Sunday, December 27, 2009

review: girl on top by nicole williams

Believing that "finding, catching, and building a relationship with a beau simply isn't so different from finding, catching, and building a relationship with a boss," Nicole Williams turns the so-called rules of dating into career advice. Using crass language at times, she proposes that following rules like "don't bash your ex" and "don't give away your milk for free" will make you the Girl on Top. It's an interesting proposal, though it has some flaws. The "Keep the Fire Alive" chapter hardly applies to life in the workforce. Williams focuses her advice here on dating rather than workplace interactions and some parts don't make sense in regard to either situation. (I doubt anyone finds a new love interest for the soon-to-be ex nor would most be involved in the hiring of a replacement at work since HR would need to be involved.) Some of the advice is helpful to those just starting their careers, but it's a bit of stretch to wholly apply the rules of dating to the workforce.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Center Street.

Friday, December 25, 2009

giveaway: two harlequin romances

Merry Christmas! For the last giveaway of the week Harlequin is providing two romance novels: The Italian's Inexperienced Mistress by Lynne Graham and Branded By the Sheriff by Delores Fossen. Four people will win a copy of both books. Please note that these books are marked with "enjoy this free gift."

Here's the back cover copy for The Italian's Inexperienced Mistress:
"Angelo Riccardi didn't do love. Because he'd been denied it a long time ago...

When Angelo sought revenge Gwenna Hamilton added another delicious dimension. Innocent and pretty, she didn't stand a chance when the Italian tycoon offered her the devil's bargain: pay for her father's freedom with her body.

In her naiveté, Gwenna thought that Angelo would tire of her and her innocence very quickly. But he had more in mind than just one night…"

And this is the back cover copy for Branded By the Sheriff:
"Years ago, Sheriff Beck Tanner had believed the worst about Faith Matthews. Now she was back in their small Texas town, forcing him to question everything he thought he knew about her. And when the killer who'd murdered her family set his sights on Faith--and her innocent baby girl--Beck's protective instincts kicked into high gear.

As dangerous pranks turned into deadly games, and with a sadistic killer circling closer, all of Beck's attention had to be on keeping Faith's baby safe...and ignoring his inconvenient attraction to the beautiful mother..."

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 16. Winners will be selected at random. Winners must have mailing addresses in the US; PO Boxes are ok for this one.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

giveaway: the little giant of aberdeen county

The Christmas Eve giveaway is The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker. Hachette is providing three copies.

The review from Publishers Weekly:
"Starred Review. Baker's bangup debut mixes the exuberant eccentricities of John Irving's Garp, Anne Tyler's relationship savvy and the plangent voice of Margaret Atwood. In an upstate New York backwater, Truly, massive from birth, has a bleak existence with her depressed father and her china-doll–like sister, Serena Jane. Truly grows at an astonishing rate—her girth the result of a pituitary gland problem—and after her father dies when Truly is 12, Truly is sloughed off to the Dyersons, a hapless farming family. Her outsize kindness surfaces as she befriends the Dyersons' outcast daughter, Amelia, and later leaves her beloved Dyerson farm to take care of Serena Jane's husband and son after Serena Jane leaves them. Haunting the margins of Truly's story is that of Tabitha Dyerson, a rumored witch whose secrets afford a breathtaking role reversal for Truly. It's got all the earmarks of a hit—infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama. It'll be a shame if this doesn't race up the bestseller lists."

And there's a Reading Group Guide:
1. Truly is the “little giant” of this book, yet her size seems to make her less, rather than more, visible to the town around her. Can you explain this phenomenon? What do you think the author is trying to say about her outsider status?

2. Serena Jane and Truly are as physically different as sisters can be, yet Truly sees that this difference is crucial, explaining “the reason the two of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water, I thought, was that pretty can’t exist without ugly.” (pp. 97-98) How would you describe Truly and Serena’s connection? How is it different from Truly’s relationship with Amelia Dyerson? Which seems the more genuine sisterhood to you?

3. As the successor to a long line of old-fashioned, small-town doctors, Robert Morgan is traditional, strict, and often cruel. I the end, however, the legacy terminates with him and he becomes Aberdeen’s last Dr. Morgan. How do he and Bobbie stray from the family paradigm? What Morgan characteristics stayed with each of them? Is the town “more modern” without a Dr. Morgan, and with Bobbie and Salvatore’s restaurant instead? Is the replacement of nurturing through nourishment rather than doctoring a symbolic replacement?

4. Death haunts Truly and all of Aberdeen, sometimes in unexpected ways. As a gardener, Marcus’s aim is to “make things live,” but, as Truly realizes, “wasn’t it also true that gardeners were always wrestling with death, whether in the form of drought, or blight, or hungry insects? In a garden, Marcus always said, death was the first, last and only fact of life.” What other parallels do you see in the ways Marcus and Truly court life and death?

5. Truly’s size marks her as an outcast, but throughout the novel, other characters have trouble “fitting in” in a more figurative way. Examine how this manifests in Bobbie, Marcus, Amelia, even Serena Jane. What larger point do you this the author might be trying to make about the importance of conforming?

6. What role does Aberdeen County play in the novel? Could the story or these characters exist elsewhere? Do the effects of the 60s and the Vietnam War seem to touch Aberdeen in the same way they touched the rest of the country? What is unique and what is not about Aberdeen as a setting?

7. When Amelia discovers how Priscilla Sparrow and Robert Morgan died, she asks Truly whether it was mercy or murder that killed them. What do you think? How do you feel about Truly’s actions? What in Truly’s character draws her to “collect souls” as she comes to call it?

8. When Marcus and Truly finally come together, Marcus says “We’re not exactly a match made in heaven, you and I, but I figure we’re good enough for here on earth” (p. 334) What does he mean by this? Do you agree?

9. Why doesn’t Robert Morgan “care” that his son runs away? What does it say about what he thinks of himself? How does this connect to Serena Jane’s leaving and his reaction to that event?

10. After Robert Morgan’s death, Truly gradually takes on some of his responsibilities as town doctor by using the knowledge she’s gained from Tabitha’s quilt. How is this a fitting purpose for Truly, and a fitting counterpoint to the legacy of Morgan doctors?

11. What about this story is larger than life or possesses elements of a tall tale or folklore? How are these details woven into the story? How is the book similar to or different from other works in this tradition?

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 16. 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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

giveaway: in tongues of the dead

For the fourth giveaway of the week, an ARC of In Tongues of the Dead by Brad Kelln is up for grabs. This ARC was provided by ECW Press.

