It's that time of year again!  RIP VIII begins on Sunday!

In its 8th run, Readers Imbibing Peril is a 2 month reading experience hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings.

RIP VIII is a fun and chilling challenge that runs from Sept 1 - Oct 31st. There are multiple levels to participate, as well as movie and short story options. There are also read-a-longs during RIP VIII too! Head over to the sign-up post to read all about it and join in the fun. Laid back and spectacularly spooky, this is one challenge I get excited about EVERY year! So... won't you join us?

This year I will be (once again) joining multiple levels of RIPVIII.

Peril of the first is a challenge to read 4 or more books during RIP VIII
My stack is still growing, but so far I plan on reading:
- The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling
- The Troop by Nick Cutter
- Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

Exactly what it says: read a short story!
I don't have one picked out yet, but I will likely read an anthology

Scary movies! My favorites!!
I have no clue what I will review here, but I'm sure there will be plenty.

Ah, the read-a-long.
I will be joining in with the Estella Society on their RIPVIII RAL of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava

Can't wait to get spooked!
See you all soon!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

The Panopticon

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan is a haunting tale that is a true psychological roller coaster ride. I was impressed with this debut novel, and am sure you will be too. It is simply fascinating.

About the book:
Hogarth // July 2013
As the novel opens, we meet Anais Hendricks, a few months shy of her sixteenth birthday.  Anais sits in the back of a police car in Midlothian, Scotland, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can’t remember the events that led her there, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais’s school uniform.

Put in foster care at birth, Anais was moved through twenty-three placements before the age of seven.  Along the way, she endured unspeakable hardships and abuse, and has been let down, or worse, by almost every adult she encounters. And yet, despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, Anais greets the world with a witty, blunt, and endlessly entertaining voice.  In the Panopticon, Anais fears that the system that has turned its back on her will beat her down and ultimately break her spirit.  Yet, she also finds in the other residents an ad hoc family—Isla, Shona, Tash, and Dylan—and begins to make her first halting steps toward friendships, taking charge of her own fate and discovering the depth of her own strength.

My thoughts:
This novel is a stunning debut. It is at once both twisted and beautiful. Fagan opens the novel with an immediate hook- a question of innocence. As noted above, the story begins when Anais awakes covered in blood and a policewoman in a coma. The hook quickly sucked me in- who is this girl who has been bounced around the system her entire young life and why exactly is she covered in blood? As the story moves along, we find out bits and pieces about her history. Fagan did a great job balancing just enough information to keep the reader intrigued, but not so much that all your questions are resolved.
The backdrop of this story is the Panopticon, which Fagan explains as the story unfolds. The Panopticon was vivid in my imagination thanks to Fagan's storytelling. Her descriptions of the setting were spot on- before I looked for an image of a Panopticon, I had a fully formed idea in my head, and it was exactly like the images I found. Aside from the images that Fagan so vividly painted, I was deeply haunted by this novel. Anais is a troubled girl who spent all of her years in foster care, jumping from home to home to institutions. As many of you are aware, I work with at-risk teens for a living at a residential care program (meaning they live away from family while in our care). I have seen the damage first hand. Anais brought forth some of my most troubling cases in my years of working with at-risk youth. I wanted to reach through the book and help her.
Fagan created a complex and intriguing character out of Anais. She also created a really interesting minor characters out of her friends and her case workers. I was quite amazed at the diversity I found in the characters as I read on in the story. Aside from beautiful character development and a stunning setting, Fagan dreamed up a masterful plot. It was thrilling and appalling. Dark. It touched on the inner beast in all of us, while simultaneously igniting hope.
This is not a book for the faint of heart, but it is, deep down, ultimately a story of survival. Beautifully crafted, this is a story that I will certainly revisit again.

About the author:
Jenni Fagan was born in Livingston, Scotland. She graduated from Greenwich University and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Arts Council England, Dewar Arts and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize.  She is currently the new Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University. The Panopticon is her first novel.

