Sunday, January 31, 2010

giveaway winners: the male factor and love in 90 days

The Queen of Free is the winner of The Male Factor. Jennifer L. and grumergirl each get a copy of Love in 90 Days. Congratulations!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

giveaway: lone star legend

In support of the Lone Star Legend tour, Hachette is providing three giveaway copies.

I absolutely loved the book (my review here), so I hope everyone else does too. Here's the opinion of Publishers Weekly:
"Private lives become fodder for public consumption in Zepeda's sendup of the blog/traditional media divide. Austin, Tex., investigative journalist Sandy Saavedra blogs for LatinoNow when Levy Media turns the hard news Web site into a cheezy entertainment Web site, Nacho Papi. Becoming a pun-writing gossipmonger is not one of her goals, but Sandy dives into her job with total OMG results: a post about the Chupacabra leads to a recurring advice column (Ask the Chupacabra) and a booming sideline in related merchandise. Problem is, the source of the Chupacabra craze is a little bit off, didn't sign a release form, and has a personal connection to Sandy's beloved late great aunt Linda. Then Sandy's outed as the author of her anonymous and very personal blog, My Modern TragiComedy, leading to outraged responses from those she's skewered. Internet celebrity follows, as do the inevitable office politics and romantic troubles, and though they get more stage time than warranted, Zepeda (Houston, We Have a Problema) gives readers a funny and smart heroine that readers will easily pull for, even in the dull bits."

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 February 13. 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 guest post: gwendolyn zepeda

As part of her tour for the fantastic Lone Star Legend, Gwen Zepeda took the time to answer my query about her experience of going from blogger to published author and how that may have inspired her for Lone Star Legend.

Good question.

Like a lot of you guys online, I was a failed author before I became a blogger. I had plenty of rejection slips under my belt for short stories and magazine articles I’d written, and I only started blogging as a hobby and to get stuff off my chest – not because I thought it might one day lead to a real writing career.

I started my personal blog,, in 1997. Back then, like a lot of bloggers, I learned the hard way that nothing is really anonymous or private online and that I had to be careful about what I posted. I set a rule for myself: Never say anything online that I wouldn’t want the whole world to see. But at the same time, I saw a lot of other bloggers write really personal stuff that I’d rather die than put online, and I watched the consequences. Like a lot of writers, I’ve been tempted to start an “anonymous” blog and really let loose with my negative feelings, so I wanted to explore, through Sandy S’s character in Lone Star Legend, what it feels like to do that. Obviously, though, since I’m still blogging, I found some good things about it, too, and I let Sandy experience those aspects, too.

One of the earliest benefits of starting my blog was that I got invited to become one of the first staff writers for They paid me to write long recaps that made fun of various television shows. I liked writing for the site, but I always felt bad about making fun of the TV actors because I’d constantly imagine how they’d feel if they read our site. Well, Television Without Pity got really popular, and suddenly the site’s owners and staff writers became (kind of) famous. (This was back in the Internet Medieval Age, in the early 2000s.) And then the readers started talking about us the way we talked about the celebrities – as if we weren’t human beings and would never get our feelings hurt by their comments. And that shocked me and made me think about my career in new ways. So it was fun to put my main character, Sandy, through the same experience and see how she’d deal with it.

review and tour: lone star legend by gwendolyn zepeda

Sandy writes for an online magazine that has just been bought out by a company that focuses more on trashy gossip. Sandy isn’t thrilled (and her boyfriend, a grad student, is appalled), but she needs to pay the rent on the garage apartment at her mom’s. Sandy vents her frustrations about her family, boyfriend, and the job that makes her compromise herself on an anonymous blog. Except it turns out to not be so anonymous as the articles she posts for her new employer gain in popularity. Sandy has to face all those she’s hurt, including a wonderful man named Jaime who never even realized how she had betrayed him until his nephew discovers what she’s done.

