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

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Adriana Trigiani: Viola in Reel Life

Several members of the local Friends of the Library group were excited to see that I had checked out Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani. Adriana did a book signing in Richmond, and everyone just loved her. With raves about her writing and her personality, I was excited to start reading!

Viola Chesterton is an aspiring filmmaker from New York. She lives, breathes, and loves her Brooklyn neighborhood.

She's also a teenager, which means she has to attend high school. Much to her dismay, her parents have decided to send her to Prefect Academy, an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana. She has to spend her entire freshman year there, which is the worst kind of torture. She's an only child who now has to share living space with three other girls. And worse, she doesn't know how she's going to survive the year without her best friend Andrew.

Having already decided that she hates Prefect Academy and that she'll never be happy there, she hides behind her video camera, documenting her life in Indiana. But, despite her best efforts, she makes friends, meets a boy who is a fellow filmmaker, and actually starts to enjoy herself.

I liked Viola. She was smart, driven and a loyal friend with a positive attitude and a whimsical sense of humor. Watching her let down her guard, make new friends, and thrive in an environment so different from her home life was inspiring.

The supporting cast was engaging. The pop culture references and IM conversations peppered throughout the book were believable. There's even a bit of a ghost story and mystery to be solved.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. It was a light, fun read. I've already started reading the sequel Viola In The Spotlight.

For more information on Adriana Trigiani, visit:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Must Read: Princess for Hire: The Royal Treatment

One of the most charming books I read last year was Princess For Hire by Lindsey Leavitt, so I'm super excited for its sequel, The Royal Treatment (May 3). I'm crossing my fingers that the library gets it fast!

Desi Bascomb's job as a princess substitute has gotten a whole lot more glamorous now that she's advanced to Level 2 within the Facade Agency. Magical make-up, roller-skating celebrities, and the chance to see Prince Karl again are just some of the major perks. Not to mention, she's landed the role of Fairy Queen in her school's production of Midsummer's Night Dream (opposite her best friend's crush. Which is a little weird, but at least he wears a donkey head during their kissing scene). Life should be perfect, but Desi can't seem to shake the feeling that there is more going on with the agency's magic than she's told. Like why is this mind-bending power exclusive to royals? Is it possible that there could be a bigger way to make an impact in both parts of her life?

For more information on Lindsey Leavitt, visit:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kristin Hannah: Night Road

A couple years ago, I was introduced to Kristin Hannah's novels at a book club in Massachusetts. While I didn't stay with the book club, Kristin's novels stayed with me. When I found out she had a new book, I immediately requested Night Road from the library.

Lexi's life hasn't been easy. She's been bounced from foster home to foster home and has a lot of bad childhood memories that haunt her. Taken in by an aunt she didn't know she had, Lexi is grateful to have a home, someone to love (and to love in return), and stability for the first time in her life.

Twins Mia and Zach Farraday had a very different upbringing with loving parents, a stable home environment, and a world of opportunities, thanks in part to their mom Jude, who wants to protect her children and afford them every possibility life has to offer.

Zach is popular and outgoing. Mia, not so much. But, after meeting Lexi, on the first day of school, Mia becomes confident and starts taking chances. It isn't long before Lexi becomes a part of the family, as Mia's best friend and Zach's love interest. The three are inseparable.

During senior year, things become complicated. Zach and Mia want more freedom. Jude constantly worries about their safety and often tries to control their lives. Then, a bad decision one summer night changes everything. The Farraday family is transformed forever. Lexi must face every day alone and coping with the loss of life as she knew it.

What follows is a poignant story of grief, forgiveness, responsibility, love, and hope as each character deals with the results of that horrible night.

I've learned with Kristin Hannah books that there will be some life-changing, catastrophic event that will wreak havoc in her characters' lives. I know this, yet I continue to read because she does such an incredible job of creating realistic characters that are easy to love and puts them in situations that happen everyday to everyone. Zach, Mia, and Lexi could easily have been classmates of mine in high school.

I fell hard for these characters. I really did. Especially Mia. And I was so totally heartbroken as I read this book. Still, I couldn't stop reading. I stayed up late, wiping away tears, and hoping for a happy ending as I turned each page.

Night Road completely wrecked me, but gave me a better appreciation for friends, family, and so much more. More than that, the writing impressed me.

This story will haunt me for a long time.

For more information on Kristin Hannah, visit:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cora Harrison: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

As a long-time fan of all things Jane Austen, I was delighted to find I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison at my local library.

After fifteen-year-old Jenny Cooper and her cousin Jane Austen are rescued from an oppressive boarding school, Jenny moves into the Austen family home. Living with the Austens opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Jenny, which she details in the pages of her "secret diary."

Each entry gives the reader a glimpse into the home life of Jane Austen. Jenny, an orphan, appreciates the everyday activities of living with a family, even if she is often confused about the behaviors of the family.

The most interesting stories, of course, involve glimpses into mind of a sixteen-year-old Jane Austen, who is vivacious, fiercely independent, bold, smart, and oftentimes dramatic as she observes the world around her, makes sarcastic comments about love and marriage, and turns everything into a novel.

The heart of the story, however, is Jenny's introduction to a world of beautiful dresses, fancy balls, and the rules that come along with attracting and interacting with the opposite sex. The possibility of love and marriage and a happily ever after is clear from the beginning, but exactly what you hope for in a Jane Austen novel (even if Jane isn't the one writing it).