About Panopticon's:

What exactly is a Panopticon, you ask? Well, according to Wikipedia, it is a prison (or other institution) designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The idea is that all inmates are observable at all times, but they are unable to actually distinguish between when they are and when they are not being watched. For more information, check out this Wiki. It really is quite fascinating. These two images are also from the Wiki site, both depict the prison Presidio Modelo in Cuba (images are from 2005). The first is the outside of the structure, and the second in the interior- showing the watchtower quite plainly.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Author information, book summary, and cover image provided by publisher website.
Information and images relating to the origin of Panoptican's from Wikipedia


The Bookstore

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

About the book:
Gallery Books // August 2013
Brilliant, idealistic Esme Garland moves to Manhattan armed with a prestigious scholarship at Columbia University. When Mitchell van Leuven— a New Yorker with the bluest of blue New York blood—captures her heart with his stunning good looks and a penchant for all things erotic, life seems truly glorious . . . until a thin blue line signals a wrinkle in Esme’s tidy plan. Before she has a chance to tell Mitchell about her pregnancy, he suddenly declares their sex life is as exciting as a cup of tea, and ends it all.
Determined to master everything from Degas to diapers, Esme starts work at a small West Side bookstore, finding solace in George, the laconic owner addicted to spirulina, and Luke, the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. The oddball customers are a welcome relief from Columbia’s high-pressure halls, but the store is struggling to survive in this city where nothing seems to last.
When Mitchell recants his criticism, his passion and promises are hard to resist. But if Esme gives him a second chance, will she, like her beloved book­store, lose more than she can handle? A sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giving up on your dreams, The Bookstore is sheer enchantment from start to finish.

My thoughts:
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler was one of those books that I didn't fall in love with from the get-go, but did enjoy once I plugged along. What I did love from the get-go was Esme. Meyler created a dynamic and intriguing character quite quickly. I was impressed with the depth I found within Esme (and equally impressed with the lack thereof in Mitchell). Once The Owl was introduced as Esme's refuge, I was instantly hooked. That was when the story took off for me.
Meyler created quite the cast of characters within The Owl. She created a bookstore that I would love to visit- I could picture myself as a regular there. Meyler also did something that I haven't experienced before in a novel: she gave vibrancy and life to people that are often overlooked- both in writing and in real life. The homeless men of NYC are often depicted as scary - Meyler pulled back the cover and introduced beautiful humans instead of the typical fear tactic that is so prevalent in books featuring the City. I appauld her for that!
I also liked the story overall, once I got through the very beginning. I think that it was charming and endearing. The story was a great coming of age tale, and one of those books that I think all early to mid twenty-somethings should read. This is a book that I wish I had read just a few years earlier- if only it had been written then! I do feel some of it was predictable, as far as "chick lit" goes, however the characters and the bookstore more than made up for it. If you're looking for a classic New York City twenty-something coming of age chick-lit, this is the one for you!

About the author:
Deborah Meyler was born in Manchester, read English at Oxford University, and completed a Master of Philosophy thesis on American fiction at St. Andrews University. She eventually moved to New York, where she worked in a bookshop for six years, sold paintings, and had three children. She now lives in Cambridge and is working on her next novel.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received an egalley of The Bookstore from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review
Book and author information provided by publisher


Candy & the Cankersaur

Candy and the Cankersaur by Jason Sandberg - a team review with my favorite 7 year old, Madeline.

About the book:
Candy and the Cankersaur is one of author Jason Sandberg's "lost tales".... it is a story that he wished he heard as a kid. This children's book features a dinosaur named Cank, who comes into Candy's life- but oh no!.. Candy's neighbor is a bit of a bully and gets jealous. What will his act of jealously be? Will Cank be alright?

My thoughts:
I adored this book! It was quite cute and fun to read. Candy is a sweet little character that hints at having a Daddy that works just too much. Soon, Cank enters her life and she has fun teaching new tricks to her dino pal. Too bad her neighbor, Chucky, isn't kind and sabotages Candy and Cank's happiness!
Sandberg did a good job developing Candy and Chucky in a short amount of time. He laid the foundation for trouble right away. He also planted the seeds to discuss busy parents by introducing Candy's dad.
The moral of the story is excellent and something SO incredibly necessary for kids these days. Chucky is always competing and can't ever be happy for Candy. The theme of jealous and comparing yourself to others is quickly and soundly developed. I think it would behoove many parents to read this with their kids and discuss those themes... it touches on the materialistic view of society.
I definitely recommend this one!

