Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shoulder Bags and Shootings Review

Shoulder Bags and Shootings (Haley Randolph Mysteries)
From Booklist:  Haley Randolph, the fashion shopaholic obsessed with designer purses, is back for her third adventure. She has just returned from a European vacation with her boyfriend, Ty Cameron, who happens to own Holt's Department Store, where Haley is ostensibly employed. With Ty obligated to remain in Europe, Haley returns to work and college in Los Angeles. The first morning back, she discovers a body in the trunk of her borrowed car, which belongs to Ty's grandmother. So once again Haley is a suspect in a murder case and is forced to turn investigator. Equally important, at least to Haley, are several other matters: she must avoid doing any work at Holt's; she must find new reasons to skip classes; and she simply must get her hands on one of those newly released Sinful handbags. Despite her ditzy persona, Haley has good detecting instincts. There might also be hope for her personal relationships, as she begins to realize that couples need to talk and listen to each other. Recommend this series to fans of lightweight, humorous mysteries with more than a touch of romance. --Judy Coon 

My Take: Haley is a shallow, bubble-headed spoiled girl who believes the world revolves around her.  Although irritating, this was endearing and provided entertainment.  The character shows no personal growth but, again, that wasn't so terrible.  In fact, I found her tactics for avoiding the customer while on the clock ingenious.

Besides Haley, however, there are a myriad of characters that I simply couldn't keep straight and lacked any depth at all.  Even compared to Haley.  In fact, too many characters that had a past with Haley but little interaction with her. My big complaint is that so much of the book seems to be an indirect marketing tool for previous books.  When a new character is introduced, a previous crime is alluded to but never quite explained and I'm left wondering if it is pertinent to the current mystery.  In fact, when the character makes a second or third appearance in the current book, the previous criminal involvement (or victimization) is voiced yet again.  I found it distracting and never really warmed to the peripheral characters.

I enjoyed the ease of read.  Fun, shallow Haley who cares nothing for anybody but herself and how she looks.  She never changes, never grows, and continues to entertain me.  Writing style was consistent.  Story line unrealistic but enjoyable.  Too much reference to previous books and not enough character development for other players.

3 and half stars

I received a copy of Shoulder Bags and Shootings from FSB Associates for review.
Book Blogger Hop
It's a blog hop and I am starting my new resolve to be more active. With the help of my triathlon, Red Rock Relay, half-marathon sister, I now have a concrete plan to start training for my next big race! A 5k.

I'll start tomorrow.

Today I'm going to blog hop! I do it anyway, so why not at least be socially active in the blog world?  Did someone say bubble butt?

The blog hop is hosted by Crazy-for-Books who asks participants to identify her favorite new-to-me author.  THEN, she goes on and on about Clare Avery and Hidden Wives.  Like she KNOWS Clare Avery or something. But see, Michelle and Mari and I are BFF on Goodreads.  Michelle offered to be my husband's second wife.  Apparently, Mari did the research on the religion that practices polygamy.  Michelle, Mainstream Mormons no longer practice polygamy! I still want to be her friend, though.  I think I'll keep her away from my husband.  She's totally hot.  

Now that I've set the stage, here is one email from "Clare Avery."  I'm hoping it will pique your interest: 

Hi Nancy,
I spent far too much time reading your hilarious blogs last night. LOL about your Ironic day post (… we had the EXACT same thought when you ended it. Ew. You’re so funny. Again, you and your family are gorgeous. You’re husband’s a hottie … too bad you’re not interested in a little polyg action. I’d be willing to share, I don’t know about you. LOL. No seriously, you are such a compelling, fascinating writer ….boring life and all (not!). 

I have to tell you again how much this review meant to my sister and I, particularly because it came from you. First and foremost, you’re so knowledgeable and insightful. Your level of insight into the more nuanced aspects of HW just completely astounded us. You understood themes that were subtle. It is such an honor to be read by someone as brilliant as you. Thank you again. We’re also so gratified that you found the more controversial tenets to be accurate, yet not offensive. We never wanted to offend members of the mainstream LDS. Some of our closest friends are LDS.

As for analysis of Rachel’s psyche, again you nailed it. And you’re the ONLY one so far who really understood what we were trying to do with Rachel. You’re level of psychological insight is staggering. It is an absolute pleasure to have had you read this book. Nancy, from now on you’ll receive ARCS and signed copies of our future books (hopefully, we’ll have a few. Lol).

