Friday, August 30, 2013

Have You Ever Read A Book With A Missing Ending?

The Book Blogger Hop's question of the week is a peek into a horrific world I am so happy I have never journeyed to. Kero submitted the following question for us to answer:

Have you ever ended up reading a book with its last or last few pages missing?

Thankfully this has never happened to me! I don't know what I would do if it did. If I hadn't reached the point of the missing pages in the middle of the night, I'd probably run right up to the bookstore to read the ending in another copy of the book - and, let's be honest, if I liked the bok, I'd probably buy the complete copy.

While I never read any books with last pages missing, I have read some books with the covers missing. I didn't know at the time that those covers were missing for a reason! The first such book I read was Trump: The Art of the Deal. I was in middle school, maybe 11 or 12 years old and my school bus driver somehow picked up that I liked to read (I guess I read a lot on the bus!). One day he asked me if I'd like the books he had sitting on his dashboard. I felt so honored that he wanted to give me such BIG books! I was also fascinated by Donald Trump (Mom would take us to Trump Tower just to see "how the other half lived"), so it was an extra bonus. The other book was a war book, I think. I never read that one, but I loved the Trump book.

Have you ever read a book with some of the pieces missing? 
How did you deal with it?
Where did you get this fractured book?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top 10 Secondary Book Characters

I love this week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish! This week we are talking about our favorite secondary book characters. There are so many times in reading where it is these characters that drive me to turn page after page, that light me up after some painful conflict and give me the literary hug that I need. I love secondary characters. I will tell you now, I am going to forget some super important ones in my reading history. I am well aware of this fact because I am writing this list from the top of my head and I am not looking back! So, for right now, here are my

Top 10 Secondary Book Characters

1. Ron, Hermione & so much of the Harry Potter supporting cast

Where would JK Rowling's universe be if it weren't for all of the characters surrounding Harry in his journeys. At first, I was only going to list Ron and Hermione, then I thought of Hagrid, the Weasley family, DOBBY!, Professor McGonagall, Dumbledore... the list goes on. I am sure as I explore the lists created by fellow bloggers this week, I will find tons of Potter love.
Movie version: 

2. Robin from The Cuckoo's Calling

While I am on the topic of JKR, why not stay there for a bit. I loved Robin, Cormoran Strike's assistant in The Cuckoo's Calling. She had her own rich story and a reason to be invested in Strike's investigations. I loved how she resisted finding new jobs that would even pay more money because she was so intrigued by the manner of Strike's work. That's a girl by my own heart.

3. Hassan from An Abundance of Katherines

John Green is another author who is quite good at building supporting casts, but if I had to pick one secondary character that I loved above the rest it would be Colin's best friend, Hassan. Hassan was a funny "regular guy" that I just loved to read. He was definitely one of those characters that lit up their scenes.

4. Simon from City of Bones

I have not yet finished reading this book, but from the moment Simon stepped onto the page before me, I knew he was going to be my favorite character in the book. When it looked like he was going to be left behind in th mundane world never to be heard from again, I nearly wanted to put the book down. However, now that he is intermingling with the story's ongoing drama, I can't wait to see how his story develops!

Movie version:

5. Ali from If You Could Be Mine
Sarah's cousin, Ali, and his flamboyance was a welcomed change in the strict, conservative Iran Sarah was trapped in. I loved the world that he showed Sarah (and us) just when it felt like she was all alone. He confidence in who he was and the life he (and Sarah) deserved to live helped to bring hope to this story and the reality of life in Iran for the LGBT community.

6. Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes
I am not sure if this one qualifies. One may argue that Hobbes is not secondary at all, but, in my eyes, he's one of the greatest sidekicks ever to be written.
Comic book version:

7. Ted and Bartleby from Bone

Jeff Smith's Bone comic is one of the first that I collected issue by issue. It is now available in graphic novel form and is an excellent fantasy adventure story. This book sort of falls under that "Harry Potter" category of having an amazing supporting cast of characters that I could easily make a top 10 of all on its own, but two characters that I was always happy to see in an issue I picked up were Ted the bug and Bartleby the baby rat-creature.

Comic book versions of Bartleby (left) and Ted (right): 

8. Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series

Percy's love interest/best friend, Annabeth, is one cool character. She's super smart, athletic and has a Yankee's cap that makes her invisible. I love how she takes charge and is a strong female character in a series of books that can easily be appreciated by the boys that read it.

