Sunday, August 30, 2009

giveaway winners: the hope of refuge

ChristyJan is the lucky winner of The Hope of Refuge!

If anyone wants another chance to win, Cindy Woodsmall is giving away a copy each month (there's also a contest for a quilt on the page).

Friday, August 28, 2009

review: under this unbroken sky by shandi mitchell

Bleak. That’s the one word to describe Under This Unbroken Sky. The novel starts with a brief prologue revealing that by the end of the book three people will be dead. That knowledge kept me going; if I hadn’t known that fact, I may have decided the book was simply too depressing to finish. Nearly every possible bad thing happens to the two families who are connected because the father of one and mother of the other are siblings. At first both families are led by women who are essentially single moms. Maria’s husband is in prison and Anna’s prefers the company of a bottle and other women. Despite that, they actually seem to be doing well; Anna was able to acquire land for both families. Unfortunately everything goes downhill once both husbands return. They get into a dispute over the land, there’s a fire that destroys much of the property and food, and so much more tragedy. It became a little too much to take, especially because the characters were not likable. The adults were irresponsible and most of the children were brats. The one bright spot came when young Lesya convinced Maria to include a chick with a deformity similar to Lesya's own in the batch being purchased; she named it Happiness.
ARC Review

Thursday, August 27, 2009

review and tour: rose house by tina ann forkner

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the “tragic accident” mentioned on Rose House’s back cover is actually a murder mystery. Lillian lost her husband and two young children in a car crash four years ago. Lillian’s sister Geena, who was having an affair with Lillian’s husband(!), survived the crash but ran away before answering any questions. The sisters only knowledge of each other comes through the aunt who raised them; then a threatening phone call forces Geena to get in touch. Now Lillian isn’t sure if the man she’s falling for can be trusted.

The beginning of Rose House confused me a bit; it starts right after Lillian has lost her family then jumps to four years later. The first chapters aren’t labeled as a prologue, so I initially wasn’t sure if I had just missed something when the jump occurred. That was the only misstep I experienced though. I appreciated how the details were revealed as well as how it wasn’t clear until the end whether someone really was stalking Lillian.

Other participating sites include:
Carlybird’s Home
Luxury Reading
Daysong Reflections
Genre Reviews
Cindy’s Stamping & Reviews
The Attic Girl
A Book Lover Forever
Woven by Words
On the Write Path
Books and Needle Point
Laura Davis
What’s New in Christian Fiction
Put a Ruffle On It
Creative Madness
Michelle V’s Blog
Canadian Lady Bug Reviews
Merry Weather Book Blog
Jane Austen, Chai Tea, and Me
Found Not Lost
This That and The Other Thing
Just Another New Blog
Never a Dull Moment
Must Read Faster
Finding Hope in Fiction
Jen’s ScribblesBack Cover Reviews
Another Road to Ramble
Embracing Destiny
Christy’s Book Blog
A Well-Watered Garden
Wrighty’s Reads
Pudgy Penguin Perusals

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

review and tour: the sweetgum ladies knit for love by beth pattillo

Each Knit Lit member has some sort of problem. Eugenie should be desperately happy now that she's married the man she always loved, but some of his congregation (he's a reverend) are making her life difficult since she was never a regular church-goer. Eugenie also recently became guardian to the youngest member of the group; teenaged Hannah was abandoned by her drunk mother. Hannah also struggles in school--not academically, but with peer relationships. Things were going ok until an old friend returned as the star of the football team. The daughter of another Knit Lit member (Merry) wants the football star for herself and makes Hannah feel less than worthy. Merry has issues of her own related to her husband and children. Then there are two young women who have each recently lost a parent and face new realities. The final Knit Lit member has also suffered a loss; her husband passed away and it turns out the financial situation wasn't what he'd led her to believe.