Again, Irvin … nobody but you picked up the nuances of Irvin and his emotional healing. Again, a lot of people were fascinated by the echolalia, but didn’t understand the symbolism. Wow. We’re blown away. Again.

LOL about your Ironic day post … we had the EXACT same thought when you ended it. Ew. LOL. You’re so funny. 

Brilliant, staggering, gorgeous, funny, did you say?  Do you see why I like this woman and her sister?

Okay, seriously, this book is well researched, well written, and an all around fantastic read. Click on my link above for my full review.  I loved it.
Hidden Wives 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...And Other Lies You've Been Told

From Publishers Weekly:

A sociologist at the University of Connecticut, Wright examines recent survey data on Christian evangelicals to see if they substantiate the often misguided and hyperbolic public perceptions of this faith group. Separating the wheat from the chaff, he explains how some poorly worded, ill-sampled statistics give the wrong impression of evangelicals and why people should avoid giving them credence. Though he often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians, he doesn't spare evangelical polemicists such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel for their false exaggerations of evangelical shortcomings. His biggest target may be the pollster George Barna, whose surveys on Christianity have generated intense controversy. Wright's colloquial writing style gives this volume the feel of a folksy college lecture series. The abundant use of graphics adds to the impression the book's genesis was cribbed from introductory sociology of religion classes. The conclusions drawn here--no surprise--are that the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty. 

My take:  Sociological data, charts galore, and religion.  All of these components put together make me just giddy.  For reasons completely unknown to me even now, I found myself in sociology classes with people that can only be described as "the granola." Discussing survey questions, statistically significance, aggregating and disaggregating data, standard deviations, and best of all, a little book called "How to Lie with Statistics." The experience left me with an affinity for picking apart statistics and a 20 year old sociology degree.  The bachelor kind.  That gets you hired at JCPenney, doing the same thing the high school graduate does, muttering, "I hate my life."

Filled with charts, engaging explanation, and elbow-patch college professor humor, this book sets out to debunk commonly quoted myths regarding religion, focusing on Christianity and, more specifically, Evangelical Christianity.  

Statistics are fascinating things.  People tend to believe them when quoted.  A few things to keep in mind when seeing a statistic.  What is the thesis question, who is gathering the data and for what purpose, what is the  N or population for data (the smaller the study size, the less reliable the data and does it represent a fair amount of different groups), and is it statistically significant?  

The author addresses, through statistics and surveys, how Christians, and more specifically, evangelical Christians, are doing in regard to Christian lifestyle.  For instance, why do we hear so much bad news about Christianity? (It sells stories)  Is Christianity on the Brink of Extinction?  Are we losing our youth?  Are evangelical Christians all poor, uneducated, southern whites? Do Christians think and do Christian things? Do Christians love others?  What do non-Christians think of us?  What do Christians think of themselves?  The author is not attempting to attribute causality but simply report the differences between groups with available statistical data.  

I loved it.  I really, really did.  It was fascinating and read very much like a college lecture series.  In order to keep the book spicy, the author included a photo of "the future"; a sullen teenager with disco shirt open to his belly button and gold chains (slightly exaggerating) and big disco hair.  In 1980, this was the future.  In 2010, he's the author of a book describing statistical data in terms anybody can understand.  He gave up the disco shirt, I hope.

The book is easy to read.  The graphs are self-explanatory but the commentary is nothing less than engaging.  For instance, the author discusses sexual behavior and extramarital sex.  He says, "At this point, allow me to interject that there is a crucial distinction between extramarital sex and extra marital sex.  One is committing adultery, the other represents a better than average week, and they have very different consequences." 

Regarding drug use:  "What does this mean?  Well, the white powder on the church pew is probably just baby formula."

 The book is riddled with this kind of humor and it tickles my funny bone.  Because I am a nerd.  I know it.  I embrace it. 

My one complaint is definitions.  I happen to be a member of a church the author did not define as necessarily Christian, and this niggled me throughout the book.  Not until page 224 does the author explain that he used the word "Christian" to describe Protestants and Catholics.  This leaves out the members of a 14 million strong religion, mostly found in Utah, called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  These members were clumped together with Jehovah's Witnesses (who, although I know little about the religion, probably claim Christianity, as well) Muslims, Jewish, and Hindus.