The strangely not-blonde Movie Version of Annabeth: 

9. Al from The Full Metal Alchemist
Edward's story would fall flat on its face without his little brother transformed into a a giant metal suit. His quest to protect his brother and change him back to the little boy he was presented the single shred of maturity Ed could muster. Throughout the rest of the story Al proved to be the calming force and the overpowering image (with a little boy's voice) that intimidated all those they came in contact with.

TV Show Version:

10. Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird

Forget about top secondary characters, Boo Radley may be my favorite literary character of all time. Misunderstood with a pure heart, his quiet presence of strength within a weak frame is something that brings tears to my eyes every time I I come into contact with this character.

 Movie Version:

What are your favorite secondary book characters?
If you can't think of book characters, what are favorite secondary TV and movie characters? 

11. Merry and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings
Did I really almost forget these guys?? Although this is another book overflowing with incredible secondary characters!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Audiobook Review - The Cuckoo's Calling By Robert Galbraith [JK Rowling]

Note: The book written about in the following blog post was given to me by the publisher (Hachette Audio) in exchange for an honest review.
Check out the AUDIO!
First of all, I don't want you acting all shocked that I jumped right on The Cuckoo's Calling bandwagon the second I found out that Mr. Robert Galbraith was actually one of my great heroines, JK Rowling - you ALL knew that was going to happen. I'm not ashamed. I'm a fangirl. It was my duty to read this book.

Now that I finished it, I have to say, I loved it!

My Thoughts About The Story

It has been a really long time since I read a crime novel, so, on one hand, that was part of the fun for me. The second is that it was so well written. Galbraith [Rowling] paints each scene so vividly that it feels as though you are walking the streets of London, experiencing the seasons and talking to the characters. Our protagonist, Cormoran Strike, is well-developed with a rich history and an equally compelling present. His assistant, Robin, was a character I couldn't help but love and everyone else in the cast was full of life, humanity and some level of motive. Like any good crime novel, the ending makes all kinds of perfect sense on the last page, but was just out of reach throughout the rest of the book. I am elated that Cormoran Strike will be a recurring character. I will be back.

The Audiobook

I am so happy that I listened to this book instead of read the hardcover. This is not to say that I have some aversion to the printed word, it is simply that Robert Glenister did such an amazing job narrating this book.  I know I would never have been able to deliver these words to myself internally as fluidly, or in the right voice. Here's what I know: if I read this book in print, I would have "heard" a female narrator in my mind. Having gone through the book completely with Glenister as a narrator, I can't imagine it being anywhere nearly as powerful without him. The audiobook was not overproduced in anyway - it was just Glenister, changing his voice accordingly for the characters while disappearing seamlessly into the background like all awesome narrators can do!

My Response To A Couple of Strangers

Midway through my read I remembered to check into Goodreads to say that I was "currently reading" The Cuckoo's Calling. While there, I noticed that someone gave it a one star rating. Since I was enjoying the book so far I curiously delved in to read the criticisms. As one of the major criticisms was about the ending, I was ill-equipped to properly judge its merits until now. If you don't mind, I'd like to take a moment to speak my mind on one point of contention I now hold with this criticism having finished the book.

The reviewer (and I have read this same comment from a couple of reviewers now) said that the killer was "obvious" and that they "knew it all along." I promise not to spoil anything, but I am sorry, they did not "know" who the killer was. Every reader of this book, at one point, thought "maybe it's so-and-so," because that's how crime dramas work. If you don't experience this feeling at least once or twice during the reading, then, in my opinion, the author failed. The fantastic thing about this book is that I had that thought run through my brain about a number of different characters as the story unfolded. This does not mean that "I knew who the killer was all along" just because I had a sneaking suspicion early on. Throughout the story doubt surfaced and other suspects came to the forefront. That is how these stories work and, you know what? That's what makes them fun!

My Review

If you are a crime fan, I highly recommend this book. Of course, I'd like to extend it another step further and recommend the awesome audiobook - nothing makes house chores go faster than a mystery for you to unravel! For fans of JK Rowling, if you are being honest with yourselves, this is the same writing we all fell in love with - it is just as magical even though it is about the mundane. If you are looking for literal magic, however, she's hung up her sorting hat, so this isn't the book for you!

Are you a fan of crime novels? If so, recommend one - I think I'm back on the bandwagon!
Did you read The Cuckoo's Calling? If so, what is your opinion about its predictability?


