The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

The Girl She Used to Be

Bookflap:When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, but the program took Melody’s name, her home, her family, and ultimately her innocence. Now, twenty years later and still on the run, she’s been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others. But the one person she longs to be is Melody Grace McCartney.
So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in yet another new town, she’s stunned by a man who accosts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to find her, knows her, the real her, and it’s a thrill Melody can’t resist. Defying the feds, she goes willingly with him. To the Justice Department, she’s nothing more than a pawn in the government’s war against the Bovaro family. But, as dangerous as Jonathan is, he presents her with the chance of a lifetime – the chance to embrace her past and present, and choose a future all her own.
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David Cristofano’s debut novel is paced perfectly. So perfectly that I didn’t want to put the book down for more than a few minutes. I read it yesterday and recommend it to anyone looking for a good story. For the most part I feel the author avoided glaring stereotypes – which could have happened since the mafia and the government figure prominently. The story is told in Melody’s voice and I think Cristofano did a fine job. It never seemed like a guy trying to write what a woman would say or do. It was very believable. You can read his article about writing from a female point of view here. I’ll be keeping The Girl She Used to Be to read again. Wish there was a sequel!
You can visit the author’s website: .
The book will be released on March 19, 2009 (according to
I want to thank Miriam Parker, Hachette Book Group USA, for sending the book.

Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga

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Book flap: Rudy Harrington, an avocado dealer in Chicago, is ready for a new life. His daughters are grown, his wife has died, and the idea of running an avocado grove in Texas suddenly seems infinitely more appealing than the rambling house and the wholesale produce business that have sustained him so far.
So a new life it is. Rudy leaves home and heads for a part of the world where he knows scarcely a soul. But he has a guide: a slender book one of his daughters has given him called Philosophy Made Simple, each chapter highlighting the ideas of a different philosopher. As he plunges into his unknown future, Rudy meets his challenges philosopher by philosopher, beginning with Plato and Aristotle and ending with Schopenhauer and Sartre.
But no amount of philosophy can prepare Rudy for the surprises that emerge as he arranges for his daughter’s Hindu wedding and gets to know Norma Jean – an elephant with a talent for painting who is abandoned to Rudy’s care. Norma Jean’s vast heart opens up Rudy’s spirit and leads to his encounter with an extraordinary woman and the prospect of a new love.
Several weeks ago I noticed a book being given away on several book blogs. That book is The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga. It sounded interesting so I entered a few of the give-aways. I read that it is a sequel to The Sixteen Pleasures which I found at my local library. After reading that book I learned that Hellenga wrote a book called Philosophy Made Simple that included characters from The Sixteen Pleasures. Rudy is the father of the main character in The Sixteen Pleasures.

I really enjoyed reading about Rudy and his quest to find meaning in his life – before and after his wife died. This would be a wonderful discussion book for a club. Would I do things differently or the same as Rudy? Do men and women handle life-changing events differently? Do we let life happen to us? Do we have a choice? Do omens really mean anything? These are all questions I thought about while reading this book. Serious topics but written with humor and compassion. I’m glad I ‘found’ this book. And I’m glad the book included an elephant named Norma Jean. If you’re looking for a book that’s a little different from your usual fare, give this a try.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

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From the book flap: In the summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all – beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn; Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.
Firefly Lane is a story that spans more than thirty years and tells the ups and downs of Tully and Kate’s friendship. Tully needs the stability of Kate and her family while Kate needs a friend who will always be there for her. We see them through the happiest of times as well as bitter disappointments. It was a page-turner, to be sure. And if you were in high school in the ’80s you’ll love all the pop culture references.

Friday Finds

I found a book at the library yesterday that is about the father of the main character in The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga. I was browsing, saw this title and read the description on the book flap. The father was featured in a minor way in The Sixteen Pleasures – but enough to make me curious about Philosophy Made Simple. Robert Hellenga is the author of a new book (seen in giveaways on book blogs right now) The Italian Lover.
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To read more Friday Finds click here.

The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga

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Book Flap: “Mud angels” is what the Italians call the selfless young foreigners who come to Florence in 1966 to save the city’s priceless art from the Arno’s flooded riverbanks.

Margot Harrington is an American volunteer, an expert at book conservancy. While struggling to save a waterlogged convent library, she discovers a fabulous volume of sixteen erotic drawings by Giulio Romano that accompany sixteen steamy sonnets by Pietro Aretino. When published more than four centuries earlier, the Vatican had insisted all copies be destroyed. This one – now unique – volume has survived.

