From that time on, the world was hers for the reading....

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rachel Cohn: Gingerbread, Shrimp & Cupcake

Ever since I read Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, I've wanted to read other books by them. When I saw that my library had Rachel Cohn's Cyd Charisse books, I grabbed them!

In Gingerbread, we meet Cyd Charisse, "recovering hellion." After getting kicked out of a fancy private school in New England, Cyd is living back at home in San Francisco with her mom (Nancy), step-father (Sid, whom she refers to as "Sid-dad"), and her two younger step-siblings (Josh & Ashley). Her family drives her crazy, but serving coffee at Java the Hut and spending time with her boyfriend Shrimp keep her sane. But things are turned upside down when Cyd is grounded and Shrimp breaks up with her. Tired of Cyd's attitude and behavior, Nancy decides to send her to spend time with her biological father Frank--whom she only met once when she was five years old--in New York City for the summer. While there, she meets her half-siblings (Danny & Lisbeth), makes peace with Frank, runs into her ex-boyfriend Justin, and is forced to deal with the emotional ramifications of an abortion she had a year ago (the scene where she comes clean to her mom is very real and touching). More importantly, Cyd discovers the importance of family and her place in each of hers.

In Shrimp, Cyd is starting her senior year of high school. While most students are preparing for college and thinking about various career paths, Cyd is focusing on her future with Shrimp and is determined to get him back. Needless to say, this plan doesn't sit well with her parents, which leads to the usual family arguments and misunderstandings. To make matters worse, Shrimp--who spent time traveling in Papua New Guinea and has returned to San Francisco with his oddball and highly irresponsible parents--just wants to be Cyd's friend. Luckily, Cyd has a strong support system with new friends Helen & Autumn--her first age-appropriate girlfriends ever. Ultimately, she and Shrimp end up back together, but break up again, and Cyd finds herself being drawn back to New York City.

In Cupcake, Cyd is a high school graduate living with her half-brother Danny in New York City. The plan is to attend culinary school, but all she can really think about is Shrimp, who is surfing and writing haikus in New Zealand. As is the case with Cyd, things get a little chaotic. She breaks her leg, drops out of culinary school after one day, has a fling with an older man, gets a job serving coffee at a small luncheonette, and finds Shrimp on her doorstep at Christmas time. She has to decide whether she wants to return to San Francisco to be with her "true love" or continue building a life of her own in New York.

When I first started reading Gingerbread, I honestly didn't like it. I found the dialogue to be a bit much--a little too Juno for me ("I am the cup to his cake."). But once I got used to that, I found Cyd to be a very complex, vulnerable, real character that I liked.

Her journey was made even more interesting by the entertaining characters that surrounded her. My favorite was Sugar Pie, a feisty, seventy-something woman Cyd met and befriended while performing mandatory community service. Sugar Pie is a no-nonsense-tell-it-like-it-is broad. I wish my world was filled with so many colorful characters.

All in all, I enjoyed meeting Cyd and watching her grow from a boy-obsessed "hellion" to a confident woman with goals and ambitions of her own.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cover: Heist Society

The fabulous Ally Carter posted the cover for her forthcoming book Heist Society (February 9, 2010).

Check it out!

She also included a mini excerpt at her blog:

Sounds good! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gayle Forman: Sisters in Sanity

At the end of September, Gayle Forman hosted a second chances contest at her blog. The prize was the paperback edition of her novel Sisters in Sanity, and I won!

It's Labor Day weekend, and sixteen-year-old Brit Hemphill isn't very excited about a potential family trip the Grand Canyon. Two days trapped in a car with her father, stepmother (the stepmonster), and her half-brother Billy is not her idea of fun. She'd rather play a weekend music festival with Clod (she's their guitarist).

But she doesn't get to do either.

Instead, her dad tricks her into "taking a look at" Red Rock Academy in Utah. Once they arrive, Brit is pulled out of the car, away from her father, and locked in a small room "for her own good."

The next morning, she is forced to hand over all of her personal belongings and endure a thoroughly humiliating strip-search before meeting with a shrink who diagnoses her with "Oppositional Defiance Disorder"--all because she has magenta streaks in her black hair, a few tattoos, stays out late, and plays in a punk rock band.

And that's when the so-called treatment begins. There are six levels of therapy before the girls can return home--each level carries a different reward: leaving your room, sending and receiving mail, attending school in a classroom, receiving phone calls, having your family visit, wearing makeup, and leaving the school for supervised town outings. When they misbehave, get caught breaking the rules, or continually refuse to take part, the girls get demoted a level. Treatment can end up taking years.

Unfortunately, the treatment isn't helpful at all. It's cruel. Brit is scorned by not only the counselors, but her peers. They're encouraged to call each other names and tattletale on one another.