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - All the Finish Lines in Sight

Happy happy hump day! It's, once again, time for me to bring you all up to date with What's Up Wednesday brought to me by Jaime Morrow.

What I'm Reading

First of all, as I am typing this I am listening to the final chapters of The Cuckoo's Calling. I need to know what happens. If I wait until after it is over to blog, then my post will be super late, so, instead I am multi-tasking (we'll see how long that lasts).

I am also reading City of Bones because the movie comes out TODAY and I haven't finished the book yet. When I realized this yesterday (at around 11:30 pm) I was on page 50. I am now on page 172. It's a fast read, but I don't think I'll be ready to see the movie tonight. It may have to wait (especially since I am audiobook-ing right now!).

Thirdly, last night my husband bought me the book I was reading in the Barnes & Noble Cafe - The True Secret of Writing. I loved Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, so I am really looking forward to finishing this one as well.

What I'm Writing

I have two goals for the writing week ahead.

1. Complete my writing group's take-home prompt. I have a writing group meeting on Saturday, so I'd like to participate in this week's take-home writing prompt. It has a minimum word count of 300 words, so I should be able to do that without a problem.

2. Write one story about my father from my own experience. If you read my last week's What's Up Wednesday, then you know about the new project I have taken on to write a book about my father for my brother. I reached out to family and friends for their input, but now it is time that I start collecting my own thoughts!!

What Inspires Me Right Now

Back to school!!! 'Tis the season for creativity for me!

For twelve years these were the weeks that I was brimming with excitement, with potential and brilliant, glorious plans! Nothing could ever get me down as I was preparing for a brand new school year and, even though this will be the third back to school season that will start without me in the classroom, still nothing can wash away the wonder. 

What Else I'm Up To

As the title of this post implies, all of the finish lines are in sight. This Sunday is the end of my husband's Master degree. This has been a long journey, partially due to my own sickness, so it will be a relief when it is done. And, as we have been putting the final touches on that work, I received news of another long sought out finish line in the mail. My (repeatedly postponed) disability hearing has a new date: September 12th. This is it. They can't postpone again, my application was filed in May 2011, so now they are up against a deadline - a decision must be made by the end of this September!

Then, in a completely random twist, my husband decided to scare the hell out of me last night with a prehistoric feature, so I recorded it for youtube:

How's your week and Wednesday going?
What awesome reads are you immersed in this week?
Are you inspired by the beginning of the school year?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

10 Things That Make My Life as A Reader Better

This week's topic from The Broke and The Bookish is to list the top 10 things that make my life as a reader easier/better. I have wanted to write about a number of these things, so I am happy to have the opportunity to put them all into one post (along with a couple of fun facts as well!).

10 Things That Make My Life as A Reader Better

1. The OverDrive APP

The day I discovered this APP I practically cried tears of joy. I was home sick, stuck in bed and miserable. I had already listened to all of the audiobooks I had bought on my iPhone and there is no TV in our bedroom. I decided to use my NYPL (New York Public Library) APP to see what audiobooks were available in my library branch to se if my husband could pick one or two up on the way home from work since this particular flare up seemed like it was going nowhere fast.

That's when I found it.

OverDrive is an APP that connects me to my library virtually and allows me to DOWNLOAD DIGITAL VERSIONS OF BOOKS (both audio and ebooks) DIRECTLY INTO MY IPHONE. It is so ridiculously awesome and I can't love anything more than this. It is a must have for readrs, particularly audiobook lovers like myself who simply cannot afford to keep up with th expensive habit of audiobook-ing without the support of their local library!


 The New York Public Library is a wonderland of goodies for any reader, but, honestly I rarely visit any branch other than my local branch in my neighborhood. It is something that I have often thought a sin, particularly since "my" library is not as beautiful as so many of the libraries in this city. However, through my mobile APP I now, at least have access to ALL of the branches right in my iPhone! Before even taking the trip to my library I can now
  • check the availability of a book, 
  • put it on hold, 
  • have a book sent from one branch to mine for pickup
  • scan a book's barcode to see if it is in my library,
  • write a review of the book(s) I read,
  • find out what's new in the library,
  • search out events and activities happening in ALL of the libraries, and
  • MY FAVORITE THING OF ALL: I can renew my book loan right in my phone!

3. Goodreads

What reader hasn't fallen in love with the Goodreads site? I used to keep reading journals all over the place just to keep track of books I read and what I thought of them, now I have goodreads. I can also see what my friends and favorite authors are reading, what they think of those books and what they're planning on reading next. Finally, if I wasn't already in love with the site, I found out about the coolness that is the Goodreads Challenge each year, which has just been tons of fun for me to push myself with each year!

