a bull for the very first time. His indecision and fear come across clear and honest but his courage and ultimate reasoning for that choice are truly vibrant. Plus, the small town atmosphere of Salt Lick couldn't be more quaint or inviting inevitably adding to the overall welcoming feel of this fascinating novel. Bull Rider is a book I'll be recommending without hesitation and keeping on my shelf for my own little man to enjoy down the road.

*Be sure to come back on Friday when author Suzanne Morgan Williams will be stopping in to talk about Bull Rider and some of her favorite books.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Ashley's Bookshelf review
Semicolon review

book source: review copy for The Teen {Book} Scene tour

Bookish Fashion trends

Here's a couple of bookish items that have caught my eye the last couple of days.

It seems books are making quite the fashion statement. Natalie Portman recently showed up to a movie premiere with the perfect accessory: a clutch made from a copy of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
I'm just happy to see her rocking such a bright red shade of lipstick too. Very fitting considering the book choice.

Secondly, this competition cracks me up to no end every single year. Unshelved hosts a yearly 'Pimp My Bookcart' competition - where creative librarians are asked to trick out their bookcarts for prizes and some serious bragging rights. This years winners included some extremely awesome entries. Be sure to check out all the competitors -- but here's a couple of my favorites:
The ReadBox - an interactive cart that allowed library patrons to find out how much they saved by borrowing library books instead of buying them. Genius!

A Stars Wars inspired cart. My favorite? Unshelved's description for the entry: "We imagine it as a large, heavily armed and armored bookmobile trying to bring books to illiterate rebel scum on a frozen wasteland." Picture me giggling incessantly now.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Senior year is not at all what Anna Oliphant pictured it would be. Instead of finishing up high school at her Atlanta school with her best friend Bridgette and possible love interest Toph, she's being shipped off to a Paris boarding school so her absentee writer father can brag about his 'cultured' daughter. In a city where she knows no one and cannot speak the language, Anna is decidedly overwhelmed. That is until another senior named Meredith reaches out to Anna and welcomes her into her tight-knit circle of friends which includes one Etienne St. Clair. Drop dead gorgeous with a killer English accent and an even better head of hair, St. Clair is the boy of Anna's dreams. But of course boys like that are never available and is St. Clair is no exception. Even if Anna could easily imagine what it would be like in the most romantic city in the world if he were. 

Anna and the French Kiss has been steadily building up a solid reputation around the blogosphere and so I was decidedly curious to see if this debut could live up to so many glowing reviews. I should have known that a book that comes with a solid endorsement from funny-woman Maureen Johnson would be spectacular - cause it was. Stephanie Perkins has crafted an incredibly light and witty story about a girl learning how to be on her own for the very first time while also telling a very deep and meaningful story about that same girl also figuring out what it means to be alone. Brilliant.

There are so many good things to love about Anna and the French Kiss. Paris for starters. Anna and all her friends are another. Each one is a layered and unique character with insecurities and fears galore. Yet they are also teens who have insane amounts of fun together. Although what truly made Anna and the French Kiss a stand-out read for me is the relationship that develops between Anna and St. Clair. Anna obviously falls in deep lust with St. Clair from day one, but I was truly bowled over by how deeply developed their friendship became OVER TIME. It's not just a love story of instant attraction - these two have worked really, really hard to get to know each other beforehand. Nothing fluffy here.

I could not be a greater sucker for a series of well written letters (or emails) between two protagonists and Anna and the French Kiss features a doozy of one. It's been some time that I've come across correspondence in a YA novel that are this witty, yet startlingly raw and honest. I kept going back and rereading that section because they were truly something special. And because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone I'll just say that in these fabulous, extraordinary emails Anna and St. Clair's friendship finally solidifies into something outstanding sand real.

Out of all the subtle (or blatant) humor in this novel I was dying over Anna's description of her father - cliche writer extraordinaire who always sports extra tan skin, extra white teeth, and cable knit sweaters - and whose characters have a penchant for dying of cancer. Is it just me or did anyone else feel like Stephanie Perkins was continually poking fun at a certain I-am-not-a-romance-writer who shall remain nameless *coughNicholasSparkscough*? Loved that to bits.

So really? Don't wait another minute. Go out and track this book down pronto. I promise you won't regret it.

Because Everyone Loves a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Book Crazy review 
GalleySmith review
GreenBeanTeenQueen review
Persnickety Snark review
Squeaky Books review

book source: ARC giveaway from Not Enough Bookshelves  (Thank you! Thank you!)

The Lighter Side of Life and Death Winner!

And the winner of The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C.K. Kelly Martin giveaway goes to....


Congrats! I've already got your addy so I'll have those items shipped off to you pronto.

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

Ever since I fell in love with Melina Marchetta's stunning Printz Award winner, Jellicoe Road, I've wanted to track down her other novels for more, more, more. Each one has gotten rave reviews so I knew I couldn't go wrong. Luckily for me, I found Looking for Alibrandi in the bargain bin at my local bookstore and scooped it up pronto.

Josephine Alibrandi has never chosen the easy road in life. As a child born out of wedlock in a highly traditional Italian-Australian family, Josie has spent her life dealing with hostility stemming from her fatherless state. And it seems to come from everyone around Josie including her traditional Italian (and therefore disapproving) grandmother, the wealthy schoolmates kids at her posh private school who give her grief over her mixed heritage, and even the battle axe nuns at said school who are always onto to Josie for something. Josie is just looking to finish up her last year of school when her mysterious, biological father unexpectedly moves back to town and discovers that he actually has a teenage daughter(!) and Josie must decided if she wants to have anything to do with the man who abandoned her mother as a pregnant teenager so many years ago. And if Josie's life couldn't get any more complicated, she unexpectedly finds herself continually drawn to bad boy Joseph Coote who couldn't be more difficult to understand. 

I cannot begin to say how reading Looking for Alibrandi affected me. Truly I cannot understand how this is a first novel - Melina Marchetta wove so many details and plot lines into a fairly small novel (only 250 pages) and convincingly tied up every one. Not only is this fabulous book about discovering things about yourself, it's about coming to understand (and love) your family and learning to trust those around you - even with hard truths. And then there's Josie's voice! I could have read another 250 pages from this girl, she is so captivating. Her nuanced observations of high school and family are astoundingly brilliant and altogether fresh. Take this section for example - one of my favorite bits on the very reason we all got up and dragged ourselves to endure yet another day of school:
The time before class starts in the morning is the most exciting. Because we haven't seen each other for sixteen hours, it's gossip galore.

What happened on TV. What happened at work if one worked. What happeend on the way from or to school. What good-looking guy spoke to you. What ideas you came up with during the night. What kind of nagging your parents did. What magazine you bought on the way from or to school. Who as the best-looking guy in the magazine. Why he was the best-looking guy in the magazine.

The list goes on. By the end of the day we've heard it all. We're sick of each other and look forward to getting away. But those first ten minutes are the very reason you come to school. Miss out on them and you are behind the times.
Exactly. I could spend days with this girl. Also, Ms. Marchetta really should open a school on something for writers on how to really write a convincing bad boy love interest. Just like Jonah Griggs, Joseph Coote is an incredibly intense character that morphs into this compelling guy beyond his long hair and motorcycle riding status (yeah, he's that hot). If only all YA boys could be this well drawn. le sigh. 

Also in my searching, I turned up a movie adaptation to this book. Netflix doesn't carry it but does anybody know if it'd be worth tracking down? Seeing Joseph Coote in the flesh interests me greatly.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:

Avid Book Reader review
Books Love Me review
Chachic's Book Nook review

Reviewer X review
YAnnabe review 

book source: purchased