Is it statistically significant to leave out these people?  No.  It would increase the number of Christians by just under 2%.  It simply matters to me, a Mormon and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

But before I could properly get my panties all in a wad, I had to admit that even using statistics regarding Mormons was validating.  So the half star I planned taking off from my review for my own tantrum, I will grudgingly return half of the half back.

Completely enjoyable read.  Easy to understand charts and statistics, not dry at all.  Funny and a little sad.  The man spent his 47th birthday working on his book.  A far cry from the scowling, disco-shirt-too-cool-to-care attitude.

4.75 stars

*FTC Disclosure:  Usual stuff that nobody paid me for this review.  I read it of my own free will, although Bethany House sent me the book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Jim.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And One Last Thing by Molly Harper

"If Singletree’s only florist didn’t deliver her posies half-drunk, I might still be married to that floor-licking, scum-sucking, receptionist-nailing hack-accountant, Mike Terwilliger."

Lacey Terwilliger’s shock and humiliation over her husband’s philandering prompt her to add some bonus material to Mike’s company newsletter: stunning Technicolor descriptions of the special brand of "administrative support" his receptionist gives him. The detailed mass e-mail to Mike’s family, friends, and clients blows up in her face, and before one can say "instant urban legend," Lacey has become the pariah of her small Kentucky town, a media punch line, and the defendant in Mike’s defamation lawsuit.

Her seemingly perfect life up in flames, Lacey retreats to her family’s lakeside cabin, only to encounter an aggravating neighbor named Monroe. A hunky crime novelist with a low tolerance for drama, Monroe is not thrilled about a newly divorced woman moving in next door. But with time, beer, and a screen door to the nose, a cautious friendship develops into something infinitely more satisfying.

Lacey has to make a decision about her long-term living arrangements, though. Should she take a job writing caustic divorce newsletters for paying clients, or move on with her own life, pursuing more literary aspirations? Can she find happiness with a man who tells her what he thinks and not what she wants to hear? And will she ever be able to resist saying one . . . last . . . thing?

My Take

I don't believe I have ever laughed so hard while reading a book. I loved every single character in this book. Lacey's reaction to learning of her husband's infidelity, although truly tragic and genuine, had me nearly in tears; and that was BEFORE she wrote the newsletter.

The story is written first person, by Lacey, the jilted wife. The love interest is Monroe.  Like Cher.  Why does she only call him by his last name?  THAT conversation seriously questioned my self-proclaimed "Iron Bladder" title.  The dialogue is brilliant and snarky.  I love snarky.  I love sarcasm.  I love speaking your mind without bothering to filter.  I love Emmett, Lacey's gay brother.  I love that relationship they have.  I love that Beebee  has no eyebrows except for the ones she draws on and they are asymmetrical. I love that I can open the book to any page and find something that tickles me completely stupid.

This is not a clean read and it is not without crass language.  However, I did not feel the story was an excuse to write a steamy sex scene or use a dirty word.  The crass talk and/or possible sex scenes actually added to the story.  I have NEVER said that about a book.

I really want Molly Harper to be my friend.

If you are interested in owning your very own copy of this really fun book, let me know in a comment.  For extra entries, follow me and let me know, tweet, facebook, digg, or post on own blog.  Include separate comments for each entry.  There are two copies available.

Contest ends August 16th.

*In case the Federal Trade Commission asks, nobody paid me to write this review nor has anybody offered me any money to publicly humiliate cheating husbands.  I was, however, provided a copy of this book for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Winners Announced!

Winners for
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel
Andie and 

Winners for
The Impostor's Daughter: A True Memoir 
Riahli (mother of one of the cutest babies in the world)

Island Girl
Congratulation winners!  Check your email. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Link Giveaway

From The Washington Post:

Many scientists disdain the hype that some of their colleagues seem to crave. It is unseemly, they say, and vaguely déclassé for serious researchers to seek accolades from the mob. So how to evaluate Colin Tudge's "The Link"? This is the last hiccup of a media binge that began in May with the public debut of a nearly intact, 47-million-year-old primate fossil skeleton which may -- or may not -- be an early human ancestor. We've had the news conference at the American Museum of Natural History, the History Channel documentary, the TV appearances, the Web site and the peer-reviewed journal paper. And now, the book.

