Sunday, February 28, 2010

giveaway winners: corked and the last song

Stephanie, Alison, Heather Yellen, Alysia, and holdenj are the winners of Corked. Kelly, Tiffany, and rachel are the winners of The Last Song. Congratulations!

Friday, February 26, 2010

giveaway: undress me in the temple of heaven

As part of the tour for Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, Hachette is offering up five copies of the book!

As you know from my review, I loved the book. Here's the Publishers Weekly review as well:
"Youthfully upbeat, Gilman (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress) delivers an entertaining memoir of her ill-starred attempt to circumnavigate the globe after college graduation in 1986. Eager to embark on life but unsure exactly how to do it, the author, a New Yorker, and her fair-haired Connecticut trust-fund friend, Claire, both graduates from Brown, resolved to backpack around the world for a year and become heroines in their own epic stories. Starting in Hong Kong, the two nave 21-year-olds, armed with Linda Goodman's Love Signs, volumes of Nietzsche and a year's supply of tampons, ran into shoals fairly immediately, freaked out by fleabag hotels, vermin, importunate fellow travelers and the debilitating effects of illness, homesickness and the sole company of each other. As they roughed it through Communist China, Claire grew increasingly paranoid and delusional, eventually bolting on a bizarre bus trip that got her picked up by the police. Gilman's amusing journey focuses tightly on these first shaky seven weeks, offering the full wallop of disorienting, in-the-moment, transformative travel adventures."

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 March 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 interview: susan jane gilman

This post contains affiliate links.

One day I was browsing the new books shelf at the library when Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress jumped out at me. Something about the pouting little girl on the cover made me take it home. I loved every second of the book and immediately went out to get Kiss My Tiara. So I was thrilled when the opportunity to review Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven came along. I nearly fell out of my seat when Susan Jane Gilman agreed to answer some questions.

In the author’s note to Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, you state that you changed details to hide the identity of certain people like your travel partner Claire. There are some people, like your family, whose identities you can’t hide. How have they reacted to your books?

Once they’ve finished filing their Class Action Lawsuit against me, they’ve been fine with my work…

Actually, for the most part, the people I’ve named in my books have been thrilled – or, at least, in the case of my mother, relieved. “You could’ve written so much worse about us,” she’s said.

My father is my absolute Number One fan. He literary refuses to pay his medical bills until his doctors and dentists all buy copies of all my books and put them in their waiting rooms. “And you’ve got three dental hygienists, Artie,” he’ll say. “So you’re going to buy copies for each of them as well, right?” He practices “book publicity through extortion.” Bless him.

Even though I’ve sometimes depicted my father in less than stellar light, he understands that I’ve done so not to embarrass him, but to illuminate the quirks, heartaches, and human problems that plague everyone. He –like the rest of my family –appreciates the intention behind my work. None of us thinks we’re so exceptional that our pathologies are in any way different from anyone else’s. If people derive comfort, amusement, or a good laugh from reading about us, fine.

As for those people beyond my family I’ve written about, I have worried from time to time that they’d be upset to see themselves depicted in print -- even with a pseudonym. Yet more often than not, they’ve only been upset that I haven’t used their real name. “Why didn’t you immortalize me?” they say. “I could’ve been famous.” I guess they see my books as a rudimentary form of Reality Television.

In the first chapter, you note that your college goal was “to write the Great American Novel.” As you kept a journal of your trip, did you think you would write a memoir?

Not at all. Amazingly, I was under the impression that my 21-year-old’s creativity and imagination would be infinitely more fascinating to readers than whatever really happened to me in Communist China.

To this point, your books have all been nonfiction. Any plans to write a work of fiction?

Absolutely. I think I’m done with reality for a little while. It’s time to retreat into fantasy. My next book will be a novel – either the Great American One– or, more likely, a mediocre attempt at one.

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

Not to be coy, but just about everything I have ever read in my entire life (and written myself) has shaped and impacted me: either in terms of inspiring me, being a learning experience, or being a cautionary tale in terms of What Not to Do. My brain is sort of a cement mixer. Everything that gets put into it becomes part of the greater gray mass; being influenced is a dynamic, ongoing process.

Certainly, there are standouts from different times in my life – everything from “Pat the Bunny” and “Eloise” right up through Plato’s “Republic,” “Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye,” “Suite Francaise” and “The Fortress of Solitude.”

Even that despicable book “The Rules” had a major impact on me: I was so infuriated by it that I felt compelled to write my first book, “Kiss My Tiara” in response to it.