Here's the review from Publishers Weekly:
"At the start of this flawed thriller from Canadian author Kelln (Method of Madness), an autistic boy appears to be able to read the real-life Voynich manuscript, a 500-year-old book written in a language that linguists, historians, religious scholars and even advanced decryption technology can't decipher. By the time Fr. Benicio Valori, a Vatican investigator, arrives at Yale University's Beinecke Library, where the mysterious manuscript is housed, the book is missing from its display room and what's left of a security guard lies nearby. Disregarding orders from his superiors to suspend the mission, Valori uncovers some bombshell revelations concerning the existence of rogue angels, their forsaken offspring and a coverup of biblical proportions. Da Vinci Code fans will enjoy the seamless blend of fact and fiction, pedal-to-the-metal pacing and provocative religious speculation, but the ending comes as a letdown after the exciting build-up."

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 2. Winners will be selected at random. Winners must have mailing addresses in the US; PO Boxes are ok for this one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

giveaway: primitive

The third day of giveaways brings two ARC copies of Mark Nykanen's Primitive. Thanks to Bell Bridge books for providing the ARCs.

Here's a brief description; find out more here.
"Kidnapped by neo-primitive survivalists with a radical environmental agenda, an aging model finds herself fighting for her life in the rugged Pacific Northwest mountains."

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 2. Winners will be selected at random. Winners must have mailing addresses in the US; PO Boxes are ok for this one.

Monday, December 21, 2009

giveaway: love you to death

For the second day of giveaways leading up to Christmas, Hachette is allowing me to offer two copies of Love You to Death by Shannon K. Butcher.

Here's what Publishers Weekly has to say:
"Fans of romantic suspense are used to glossing over gruesomeness in a fast-paced story, but this macabre effort from Butcher (No Escape) offers only a tired plot and characters to balance the revolting details of serial killer Gary Maitland's escapades. Reporter Elise McBride, worried because she has not heard from her irresponsible sister, Ashley, breaks into Ashley's house for clues and is inevitably discovered by Trent Brady, the handsome but burnt-out ex-cop from across the. Ashley has been kidnapped by Gary, who slices body parts off his victims while they're still alive, and it's the usual race against time as Elise and Trent team up to find Ashley before Gary dismembers her. Their sizzling passion helps them tame personal demons and confront the killer, but the romance is soon buried under gore and clichés."

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 2. 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: godmother by carolyn turgeon

The subtitle to Carolyn Turgeon’s excellent Godmother is “The Secret Cinderella Story,” which it definitely is. This book, which is told from the Godmother’s perspective, changes everything you thought you knew about the classic fairy tale. First off, the reason Cinderella is so beautiful is that she’s actually half-fairy. Her mother had an affair with a fairy, who ended up being banished because of it. Similarly, Lil (Cinderella’s Godmother) is also banished because of a love affair with a human—-Cinderella’s Prince Charming. How Lil came to attend the ball in Cinderella’s place is shocking and a bit devastating for anyone who loved Cinderella as a child. Another dark twist comes at the end, but it almost seems appropriate and doesn’t take away from the beautiful story.
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Three Rivers Press.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

giveaway: the magician's book

With Christmas approaching, I'm going to post a few giveaways this week. The first comes courtesy Hachette. It's three copies of the Magician's Book by Laura Miller.

Here's the review from Publishers Weekly:
"Jam-packed with critical insights and historical context, this discussion of C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia from Miller's double perspectives--as the wide-eyed child who first read the books and an agnostic adult who revisits them--is intellectually inspiring but not always cohesive. Finding her distrust of Christianity undermined by her love of Lewis's indisputably Christian-themed world, cofounder and staff writer Miller seeks to "recapture [Narnia's] old enchantment." She replaces lost innocence with understanding, visiting Lewis's home in England, reading his letters and books (which she quotes extensively) and interviewing readers and writers. Lengthy musings on Freudian analysis of sadomasochism, J.R.R. Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon nationalism and taxonomies of genre share space with incisive and unapologetic criticism of Lewis's treatment of race, gender and class. The heart of the book is in the first-person passages where Miller recalls longing to both be and befriend Lucy Pevensie and extols Narnia's "shining wonders." Her reluctant reconciliation with Lewis's and Narnia's imperfections never quite manages to be convincing, but anyone who has endured exile from Narnia will recognize and appreciate many aspects of her journey."

And here's the Reading Group Guide:
1. Laura Miller was introduced to the Chronicles of Narnia by her teacher and was immediately swept into their magical world. Describe your own discovery and reaction to them.

2. When Miller writes about her most powerful reading experiences while growing up, she cites Island of the Blue Dolphins, Five Children and It, and the Little House on the Prairie series. Name some of the formative books of your childhood and discuss why they were important to you. What about them has stayed with you into adulthood?

3. In the excerpt that opens The Magician’s Book, Lucy encounters the best story she has ever read. Afterward, she is unable to remember what happened in the story or to reread it. Have you ever lost yourself in a story as Lucy did? What were you reading? How old were you? Discuss why you think you were able to forget yourself so completely. How do our daily lives affect the way we read? What does this say about the role readers play in the creation of a story’s meaning?

4. Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Franzen note the importance of C. S. Lewis’s books in their own lives and work. Discuss the similarities and differences between their books and the Chronicles of Narnia. Have you noticed Lewis’s influence on other writers? If so, which writers? And why does their work remind you of the Pevensie children’s adventures?

5. Does Miller’s description of C. S. Lewis’s life and personality alter your view of his novels? In what ways? Have your opinions of other books changed after discovering personal details about the author? Why does biographical information affect our interpretation?

6. Laura Miller writes that she will not address the religious symbolism in the Chronicles, focusing instead on the stories and their creator. Do you agree with her decision? Are there other aspects of the books you would have liked Miller to address?

7. When Miller discovered Narnia’s Christian messages, her feeling of betrayal drove her away. Eventually, she returned and reexamined the books as an adult. Why was she upset by her new understanding? Discuss the role that the passage from innocence to understanding played in her reaction. Is one experience more valid than another?

8. Part memoir, part biography, and part literary criticism, The Magician’s Book touches on the many factors that shaped the author’s relationship with the novels. Discuss the extent to which each reader’s knowledge informs and shapes his or her interpretations of stories.

9. At its core, The Magician’s Book is the story of Laura Miller’s attempt to regain her childhood enchantment with the Chronicles. Have you reread the Chronicles of Narnia as an adult? If so, how has your enjoyment or understanding of them changed? Do you think it is possible to regain the childhood experience of reading? Why?

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 2. 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: 7th heaven

Congratulations to the winners of 7th Heaven: heatherzilla, gahome2mom, mskayz, Jessica, and Wanda.

Friday, December 18, 2009

secret santa gifts

This post contains affiliate links.

This year I participated in two Secret Santas. Both of my recipients have received their books now; I hope they enjoy them. I've also now received both of my gifts, so I wanted to post a bit of thanks. Both senders elected to remain anonymous, so I hope they'll stop by and read this. Both sent extra goodies with the book part (one sent a gift card for me to buy a book; the other sent two books I really wanted: The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf and My Big Nose and Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter) which means I'm enjoying some holiday candy and scented candles.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

review: tall, dark & fangsome by michelle rowan

This post contains affiliate links.

