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

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.

giveaway winners: prime time

Congratulations to Marian who won both Prime Time and the tote bag. The other two winners (who each get a copy of Prime Time) are holdenj and Bingo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

review: the postmistress by sarah blake

The stories of Frankie, Iris, and Emma come together during WWII. Frankie and Iris play major roles in Emma’s life though she doesn’t really know either of them. Iris is the postmaster of the small town where Emma moved after marrying her doctor husband. Frankie is a radio reporter filing stories on the war from London that Emma and the others living in Franklin listen to. Frankie and Emma’s worlds collide when a tragedy at work prompts Emma’s husband to flee to London under the guise of helping the war effort. He meets Frankie during an air raid; an event that changes a number of lives and leads to the undelivered mail of The Postmistress.

Frankie, Emma, and many of the minor characters were well developed, but Iris was kind of a mess. The Postmistress opens with Iris, at the age of 40, obtaining a virginity certificate. The post office she runs is described as always being in perfect order which is in contrast with others in the area that are marred by scraps of paper and discarded catalogs. All of this makes some of her later decisions to be highly out of character without good explanation.
ARC Review

Monday, November 2, 2009

review and tour: leaving carolina by tamara leigh

Her entire life, Piper and her mother have been rejected by most of Piper’s father’s family. Eventually Piper and her mother left North Carolina for Los Angeles where Piper really made a name for herself (and under an abbreviated last name to avoid anyone making a connection to her past). Now all these years later, Piper’s drawn back to her hometown to help the only member of the family who ever seemed to care about her.

Leaving Carolina is all about relationships. While the familial ones are at the forefront, there’s also a hint of romance for Piper. What I found most interesting was Piper’s portrayal. At the beginning, she’s clearly sympathetic, but Piper becomes less so as her family is introduced. In fleeing her past, Piper remained embittered with her family’s past faults while those relatives stayed and dealt with some of their issues. Piper continued to act like a hurt child rather than grow into a mature adult. It was good to see her gain some perspective as her stay in Pickwick stretched on.

Check out these other participating sites:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

giveaway winners: the historian and the sound of sleigh bells

Hope everyone had a great Halloween. These are the people who get treated to a book!

The five winners (because I did get the required minimum I set for it to go from three to five) of The Historian are CJ, Irene Yeates, MarionG, Wayne Hurlbert, and tanya904. Linna is the winner of The Sound of Sleigh Bells.

Enjoy your new book!