Monday, June 29, 2009

giveaway: two memoirs

Hachette has allowed me another great giveaway! Two memoirs are up for grabs. They are The Impostor’s Daughter by Laurie Sandell and Julie & Julia by Julie Powell.

Publishers Weekly says this about The Impostor’s Daughter:
“In this delightfully composed graphic novel, journalist Sandell (Glamour) illustrates a touchingly youthful story about a daughter's gushing love for her father. Using a winning mixture of straightforward comic-book illustrations with a first-person diarylike commentary, Sandell recounts the gradual realization from her young adulthood onward that her charming, larger-than-life Argentine father, bragging of war metals, degrees from prestigious universities and acquaintances with famous people, had lied egregiously to his family about his past and accomplishments. Growing up with her two younger sisters and parents first in California, then in Bronxville, N.Y., the author records signs along the way that her father, a professor of economics with a volatile temperament and autocratic manner, was hiding something, from his inexplicable trips out of town, increasing paranoid isolation, early name change from Schmidt to Sandell, to massive credit-card fraud. Interviewing her father for her first magazine article, the author resolved to check his sources and even flew later to confront his past in Argentina, only to discover the truth. Feeling betrayed, guilty for exposing him and mistrustful in her relationships with men, Sandell numbed herself by abusing Ambien and alcohol. Her depiction of her rehab adventure is rather pat and tidy, and she does not address the notion that her own creativity might have sprung from her father's very duplicity. However, Sandell's method of storytelling is marvelously unique and will surely spark imitators.”

And this about Julie & Julia:
“Powell became an Internet celebrity with her 2004 blog chronicling her yearlong odyssey of cooking every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A frustrated secretary in New York City, Powell embarked on "the Julie/Julia project" to find a sense of direction, and both the cooking and the writing quickly became all-consuming. Some passages in the book are taken verbatim from the blog, but Powell expands on her experience and gives generous background about her personal life: her doting husband, wacky friends, evil co-workers. She also includes some comments from her "bleaders" (blog readers), who formed an enthusiastic support base. Powell never met Julia Child (who died last year), but the venerable chef's spirit is present throughout, and Powell imaginatively reconstructs episodes from Child's life in the 1940s. Her writing is feisty and unrestrained, especially as she details killing lobsters, tackling marrowbones and cooking late into the night. Occasionally the diarist instinct overwhelms the generally tight structure and Powell goes on unrelated tangents, but her voice is endearing enough that readers will quickly forgive such lapses. Both home cooks and devotees of Bridget Jones–style dishing will be caught up in Powell's funny, sharp-tongued but generous writing.”

The rules: One grand prize winner will receive a copy of each book. Four additional winners will get to choose which of the two books they want. Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). Please indicate if you wish to be entered for both or just one of the books (those selecting both will automatically be entered into the individual giveaway if not the grand prize winner). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on July 25. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

review: crazy beautiful by lauren baratz-logsted

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Crazy Beautiful is a “Beauty and the Beast” story. Aurora and Lucius are both new at school. They each need a fresh start in a new town. Aurora is beautiful and immediately accepted by her new classmates. Lucius, however, discovers that his reputation of being crazy has followed him. Of course, he had to know it would be hard to hide his identity given the hooks he has for hands. Even though their experiences are quite different, Lucius and Aurora find themselves drawn to each other. As with any love story, conflict arises. This time it’s from jealous classmates who tell a terrible lie in order to split the two.

I’ve enjoyed quite a few of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s books, particularly the ones published by Red Dress Ink. The YA titles that I’ve read in the past have been excellent as well, so I was excited for Crazy Beautiful. I have to say I don’t think this one has the same appeal to an older audience that many YA titles do; it seems like it is more appropriate for the younger set. The suggested age is “12 and up,” but I would actually put the audience as younger than that, perhaps at age 10.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

review: of bees and mist by erick setiawan

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Of Bees and Mist takes place in an unknown location at an unknown time. The only thing that’s clear is things are not as they are in modern day America. The story centers around Meridia, who grows up unlike most children. Secrets about are kept from her and her most solid relationship is with her nurse, who leaves just as Meridia enters puberty. A few years later, Meridia meets Daniel and marries despite her father’s protests (her mother intervenes on her behalf). Unfortunately, the living situation with Daniel isn’t any better.

The story could be just that—a girl with an unhappy home life seeks love elsewhere only to find herself saddled with additional problems—but there’s more to it. There are fantastical elements that add to the secrets and mystery of the story. Meridia’s childhood home is incredibly cold and surrounded by mists. Daniel’s home has flowers that grow uncontrollably; his mother also complains so much that bees surround her words. There are a number of other mystical elements that leave the reader curious about this book’s setting. Although I wish some of these things were given more of an explanation, it is a good read once you accept that the rules of the universe as we understand them do not apply.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by Barnes and Noble First Look.

Monday, June 22, 2009

giveaway winners: the night gardener

Congratulations to the five winners of The Night Gardener. If you haven't already, please email me your address.

ellie, cstironkat, Hil'Lesha, Alexa, and Carlene

Friday, June 19, 2009

giveaway: soul survivor

Once again Hachette is letting me giveaway five copies of a book! This time it's Soul Survivor by Bruce and Andrea Leininger with Ken Gross.

This is the description from Hachette:
This is the story of James Leininger, who-- a little more than two weeks after his second birthday-- began having blood-curdling nightmares that just would not stop. When James began screaming out recurring phrases like, "Plane on fire! Little man can't get out!" the Leiningers finally admitted that they truly had to take notice.