Though closer in age to Camille and Maria, I felt more of a connection to Hannah. Camille and Maria were both wrapped up in their family situations even though neither really wants to be. Camille definitely wants out of her life, but felt she had to stay to care for her ill mother. Maria hasn't formed relationships with anyone (she's a new invite) because she's busy supporting her family--all of whom are capable adults and should support themselves. I haven't read the first book of the Sweetgum series so perhaps their motivations were better explained then, but here I didn't find a connection. Hannah's troubles were best developed. Perhaps I liked her better because as a teenager, she doesn't have as much control over her life. I felt all the adults either needed to stand up for themselves and/or take more responsibility for their choices. It was nice to see the widow starting to find her own way, so I would be interested in getting more of her story should there be a third Sweetgum novel.

Monday, August 24, 2009

review and tour: the confidential life of eugenia cooper by kathleen y'barbo

Gennie Cooper wants nothing more than to have a Wild West adventure just like Mae Winslow, the heroine of her favorite dime- novels. Each chapter of The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper starts with a bit of Mae’s story. Now I know dime-novels aren’t supposed to be great writing (even Gennie is embarrassed to be caught reading them), but I think I could’ve done without the excerpts. But for whatever reason, Gennie loves those stories enough to pose as a governess for a girl in Colorado when the sister of Gennie’s maid (the real governess) needs some time off to get married. Gennie lives a privileged east coast city life, so she doesn’t exactly realize she’s going to have to spend more time working than having adventures. Her relationship with the boss, a wealthy mine owner, gets off to a horrific start because Gennie continues to act like the spoiled young woman she is and oversteps her place as an employee. This makes Gennie quite unlikable in the beginning. Surely she knows the proper way for servants to act given that she grew up with servants. Fortunately, Gennie sheds some of her selfishness as she gets to know the child whose care she’s been entrusted with.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

giveaway winners: one scream away

Congratulations to Virginia, Anita, Eleni, etriv, and ChristyJan who each have won a copy of One Scream Away. Please email me your address.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

giveaway: dark hunger

As part of the Dark Hunger promotional tour, I have five copies for some lucky readers courtesy of Hachette.

This is my review. Here's the publisher description:
"Reporter Annabelle Armstrong will go to any lengths to deliver a story, even track down Quinton Valtrez, a man she believes is a coldhearted assassin. Yet the truth about the darkly sensual Quinton is even more shocking...and the overwhelming desire he ignites is one she vows to resist.

Quinton has fought his demonic powers since he was a child. Now using his gifts for the good of national security, he can't let himself be distracted by the beautiful, determined Annabelle. But his need for her is sudden, fierce--and could soon cost Annabelle her life. For a wicked enemy is out for vengeance, a demon who wants to draw Quinton into a life of pure evil and is willing to use Annabelle as bait. To save her, Quinton must achieve the near impossible: tame the sinister force that is both his inheritance and his curse before it claims him forever."

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 September 12. 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.

author interview: rita herron

This post contains affiliate links.

Rita Herron, author of the Demonborn series and numerous other books, was gracious enough to answer a few questions as part of the Dark Hunger promotion.

Dark Hunger takes place in a few different cities. What made you decide to use these different cities? Is one a favorite for you?

I envisioned the story as a terrorist plot where the terrorist attacked a city (as in 911), creating panic and paranoia by making everyone wonder what city might be targeted next, except of course these terrorists were demonic. Savannah, Charleston, and New Orleans are my absolute favorite southern cities because they're so full of history, charm, cultural uniqueness, ghosts, and myths and folk legends which make the setting come alive. They were a perfect backdrop to enhance the paranormal elements and plot.

In Dark Hunger, Quinton has special powers; he uses his mind to lift a beam to save a man’s life! What’s the special power you would want to have?

Yes, Quinton can move things with his mind, and sometimes gets premonitions. I'm not sure I'd want to see the future -- that could be scary! I think it would be fun to be able to move from one place to another, to orb. But if I had to choose one power, I'd probably say I'd like to have the power to heal because that's a gift that could help others.

Were you inspired by any songs, movies, TV shows, etc. while writing the Demonborn series?

