Thursday, April 29, 2010

review: get lucky by katherine center

This post contains affiliate links.

In a word, Get Lucky is fantastic. There's a great sister dynamic between Sarah and Mackie. Sarah is the younger of the two (by a year) and lives a totally different kind of life in New York until she screws up at work. Sarah ends up back home where her married sister has just given up her dream of having a baby after six years of trying. As Sarah now has nothing going on, she thinks why not have a baby for her sister. And that's how Sarah's new life back home in Houston kicks off.

Over the course of Sarah's surrogacy, she develops one inappropriate crush and another that could just lead to something more. She also tries her hand at a new career, attempts to fix things for someone she worked with in New York, and connects with her widowed dad's new love.

It would've been a great story regardless, but the writing style really makes Get Lucky work. Sarah is reflecting on how the craziness (wonderful craziness) of the year happened. It seemed Sarah was confiding her private thoughts directly to the reader. I came away from Get Lucky feeling Sarah was my best friend.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Ballantine Books.

giveaway: the host

Now here's a giveaway I'm sure will generate some excitement. Hachette has been generous enough to allow me three giveaway copies of...Stephanie Meyer's The Host! Please note that there is one additional rule with this one. You must leave the title of your favorite science fiction book in your first comment.

Here's a link to the Reading Group Guide. From Publishers Weekly:
"In this tantalizing SF thriller, planet-hopping parasites are inserting their silvery centipede selves into human brains, curing cancer, eliminating war and turning Earth into paradise. But some people want Earth back, warts and all, especially Melanie Stryder, who refuses to surrender, even after being captured in Chicago and becoming a host for a soul called Wanderer. Melanie uses her surviving brain cells to persuade Wanderer to help search for her loved ones in the Arizona desert. When the pair find Melanie's brother and her boyfriend in a hidden rebel cell led by her uncle, Wanderer is at first hated. Once the rebels accept Wanderer, whom they dub Wanda, Wanda's whole perspective on humanity changes. While the straightforward narrative is short on detail about the invasion and its stunning aftermath, it shines with romantic intrigue, especially when a love triangle (or quadrangle?!) develops for Wanda/Melanie."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). This first comment must list the title of your favorite science fiction book. (Vampire and other related subjects count.) 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 May 22. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

giveaway winners: this one is mine, the autism book, and alexandra, gone

Congratulations to the following winners:

This One Is Mine: Natalie W. and holdenj
The Autism Book: suzie and Marilu
Alexandra, Gone: Teresa

Friday, April 23, 2010

review and tour: the bridegrooms by allison pittman

When the Allenhouse girls were small, their mother took off one night. The girls never knew exactly what happened to their mother, though eventually their father told them she'd died. Years later when the youngest is nearly an adult, a man arrives who has some answers--he had an affair with their mother and might be the father of the youngest daughter! Unfortunately not much more is done with this plot point as the focus of the novel is the love lives of the four girls. I wish the possibility Lissette isn't an Allenhouse had been at the forefront because the romances were unremarkable and rushed. Vada dates a man who won't commit, so she ends up tempted by others including a baseball player. Hazel thinks herself unattractive and simply wishes to marry anyone, probably a stranger in Wyoming, so she can gain the right to vote. Althea, who hasn't said a word since their mother ran off, falls for the man knocked out by a ball hit by Vada's crush. Lissette is a stunning beauty never without a suitor. She doesn't think much of the one pursuing her--a baseball player who feels he would've caught the ball that knocked out the man in the crowd if he hadn't been distracted by Lissette's beauty. By the end of the book, the love lives of all four are wrapped up a little too neatly.