In a word, Tall, Dark & Fangsome is hilarious. Sarah is the best snarky vampire around!

Sarah carries the curse of the nightwalker, which means she the stereotypical vampire who can't enter someone's home without an invitation; oh, and there's that whole bloodlust thing going on too. Fortunately, Sarah has a necklace that allows her to curb the desire to kill, but the slayers after her don't care and want to eradicate all nightwalkers. Furthermore, presumed dead slayer Gideon is blackmailing her. He wants to become a powerful vampire now that he's been scarred by hellfire. This should make Sarah hate Gideon, but her inner nightwalker is attracted by his evilness. Since Sarah's already dating a handsome master vampire (albeit a married one), she's a bit torn between the two sides of herself and the man each one desires. Sarah's life is a mess, but her snark had me giggling the whole way through.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

review: cheating death by sanjay gupta

In Cheating Death, Dr. Sanjay Gupta gives overviews of instances where people have survived a trauma that usually would result in death. Some of these people reported a "white light" experience; some said they'd talked with dead relatives while doctors worked to save their lives. Most of the stories are intriguing and some are touching.

Gupta includes medical details and delves into some of the reasons behind using a particular treatment, but does so in a way that readers without a medical background can easily understand what he's talking about. The histories of some of the procedures are informative and interesting, particularly regarding the prenatal ones. I was quite impressed at how far medicine has come in the last few decades.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Wellness Central.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

review and tour: the possibility of everything by hope edelman

Initially the imaginary friend of Hope Edelman’s three year old daughter was thought to be harmless. Edelman was concerned, but friends with children and the pediatrician assured her an imaginary friend was normal. Unfortunately, Edelman’s fears were soon proved to be warranted when Maya kept acting out and placing the blame on Dodo, who (horrifyingly) hated Edelman according to Maya. Despite this chaos, Edelman and her husband decided to keep their scheduled vacation to Belize, which included plans to take Maya to a shaman. Although they had some very trying moments and it was clear that the marriage was strained, the Belize trip turned out to be the best thing for the family. Although one cannot say for certain if the shaman visits “cured” Maya, something amazing definitely happened for the family while in Belize. I found Edelman’s story to be touching, remarkable, and incredibly well-written.
Review copy provided as part of a Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour.

Monday, December 14, 2009

author interview: ingrid king

The author of Buckley's Story, Ingrid King, was kind enough to answer a few questions.

What inspired you to share Buckley’s Story?

I have always believed that animals are amazing teachers, and I’ve been fortunate to have a number of these animals in my life. First and foremost, animals teach us about unconditional love, but they also teach us to stretch and grow, to reach beyond our self-imposed limits, and to expand our consciousness. Buckley taught me all of that, and more. She changed my life in ways I never could have imagined, and I realized that some of the lessons she taught me were really universal lessons about opening the heart and living a joyful life.

I wanted to share her story, but it’s really more than just her story. There are three layers to the book:

It’s the story of how her presence in my life and the lessons she taught me led me to make some major changes in my own life.

It’s also my story of what it’s like living with a pet with a terminal illness - in Buckley’s case, it was heart disease – and all that comes with that: making treatment decisions, maintaining a positive outlook in the face of a poor prognosis, and ultimately, having to make end of life decisions, and coping with the loss of a beloved animal companion.

And finally, it’s a story about the deep connection between animals and humans – a connection that is eternal and transcends the physical dimension.

Your book is subtitled “Lessons From a Feline Master Teacher.” What do you feel was the most important lesson you learned from Buckley?

It's hard to pick just one, but if I had to, I'd say "Follow Your Bliss." Buckley was one of the most freedom loving little cats I ever encountered, and as I spent time with her, her freedom loving spirit started to rub off on me. I've always been an independent spirit, but that side of me wasn't being expressed in my work life yet. When I met Buckley, I was managing a veterinary hospital - a job I took after fifteen years in Corporate America. I loved my position at the animal hospital, and I had far more freedom to make and implement decisions than I did in my corporate jobs. Working in an environment where everything mattered to me - the animals, the clients, the staff - was very rewarding, but it still wasn't the same as working for myself - something I had been thinking about for quite some time. Buckley helped me develop and embrace that side of myself through her example. Eventually, I left my job at the animal hospital to start my own business. Now that I've had a chance to experience for the past few years what it's like to be completely in charge of my life, and to do work that I'm passionate about, I'd have to say that this was the most important lesson.

In Buckley’s Story you explain that you didn’t name her and don’t know how she got the name. Did you ever try to rename her?

Buckley came with her name, and when I first met her, I didn't like it at all. It seemed awfully masculine for such a small, female cat. But after she had been with me for a little while, I couldn't even think about changing her name. She was Buckley, and she would remain Buckley. She acquired a series of nicknames over the years, ranging from Miss B to Baby B to Buggsy to Bugselina.

How have your experiences working in an animal hospital shaped how you interact with your cat, Amber?

I think I may be a little more in tune with even subtle physical changes I notice in her than the average cat parent might be, simply because I have a good understanding of how certain conditions might present themselves in terms of symptoms. Unfortunately, this can be a very mixed blessing. On the one hand, it allows me to stay on top of her good health and determine whether something requires veterinary attention or not, but on the other hand, I can also get a little carried away. Sometimes, too much knowledge is a dangerous thing! Knowing all the things that can go wrong with a condition makes it that much harder to stay positive!

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

At this point, I'd have to say it's Buckley's Story. Writing and publishing it is the culmination of a life long dream of writing a book. It's also the realization of truly expressing my authentic self in the world in all aspects of my life. It has changed me in ways I never could have imagined when I first met my little cat.

You’ve continued to write The Conscious Cat blog. Do you plan to write more books?

Currently, I'm focusing on writing and editing The Conscious Cat. I love providing reliable and well-researched information on pet health and other topics related to conscious living and holistic health to my readers. In addition, The Conscious Cat is also a great site for cat lovers and others interested in animal-themed books, interviews with authors, and the feline lifestyle

That being said, yes, there will be more books. I have several ideas, but nothing that is fully formed yet, so it's a little too soon to talk about them.

review and tour: buckley's story by ingrid king

This post contains affiliate links.

Buckley’s Story is Ingrid King’s touching and heart-breaking experience with a tortoiseshell cat with a deformed leg who was brought to the veterinary clinic where King worked. Although it is Buckley’s Story, it is also King’s story. King decided to embark upon a new career after meeting Buckley. This new venture, in turn, led to Buckley going from “office cat” to living with King and her other cat, Amber. King discusses the difficulty in getting the two cats to accept the new living situation, which I’m sure anyone who’s ever tried to introduce a new pet to another can appreciate. While her focus is on the cat, King shares personal experiences about her work, friends, and life in general. The ending brings tears, but even Buckley’s illness can’t keep a sweet cat from showing love for others.
Review copy provided as part of a Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour.

giveaway winners: cheating death

Stacie, graceunderfire, and enyl are the lucky winners of Cheating Death. Congratulations!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

author guest post: barbora knobova

As part of her promotional tour for Tales for Delicious Girls, Barbora Knobova shares her thoughts on writing the book.