4. The "Look Up" Option on eReaders

I know there are some readers than can come across a new or unknown word in a book and just drift on by hoping that the context clues will build up its meaning, or that the meaning of this one word within the masses will not be significant.

I am not this kind of reader.

I have always been a looker-upper. If I don't know the meaning, or I don't recognize the word, I have to go dig out my dictionary and find out what it means. You can imagine my joy when I discovered to built-in dictionaries on my iPad and in my nook. Finally, my lazy reading days could be left unburdened by the need to put one book down to flip through another! Everything was already ther at my fingertips!

5. Living Down The Block from Barnes & Noble
store #2021

According to Google Maps Barnes & Noble is exactly 0.4mi from my front door. It takes approximately 9 minutes to walk there. And I do. A LOT. It is sort of a running joke between friends and family that they know that's where they can find us. I honestly think if my husband and I did not have a dog, we might have spent this entire summer in that store! The barista in the cafe now know my name and the rest of th employees have also gotten used to seeing me there.

It was opened in the year 2000 and I felt like all of my wildest dreams had come true.  For years I stood on a bus stop across from the place where it was built and created stories in my head of all of the fantastic things that could happen in that bizarre lot. It was a gathering of trees amongst Staten Island commercialism. To me, it was always "the tiny woods of stories" because of all of the things I dreamt of happening on that lot. I imagined one day I would be brave enough to step into those trees and be swept away to a fantasy land. When the trees were first leveled and it was obvious something was going to be built on that spot, I felt as though my heart was ripped out. Until I found out what was coming - the stories... ALL of the stories. My tiny woods finally came to life! (It still gives me chills.)

6. BookExpo America Being In NYC

I know it won't last forever, but having discovered that BEA is in NYC has been monumental for me. Each year when it comes around I am able to walk up to the bus stop outside my Barnes & Noble, take one bus into Manhattan, get off the bus' first stop and walk two blocks to the biggest book party of the year! I am so incredibly grateful for this gift. I found out this year that the expo will be moving to Chicago in a couple more years, but for now I will just continue to appreciate what I have!

7. Booklights & Sleepmasks

I am nocturnal. I like to read at night. As a child this led to ridiculous acrobatics of leaning out of my bed at uncomfortable angles just to get the light of my nightlight to reach my pages. Then someone brilliant invented the book light. These things are amazing and I am forever indebted to the genius who created them. However, early on in our marriage it looked like the night time reading in bed thing might have to come to an end. THIS was something I could not conceive, but my husband couldn't sleep with my light on. The tension grew as I was being asked to change a lifelong habit and as my husband felt I was being incredibly inconsiderate. Then we tried out sleep masks! Viola! Now we both wear them! And my husband is grateful as, he too, has become a nighttime reader!


They can be fancy, store-bought bookmarks. They can be pens. They can be the receipt from the bookstore or library. They can even be digital (as in my "progress" listing in Goodreads) . I love them. I used to be a big-time dog-earer, but I've given up on the habit. I can't even tell you why. These days I just love throwing something in my book to hold my space and to show me how "deep" into the book I have gotten so far.

9. Husband as a High School English Teacher

This seriously rocks. My husband's job is pretty much all about creating new readers. When I read a great new YA book I tell him he needs to share it with his kids and with his department. We talk about books, reading and writing all of the time. We talk about what the schools are reading, what they should be reading and what we wish we read when we were younger. When the school gets a new book, or when he sees his students reading something different, he comes home and tells me - sometimes even bringing a copy home for me!

10. The Internet

I say this so often these days, but I can not IMAGINE what it must be like to be a young reader today. I get all kinds of giddy knowing that I can have some sort of contact with my favorite authors via the Internet - whether it is on FB, Twitter, WhoSay, their own blogs or vlogs. I can not imagine what that would have been like for me as a child. Getting to know authors in this way, seeing them go through the process of writing and then how they respond to how we respond is just plain magical to me.  Also, aside from those authors who I follow regularly (i.e. John Green and Neil Gaiman), there is also the ability to reach out and say "thank you" to those authors who have really touched you with their book(s).

It's your turn!
What are some things that make your life better as a reader?
Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Were You Born a Bookworm?