But then Brit makes friends. V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie are just as unhappy as she is. They form a secret club called "Sisters In Sanity," a support system that keeps each of the girls from going off the deep end. Together, they vow to do what they can to expose the bogus treatment at Red Rock and get the place shut down for good.

This book frightened me. I was scared for the Brit and her friends and wanted more than anything to help them.

The story was well-written and the characters showed true heart and courage. I still haven't stopped thinking about it.

More than anything, Sisters In Sanity made me beyond grateful that my parents put up with my teenage shenanigans. I was quite a handful. Being grounded for a week seems like a gift in comparison to what Brit endured.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let the wild rumpus start!

I'm very excited to see "Where The Wild Things Are." It looks amazing. And magical.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sara Zarr: Once Was Lost

I'm smack dab in the middle of a gigantic crisis of faith, so I felt it was kismet that a local library, which never has new books the week of their release (or even the month of their release for that matter), had Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr. I was the first person to check it out, reveling in the shiny-newness of the book and taking in that great new book smell!

In Zarr's third novel, Samara Taylor (Sam) is questioning everything she's always believed.

Her father, a pastor, is more interested in taking care of his congregation than his own daughter and wife.

Her mom is in rehab for alcoholism.

Then, the kidnapping of thirteen-year-old Jody Shaw not only devastates the small community of Pineville, but rocks Sam's world to the core.

How can God--if He even exists--let such bad things happen to good people?

Once Was Lost effortlessly transitions from Sam's heartfelt narrative and late-breaking news updates on the investigation into Jody's disappearance, keeping the reader interested and emotionally involved in the characters' lives.

What I liked most about this book was the very realistic look at how our faith can falter without making us bad people. So often, when you question God and your beliefs you're considered an atheist. That's really not the case at all. Questioning your faith and your place in this world is natural, and I appreciate Zarr's honest exploration of this topic.

Once again, she has written an intense, enthralling story, exposing human weakness, raw emotion, and truth. Not only do I wish I could write rich, interesting characters like Zarr does, I wish every author could.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Becca Fitzpatrick: Hush, Hush

I was intrigued by the cover art for Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, so I entered a contest to win it. I was beyond excited to win! The novel was just as intriguing as its cover.

Nora Grey has a new Biology partner, and she's not too thrilled about it. Patch is your typical dark, sexy, bad boy--the last person in the world that Nora thought she would be attracted to. But she can't get him out of her head. Literally.

Their first assignment is simply to get to know each other, but Nora soon finds that Patch knows A LOT about her and isn't willing to offer up a lot of details about himself.

To make matters worse, Patch's appearance in her life seems to coincide with the appearance of a ski-mask-wearing stalker that Nora can't shake, an attack on her best friend Vee, hallucinations, and voices in her head.

Nora decides to put her journalistic skills--she works for the school's eZine--to work in an effort to learn more about the mysterious Patch.

It isn't long before she discovers Patch's secret--he's a fallen angel who wants to be human. And it may cost Nora her life.

I loved everything about this book and Becca Fitzpatrick's writing style.

Patch, despite the fact that he will garner far too many comparisons to Twilight's Edward for being somewhat manipulative and stalker-like, is a likable character; a true hero. He's perfectly content to let Nora be Nora--strong-willed and independent; a smart, realistic heroine.

Hush, Hush captured my attention from the first page and wouldn't let me go until the climactic conclusion.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

May Vanderbilt & Anne Dayton: A Little Help From My Friends

I'm grateful to have received an advance reader's copy of A Little Help From My Friends (Miracle Girls Series #3) by May Vanderbilt & Anne Dayton (October 15/FaithWords/Hachette Book Group)! Though I've never read any of the other Miracle Girls novels, I fell in love with the characters right away.

A Little Help From My Friends focuses on the youngest Miracle Girl, Zoe.

Zoe's on a mission.

She needs to reunite her parents, who are separated and considering divorce.

She's also trying to get her favorite teacher, Ms. Moore, reinstated after being dismissed for mysterious reasons.

She's got her work cut out for her, especially since she's also trying to navigate her junior year of high school, deal with the heartbreak of first love, and figure out Dean, the new guy and current history class partner.

Zoe's faith is put to the test as she tries to overcome her shyness and accomplish her goals. Luckily, as the title suggests, she has great friends willing to help her every step of the way.

I thought this story was very sweet and inspiring. It was a great reminder that no matter how many obstacles are stacked against us, we can tackle them with faith and persistence. Zoe and her friends were very realistic and, honestly, the type of people I would want on my side during a challenging time. I'm looking forward to reading more of the Miracle Girls series.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yona Zeldis McDonough: Breaking the Bank

I'm so excited to be part of Simon & Schuster's Book Blog Tour for Breaking the Bank by Yona Zeldis McDonough!

Mia Saul isn't having the best luck.

Her husband Lloyd walked out, leaving her alone to raise their angry ten-year-old daughter Eden in a rundown Brooklyn apartment.