I loved Sandy even as she faltered; she was both flawed and wonderful—human. The format of Lone Star Legend added to my enjoyment as it combined traditional prose with Sandy’s blog posts and articles as well as reader comments.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

For this tour, I have a giveaway and guest post from the author. Some of the other participating sites do as well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

review and tour: a highlander's destiny by melissa mayhue

A Highlander’s Destiny, the fifth in Melissa Mayhue’s Highlander series, begins slowly by introducing the three components of the story: Adira, who has kidnapped Leah in order to drink her blood, which will keep Adira young; Destiny, who wants desperately to find her sister Leah; and Jesse, who Destiny contacts to help locate her sister. The pace soon picks up so that the pursuit is quite intense by the end. Although the most basic element of the story is everyone’s connection to the Faerie world, the magical elements are rare; there’s a lot of focus on Destiny and Jesse’s budding relationship and why each is hesitant to pursue it.

Since this is a romance, I expected Jesse and Destiny to connect; but I was disappointed at how quickly Destiny fell into bed with Jesse. Thankfully Destiny redeemed herself by refusing to sit around helpless while the men tried to rescue her sister. In fact, Destiny does a better job at finding and rescuing Leah than the men. I wish Destiny and Leah would’ve had a little more time at the end to discuss the revelation about their family tree before A Highlander’s Destiny wrapped up.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

The other participating tour sites:

Monday, January 25, 2010

review and tour: gentlemen prefer succubi by jill myles

This post contains affiliate links.

Jill Myles dives right into the action (and it is explicitly dirty action) with her debut, Gentlemen Prefer Succubi, the first in a series about Jackie Brighton, a frumpy museum docent recently turned sexy succubus. Myles puts a great twist on fallen angel and vampire lore, which all gets explained to Jackie (and the reader) as she comes to terms with her new immortality. Even though she has another succubus to guide her, Jackie makes some rookie mistakes which propel the exciting plot that includes a major showdown between the angel Uriel (who tricked Jackie) and Vampire Queen Nitocris with Jackie caught in the middle. Every chapter provides a thrill that makes it impossible to put the book down. I’m looking forward to the recently released sequel, Succubi Like It Hot.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star Books.

Other sites participating in the tour:

Friday, January 22, 2010

giveaway: a black tie affair

This post contains affiliate links.

As part of Sherrill Bodine's tour for A Black Tie Affair, Hachette has provided five copies to giveaway!

Please read my review and the below publisher description.
"Fashion curator Athena Smith will do anything to get her hands on the Clayworth family's couture collection for her exhibit. So she's thrilled when she's called in to authenticate the gowns...until she falls ill while examining them and wakes up face-to-face with notorious Chicago bachelor Drew Clayworth.

Drew doesn't trust Athena one bit. He still believes she betrayed him years ago. So when his family's gowns go missing and Athena offers her help in exchange for the dresses, he reluctantly accepts. But they're both taken off guard by the barely restrained passion that's still between them...and the memories that are both bitter and sweet. As they work together to find the dresses, can they resist the sparks between them?"

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 February 6. 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 and tour: a black tie affair by sherrill bodine

In their younger days, Athena and Drew were good friends with a bit of romance between them. Unfortunately they were a little too young for things to work out then; now the relationship is even more strained since Drew cast the deciding vote to fire Athena’s father from the business owned by Drew’s family. The two are forced to work together when the priceless gowns Athena wants for her museum exhibit are stolen from Drew’s family shortly after Athena is sickened by a toxin coating the dresses. The tense relationship is somewhat eased by the fact that both succumb to the toxin on the dresses—a toxin that is said to act like truth serum but seems to act more like a love serum.

This is one of the few times where even though A Black Tie Affair had a satisfactory conclusion (in regards to the romance, that is), I’d really like to read a sequel. That the mystery is dropped once the dresses are retrieved was frustrating (I need to know whodunit!), but the search for them was enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed Athena’s reactions to how the dresses were treated by their new owners who wanted to dance around or cook in their newly purchased exquisite gowns.
Review copy provided by publisher, Forever.