The television shows I watched as a child inspired me -- The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock & The Outer Limits. The character of Cole on Charmed inspired me to write about men who were half human, half demon. And as I wrote the vulture scenes in Dark Hunger, I listened to David Grey's song, "One With the Birds." I imagine that song playing as the soundtrack for the movie (LOL!)

You’ve written quite a few books. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to get past it?

I haven't actually had writer's block to a huge degree, although I've certainly struggled with plot points or a character in a story. If I get stuck, I leave the computer, take a long walk, exercise, go for a drive, change locations -- all of that helps stimulate the brain and my creative juices. Sometimes the best way to figure out a problem is to take the pressure off of yourself and just leave it alone for a while. Letting your mind relax allows you to feed the well. Also, I have a great critique partner and a couple of other friends who I call and we talk out and brainstorm problems. That really helps.

I think sometimes writers suffer from writer's block if they're stressed in general, or if the story isn't working. In that case, it's important to rethink your set up or characters. If you're excited about the story, you won't have a block -- it will just flow.

Do you have a writing routine?

Yes, I write full time, so I have a schedule of sorts, although I'm flexible with time. I'm not a morning person so get to the computer around ten, write a scene before lunch, break and go to the gym, then eat lunch while I write another scene, break again, then try to write a third scene. I set daily and weekly page goals for myself (10 pages a day, about a chapter for me). I usually write a rough draft, then go back and spend a couple of weeks editing and tweaking. The editing and revising part requires a different "hat" for me and is definitely not my favorite part, but it's a necessary evil. I like the fun, creative part of thinking up the story, the characters and putting the mystery together.

What book (your own or someone else’s) has had the most impact on your life?

Tami Hoag's book Cry Wolf was the first mystery/suspense/romance that I really fell in love with, the "aha' book where I thought, "I want to write like her!"

What was your favorite book as a child?

I had two - I loved Pippi Longstocking and wanted to be like her. And I devoured the Trixie Belden mystery series. Reading those mysteries made me realize I wanted to be a writer, and that I wanted to write mysteries.

What’s up next for you?

I'm not totally sure -- I'm working on a romantic suspense trilogy idea with paranormal elements, a YA paranormal suspense series, and I'll be writing more Intrigues for Harlequin. I also have a paranormal romantic suspense screenplay (and book) that I'm planning to write!

review and tour: dark hunger by rita herron

This post contains affiliate links.

Dark Hunger is a steamy paranormal romance centered around a diabolical scheme to kill all of mankind. Raised by monks, Homeland Security agent Quinton is an assassin composed of contradictions. His father is a powerful demon who sends the Death Angel to retrieve more souls for Satan while his mother was an Angel of Light. The monks trained Quinton to battle his evil side, but the struggle rages daily as his job requires him to kill. Quinton also has been shut off from love, that is until Annabelle, a CNN reporter, chases him down for a story.

The mystery part of Dark Hunger is full of red herrings to keep the reader guessing. Is the Death Angel posing as the reverend? Perhaps one of the doctors? One downfall of Dark Hunger is that Annabelle is a TV reporter. It would work much better to have her as a print journalist. No TV reporter is going to go after her story without bringing the photographer along; but if the photog is there, Annabelle and Quinton don't get all that alone time.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Be sure to read my Q&A with Rita Herron. And keep in mind that there are five copies of Dark Hunger up for grabs. Then check out the other blogs on the tour. Some of them are doing giveaways too!

Friday, August 21, 2009

review and tour: how it ends by laura wiess

How It Ends is too, too sad. Teenaged Hanna has a close bond with her next door neighbors who have been like grandparents to her through the years. Now that she’s older, she wants to be with people her own age and doesn’t make as much time for them. But the neighbors, Helen and Lon, aren’t doing so well; both have health problems and need medications in excess of their insurance. While Hanna tries to make things work with her crush, Helen slips deeper into Parkinson’s hell. It’s too late for Helen to give Hanna advice, but she has left the truth of her life story—a story she had completely re-spun into a fairy tale—for Hanna to hear.