There is nothing odd about touting paleontological finds, particularly in the age of cable TV. National Geographic and the Discovery Channel do it frequently. And while this fossil's publicity campaign might seem a bit de trop, it is also vaguely refreshing that no one is apologizing for it. The story of "The Link" is straightforward.

In 2006, paleontologist Jorn Hurum, of the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum, was shown the remains of a small (22 inches) juvenile female primate from the oil shales of the Messel Pit, near Frankfurt, Germany, one of Europe's most famous fossil beds. The fossil had been discovered in 1983 by a private collector who wanted to sell it. His asking price was $1 million. Hurum was immediately smitten, for the find "represented a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any paleontologist." The museum bought it.

Hurum assembled a team of experts to analyze and describe the fossil, a process that has thus far taken three years. The team concluded that "Ida," so named in honor of Hurum's daughter, shared characteristics with evolutionary lineages that led both to modern lemurs and to the anthropoids -- including humans. "In other words," Tudge writes, "Ida appears to be an in-between species, or one of the long-sought missing links in evolution."

There is way too much of this self-congratulation in "The Link." It is tacky and unpleasant, and Tudge and every member of the research team are guilty of it. The fossil is what it is, and if it is a great discovery, others will say so. It will take years of further study to find out. The braggadocio looks even worse because Hurum and colleagues are much more circumspect in their peer-reviewed paper. Ida, they say in the online scientific journal PLoS One, "could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates evolved, but we are not advocating this here." Instead, they do it in "The Link."

The task for the reader is to get past the noise, for there is an unusual and often enchanting book lurking behind it. "The Link" isn't just about a monkey fossil. It's about paleontology and paleontologists, warts and all. As noted, Hurum bought his fossil from a collector at an annual fair in Hamburg and paid big bucks for it. Many scientists regard such transactions as mortal sin, for they can encourage looting and the destruction of fossil sites, damaging ancient contexts that can never be reconstructed. In Tudge's telling, Hurum carefully selects his research team, knowing that it must be not only expert but also beyond professional reproach, because colleagues will relentlessly scrutinize its work. He needs a primate specialist. He needs a tooth expert. He needs somebody who knows the Messel Pit. Tudge reviews the history of human paleontology's great discoveries and the great controversies they have spawned. He describes Ida's world, a tropical forest with a volcanic lake that one day belched a gigantic bubble of toxic gas that asphyxiated this small creature and plunged it into the mud for all eternity.

Tudge writes with a colloquial off-handedness that jars at first, because it lacks the authoritativeness that mass market science books routinely rely on for heft. Also odd is his frequent repetition of facts and context, but they help -- especially later in the book. The reminders save trips to the index. In short, "The Link" is so accessible as to seem simplistic -- but it works as a compelling introduction to the study of human evolution. It is about what paleontologists do and how they do it. So forget the hype; it stands on its own merit.

I've not read it yet but I'd love it if you would and let me know how it is! Any science geeks out there (my hand is raised), let me know you want to read it. I have 2 up for grabs.

Just leave a comment with your email address.

Contest ends August 11th

Monday, July 26, 2010

Red Rain by Tim Wendel Review and Giveaway

This is a repost with giveaway information added.

And yet another perspective of WWII is introduced. By now most people know what the leaders of the United States did to the American citizens of Japanese descent. Did I say citizens? I did. No Japanese descendants were allowed within 600 miles of the Pacific Ocean. The were relocated to secure camps. Remind you of German concentration camps? They should, although the living conditions were much more humane. Food was always served and they were free to enjoy a life within the confines of the barbed wire and under the constant supervision of armed guards.

Meanwhile, back in their California homes...oh, wait. They no longer owned them. And this is where Yoshi is recruited by Starling to be a spy in Japan. Although born in the U.S., Yoshi speaks fluent Japanese. To kill time, since she couldn't kill Germans, she agrees.  Her assignment is to gather intelligence on "Fire Balloons" which were simple yet scientific contraptions that exploded over the United States causing mayhem. By submarine she is taken to the coast of Japan, given a raft and she rows herself onto shore where she meets her contact.  Yoshi is taken to a place she can stay and a job is secured for her.  Unfortunately for her, she has not learned the Japanese ways.  Her American upbringing provides enough attitude for suspicion to be drawn.