Maddie's thoughts:
I loved it! The pictures were really cool and I liked the dinosaur. It makes me want to get a dinosaur. My favorite part was when Candy got Cank and played games with him. If I had a dinosaur I would play games and feed it, but I would take out its teeth first so they were sharp and cutting things like Candy's.
Did you notice the cartoon that Chucky watched? It was like Curisous George, but not Curious George. I don't like Chucky very much because he is mean to Candy and steals her pet. It was good they made up. I think that all kids would like this, mostly girls. Probably kids who are like my age, 7... so maybe 5 to 9? It was good.

Madeline read this while driving home from a wedding out of town. She quickly was engaged in the story and read the whole thing without pause. She was quite animated while discussing what she liked about the book and pulled that "5 to 9" age group of out who knows where- but it is totally spot on! Madeline is an advanced reader for her age group and read this story without a problem.

About the author:
Jason Sandberg is a fine artist who is producing the "missing books" from him childhood.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review
Image and author information provided by the author


Read-a-thon Goals!

Jenna's Bout of Books 8.0 Goals:
Reading & Participating
I will be reading / participating the entire week... and the first half will be exclusively via smartphone as I will be on vacation and without my laptop.
My Goals
My main goal is to get to books that I have been dying to read but have unfortunately been collecting dust on my tbr stack.
I also hope to write up some my reviews (including Maddie's thoughts) of Candy & the Cankersaur and Star Wars: Jedi Academy
I want to whittle down my egalleys and get my reviews posted for those.
Books to Read
The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling
Miscellaneous egalleys to be determined
MONDAY 8.19.13
• Read for about 6 hours on & off while out on the boat in the Atlantic
• Read 87% of "The Bookstore"
》》》》 By the way: anyone know how to get a true page count- matching the paper book- on a Kindle instead of % or huge obnoxious numbers?
• Participated in both mini challenges
TUESDAY 8.20.13
• Read 2hrs when I woke up
• Finished "The Bookstore"
• Read 30mins before dinner
• Started "The Panopticon" (30/282)
• Read 4hrs on & off while on the boat
• Browsed a lot of book spine poetry
• Struggled to focus today
THURSDAY 8.22.13
• Read approximately 3hrs in the car during our drive home from Boston
• Finished "The Panopticon"
• Started "Divergent"
• Completed all arc / review copy notes and info
FRIDAY 8.23.13
• Read most of the morning and early afternoon, then again after putting Madeline to bed
• Finished "Divergent"
SATURDAY 8.24.13
• Posted 1 review
• Completed 1 mini challenge
• Read a few hours in bed
• Started "Insurgent"
SUNDAY 8.25.13
• Read for 2hrs
• Read some of "Insurgent"


Well, I had a fabulous time with Bout of Books 8.0! I love this week long read-a-thon and always enjoy myself. Being on vacation for a lot of this, I didn't get to interact with other bloggers as much as I had intended. I am thankful though that the links all stay up so I can catch up with others later on. I didn't meet my book goal- but did get a fair amount of reading done. I finished 3 books (and got more than halfway through my 4th) and posted 1 review.
I'm satisfied with my reading and can't wait for the next round of Bout of Books!

Bout of Books 8.0

Summer is winding down and it is time for that last big summer reading push! That also means it is time for a summer Bout of Books!

I love Bout of Books and am super excited to join up fot 8.0! This is a really fun week long reading venture. You can sign up and read all about it here: Bout of Books 8.0 Sign Up & Info

I will be spending a chunk of my time out in Boston with our good friends Pete & Leny.... that means a lot of reading on the boat while the guys fish... it also (may) mean limited internet access- not sure how good att 4g is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! Either way, I'll be checking in as often as possible and doing so exclusively via my phone (for the first time ever).

Do hope you'll join in the fun!


Frenchie Garcia

When was the last time you picked up a book and didn't put it back down until you were done? For me it was Tuesday. I have had Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia for a bit now... it is a gorgeous cover and has been screaming at me from my TBR pile. I picked it up Tuesday after work and didn't set it down until I had completely devoured the book.

About the book:
Running Press Books / May 2013
Frenchie Garcia can't come to grips with the death of Andy Cooper. Her friends didn't know she had a crush him. And they don’t know she was the last person with him before he committed suicide. But Frenchie’s biggest concern is how she blindly helped him die that night. Frenchie’s already insane obsession with death and Emily Dickinson won’t help her understand the role she played during Andy’s “one night of adventure.” But when she meets Colin, she may have found the perfect opportunity to recreate that night. While exploring the emotional depth of loss and transition to adulthood, Sanchez’s sharp humor and clever observations bring forth a richly developed voice.

