Thursday, June 28, 2012


The winner of the SHADOW OF NIGHT giveaway is lucky number 13!!!

I hope you will all read the book.  It's a great Summer read!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I love eccentric people. It is always so refreshing to me to find individuals who march to the beat of their own drummer---regardless of what other people think.  Bernadette Fox is one of those people.  In Maria Semple's new novel, Bernadette Fox is a woman who has lost herself.  A former architecture student and MacArthur grant winner, Fox is now a near-recluse who spends her days in her decrepit Seattle home (a giant former girls school) while caring for her successful Microsoft-guru husband and bright 15-yr-old daughter Bee.  Bernadette definitely doesn't fit in with the other private school moms and has made more than a few enemies among them--most notably her next door neighbor, Audrey Griffin.  One day, Bee brings home yet another perfect report card and announces that she wants a Christmas trip to Antarctica as her reward.  Bernadette's agoraphobia and anxiety about the upcoming trip begin to wear on her and one day she disappears.  In order to find her mother, Bee puts together a paper trail of e-mails, notes, documents and secret correspondance. The reader plows through this evidence along with Bee as we try to determine what happened to Bernadette.

Bernadette is a really great character. Her reactions to things made me laugh out loud several times.  You understand that she is borderline crazy but she manages to remain charming in spite of her flaws. In fact, every single character in the book is complex and flawed.  Audrey Griffin started out as a fairly one-dimensional villain but Semple manages to flesh her our more towards the end. The book was a really fun read and I loved the relationship between mother and daughter. While the ending was a bit far-fetched, it did not dampen my overall enthusiasm for the story.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A charming mother/daughter tale with a slight mystery to it. Especially recommended for those who love quirky characters. This would make a great vacation read.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I cried two times because of books last Sunday.  Both were picture books. The first one to make me cry was THE TEDDY BEAR by David McPhail. It gets me every time I read it and I have been reading it for seven years.  The second one is new--THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE by William Joyce.  I am already a fan of William Joyce's wonderfully whimsical works.  I adored his first picture book entry into his GUARDIANS OF CHILDHOOD series---THE MAN IN THE MOON.  I knew this newest Joyce offering was going to be great and I was not disappointed.

This picture book inspired Joyce's Academy award-winning animated short film of the same name.  The film is absolutely gorgeous.  Spend fifteen minutes watching it right now:

It is clear how Joyce was inspired by the destruction wrought in his Louisiana home by Hurricane Katrina.  Joyce wanted to convey the curative power of books in the face of such devastation.  In the story, Morris becomes a caretaker of books after a similar disaster.  He spend his days caring for the books and connecting them with people who need their inspiration.  It becomes his life's work. The images are absolutely gorgeous and anyone who has ever loved a book will get carried away by the story. I had Noodlebug watch the animated short first before we read the book.  The film adds a little bit to the story and rounds it out. 

I am already trying to figure out if I have the sewing skills to make a Halloween costume for myself based on this image:

If you are a fellow bibliophile (and I'm sure you are or you wouldn't be here), I am confident that you have experienced the sensation of being carried away by a book.

I recommend this wonderful picture book for adults and children alike. 

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. A gorgeous picture book with a wonderfully whimsical story that finds a way to put sad life events into a beautiful bigger picture.  For anyone who has ever loved a book...

Monday, June 25, 2012

PRISONER OF HEAVEN by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

It has been a long time since I read Zafón's wonderful SHADOW OF THE WIND.  Although I bought the second book in the "trilogy," THE ANGEL'S GAME, I somehow never got around to reading it. I did not let that deter me from moving forward with THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN. All of these books stand along but there are common threads and characters that unite them.

In Barcelona in 1957, Daniel Sempere helps his father with their struggling bookstore while looking foward to the wedding of their friend and employee, Fermín Romero de Torres.  When a mysterious stranger shows up at the shop who leaves a threatening message for Fermín, Daniel presses Fermín for his story and the meaning behind the stranger's visit.  Fermín recounts the tale of his imprisonment in the 1940s that brings to mind THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and shows how his life and Daniel's came to intersect.  Secrets are revealed as the two men must decide what course their lives will take after long-hidden truths come to light.

As a fan of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, I loved all the references and allusions to the famous work.  This story is driven partly by relationships and partly by action/adventure which makes it very satisfying. There aren't many surprises in the story. It is pretty clear early on what direction the tale will take. That doesn't keep it from being a very entertaining read, however. My main complaint was that I didn't feel as if it was long enough. 318 pages felt too light for me. I wish Zafón had developed the story a bit more.  It felt as if there were pieces missing. Still, I really enjoyed the story and hope that this isn't the end of the tale.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  Fans of Zafón's other works will find much to enjoy here. Plenty of intrigue and mystery with several sinister characters.  I only wish it hadn't been so short.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do You Sparkle?

Read my review for Sparkle Stories on my creative blog.  It's our new favorite thing!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I have two giveaways going on right now.

USA TODAY recently named THE ORPHAN MASTER the top Summer reading pick in the mystery/suspense category and I'm giving a copy away.  The giveaway ends today!!!

Go here to enter.

I'm also giving away a prize pack of goodies for Deborah Harkness' new novel SHADOW OF NIGHT.    This giveaway ends on June 28.

Go here to enter.

I thought SHADOW OF NIGHT was even better than the first book in the series---A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

There are some authors whose books have predictable themes and structure.  You know exactly what you will get each time you pick up a new offering from the author.  And then there is Chris Bohjalian.  If I put all of his books on a table and asked you to guess who authored each one, I doubt most readers would group them under the same author.  There is such a wide variety of subject matter and this is one of the things that makes Bohjalian so interesting to read.  I absolutely loved his most recent work, THE NIGHT STRANGERS, which felt like a mashup of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Wicker Man."  I loved the suspense and downright scariness of the book.  His newest work, THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS, could not be more different.

 In SANDCASTLE GIRLS, Bohjalian explores his Armenian heritage.  Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria in 1915 along with her father and other American aid workers in an attempt to help the Armenian refugees streaming into the area.  Elizabeth sees firsthand the effects of the genocide of the Armenian people at the hands of the Turks.   While Elizabeth is in Aleppo, she befriends an Armenian engineer named Armen who has lost his wife and baby girl in the genocide.  When Armen leaves to join the British army in Egypt, Elizabeth stays in Aleppo and begins a correspondance with him that helps their friendship blossom into love.  Elizabeth and Armen's story is juxtaposed with that of their daughter, Laura Petrosian, in the present day.  When an old friend calls Laura claiming to have seen a photo of her grandmother at a Boston museum, Laura begins to dig into her family history and uncovers long-hidden secrets about her grandparents and her Armenian heritage.

SANDCASTLE GIRLS is a love story set against a backdrop of war and genocide. But it is more than that.  It is also the story of a family and their history and secrets.  It is a story about the effects of war and genocide and the horrible and far-reaching effects that both can have.  It is a story about a time and place that is barely recognized by the world at large.  I found the story incredibly moving.

I knew absolutely NOTHING about the Armenian genocide before reading this book.  Why do we choose to highlight the atrocities against one group over another.  Why are some genocides well-known and others hidden away?  The book definitely raised a lot of questions for me.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. A beautiful story of war and love and family. Definitely a huge eye-opener about a little known genocide---one whose story needs to be told.