I have a giveaway with this tour plus other sites have giveaways and posts from the author. They are:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

author guest post: anne canadeo

As part of the tour for Knit, Purl, Die, Anne Canadeo took the time to answer the question, "How do you continue to come up with fresh plots for the series?"

I do love writing a series because I get very attached to the characters and can always think of something else that might happen to them. Black Sheep Mystery series is just starting off, so I don’t have any problem coming up with different situations that place this group of intrepid knitters at the scene of a crime. If the series continues for a few years (we can dream, can’t we?) I’d expect that devising plots will be more challenging.

Sometimes I begin with a setting or situation that captures my imagination. One I instinctively sense will hook readers, because it hooks me. In the third book which is just the outline stage now, (A Stitch Before Dying) the Black Sheep decide to go away for the weekend to a spa in Vermont. I thought I could have a lot of fun with this concept, showing the characters on a girls-only outing. The closest I’ve ever come was entertaining my high school friends for a weekend last summer. Husbands, children and house pets were banished. My home is not quite a spa, but we do live near the beach. We ate good food, drank an appropriate amount of wine and everyone had an amazing time. I suppose the underlying theme of all the Black Sheep books, aside from the joys of knitting and solving mysteries, is exploring the bonds of female friendship. The spa setting seemed like an ideal setting to play that out. Of course, unlike my mini-reunion, a dead body - or two - turns up and the Black Sheep go from meditating to investigating.

Some writers are very plot oriented. I’m more focused on character. I think a lot about each character’s personality – their personal histories, psychology, relationships, life goals and challenges – and usually find that a good story evolves from there. Even a mystery. As Henry James said, "Character is plot."

For Knit, Purl, Die, I started with a simple situation, a striking image that would be the centerpiece of the mystery. A member of the knitting group who works in real estate, is showing a house to prospective buyers and she finds a body floating in the swimming pool.

The question becomes, who is this dead person and why/how did they meet this grisly ending?
My next task was to develop the character of Gloria Sterling, the lovely corpse. I had some idea who she would be – rich, attractive, assertive. But I really ended up loving her and totally enjoyed writing about her, especially the part of her life she kept hidden from her friends. She turned out to be a complicated, charming, larger than life woman. The dark side of Gloria’s character becomes the path of the investigation for the Black Sheep. Unfortunately, I find that the characters who get killed off are often the most fun to write about and regret that I can’t bring them back to life for future books.

I guess it’s really hard to say where story ideas come from. When a good one comes along, I just feel it. Tracing back my steps and trying to figure out how I got from A to B doesn’t seem to help much when it’s time to write the next outline. It’s largely an unconscious process. Part of the magic...and/or frustration...of the process.

review and tour: knit, purl, die by anne canadeo

The Black Sheep Knitters are back again in Knit, Purl, Die to solve another crime; this time their friend Gloria has drowned in her own pool while her husband was away. It’s initially believed to be an accident, but the Knitters are suspicious and do some digging after the police close the case. That’s when they discover Gloria had a few secrets.

This is a quick read, though the mystery itself takes a while to get to. Although there are five knitters (a background for each is given at the beginning of the book), it’s really only Lucy and Suzanne who are focused on. I felt the ensemble needed more development since I needed to reference their bios a few times. The whodunit portion of Knit, Purl, Die was well done and kept me second-guessing the killer throughout; however, the ladies simply summarized the revelation instead of being in on the action which was a disappointment.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Other participating sites:
Brizmus Blogs About Books
Renee’s Reads
Book Junkie
Pam’s Private Reflections
Starting Fresh
Frugal Plus
Books, Books Everywhere
My Guilty Pleasures
Just Another New Blog
A Book Bloggers Diary
Books Reviews by Buuklvr81
Reading at the Beach
Foreign Circus Library
The Cajun Book Lady
Red Headed Book Child
Wendy’s Minding Spot
Books, Movies & Chinese Food
Pudgy Penguin Perusals
Between the Pages
Marta’s Meanderings
Chaotic Book Obsession
Savey Spender
Libby’s Library News
Books & Needlepoint
Booksie’s Blog
Jeanne's Ramblings
I Read
Bless Their Hearts Mom
Steph the Bookworm
Sharon's Garden of Book Reviews
Book Dilettante