A Truly Delicious Book To Write

I believe that good things come to those who wait and also to those who don't plan too much. Tales for Delicious Girls is not my first book but I didn't plan to write it! And when I finally started writing it, I had no idea that I would end up creating a book full of support and encouragement that women would keep getting back to when they faced life and relationship trouble.

The first story that I wrote was Beautiful Maxim. Writing about a man who compares women to desserts and forgets to mention to his girlfriend that he's getting married in a week (to another woman, of course) was hilarious. When I was done with Beautiful Maxim (in real life and on paper) I realized that there were many relationship and dating stories in my head and that they were not just funny but also uplifting and encouraging. I thought: "There are many humorous books but there are few books that would make women laugh and at the same time make them think about themselves and their relationships."

I decided to write a truly Delicious Book that
would become every woman's best friend, regardless of her age, life circumstances and experience. A book that would be supportive, that would express the power of female loyalty and friendship, that would encourage women to love themselves and that would help them deal with toxic relationships and harmful patterns.

At the time I started working as a relationship coach and my first readers, before Tales for Delicious Girls was even published, were the wonderful women I worked with. Seeing how my book changed their lives literally overnight, what a wonderful effe
ct it had on their self-esteem and how it empowered them was so fulfilling and rewarding. At that moment I knew that I had written a unique book about women and for women, a book that women could identify with and use it in everyday life, a book that they could even come back to when they faced new relationship challenges and dilemmas.

The word DELICIOUS in the title of my book is actually an acronym
that stands for: Daring, Enchanting, Loving, Inspiring, Captivating, Intriguing, Outgoing, Unique, Sophisticated. I'm proud to be a women and I'm even prouder to be a Delicious woman. I believe in myself, I believe in every woman in this world and I believe in you. Because we all are Delicious. That's the message of my book and the reason I wrote it.

Barbora Knobova is a writer, love coach and expert in Delicious Life. A world traveler, she is one of those rare world citizens who live everywhere and nowhere. Barbora is a firm believer in female friendship, loyalty and bonding. She writes hilarious, sharp-witted, caustically apt, ironic, moving, true books for strong, independent, smart, fearless women. Barbora has also written several self-improvement books and teaches women about the importance of self-love in relationships and life in general. Barbora speaks eight languages and has found her home away from home in New York, London and Milan. She is always on the move, accompanied by her beagle Brinkley, the nasty dog from her new book Tales for Delicious Girls.

review and tour: tales for delicious girls by barbora knobova

Tales for Delicious Girls is a collection of short stories about Barbora Knobova’s life (especially regarding dating) that are written in a style similar to magazine articles. Just about each one provides an interesting perspective on life. The stories, as a whole, are amusing though some of them struck me as “ouch, but that’s life.” I particularly enjoyed reading Knobova’s thoughts on turning 30 in Why Scarecrows Don’t Scare Me. I found that selection as well as many of the others to be very relatable. Adding to the pleasure of the reading the stories are the illustrations that go along with each one; some of the illustrations tell a story all of their own.
Review copy provided as part of a Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

giveaway: 7th heaven

Thanks to Hachette, I can offer up five copies of 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. 7th Heaven is part of the Women's Murder Club series.

Here's the publisher description:
"The Women's Murder Club faces not one-but two-terrifying cases that may tear it apart. The teenage son of California's ex-governor has mysteriously vanished-and the pressure on Detective Lindsay Boxer to find him is overwhelming. When she finally does get a lead, it's devastating. At the same time, Lindsay and her partner, Rich Conklin, must investigate mysterious fires that are destroying some of San Francisco's most beautiful homes-and leaving their owners dead in the debris. But when Lindsay enlists her friends in the Women's Murder Club to help uncover the arsonist, the blazes suddenly rage much too close to home."

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 December 19. 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, November 30, 2009

review: how to be a hepburn in a hilton world by jordan christy

Jordan Christy is fed up with the “Stupid Girls.” She wants us to remember the time of Audrey Hepburn and “take some of those graceful, sophisticated, old-fashioned values and implement them in our everyday, modern-girl lives.” The first few chapters are pretty good and provide some funny anecdotal stories. But then Christy decides she can give makeup and fashion advice. Although some of this is still appropriate, Christy’s personal biases really start to come through on these subjects that she clearly has no professional background on. She’s very anti-plastic surgery and the clothing store Abercrombie. While I’m sure many will agree that plastic surgery can sometimes be excessive, it’s not always inappropriate as Christy makes it out to be. She also should step inside an Abercrombie store before condemning it as the company actually carries a number of pieces that would fall in line with styles Christy deems appropriate.

review: saved by the music by selene castrovilla

This post contains affiliate links.

When Saved By the Music opens, Willow acts both snobby and bratty about her new living situation. She most definitely does not want to spend her summer helping her aunt fix up a broken-down barge in a slummy town. At this point, I thought Willow was a spoiled brat, but it turns about I was completely wrong about her at-home situation which was a pleasant surprise (though Willow’s home life is anything but pleasant). Although still upset about the lack of some very basic amenities, Willow’s opinion about her summer in exile starts to change when she spots a neighbor who looks a lot like her idol, Jim Morrison. But Willow and Axel (the Morrison lookalike) are each dealing with some pretty heavy issues that manifest themselves in physical ways. These issues aren’t revealed until Willow makes a bad decision regarding Craig, who Willow’s aunt hired to help fix up the barge.

Since the subject matter is so heavy, it would've been nice if Selene Castrovilla had avoided the quick happy ending that comes on the last page; however, it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. The characterization of Willow was well done, though some of the minor characters like Craig were a bit stereotypical.
ARC Review

Sunday, November 29, 2009

review: the long wait for tomorrow by joaquín dorfman

The day after the football team tortures a friendless classmate, the star quarterback wakes up different. Patrick immediately notices the dramatic change in Kelly, but isn’t sure what’s going on. Then Kelly starts claiming he’s really his future self back in his teenage body. Although Kelly can’t remember what happens in the future, he has a sense he’s there to change something. Patrick and Jenna (Kelly’s girlfriend) try to help Kelly, but without knowing what event is supposed to change or even if Kelly’s story is to be believed, it proves to be a difficult task.