She's working a series of temporary jobs and trying to make ends meet. The lack of child support from her husband isn't helping.

Then, as if by magic, an ATM starts giving her more money than she's requested. Lots more. Thousands more. And the machine has instructed her to "use it well."

This sudden windfall seems to be the answers to all of Mia's prayers. She's no longer worried about money and shares with those in need. Eden is happier. Mia even starts to date again.

It isn't long before Mia learns that with money, well, comes more problems. Her friends and family are worried. Worse, the police start to wonder where all that money came from.

I enjoyed this book! Mia's a very sympathetic character that I couldn't help but cheer for. I grew to like her more with each chapter, even when she made some out of character decisions. I worried about her until the end.

Breaking the Bank is a magical story, a modern-day fairytale. In a world where the economy is shaky and the future uncertain, it was nice to have an escape.

About the Author:
Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of the novels The Four Temperaments and In Dahlia's Wake. She is also the editor of the essay collections The Barbie Chronicels: A Living Doll Turns Forty and All The Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader. Her short fiction, articles, and essays have been published in anthologies as well as in numerous national magazines, and newspapers. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

You can visit her online @

Friday, October 2, 2009

Film Footage: Anne Frank

This footage is fascinating and haunting.

Film footage of Anne Frank posted on YouTube
Anne Frank museum posts 20-second video of young wartime Jewish diarist taken on neighbour's wedding day in 1941
Adam Gabbatt, Friday 2 October 2009 14.03 BST

The only existing film images of Anne Frank have been loaded on to YouTube by Amsterdam museum the Anne Frank House.

The footage, from 1941, is the only time Anne has been captured on film. The 20-second footage uploaded to the museum's recently launched Anne Frank Channel shows Anne's neighbour on her wedding day. A 13-year-old Anne is seen nine seconds into the video, leaning out of a second-floor window to get a better look at the bride and groom. At the time of the wedding the bride-to-be lived at No 37 Merwedeplein, next door to the Franks at No 39.

The scene was filmed on 22 July 1941, just under a year before the Frank family went into hiding above the family business. The family were discovered in August 1944 and Anne died in a Nazi concentration camp in March 1945.

A shorter, five-second version of the video was given to Otto Frank, Anne's father, by the married couple in the 1950s. After Anne's published diary became widely known in the 1950s the couple recognised her in the film and contacted Otto.

Annemarie Bekker, from the Anne Frank House, said using YouTube was a way to introduce the life of Anne Frank to people who may never have heard of her diaries.

"The footage is very moving and very unique because these are the only moving images of Anne Frank," Bekker said.

"The museum has had the footage for some time, but thought YouTube would be a good platform to show the film and the other films about her life. It's another way to bring the life of Anne Frank to the attention of younger people, and all people worldwide."

The husband and wife, who are still alive and living in the Netherlands, were contacted by the Anne Frank House in the 1990s and provided the longer video.

The video channel also includes excerpts from interviews with Otto Frank and Miep Gies, who helped to hide the Franks from the Nazis.

The film has already attracted more than 275,000 views, with scores of comments. One read: "Gave me chills to see her in the video." Another user wrote: "Who knows what she could have become."


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Books Week

We're rapidly approaching the end of Banned Books Week (September 26th − October 3), and I've been thinking about it a lot. For the most part, I've been feeling grateful that my schools and libraries never challenged or banned books.

Then, I remembered the Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret incident.

I was a student at a Christian school (Southern Baptist run and funded). I always had a book in my desk for those times when I finished my homework and had to face long, boring study hour. My Mom had just given the Judy Blume book to me, so that's the one I decided to keep in my desk that particular week.

I was out sick one day, and my friend Sara knew I kept a book in my desk. She was bored, so she grabbed Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret from my desk and started reading. Mr. Baker walked around the classroom to keep tabs on the students. He saw Sara reading, grabbed the book from her, read the synopsis, and confiscated it.

When I got back to school the next day, Sara couldn't stop apologizing. "It's not your fault," I insisted.

When I asked Mr. Baker about my book, he told me that he had given it to the Principal. Apparently, it was "inappropriate" reading for a Christian school student.

(I didn't understand. Margaret spent more time thinking about religion and praying than I ever did. Were there actually rules about the things we were supposed to ponder and pray about? I didn't think so.)

When I asked the Principal, I was told I couldn't have it back until the end of the school year.

But I never got it back. I still get angry when I think about it. My Mom does, too!

I returned to public school the following year. I still struggle with prayer and what I believe. But I never stopped reading Judy Blume and other "controversial" books.

I recently picked up a new copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret to replace the unfairly confiscated edition from all those years ago. I smile every time I see bookstore and library shelves stocked with Judy Blume!

In fact, she can explain how I feel about book banning much better than I can.

Check it out:
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