The amazingly well-written story of How It Ends and the book within the book (also called How It Ends) had me in tears more than I would like to admit. Another thing I’d really rather not admit is how much I recognize Hanna. Sometimes book characters are incredibly relatable and Hanna is one of them. Even when she made bad choices, I understood why she would make them. I cheered for her when something made her happy and had my heart break when hers did.
Review copy provided by the publisher, MTV Books.
These are the other blogs participating in this tour:
Book Soulmates
A Journey of Books
Just Jennifer Reading
Debbie’s World of Books
All About {n}
Chick with Books
Bookin’ with Bingo
Starting Fresh
Booksie’s Blog
Blog Business World
Books and Needlepoint
Bella’s Novella
Frugal Plus
Eclectic Book Lover
My Own Little Corner of the World
Chick Loves Lit
Poisoned Rationality
So Many Books, So Little Time
Beth’s Book Review Blog
Park Avenue Princess
Half Deserted Streets
Power in the Blog
Crazy for Books

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

review and tour: summer of two wishes by julia london

Which husband do you choose when the one you were told died three years ago in combat in Afghanistan returns? That’s the question facing Macy in Summer of Two Wishes.

After mourning Finn for about two years, Macy started dating Wyatt and married him seven months ago. Everyone in their small town has an opinion about who Macy should be with. Her mom prefers Wyatt because he is wealthy; Finn’s mom is overprotective and angry that Macy is hurting Finn with her indecision; and her best friend, who also lost her soldier husband, screams out that she would never be in this situation because she can never move on from her loss. Macy will devastate one man regardless of her decision, but she has to come to a resolution for everyone’s well-being.

Summer of Two Wishes begins with Finn’s return, so little is known about what Macy’s relationship with Wyatt was like before. That’s unfortunate. Wyatt comes across as jealous, possessive, and vindictive which makes it difficult to understand why Macy would’ve ever wanted to be with him in the first place. A few flashbacks or remembrances of better times (Macy’s honeymoon memory doesn’t even make it appear that her relationship with Wyatt was all that great!) would’ve greatly aided in setting up why it was such an agonizing decision.

Here are the other blogs participating in the tour:
Book Soulmates
A Journey of Books
Just Jennifer Reading
All About {n}
My Guilty Pleasures
Bookin’ with Bingo
Starting Fresh
Booksie’s Blog
The Tome Traveller
Cheryl’s Book Nook
Bella’s Novella
Frugal Plus
Eclectic Book Lover
One Person’s Journey Through A World Of Books
Foreign Circus Library
My Own Little Corner of the World
Alpha Heroes
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Seductive Musings
Bibliophiles ‘R Us
Park Avenue Princess
Power in the Blog
Books and Needlepoint

Sunday, August 16, 2009

giveaway winners: the moon looked down

Congratulations to Mel, Kira R., Carol, Julie, and Kaye who each win a copy of The Moon Looked Down from Hachette. If you haven't already, please email me your address.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

author guest post: belinda acosta

I'm delighted to have a guest post from the author of Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz. Here Belinda Acosta discusses her writing process:

People seem to have very particular ideas about what a “writing process” is, so I hope I’m approaching your version of it. My writing process is really quite pedestrian. I wake up, drink coffee, fire up the computer, answer e-mail (I still have a day job and work from home), deal with annoying details; then I start writing. Depending on what I’m working on, I may wake up as early as 3am. I’m not sure why that’s the magical hour except maybe it’s because that’s when the last Cap Metro bus passes my house and everyone is finally where they need to be for the night. The phone doesn’t ring and no one comes to my door. It’s sublimely quiet. I’ve marveled at other writers who say they write to music. I could never do that! I’m pretty good at tuning the world out, having written in newsrooms, but writing in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the world has gone to sleep is luscious.