Outrage, I suppose, has often had as much of an impact on me as great literature.

What’s up next for you?

A bath. A nap. Maybe a chocolate milkshake. And then it’s getting my ass back in the chair again. Time to start writing that next book. Ah, the glamour never ends.

review and tour: undress me in the temple of heaven by susan jane gilman

This post contains affiliate links.

After graduating from Brown, Susan Jane Gilman and an acquaintance she calls Claire (Gilman changed identifying features and the girl’s name) embark on an around the world trip that starts with a brief stop in Hong Kong before heading to China, which had only just opened up to tourists. They planned to see many other countries on their journey, but their plans are dramatically derailed in China. The pair is fortunate in that others (both Chinese citizens and fellow travelers) are sympathetic and help; this is in contrast to their own behavior which is quite selfish when they start their adventure.

As always, Gilman creates a vivid picture about a segment of her life. When they escape the Guilin airport, the tension is high and excellently described. As the cover pull quote from O Magazine says, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is “unputdownable.” I stayed up far too late in order to finish the book because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway until I knew what happened with Claire.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Be sure to enter the giveaway for your chance to win this amazing book. There's also an interview with the author. These are the other participating sites:

second gh post

Incredibly General Hospital got new opening credits this week! I never thought I'd see that; it'd been years and there were plenty of "dead" people in it. It was always so odd since the other ABC soaps update the opens fairly quickly. This one is different from a lot of opens since it lists both the actor's name and the character played. I think it'd be nice if others followed; give credit to the actor and let new viewers know people's names.

“I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other General Hospital branded items to facilitate my review.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

giveaway: two eric van lustbader books

This post contains affiliate links.

Thanks to The Book Report Network I have two books by Eric Van Lustbader to giveaway to one lucky person. The books are First Daughter and Last Snow, which is the sequel to First Daughter.

From Publishers Weekly:
"In this uneven thriller from bestseller Lustbader (The Bourne Legacy), Alli Carson, the 19-year-old daughter of the U.S. president-elect, moderate Republican Edward Carson, is abducted a month before her father's inauguration to be programmed to do something truly terrible at the inauguration ceremony. ATF agent Jack McClure is chosen to lead the search for Alli, primarily because she was the boarding-school roommate of his now-deceased daughter, Emma. Jack faces many difficulties, chief among them his own severe dyslexia. The unnamed current president, who makes religion the basis for all his decisions, wants to use the search as an excuse for all-out war on his enemies, the First American Secular Revivalists and their secret partners, the E-Two terrorist group. Lustbader does a fine job depicting the search for Alli and reconstructing Jack's past, but the confusing political message will leave many readers wondering what the book was really about."

"Bestseller Lustbader's wordy sequel to First Daughter takes dyslexic Jack McClure, former ATF agent and now adviser to recently elected U.S. president Edward Carson, to Moscow, where Carson is negotiating an important treaty with Russian president Yukin. When minority whip Sen. Lloyd Berns dies in a mysterious hit-and-run accident on Capri, the president asks Jack to investigate. Accompanied by Annika, a beautiful Federal Security Bureau agent who's part of a complicated Russian trap, and Alli, Carson's 22-year-old daughter whom Jack saved from a bad guy in the previous book, Jack travels to Ukraine, where Berns was supposed to be on a fact-finding tour. In Kiev, Jack finds a secret agency called Trinadtsat, a shadowy group of Russian oligarchs, and plenty of trouble, including a retired American general out to have him killed. Lustbader fritters away many pages with Jack's navel-gazing, time that could have been better spent in gunfights and derring-do."

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 March 6. Winners will be selected at random. Open to residents of the US and Canada.

review and tour: yesterday's promise by linda lee chaikin

At the heart of Yesterday’s Promise is an interesting plot including a murder mystery and the cutthroat diamond business during British colonialism in Africa. Unfortunately the plot gets a bit bogged down by an excessive cast of wealthy characters with various familial ties (not all of which are known to all involved) and background information on diamonds. There were times I thought I should make a list to keep the characters straight! It probably would’ve helped if some of them had been more developed, but only the two the story centers around are really fleshed out. Although it adds to the tension, it is to the detriment of the reader’s overall enjoyment of the book that Evy and Rogan (the main characters) do not interact until the final chapters. It was at the end when all the pieces come together and one sees Rogan work with Evy that Yesterday’s Promise shines.
Review copy provided by the publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