It took me a while to get into The Long Wait for Tomorrow. The threads of the story just weren’t connecting for me, but I pushed on in the hopes that it would come together if I continued. That proved true in some regards. There were still unanswered questions regarding Kelly’s story when the book concluded, but it also ended in such a way that I had a sense the questions were supposed to remain. I’m glad I kept with it as I did enjoy the book once I had some understanding as to what was going on. One thing I wish had been addressed earlier was the why of Kelly and Patrick’s (who is not a football player) friendship. There was a brief hint toward the beginning, but the full explanation comes so late that the unlikely friendship proved to be a distraction.

giveaway winners: my paper chase

Congratulations to Sue, Emma, and holdenj who have won My Paper Chase. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

review: the sugarless plum by zippora karz

The Sugarless Plum is the story of a ballerina who is diagnosed with diabetes just as her career is really taking off. During the introductory chapters, Zippora Karz's compelling writing conveys the urgency of her situation. The story slows after that to revisit her childhood and the start of her dancing career. Her story is told in an easy chronology with just enough detail. When Karz gets to the point of her first (mis)diagnosis, it's clear how ballet has consumed her and why she would take health risks in order to not appear too sick to dance. That Karz had such a successful career and now lives a healthy life managing diabetes makes the story all the more amazing.
Review copy provided by the publicist, FSB Associates.

review: how to be famous by heidi montag & spencer pratt

Hee! I kind of loved this book (alright, more than kind of). I’m so not a Speidi fan, but I totally appreciated that they have apparently recognized how completely ridiculous it is that they’re now famous. How To Be Famous is a hilarious guide to making yourself famous for being famous. They fully embrace using the paparazzi to accomplish this goal, which definitely makes sense to me. Why do so many celebrities complain about their popularity anyway? It’s what they signed up for! Heidi and Spencer are definitely not ones to complain about their extensive coverage, which is refreshing though I still don’t understand why magazines put them on the cover.

My favorite part of How To Be Famous is the In Case of Emergency conclusion. That 12 item list made me laugh; especially this one: “Be really unqualified. Get selected as presidential running mate.” Perfect.

giveaway winners: the heretic's daughter and white picket fences

Congratulations to all of the winners. Zia, Marjorie, tanya904, Tina, and GFDesignz will receive a copy of The Heretic's Daughter. SandyM204 is getting White Picket Fences.

Friday, November 20, 2009

giveaway: cheating death

This post contains affiliate links.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who always files great health stories, has a book out called Cheating Death. And guess what? I've got three copies to giveaway thanks to Hachette!

Publishers Weekly had this to say about Cheating Death:
"High-profile physician-journalist Gupta—a medical reporter for CNN and columnist for Time who declined President Obama's nomination to be surgeon general—knows a great story when he hears one, and in this collection he rolls out extraordinarily harrowing and inspiring tales from the annals of they-ought-to-be-dead. When there is an injury, a heart attack or any loss of oxygen to the brain, time is the essential factor in determining whether a patient will live. For instance, therapeutic hypothermia, by reducing the brain's need for oxygen immediately after a trauma, allows more time for treatments to work. Gupta also notes that lives can be saved through incremental changes to current medical techniques rather than revolutionary breakthroughs. Eliminating the breathing component from CPR and concentrating only on chest compressions has been shown to raise heart attack survival rates to an unheard-of 20%. The achievements are stunning, though Gupta notes none of the exciting medical changes that we've come across will eliminate the sense of awe and mystery that stalks our notions of death. Yet it's beyond comforting to know there are doctors who simply refuse to quit a brave but ultimately losing battle to wrestle control over death."

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 December 12. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

review and tour: dark stranger by susan sizemore

Dark Stranger begins with Zoe, the Porphyrgia from Terra, being captured (along with many others) by the Hajim. It's important no one discover Zoe's royal status, but of course someone does. Lucky for her, it's a man she can trust. Doc Raven is a prisoner in the camp Zoe's taken to, but also serves as camp doctor. And he just so happens to be a vampire, which briefly horrifies Zoe; however, she quickly gives into her desire. Zoe and Doc still face one big problem--the Hajim are after the princess even if they don't know her true identity. They will have to escape their captors in order to be together.

The concept of Dark Stranger intrigued me. This is a book that the characters in Susan Sizemore's Prime series are reading for their book club. Although I haven't read the Prime series, I was disappointed that the Vampire Book Club wasn't brought in until the end. I wish their reactions had been interspersed with the Dark Stranger plot.

It's possible I would've enjoyed Dark Stranger more if I'd read the Prime series. It's likely that all the different planets and tensions between the various groups are addressed there which would've given me a better understanding.
Check out the other tour sites. Some are offering giveaways!
Book Junkie
Debbie’s World of Books
Starting Fresh
Patricia’s Vampire Notes
Book Soulmates
A Book Bloggers Diary
Wendy’s Minding Spot
Pick of the Literate
Temple Library Reviews
Confessions Of A Romance Book Addict
The Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object
I Heart Book Gossip
Revenge of the Book Nerds
Jeanne's Ramblings
Fantasy Freak
Jens Book Talk
The Bibliophilic Book Blog
Parajunkee’s View
NY Book Café
Crazy Books & Reviews
25 Hour Books
The Book Tree

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

author interview: sasha soren

For the Random Magic tour, Sasha Soren was kind enough to answer some questions.

What was the inspiration for Random Magic?

The interesting thing is that I didn’t even know I was going to write a book about this particular story.

I’ve always thought that opening a book and stepping into the pages is like entering a totally different world.

That’s what it is, really, isn’t it? All books are just like little portals into a totally different place. Different people, places, experiences.

If you think about it, books are, physically, just ink and paper. Or, in the 21st century, little blips of audio data.

But you know when you read a story you really like, something that makes you laugh out loud, or cry, or makes you angry, or makes you think, or even makes you fall in love with someone who doesn’t exist?

Well, I find that very interesting, that you react with genuine human emotion to something that’s really just a bunch of scrawls on a page.

That’s the fascinating thing about language, that as a species, we’ve found a way to almost share our minds, like telepathy, by something so primitive. Just little scrawls in ink.

It’s amazing, like conjuring, that you can pick up a book in your own language, and really see this other world, and hear characters speaking, and feel what it’s like to be this person or that person, it’s like going on a journey in your mind.

So, was just mulling that over one day, and idly thinking, “Well, let’s say you really could step into a book? Not just mentally, but as if you were really making a road trip in some strange place. Hey, that would be interesting…”

Then started thinking about where I’d go. Lewis Carroll’s works are just so trippy, it’d be fun to visit Wonderland. Just the name alone: Wonderland. Yes, please!

Then started thinking, well, it wouldn’t be that much fun to write about something I’d already read, but what about if Alice was lost in our world?

Then thought, that might be fun to write, but somehow the idea of writing about our own world just wasn’t that appealing to me. I prefer fiction to non-fiction, so perhaps that’s why I didn’t feel like writing what would essentially be non-fiction with a little twist.