Monday, January 18, 2010

review and tour: veracity by laura bynum

In 2012, the government announced the arrival of the Pandemic. In order to fight it, people's actions were restricted. Under the guise that they could carry the germ, books were burned. Soon there was only one TV station left out of the previous 99. That station reported that people should get the supposed vaccine that had been developed. Anyone the government believed would cause problems or deemed too old was killed by the "vaccine" while the others had a slate implanted in their necks. The slate recorded every word spoken and writing on anything other than the government-issued tablet was forbidden as the government had banned the use of certain words--a list that constantly received additions. Many people mindlessly went along with the rules, took the prescribed antidepressants, and frequented the government-sanctioned prostitutes; but some formed the Resistance. In 2045, they've figured out how to deactivate their slates and have a number of banned books, including the most important of them all--The Book of Noah.

Veracity was truly a great read with an exciting plot, though it is quite violent at times. Initially, I had some difficulty with the flashbacks, but I adjusted quickly and started to appreciate how the author would reference something in 2045 then provide the details in a flashback chapter. I was quite pleased that although I was able to figure out who had betrayed the Resistance, the truth about The Book of Noah came as a surprise.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Check out the other sites participating in this tour:
All About {n}
The Cajun Book Lady
My Friend Amy
The Neverending Shelf
Drey’s Library
Book Junkie
Books Gardens & Dogs
Brizmus Blogs About Books
Pam’s Private Reflections
My Book Addiction and More
Starting Fresh
Frugal Plus
Books, Books Everywhere
My Guilty Pleasures
The Bibliophilic Book Blog
A Book Bloggers Diary
Opinionated? Me?
I Heart Monster
Wendy’s Minding Spot
Parajunkee’s View
The Wayfaring Writer
You Wanna Know What I Think?
Bookfoolery & Babble
My Life In Not So Many Words
Between the Pages
Savey Spender
Temple Library Reviews
See Michelle Read
Revenge of the Booknerds
Must Read Faster
Jeanne's Ramblings
Blog Business World
What Book Is That?
Books & Needlepoint

Sunday, January 17, 2010

giveaway winners: the little giant of aberdeen county and two harlequin titles

Congratulations to all of the winners! Baaaa, twifanheather, and Marilu are the winners of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. The four people receiving The Italian's Inexperienced Mistress and Branded By the Sheriff are Marianna, Jennifer, Renee G, and paula michele.

Friday, January 15, 2010

giveaway: seduced by a rogue

As part of the Seduced By a Rogue tour, Hachette is allowing me to giveaway five copies of Amanda Scott's book.

Here's the link to my review. Below is the publisher description:
"A fair-haired beauty at 19, Lady Mairi is heiress apparent to her father Lord Dunwythie's rich barony. He has carefully taught her how to manage their estates, but a feud between his clan and the Maxwell clan is brewing as the two families edge toward a clan war - their dispute over money owed. Mairi's father believes he owes nothing, and of course Mairi sides with him.

When the impulsive and blue-eyed Rob Maxwell chances to meet Mairi in a barley field, they feel instant attraction, despite their families' antagonisms. Knowing he must put his clan first, Rob enacts a plan to force Dunwythie to pay his debt: Rob kidnaps Mairi, making the abduction appear the work of a stranger; then he and his sheriff-brother offer to help Dunwythis rescue his daughter IF, and only if, he will pay them the monies due. Yet after Rob captures Mairi's body, she captures his heart. When Dunwythie summons the aid of the most powerful clan in all Scotland (the Douglases), clan-tensions rise to a fever pitch. Love takes its own feverish course, as Mairi and Rob join forces to prevent a clash between hot-headed clans, and to protect their budding love."