There were so many things that I liked about this book, starting with Jenny's diary, which included drawings of dresses, people, and even hairstyles that made me feel like I had stepped back in time to 1791, as well as hand-written snippets of stories Jane had written. Cora Harrison clearly researched the topic and did such an amazing job mixing true events with fiction. I walked away feeling a deeper connection to an author I've enjoyed for so long.

What a lovely, heartwarming story.

For more information on Cora Harrison, visit:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Must Read: But I Love Him

Fabulous author Mandy Hubbard, under the pen name Amanda Grace, has a new book coming out on May 8! But I Love Him tells the story of an abusive relationship in reverse order.

Tonight was so much worse than anything before it. Tonight he didn't stop after the first slap.

At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved -- and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything -- and everyone -- in its path.

This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.

If you can't wait to get your hands on a copy (And I know I can't!), you can check out the first two chapters at Mandy's blog. Just CLICK HERE!

For more information on Mandy Hubbard, visit:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Carrie Ryan: The Dark and Hollow Places

If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I'm a BIG fan of Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy. You'll also know that zombie stories aren't my thing, so the fact that I fell so hard for this story and these characters speaks volumes about just how awesome Carrie Ryan is. I spent a lot of time pining for the publication of The Dark and Hollow Places, and it was worth the wait.

Annah is a survivor. Literally. After escaping The Forest of Hands and Teeth as a child, she and her friend Elias moved to the Dark City. But three years ago, Elias joined the Recruiters and left Annah on her own to fend for herself and fend off the Unconsecrated.

Her past haunts her.

Her future seems dark.

She doesn't live, she merely exists.

Then, believe it or not, the present gets worse. A lot worse. The Horde overtakes the Dark City, forcing Annah to flee the only home she's known since leaving the Forest and wonder if she'll ever be reunited with Elias again. And she meets Catcher, a boy with a link to her past and secrets of his own. The Dark City and her world start to crumble all around her.

Now it's up to Annah to decide whether she wants to continue to fight and find a way to live--really, truly live--in such a hopeless world or give in to the darkness.

There's so much I loved about this book -- a resilient heroine, characters that I genuinely cared about, a fast-moving plot, and nail-biting terror. Even better, Carrie Ryan tied all three novels together perfectly, weaving the lives of different survivors from different families together brilliantly.

Despite the bleak nature of the story, I saw a tiny ray of hope at the end and smiled. It was a satisfying ending to an exceptional trilogy.

For more information on Carrie Ryan, visit:

Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

When I read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver last year, I knew she was going to become one of my favorite authors. Little did I know, she'd completely flip the script and blow my mind with her second novel, Delirium.

Lena Haloway lives in a dystopian society where basic freedoms have been taken away, and eighteen year olds are forced to undergo a procedure called "the cure" to prevent them from becoming afflicted with amor deliria nervosa, a deadly disease that can kill you; a disease also known as falling in love.

Lena, while a bit nervous, is looking forward to the procedure. Without it, she worries she'll end up like her mother, who not only fell in love, but underwent the procedure three times (unsuccessfully) and eventually committed suicide. In addition to being "cured," Lena hopes the procedure will rid her mind of the painful childhood memories and confusion left behind by her mother's choices and actions. She simply wants to live a normal life. She wants to feel safe.

Then she meets Alex, who doesn't' seem to abide by the government's strict rules. He's exciting and dangerous. And Lena cannot stop thinking about him. It's not difficult to surmise where the story will go from there, but it was interesting watch Lena go from subservient citizen to a bold, curious girl who questions authority and starts to think (and feel) for herself.

Delirium is a chilling portrayal of a dictatorship where people have become one-dimensional and cold. More chilling is the government propaganda that is presented at the beginning of each chapter--re-written history and stories meant to scare citizens into submission.

A lot of writers get stuck in a rut where they're writing the same story over and over again. I applaud Lauren Oliver for taking a chance and doing something so different for her second novel. I found the story absorbing and slightly unnerving. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

For more information on Lauren Oliver, visit:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thoughtful Thursday: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and I love poetry! I've been writing it since I was a child and spent more than half of my college electives studying it. So I thought I'd dedicate this week's Thoughtful Thursday post to poetry.

My favorite poet is Dorothy Parker, and an oft-read, dog-eared, underlined, stuffed with bookmarks copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker sits on my bedside table. I even take it with me when I travel.

While it was hard to pick a favorite poem, I chose this one.

Faute De Mieux
Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme--
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Must Read: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

I was browsing the library and I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison caught my attention for two reasons: 1. I'm a huge Jane Austen fan and 2. The cover is absolutely beautiful. Needless to say, it's now part of my "to read" stack.

When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship. So when Jenny falls utterly in love with Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this dashing man?

But is that even possible? After all, Jenny’s been harboring a most desperate secret. Should it become known, it would bring scandal not only to her, but also to the wonderful Austen family. What’s a poor orphan girl to do?

In this delicious dance between truth and fiction, Cora Harrison has crafted Jenny’s secret diary by reading everything Jane Austen wrote as a child and an adult, and by researching biographies, critical studies, and family letters. Jenny’s diary makes the past spring vividly to life and provides insight into the entire Austen family--especially the beloved Jane.

For more information on Cora Harrison, visit:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sweet Valley Saturday

Our library held a book sale Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2. I love, love, love book sales. Lots of books. Good prices. All purchases support the library. It's win-win for everyone.

I'm always on the lookout for books from my childhood, and I hit the jackpot with six Sweet Valley High books.

Total amount spent? $3. Score!
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