When I was contacted about writing a series on quinceañeras I had just reviewed Julia Alvarez’s nonfiction book, Once Upon a Quinceañera for The Austin Chronicle. So, the subject was in high on my radar. What intrigued me about the subject was similar to what intrigued Alvarez: What does it mean to be a woman today? Is there something about the Latina experience that is unique? Why have a ritual to mark this “passage”? Where did the tradition stem from? And on and on and on. I find it amusing that I did not have a quinceañera, I had never been to one prior to writing this book, and I don’t have any children. I do know, from first hand experience, how complicated the relationship between mothers and daughters can be. Part of what makes Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz stand out is that it focuses on that relationship—the good and the bad, hopefully, with honesty and candor. In short, I drafted an outline for the book and once it was approved, I began writing.

Belinda Acosta works as a journalist in Austin, Texas, writing reviews and features on books, film, and the arts, in addition to a weekly column on television (TV Eye) for the Austin Chronicle. Her work has appeared in Poets & Writers, Latino USA, Latino Magazine, AlterNet and other publications. She was a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her MFA in Writing in 1997. Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz (Grand Central Publishing, August 2009) is her first novel.

review and tour: damas, dramas, and ana ruiz by belinda acosta

Ana Ruiz has two teenagers with her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Their son Diego has been fairly accepting of the new circumstances, but daughter Carmen is another story. She’s always been daddy’s little girl and believes her mother is the sole cause of her parents’ problems. Since Carmen’s fifteenth birthday is approaching, Ana suggests holding a quinceañera as a way for them to bond. Of course, things don’t go exactly as Ana plans; her niece Bianca (who has parental problems of her own) is far more into the quinceañera and bonding experience than Carmen is. Ana struggles to keep her family together while also trying to find a life for herself without her husband.

I enjoyed the story quite a bit, especially the twist at the end regarding Ana’s husband. It was clear straightaway he’d been unfaithful and Ana just wasn’t saying because she didn’t want the children to think poorly of him, but the bombshell he drops was completely unexpected. The part I didn’t enjoy was the narrator. I felt this external narrator took me out of the story too much, especially with all the “how do you says” both in English and Spanish. Those drove me crazy!

And one last thing: Get out your Spanish dictionary! I took Spanish for two years, but apparently most of it has fallen out of my head. I spent quite a bit of time looking up words and phrases as I read Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz. I do believe one could understand what was going on without knowing any of the Spanish words, but I’m someone who has to know. I also looked up information about quinceañeras because I wanted to know more about the event that is at the center of this book; though again, you can get through with only the information given in the book.

Here are the other participating blogs. You can also read the guest post from Belinda Acosta.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

review: prime time by hank phillippi ryan

This post contains affiliate links.

Forty-six year old investigative reporter Charlie McNally knows her time at Channel 3 is dependent upon getting a great story for November sweeps, but she doesn't have much to work with. That is until she starts piecing together a corporation's corruption, two suspicious deaths, and what initially looked to be spam emails. Now Charlie must figure out who's behind the conspiracy not just to impress the station brass but to save her life!

Prime Time's excellent murder mystery is made all the more enjoyable with Hank Phillippi Ryan's accurate portrayal of TV news. The author has years of experience of in TV news (including an impressive number of Emmys and Murrows) and her knowledge of the industry is clear. From the very first chapter I knew I was going to love everything about this book. So much of what's shown here about TV news has happened in my life (though thankfully no one has ever tried to kill me!). I sincerely hope enough people read Prime Time that the misconceptions about TV news are eliminated. I, for one, am very much looking forward to the next Charlie McNally book, Face Time.
Review copy provided by the author.

Friday, August 7, 2009

review: if the witness lied by caroline b. cooney

In a short period of time, the four Fountain children lost both of their parents. Before their father died, the former stepsister of the children’s mother had come forward to live with the family claiming she wanted to help. Now that their father is dead too, Cheryl has set up the house how she wants it and alienated the children to the point that one lives with her godparents while the other sister has enrolled in boarding school. Only Jack and toddler Tris remain in the unhappy house. As their father’s birthday passes and the anniversaries of their parents’ deaths approach, the children feel a need to come together. That’s when they discover Cheryl has been lying to them; the three teens haven’t agreed to be involved in the TV show Cheryl has planned, but that’s what she tells them knowing they haven’t had much communication in the last year. Now the question is, if Cheryl is lying about this, what else has she lied about?