review and tour: deep harbor by lisa tawn bergren

Deep Harbor is the second book in the Northern Lights series by Lisa Tawn Bergen, but it’s written so that it’s not necessary to read the first book (though, of course, you have more background on the characters and their current situation if you do). The story focuses on three females—two are sisters and the third is a friend of one sister and is raising the daughter of the other sister. Why is she raising someone else’s daughter? Well, Tora’s daughter is the younger half-sister of Kaatje’s daughter because Tora and Kaatje’s husband had an affair. Tora didn’t want the burden of a child while trying to trap her wealthy boss into marriage, so she gave the child to Kaatje. Kaatje, meanwhile, is abandoned by the cheating husband and ends up relying on her neighbors for help with the farm. Whew! Tora’s sister Elsa is the only one who doesn’t have problems at the start of the book. Elsa has a son with her wonderful husband, who is quite wealthy. Elsa even has a job of her own writing for The New York Times.

The three separate lives come together quickly. Elsa’s husband (a ship captain) is thrown overboard during a storm. Tora’s boss finds out about her lies and fires her. She tries to make it on her own, but is kidnapped and assaulted before being abandoned in an unfamiliar city. Of course, Seattle just so happens to be where Elsa is grieving her husband. Kaatje comes to Seattle as well at the request of Elsa, who feels bad that Kaatje is raising Elsa’s niece all on her own.

There’s action and romance. While the characters all do dumb things at times (good job of antagonizing the pirate who’s after you by writing about him in the Times, Elsa!), they are likable; though it does take a bit longer for Tora to redeem herself. It was nice to see women in the late 1880s taking care of themselves.
Review copy provided by the publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

giveaway: the crazy school

Lucky you! I've got two copies of Cornelia Read's The Crazy School to giveaway thanks to Hachette.

From Publishers Weekly:
"At the start of Edgar-finalist Read's gutsy second Madeline Dare novel (after 2006's A Field of Darkness), Dare, a 26-year-old former debutante, takes a job in the fall of 1989 as a history teacher at Santangelo Academy, an unorthodox therapeutic boarding school in western Massachusetts dominated by its authoritarian cape-wearing headmaster, David Santangelo. When a student, Mooney LeChance, reveals that his girlfriend, Fay Perry, is pregnant, Dare keeps Mooney's secret while the couple is confined to the Farm, a punishment dorm in the woods. The book's first half focuses on character—the woefully misguided souls who teach at Santangelo, the students in all their dysfunctional glory—but the action picks up when Mooney and Fay die from drinking poisoned punch after a birthday party at the Farm, and Dare is arrested for her role in preparing the fatal beverage. While some characters, like the social-climbing parents who drop in between vacations, verge on stereotype, Read graphically depicts the depressing underside of a supposedly elite private school."

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 March 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.

a non-book post

Normally I keep it all book related here, but I'm excited to share that I was accepted into the General Hospital Brand Ambassador program. Now I haven't been watching GH as long as I have some of the others (AMC and Days, specifically) since it was harder to keep up in the days before being able to record two things at once and an entire channel devoted (well, so not so much nowadays) to the genre. NBC used to have more soaps and that was what I recorded; then SoapNet came along and I got to watch all the GH episodes at once during the weekly marathons. I started to take interest in the storylines then. More changes have led to no other soaps airing against GH where I am, so I record the original airing now.

This month's sweeps was pretty decent, especially since there was a lot more Lulu (my favorite) and Dante going on; I could've done without the writing in of Rebecca Herbst's real life pregnancy. Big purses and strategically placed vases, plants, etc. were in order there. Elizabeth definitely doesn't need a third kid by a third father with a "who's the daddy?" on the top of it. But overall, I've enjoyed the show lately.

If you're a fan too, then you should definitely check this out. One person who enters through the sponsor website will be selected to win a walk-on role, which of course includes getting to check out the set in Los Angeles. You have until February 28 to enter.

“I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other General Hospital branded items to facilitate my review.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

giveaway: the last song

Happy Valentine's Day. To celebrate, I have three copies of The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks courtesy of Hachette.

Below you can read the publisher's description. Also, here's the reading group guide.
"Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church."