Although there were interesting parts to The Bridegrooms, I found myself distracted by some little inaccuracies. For example, in the first chapter Vada spots the time on the wristwatch of a male newspaper reporter; the chapter heading is "Spring 1898." I immediately put the book down. It seems very unlikely that Dave Voyant would be wearing a wristwatch as they didn't become popular until the 1920s and women were the primary wearers. In 1898, a man would've likely used a pocket watch, but then Vada wouldn't have been able to do her lame "oh look at the time" routine. Although I did continue reading and finish The Bridegrooms, I couldn't help but remain on alert for more mistakes.
Review copy provided by the publisher, WaterBrook Press.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

review and tour: firefly rain by richard dansky

Firefly Rain succeeded at freaking me out (which doesn't happen easily) a few times. Years after his parents have died, Jacob leaves Boston for his small North Carolina hometown. The family friend who took care of the property is none too pleased about Jacob's longtime absence and broken promise to his mother about returning home. Soon it becomes clear that while the townsfolk aren't welcoming, someone or something doesn't want him to leave. His belongings burning on the moving truck didn't seem significant until Jacob's car is stolen--stolen from the driveway without any sign of anyone having been to the isolated property. Further creeping out Jacob (and me) is the fact that the fireflies he chased as a child now avoid the property line. In an experiment, Jacob captures some and forces them to cross; they immediately die.

It gets creepier and creepier. I really shouldn't have read Firefly Rain before going to bed. The beginning was a little slow for me because I kept trying to figure out how the fireflies were going to come into play. That may have led to me missing something very significant in the first chapter. I didn't realize I had until I went back through the book as I wrote this review. So pay attention when you read the beginning instead of being eager to get to the mystery!
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

The other participating sites:

giveaway: admission

Two copies of Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz are up for grabs thanks to Hachette!

Here's the Reading Group Guide and the review from Publishers Weekly:
"Portia Nathan, the overly dedicated 38-year-old Princeton admissions officer, narrator of Korelitz's overthought fourth novel, finds purpose in her gatekeeper role. But her career and conscience are challenged after she visits a down-at-the-heels New England town on a scouting trip and meets Jeremiah, a talented but rough-around-the-edges 17-year-old who maybe doesn't measure up as Princeton material. The real rub is how making his acquaintance forces Portia to confront a painful secret from her past that ties into some domestic discord with her professor friend, David, and may lead her into a career-endangering fracas with the admissions board. The narrative is slow out of the gate, though it gets some pep once the Jeremiah-Portia angle comes into focus. And even if Portia tends to ruminate in an precious way, Korelitz makes good use of the sociological issues tied up in elite university admissions."

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 May 8. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

review and tour: necessary heartbreak by michael j. sullivan

I quite liked the way Sullivan told the story of Michael and Elizabeth Stewart and the woman the father/daughter pair meets when they travel through time to Jerusalem just before Palm Sunday. Rather than being in a completely linear fashion, the story gets told in chunks of present time (although present time is ancient time because of the time travel) that lead into a related event from the past. For example, at one point Michael reacts to the water Leah (the Jerusalem woman who helps them) spilled and the next scene is from Michael's childhood when his younger sister got in trouble for spilling water when the two of them were pretending to take Communion. As one might imagine with children playing at Communion and the time travel to Jerusalem, Necessary Heartbreak is much about faith. Michael lost his mother at a young age, struggled to make it on his own, found love, then lost his wife far too soon; he has little use for the church he grew up in. In Jerusalem, he witnesses the betrayal of Jesus and the crucifixion, which lead him back to his faith. Meanwhile, Michael and his daughter finally have the discussion they should've had long ago regarding the loss of Elizabeth's mother; it's just sad they had to leave their world behind in order to come together.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.
Other participating sites:

Friday, April 16, 2010

giveaway: dark deceptions

As part of the tour for the first book in the new trilogy by Dee Davis, Hachette is offering up three copies of Dark Deceptions!

Here's my review and the publisher description:
"A-Tac is an elite CIA unit masquerading as faculty at an Ivy League college. Brilliant, badass, and seemingly bulletproof, the members of A-Tac are assigned to the riskiest missions and the most elusive targets.


Covert operations expert Nash Brennon has spent the last eight years trying to forget Annie Gallagher, his former field partner and the only woman he ever loved. Annie betrayed him when he needed her most, then vanished without a trace. Now suddenly she's back in the game - this time as a suspected traitor and threat to national security.

