The New England Mobile Book Fair

The New England Mobile Book Fair
On Labor Day I happened upon a curious tweet from Marie of Boston Bibliophile pertaining to her excitement over the fact that the New England Mobile Book Fair would be open normal hours. Any time I see the word “book” a little happy leap happens in my heart, but I honestly had no idea what she was referring to. Was this some sort of gigantic version of a roving Scholastic-style tent sale? A quick google search later and I discovered that the New England Mobile Book Fair was not in fact a band of gypsies selling best sellers, but actually a bricks and mortar store in Newton Highlands that sold cheap books.

The New England Mobile Book Fair
I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to paw through a huge warehouse of novels so I sent a text to my friend Anna, rounded up CK and off we went on a little literary adventure.

The New England Mobile Book Fair

Now the New England Mobile Book Fair does sell new titles of books but what truly excited me was their overwhelming selection of extremely low priced remainder copies. I spent almost the entire time in the Young Adult section and came away with several books that I have always meant to buy or pick up at the library but never quite managed to. The best part though was that the books ranged in price from only $1.98 for paperbacks to $4.99 for hardcover titles. It may be a bit dusty and the aisles are close together but I can’t imagine any of these thing will deter you once you begin filling your shopping bag.

The New England Mobile Book Fair

Here’s the list of treasures that I picked up:
Sorceress by Celia Rees
From the Publisher:
A Native American teen experiences a life-altering encounter after reading about Mary Newbury the 17th-century protagonist of Witch Child who may be connected with one of her own relatives.
Finishing Becca by Ann Rinaldi
From the Publisher:
Becca Syng, 14, becomes Peggy Shippen’s maid and enters another world. For over a year, she assists Peggy in her revelry, culminating in her mistress’s marriage to General Benedict Arnold. Like the Arnolds, Becca is faced with decisions about loyalty: to her country, to her family and, above all, to herself.
A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi
From the Publisher:
Boredom and frustration in a small Puritan town provide fertile ground for a band of teenage girls to incite and nurture deadly mischief. Susannah English, caught between the desire to be a part of the group and her revulsion toward their wickedness, finds herself an unwilling party to what would become the Salem witch trials.
The House on Hound Hill by Maggie Prince
From the Publisher:
After her parents’ divorce, Emily, her brother and mother move to a ramshackle but historic row house on Hound Hill. Emily’s peculiar visions begin when an oddly dressed, strangely formal boy named Seth comes to Emily’s door, searching for his cat, and gives his address as her own. As Emily hears clanging bells at night, smells bitter tallow candles, meets crowds of beggars and confronts a supposedly extinct black rat in her chimney, she finally realizes that she can perceive the events of another time and even visit 1665.
The River Between Us by Richard Peck
From the Publisher:
The year is 1861. Civil war is imminent and Tilly Pruitt’s brother, Noah, is eager to go and fight on the side of the North. With her father long gone, Tilly, her sister, and their mother struggle to make ends meet and hold the dwindling Pruitt family together. Then one night a mysterious girl arrives on a steamboat bound for St. Louis. Delphine is unlike anyone the small river town has even seen. Mrs. Pruitt agrees to take Delphine and her dark, silent traveling companion in as boarders. No one in town knows what to make of the two strangers, and so the rumors fly. Is Delphine’s companion a slave? Could they be spies for the South? Are the Pruitts traitors? A masterful tale of mystery and war, and a breathtaking portrait of the lifelong impact one person can have on another.

The New England Mobile Book Fair

My Life in Books

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Using only books you have read this year (2009), cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.

part1

Describe Yourself: Confessions of a Shopaholic
How do you feel: Fatally Flaky
Describe where you currently live: Behind the Attic Wall
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: One Fifth Avenue

part2

Your favorite form of transport: The Rapture
Your best friend is: Catherine, Called Birdy
You and your friends are: The Book Thief
What’s the weather like: Wintergirls

part3

Favorite time of day: That Old Cape Magic
If your life was a: Shelf Discovery
What is life to you: Tender Morsels
Your fear: The Hunger Games

part4

What is the best advice you have to give: Lock and Key
Thought for the Day: Too Many Cooks
How I would like to die: I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti
My soul’s present condition: Before Green Gables

(Meme via Boston Bibliophile).