The abbess, with wonderful aplomb, prevails upon Margot to save the order’s finances by selling the magnificently illustrated erotica, discreetly. Meaning: without the bishop’s knowledge.

The young American’s other clandestine project is a middle-aged Italian who is boldly trying radical measures to save endangered frescoes. She is 29 and available; he, older and married. He shares her sense of mission and then her bed in this ambrosial story of spiritual longing and earthly desire.
I read this book because the author has a new book, The Italian Lover, which is a sequel to The Sixteen Pleasures. (The latest book takes place 25 years after the earlier book.) I found the aspects of book conservancy and art restoration very interesting. The author gave more detailed explanations than I expected. I’m amazed at the number of volunteers from around the world who arrived in Florence to help after the flood. Margot, the main character, comes from Chicago and discovers many things about herself and people close to her while working in the convent library and other places. It’s an interesting book. I look forward to The Italian Lover.
Here’s a link I found with photos of the flood: Florence Flood 1966

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

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Bookflap: From the internationally best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a superbly crafted new work of fiction: eight stories – longer and more emotionally complex than any she has yet written – that take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they enter the lives of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers.

Up until now I’d never met a book of short stories that I liked. Up until now. I read Unaccustomed Earth over two days. The final three (they are linked) took my breath away. I think this collection deserves all the acclaim it has received.

Library Reading Challenge (list post)

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I thought I had signed up for this challenge. I saw another post reference it today (thanks for the reminder Lynne!) and I saw that I wasn’t on the list. That must be the reason the button isn’t already on my blog. So, I will be joining as soon as I post this.

I’m going to read at least one library book/month so that puts me in the first level of the challenge (12 books total).
Reviews will be posted here.

Library books read:
1. The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga
2. Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga
3. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
4. Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle
5. The Long Walk Home by Will North
6. Eating Heaven by Jennie Shortridge
7. Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center
8. Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer
9. Shelter Me by Juliette Fay
10.Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis
11. The Last Chance Cafe by Linda Lael Miller
12.Wings by Aprilynne Pike

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! by Fannie Flagg

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! by Fannie Flagg: Book Cover

B&N synopsis: …the story of Dena Nordstrom, a rising network TV anchorwoman in ’70s Manhattan, whose future is full of promise, whose present is rich with complications, and whose past is clouded by mystery.
Add a supporting cast of friends and family to Dena’s life and you’ve got an entertaining and satisfying novel. In Welcome to the World, Baby Girl! Fannie Flagg created characters who made me laugh, cry, and want to stand up and cheer. I’m a fan. Here’s one reason why:

Macky winked at Aunt Elner, “I tell you what . . . tomorrow I’ll go down and get your name tattooed right across my chest, OK?”

Norma was squirting Reddi Wip on the pudding and called out, “Don’t you dare. That’s all I need is for you to get yourself tattooed all up. Next thing you’d run off and join some motorcycle gang and be robbing banks. That’s all I need is to be married to some criminal.”

Macky looked at Aunt Elner, who already had her spoon in her hand waiting for dessert. “The woman is insane.”

“Yes, but she sure makes a good rice pudding.”

1st Anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. I’ve enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people who share this hobby/passion with me – blogging about books (with a little real life thrown in).

Thanks to all who’ve given me great book suggestions, technical advice, and for just stopping by to comment.

How long have you been blogging?

Adriana Trigiani

I read and reviewed Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani here. I loved the book which is in bookstores today. Here’s the author on the Today Show this morning:

Sorry, the video expired. You can do a Very Valentine search on YouTube and see a few different videos.

January Books

Books read in January 2009:

Shelter Mountain – Robyn Carr
The Piano Teacher – Janice Y.K. Lee
Whispering Rock – Robyn Carr
The Shell Seekers – Rosamunde Pilcher
A Virgin River Christmas – Robyn Carr
Last Days of Summer – Steve Kluger
Houston, We Have a Problema – Gwendolyn Zepeda
The Invisible Wall – Harry Bernstein
Stealing Home – Sherryl Woods
Foreign Affairs – Alison Lurie
The Rock Orchard – Paula Wall
Fireside – Susan Wiggs

The Shell Seekers
Last Days of Summer
The Rock Orchard