Annie's son has been kidnapped by political terrorists. The price for his life? Assassinate a UN ambassador. When Nash and his group find her, the smoldering passion between Annie and the man she swore she'd never contact again blazes out of control. But can Nash trust her? The stakes couldn?t be higher: Their enemy's endgame is personal, and one false move could cost them their lives."

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 May 1. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes

review and tour: dark deceptions by dee davis

After a mission gone bad (which is an understatement), CIA agents Annie and Nash went their separate ways. Nash believed Annie had betrayed him while Annie thought her cover had been blown and went into hiding to raise her son. The two are brought back together when Annie's son is kidnapped by a man from their mutual past. In order to destroy Annie's life, the man sets up everything to look like Annie has committed treason; since Nash already believes she left him for dead, it isn't much a stretch to believe Annie would also betray her country. To save her son and clear her name, Annie must convince her former lover to trust her even as she doesn't fully trust him.

Dark Deceptions is a quick read that wraps up Annie and Nash's story to a satisfactory conclusion while leaving one nagging question about who tried to sabotage them. That question will likely be answered in the next book of this new trilogy. I'm intrigued enough to read Dangerous Desires when it comes out in July.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

I have a giveaway for this tour! Some of the other participating sites do as well.

giveaway: the swimming pool

Thanks to Doubleday I have the opportunity to offer two giveaway copies of The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw.

From Publishers Weekly:
"Strong writing keeps the reader sucked in to LeCraw's painful family drama debut. The lovely Marcella is reeling from tragedy; her ex-husband, Anthony, has sent Toni, their only daughter, away to boarding school and on to college. The man with whom Marcella had an affair, Cecil McClatchey, dies in a car accident soon after his wife, Betsy, is murdered. Amid the wreckage is Cecil's daughter, Callie, fighting for her sanity with two young children, and his son, Jed, who, desperate to fill the void left by the death of his parents, seeks answers from Marcella only to begin a tortured love affair with her as she drowns in guilt, struggling to find some meaning to hold on to. As Marcella comes closer to the truth about Betsy's murder and Cecil's death, and mindful that she is now the lover of Cecil's son, she struggles and fails to gather strength enough to make any decision, right or wrong. It is a story of deep and searing love, between siblings and lovers, but most powerfully, between parents and their children."

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 May 1. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Doubleday, the winners must have mailing addresses in the US; no PO Boxes.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

author guest post: connie may fowler

As part of her tour for How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, Connie May Fowler stopped by my blog!

I’m thrilled and honored that Nicole has asked me to write a guest post for her fabulous my-book-views blog. She wants to know about the significance of the name of the village Clarissa inhabits in my just released novel How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly, and the fact that we track Hope, Florida on the summer solstice of 2006.

I think that every element of a novel must support its main themes. At the beginning of the novel, Clarissa Burden—an author of two moderately successful books—has very little hope. She is trapped in a horrible marriage and is wracked with a nearly deadly case of writer’s block. Her husband, a multi-media artist, is obsessed with naked women just so long as the woman isn’t Clarissa.

So, Clarissa’s entire job within the 24-hour confines of the novel, is to find a path to joy. And with joy comes hope.

The solstice represents a time of rebirth. The longest day of the year, it is within the pages of the book, a time when spirits are afoot and some people will find themselves making startling, life-changing decisions. On Solstice Noon, there are no shadows. Clarissa is in her garden when the shadow-less moment strikes. It is then, when she is unburdened of even her shadow, that she begins her journey toward self-fulfillment, happiness, and hope.

Happy reading, everyone! I hope you’ll love How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly!


Connie May Fowler

review and tour: how clarissa burden learned to fly by connie may fowler

Clarissa's story takes place in a 24 hour period. It wasn't until I had nearly finished the book that I realized how brilliantly Connie May Fowler had paced it. At the beginning, things move slowly because Clarissa is slowly going about her day (and fuming about her husband). As Clarissa gets closer to making the decision to leave her jerk of a husband, the pacing starts to really pick up until it got so that I couldn't put down the book.