My thoughts:
My immediate reaction to this book was "holy shit I am in love!" (yea yea, sorry for dropping a curse word). Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia is a beautifully written young adult novel. Filled with philosophical questions and deep emotion, this novel was a stunner. I had anticipated that I would enjoy the book and would recommend it to my students- I didn't anticipate charging through all 272 pages in one evening. Jenny Torres Sanchez did a marvelous job creating deep characters with rushing emotions. Frenchie is a character that I think a lot of teens can relate to - especially those who lean towards the macabre. I certainly saw a bit of my (teenage) self in her.. that teenage angst that always rears its ugly (but necessary) head. The set up for the story is all there too- a good amount of build up to the story of Andy and his death, as well as Frenchie exposing herself to the reader. Sanchez also weaved the beautiful and desperate Emily Dickinson into this story, giving it yet another layer.
Love, loss, life, death, growing up... it is all packed into this novel- and it gives a mighty punch. The philosophical questioning that arises throughout is incredible. I felt myself nodding in agreement and praising Frenchie's wisdom as I read the story.
This young adult novel is a transitional tale - one that will help teens who are struggling to find their footing in this mad mad world. It will help kids dealing with death and loss. The cast of characters can help kids navigate through those muddy times of change within their lives. As Frenchie shares her story of that fateful night with Andy, it can shed light for those struggling with their own depression or that of a loved one.
This novel is incredible. I loved every minute of it and have already sung its praises to my colleagues and students. I would highly recommend this novel. Seriously- stop reading this post and go get yourself a copy.

About the author:
Jenny Torres Sanchez lives in Florida with her husband and children where she currently writes full time. Before her debut novel The Downside of Being Charlie she taught high school for several years, where she credits her eclectic students for inspiring her to write young adult novels.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review
Book information provided by Running Press Books
Author information provided by Amazon.com


Winter at Death's Hotel

Winter at Death's Hotel by Kenneth Cameron was pitched as a book to "get through the long summer hiatus" when Sherlock and Elementary are on their breaks. True to their word, Sourcebooks and Cameron deliver with this mystery novel.

About the book
Sourcebooks // 8.6.13
In January 1896, Conan Doyle arrives at the Britannic Hotel in New York with Louisa, ready to begin his first American tour. When a woman's brutally butchered corpse is found in a Bowery alley, Louisa is convinced from the artist's sketch in the paper that she'd seen the victim at the hotel.
When Louisa sprains her ankle and is forced to remain at the hotel while her husband goes on tour, she cannot resist pursuing her intuitions. And when more bodies start appearing, she's convinced that she holds the key to solving the killings.

My thoughts
I don't read a lot of mysteries anymore- I used to be all about a good mystery and would read them like they were going out of style. Somewhere along the line, I just stopped picking them up. Winter at Death's Hotel was a book that made me question why I ever stopped devouring mysteries.
When Winter at Death's Hotel came across my mailbox, I was skeptical at first. I read some Sherlock Holmes forever ago (and don't remember it much, honestly) and have watched both Elementary and Sherlock on and off. I have not been faithful to Holmes and worried I would struggle to be faithful to this book. How wrong I was!
Winter at Death's Hotel is set in the winter of 1896 in New York City. The beginning lays the setting and sets the characters in motion. As much as I love a deep background, it did get a bit heavy handed. The big surprise in this novel is that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is not the shinning star - instead it is his wife, Louisa, who takes the spotlight. Cameron did a beautiful job describing her character. It was marvelous to read about MRS. Doyle instead! Not only did Cameron lay out her character, but he also did a remarkable job writing for the time period. The language and treatment of women stuck out as I read this. It was disheartening, because I know that it is all brutally honest. Women were second class then- even if you were the wife of a famous author.
The scene is set and soon Arthur is on his way lecturing across America while Louisa is stuck in a hotel with not very much to do. This is when the novel really picks up. We've heard about this Bowery Butcher that kills women and is on the loose in the City. As you read on, you realize that Louisa is suddenly fully immersed in the killings. How exactly, did she get so tangled in this web of murder? Before you know it, Louisa is a full time sleuth on the case. All of Arthur's writing have rubbed off and she is ready to solve the mystery of the Bowery Butcher.
This novel is a fabulous mystery. I was on the edge of my seat, especially after I worked my way through the early chapters. It got off to a slow start for me, but then it took off like a jet. Suddenly, I couldn't put it down and all I could do was work over the details in my head to try and solve the mystery before Louisa (which I failed at doing, by the way). The conclusion was a thrilling ride! I was excited to learn the truth, and it made mulling the entire novel over quite interesting. The ending let the book open to another in the series, and I cannot wait.
This book is a definite must-read for fans of Holmes and fans of murder mysteries. I think this would also be a fun novel for anyone interested in the time period- Cameron did a spectacular job putting the reader right there in 1896.
Readers do need to be aware that this book does contain some racy language and some disturbing descriptions. If you have a weak stomach, some of the murder details may make you cringe.