Ultimately, Yoshi finds herself drawn deeply into the Japanese people and finds herself torn between betraying her country and betraying her new friends. How does she reach state of flummox?  What does she choose?

I know the ending so I would love to tell you.  But I won't.  That would just be too easy for you.

If you want to find out the ending by yourself, let me know in a comment with your email address included.

Contest ends July 19th.

Fit For Life Giveaway

It's the program that shatters all the myths: FIT FOR LIFE the international bestseller that explains how to change both your figure and your life. Nutritional specialist Harvey and Marilyn Diamond explain how you can eat more kinds of food than you ever ate before without counting calories...and still lose weight! The natural body cycles, permanent weight-loss plan that proves it's not only what you eat, but also when and how, FIT FOR LIFE is the perfect solution for those who want to look and feel their best. Join the millions of Americans who are FIT FOR LIFE and begin your transformation with:
  • The vital principles that bring you permanent weight loss and high energy
  • The FIT FOR LIFE secrets of timing and food combining that work with your natural body cycles
  • A 4-week meal plan, menus, shopping tips, and exercise
  • Delicious recipes and more.
It's not that I've gained weight or anything but every one of my summer shorts and capris from last year are too tight.  It's not that it happened recently, either but all of my pants seem to have suffered the same degree of shrinkage.

Just wanted to get that out there before I say that I can't wait for this book to be released on August 16th.

Let's celebrate with a giveaway.  
Enter a comment with your email address.
Extra entries (separate comments):
  •  Let me know if you are follower
  •  Tell me that these pants don't make my butt look fat.
Ends August 19th.
3 copies up for grabs.

*I was not paid for this giveaway.  You will not be paid for telling me I'm not fat, although your chances of winning increase exponentially.

Winners GALORE!

Here are the winners from the fantastic blog event on Friday and Saturday.  Thanks to everybody who participated.  There were over 130 entries.  You readers are AWESOME!

Ready?  Here we go!

Nicole wins The Sister Wife
The Sister Wife: Brides of Gabriel Book One

Ash gets Anthropology of an American Girl
Anthropology of an American Girl: A Novel

Marie is the proud new owner of Hanging by the Thread
Hanging By The Thread

Lisa Gibsons gets April and Oliver

April & Oliver: A Novel

While Elizabeth will receive Into the Beautiful North.
Into the Beautiful North: A Novel 

Last, but not least, Ashley won Shadow of the Swords.
Shadow of the Swords: An Epic Novel of the Crusades 
Wow.  I'm exhausted and I haven't even gone to the post office yet!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? July 26

This weekly meme is hosted by Journey Through Books 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.
Healer: A Novel (The Brides of Alba Series)
This week I am reading Healer by Linda Windsor.  In fact, I have it sitting here at the desk while I type in case a page takes too long to load.  I also just uninstalled then reinstalled the parental control on this computer.  The old one was corrupt.

Ah, the irony.
Displaced Persons: A Novel 
I also just received Displaced Persons which I'm considering dropping everything to read. I don't know why I am so obsessed with WWII but I am. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd swear I was Jewish once.
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
Last (unless I finish this, too) I am going to start The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love and History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.  I know.  Science Geek.

One of these will be listed as a giveaway later this week.
By the way, I'm hiring help.  I call it a stroke of genius.  It came to me while I was talking to my parents last night.  My dad explained how he had to go to southern Idaho every summer to work the sugar beets.  He was slave labor.  It hit me that I have one of those.  An articulate slave, I mean.  My teenage daughter is going to join me by reviewing appropriate Young Adult fiction.

I haven't officially informed asked her yet, as she is at band camp.  But let's just make the assumption that she'll be delighted.  

She stays up all hours of the night reading, sits on the toilet for waaaaaaayyyy longer than is needed (she hides books in the bathroom) and writes fiction for fun.

She's a strange kid.

She's definitely mine.

Chasing Superwoman Review

From Publisher:
The Christian community tends to operate under the assumption that the only women attending church are traditional stay-at-home moms. But in truth, more than 75% of mothers with school-age children work outside the home.
Chasing Superwoman gives these working mothers what they’ve been craving—a funny, intelligent, relevant exploration of what it means to live out a vibrant faith amidst the many demands placed on their time and energy. Chasing Superwoman provides a much needed dialogue (not a formula) about the complex spiritual struggle of the working mother, plus a lot of laughter and encouragement for working women to embrace their busy life and trust God’s grace for getting it all done.