Then thought, well, what if she was just lost in a different book? And what if that book was a world that was totally different from ours? And what if someone from out world had to go get her back?

And what if that person had no idea how to survive in a magical world? What if…?
That’s essentially how it happened. Truthfully, I just got curious and wanted to know, too.

By that time, it was too late to stop myself, was already following the threads of the story to see what would happen, and if Henry survived and was able to find Alice.

Didn’t actually plan on Winnie, she just kind of showed up. Which is very true to character, if you think about it.

Each chapter of Random Magic starts with a little summary and a quote. Did those come before or after the chapter was written? Why did you decide to include them?

I’m so happy that people enjoy the chapter headers, because it was fun coming up with them.

Jenny at Take Me Away blog and Allison of Well-Read Reviews have both commented on the chapter headers as being one of their favorite parts in the book, and I just get such a kick out of that, happy to know people get a laugh out of them.

The headers came sort of in the middle of the book. Yes, they were normally written after the chapter was already written, so that I’d have some idea what would happen in that chapter.

Initially, was debating whether or not to set the real-world prologue of the book in Victorian London.

So, in that sense, the chapter headers were a direct tribute to Victorian-era literature, which always seemed to have some wildly convoluted chapter header that ran: “In Which…Such And Such Extraordinary Thing Occurs, Can You Believe It?”

Interestingly, Charity Lynn at Keep On Booking blog mentions this in a vlog review she did about the book, saying that she’d read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland some 20 years ago, but was astonished that the chapter headers were so in keeping with the spirit of the book. She was spot on about that.

That was the intention, in the beginning, to do almost a mock Victorian-era type of chapter heading. As a tribute to classic works, also as a gentle satirical bit of fun, but also because those kinds of chapter headers just amused me, too. They’d be like half a page or so, but condense all the info into a little blurb; maybe they were like the 19th century version of movie trailers.

What ended up happening was that it seemed to me that the real-world prologue probably happened closer to our own time, rather than in the Victorian age – although, really, you can read it either way.

But the outlandish chapter headers stayed, simply because they just made me laugh. And I thought very hard about them, trying to find a blend of useful and comical, because I just liked the idea of someone reading them and laughing to themselves, too.

One of the best things about writing is when you hear back from someone who’s enjoyed something in exactly the same way you’ve written and enjoyed it, yourself. I love that.

So, yes, the chapter headers were just a quirky thing carried through the book, because they were just fun to write. Also, it was challenging to try to summarize a whole chapter in a few lines, so that was fun, too.

The quotes ended up in the chapter headers basically because they just looked a little naked, all by themselves.

Actually, was thinking about just having quotes as chapter headings, but they kind of looked like they needed some sort of introduction. So, then the chapter headings came in, and the quotes seemed like supplementary information, so just kept both of them.

I like they way they look and read. I also like to read books that have interesting chapter headers or quotes for each chapter. Don’t know why, I just do. It’s like some kind of little buffet to go along with the main course, or something.

Yes, could have done very profound and philosophical chapter headings, but decided it’d be more fun to just have a laugh. Because…well, we all just need a laugh sometimes, isn’t that so?

In Random Magic, Professor Random misplaces Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What was your favorite book as a child?

There were so many that I honestly can’t pick just one. There were probably thousands.

Some people hate reading, and some people just love reading, and it’s natural, not something they’re forced to do, but something they do because they love it. So, was always just someone who loved to read.

Also started reading classic works very early, just couldn’t get enough of all these fascinating places to visit, would just read when I was supposed to be paying attention in school and so on.

The parents out there now who get report cards back that say things like, “Your child is extremely bright and gifted but won’t apply himself/herself,” well -- I feel your pain.

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

I hate to say my own book, because then I sound like a preposterous arse. But it’s literally true that my own book had the most impact in my own life, simply because I was so deeply involved with it for so long, and had to make so many sacrifices and fight so hard for it.

Whenever you go into a sustained battle for anything in your life, no matter what that happens to be, of course it has an impact on your life. Of course it does.
So, the downside of that is that I did have to fight so hard for the book. The upside of that is that along the way I discovered that I have true sisu.

Sisu is a Finnish word -- I love to collect interesting words from various languages -- and it means (via Wikipedia):
“Strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. The literal meaning is equivalent in English to ‘having guts’..however, sisu is defined by a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain an action against the odds. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is sisu…

‘The Finns have something they call sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win. (Time Magazine, January 8, 1940).’

A riding student falling off a horse, not crying and keeping on getting back on the horse if she falls again is showing sisu. Learning to ride is not heroic, but showing the determination against failures is sisu. Also not asking for too much help, not making a big fuss but being stoic about the whole thing and sticking to a decision made earlier are defining the sisu…Knowing that you have lost, expecting a miracle, [but to] still keep on fighting is sisu.”

To me, that knowledge about what I can accomplish, and the strength of my own willpower, is a useful thing. That’s what I got in exchange for all the blood, sweat and tears.

I was very happy to learn that, because I could have given up at any time. I just didn’t.

You know who’s an excellent example of sisu? Winnie! Winnie, one of the main characters in the book. If you’ve already read the book, you know exactly what I mean.

Michelle, of Michelle’s Book Blog described Winnie’s attitude as: “No guts, no glory,” and that’s an excellent and accurate characterization. Alistair, of Cerebrate’s Contemplations blog, also took the time in a review to specifically mention his admiration for “clever, never-say-die Winnie.”

Brande, of Book Junkie blog, noted that Winnie is “brilliant, brave and…fearless” and “a heroine I want to be”, which I also appreciated so much that it’s hard to express, as I admire Winnie’s pluck, as well, and was glad that her fighting spirit resonated with people so strongly.

Actually, several other readers on tour (please feel free to stop by everyone’s blog: link) have expressed their love of Winnie’s courage and indefatigable spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. That’s what it is -- she’s got sisu.

And, I suppose, that’s how you accomplish anything your heart truly desires. That realization, in itself, was a gift and had an impact in my life because I understood that when I looked for true grit and inner strength, that I actually already had it.

Everyone should be lucky to realize that, although the means of achieving that are usually quite unpleasant. But it is a gift, and no one can take that away from you.

You can find that in your own life, as well. Maybe the smoke clears and you’re standing up, tottering from side to side and about to fall down. But, in point of fact -- you’re still standing. And, for that, I’d be the first to applaud you: Well done. Because there’s an individual who’s got sisu.

Any plans for another book?

At the moment, alas, nothing new on the desk, have been promoting my little heart out. But always have new ideas popping into my head, so there’s quite likely to be another one in the future.

It might not be the same kind of book, at all. I know it’s probably better to be consistent and write the same genre, every time, but I’m just a little unpredictable, and variety’s a nice thing, sometimes. Either way, promise it will be an interesting read, and worth your time to visit whatever world it happens to be.

