Thursday, July 30, 2009

review: the impostor's daughter by laurie sandell

Laurie Sandell opens her memoir by stating that her father had the mail stopped whenever he went out of town even though the others were still there to receive it. I had to read on. As I did, I discovered that I was already somewhat familiar with the story as I've read some of Sandell's magazine articles that touched on some of what she deals with here, such as her Ambien addiction.

The Impostor's Daughter is a quick read and not at all the typical memoir. This is a graphic novel. I couldn't find anything that explicitly said so, but it appears Sandell is also the illustrator of the book; the illustrations are great. Sandell is a talented writer as well who was able to make good use of the graphic format.
ARC Review

giveaway: one scream away

Another Hachette giveaway for you! Five copies of One Scream Away by Kate Brady are up for grabs.

Here's the Publishers Weekly review:
"Music professor Brady launches into her romantic suspense debut with a woman's torture-murder at the hands of clever but crazy serial killer Chevy Bankes. Using the dead woman's phone, he calls Beth Denison, who is haunted by seven years of secrets and terror, and threatens Beth's daughter, Abby. As Bankes continues roaming the Seattle area and torturing women to death, Neil Sheridan, a burned-out ex-FBI agent, joins the investigation through a connection to one of Bankes's earlier murders. Beth and Neil share emotional damage and attraction, revealing their secrets at a lugubrious pace. Their mutual unmasking parallels the desperate dig for clues, but as they race to find Bankes, he invades Beth's home to lie in wait. Snappy dialogue, good police procedural details and twisty psychology create white-hot tension that thriller fans will love, overwhelming the slow, bare-bones romance."

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 August 22. 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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

review and tour: blue like play dough by tricia goyer

Tricia Goyer completely changed her life in a very short time. She got pregnant twice in high school; the first time she had an abortion, but the second time she resisted the pressure from her boyfriend and had the baby. Goyer doesn’t really explain how it came about that having her first child inspired her to turn her life over to God, but she did. Shortly thereafter, Goyer met her husband and had two more children.

Throughout Blue Like Play Dough, Goyer relates how God has played a role in her life. Goyer and I have very different moral views; I don’t find her inspiring or relatable. I wish she had been a little less preachy and delved into how she came to have these views. She barely touches on her abortion, but spends quite a bit of time discussing her work with an anti-choice group. It seems like her past would play a role in her current work, so it should be discussed more. I was disappointed the story didn’t start with how as a teen mom Goyer became religious or what it was like to become involved with another man so soon after having her son.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

review: the opposite of love by julie buxbaum

When Emily starts to suspect her boyfriend Andrew is going to propose, she decides to break up with him. Her friends think she’s crazy and it’s clear Emily isn’t solid on her decision since she keeps the break up a secret from her family. Following the break up, Emily’s life starts spiraling out of control: her grandpa is losing his memory and her boss tries to have sex with her while they’re on a business trip. Emily wants to turn to Andrew, but he wants nothing to do with her. When it all becomes too much, a friend makes Emily an appointment with a therapist; Emily is finally able to deal with the grief she has kept inside since her mother died when she was only fourteen.

I completely loved The Opposite of Love. Emily’s law experience seemed very real (probably because Julie Buxbaum was a lawyer) as did the family/friend relationships. I wanted to cry at times, but it helped to know Emily would end up happy as the prologue reveals Emily and Andrew will go on to have a baby. It was a bit odd to have the book start off that way though as it eliminates any suspense of “will Emily and Andrew get back together?”
Review copy provided by the publisher, The Dial Press.

giveaway: the moon looked down

I've got another giveaway for you! Hachette is providing five copies of The Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock.

Here's the Publishers Weekly review:
"When WWII breaks out, many Americans find their lives turned upside down, few more so than the Heller family. Seeking refuge from Hitler-controlled Germany, the Hellers had moved to smalltown Victory, Ill., only to find themselves, 10 years later, suspected by their neighbors of being Nazis. Feeling the threat to her family grow, headstrong 20-year-old Sophie Heller also feels powerless to stop it; soon, however, she meets a handsome, similarly frustrated schoolteacher named Cole Ambrose, whose bad leg prevents him from enlisting. Their instant attraction is, naturally defied by racist townsfolk bent on keeping them apart by whatever means necessary. Garlock (Leaving Whiskey Bend) exhibits a too-comfortable mastery of the romance genre; Ambrose is a true gentleman and Sophie is a charming heroine, but both are painfully bland. The villainous characters prove more interesting, but stray often into caricature. The central conceit, racism against German immigrants during WWII, is compelling but not really explored except as a vehicle for star-crossed romance."