I must say that Clarissa really, really annoyed me. While it is reasonable to expect your spouse to take care of a few household tasks, it is quite ridiculous to let your trash pile up for weeks (in the back of your barely running truck no less!) while you complain to yourself that your spouse didn't do as asked. Take care of it yourself! Clarissa finally did just that (and it seemed to propel her into getting rid of more than just the trash), but why'd it take so long?
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Other participating sites:

author article: michael cogdill

The High Calling of Hard Times: Leadership, Hope, and Radical Love -- Even on the TV News
By Michael Cogdill, Author of She-Rain: A Story of Hope

The complaints sail almost daily into my professional life. People tell me they find the news so depressing they can't watch anymore. I understand their longing for hope, even as I say the news contains a mother lode of the hope they crave. We journalists and viewers have a way of missing it, even as we look straight at it.

My answer grows from having covered terrible news on television for more than twenty-five years. Holding what I deem the sacredness of human grief on my very breath -- as a television reporter and anchor -- has revealed to me the power of the news to inform some of the best of humanity. It forms a lesson in leadership, especially in the worst of times.

Aristotle believed "happiness depends upon ourselves." In the coverage of stories such as 9-11, the earthquake in Haiti, or a suffering child in America, we discover the joy of our dependency upon one another. Those stories contain a radical love -- the kind we feel for a stranger in whose eyes we recognize something magnetically familiar. News of human suffering clarifies what Mother Theresa meant when she said charity isn't about pity. It's about love. Too often we who cover and consume the news -- or write about any human events -- fail to see through the hardship to find the leadership. We miss the seismic love.

A few years ago, a tiny piece of television brought me to a man whose life forms a clear window on the power of both. When we met, he was chronically underestimating the potency of a heroism he had lived. This is the soldiering story of George Campbell.

I met Mr. Campbell on a steaming day in June. We shot a TV public service announcement together for a terrific charity, Meals on Wheels, whose volunteers bring hot meals and priceless company to the elderly and infirm. Mr. Campbell lived a small life in a tiny house in Greenville, South Carolina. Apart from the tick of a clock in his living room, it seemed a life of nearly constant silence. Having finished our quick work, we chatted a moment. I had noticed a shadow box on his wall, holding some of the noblest honors the U.S. Military can award. When I asked about those medals, he stood silent for a time, then replied, "You know, son, it was almost 60 years ago to this day I set foot on that piece of France they called Omaha Beach."

That small retired pharmacist had served as an unarmed U.S. Army medic on D-Day. He had climbed out of a boat directly into the savagery General Eisenhower knew awaited the men of that terrible time.

Mr. Campbell, in his courtly, humble, and gentleman's way, told me of running through the Nazi hell that rained onto the men of that beach. He spoke of expecting, any moment, to join the swelling tide of death before him.

It took little time for his well-kept memory to reach the first fallen man he had found.

"I rolled him and saw it," he said. "A spurting wound of the chest. And there was a girl, right there with him. He had a girl's picture in his hand."

In the din of battle, that anonymous U.S. serviceman lay with blood flowing across the hands of Medic Campbell, and he begged him. "Help me get home, Doc. Help me outta here to see her again."

With me at his kitchen table, those sixty years later, Mr. Campbell withdrew into another moment's quiet. Then he spoke of a hopelessness he still felt. There was no saving that boy. He could only kneel there with him until death came. One terrified man had simply knelt with his hand on the blood-sodden chest of another, whom he did not know. That became George Campbell's full experience of D-Day. From one broken body to the next, he had made his way across that jagged beach, and he carried a despair of it across those sixty years to our time and place together -- there in his little house and near anonymous life in America.

"They died on me," he said, thrusting down tears. "All of them."