About the author
Kenneth Cameron is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, and the author/coauthor of more than thirty books, including the Denton crime novel series, historical novels, novels of espionage, plays staged in Britain and the U.S., and the award-winning Africa on Film: Beyond Black and White. Together with his son, Christian Cameron, he wrote a series of military thrillers published under the name Gordon Kent. He lives part of the year in northern New York and part in coastal North Carolina.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Book and author information provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks.
Image from Amazon.com



Summer has been busy. I always seem to forget that teaching Summer School is incredibly exhausting. Blogging has not been as involved for me lately... seems like the fun part is missing, and right now I'm just posting reviews. I only have 2 more weeks of summer school before our break (ahhh 2 weeks of freedom!) and I plan to get back on track then... join back up with a few memes and get back to spending time visiting blogs and enjoying the networking involved. I've missed that part, but it just has not worked with my summer schedule.. I've barely had time to read, let alone blog. Hope you are all doing well, I miss you!

Ps: I'm getting the Samsung Galaxy 4.. any good blog apps / tips for Android?? I'd love to keep blogging closer- that seems to be the struggle (I just don't want to drag out the laptop!)

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


100 Ghosts

100 Ghosts: A Gallery of Harmless Haunts by Doogie Horner was not exactly what I was expecting when it came across my doorstep.  It may not have been what I expected, but it certainly exceeded expectations when I opened it and began reading.

This adorable little gem needs to be on every bookshelf- children and adults alike!

About the book:
Quirk Books // 9.10.13
Cut two eye holes into a bed sheet and BOO! You’ve got yourself a classic Halloween icon. But what happens if you tie the bed sheet in knots? What happens when you set it on fire, hang it from a clothesline, or put a llama underneath it? 100 Ghosts is a brilliantly simple artistic exploration of an icon as familiar as a grinning jack-o-lantern or an arched black cat. It’s a delightful gift for adults, kids, and anyone who enjoys spooky design.

My thoughts:
100 Ghosts is such a fun, imaginative, and playful book. It is (literally) filled with 100 ghosts of various designs. Through simple drawings, Horner brings out the humorous side of ghosts. Each page contains a cute rendition of a ghost:

There are some VERY funny ghosts within these pages. Madeline was with us when I got this in the mail so we enjoyed reading it together... she thought it was a riot! At 7, she loved that she "got it". Only a few needed explaining. This book was read aloud and enjoyed by all three of us. Bear and I were snickering and Maddie was in full-on giggle-fit mode.
100 Ghosts was simply a pleasure to read. I absolutely think everyone of all ages needs to read this. It will take a moment but will stick with you because who doesn't want a few silly ghost jokes in their back pocket come All Hallows Eve? This could also be a great book to read to a child who is still experiencing "monsters under the bed" - I could easily see a parent reading this and getting giggles instead of fears!
In addition to just being a sweet and fun read, I plan to use this with class come October. I don't want to give it all away, but it will involve a writing assignment based on a ghost of their choice. I'm excited!

About the author:

DOOGIE HORNER is a writer, designer, and stand-up comedian. He is the author of Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (Harper Collins, 2010). His writings and illustrations have been featured in McSweeney’s, Boing Boing, Wired, Fast Company, and other publications. He lives in Philadelphia. You can visit him online at doogiehorner.com

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

FTC: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review