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 August 15. 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.

giveaway winners: two memoirs

Congratulations to the winners. If you haven't already, please email me your address.

Amy is the grand prize winner (both The Impostor's Daughter and Julie & Julia). Four additional winners get to select the book they wish to receive: Monique, Upper West Side Writer, Allison, and dag888888.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

review: the uninvited by tim wynne-jones

Following an affair with her college professor, Mimi decides to escape to an isolated property her father owns. When she arrives, she discovers the house is already in use by a recent college graduate. The two are thinking about how attractive the other is when something shocking is revealed—Mimi is at her father’s home, but Jay is at his father’s home as well. It seems their father forgot to mention he had a son in Canada before moving to New York and meeting Mimi’s mother. But this isn’t the end of the revelations for the summer. Before Mimi arrived, someone was harassing Jay at the house by leaving various things like a snakeskin. Now that Mimi is there, the break-ins have escalated. There are two highly suspect neighbors, but the cops seem unwilling to investigate the theft and harassment. As Mimi and Jay discover, they have a deep connection to the person behind the objects mysteriously left at the house.

The prologue left me wondering a bit, but once I got to the part where Mimi and Jay realize they are half-siblings I knew I had to keep reading. Most of the mysteries are revealed to the reader long before Mimi and Jay find out, but I was still compelled to find out how they would discover the truth about Cramer and what their reaction would be. The family relations were very well done and the suspense builds nicely.

Monday, July 20, 2009

review: once a witch by carolyn maccullough

Tamsin was predicted to be one of the most powerful witches in her family when she was born; however, her Talent is a no show on her eighth birthday. To escape the shame she feels, Tamsin who is now seventeen convinces her parents to allow her to attend boarding school. Tamsin is thrilled that the school requires all students to live in the dorms since it means her parents can’t force her to live with family. Although she tries to live a normal life as someone who is Talentless, Tamsin does work in her grandma’s store which is where she encounters a professor who is part of a rival witch family. Alistair, of course, doesn’t reveal that to Tamsin so she agrees to help him. Only after it is too late to turn back does Tamsin discover the truth about Alistair and the clock he asked her to find.

The plot of Once a Witch moves along nicely and has a great twist that comes as an excellent shock to Tamsin. There’s an appropriate amount of tentative high school romance to go along with the suspense of discovering the secret surrounding the clock and how it ties to Tamsin’s family. It’s a quick read ending with a cliffhanger that implies there will be a sequel if not an entire series.
ARC Review

Friday, July 17, 2009

review: annie's ghosts by steve luxenberg

In Annie’s Ghosts, Steve Luxenberg (a Washington Post journalist) tells of discovering the secret his mother kept from him and his siblings—they had an aunt who had been institutionalized at age 21. As Luxenberg searches for answers about his aunt and why his mother elected to change her entire family history, he discovers just how difficult it is to obtain records from a time when mental illness was a secret shame for families. Even after he gets legal documents giving him the authority to act as the representative of Annie’s estate, Luxenberg still has difficulty getting the information he needs. It is also a battle against time as the institutions Annie stayed at have started destroying the records since they are more than 25 years old.

This remarkable tale also delves into the interesting history of the treatment of mental illness in America. It also touches on the Depression era and World War II. Luxenberg’s journalistic skills shine through as he explores all of these subjects with a mix of objectivism and a son’s desire to discover the truth about his family. While it is still only July, I do think this will make my top five for best books of 2009; it might even make number one.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

review: the chocolate lovers' club by carole matthews

Ah, Lucy. How I just wanted to knock some sense into you. At least your friends had fairly good reasons for staying with their dysfunctional relationships: Nadia, for example, has a child with her gambling addict husband. But what keeps you with Marcus?

Despite wanting to strangle Lucy on multiple occasions for maintaining a relationship with Marcus when Aiden (AKA Crush) was clearly the one for her, I did enjoy the book (the jewelry heist is particularly good) and the women’s obsession with chocolate. Lucy even has the same philosophy about going to the gym as I do! Now if only I could find my own Chocolate Heaven.