This week's question from the Book Blogger Hop is one that I have actually been wondering a lot about, so I spent the day thinking about it before sitting down to write this post. If you want to join in on the conversation, check out Billy Burgess' Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer for the official blog hop.


Were You Born a Bookworm?

Here's what I know - I was a shy kid. I loved to draw, write and hang out in my neighborhood. Lots of times I would be on my front steps or floating on a raft in my pool with a book. When I try to think back to my earliest years - where I got my first exposure to books, or how I learned to read - I come up empty. Sadly, both my parents are deceased, so I have no one to ask about this. As that is the case, I must piece together where my passion for books came from on my own.

I grew up surrounded by books. Our "playroom" had a bookcase built into the wall, and my childhood bedroom had the complete set of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit books organized on a shelf. I have no memories of bookstores or libraries, but neither of those things were needed. The books were all around. At Christmas, my brother and I always knew that our largely absent well-to-do Aunt and Uncle would send us two beautiful books - these things were more like pieces of art with their pop-ups and moving pieces, rather than casual reading material. My cousin, Lisa, four years older than me (now an English professor), became my pen pal when her family moved up to Massachusetts. Before she left we were both book lovers, but having someone to write to about books and exchange stories with added a new layer of fun to my reading when I was still in elementary school.

In school I would froth at the mouth when the Troll Book Club order forms would be handed out. Nothing else would matter once I got the colorful newspaper-like pages in my hands with the latest Garfield titles, books from Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, or other authors I had not yet heard of. The bus ride home would entail another scrutiny of the pages, discussing it with friends, finding my little brother and developing my persuasive argument to my parents to ensure the purchase of all my circled items while still allowing for my brother's desires.

Lastly, before the age of twelve, I lived in a home with a teacher. My father taught the fifth grade in Brooklyn, NY. From the moment I could start reading, he would bring books home to me from his school. When I was in the second grade he was already bringing me books that his students were reading. At first, I felt as though the ability to read these stories was incredibly important, soon after I read them just out of sheer joy. Some of the titles I distinctly remember as being books from the library of PS 221 are Robinson Crusoe (this must have been some abridged version, for sure!), The Island of Blue Dolphins, and The Incredible Journey

While I don't remember seeing my father or mother read books on their own, they were both readers. Every morning my father read The New York Times over a cup of coffee and two pieces of rye toast. My mother subscribed to The New Yorker and Life magazines. My father made collecting the Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedias being sold at Pathmark an adventure for the family. My mother poured over cookbooks and cooking magazines in order to learn new recipes and techniques in the kitchen.

I don't know why we never thought of using flashlights!
For my brother and I stories were always fun. As an older sister, I felt it was my responsibility to entertain my brother with stories I made up on my own (there was a very long running series of Chicken nugget stories that we still talk about today). We would whisper to each other each from our respective bedrooms discussing which books we were "sneak reading" using our night lights when our parents thought we were sleeping.

I think I was lucky to be born into the family I was. I don't know if I was a born reader, but if I was I couldn't have asked for a better environment to be submersed in. There were always age appropriate books at my fingertips any time I felt like drifting off into another world. Not only was there always something to read, chances were there was always something around that I hadn't read yet.

What about you?
Were you born a bookworm, or can you remember the person who introduced you to the love of books?
How do you remember finding new books when you were a child? 

Don't forget to enter this week's giveaway for an Advanced Reader Copy of If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan!!

What Do You Love Most About Teaching?

love teaching
Thursday night, on the way to the movies, I checked my email and saw that someone known as hisbeautyandgrace on Tumblr asked me: "What Do U Love Most About Teaching?"

I was taken a-back by the query. I haven't taught in over three years. Then I remembered a couple of pictures I had posted earlier in the day from the book, Multicultural Teaching, that I was reading. It all made sense and, after a moment, I realized this was a question I desperately wanted to answer. I shared my answer publicly on tumblr, but since I know most readers of Rivera Runs Through It are not also followers of my tumblr page, I thought I would share the answer with you here. I know it is not a post about writing, or books, but it is a post relating to a story: the story of me. Whoever you have come to know me to be as you have read my posts here on RRTI, it would be hardly representative if it did not include some understanding of my passion for teaching. And so I give you my answer (so far) to the big question:

What Do You Love Most About Teaching? 

Let me preface this first by saying that I, quite regrettably, am no longer teaching due to a rare disease that reconstructed my life brick by brick. I tell you this because it should be understood that part of what I say is coming to you through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia for a passion lost. However, that passion, even when I was in the throws of some difficult days in the front of my classroom over the course of twelve years in the New York City public school system, was always overflowing within me.

