Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Numinous Poems of Billy Collins

His new collection doesn't disappoint. Reading Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins.

My favorite poem so far:

The Chairs That No One Sits In

You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed   
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one   
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs   
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.
Source: Poetry (November 2008).

photo from

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

The Intro: My current favorite author is Michelle Richmond. I am reading Dreams of the Blue Room and re-reading The Year of Fog, both of which I will review next week. Recently, I read No One You Know for the second time and I will review below.

The Review: No One You Know is even more compelling on the second read. I could pause and smell the coffee, marvel at how the coffee trader's lifestyle is woven into a suspenseful plot. The settings of this novel in San Francisco, Nicaragua, and more, were enticing. However, the mysterious and powerful relationship between sisters drive the novel. Sisterhood resonates most deeply with me, and I felt like I understood Lila's immersion into her field, her dreaminess yet concentrated focus on pure mathematics, while at the same time, I could relate to her sister's adriftness, search for meaning in life, love, career. 

(this cover is my favorite, from the hardback edition)

The Analysis: Characters who travel, searching for a true home and deeper relationships, are common in Richmond's novels, and I think this is why many young women, who are following careers, moving to new cities, and traveling these days devour her novels. 

Songs to Read by: "Fix You" by Coldplay

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

The Intro: This book swept me up the way 5 hours on a plane, uninterrupted reading, and great literature, truly can. I have read so many books and taken and taught many writing classes; sometimes I feel as though I am watching strings being pulled on marionettes as I read. However, that was not the case with this novel--it was writing magic. (I love this cover of the paperback edition--I love old-fashioned keys!)

The Review:  To me, this book was seamless. The setting was pristine; the shale beaches and indigo water in Lake of Dreams, can be seen and felt by the reader. The sensual descriptions of glassblowing and the artistry of stained glass kept me reading as though it were a suspense novel. The main character's uncertainty resonated with me, and I felt inspired and grateful, as I learned about the suffragette movement and early women's rights in Seneca Falls. 

Songs to Read By:  "The Scientist" by Coldplay 

Update on this Blog's Status

I have not read many YA books lately, but I would like to continue this blog with the theme of book reviews in 100 words or less. The books could be fiction of any genre, such as mystery, thriller or the literary novel, or non-fiction, such as travel essays or books by Malcolm Gladwell, for example. I hope you will still follow this blog!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Sequel to Jenna Fox

The Fox Inheritance is a more complex novel in scope than the first book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. This story follows Kara and Locke as they wake up 260 years after the Accident in the home of the potentially nefarious Dr. Gatsbro. During the first novel, I feel the character development was more intimate; I felt closer to Jenna Fox, whereas I didn't feel like I could truly understand Locke and Kara's motivations in the sequel. However, the picture of the futuristic world Pearson paints is intriguing enough to fuel the story.

Song to Read by: "Teardrop" by Massive Attack (theme to TV show House, MD)

Watch the book trailer here:
It is a little bit overdramatic. 

You can read a short story written from Allys' perspective here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2 Perspectives...1 Confusing Age

by Wendelin Van Draanen

A boy and a girl get in arguments over stupid stuff. They don't get it. They used to be friends when they were younger. But lately, something weird is going on. A weird feeling is happening in their hearts. They are annoyed with each other, yet they want to see each other more or even spy on each other. He acts impulsively in her presence. Has this ever happened to you? Probably. That's while you will relate to the nostalgia of those simple childhood crushes as you read about Bryce and Juliana. The book is told in alternating chapters from two characters' perspectives, and the same events are told from one perspective and then FLIPPED. A sweet story. 

You can watch the movie trailer here: 
Book cover movie edition:

this book is appropriate for middle grades or YA.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"The Agony and the Ecstasy of Being Thirteen"

Thirteen: A Short Story Collection
Edited by James Howe

In this collection, there are a variety of perspectives about what it means to be thirteen. The uncertainty, the embarassment. Discovering who you are and deciding who you want to be. Navigating the desire to fit in with the strength to be true to yourself. These themes will resonate with readers.  
For Meg Cabot’s character, babysitting turns into a growth experience about real friendship. In James Howes’ story, a boy teaches people that it is okay to be different at his bar mitzvah. In Alex Sanchez’s story, a boy walks the fine line between friendship and love.
Song to Read by: Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana: 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mysterious and Myth-erious

The Shadow Thieves
By Anne Ursu

Review: Can't get enough of the Percy Jackson series and Rick Riordan's books? But you've already read them all? Have no fear, you can move on to The Shadow Thieves, the first book in the Cronus Chronicles trilogy by Anne Ursu. This book has relatable characters: misfit Charlotte who tries not to appear to be trying to get others to like her and golden boy Zee, her cousin, who everyone likes. Zee loves football/soccer but leaves England to live with Charlotte when weird things start happening at home. Trouble follows him to America.