I write for people the same way I write for myself, or the same way I think of ideas for people, kind of like, “Oh, have you heard about such-and-such interesting thing? Would you like to go/listen to it/try it/come with me?”

So, it might not be another book about magic, but there’ll be magic in it, in one way or another. I don’t mean literal hocus pocus, just that it’ll probably be an adventure and escape from the mundane world that you’ll enjoy. That’s my hope, anyway; I always write with that in mind: Let’s go somewhere…

review and tour: random magic by sasha soren

Random Magic is a very descriptive book with many curious characters. It’s also filled with many puns and little jokes related to other books (and other elements of pop culture) readers are likely familiar with. Random Magic’s action doesn’t really get started until the second chapter when Henry encounters Professor Random shortly after the professor has misplaced Alice. Yes, that’s Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Since Henry thinks Professor Random is a bit nutty, he plays along with the whole book-jumping thing the professor says he must do in order to bring back Alice. Unfortunately for Henry, this is one thing the scatter-brained professor is actually right about; but there is a bit of a mishap—Random had Henry jump into the wrong book! And so the adventure begins.

In the middle of Random Magic, I decided I needed to read Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It helped immensely as there are many parallels; indeed, some of the scenes in Random Magic are right out of Alice. The plot’s intriguing, though the book-jumping does immediately spark comparison to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. Some of the essentials get lost in all the extraneous descriptions and minor characters who, although humorous, don’t seem to propel the story forward.
In addition to my author interview, there are a number of other extras and reviews for this tour. All of them are linked at this site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

author interview: melissa senate

This post contains affiliate links.

Melissa Senate has been one of my favorite authors ever since 2003 when I read See Jane Date. So I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed.

With some past novels (See Jane Date, The Solomon Sisters Wise Up), you’ve drawn on your own experiences for inspiration. Did any of your life experiences make their way into The Secret of Joy?

Absolutely. Several years ago, I received an unsettling email out of the blue that said: I think you might be my half sister. Talk about a premise for a novel presenting itself. I always write about what I want to understand more about, so when I started thinking about The Secret of Joy, I took only the idea (a sudden half-sibling) and flipped everything; I made the main character the one doing the seeking, the yearning for family connection. And I surprised myself quite a few times during the writing of this story with how I felt about certain things. Amazing how writing fiction can teach you so much about yourself.

The Secret of Joy had a couple of tentative titles. Do you think about potential titles as you write?

I have the basic story, from start to finish, in my head before I write the first sentence, and the title usually pops into my mind during the story formation process. The Secret of Joy was originally titled The Love Bus, which symbolized so much about the book—Rebecca’s and Joy’s journeys (and journey together), the cute little “love bus” itself, and the theme—which has a lot to do with movement in every way, shape and form, and of course, love. In the end, when looking at the book as a package—cover, title, cover art, story, The Love Bus didn’t quite work; it was actually kinda limiting. And so my brilliant editor came up with The Secret of Joy, which truly is the perfect title for the book—the secret of joy, also in every way, shape and form, is what the story is truly about.

How does your previous experience as an editor (with Harlequin) impact how you write and how you work with the people editing your books?

The best and worst part about having been an editor is that I think like an editor when I write. Which means it takes me a very long time to write a first draft. I’ve never written a first draft by just getting it out on paper and then going back to revise. I write and revise/edit as I go. I can’t write chapter two unless chapter one is exactly as it should be, and I mean every sentence. The good news about this incredibly annoying kind of writing process is that when I’m done, I generally have to just do a once-over edit and then a polish, and that’s it.

As for how my experience impacts my working relationship with my editor, it’s great because I have a good understanding of what her job entails (and boy, does it entail a lot) and what I can ask for and what is too primadonna-y. And if I write the best book I can, turn it in on time, deliver revisions and edits on time, etc., then I’ll make her very happy.

What was your favorite book as a child?

From a very young age, during every trip to the library I took out (or renewed) a collection of fairy tales by the Grimm brothers or Hans Christian Andersen. And the novel I remember re-reading a gazillion times when I was eleven and twelve: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger. What a gem.

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

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I first read it when I was a confused thirteen year old, and amazing Anne with an E and what she taught me about the power of imagination, gumption and moxie changed my outlook and my perception of how much control I actually had over my own self. I would still say it’s my favorite book of all time.

What’s coming next for you? Perhaps that Abby Foote sequel mentioned at the end of Love You To Death?

I had every intention of writing a sequel to Love You To Death (and I get a lot of emails asking where that sequel is!), but every time I sat down to think about Abby and her Ben, their story just seemed so fully told already. What’s next is actually a teen novel, The Mosts, which will be published by Random House Children’s Books in June 2010. And then later in 2010, my next women’s fiction novel will be published. It’s tentatively titled The Love Goddess’s Cooking School and is set in an Italian cooking class. An idea for a fun women’s fiction mystery, a la Love You To Death, has been poking at me, though. So perhaps . . .

Thank you so much for the interesting questions and for having me on your blog!

review and tour: the secret of joy by melissa senate

As the only child two loving parents, Rebecca had a pretty great life. Her life got a little off track in college when her mom was killed in a car accident, but eventually Rebecca changed schools and majors, finished her degree, completed a paralegal certificate, and got a job at a law firm where she met the man who's now her boyfriend. She wasn't entirely thrilled with her job or really even certain of the relationship, but was content to let things be. Then her father dropped a bombshell of a deathbed confession. Turns out she has a younger half-sister, Joy. When her father dies shortly after that revelation, Rebecca feels compelled to find the only family she has left despite her boyfriend's pleas for her to leave the situation alone.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret of Joy (as I have the other books I've read by Melissa Senate), which has great pacing and character development. Even minor characters like the owner of Mama’s in Wiscasset were just right. It was easy to understand why Rebecca had allowed her life to go along as it had for so long and why her father's death would propel her toward a different life. The same goes for Joy, who has relationship struggles and career uncertainty of her own. Most importantly, Rebecca and Joy's relationship was developed realistically and not rushed to force a happy ending.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery.
Check out my interview with Melissa Senate as well as the other sites participating in the tour!
Books, Movies & Chinese Food
Booking Mama
Frugal Plus
All About {n}
Brizmus Blogs Books
Psychotic State
Books Reviews by Buuklvr81
Starting Fresh
A Sea of Books
That’s A Novel Idea
Book Junkie
Drey’s Library
Me, My Book & the Couch
Just Another New Blog
One Person’s Journey Through A World of Books
Booksie’s Blog
Book N Around
Keep on Booking
My Life In Not So Many Words
Beth’s Book Review Blog
My Reading Room
My Book Addiction and More
Crazy For Books
Bella’s Novella
Blog Business World
Reading at the Beach
My Friend Amy
Book Magic
The Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object
So Many Books, So Little Time
Jeanne's Ramblings
Red Headed Book Child
Reading with Tequila
Books, Gardens, and Dogs
Jens Book Talk
My Own Little Corner of the World
Lit and Life
Entertainment Realm

Friday, November 13, 2009

giveaway: my paper chase

Hachette has provided me with three copies of My Paper Chase by Harold Evans to giveaway.