I loved nearly everything about teaching. It was what I was born to do and when one is lucky enough to fall into realm of what they were placed on this planet for, well, there is really nothing that can compare to it. It sounds almost cliche when said, but this is true: teaching is very rewarding. I think the only thing that may be able to hold a candle to it is  raising your own child (something I will, hopefully, be lucky enough to do soon as well). These are broad statements and don’t come close to answering your question, so let me try to answer it quite directly.

Teaching is a profession in which you have the power to design your own day, with your own little audience, to share. You share with them, they share with you, and together you learn more about each other, yourselves and the world. In teaching, you can dip into the creative wells within your soul on a daily basis to not only present lessons, but to make it an art form. I have always been a believer in the constructivist method of teaching, therefore, I do not believe it is the teacher’s role to thrust information upon students to gobble up, but instead to present situations and environments in which students can discover their own paths to learning. This is one of the most magical things to witness. When you are a teacher, you get to fully understand humanity’s unending potential.

What do I love most about teaching? To teach is to live within a world of hope. Sure, there are knuckle-heads and kids who will drive you nuts from day to day, but each one holds their own miracle. Every kid performs for someone. Every kid has the potential to surprise you, to teach you and to grow right in front of you. I loved (and desperately miss) the students.

I taught high school math for twelve years. I began my undergraduate career as an elementary education major. I graduated college with the intention of teaching middle school. I ended up teaching in high school and college classrooms. I loved every second of it until I got sick. If you are looking for my advice, I have a bunch (I was also a teaching coach for many years working with new and pre-service teachers), but I’ll just start you off with this:
  • stay positive (this is not as easy as it sounds)
  • forgive yourself your mistakes (you will make SO MANY)
  • take advice of your administrators, but remember when you close your classroom door, THAT IS YOUR CLASSROOM, NOT THEIRS
  • get to know your students (I really don’t see the point of getting into this profession if you don’t)
  • stay curious
  • keep learning
  • be professional
I can go on like this forever, but I am sure I have already over-answered your question. If you have any further questions, or ever want to teacher-talk I am always willing (as you can probably already tell). The glorious Internet has given me my last quiet classroom. Here I share with whoever stumbles by, they share with me, and together we learn more about each other, ourselves and the world. It’s what we were made to do. :)
I will add this: If you have ever had a thought of stepping in front of the classroom, I say do it. There is nothing in the world like it. It is not for everyone, that is for damn sure, but if you think it might be in you, embrace the beautiful insanity of it and don't look back!

To my fellow teachers out there: 
What do you love most about teaching?
Share your answers in the comments below!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

YA Book Review - If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

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Every time I go to BEA (BookExpo America) I come out with an unfathomable pile of books to read, but within those piles there are a few titles that scream to be pulled first. This year If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan was one of those books.

About The Book 

I first heard about If You Could Be Mine in the YA Editor Buzz Panel on May 30, 2013. Elise Howard from Algonquin Books began her presentation with the following compelling factoid:
Many people are aware that, in Iran, it's a crime to be gay. In fact, it is a crime that is sometimes punishable by death. What they're usually a little shocked to find out, though, is that gender reassignment is not only legal, it's supported by the state medical system.
This is a pivotal point of introduction to this book because it underlines the conflict at the core of If You Could Be Mine. In Farizan's debut novel, her protagonist, Sarah, is seventeen years old, living in Iran and in love with her best friend, Nasrin. Both Sarah and Nasrin think they have found a way to move forward in their lives while keeping their love intact. Written in the first person, from Sarah's perspective, this book is a heart-break from page one, being that universal story of love that you can't have.

My Review

I enjoyed so many aspects of this book. First of all, it is always refreshing to read an ethnically diverse protagonist, but this book delivers an entirely Iranian cast in a book set in present day Iran. It was interesting to see the places where Iran and the Western culture collide and to read Sarah's perspective of Western culture. I was frustrated by Sarah's misguided attempt to keep Nasrin's love, but could completely understand how a teenager in Iran might seek this route as a viable solution. In reading other reviews I have seen a couple of people complain about how Sarah spoke about Nasrin (i. e. calling her a "spoiled brat") and claiming that, in their eyes, it did not echo the sentiment that Sarah loved Nasrin. I disagree. I did not read these comments in a way that felt insulting. It felt more like a sign that she knew her best friend very well and loved her - faults and all. Sarah's cousin, Ali, is a fun and dangerous character that always lifted up a scene whenever he showed up, and Sarah's father, Baba was a sad and compassionate man that I truly felt for.