Every boy Medic Campbell had reached during his D-Day service had died. And palpable in his voice was the feeling of failure. He, in his private sadness of war, felt he had failed as a soldier and, on some levels, as a man.

What followed stands among the most valued and sacred moments of my career. For I had the opportunity, such as I am, to remind that gentle veteran of what he had done -- how he had led, and deeply loved, strangers through the worst time of their lives. It had clearly never dawned on him that, because of him, not one man he reached on that beach died alone. Because of his mettle, those men died witness to the terrified love and hope of a fellow man. As he knelt with them, he feared with them. I'm quite sure he wept with them. Yet he became their living courage, their leader to the mercies of death, a mortal usher who helped shoulder them to death's veil. Without being able to save a single life, he proved to them how courageous leadership truly feels -- not the absence of fear but the presence of care.

Up in his eyes, in that storm of doomed Nazi horror, dying men saw the very best of humanity. He led them to a ground of peace, forged their final relationships on earth. With him they experienced an intimacy with hope.

We men tend to rattle a bit when we venture a try at love talk. As I write this I can but hope I managed to convey to Mr. Campbell the stunning force of the love I felt from him. I can only trust I convinced him, in some small way, of the priceless difference his life had made in the withering moments of the lives of soldiers barely out of boyhood. He had become a quiet hero of Omaha Beach -- one of its many great leaders. If I could, I would call and remind him of this even now. I long for the opportunity -- even to thank him again for his service. Not long after our time together, shared there in his home and in his memories, Mr. Campbell died.

Yet he lives in this reporter's memory, and in the ways he makes me a better man. Because of my time with him, I am led to become a more caring writer -- of journalism and, yes, even fiction as it draws from our deepest reality.
Before his death, I was blessed to report a TV story on Mr. Campbell for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. As with so many, that story cast forth a human tragedy. To this day it is a story of war's unstoppable grief. Yet within it, viewed through the lens of the soul as well as the mind, that story gives off the hope of what great leaders do. They move toward the people they lead. They carry on lives of extravagant caring. With a broadness of the heart, they bear another's hurt with beautiful humility.

In the next story of what seems boundless grief on the news, may we each hear that whispered call to lead with such a radical, generous form of love. May we look within ourselves for the leader who quietly scatters hope where it seems only hurt will live. To paraphrase and nuance Gandhi just a bit, may we become the hope we long to see in the world.

And to that end: Veterans out there -- this reporter says, THANK YOU! This writer of journalism and fiction owes you a debt beyond words. And to you, Mr. Campbell, peace to your spirit, sir, with gratitude for trusting, and loving, me enough to share that great triumph of your days.
© 2010 Michael Cogdill, author of She-Rain: A Story of Hope

Michael Cogdill is blessed as one of the most honored television storytellers in America. His cache of awards includes 24 Emmys and the National Edward R. Murrow for a broad range of achievement, from live reporting to long-form storytelling. His television credits as a journalist include CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and The Today Show, and Michael's interview history crosses a wide horizon: The Reverend Billy Graham, Dr. Mehmet Oz of Oprah fame, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Abby Hoffman, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain, Howard K. Smith, James Brown, Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops and many other newsmakers. His coverage credits include Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States.

Michael spent ten years writing She-Rain, letting it evolve into a world of fiction drawn from his upbringing in Western North Carolina but reaching far beyond. His other writing credits are Cracker the Crab and the Sideways Afternoon -- a children's motivational book, and a self-help volume, Raise the Haze. Michael makes his home in South Carolina with his wife, Jill (a publishing entrepreneur), and their second-generation golden retriever, Maggie. He's currently working on his second novel.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

giveaway: alexandra, gone

Since I thought Alexandra, Gone was fabulous, I'm thrilled that Simon and Schuster has allowed me one giveaway copy to go along with the tour.