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 27. 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: lone star legend

Adriana79, holdenj, and Alysia are the winners of Lone Star Legend!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

review: the heretic's daughter by kathleen kent

Based partly on her ancestor’s witch trial, Kathleen Kent presents a fairly matter of fact account of life leading up to and then during the witch trials of the 1690s using a character called Sarah who was a young girl at the time. The first part of The Heretic’s Daughter gives the background of Sarah’s life on the family farm. She sets out milk to entice the mice that eat their grain so that the cats will come out for “a breakfast of fur, teeth, and tail” and thus, save the grain. Sarah also cares for her younger sister (who sometimes annoys her) and prefers living with her cousin’s family, which she did for a time during a smallpox outbreak.

Because of tales told about her idolized father (here Kent does an excellent job of incorporating they story of Charles I and how his executioners were the only ones to escape) and the family’s irregular church attendance, they were never really accepted by the community. So when accusations of witchcraft were made in neighboring towns, Sarah’s mother and the older children become easy targets. The mystery that surrounds Sarah’s parents continues throughout the imprisonment of Sarah, her mother, and her brothers so that one is never quite sure if there might be a hint of truth in the horrible accusations.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Back Bay Books.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

giveaway: corked

Thanks to Hachette, I get to offer up five copies of Kathryn Borel's newly released memoir, Corked.

This is what Publishers Weekly says about the book:
"In 2005, 20-something Canadian Borel and her 60-something French-born hotelier father set out by car on a days-long French wine safari. Borel, who works at the Canadian Broadcasting Company, desired a deeper connection to her father, but was also seeking escape from both the aftermath of a recent breakup and slightly older memories of a fatal car accident for which she bore responsibility. The trip's early stages were strained by travel sickness and father-daughter bickering, and as the abundantly detailed tour improved and progressed, the shadow of her father and his mortality fell ever sharper, if sometimes self-consciously. Borel's father emerges as a storytelling curmudgeon with a penchant for public humiliations who instinctively retreats into inappropriate humor; the narrator, meanwhile, comes across as emotional if not downright maudlin, and candid if not completely narcissistic. She lacks her father's knowledge of wine, a shortfall she covers with seemingly childish behavior. But then her wine-tasting experiences lead Borel to genuine breakthroughs, making her more confident and, in effect, bringing her relationship with her father to a breaking point. The narrative ends in a reconciliation that, like the whole book, is refreshingly unsentimental, grounded, perhaps to an extreme, in flashes of candor and humor."

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 27. Winners will be selected at random. Hachette is only able to send this book to US residents.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

giveaway winners: seduced by a rogue and a black tie affair

Winners for Seduced By a Rogue: mindy, alexandrea, cpullum, ellie, and LittleEagle

Winners for A Black Tie Affair: Aik, Joseph, Sean, Wanda, and Candes

Thursday, February 4, 2010

review: eternal on the water by joseph monninger

Eternal on the Water has a very heavy subject--the right to die--at the heart of its plot. That issue, however, is never really addressed as everyone simply accepts the decision. The author instead focuses on the love story which is not all that interesting or even believable. Mary and Cobb meet while on separate camping trips that turn into a joint trip as an instant mutual attraction is sparked on the first night even though Mary immediately reveals an odd personality (asking if Cobb's a bear, going on about corvids) and indulges on Cobb's food. Cobb is supposed to be following Thoreau's Allagash trip and writing about it while on sabbatical from the prep school where he's a teacher. Although he makes part of trip, he mostly abandons it in order to spend more time with Mary who reveals she may have Huntington's though she refuses the genetic testing that would provide the answer. Even so, Cobb sticks with her. They travel together and make a home as Mary starts to exhibit symptoms. The final pages fast forward until moments before the discovery of Mary's body from the prologue. The highlights of Eternal on the Water are not Mary and Cobb who I couldn't garner sympathy for since they behaved recklessly during Mary's employment at Yellowstone; the highlights are the minor characters--the Chungamunga Girls and Francis, in particular.
ARC Review
Review copy provided as part of the Barnes and Noble First Look program.

Monday, February 1, 2010

author interview: jacqueline e. luckett

For the tour of Jacqueline E. Luckett's debut novel, Searching For Tina Turner, she took the time to answer some questions.

What inspired you to write Searching for Tina Turner?

Around 1999, I started taking writing classes and workshops. At the time, I focused on short stories, thinking they would be easier to write than a 350-page novel (they’re just as difficult). As my confidence grew, I started a novel of linked stories. I wrote in my spare moments, between taking care of my home and my family.

