Friday, March 27, 2009

The Girl She Used To Be

The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446582220
ISBN-13: 978-0446582223

"On my fifth day in class, the teacher asked each of us in turn to spell our name for the other students... It sure would've been easier to spell May Adams, but wouldn't you know, without even giving it a second thought, there I was, unveiling myself to my teacher, her aide, and seventeen other first graders."


And so, the story of Melody McCartney - aka May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, Sandra Clarke and many others - begins.

When she is only 6 years old, Melody and her parents were the only witnesses in the brutal killing of an Italian restaurant owner. Scooped into the Witness Protection Program, the government promises to keep the family safe. Little does she know, but after 20 years in the WITSEC program and after the ultimate death of her parents, Melody's life will be in the hands of Jonathan Bovaro, one of the four sons of Tony Bovaro, the man who committed the vicious murder.

This book was a merry-go-round of emotions and evoked feelings in me I didn't realize I had. The trials and tribulations of poor Melody over the 20 years of "so-called" federal protection are marred only by the in-your-face criminal activity of the mafia family which threatens her very existence. I felt sadness at the robbery of her innocence, empathy at her lack of a normal life, elation in her love for Jonathan, and blood-curdling fear as her life is eventually exposed. I could not put this book down!

Cristofano's prose flowed gracefully through this book like Jonathan's red Audi through the streets of New York and New Jersey. The "Billy Idol" monologue in the bar with the college guy was hilarious - I'm talking laugh out loud, pee my pants, make my hubby look at me strange, funny! (see page 102).

The Girl She Used To Be is currently the best book I've read so far in 2009. With his snappy dialogue and human emotions, David Cristofano is an author I will be eagerly watching in the future. Having originally checked this book out of my local public library, this is a book I have giddily added to my home library.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Glinda of Oz

Glinda of Oz is the fourteenth Land of Oz book written by children's author L. Frank Baum, published on July 10, 1920. This was Baum's last Oz book, and was published posthumously. Most critics agree this is Baum's darkest Oz book, most likely due to his failing health. The book was dedicated to Baum's second son Robert Stanton Baum.

While visiting Glinda at her castle, Dorothy and Ozma discover a reference in Glinda's Great Book of Records about an upcoming war. The war will begin between the Skeezers and the Flatheads, but Glinda is unable to discover anything else about them. Dorothy and Ozma are determined to stop the war from beginning.

In addition to he Skeezers and the Flatheads, we are introduced to several new characters: Su-Dic (Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads), Coo-ee-oh (Queen of the Skeezers), Rora the witch, Prime Minister Ervic, and Lady Aurex.

Interesting trivia for this book: The full title of the first edition is Glinda of Oz; In Which Are Related the Exciting Experiences of Princess Ozma of Oz, and Dorothy, in Their Hazardous Journey to the Home of the Flatheads, and to the Magic Isle of the Skeezers, and How They Were Rescued from Dire Peril by the sorcery of Glinda the Good.


This completes the reviews of the 14 original Land of Oz books by L. Frank Baum. There are currently dozens of books about the Land of Oz, but there are only 26 books after Baum's death which are considered "official" books about the Land of Oz created by Baum. Most noteably are the next 19 books, written by Ruth Plumly Thompson from 1921 until 1939, which I enjoyed almost as much as Baum's tales. The next writer to pick up the series was John R. Neill, who wrote the next 3 books. Neill is very important in Oz culture because - with the exception of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - he was the illustrator for the first 36 books in the series.

Although I have read all of the "Royal 40" books of Oz (14 by Baumn and 26 by 3 other authors) over the years, I am going to complete this Way Back Wednesday.

Next week, I have plans to pick up the Trixie Belden series where I left off, but I may change my mind before then. Maybe you will be surprised.

Monday, March 23, 2009

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3)

City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416914307
ISBN-13: 978-1416914303

The City of Glass is the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters. The Shadowhunters obey the mandates of the Gray Book in order to protect our world from demons and it is against the law to enter the city without permission. Fifteen year old Clary Fray must enter the land of the Shadowhunters in order to save her mother, and she finds a mighty ally in Sebastian.

This urban fantasy book is the final book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy, but this series only leaves you hunger for more of Clare’s works.

The first 2 books in the Mortal Instruments trilogy are City of Bones (#1) and City of Ashes (#2).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - The Magic of Oz

The Magic of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Magic of Oz: A Faithful Record of the Remarkable Adventures of Dorothy and Trot and the Wizard of Oz, Together with the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, and Cap'n Bill, in Their Successful Search for a Magical and Beautiful Birthday Present for Princess Ozma of Oz is the thirteenth Land of Oz book written by L. Frank Baum. Published on June 7, 1919, one month after the author's death, The Magic of Oz relates the unsuccessful attempt of the Munchkin boy Kiki Aru and former Nome King Ruggedo to conquer Oz.

The novel was dedicated to "the Children of our Soldiers, the Americans and their Allies, with unmeasured Pride and Affection."

At the top of Mount Munch, lives a group of people known as the Hyups. One of their numbers, a Munchkin named Bini Aru, discovered a method of transforming people and objects by merely saying the word "Pyrzqxgl". After Princess Ozma decreed that no one could practice magic in Oz except for Glinda and the Wizard of Oz, Bini wrote down the directions for pronouncing "Pyrzqxgl" and hid them in his magical laboratory

Ruggedo tries to conquer Oz again with the help of Kiki Aru. In the meanwhile, it is also Ozma's birthday, and all of Oz's citizens are searching for the most unusual present for the little princess.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Annotated Hobbit

The Annotated Hobbit: The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien

Hardcover: 399 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0618134700
ISBN-13: 978-0618134700 The Annotated Hobbit:

In my humble opinion, the annotated version is the best way to read The Hobbit. We learn how this book was written and what was changed between each edition. The appendix gives additional details about the text. There are also anecdotes about Tolkien’s personal life, centering about his family.

This book also contains many illustrations from all the versions of the book in all the different languages since its original release in 1937.

The Annotated Hobbit is a treasure to long-time fans, but it is also a great starting point for new readers.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Coraline by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Dave Mckean

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0380977788
ISBN-13: 978-0380977789

I must admit that I came to read this book because of Gaiman's latest novel, The Graveyard Book. I was so enamored with his writing, I am trying to read all his works.

This is the story of a young girl named Coraline (who remains polite, even when you call her Caroline). She has moved with her parents into an old house which has been converted into four flats. Both of Coraline's parents work at home, and sometimes she feels a bit ignored and bored. Her neighbors inclue the Misses Spink and Forcible - two retired actresses who live together in the bottom flat - and Mr. Bobo - an avid mouse trainer who lives in the topmost flat.

Coraline's flat has many doors and windows. There is one door, in the drawing room, that remains locked most of the time. When her mother opens this door for Coraline to see, there is nothing behind the door but a brick wall. But when Coraline's parents aren't home, she opens the door and it leads into another flat - a flat very much like her own, only with her "other" mother, father, neighbors, and a talking cat. Thus begins Coraline's adventure.

Gaiman is a wonderful storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed this deliciously creepy novella. Originally published in 2002, this book won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novella, the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella, and the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Best Work for Young Readers. It has been compared to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland because of its surrealism and plot based on an alternate-reality. Coraline has been adapted into a 2009 stop-motion film directed by Henry Selick.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Let There Be Light

Let There Be Light: The Story of Rural Electrification in Kentucky by David Dick

Hardcover: 314 pages
Publisher: Plum Lick Pub
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0975503731
ISBN-13: 978-0975503737

This book is David Dick’s history of how electricity came to rural Kentucky. The book features a chapter on each of the state’s 26 electric co-ops, told through the experiences of the people whose lives were changed by the coming of electricity.

When the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) came into existence in 1935, 90% of the rural areas in the United States had no electricity. Dick tells this story using extensive interviews with Kentuckians before and after the introduction of electricity.

A fascinating read, especially after the ice storm of 2009 crippled Kentucky’s electrical infrastructure.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - The Tin Woodman of Oz

The Tin Woodman of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Tin Woodman of Oz is the twelfth Land of Oz book written by L. Frank Baum and was originally published on May 13, 1918. The Tin Woodman is unexpectedly reunited with his Munchkin sweetheart Nimmie Amee from the days when he was flesh and blood. This was a backstory from The Wizard of Oz.

The book was dedicated to the author's grandson Frank Alden Baum.

The Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow are reliving tales at the Tin Woodman's palace in the Winkie Country when a Gillikin boy named Woot wanders comes to see them. After he is fed and rested, Woot asks the Tin Woodman how he came to be made of tin. He relates how the Wicked Witch of the East enchanted his axe and caused him to chop his body parts off limb by limb, all because he was in love with her ward, Nimmie Amee. Each chopped limb was replaced by the tinsmith Ku-Klip with a counterpart made of tin.

The Tin Woodman is unexpectedly reunited with his sweetheart Nimmie Amee. He also meets a fellow tin man - Captain Fyter - as well as a Frankenstein monster-like creature - Chopfyt - who is made from the combined parts of both tin men.

The Tin Woodman of Oz also provides backstory for Oz itself; it was not always a fairyland, and became one by being enchanted by the Fairy Queen Lurline, who left a fairy behind to rule it. In Glinda of Oz Ozma says that she herself was that fairy, though in The Marvelous Land of Oz we are told of her restoration to a throne long held by her ancestors.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bluegrass: A True Story of Murder in Kentucky

Bluegrass: A True Story of Murder in Kentucky by William Van Meter

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Free Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416538682
ISBN-13: 978-1416538684

In 2003, college student Katie Autry was murdered in her dorm room at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. She had been raped, stabbed and then sprayed with hairspray before being set on fire. This horrific story not only rocked the Commonwealth, but it also made national headlines.

Van Meter is a journalist originally from the town of Bowling Green and he explores Autry’s notorious murder case. The book details the events of the murder all the way up to the trial in March 2005. Although many of the residents of Bowling Green and WKU's administration were not happy about the release of this book, it is compelling reading and hard to put down. I felt connected to Autry and I empathized with her family.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - The Lost Princess of Oz

The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Lost Princess of Oz is the eleventh Oz book written by L. Frank Baum. Published on June 5, 1917, it begins with the disappearance of Princess Ozma, the ruler of Oz and covers Dorothy and the Wizard's efforts to find her. The introduction to the book states that its inspiration was a letter a little girl had written to Baum: "I suppose if Ozma ever got hurt or losted, everybody would be sorry."

The book was dedicated to the author's newborn granddaughter Ozma Baum, child of his youngest son Kenneth Gage Baum.

Dorothy is up early to start the day and she is seeing to her friends in the Emerald City when she notices Ozma has not awakened yet. Dorothy goes into Ozma's chambers only to find she is not there. She is nowhere in the palace either. And not only is Ozma missing, but all the magical instruments in Oz that can be used to find her are also missing.

Dorothy, Glinda and the Wizard work together with several other friends to track down the magical instruments and find Ozma. We also are reunited with several old characters: Button-Bright, the Winkies, and Betsy. New characters we are introduced to include King Coco-Lorum, Cayke the Cookie Cook, Frogman, and Lavendar Bear.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The House of Night

First she was MARKED, then she was BETRAYED. The next thing we knew, she was CHOSEN and UNTAMED. Now, Zoey Redbird is being HUNTED.

For fans of the HOUSE OF NIGHT series - written by the mother/daughter team of P. C. and Kristin Cast - March 10th is the day we can finally get our hands on the 5th book in this addictive young adult series.

With over 3 million books in print, this will be the first book released in hardcover.

To read the first chapter of HUNTED, please visit the House of Night website by clicking here.

Listen to the audio of the second chapter of HUNTED:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mrs. Lincoln: A Life

Mrs. Lincoln: A Life by Catherine Clinton

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060760400
ISBN-13: 978-0060760403

With the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, this is a timely book about the life of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln.

Because of her questionable mental health, this extraordinary woman has always been misunderstood. This is one of the most comprehensive books about Mrs. Lincoln I have ever read.

If you think you’ve read everything there is to know about the 16th First Lady, you will be engrossed with the new information provided in this wonderful book.