Suspenseful questions: Is the Underworld accessible through the mall? Who is Philonecron and why does he want to take over Hades?

Song to Read By: Pink Panther theme song:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Hunger Games Movie Sneak Peek!

Go to this link to watch a clip from the Hunger Games movie, which will be released on March 23, 2012.

I love Gale's narration! It shows Katniss in the woods with her bow...Oh, just watch it already!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hilarious Greek Gods

The Fire Thief by Terry Dreary

The Fire Thief is a middle grades read, a hilarious, storytelling voice. The book has elements of mystery, the drama of Greek gods, and self-referential writer jokes. The main characters are Prometheus, Zeus, and an orphan boy in Victorian England named Jim.  
The story skips back and forth between the world of Olympus, Zeus and Prometheus as characters. Jim and his adoptive uncle are actors using a front to rob dumb rich people in Eden City. The story moves at a quick clip, and you’ll keep reading for the laughs and to find out what will happen.

Song to Read By: "One of Us" Glee cast version.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Scuba Diving in the Pristine Mediterranean Sea

Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson

Clio's summer was set up: an awesome job at the art store, a crush-worthy boy... until her crazy dad sweeps her along on an adventure. Once they co-created a board game, traveling the world they're estranged.  Her life is derailed, but she can't even complain about it, because she'll be on a yacht off the coast of Italy. As usual, I love Johnson's voice, sense of humor, and witty dialogue. However, I don't get why the love interest guy tends to be so annoying (also in 13 Little Blue Envelopes). 

Overall, I enjoyed Clio's journey along the Italian Riveria! 

Song to Read by: go back in time and don't laugh at me: "Sailing" by NSync, the song is a cover...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crossed by Ally Condie--release date Nov 1, 2011!

Crossed by Ally Condie

Guess who has an ARC of Crossed by Ally Condie! Me! I am so excited--I have never had an advanced reader's copy of a book before! Well, at least not before the book came out.

Review so far: The sequel to Matched, 2nd in the trilogy, is fast-paced, with crisp, clean writing so far. The story is told from the perspectives of Ky and Cassia in alternating chapters.

 Do you think the 3rd book will include Xander's perspective as well? I LOVE the setting of the Outer Provinces, which is inspired by Condie's home state of Utah. The descriptions remind me of Zion National Park.

Before the climax of the book, I felt a little bit bored. However, the pace quickened for the last 60 pages and now I can't wait to read the sequel. What is Xander's secret? Will Cassia and Ky be together or separated?

Song to Read by: When I read about "the Society," which only allows a Hundred Songs to be chosen, I am sooo grateful for the wealth of music in our world.

Check out "Anoanimal" by Andrew Bird: (live version)

Go to Ally Condie's website and you can read about song's on her Crossed playlist, songs she listened to while writing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Forever in Blue

Forever in Blue: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
by Ann Brashares

I enjoyed growing up with these girls. I read the series during college and related the most to this book, their first year of college. I re-read this book when I moved away from home, and I was feeling like Carmen at her new school, finding her place and her confidence. I was happy to follow Lena as she found her artistic identity and figured out who she was separate from Kostos. One of my favorite parts of these books are the meaningful quotes in between the chapters. I've written down many of those quotes and remembered them for years. 

Song to Read By: "Every day is a Winding Road" by Sheryl Crow:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Four Girls, Best Friends, Their First Summer Apart

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
By Ann Brashares

I related to this book amazingly well. Would I grow apart from my family and friends when I moved to college? Or traveled to California every summer for work? I related the most to Lena, because she is artistic, shy, and timid when it comes to love. She's learning to take risks. My second favorite story is Tibby and Bailey. Every time I watch the movie, I cry as Bailey and Tibby look at the stars. The film version is well-done and won't disappoint readers and fans. Each character has something to admire--Bee's bravery and Carmen's passion.