Read my review and the one from Publishers Weekly:
"McPartlin (Pack up the Moon) builds a thin novel around a missing person and the music she adored. After 36-year-old Alexandra Kavanagh disappears while running an errand in Dublin, her bereft husband, Tom, begins a small but determined effort to find her until a chance encounter with Jane Moore, Alexandra's childhood friend, helps Tom to galvanize his search efforts. With assistance from Jane's artist sister, Elle, and Web designer Leslie, Tom and Jane mount a national campaign, but as the search turns up dead end after dead end, the quartet finds that life continues apace: Jane and Elle resolve traumas and grievances, Leslie reaches out to new friends, and Tom learns to let go of his grief. Although McPartlin's sense of humor helps these unlikely bonds of friendship to come to life, the plot is light on the suspense and pathos one might expect from a missing-person story, and since Alexandra is often conveyed in such a roundabout way—often by use of her favorite song lyrics—her disappearance, while central, is at odds with her incidental presence."

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 April 24. Winner will be selected at random. Since this is from Simon and Schuster the winner must have mailing addresses in the US; no PO Boxes.

review and tour: alexandra, gone by anna mcpartlin

Alexandra, Gone is sadly beautiful. It is the story of four people who get trapped in an elevator and end up coming together because of the missing Alex. Jane had lost all contact with Alex after Alex went away to college while Jane stayed home to raise her son. So it was quite the shock to see her old friend's face on the missing poster. (This is a truly great scene. Jane has a panic attack on the stopped elevator so Tom tries to make a poster resemble a paper bag for Jane to breathe into.) From there Tom, Jane, and the other two (Jane's sister Elle and a woman who offers her website services) form bonds as they search for Alex. But there's more than just the search for Alex as each of the three women have their own issues and Tom struggles through life without his wife. By the end I had shed a few tears for these deeply moving characters. I am particularly haunted by an early childhood memory of Elle's.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Downtown Press.

There's a giveaway with this tour! The other participating sites are below:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

giveaway winners: the river kings' road, love in mid air, and an absence so great

Congratulations to the winners!

The River Kings’ Road: Barry
Love in Mid Air: etriv
An Absence So Great: Cheryl F.

giveaway: the autism book

April is Autism Awareness Month. Hachette is allowing me to giveaway two copies of The Autism Book by Dr. Robert Sears.

The description from the publisher:
"With clarity and compassion, Dr. Robert Sears guides the reader through the maze of autism, explaining what precautions parents can take to decrease their baby's risk, how to detect autism at the earliest possible age, and how to proceed once a diagnosis has been made. The book provides parents with a simple and clear understanding of the biomedical treatment approach that Dr. Sears has used successfully with many of his young patients. It lays out a plan for developmental, behavioral, and learning therapies; shows parents how to begin treatments without a doctor's help; presents information on vaccines and their safe use; and includes an extensive resources section."

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 April 24. 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: the espressologist by kristina springer

Jane is a 17 year old barista who's just been promoted to assistant manager. She doesn't actually want the responsibility, just the extra money since she's saving for college. Given that Jane rarely attends class, getting into her "dream college" might be a bigger problem than how to pay for it. Jane feels her high school classes are "boring" and the ones she takes at the local junior college are filled with "people who couldn't make it into real college and old people returning to school." I thought for sure that statement would come into play when Jane develops a friendship with a boy from her junior college English class. Unfortunately, it didn't.

While the premise of a teenager using coffee preferences to create love matches is great, the plot falls flat. Every character is predictable; there are no twists, surprises, or even any growth with the characters who are at an age when they should be experiencing a lot of things that will shape their futures.

A final complaint: People shouldn't try to write TV if they don't know the industry. Everything about the Gabby Girlz scene was just wrong (Jane appears on the show when her match-making starts attracting more customers). Jane would only be under a time crunch if the show was live to tape, which the author implied a few times since they would stop down and have the director count them in, but then other things were clearly going to be edited out. If any editing was going to occur, then they also could've edited out the time it took Jane to find an appropriate couple.
Review copy provided by Other Shelf Tours.