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 February 6. 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 and tour: seduced by a rogue by amanda scott

Seduced By a Rogue begins eight years after Jenny’s story from Tamed By a Laird; this time the focus is on Jenny’s cousin Mairi. As the book opens, Mairi and her younger half-sister Fiona meet their respective potential love interests as they explore one of the family estates, Dunwythie Mains. From here, the story progresses at a painfully slow pace until finally Robert Maxwell (who was set up as Mairi’s interest) kidnaps Mairi. This is in sharp contrast to Tamed By a Laird which featured Jenny taking control of her own life and refusing to follow her family’s wishes. Though Mairi is not mistreated, she is forced to remain locked in a tower with only a kitten for company for a good portion of the day. The descriptions of the kitten at play were the best parts of Seduced By a Rogue, which is to say I didn’t enjoy much of the story. The book did pick up toward the end when a shocking twist causes Mairi to finally stand strong.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

There's a giveaway with this tour. Also check out the other participating sites for interviews with the author and other chances to win a copy of the book.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

giveaway: love in 90 days

Two copies of Love in 90 Days by Dr. Diana Kirschner, PhD are up for grabs! Thanks to Hachette for this giveaway.

Publisher description:
"Finding true love is possible in just 90 days. Renowned clinical psychologist, Dr. Diana Kirschner, uses the latest research, clinical and personal experience to show you how. Dr. Diana knows the questions single women everywhere face: "Why am I attracted to the wrong kind of guys?" "Why is he just not that into me?" "Why can't I seem to find the One?" She also knows the unconscious mistakes that women make over and over again in love-regardless of age, work success, or the type of men they are dating.

Over the years Dr. Diana has received countless inquiries from single women about writing a how-to guide on her work. Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Own True Love is that book.

Love in 90 Days is fun, savvy and based on the latest research on singles, online dating and healthy relationships. Loaded with step-by-step instructions, checklists, and weekly homework assignments, this revolutionary love book is also an intensely personal journey for each reader. Love in 90 Days guides you along your own path towards self discovery with proven and effective dating advice and tough love. Dr. Diana dispels common misconceptions about love relationships and dating, and share personal stories from women who have successfully completed the Love in 90 Days Program. There's also a chapter devoted to the special issues faced by African-American women, single mothers, and women forty-five and older."

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 January 30. 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: tamed by a laird by amanda scott

Tamed By a Laird is the first book in Amanda Scott’s new Scottish romance trilogy. The first book focuses on Janet “Jenny” Easdale, an orphan taken in by her uncle (by marriage). As her father's only child, Jenny has inherited all the land as well as the title. Unfortunately, due to the scheming of her uncle’s second wife, Jenny stands to lose control of her property now that she’s betrothed to the younger brother of said second wife. On the night of the betrothal party, Jenny decides to take off with the minstrels who performed. Although her life now lacks the amenities of her castle residence, Jenny’s never had a better time. But then two things happen: the brother of the man she’s to marry shows up to retrieve her and she discovers a conspiracy against the Lord of Galloway. As Jenny tells Hugh, she has “stumbled onto some sort of intrigue.” And not only is there intrigue, there’s a new romance for Jenny too.

The romance part of the plot is quite predictable. Of course, Jenny doesn’t like the man she’s supposed to marry, so there has to be some other man for her to be with. That man just happens to be the brother of the one she’s supposed to marry; the one who swore he’d never marry again after his wife and daughter died. The conspiracy and Jenny’s life with the minstrels are what make Tamed By a Laird interesting. I also appreciated that Jenny constantly asserted herself at a time when women were expected to go along with whatever the male in their life wanted.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

giveaway: the male factor

WaterBrook Multnomah has provided me with one giveaway copy of The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn! Please note that this is the expanded Christian edition.

Check out my review, but also see the below description from the publisher.
"Millions of women gained eye-opening insights about the inner lives of men through Shaunti Feldhahn’s best-selling book For Women Only. Now with The Male Factor, Feldhahn brings her innovative research approach to the workplace to help women understand their male colleagues. Based on a nationwide survey and confidential interviews with thousands of men whose anonymity was guaranteed, her book reveals the private thoughts and attitudes that men rarely disclose but every woman needs to know.