In 2003, my spouse of twenty years and I divorced. Coincidentally, I knew four or five women going through divorces at the same time. More than the breadth of the emotional pain, our efforts to move forward with our lives inspired me. Yet, I wondered how women coped with life after a long-term marriage and what came next. That led me to write the novel.

Why did you select Tina Turner as the one Lena draws inspiration from?

Tina Turner is a wonderful, vital woman and a role model in so many ways. I have great respect for her, and I hope she regards the title as a tribute to her triumphs and accomplishments.

Truthfully, I don’t remember now if her movie, a TV interview, or reports of her first U.S. platinum album in eleven years (“All the Best”) triggered the idea of Tina Turner as role model—but the depth of what she had done, impressed me. In her forties, Tina Turner left her marriage with only her name, her talent and the conviction that she could make it on her own. I became obsessed with the idea of her strength and how it might inspire a character, without the abuse, but on the verge of change. Initially, I wanted to explore surviving divorce, but with each new draft, universal themes surfaced: reinvention, new beginnings, and the challenge of remaining true to self.

What’s your favorite Tina Turner song?

Once I started writing Searching for Tina Turner, I downloaded, bought, and borrowed every Tina Turner CD I could find. I listened to songs over and over again, and studied the lyrics in search of the songs that would inspire Lena. I watched DVDs of Tina Turner’s concerts, to get a feel for how she moved, smiled and spoke. I wanted those characteristics in my head while I wrote. I focused on the songs without Ike, because it’s that part of her life that motivates Lena.

“Private Dancer” is one of my favorite songs. Tina Turner starts off downtempo, telling a story and building a picture. She toys with the listener moving fast then slow, teasing like the private dancer she’s singing about. It’s sexy and great for dancing around the house.

What was your favorite book as a child?

More than any one book, the experience of weekly library visits—stacks of books in my arms, the smell of paper mingled with dust and stale air, shelves of books filled from floor to ceiling, white Dewey Decimal numbers burned into the spines—were my favorite pastime. I read a lot of Beverly Cleary and any book that allowed me to escape into another world. I had a wonderful childhood, but, like many young girls, I was looking for more. I loved fairytales and Dr. Seuss as a young teen, locking myself in the bathroom during family barbecues to read and hide from my younger cousins. None of those books affected my writing, but they nourished my love of a good story.

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

I read a variety of books: mysteries, crime novels, best sellers, literary fiction, non-fiction and obscure works, as well.

For as cliché as it sounds, Toni Morrison’s Beloved had the most impact on me, certainly as a reader. Before reading that book, I focused on speed—how many pages could I read in a day, on break at the office, on the bus ride home or walking down the street. Anyone who’s read Beloved, or any Toni Morrison novel, knows that if speed is the objective, you miss out on a whole lot. Consequently, I read it twice (only one of a handful of books that I’ve read more than once) amazed not only at how much I’d missed the first time around, but how complex and beautiful the story was and the importance of each word.

What comes next for you? Are you working on another book?

More books! I recently submitted the manuscript for my second novel to my editor. Passing Love is the story of two women who believe that the city of Paris will fulfill their dreams of a different life. The story takes place in present day Paris and Paris in the early ‘50s. Once I get my editor’s notes, I’ll start my revisions. I’m also finishing a proposal with a friend for a non-fiction book about how women can make sure they remain joyful and authentic whether they marry or divorce, which we’ll submit to my agent soon.

review and tour: searching for tina turner by jacqueline e. luckett

Searching For Tina Turner is a book that many women will relate to and possibly even find inspiring. Unfortunately, it’s hard to garner much sympathy for Lena who acts selfishly, doesn’t accept blame for her own part in not fulfilling her career goal, and (in what really pushed me over the edge) hates her daughter’s cat. Lena wants to be a photographer, but believes her family is holding her back. Her husband asked her to delay starting her own career so she could take care of the family while he focused on his career, which has made the family quite well-off; Lena agreed. Now that she can work on her photography, Lena keeps ignoring it to do things like make dinner for her kids—one who is already in college and one who will be before the book is done. She doesn’t accept her own role in this or the fact that it was her now deceased father who derailed her plan when he refused to pay for college if she took photography classes. Lena gave up her dream long before she met her husband. But now Lena has decided to finally live her life the way she wants. She finds inspiration in the story of Tina Turner. Lena leaves her husband (and essentially her children since they don’t want to move), gets a job, and heads to France for a Tina Turner concert with the hopes of meeting the singer. It all happens pretty fast without much self-discovery on Lena’s part.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Check out the other tour sites: