Friday, September 30, 2011

review: everything we ever wanted by sara shepard

Every member of the wealthy Bates-McAllister family has a secret. They keep these secrets from each other and everyone else which leads to them all living in isolation despite their proximity. Although the start of Everything We Ever Wanted was a little slow (I didn’t like matriarch Sylvie in the slightest), I was soon sucked into their world. Sara Shepard did a tremendous job of seamlessly weaving in everyone’s back story at the most appropriate times to give insight into how all of these people became so cold. Everything We Ever Wanted is all about keeping up appearances, the judgments people make based on appearance/reputation, and discovering that sometimes getting everything you wanted doesn’t bring happiness. It was a most enjoyable read.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, September 23, 2011

giveaway: help! for writers

If you're in need of great writing advice, you'll want to enter this giveaway made possible by Hachette. Three people will win Roy Peter Clark's excellent Help! for Writers.

Check out my review; then read the publisher description:
"The craft of writing offers countless potential problems: The story is too long; the story's too short; revising presents a huge hurdle; writer's block is rearing its ugly head.

In HELP! FOR WRITERS, Roy Peter Clark presents an 'owner's manual' for writers, outlining the seven steps of the writing process, and addressing the 21 most urgent problems that writers face. In his trademark engaging and entertaining style, Clark offers ten short solutions to each problem. Out of ideas? Read posters, billboards, and graffiti. Can't bear to edit yourself? Watch the deleted scenes feature of a DVD, and ask yourself why those scenes were left on the cutting-room floor. HELP! FOR WRITERS offers 210 strategies to guide writers to success."

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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on October 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.

review: help! for writers by roy peter clark

Over the years I've read a number of writing advice books. Some are helpful while others are more of an outlet for the author's bragging. Roy Peter Clark's Help! for Writers is of the incredibly helpful variety. Some writing books go in-depth on a particular genre, but Help! for Writers does a good job of encompassing many types of writing whether fiction or non, short pieces or long. One of my favorite pieces of advice is about writer's block. Clark suggests lowering your standards at the beginning to get started, the raising your standards later in the process. As someone who tends to get stuck because I want it all perfect right away, it was helpful to be given permission, in a sense, to let a first draft be less than stellar. Clark's quick tips are ones I'm sure I'll reference time and again for my writing.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Little, Brown and Company.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

giveaway: texas romances

Want to win two romances set in Texas? Three people will each win a copy of Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves and Don't Mess with Texas by Christie Craig. Many thanks to Hachette for making this giveaway possible.

Be sure to check out my reviews of Heartstrings and Diamond Rings and Don't Mess with Texas. From the publisher:
Heartstrings and Diamond Rings:
He's the man of her Dreams...
In a world full of frogs, Alison Carter is determined to find her prince. Maybe her dating past is more Titanic than Love Boat, but she's seen enough happy marriages to know that true love is possible. No matter what, she won't give up on happily-ever-after. If she can't find Mr. Right, she'll simply hire someone who can.
She just doesn't know it yet
When Brandon Scott inherits a successful matchmaking business, he thinks his prayers have been answered. Set up a few lonely ladies, collect the fee, how hard can it be? No one needs to know he's not really a professional matchmaker-especially not his first client, the beautiful, spirited Alison. Soon he's falling for her-and her dreams of kids and carpools. But Alison is getting close to figuring out his secret, and if she learns he's deceived her too, she'll walk right out the door, taking Brandon's heart with her.

Don't Mess with Texas:
Nikki Hunt thought her night couldn't get worse when her no-good, cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the bill. Then she found his body stuffed in the trunk of her car and lost her two-hundred-dollar meal all over his three-thousand-dollar suit. Now not only is Nikki nearly broke, she's a murder suspect.

Former cop turned PI, Dallas O'Connor knows what it's like to be unjustly accused. But one look at the sexy-though skittish-suspect tells him she couldn't hurt anyone. The lead detective, Dallas's own brother, has the wrong woman and Dallas hopes a little late-night "undercover" work will help him prove 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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on October 15. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

review: don't mess with texas by christie craig

Nikki and Dallas face quite a few relationship obstacles in Don’t Mess with Texas. The big one is what led to their meeting in the first place. It’s the simple matter of Nikki being accused of killing her ex-husband. Fortunately, Dallas, an ex-cop turned PI, believes she’s innocent and decides to help. They make a good team both romantically and working on proving Nikki’s innocence. Although there are a few subplots that I expected to tie more into the main storyline, they don’t detract much from the primary action. In the case of lead investigator Tony (also Dallas’s brother), it served to humanize a man who was otherwise a hardass. Don’t Mess with Texas does contain a murder mystery, but I found the romance was always at the forefront and the murder was more of a plot device to bring the characters together. It’s a nice mix of romance, mystery, and comedy (see Nana and her retirement home friends!).
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

review: heartstrings and diamond rings by jane graves

In what came together as a very cute romance, Heartstrings and Diamond Rings finds Alison newly single and contemplating hiring a matchmaker at the behest of a friend. There’s one hitch: the recommended matchmaker has passed away and her grandson is running the business. Brandon presents himself as an established matchmaker who was taught well by his grandma, but Alison is actually his first client and he’s just in it for the money. Although Brandon makes some hilariously bad matches for Alison, she allows him to keep trying and even starts helping him promote the business. The biggest problem is that the two just can’t seem to get over themselves enough to realize what the reader knows from the first moment Alison and Brandon meet: they are each other’s perfect match. They are characters to root for and come to life with the descriptions Jane Graves gives.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