Top 5 YA Titles I Just Can’t Wait To Read

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splendorSplendor: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen
From the publisher: It’s a new year, and Manhattan’s favorite socialites are stirring up brand-new drama: Elizabeth uncovers a dangerous secret from her past; Diana has an opportunity to follow her heart—and claim her future, Lina discovers money can buy happiness…for a time, and Penelope finds that life without Henry brings unexpected pleasures. In this dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, old ties are broken, fresh bonds are formed, and every decision comes at a cost.
My thoughts: I may seriously cry. I can’t believe this is the final book in the series. Why can’t it go on forever? Who could seriously get sick of catty girls clad in silk and taffeta ball gowns having battles of whit while wielding calling cards?

viola_in_reelViola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani
From the publisher: Shipped off to boarding school in South Bend, Indiana, city girl and aspiring filmmaker Viola Chesterton feels out of place with her three new roommates. Missing her life back home, Viola is tempted to hide behind her video camera all year. But first impressions are often wrong, and soon Viola realizes she’s in for the most incredible year of her life—if only she can put the camera down and let the world in.
My thoughts: I always wished I could have gone to boarding school. Now I like to read about it vicariously. I also wish I could be creative enough to edit videos in lovely and unique ways but so far I just stumble around in iMovie adding titles and silly captions to the shaky iPhone shot adventures of my kittens.

dream_girlDream Life by Lauren Mechling
From the publisher: Claire Voyante’s first semester at Henry Hudson High School was eventful, to say the least. As she heads into her second semester, things are calming down a bit. But Claire has a few secrets that are getting harder to keep. Her biggest secret of all? The onyx and ivory cameo necklace her grandmother gave her for her 15th birthday. Ever since she started wearing it, her dreams have been coming to her in black and white and turning out to be oddly prophetic. Becca’s been hanging out with her old prep school friends and never seems to have time for Claire anymore. And soon, Claire discovers why—there’s a secret group of society girls with a mysterious identity. And, turns out, a mysterious enemy who’s out to get them. The second she sniffs out trouble, Claire jumps on the case. But is it someone close to Claire who’s in danger again—or could it be Claire herself whose life is at stake?
My thoughts: The first book in this series was one of my favorite finds last year. It’s just exquisite and I simply adore the heroine. If I could go back and relive my teen years I think I would want to do so as this percocious young sleuth.

derby_girlWhip It aka Derby Girl by Shauna Cross
From the publisher: Meet Bliss Cavendar, a blue haired, indie-rock loving misfit stuck in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas. Her pageant-addicted mother expects her to compete for the coveted Miss Blue Bonnet crown, but Bliss would rather feast on roaches than be subjected to such rhinestone tyranny. Bliss’ escape? Take up Roller Derby. When she discovers a league in nearby Austin, Bliss embarks on an epic journey full of hilarious tattooed girls, delicious boys in bands, and a few not-so-awesome realities even the most bad-assed derby chick has to learn.
My thoughts: All I have to say is Roller Derby: Yes, Please! Plus, everyone knows you should read the book before seeing the movie.

ex-masEx-Mas by Kate Brian
From the publisher: Seventeen-year-old Lila Beckwith has just about everything you can wish for, except her annoying younger brother Cooper. When Lila’s parents announce they’ll be going out of town, Cooper snitches about her plan to throw a party. In retaliation, Lila hands Cooper the newspaper declaring that global warming is melting the North Pole. Cooper firmly believes in Santa Claus, and this is a crushing blow. After her parents leave, putting the neighbors on high watch, Lila goes to pick up Cooper at his best friend Becky’s house. Becky’s brother happens to be Beau, Lila’s ex-boyfriend. When Lila arrives she and Beau discover Becky and Cooper are missing; they find Google maps, the article, and other clues. Their siblings are on an adventure to save Santa. Even though they can’t stand the sight of each other, Lila and Beau know what they have to do: work together to get Becky and Cooper home safely, by Christmas.
My thoughts: I have a soft spot for anything having to do with Christmas since I am the self-appointed “Christmas Queen.” This book sounds like it would make a lovely ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas holiday movie adaptation, don’t you think?

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer WeinerI can’t quite figure out why Jennifer Weiner’s newest book, Best Friends Forever, has such an uninspiring title. In spite of this rather insignificant shortcoming (that is honestly more than made up for by the gorgeous cover art) I can absolutely recommend this tremendous chick-lit novel to you without any reservations at all. To me Jennifer Weiner is the queen of escapist novels. Her stories are filled with endearing and memorable protagonists that get into and out of bizarre shenanigans in ways that seem truly plausible. Her ability to weave such well-rounded and likable female characters is a true gift, and I enjoy nothing more then to curl up beach-side or pool-side with a brand new copy of her latest novel and drift away. Unfortunately this means that my Weiner books are almost always splattered with a mixture of water, sand, and sunscreen, but it’s a small price to pay for a light summer afternoon read that leaves you feeling truly happy and satisfied.

Best Friends Forever examines the relationship and subsequent break-up between childhood friends Addie Downs and Valerie Adler. Addie and Valerie are polar opposites. Whereas Addie is shy, cautious, and prone to weight issues, Valerie is outgoing, curious, and eventually blossoms into a blonde bombshell. Unfortunately the cliques and pettiness of high school lead to a betrayal of trust and Addie and Valerie end their friendship.

Then on the evening of their fifteen year class reunion Valerie appears on Addie’s doorstep with blood on her coat and the two women are thrust into an amusing Thelma and Louise like road trip where deep pains from their respective pasts are revealed.

One of my favorite portions of the novel involved a childhood trip to Cape Cod that the girls take with Valerie’s crazy mother. Jennifer Weiner’s decadent description of traditional beach food found on The Cape made my mouth simply water:

There was corn on the cob and clam chowder and red plastic net bags filled with gray clams that Val and her mother called steamers. There was coleslaw and French fries and a tangled mound of thin, crispy onion rings, tall plastic cups brimming with ice and soda, and little plastic dishes filled with melted butter. A dozen oysters lolled slick in their shells on a bed of crushed ice, and two gigantic lobsters sprawled over oval-shaped plates, leaking steaming pale-pink water.

See what I mean? I would kill for some clams right now. Absolutely kill! So if you have a little vacation time left this summer and you’re looking for that perfect book to bring along I’d suggest that you promptly pick up a copy of Best Friends Forever and stash it in your overnight bag immediately.

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the FloodLike many of you the first novel of Margaret Atwood’s that I read was The Handmaid’s Tale. I remember feeling utterly bewildered by it at the time. Truth be told it was probably a bit over my head. In Junior High I went into adult novel high gear and routinely devoured anything that didn’t involve girls my own age. A dystopian world of women forced to become surrogates for wealthy and well placed couples was quite a departure from my usual diet of V.C. Andrews and Jude Deveraux but because I found the book on my Aunt Beth’s bookshelf I simply had to read it.

Years later though I appreciate Margaret Atwood’s novels thoroughly. From Alias Grace to The Robber Bride each story is beautifully developed and seems to always stay with me in a haunting manner. This was doubly true for the apocalypse fueled Oryx and Crake. Interestingly enough Atwood chose to revisit the world she created in this novel in her latest work, The Year of the Flood. Whereas Oryx and Crake was told from the perspective of two men, The Year of the Flood is told from the viewpoint of two women: Toby and Ren.

At the opening of the novel a virus has decimated humanity. Toby has sealed herself inside the luxury spa she managed where thankfully many of the treatments she used on clients are edible. Ren, a trapeze artist, is trapped inside the high-end sex club that she danced at. Food is running low and both women wonder if anyone besides themselves have survived the unnatural element that has wiped out society. A disaster that was vocally predicted by Adam One the leader of the pro-animal and vegetarian activists the God’s Gardner’s whom they both followed in the past.

The novel deftly moves between Toby and Ren’s respective back stories and the horrors of their present day confinement. Reader’s of Oryx and Crake will fully recognize familiar plot points including the CorpsSeCorps (the corrupt corporation that essentially has taken over all aspects of the American life), Rakunks (half skunk, half raccoon engineered animals without a skunk smell), and of course Jimmy aka “Snowman” who had his own connections to the downfall of humanity.

I find Atwood’s ability to create such an alien human existence that feels so completely foreign and yet frankly quite possible given today’s tumultuous environmental and political climate to be an amazing gift. I simply couldn’t put the novel down and found myself racing through the story frantically reading to uncover how Toby and Ren ended up in their respective predicaments.  The Year of the Flood will be released on September 22, 2009.

Undiscovered Gyrl

Undiscovered GyrlThe story of Katie Kampenfelt would be engaging all on its own. An eighteen-year-old girl skips college in order to take a year off while we steadily watch her world unfurl. Her hunt for “true love” involving her parents, friends, and men her own age all fall flat. Then a clandestine affair we rather frighteningly see coming a mile away erupts and Katie’s world is turned completely upside down.

But Undiscovered Gyrl isn’t as cut and dry as your traditional teen taking the “road less traveled” story. There’s a twist. Katie Kampenfelt isn’t our narrator’s real name. She’s quite upfront about that. In our extremely connected world Katie Kampenfelt is (of course) sharing her life with us via her personal blog and she’s changing identifying details to “protect the innocent.” While we as readers follow our unreliable narrator’s online persona down a path of drugs, booze, and risky sexual behaviors we never quite know what is truly real and what might simply be hyperbole.