Never before has an author gotten inside the hearts and minds of men in the workplace—from CEOs to nonprofit managers, from lawyers to factory workers—to discover what they commonly think about women on the job, what their expected “rules” of the workplace are, what “managing emotion” means, and what factors improve or harm a man’s respect for a female co-worker.

Among the little-known but critical insights The Male Factor reveals are:
o how men, with rare exception, view almost any emotional display as a sign that the person can no longer think clearly (as well as what men perceive as emotion in the first place)
o why certain types of trendy attire may actually sabotage a woman’s career
o which little-known signals ensure that a man’s perception of a strong female colleague is positive (“assertive and competent”) instead of negative (“difficult”)

Even women who have navigated male-dominated work environments for years have expressed surprise at these and other revelations in the book. Some readers may find them challenging. Yet The Male Factor delivers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for women to understand how male bosses, colleagues, subordinates, and customers privately think, and why they react the way they do. These vital insights enable each woman to make informed decisions in her unique workplace situation.

In this expanded Christian edition, Feldhahn builds on the same research and information as in the general-market edition, but speaks directly to the interests and questions of women of faith, whether their workplace is a part-time ministry or a Fortune 500 corporation. This edition of The Male Factor also delivers invaluable advice from senior Christian women who have broad experience in dealing with these questions, understand and share the reader’s values, and want to help other women achieve the best possible work relationships."

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 January 30. Winner will be selected at random. Open to all US residents; PO Boxes are just fine this time.

review and tour: the male factor by shaunti feldhahn

In the opening chapter of The Male Factor, Shaunti Feldhahn explains that she realized she didn’t understand how men think while writing a work of fiction. She quickly decided to write nonfiction books to help men and women understand how the other thinks. The first book focused on personal relationships; The Male Factor takes on the workplace and is geared toward women. Feldhahn is quick to point out that women aren’t wrong in their thinking, but may find it easier to get ahead if they understand why men react in certain ways and adapt to it.

Feldhahn relies heavily on her own primary research, but also cites academic journals (particularly scientific ones) on the topic. For her research, she developed a survey (the methodology of which is explained in the appendix) that asked men a variety of questions about women in the workplace. Some of the answers really reveal how differently the two genders think. Women may view themselves as fashionable while some men think the women are intentionally dressing sexy. It’s helpful advice for all, including men.
Review copy provided by the publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah.

There's a giveaway with this tour! Also check out the other participating sites:

Friday, January 8, 2010

review: the moon looked down by dorothy garlock

As Hitler came into power, Sophie and her family fled Germany for America. They settled in a small town and established themselves; unfortunately not everyone in the town welcomed them. One man came to believe they were Nazis and encouraged two other men to join him in tormenting the family, which included burning their barn. The identities of the men were unknown to the family until Sophie overheard three men in a diner make a slur against her. Sophie was devastated by the realization that one of them was someone who had once asked her on date. She’d turned him down not out of lack of interest, but her own shyness. On this same day, Sophie also met a school teacher who’d just returned to his hometown. He has some problems of his own to deal with, but he and Sophie just might be able to handle their situations better together.

Although I enjoyed The Moon Looked Down, the main plot is fairly predictable. You know that Sophie and Cole will fall in love and things will work out for Sophie’s family. The subplots are what made the book interesting for me. The wife of Sophie’s boss is up to no good, but it takes a while for her misdeeds to come to light. The relationship between Cole and his family is another interesting element that really could’ve been explored more. For example, Cole seemed to like and respect his brother, yet didn’t know about his brother’s fiancĂ©e until he came home. Of course, long-distance communication wasn’t as easy as it is now, but they still could’ve written the occasional letter.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

review: something terrible happened on kenmore by marci stillerman

Something Terrible Happened on Kenmore is set in the 1930s, however this is never explicitly stated so the reader must infer the period from mentions of what’s popular on the radio. The "something terrible" is the truly horrific crime of a murdered five year old girl. There are three teens at the center of the story who are each connected in some way to the murder. Maizy thinks she may have seen the killer with the girl, but she tries to believe that isn’t true even as Maizy forms a relationship with the mother of the murdered girl. The other teens are Zane, the boy Maizy likes, and Fred, the new boy in town, who is friends with both of them. The boys know where the severed hand of the dead girl is, but keep it hidden even though it could help the police catch the killer. As the threads of the story come together to reveal the killer, the teens experience a significant number of additional hardships.