When details of planes and war tragedies no two-year-old boy could know continued-- even in stark daylight-- Bruce and Andrea Leininger began to realize that this was an incredible situation. Soul Survivor is the story of how the Leiningers pieced together what their son was communicating and eventually discovered that he was reliving the past life of World War II fighter pilot James Huston. As Bruce Leininger struggled to understand what was happening to his son, he also uncovered details of James Huston's life-- and death-- as a pilot that will fascinate military buffs everywhere.

In Soul Survivor, we are taken for a gripping ride as the Leiningers' belief system is shaken to the core, and both of these families come to know a little boy who, against all odds and even in the face of true skeptics, harbors the soul of this man who died long ago.

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on July 4. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

review: work what you got by stephanie perry moore

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Take a bunch of clichés and mix in some bad dialogue. Add a dash of unlikable characters. Knead into the plot of Work What You Got.

Seriously this book was just bad. I’m quite surprised that the author mentions her own Greek experience in the acknowledgments. Maybe she had an awful experience? Otherwise I can’t really explain why someone would write such a negative sorority story. The Beta Gamma Pi members in this book are terribly mean and self-centered. The girl the story centers around (Hayden) is the most self-centered of them all. She completely ignores her roommates when they decide not to pledge the same sorority, she blows off the boy she likes when better things come up, and then she alienates all the girls in the sorority. The next book in the series focuses on a different girl, so maybe it’ll have more likable characters; I have my doubts that the dialogue or plot will be any better. I’m sure it’ll be the same clichés once again.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Kensington.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

review: neil armstrong is my uncle by nan marino

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It’s summer, so all the kids are out of school and running around the neighborhood. Their days are filled with kickball and ice cream. Unfortunately Tammy just isn’t happy. Her best friend moved away and a boy has moved into her old house. Tammy nicknames him “Muscle Man” and hates hearing all his lies; even worse, no one else, even the adults, calls Muscle Man out on the lies. As summer stretches on and the realities of Vietnam hit home, things change even more for Tammy and the neighborhood. The story culminates with the moon landing and an understanding between Tammy and her nemesis.

Nan Marino has crafted a fabulously funny, yet heart-breaking story. The characters were easy to connect with and very realistic. Although intended for a preteen audience, Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle will appeal to all ages. Hopefully it’ll inspire the kids who read it to find out more about the historical events in the book.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Roaring Brook Press.

Friday, June 12, 2009

review: i'll make you an offer you can't refuse by michael franzese

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Michael Franzese used to be in the mob. He was pretty successful in his Mafia business dealings, but eventually the life caught up with him (he says that’s the case for all mobsters) and he went to prison. Franzese doesn’t get into the reasons he decided to leave the mob, but he did and now makes a living writing books and as a motivational speaker. I’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse compares life in the mob to working in a legitimate business. Franzese uses the philosophies of Machiavelli and Solomon to get his point across. At the end of each chapter is a summary of the advice, which is really handy to come back to.

Since I really don’t know anything about the Mafia, I enjoyed learning more through the comparison to the business world. Some of the tips are simply common sense, but the stories still make for an interesting read. In Chapter Seven he shares insight about how gambling affects legitimate businesses negatively by giving examples of those who have met their downfall because of a gambling addiction. Those real life examples come throughout the book, which makes it easy to understand how all of these tips apply. The mob stories were especially intriguing!

Reading this made me interested in Franzese’s other books, Quitting the Mob and Blood Covenant; I’d like to know more about what made him change his life.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

review: the 30-second commute by stephanie dickison

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After reading My So-Called Freelance Life and Stephanie Dickison’s review of it, I decided to read Dickison’s book. In her review, she expressed that she was initially concerned The 30-Second Commute would be like My So-Called Freelance Life.She had no cause for concern; while both good books regarding the general topic of freelancing, they aren’t very similar.

The 30-Second Commute is a glimpse of a freelancer’s life. Those seeking a how-to guide should look to a number of other titles, though there are some insights that can be gained. I would recommend it for anyone considering becoming a freelancer. For example, Dickison makes it clear that her life is not all about hanging around the computer in her pajamas waiting for inspiration. If someone reading this book was hoping being a freelancer would allow him or her to live such a life, it quickly becomes clear that doing so doesn’t lead to success. A series of lists throughout the book show just how much has to get done each week.

Although this book’s primary audience is likely to be writers and other sorts of freelancers, the humor interspersed throughout should make it appealing to those interested in the memoir/biography genre as well. I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of reviewing books, music, and restaurants. In the section on music she writes about the ridiculousness of the genres and the elitist snobs who despise the mainstream bands she has in her CD collection while also discounting her suggestions of bands they’ve never heard of simply because they’ve never heard of them. I was laughing out loud.
Review copy provided by the publisher, ECW Press.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

review: the narcissism epidemic by jean m. twenge & w. keith campbell

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Hmmm...I guess I'll buy the argument these two Associate Professors of Psychology are making in The Narcissism Epidemic. I am a little biased about this subject apparently. According to the authors, I just might be a bit of a narcissist! I have a website that starts with "my;" I think people actually care about what I have to say about the books I read; and I work in TV. But I did find it interesting that Twenge and Campbell were able to make a link between an increase in narcissism and school/public place shootings. Since the shooters in most of the cases aren't alive to give the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) to, the authors instead compared statements the shooters made to items found on the NPI. They found a number of similarities. With that section, Twenge and Campbell sold me on a narcissism trend at least being worthy of study.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Atria Books.