In the world of YA LGBT books, I think If You Could Be Mine is an important read. LGBT teens come from all different cultures and families with varying beliefs or systems of ethics based on where they come from, some stricter than others. This continues to echo the diversity of the rainbow that we so appropriately use to represent the LGBT community.

Whether you typically read LGBT or not, I think you should check out If You Could Be Mine as it raises many questions about the struggles and sacrifices that come along with love, patriotism, family and self-preservation. It is a quick read and though Sara Farizan says she does not want to be the authority on the going-ons in the Iranian LGBT culture, she is at least giving us a sneak peek.

If You Could Be Mine ARC GIVEAWAY!!

I finished my advanced reader copy (ARC) of If You Could Be Mine and I'm ready to share it with another willing reader - is that you? If so, use the widget below to enter. (This giveaway is open to the US only.)

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Good luck! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - Moving On To New Adventures

Time to catch up using Jaime Morrow's awesome meme as the excuse to tell you what I'm reading, what I'm writing, what inspires me and what else I might be up to.

What I'm Reading

Well, late Tuesday night, I turned to my husband, staring over page 167 of The Fantastic Family Whipple and said, "I have to move on." He didn't know what I was talking about, and I could hardly believe what I was saying, but I explained my thoughts. I have a ton of books from BEA that I need to read and review and this particular book is holding me up for reasons I cannot explain. It is not a bad book, but it just hasn't hooked me. The only thing I can think of is that I don't really like the protagonist's family because they are always so hard on him and, considering the book is mostly about them (see title), I am not driven forward. I will come back to this book, that I know, but in the meantime, I have to move one.

So, in other news, I am in audiobook heaven! I have been flying through my review copy of The Cuckoo's Calling, which has been a lot of fun.

Then, this afternoon, I received the digital download of Fire with Fire, the sequel to Burn for Burn - a book I gobbled up on the bus ride home from last year's BEA (my Burn for Burn review)! I am really looking forward to starting that.

Back on the print side of things,after closing the cover on The Fantastic Family Whipple, I went upstairs (I was in Barnes & Noble) and grabbed a copy of City of Bones. Even though I have a ton of ARCs to read and review, I kind of have this problem where I have to read the book before I see the movie. So, one of two things is going to happen here: 1. I will finish the book, or 2. I will not see the movie until it comes on Netflix.

What I'm Writing

Last night I solidly committed to a brand new writing project that scares the hell out of me. I am writing a book for my brother for his Christmas book. Since he is absolutely clueless about my blog (in the sense that I think he knows I blog, but probably has no idea what the name of my blog is), I feel safe writing this here. Here's the idea: I am going to write a book about our father who passed away when I was 12 and my brother was 8. I found out awhile ago that my brother has almost no memories of our father and I always wished there was something I could do about it. The thing is, I was only 12, so my memories are also limited and our mother passed away in 2006. That's where the big scary commitment came in last night. I sent out a huge message to as many family and friends that I had contact info last night explaining my idea and asking them for their memories.   

There's pretty much no turning back now. Too many people know about it and will be asking about it. 

So... what am I writing? A book. That I will have printed by December 25, 2013. All prayers, advice and good vibes are welcomed!

What Inspires Me Right Now

Breaking Bad the TV show. No, I am not kidding. I finally got to watch Sunday's episode Tuesday morning and it blew me away. Sitting back and thinking about what all these characters have been through and how the writer's have gotten me to ROOT FOR A BAD GUY is nothing less than inspiring. 

Also Hawkeye #11 normally I don't really read superhero comic books, but my husband was reading the trade paperback in Barnes and Noble last night and he said, "Wow," out loud. He showed me the last issue in the book (#11) and it was amazing. The entire story was told from the perspective of a dog. Brilliant. 

And, without a doubt, the brief in and outs I have had at WRITEONCON have been inspiring as well. There is just so much to learn and gain from such a giving community. I hope I have some more time today to explore the rest of the stuff I missed on Tuesday!

What Else I'm Up To

Well, I almost exploded from social overload this weekend. We had a white party to go to on Saturday. There are tons of pictures on my Instagram, but here's one to give you the idea (I'm down in front):
Then on Sunday, we had dinner in Brooklyn for my brother's birthday at a delicious restaurant called Prime Meats. (In this shot, I'd be the only female at the table.)