The murder of a child should really be enough, but Stillerman throws in poverty, children who have lost a parent, teen pregnancy, and child pornography. The teens are forced to deal with too many issues in too short a period of time for anything to be satisfactorily resolved. The amount of tragedy is overwhelming and the writing isn't particularly good. I had little sympathy for the characters even as their worlds collapsed, which I believe speaks to how poorly the teens were developed.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by BookDivas.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

review: the magician's book by laura miller

Laura Miller’s examination of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia comes in three parts. The first reads more as a memoir; it is Miller’s experiences with the books and how she came to read them. The next two sections delve more into critical analysis, biographical information on Lewis and some of his influences, and background on the genres Miller believes the Chronicles fall into.

While many other critics focus on the religious themes of the books and the role Christianity played in Lewis’s own life, Miller doesn’t spend much time on the subject, preferring “to illuminate [Narnia’s] other, unsung dimensions, especially the deep roots of the Chronicles in the universal experiences of childhood and in English literature.” I enjoyed Miller’s thoughts on her reading of the Narnia books and appreciated some of the biographical information on Lewis, but by the Northern Lights chapter I was starting to feel bogged down by the background information. I would’ve preferred to read more about Miller’s thoughts on some of the more controversial elements of the books than to have had to wade through some of the parts on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, who Lewis was friends with.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Little, Brown and Company.

giveaway winners: the magician's book, love you to death, primitive, and in tongues of the dead

Congratulations to everyone who won a book in the first set of the Christmas week giveaways!

The Magician’s Book: Nadia, dor, and Linna
Love You to Death: Cynthia and Crystal dawn
Primitive: Sue and Sarah
In Tongues of the Dead: justpeachy36

Friday, January 1, 2010

review: fallen by lauren kate

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Luce sees shadows. At seven, her parents realized something was wrong and eventually sent Luce to therapy. Years later, Luce refused to take her psychiatric medication which caused her parents to send her away to a boarding school where she could see a specialist. Unfortunately, the shadows aren’t her only problem. Luce still can’t explain exactly what happened the night the boy she liked died in a fire. As a result, she’s now under court order to attend a reform school. And that’s when the shadows really start to get bad. There’s also something mysterious about some of her new classmates.

Although Daniel’s last name provides a major clue for those familiar with fallen angel lore, who he is isn’t revealed until the end of chapter eight. In fact, these first eight chapters don’t have much action and primarily serve to establish the characters and give background on Luce. It’s hard to get into a story when you aren’t quite sure what the characters’ motivations are and when the plot develops so slowly; but things do start to pick up as Fallen continues. That fallen angels will soon dominate the plot is nicely hinted at during Miss Sophia’s lecture on Paradise Lost and the best known of the angels who fell. That’s the section that compelled me to keep reading.

Kate effectively uses the reform school setting to believably isolate Luce. However, she still gets trapped by some of the now typical downfalls of the YA genre. Luce is purportedly a good student, but promptly ignores her studies in favor of obsessing over Daniel and hanging out with her other crush, Cam. It’s disappointing in a protagonist, but also understandable given Luce’s age. Luckily, her new sidekick, Penn, is an excellent friend who shows smarts and frequently steers Luce in the right direction.

Generally, I like to let each book stand on its own. In reading Fallen, I couldn’t help but constantly be distracted by how similar it was to Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush. So many of the same elements appear in each book that I would worry about accusations of plagiarism if they hadn’t been released two months apart. There are things in Fallen (such as character development and plausibility) that I think were better done, yet Hush, Hush both begins and ends better. Fallen takes far too long setting up the story, then makes it clear at the end that one must read the sequel to find out what happens to Luce.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Delacorte Press.