Katie’s self-destruction is intensely emotional, raw, and realistic. I found myself frequently debating whether or not I wanted to strangle her or hug her. Obviously when she’s stalking the 32-year-old film professor she’s having an affair with it’s difficult not to condemn her, but then she would do something endearing or a little more truth about her background would trickle out to explain her motivation and I would begin to root for her all over again.

Without going into many details, as I’m very anti-spoiler, I do admit to having some mixed feelings about the ending of the novel. I found the “resolution” to be a bit preachy, but the book on a whole was very well done and Allison Burnett has detailed the inner workings of a troubled young woman phenomenally well. I’d absolutely recommend picking it up (and then we can discuss the ending).

In true Web 2.0 fashion Undiscovered Gyrl not only has a website of its own but also a Facebook profile for the main character. I love that such a plugged in book is actually utilizing the internet so thoroughly in the marketing campaign. This title will be released on August 11, 2009.

Harvard Book Store Warehouse Sale

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New Old Books

I was so excited to learn about the Harvard Book Store warehouse sale this morning. I immediately jumped in the shower so I would be able to arrive as soon as the doors opened. I managed to score some really excellent deals including a number of new hardcover titles for only $1 and a stack of my favorite young adult novels from childhood. I can’t wait to curl up with some of these books and reminisce.

From left to right:

How to Cook a Tart by Nina Killham
The Perfect Elizabeth by Libby Schmais
Waiting by Debra Ginsberg
Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson
The Book Thief by Markus Zusa
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
A Gathering of Days by Joan W. Blos
A Ghost in the Window by Betty Ren Wright
Ghosts Beneath Our Feet by Betty Ren Wright
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The Girl in the Window by Wilma Yeo
Behind the Attic Walls by Sylvia Cassedy

Zombie Birthday Invasion

Zombies

My Aunt Beth cracks me up. This is the book she sent me for my birthday. In case you can’t see the card it reads, “Happy Birthday Erin! Let’s survive the imminent zombie invasion together.”

Here’s the thing. I’m a little obsessed with zombies. Unfortunately, they scare the hell out of me and I have zombie nightmares all of the time, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to read about them or watch movies where they shuffle around in hordes eating humanity. Yup…that’s me…princess movies and zombies. Perhaps someone needs to combine the two and Anne Hathaway could star? Actually, now that I think about it, that would be pretty fantastic!

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Strange AngelsIt’s Supernatural meets Veronica Mars in Lili St. Crow’s new young adult novel Strange Angels. Straight away our scrappy heroine, Dru Anderson, hears some odd tapping noises at her back door. Surprise! Dad’s been turned into a zombie. Fortunately Dru is channeling bizarre Allison DuBois like psychic abilities and her grandmother and father (before he became reanimated) both schooled her thoroughly in the art of things that go bump in the night. Even so what she has to do in this scenario is every daughter’s worst nightmare.

It goes from bad to worse quickly and unfortunately Dru just can’t catch a break. Her new friend Graves lets her crash in his swinging hidden bachelor pad at the mall but then they get attacked by “wulfen” and Graves is bitten. Thankfully he’s a virgin though so legend has it he wont be turned into a freaky fury fiend.

I’m not entirely sure I understand the difference between “wulfen” and “werewolves” so if someone wants to enlighten me feel free. In the novel vampires are also referred to as “suckers” which feels awfully offensive to me for some reason, but at least the vampires are properly vicious and don’t sparkle.

After some gun wielding, a great escape, and a little research Dru and Graves make contact with a mysterious vampire-not-a-vampire named Christophe, who is appropriately dreamy and well heeled, but is he on their side or just leading them astray? I’ll never tell…

Some parts of this novel felt a bit too much like other popular media in the supernatural category, but it’s well paced for the book to develop into a series. I’m intrigued enough to want to read the next novel, Betrayals, scheduled to be released this Fall (especially since we’re left with a cliffhanger ending) in hopes of unraveling some of the many hanging plot points surrounding Dru’s family and the other mysterious beings who are introduced.

By the way, thanks to that nasty zombie at the beginning of the book, I had three separate zombie nightmares last night. Miss St. Crow I think this means that all in all you did your job.

Erin’s YA Addiction – The May Edition

3 Willows I loved Ann Brashares’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels. I credit those particular Young Adult titles with re-introducing me (at the grand old age of 22) to all of the fabulous creativity that can be found in the YA section of the local bookstore and library. Brashare’s most recent release, 3 Willows, is also a tale of friendship. This time between three young girls who live in the same world that we all fell in love with via the trials and tribulations of Lena, Carmen, Bridget, and Tibby. I was very hesitant to read this story initially as the girls are quite young.