I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next in the sequel, The Chocolate Lovers' Diet.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Little, Brown.

new releases: july

Friday, July 10, 2009

review: missing mark by julie kramer

Riley Spartz is a TV reporter in Minnesota who keeps having crazy adventures while chasing her sweeps stories. The ad she spots about an unworn wedding dress plunges her into a missing person/murder mystery. Unfortunately, her news director isn’t big on the story and wants her to pursue a stolen fish. And while all that’s going on, Riley has been entrusted with the care of a police dog that has drug-ring assassins after him!

I think I would’ve liked this book more if the main character didn’t work in the same industry as me. While some things can be (possibly) explained away because each station does things differently, I do feel there are some glaring inaccuracies. For example, Riley calls Malik in to shoot the note she gets and tells him that it’ll be overtime for him. Not a chance. Riley would have to make use of one of the photographers already at the station. Riley also mentions that the station has dropped its insurance on the equipment to save money. Again there’s no way this would happen. I was actually expecting the insurance thing to come into play as a plot point because it’s so absurd. Another gripe I have is that all the TV stuff seemed dumbed down; there’s no need to go into the explanations that Kramer does. If an explanation is needed, then it should be woven in better. Most of the explanations stopped the action. Overall, the plotting was good and I was kept guessing as to how each story would wrap.

Julie Kramer is touring to promote Missing Mark. The dates can be found on her website.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

giveaway: my name is will

Looks like this is the summer of giveaways! Once again, thanks to Hachette I have five copies of a book for some lucky winners. This one is My Name Is Will by Jess Winfield.

Here's the Publishers Weekly review:
"The two narratives in Winfield's whimsical debut are unified by their shared irreverence, humor and literary gusto. The first tale is of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a grad student trying to prove in his hastily conceived thesis that Shakespeare was a closeted Catholic. Short on cash, stoner Willie agrees to mule a superpsychedelic mushroom and a pound of weed to a couple of Renaissance Faire enthusiasts, all the while nursing his infatuation with Dashka Demitra, his sexy thesis adviser. Willie's journey is interspersed with accounts of the other Shakespeare as he, in the months leading up to his wedding, has run-ins with hallucinatory substances and comely women while delivering a secret package to a Catholic dissident. Willie's a lovable schlemiel whose clumsy strides toward attaining a genuine understanding of Shakespeare's work mirror in many ways the Bard's quest to become the great playwright we now study. Winfield uses his deep understanding of Shakespeare's work and times (he is a founding member of the Reduced Shakespeare Company) to great effect, and his affection for the material shines throughout."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win) that specifies your favorite work by William Shakespeare. 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 August 1. 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.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

review and tour: how perfect is that by sarah bird

This post contains affiliate links.

Blythe is utterly unlikable, but I completely love her! There’s a list of quotes at the beginning of How Perfect Is That; one is from Vanity Fair. Blythe is indeed reminiscent of Becky Sharp while there are shades of Amelia Sedley in Millie, who Blythe quickly learns is the only one to see even a hint of good in her. To create a character like Blythe, the author has to be talented otherwise she is simply unlikable and the book is put down because the reader doesn’t want to know what horrific act the character will commit next. And let me tell you, Blythe does some pretty horrific things. She intentionally drugs a group of women (her former friends) when they realize she cut corners on the food she provided for the party. Since Blythe is all about money and keeping up appearances, it is very enjoyable to see her forced to return to the “run-down dump” boardinghouse she lived in as a student at the University of Texas.

I enjoyed every second of this book. I loved that Blythe’s character stays true even as she starts to evolve into a slightly less self-absorbed person.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.
Check out other blogs participating in this tour!
Jenn’s Bookshelf
All About {n}
A Journey of Books
Book Soulmates
Booking Mama
Bookin’ with “BINGO”
My Guilty Pleasures
Just Jennifer Reading
Wendy’s Minding Spot
Bella’s Novella
Living Life and Reading Books
Book N Around
The Eclectic Book Hoarder
Pick of the Literate
Drey’s Library
The Epic Rat
A Book Bloggers Diary
Horror and Fantasy Book Review
Find The Time To Read
Gaijin Mama
Blog Business World
Carolina Gal’s Literary CafĂ©
Me, My Book and the Couch
Joanne Huspek's Blog
Power in the Blog
Marta’s Meanderings