Here's the publisher description of My Paper Chase:
"In My Paper Chase, Harold Evans recounts the wild and wonderful tale of newspapering life. His story stretches from the 1930s to his service in WWII, through towns big and off the map. He discusses his passion for the crusading style of reportage he championed, his clashes with Rupert Murdoch, and his struggle to use journalism to better the lives of those less fortunate. There's a star-studded cast and a tremendously vivid sense of what once was: the lead type, the smell of the presses, eccentrics throughout, and angry editors screaming over the intercoms. My Paper Chase tells the story of Evans's great loves: newspapers and Tina Brown, the bright, young journalist who became his wife.

In an age when newspapers everywhere are under threat, My Paper Chase is not just a glorious recounting of an amazing life, but a nostalgic journey in black and white."

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 November 28. 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: how to catch and keep a vampire by diana laurence

With the nation’s vampire obsession once again in full-swing, Diana Laurence’s How to Catch and Keep a Vampire has arrived right on time. This is for everyone who ever wanted to date a vampire, but just didn’t know how to go about finding one. Turns there’s not a lot of difference between dating a vampire and dating a mortal. Though Laurence does caution against allowing a vampire boyfriend to go too far when drinking some of your blood. Then there’s that pesky mind-control thing. Laurence’s tips will help make dating a vampire an experience that’s as safe as you want it to be.

Sprinkled throughout the book are FAQs, case studies, and other great little tidbits like vampire pick-up lines. Laurence also dispels some myths about vampires. For example, vampires can enter your home without permission; they’re just being polite when they don’t. How to Catch and Keep a Vampire is hilarious and entertaining, but Laurence also takes the subject very seriously.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

review: children of dust by ali eteraz

Before Ali Eteraz was born, his father promised Allah that if his child was a boy that child would “become a great leader and servant of Islam.” Eteraz’s parents named him Abir ul Islam which translates to “perfume of Islam.” As a child living in Pakistan, Eteraz didn’t have much desire to follow his parents’ plans; but later they move to America and things change for Eteraz. He wants to follow the religious teachings, but he’s also interested in girls and sexual contact is forbidden. The online world ends up providing an outlet. Eteraz has some great descriptions in this part of how he tried to hide from his parents the screeching sound of AOL starting.

A few years later, Eteraz goes to college. He moves from one religious extremity to another during his early adult life and undergoes a name change before emphasizing his birth name in order to convince others to follow his instructions. This period is then followed by the name he currently uses; he became Ali Eteraz when he became a reformist. Tragically, Eteraz lost his family and some friends when he became so passionate about reformation.

Children of Dust is really a remarkable story written so that even someone totally unfamiliar with Islamic teachings can understand. I was impressed with Eteraz’s writing; he described places I’ve never been vividly enough that I could picture them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

giveaway: white picket fences

WaterBrook Multnomah has provided me with a copy of Susan Meissner's White Picket Fences to giveaway to one lucky person!

My review is here. This is the publisher's description:
"When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen year-old niece Tally. The girl is practically an orphan: motherless, and living with a father who raises Tally wherever he lands– in a Buick, a pizza joint, a horse farm– and regularly takes off on wild schemes. Amanda envisions that she, her husband Neil, and their two teenagers can offer the girl stability and a shot at a 'normal' life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.

Seventeen-year-old Chase Janvier hasn’t seen his cousin in years, and other than a vague curiosity about her strange life, he doesn’t expect her arrival will affect him much–or interfere with his growing, disturbing interest in a long-ago house fire that plagues his dreams unbeknownst to anyone else.

Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.

Will Tally’s presence blow apart their carefully-constructed world, knocking down the illusion of the white picket fence and reveal a hidden past that could destroy them all–or can she help them find the truth without losing each other?"

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 November 21. Winner will be selected at random. Open to all US residents; PO Boxes are just fine this time.

review and tour: white picket fences by susan meissner

Amanda and Neil have a superficially perfect life with two great kids, Chase and Delcey. The truth of their life starts to come out when they wind up with temporary custody of Amanda's niece, Tally. Although they didn't entirely want Tally living with them, it turns out to be a very good thing as the family is forced to admit the truth about a secret tragedy that happened many years ago. Another secret comes out when Chase, Tally, and a friend of Chase's interview two Polish men who survived the Holocaust.

Most of White Picket Fences was well done with a good plot. Delcey and Neil weren't really developed, but Amanda, Chase, and Tally all seemed realistic. My biggest problem with the story came near the end. Throughout White Picket Fences, Chase pursues the truth about what happened when he was a small child. His parents have refused to talk about it, though Amanda has started to realize that Chase probably remembers at least something about the terrible fire. She wants to talk to him, but Neil convinces her not to say anything because of a secret he'd kept from her; this causes some trouble for the marriage. The couple never ends up dealing with this problem, which left me wondering if they'd just go on pretending they have a great marriage. Furthermore, when Chase finally remembers exactly what happened the day of the fire, it's far too convenient. In some ways I wish there'd be more about the Holocaust survivors and the family's connection.
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Sunday, November 8, 2009

review: cult insanity by irene spencer

In Cult Insanity, Irene Spencer describes life with the LeBaron family at their polygamist colony in Mexico. At sixteen, Irene married one of the LeBaron brothers (who was already married to her half-sister) against her parents’ wishes. Her parents were not against the marriage for the reason many parents would be; they were polygamists as well and had no problem with the teenaged Irene marrying her sister's husband. Irene married Verlan in secret because her family felt the LeBarons were insane and didn't want any more associations with them.

From the title, I assumed the author was declaring all followers of fundamental Mormonism to be insane followers of a cult. That's not the impression I ended up with as I read the book. It seems she determined her parents had been right about insanity running in the LeBaron family and that it was the LeBaron factions that were cults. Polygamy is never really condemned although she is now in a monogamous relationship. I have to wonder if she would've ever left had her first husband not died. I felt this even more when I read about the time in Dallas where Irene gained some independence. She concludes the chapter on that part of her life with this, "I felt it my God-given duty to call Verlan and have him come rescue all of us before three more wives abandoned him."

Cult Insanity is not particularly well-written (though one must not entirely fault the author who stopped attending school at ninth grade). It lacks cohesiveness and likely would've read better as separate essays since it jumps around in time so much. While I appreciated the family tree for Ervil, I definitely could've used one for the entire compound. There were so many people who lived there (many with the same or similar names) who intermarried so many times that it was hard to keep them all straight. At any given moment while reading the book, I couldn't say for certain how many sister-wives Irene had.