Friday, April 9, 2010

giveaway: this one is mine

Thanks to Hachette I can offer two copies of Maria Semple's This One Is Mine.

Check out my review and the one from Publishers Weekly:
"Former television producer and writer Semple (Arrested Development; Mad About You) bashes Hollywood celebrity, New Age nonsense and struggling relationships in this smart and funny debut. Violet Parry, who puts aside a TV writing career to have a baby and take care of the sumptuous L.A. home of her legendary impresario hubby, David, scratches a seven-year itch with D-list rocker Teddy Reyes. Yet Violet is hardly ready for the roller-coaster ride with a man who thinks only "about my rent and my car and getting laid and staying sober." Meanwhile, David's conniving sister, Sally, sets out to snag a rich husband, training her sights on Jeremy, a robotic sports-stats genius with a promising TV career. In one of the most hilarious sendups of New Age claptrap, David figures out if he's willing to stick around to see where Violet's wild ride will take them. Semple's takes are tack sharp as her delightful cast is driven comically and tragically ever deeper into a culture of artifice. Semple obviously knows her turf, and she does an exquisite job of stomping all over it."

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 April 24. 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: this one is mine by maria semple

This post contains affiliate links.

Is is possible to hate every character in a book, but still enjoy the book? This One Is Mine proves that it is. Everyone is wretchedly selfish. I had hope for David after the yoga retreat, but then he got smacked in the face by Violet's infidelity again. Violet's attraction to Teddy was almost incomprehensible, but I guess it was good sex. Sally's reckless actions and pursuit of Jeremy were almost understandable given what she faced as a child, but I still couldn't garner sympathy for her since she never learned from her mistakes. Although she never learned, Sally did at least have moments where she seemed to genuinely care such as when she protected Jeremy after an embarrassment.

So how could I possibly enjoy the novel? I suppose that speaks to Semple's excellent writing and character development. Even though I hated the characters, particularly the three main ones, I wanted to find out what they would do next and what the consequences might be. I also appreciated Semple's use of music/song lyrics throughout the book.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Back Bay Books.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

giveaway: an absence so great

Want to win a copy of Jane Kirkpatrick's creative nonfiction, An Absence So Great? WaterBrook Multnomah has provided a copy!

My review and the publisher description:
"Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart’s emptiness?

While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele’s personal life is at a crossroads. Hoping she’s put an unfortunate romantic longing behind her as “water under the bridge,” she exiles herself to Milwaukee to operate photographic studios for those owners who have fallen ill with mercury poisoning.

Jessie gains footing in her dream to one day operate her own studio and soon finds herself in other Midwest towns, pursuing her profession. But even a job she loves can’t keep painful memories from seeping into her heart when the shadows of a forbidden love threaten to darken the portrait of her 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 April 10. Winner will be selected at random. The winner must have mailing addresses in the US; no PO Boxes.

review and tour: an absence so great by jane kirkpatrick

In An Absence So Great, Jane Kirkpatrick tells the partially fictionalized story of her grandmother, Jessie Gaebele. Although Jessie grew up in a time when women were expected to marry and care for their children, Jessie went for more. At 15 she trained with one of the photographers in her hometown. An Absence So Great picks up her story three years later when she’s working as a photographer in another town. Though Jessie would like to return home, she feels she cannot until she has enough money to open her own studio. There’s no way she can work for the photographer who trained her because Jessie and Fred developed a slightly inappropriate relationship. Fred is married with children, so he’s off limits. That fact doesn’t stop Fred from inserting himself in her life, though. Of course, Jessie gets drawn back in as Fred can’t seem to stop himself from pursuing her.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jessie’s story though I didn’t like how she kept being pulled back in by Fred (can't change those facts though). Her plan to make it on her own in Seattle seemed like a much better idea. Though I understand that Kirkpatrick wanted to keep Jessie’s story as accurate as possible, I would’ve loved to have more detail on some aspects of Jessie’s life, such as when she was a photographer’s assistant at a prison!
Review copy provided by the publisher, WaterBrook Press.