Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday 56: Week 22

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"Roy stared at her, his features darkening. 'Is this how you try to make a fresh start? By accusing me again?'"

- True Blue by David Baldacci

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book Review of NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Book One) by Michael Buckley

I'd been preparing a Christmas package for my cousin's 9-year old son (and 13-year old daughter) and came across NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society by Michael Buckley. I can't wait to hear what 9-year old Luis thinks of this book!

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (Book One)

Fifth grader Jackson Jones of Arlington, Virginia was very, very, very, very, very, very very, very popular at Nathan Hale Elementary School. Head of his PeeWee football team and with a catchy touchdown dance, Jackson was so popular that his fellow students copied his every move. Jackson and his friends had a particular game - catching and tormenting the many nerds that populate Nathan Hale Elementary School. Jackson orchestrated and executed spitwad attacks, "purple nurples, blistering pink bellies, cruel charley horses, nasty noogies" and atomic wedgies - just for fun.

But when Jackson's visit to the dentist leads to major braces, his life changes dramatically. He's soon a nerd himself. His old friends pick on him. And the nerds he'd picked on want nothing to do with him. Lonely, Jackson passes the time trying to uncover the many secrets at Nathan Hale Elementary School.

His greatest discovery is the existence of NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society, a secret government agency composed of the most elite and successful secret agents. Billions of dollars in research and scientific support have given these elite agent amazing physical and techonological powers. For NERDS, the government has recruited the only group not afraid of technology - children. The team is made up of the same nerds and geeks that Jackson had enjoyed tormenting during his popular days!

The NERDS are made up of: Matilda with the inhalers that can be used as rockets or a blow torch. Melinda turns out to be a gifted killer who can use any household item as a deadly weapons. Bucktooth Heathcliff can use his front teeth to hypnotize anyone and force them to obey his commands. Junkfood addict Flinch has superhuman strength, partly linked to his huge consumption of candy and sugar. Ruby with the rashes and hives turns out to be highly sensitive to falsehood - she is a human lie detector. Duncan, the paste-eater, who can stick to walls and trap enemies with his special glue. Jackson's braces are upgraded with billions of dollars of nanotechnology - so that they work like transformers and can do anything that he can picture in his mind! The NERDS travel on the "School bus" a super rocket.

Jackson wants to be one of the NERDS so badly. He doesn't understand the antagonism - his fellow agents seem to dislike him no matter what he does. When Jackson recognizes how he'd been a jerk to the NERDS, he tries to make it up to them as they work together to figure out the sudden spate of kidnappings and natural disasters.

Further complicating things for Jackson is the appearance of the former child beauty pagent winner and professional assassin, Mindy (a.k.a. the "Hyena").

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society is witty and action-packed. The description of the elementary school social hierarchy and taunts was particularly well done. It's sure to be a huge hit with young readers - whether they're girls or boys!

Publisher: Amulet Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2009), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Michael Buckley is the author of the New York Times bestselling series and Today Show Al Roker Book Club pick The Sisters Grimm. He has also written and developed shows for Nickelodeon, Disney, MTV Animation, the Sci- Fi Channel, the Discovery Channel, and VH1. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Alison, and son, Finn.

Thank you so much to Laura, Abrams/Amulet Books, and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Win a Sony e-Reader at The Bibliophilic Book Blog - contest ends 12/15

The contest is so amazing that I just wanted to let everyone know. The Bibliophilic Book Blog is giving away a Sony e-reader! The contest ends on Dec 15, so head over soon!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book Review of The Way Home by George Pelecanos

This review is long overdue - The Way Home by George Pelecanos was one of the books that President Obama brought when he visited the Cape this summer. I had started the book months ago but as the suspense grew, I had to pause. When I finally returned to The Way Home, I read it all in one sitting.

The Way HomeThe blurb:
Christopher Flynn is trying to get it right. After years of trouble and rebellion that enraged his father and nearly cost him his life, he has a steady job in his father's company, he's seriously dating a woman he respects, and, aside from the distrust that lingers in his father's eyes, his mistakes are firmly in the past.

One day on the job, Chris and his partner come across a temptation almost too big to resist. Chris does the right thing, but old habits and instincts rise to the surface, threatening his newfond stability with sudden treachery and violence. With his father and his most trusted friends, he takes one last chance to blast past the demons trying to pull him back.

Like Richard Price and William Kennedy, Pelecanos pushes his characters to the extremes, their redemption that much sweeter because it is so hard-won. Pelecanos has long been celebrated for his unerring ability to portray the conflicts men feel as they search and struggle for power and love in a world that is so often harsh and unforgiving but can ultimately be filled with beauty.

The Way Home draws you in quickly and deeply. I couldn't help but sympathize with and become invested in what happened to Chris Flynn and his friend Ben Braswell. Complex and flawed, Chris comes across so clearly and authentically. His regret, his uncertainty and his desire to change make Chris one of the most interesting characters that I've come across in a while. Unlike most of his fellow inmates in the juvenile detention center, Chris came from a supportive middle class family. Upon his release, his parents rallied around him and celebrated his return. They helped train him, find gainful employment and gave him the sense that his life can continue to improve. Part of Chris's sense of disquiet comes from the difference between himself and his fellow inmates. He recognizes that his good fortune and he tries to behave decently to those around him. Chris's best friend Ben had a very different background. Ben's mother had died young from a drug overdose and he'd been in various foster homes until he entered juvenile detention. But since having been released, working for Flynn's Floors with Chris, and with his love of reading, Ben had moved beyond the dark places of his past and "looked forward to learning something new each day."

The difficult and complicated relationship between Chris and his father Thomas Flynn of Flynn's Floors adds to the complexity and richness of the story. Carefully crafted with the numerous plot twists and unusual characters, The Way Home an unpredictable and satisfying read.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 12, 2009), 336 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
George Pelecanos is an independent-film producer, an essayist, the recipient of numerous international writing awards, a producer and an Emmy-nominated writer on the HBO series The Wire, and the author of a bestselling series of novels set in and around Washington D.C.

A huge thank you to Miriam and to Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver? Head to Karin's Book Nook to win a signed copy of Linger!

Karin's Book Nook is offering one lucky winner a signed copy of Linger, the sequel to Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater.

Just head over to Karin's Book Nook to sign up! Contest ends on Dec. 20.

Book Review of Bear Portraits by Jill Greenberg

At the bear minimum, I would have to say that this book is genius.
- Ashton Kutcher, actor/producer

This is not your father's book of bear photos.
- Seth MacFarlane, Actor, Comedian, creator of The Family Guy

Bear Portraits

Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by "wild animals." Bears were among my special favorites. But the images that I had of bears were from wild life shows - usually grizzlies catching fish with their paws or koola bears in trees, pandas surrounded by bamboo in a zoo or polar bears on ice - or from cartoons. Even the live bears that I'd peered at in zoos were some distance away. Jill Greenberg's Bear Portraits gives the unique opportunity to study bears' faces at close range.

In Bear Portraits, Jill Greenberg shares photos of 12 very different bears - a Polar Bear, a European Brown Bear, a Russian Brown Bear, several Kodiak Bears, a Grizzly Bear, a Black Bear. All these bears had been raised in captivity and learned to view their owners as their family. The bears were accustomed to people and filming. These deadly bears were able to sit, stand and growl silently on cue. The close shots and artificial lighting gives us a chance to see close up the different faces of these amazing bears.

These are the twelve bears that you'll meet in Jill Greenberg's Bear Portraits:
(1) Agee, a polar bear weighing 800 pounds at a height of 7 feet whose credits include Mystery, Alaska, and Out Cold;
(2) Ali Oop, a Kodiak Bear weighing 1,400 pounds at a height of over 8 feet whose credits include Grizzly Falls, Wild America, Dr. Doolittle 2, and The Last Trapper;
(3) Amos, a 4 month old European Brown Bear weighing 40 pounds and had been on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno;
(4) Barney, a Kodiak Bear weighing 1,000 pounds at a height of 7.5 feet whose credits include Anchorman, Grizzly Falls and Shoebox Zoo;
(5) Betty, a Kodiak Bear weighing 1,000 pounds at a height of 7 feet and whose credits include Dr. Doolittle 2 and Anchorman;
(6) Bonkers, a Black Bear weighing 600 pounds at a height of over 6 feet and whose credits include Brokeback Mountain, The Sopranos, Gentle Ben 1 & 2;
(7) Brett, a Black Bear cub, weighing 12 pounds at a height of 1 foot on all fours and 30 inches on his hind legs;
(8) Cheyenne, a Russian Brown Bear weighing 180 pounds at a height of 5 feet whose credits include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Ellen DeGeneres Show;
(9) Koda, a Grizzly Bear weighing 1,600 pounds at a height of 9 feet and whose credits included Grizzly Rage, Snow Dogs, Kevin of the North, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer;
(10) Max, a Black Bear weighing over 400 pounds at a height of six feet and whose credits include Tin Man, Dead Like Me, Dreamcatcher, and Animal Miracles;
(11) Ursula, a Kodiak Bear weighing 850 pounds at a height of 7 feet and whose credits include Anchorman, True Heart, Grizzly Falls, Wild America; and
(12) Whopper, a Kodiak Bear, weighing 1,000 pounds at a height of 7 feet and whose credits include Air Bud 2, Grizzly Falls, Anchorman, Return to Grizzly Mountain and The Last Trapper.

Bear Portraits is a fascinating book of photographs that will surely bring much enjoyment to children and adults alike.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (November 3, 2009), 104 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Jill Greenberg regularly shoots advertising and celebrity portrait photography for such clients as Dreamworks, Sony Pictures, Epson, Entertainment Weekly, and GQ. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Her photographs of monkeys, dogs, lemurs, and -of course - bears were the face of a large-scale Animal Planet ad campaign featured on television and billboards and in New York City subway cars. Jill resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Robert, and two children.

A big thanks to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Barnes & Noble January First Look Book Club just opened!

The January book selection is Joseph Monninger's Eternal on the Water. Here's the book's description, courtesy of Barnes & Noble.

When Jonathan Cobb takes a sabbatical from teaching to go out and experience nature as Thoreau did in the early 19th century, he does not expect to meet the love of his life, any more than Mary expects to meet him. But from their first camp side meeting, they know they are soul mates.

Set against the sweeping natural backdrops of Maine's rugged backcountry, the exotic islands of Indonesia, Yellowstone National Park, and rural New England, nature plays a key role in their romance. But their story is tragic as well as inspiring as their perfect love falls beneath the shadow of her impending fatal illness, and he must help her make an important and difficult decision.

About the Author

Joseph Monninger has published several award-winning YA novels and three books of nonfiction, including the memoir Home Waters, and has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. He lives and teaches in New Hampshire, where he also runs a dog sled team.

Sign up for the January FL selection at Barnes & Noble at

Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review of Jane Mansell's Perfect Timing

"The thing about going out on your hen night, Poppy Dunbar couldn't help noticing, was that nobody-but nobody-bothered to chat you up." So opens, Jill Mansell's newest novel, Perfect Timing.

Perfect Timing
If you haven't read one of Jill Mansell's books before, you're in for a treat! Perfect Timing is a book that you'll want to read straight through. The characters are delightful, even the scheming ones.

You'll meet Poppy Dunbar who on her hen night gets into an accident and meets Tom, the charming stranger who literally sweeps her off her feet. Then he says those words, "Is this seriously bad timing or what? I wish you weren't getting married tomorrow. I'm sorry know, just now. I shouldn't have said it."

Poppy calls off the wedding and learns a long kept family secret. To avoid her angry "almost in-laws," Poppy packs her bags and heads to London where she can start over, search for her biological father, and possibly reunite with Tom.

Along the way, Poppy comes across Caspar French, the gorgeous, talented, and slightly irresponsible painter, and his roommate Claudia. Claudia, constantly unlucky in love, is the slightly chubby and dissatisfied daughter of two glamorous movie stars. The last thing that Claudia wants is to room with the cheeky, cheery, and beautiful Poppy. But Caspar, Claudia, and Poppy all come together.

Perfect Timing has just the right mix of interesting and likable characters, romantic leads, crazy plot twists, and satisfying moments. I thoroughly enjoyed Perfect Timing and am looking forward to my next Jill Mansell fix!

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark; Reissue edition (November 1, 2009), 448 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of her website:
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol and writes full time. Actually, it's not true; she watches TV, eats gum drops, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the Internet marveling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she's completely run out of ways to procrastinate does she write. Learn more on Jill Mansell's website at

Thank you so much to Danielle and SourceBooks for this review opportunity!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blog Tour of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence-and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence - and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg

In June 1977, we drove to Noah's Ark, a pet store near O'Hare Airport in Chicago to pick out my own Grey parrot. I had been in touch with the bird department director of Noah's Ark several times in the previous few months, and knew they had been bred in captivity...The bird director greeted us and showed us where the Greys were, a big cage with eight birds, all about a year old. "Which one would you like?" he said, looking at me.

I shrugged, because I didn't know how to choose. In any case, I reasoned that because I was embarking on a scientific study that should reflect the cognitive abilities of Greys in general, I thought it best to have one chosen at random. "Why don't you select one for me?" I said.

"OK," he replied, and picked up a net, opened the cage door, and scooped up the most convenient bird he could reach. He flipped the bird on its back on a table, clipped its wings, claws, and beak, and popped it into a small box. Very unceremonious."
-Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence - and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process
by Irene M. Pepperberg

So begins the 30 year friendship and professional relationship that changes Irene Pepperberg's life and the world's understanding of the cognitive and communication abilities of birds (and by association non-mammals).

In Alex & Me, Irene Pepperberg reads as part memoir and part a glimpse into her research. Irene shares what it was like for her from when she receives her first pet at four-years old, and bonds with a bird to her experience as one of the first young women in the hard sciences at MIT and Harvard in the 1960s and 1970s. Although Irene obtained her doctorate was in theoretical chemistry, she discovered and was drawn to the study of animal minds, animal thinking, and communication. While at Harvard, Irene fell in love and married a fellow graduate student. When her husband was offered a teaching position at Purdue, Irene accompanied him and tried to find financial and professional support for her research into the cognitive and communication skills of Grey parrots.

She had no inkling of how much Alex and their work together experience would shape the next thirty years of her life and how they would change the world's understanding of the complexity and ability of a "bird's brain."

The story of Alex & Me is also a story of deep friendship and the amazing bird that is Alex. I had no understanding of how much a bird could understand or process, but reading about Irene and her colleagues' experiences with Alex and the other Grey parrots makes you realize how amazing animals are. Alex and his colleagues are socialized and deal with people for hours each day and form close personal bonds and make themselves understood. I can't help but wonder about the other animals around us that must be able to comprehend much more than we'd given them credit for.

Alex & Me is an amazing and touching book and the stories of both Irene Pepperberg and Alex will surely stay in your thoughts long after you've finished the book.

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Irene M. Pepperberg is an associate research professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and teaches animal cognition at Harvard University. Her work has been featured in many major newspapers and magazines in the United States, Europe, and Asia, as well as on television, including the now famous interview of Alex by Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers. She is head of the Alex Foundation and author of The Alex Studies: Cognitive Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots.

Learn more about Alex, Irene Pepperberg, and The Alex Foundation at

Listen to an Alex & Me audio clip at

Thank you so much to Trish and TLC Book Tours for this review opportunity!