Sunday, July 5, 2009

giveaway winners: soul survivor

Congratulations to the five winners of Soul Survivor. If you haven't already, please email me your address.

robin_titan, Alexa, cpom, sarah, and Barbara

Saturday, July 4, 2009

review: loose girl by kerry cohen

Loose Girl can in a way be read as a cautionary tale--this "memoir of promiscuity" is the experience of a girl whose parents divorced just as she noticed she could attract boys (and older ones at that). Making matters worse, Cohen's parents are caught up in their own lives and offer little guidance. Refreshingly, Cohen doesn't seem to blame anyone--instead she lays out the facts as she sees them without making such judgments. Likely her background as a psychotherapist has helped her understand her choices.

I simply could not put this book down. Each bit of the story compelled me on to find out what would happen, how it would end. Of course, with it being a memoir one does partially know how it ends from reading the author bio, but how Cohen goes from someone who cannot maintain a relationship to someone who is married with two children isn't known until the very end. She admits her continued struggle and concludes the story with the perfect sentiment: "Maybe, I think, I don't have to be great at this; maybe I just have to be good enough."

Kerry Cohen will be at the Portland, OR Barnes & Noble(12000 SE 82nd Ave)on Friday, July 24 at 7pm.

Friday, July 3, 2009

upcoming release and tour: missing mark

Julie Kramer, author of Stalking Susan and Missing Mark (books featuring my "real job" of TV!), is coming to the northwest for her book tour! There are other cities as well, but since I'm in the northwest those are the ones I'm interested in. I have my review copy of Missing Mark already. I'm going to start reading it once I've finished another book for a blog tour that's coming very soon.

Here's the Publishers Weekly review:
"A for-sale ad for a never worn wedding dress sparks Minneapolis TV reporter Riley Spartz to chase an intriguing story in Kramer's slick sequel to 2008's Stalking Susan. Wealthy Madeleine Post's comedian fiancĂ©, Mark Lefevre, didn't show up for their lavish White Bear Lake wedding and hasn't been seen since. Is Mark, who looks like Groucho Marx, a runaway groom or a crime victim? A few days after Riley interviews Mark's mother, Jean, the mother apparently shoots herself in the head, though the suicide note found at the scene is, oddly, in Mark's handwriting. Riley's discovery of Madeleine's rare disease—prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces), which also afflicts Madeleine's mother—adds a neat twist. Meanwhile, Riley is also under pressure to pursue a big story about the theft of Big Mouth Billy Bass, the Minnesota record largemouth bass, from a mall aquarium. Kramer makes the most of a clever, if far-fetched, idea in this fun mystery thriller."

Tuesday, July 21, 7pm
Seattle, WA -- Richard Hugo House -- 1634 11th Ave.
Plotting, Selling & Promoting the Mystery Novel

Wednesday, July 22, noon
Seattle, WA -- Seattle Mystery Bookshop -- 117 Cherry St.
signing and chatting

Thursday, July 23, 5pm
Portland, OR -- Murder by the Book -- 3210 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
speaking and signing

Thursday, July 2, 2009

review: a girl's guide to modern european philosophy by charolotte greig

For one reason or another, I fell in love with A Girl’s Guide to Modern European Philosophy on the very first page. Some books are just like that for me, but I can never explain why. I suppose I should make a list of them and compare those first pages in an attempt to find the answer.

The setting is the mid-70s, but I didn’t realize that at first (vinyl is popular again, so I just figured Jason loved the warmth of vinyl); the story does go on to mention events that solidify it as the 70s, but the overall plot could absolutely happen today. Susannah is a university student in Sussex, but isn’t into living the student life. She frequently escapes campus to the apartment she shares with her older boyfriend, Jason. However, as the term goes on and Jason is increasingly unavailable, Susannah becomes interested in one of her classmates. Not long after the affair with Rob begins, a doctor’s visit reveals Susannah is pregnant. She uses her philosophical studies to try to decide what to do about pregnancy.

While I do think the book is absolutely amazing, there is one part toward the beginning that threw me a bit and left me wondering about it for the rest of the book. The first time Susannah goes home with Rob, she meets his roommates. One sings a song with the lyrics, “I’ll be your lover man, any way that I can.” Susannah is dismissive of the song, but it immediately reminded me of Loverman by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (and covered by Metallica). I kept thinking there must be some connection, but the song was never brought up again.