review: love story by jennifer echols

Love Story opens with a fairly groan-worthy short story written by the main character, Erin Blackwell. Erin is studying creative writing at college (a choice that led to her being disowned) and feels she’s a brillianhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gift writer. Having studied creative writing in college myself, Love Story was a great trip down memory lane; thankfully no one in my classes offered critiques like Erin’s antagonistic classmate Manohar! The creative writing aspect is what sets Love Story apart from many other young adult romances. It offers Erin and her love interest, Hunter (a late add to the class and someone from Erin’s past), the opportunity to talk to each other without talking to each other. Of course, that creates even more conflict between the two who already have enough problems since Hunter became heir apparent when Erin refused her grandmother’s command to major in business.

I gobbled up Love Story, loving every second of it. Just as Jennifer Echols created amazingly authentic characters in Forget You who reminded me so much of high school, she nailed the introductory college-level creative writing class.
5/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

giveaway winners: wildflower hill

The winners of Wildflower Hill are holdenj and Carrie at In the Hammock Blog! Congrats!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

review: frost by marianna baer

Books and movies with a premise similar to Frost by Marianna Baer always attract me, but the endings usually disappoint; Frost was great from beginning to end. Frost begins at the start of senior year for Leena and her boarding school friends. It’s supposed to be a fantastic year. Not only are the seniors, but Leena was able to convince the Dean to let her small group of friends live in Frost House, a beautiful Victorian usually reserved for senior boys. There’s just one hitch. Leena’s intended roommate is studying abroad for the semester, so she ends up rooming with weird girl Celeste, who needs a first floor room because of her broken leg. Crazy, unexplainable things start happening right away, but why? Leena suspects Celeste, who has a mentally ill father, might be acting out for attention. Celeste first think the other girls are tormenting her, but comes to believe the house is haunted by the spirit of a “hysterical” woman who once lived there. There are so many possibilities here: Leena and/or Celeste could be crazy or there really could be something going on in the house. It is wonderfully unclear throughout Frost what is actually going on; then, the end provides the perfect explanation while still leaving enough hanging to not spoil all that came before.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Balzer + Bray.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

giveaway: pinch me

Want to win a copy of Adena Halpern's excellent modern-day fairy tale Pinch Me? Three will thanks to Simon and Schuster!

My review can be read here. Below is the publisher description:
"LILY MARRIED THE MAN OF HER DREAMS.THEN SHE WOKE UP.“Never marry a man unless he’s short, bald, fat, stupid, and treats you badly.” That is the advice that twenty-nine-year-old Lily Burns has heard her entire life from her grandmother Dolly and her mother, Selma. Despite this, when she meets Gogo, the handsome, successful pediatrician who treats her like a queen, she has no choice but to let her heart take over. When she agrees to marry him, Dolly and Selma are inconsolable. They decide it’s time to tell her the truth: their family is cursed. If she marries for love, there will be unimaginable consequences.Nevertheless, Lily and Gogo elope. Unable to believe her good fortune, Lily asks Gogo to pinch her—to make sure all this isn’t just a dream. The moment he does, Lily finds herself transported back to the house she lived in when she was single. Gogo is gone. When Lily tracks him down, she finds that he’s married to someone else and has no memory of her. In this modern fairy tale, Lily must find a way to break the curse and turn her nightmare back into a dream come true. "

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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on October 1. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Simon and Schuster the winners must have mailing addresses in the US.

review: pinch me by adena halpern

For all of Lily’s life, her mother and grandmother have advised her to marry an ugly man who treats her terribly! Although they never explained, Lily always dated men who fell into that category until she met a wonderful man named Gogo. After they elope, Lily discovers her family is cursed—Gogo no longer remembers her; worse, he’s unhappily married and never fulfilled his dream of becoming a doctor. Lily then sets out to break the curse despite the fact that no woman in her family has ever succeeded.

Pinch Me is a hilarious modern-day fairy tale. The conversations between the generations were fantastic and really made the characters come to life. The various struggles Lily faced as she tried to win back Gogo were very compelling, especially when she started questioning whether or not truly loving Gogo meant leaving Gogo to his current life.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

review: deadly cool by gemma halliday

When Hartley discovers a condom wrapper in her boyfriend’s locker (yeah, she was snooping), she doesn’t fall apart but goes to confront him instead. And that’s how she finds the body of her rival in her boyfriend’s bedroom. Despite his cheating, Hartley knows Josh didn’t kill Courtney, so in Nancy Drew fashion (as the local TV reporter dubs it) Hartley concocts a plan to find the killer with help from her best friend, Sam, and Josh’s bad boy neighbor who heads the school newspaper.

Deadly Cool may be a murder mystery, but it is absolutely hilarious with Hartley constantly snarking on life (including her mom’s health-craze and the Color Guard’s chastity pledge) and Sam’s attempt to clean up her potty-mouth. Gemma Halliday’s young adult debut is the perfect mix of comedy, drama, and high school.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, HarperTeen.