The novel begins with them graduating 8th grade and proceeds to document each of their individual journeys during the summer before they enter high school. Polly is the child of a single mom who is often absent and distant and spends the summer trying desperately to mold her body into model material. Jo’s parents have succumbed to a trial separation after the death of her older brother proves to be too much of a strain on the family. Jo finds refuge at the family beach house, tries to fit in with the older girls she works with at a local restaurant, and has an eye opening fling with a manipulative boy. Straight-A student, Ama, is shocked to discover that her summer academic camp has assigned her to trudge around in the wilderness and live in a tent for weeks and weeks. Her hair products are confiscated when she gets off the plane and you honestly wonder how she’ll make it through days of hiking, blisters, and the end of term cliff repelling exercise.

At the beginning of the summer the young girls have begun to drift apart, but as the months pass each begins to think back to the true root of their friendship. A friendship that is quite literally grounded by the 3 willow tree saplings that the girls grew for a school project and planted in a nearby wooded area. When one of the friends faces a personal crisis Jo, Ama, and Polly’s bond becomes stronger than ever as they surround their friend with the support she so desperately needs. Fans of the Traveling Pants novels will be delighted to meet-up with familar faces from the original books including Tibby’s family, her boyfriend Brian, and even Lena’s snotty sister Effie. Despite the age of the characters I very much enjoyed the story and look forward to upcoming novels. It will be interesting to see how Brashares handles their aging and the requisite issues that their entrance into high school will undoubtedly introduce.

WintergirlsWintergirls is quite simply a painful book. Absolutely not for the faint of heart, this gut wrenching novel explores Lia’s downward spiral into the depths of advanced anorexia. Stemming from a reckless bet with her friend Cassie, Lia makes a dangerous oath.

I took the knife out of my pocket and cut my palm, just a little. “I swear to be the skinniest girl in school, skinner than you.”
Cassie’s eyes got big as the blood pooled in my hand. She grabbed the knife and slashed her palm. “I bet I’ll be skinnier than you.”
“No, don’t make it a bet. Let’s be skinniest together.”
“Okay, but I’ll be skinner.”

Over the next few years each falls into a dangerous cycle of restricting and purging until their friendship completely falls apart. Then one night Cassie calls Lia’s cell thirty-three times. Lia never answers and Cassie is found dead in a local hotel room. What follows is an in depth look inside the mind of a desperate teenager riddled with guilt whose only coping method is to keep food as far away from her as possible. When Cassie’s “ghost” starts appearing to Lia and carrying on very maliciously toned conversations with our suffering heroine your heart will just break.

Laurie Halse Anderson captures the hopelessness, fear, and pain of Lia’s daily struggle beautifully. As a reader I found myself becoming wrapped up along with Lia’s family in the daily hope that she would please just drink the glass of proffered orange juice, or eat a spoonful of cereal, but in the end anorexia is never just about food. It’s about finding control in chaos and Lia’s story and how her life unfolds in the aftermath of Cassie’s death is handled with profound and eyeopening care. Even though this book deals with an extremely dark subject matter I feel that Wintergirls is too powerful of an experience to be missed. You’d be surprised what you can personally uncover when you strive to take a brief step out of your literary comfort zone.

Tender MorselsWhen I began reading Tender Morsels my initial reaction was that I absolutely didn’t think this book should be considered a young adult novel. Rape and incest pop up in the first few pages and the tone is extremely dark and lurid, but after I came down from my momentary puritanical high horse (and let’s face it, I read every trashy V.C. Andrews novel cover to cover by the age of 12 so it was time to give up the hypocrisy) I became completely engrossed in this gorgeous and magical tale of Liga and her two daughters, Branza and Urdda.

Margo Lanagan’s whimsical retelling of the traditional fairy tale of Snow White and Rose Red bares many subtle and some not so subtle resemblance to the classic version we are familiar with. There is of course a bear, a bush, and a wicked dwarf, but there is also a strong undercurrent of deep magic that protects Liga and her little family from the evils of the past for many many years.  But then curious and headstrong Urdda dares to step out into the real world where danger, evil, and adventure lurk in the shadows. Once separated from her mother and sister will she ever be reunited with them again?

I loved this novel for its realism and roughness as well as the fact that it didn’t shy away from the dirt, grime, and crime of the world. It fundamentally strives to illustrate how hiding from life and living a watered down and safe existence limits one’s chances for happiness much more so than it protects. Margo Lanagan is a true storyteller in the finest sense of the word. You won’t soon forget the worlds and characters she weaves in Tender Morsels.