Song to Read By: "Simple" by Katy Perry from the film soundtrack:

Monday, July 11, 2011

More Hilarity Ensues: Scarlett Fever, the Sequel!

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

Disclaimer: Okay, odd but true, I read 100 pages of the sequel before I read Suite Scarlett. Not wanting to miss a minute with her family, I went back and read the first book.

Review: Summer’s over and now Scarlett is the assistant to the Amy Amberson Agency and the only client is her brother Spencer. He snags a role on the Scarlett’s fave cop show, “Crime and Punishment.” Next up, a donut disaster and many awkward encounters with her kind-of ex, Eric. How will Scarlett balance school, work, and obsessively watching Eric’s pizza commercial? And now she has to spy on the strange brother of their new client, the creepily perfect-looking Chelsea. Once again, love the characters, tone, sense of humor, and unpredictable, random events. This book will make you smile.

I like this book cover better:

Song to Read by: "New York, New York" by Ryan Adams

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Living in a Hotel--Not So Glam as You Might Think

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

I love Scarlett’s sense of humor and quirkiness. She and her brother Spencer had a witty repartee going on. This summer, Scarlett is stuck taking care of the dilapidated Hopewell Hotel where she lives with older sister Lola and younger terror, Marlene. Scarlett’s problems pile up as former actress/aspiring writer/agent Amy Amberson checks into her suite and takes over her life like a crazy, yoga-loving, chain-smoking hurricane. When Spencer’s production of Hamlet goes awry, Scarlett has to solve everyone’s problems while trying to figure out if hottie/actor Eric is even really her boyfriend or just playing the Southern Gentleman card.
Song to Read By: "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reading about Faeries? Surprisingly Addictive!

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

Phoebe and Mallory are best friends, but there's more to Mallory than meets the eyes. She's from the faery realm, but she becomes torn between her mission (given by the Faerie Queen) and her true friendship to Phoebe. From Day One, Phoebe gives Mallory a fashion makeover and helps her with her bereft mother. Phoebe is from the extraordinary Rothschild family, but fears she's ordinary and will never live up to her mother. Mallory’s brother Ryland arrives to seduce Phoebe for nefarious purposes. As the climax nears, they enter the fairy realm. Strangely addictive reading!

Author website:

Song to Read By: "Only Time" by Enya:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Don't take me to Scarborough Fair!

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

When I read the description of this book, the story (based on folk song "Scarborough Fair") intrigued me. The summary sounds weird: Elfin Knight, goat horn?! What? However, once I opened the book, I was inexorably drawn into Lucy's story. Her character is practical and likable. I loved having a peek into warm family life. Lucy is determined and the love story with Zach is sweet. This book has some major issues though, including prom night and rape, that make it more appropriate for older teens. This book manages to stay grounded in reality, despite magical elements.

Song to Read By:  "Scarborough Fair" Simon and Garfunkel version: or the Sarah Brightman version, which sounds more magical:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Secret Society? Frankie Wants to Join

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie starts her sophomore year at the fictional private school, Alabaster Academy. Over the summer she got curves in all the right places, and  popular senior boy Matthew notices her when she falls off her bike. Later, she realizes he likes her as an adorable damsel-in-distress, not in- control and expressing her opinions. This spurs her on to delicious hijinks of infiltrating a secret society on campus and running the show, in her very own creative way.

Will she gain the acceptance she's longing for? Or just enjoy the rebellion? This book has real depth and social commentary.

Song to Read By: Oxford Comma" by Vampire Weekend (watch out, cursing is involved in this song):

Monday, June 20, 2011

Which is better? Reel Life or Real Life?

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

The idea of having a filmmaking, teenage girl as the main character is new, and I enjoyed learning about filmmaking as I read. At first, it was hard to adjust to the character’s voice. Sometimes it sounded like it was trying too hard to be a teenager, like saying “for real” too much. The bitter sarcasm was oozing. By the middle of the book, I liked Viola and her group of friends, who were all well-developed as characters. There was a fun hint of mystery (the starlet in red, May McGlynn). Viola showed major girl power at the end.