This is a good story, but it requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. It’s just a little too much to believe that everything would happen as written. I don’t want to do spoilers, but I can say that I sincerely doubt the media would’ve been interested in the story (that is, until the protesters showed up at the house, but they could’ve only known to protest if the story had been picked up. I also doubt anyone would actually protest what they are said to protest; if anything, people protest the exact opposite!). Cheryl’s motivation is more than a little sketchy. In the end, things just don’t quite add up.
ARC Review

Monday, August 3, 2009

giveaway: the hope of refuge

I have one copy of The Hope of Refuge to giveaway.

My review is here and an author interview is available here, but here's the information from the publisher to give you a little more:
"Raised in foster care and now the widowed mother of a little girl, Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and Lori out of New York City toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers and a fresh start. She discovers that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and it’s no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God–“Be me to her”– despite how it threatens his way of life.

Completely opposite of the hard, untrusting Cara, Ephraim’s sister Deborah also finds her dreams crumbling when the man she has pledged to build a life with begins withdrawing from Deborah and his community, including his mother, Ada Stoltzfus. Can the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose–or push Mahlon away forever? While Ephraim is trying to do what he believes is right, will he be shunned and lose everything–including the guarded single mother who simply longs for a better life?"

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 29. Winners will be selected at random. Open to all US residents; PO Boxes are just fine this time.

review and tour: the hope of refuge by cindy woodsmall

This post contains affiliate links.

When it is clear that her stalker has become even more dangerous, Cara flees with her daughter to Dry Lake, Pennsylvania—a place she’d been once before with her mother. Cara doesn’t realize her connection to the Amish who live there, but they know exactly who she is. Only one man, Ephraim, dares to betray the community and help her and her young daughter. Although Cara and Lori try to hide, they are eventually revealed and Ephraim suffers a harsh punishment. And that’s not the only turmoil for Ephraim’s family—his father is sick and his sister has relationship problems of her own.

Not only was this book well-written with a great plot that includes a bit of romance and mystery, it also taught me a few things. I had no idea that Englischers (that would be anyone who isn’t Amish) do interact freely with Amish people; I thought they were much more isolated. I was also quite surprised (as was Cara) to learn that they can have phones for business, but they are typically not kept in the living quarters. The Hope of Refuge definitely inspired me to learn more. The profile that ABC did reveals some more information (about the author as well who is interviewed), but I think I'm going to check out some books from the library.

Cindy Woodsmall isn’t touring the northwest, which makes me sad, but here are the dates.
Tuesday, August 11, 7 pm
Norcross, GA -- Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, August 12, 7pm
Nashville, TN -- Barnes & Noble Opry Mills

Thursday, August 13, 6pm
Plainfield, IN -- Barnes & Noble

Friday, August 14, 6pm
Downers Grove, IL -- Barnes & Noble

Saturday, August 15, 1pm
Grand Rapids, MI -- Baker Books

Sunday, August 16, 2pm
Grandville, MI -- Barnes & Noble

Monday, August 17, 7pm
Columbus, OH -- Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, August 18, 7pm
Pittsburgh, PA -- Joseph Beth Booksellers

Wednesday, August 19, 6pm
Whitehall, PA -- Hackman’s Bible Book Store

Thursday, August 20, 1pm
Newburg, PN -- Rachel’s Country Store (Amish dry goods store)

I have one copy of this book to giveaway so be sure to check that out!
Review copy provided by the publisher, WaterBrook Press.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

giveaway winners: my name is will

Congratulations to Grad School Mommy, Amy, ChristyJan, Upper West Side Writer, and Angela who each win a copy of My Name Is Will. If you haven't already, please email me your address.