 Besides all that and dog sitting my cousin's pug, I've been cramming in a ton of blogging both here and over at StoryDam. On StoryDam, I've been continuing the Build a Better Blog Challenge for Writers with Writing a List Post for Your Blog, and today I did a review of one of my favorite writing tools of all time, The Writer's Toolbox. Here on Rivera Runs Through It, I shared my tips for getting started reading graphic novels and yesterday I listed my top 10 books that take place in New York.

That's it in a nutshell for me. Hopefully I will have a healthier end of week this week than last (I don't know if you noticed, but I went radio silent again on Thursday and Friday. My barometer brain didn't like the rain, so it gave me pain.)

Now it's your turn...
What's up with you this Wednesday?
Have you ever had to walk away from a book just because you were reading it too slowly?
Any advice on what I am calling my "Memory Project" for my brother's Christmas gift?
Have you ever been to a white party?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Top 10 Books That Take Place in New York

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish's meme Top Ten Tuesday is the Top 10 Books that Took Place in ________ Setting. Since I absolutely love my hometown, I filled in the blank with NEW YORK!

Top 10 Books That Take Place in New York 

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1. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems

I love this book. I also love how I discovered it. I was in the Barnes & Noble on Court Street in Brooklyn. I was having a pretty crappy day dealing with the disability people in the Department of Ed office across the street and I escaped to the bookstore for a little unwinding before I set out for my journey home. I ended up in the children's section where this book caught my eye. I had never heard of it before. I was surrounded by strangers - children and their parents - and I couldn't stop myself from smiling from ear to ear and laughing out loud. Knuffle Bunny will forever be my Brooklyn book love. I didn't buy this book that day, but I did buy myself a brand new copy of the next book on my list!

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2. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume 

This is probably the first book I ever read that took place in New York City. There were so many reasons why I related to this book and fell deeply in book love with it and its New York backdrop was definitely one of them. The world was so real to me and so unlike those that I was reading about in other books.

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3. The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Reading this book just plain freaked me out. It didn't just take place in New York City, it took place in STATEN ISLAND! That's really where I live. While it has been so long that most of the story escapes my memory these days, I will never forget reading "Staten Island Zoo" or "Clove Lakes Park" in the print of a truly legitimate book that I was reading and thinking, Whoa! We matter.

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4. The Dead and The Gone by Sarah Beth Pfeffer

This is the second book in a trilogy (Books one and two do not have to be read in order) that I absolutely loved. The moon comes too close to Earth, wreaks havoc on our weather and we are thrust into a survival situation. While book one is written from the prospective of a girl somewhere else n America, The Dead and The Gone dealt with the calamity of my own city under this natural disaster. I LOVED THIS and I need to read this book again sometime soon!  

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5. The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

While Percy and the Half-Bloods do travel all over the country, home base is in New York. Camp HalfBlood is in Long Island and Olympus is smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. Riordan has helped me find magic and myth on the streets of my city.   

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6. The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins 

Similar to Percy, Gregor and his family spend most of their time seemingly apart from New York, but the fact is - they are under it. I haven't finished reading the entire series yet, but I already know the next time I am in Central Park that I need to watch my back for any creatures coming out of the entrance to the Underland found there!

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7. The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My husband and I argued over this one as he continued to say, "The Gunslinger takes place in an alternate universe!" Yes. This is true, but its attachment to "our world" is in New York. Just like Gregor and Percy, this series gave me the sense that my city holds secret doorways every way just waiting to whisk me off to someplace mysterious! 

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8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I love how this book captures a New York I never knew. The New York of my ancestors. This is really such a beautiful book that captures a culture, a time, and a place I have no right to feel nostalgia for.

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9. The Godfather by Mario Puzo

As half of my family is Sicilian-American, I loved every setting of this book! Just like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I felt like this book gave me a sense of my city's history and, perhaps what some of my family saw as they grew up here and traveled here from Sicily.  

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10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 I reluctantly add this book to the list because, to be honest with you, I don't love the book. However, as I reflected upon my choices to write about today, I realized that the one aspect of the story I loved was the setting. I found myself daydreaming away about Long Island, the city, Gatsby's travels in between and, again, what my hometown must have looked like once upon a time... 

Do you have any favorite books that take place in your hometown?
What about favorite books that take place in mine - New York City? Which ones am I missing?