Song to Read By: "Fly Me to the Moon (live)" by Frank Sinatra in honor of Viola's 1920sish short film:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lurking in the Tunnels...Beautiful Darkness!

Beautiful Darkness
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I liked the sequel better than the first book, Beautiful

Creatures, because Ethan became a more interesting and

complex character. He didn’t purely adore Lena anymore, and

he found a more unique role for himself. Ethan wasn’t just

narrating exciting events anymore—he was involved in a

quest of his own. Since I’m a library nerd, I also liked Olivia’s

 character and the time spent in the Caster Library and in the

 Tunnels. This book had more conflict and plot twists, and

less of Ethan and Lena sitting around googly-eyed in love,

 cuddling at Greenbrier.  Read it now!

Song to Read by: "Only Wanna Be with You"  by Hootie and

the Blowfish:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Traveling by Airmail

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Lively. Fast. Fun. Breezy. Light. A great travel read. 13 Letters lead 17-year-old Ginny across Europe, letters written by her favorite artistic aunt. The characters are quirky and the dialogue is realistic.

In a few lines, Johnson captures the setting, the essence of the places Ginny visits, from London to Paris to Amsterdam to Copenhagen to Corfu. I had so much fun going on this trip with Ginny. This book isn’t your typical girly adventure in Europe—there was more content, art discussion, and character development.

 Can’t wait to read the recent new release The Last Letter by Maureen Johnson.

Song to Ready by: "Cathedrals" by Jump, Little Children:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Past, Present, Paris, Brooklyn, Music and the French Revolution

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi, a girl from modern-day Brooklyn finds a diary written by Alexandrine, who lived during the French Revolution and helped young Louis-Charles, the king's son.

The details of the past are gritty. Andi relates to the diary because she's healing after tragedy--her brother Truman died almost two years ago. She blames herself.

 In modern-day Paris, Andi meets a colorful crew of musicians and researches a fictional composer. Andi loves playing guitar--the eclectic music references and the revealing of a hidden Paris are the best parts.

 The book is long but gets really good on 375—don’t give up!

Song to Read By: "If I Ever Feel Better" by Phoenix (a French band):

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Through Adam's Eyes...Where She Went

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
the sequel to If I Stay

Shooting Star’s rocking the charts, but Adam’s unhappy, anxious. He’s lost the joy for music that sustained him. In New York City, he hears Mia play at Carnegie Hall. They go on a Farewell Tour of New York City. They’re both leaving on tour the next day.

This book is not about how life is supposed to be, but how it really turns out.  I enjoyed Mia’s perspective more than Adam’s, but the book was still raw with Forman’s immediate writing style. My favorite parts were the expository flashbacks. Overall, a satisfying sequel.

Songs to Read By: While reading, for some reason his band reminded me of San Diego's Augustana. Try "Either Way I'll Break Your Heart Someday":

Friday, June 3, 2011

If I Stay.....This book is bursting with HEART

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

What would I do, at 17, if I were in Mia's position? I don’t know. At first, this book seemed too sad to read--a girl in a coma, deciding to stay in this world without her family or go?  Some questions we could never answer for someone else.

As I read, I realized the book is more: her love for music, complex relationships with Adam, Kim, her family. Feeling out of place or completely loved. Going to music camp. Deciding between pursuing her talent or staying with her love. What life offers and takes away. You’ll cry. So worth it.

Song to Read By: "Glosoli" by Sigur Ros. This song is moody, complex, and magical. This was the artsy Icelandic band mentioned in the book. Adam had Mia listen to this band At the back of the paperback edition of the novel, the author explains music mentioned in the book. You can see the playlist on this site:


Magic and Southern Gothic= Charming and Mysterious

Beautiful Creatures 
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I loved being immersed in the Southern setting, black swamps, Spanish moss, and "haint blue." I like the main character, Ethan's, taste in literature. The set-up of this book reminds me of Twilight in reverse--the boy is the Mortal and the girl is the Other.  That was refreshing. Ethan’s more interesting than the blah-Bella.  The plot can be slow, but the quirky characters and accurate dialogue/dialect make up for it.
 Overall, the book manages to be just enthralling enough to keep me reading and running to the library for the sequel, Beautiful Darkness
Author/book website:

Songs to Read by: Anything by Kings of Leon from their album "Only by Night." The spooky "Closer" or 

my personal favorite, "Revelry:"