My take:
Who is Susan M. DeMickele?  She is constantly changing hats and capes as she settles into her different roles of Lawyer Mommy, Devoted Mommy, Tired Mommy, to name a few.  The working mother of three small children, she has grappled with the challenges of holding in her lunch during an important meeting while suffering from morning sickness, listening to a church leader and other church members equate "working mother" with the apocalypse, and suffering from the judgmental stares.

Susan is also an entertaining writer with a steel trap memory.  She describes, in hilarious detail, her attempt at playing Super Mommy by taking her pre-school son, two year old and newly potty trained daughter, and 5 week old baby on a four hour airplane trip to see her sister. The result was nothing less than amazing and unclothed.  I laughed because it wasn't me.  I also laughed because my steel trap memory now sports purposeful Swiss cheese holes.  I just can't go there.

Susan is me, the working mother.  Like the author, I want to be a devoted mother and spend all my intelligence and time on my children.  But like the author, I felt the gentle tug of the parable of the talents as it spoke to me and taught me that I had other gifts to share.

Working mothers are often judged a little differently than the mother who stays home with her children.  I happen to enjoy my career very much yet when I broach the subject with mothers who stay at home, I feel like I need to apologize or justify.  "What does your husband do," they might ask, assuming I work out of financial need.  He's a social worker.  I get the sympathetic, "Oh," and the look saying, "So you have to work.  Then that's okay."

But then I haven't told the truth.  He is a social worker but he's a supervisor.  He's been in his current job a long time.  But more honestly, I work because I feel called to do so.  But like the author, I don't know how to articulate this to PTA mafia.  Why don't I volunteer in the classroom?  Because I work.  Why do I work?  Money?  Greed?  Power?  Financial security?  Yes, some of that is true, but more importantly, my husband and I spent a good deal of time praying about the decision of being a working mother. The parable of the talents seems appropriate here.

The author shares the same struggles I have had that frankly, make me cringe.  Like the secret rules of the public school system, celebration of birthdays, volunteering in the classroom, guilt, making sacrifices, childcare issues, breastfeeding in public, eating in public, and keeping some talents a carefully guarded secret.

Each chapter begins with a title and then a scripture.  The author then ties together her life as a lawyer and her life as a mother with her journey back to His loving arms. This book is a must-read for any Christian mother who works.

5 stars

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Got Books BIG, BIG, BIG EVENT and I have on my party dress
If you're freaking out right now because it's a fantastic contest going on, it's because you don't see the bigger picture here.

I just got home from vacation and found my freezer door in the hot garage open.

It was full of melted stuff.  It was drooling.

Now it's empty.

I am sad.

Still, there's this big giveaway. Did you really think I would leave you high and dry without anything interesting to read?

Do you really think I freaked out when I figured out that the BIG EVENT is today and gathered up some of my gently used books and I would offer those? I used the word gently. I'm going to go ahead and let you know that these are all quality books. There will be multiple winners because I'm totally making this up right this moment at 1:23 a.m. Fill out the form I'm creating in another window right now and let me know your first two picks.

Here's the official welcome from Got Books? When you're finished with my giveaways, go ahead and click on the "Got Books" icon above. You'll see all 111 contests going on and nitty gritty details. Like that it ends in less than 48 hours.

Wow. What a great couple of days this is going to be.

Especially if I can find a great deal on chicken.
Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther (Lost Loves of the Bible)The Sister Wife: Brides of Gabriel Book OneShadow of the Swords: An Epic Novel of the CrusadesAnthropology of an American Girl: A NovelHanging By The ThreadInto the Beautiful North: A NovelApril & Oliver: A Novel
Just a disclosure statement - most (half?) are historical fiction. The others are thrown in to make it look interesting.

Does it look interesting?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Winners from July 19th contests

Sorry I'm so late. Remember. I have no meat in my house (or garage), although my sister raises chickens. Maybe I'll go grab a couple. Or go to the store.

In Free Fall Winners!


The Nobodies Album


Into the Beautiful North

Jenny Bolech

Tempted by a Warrior

Emails have been sent. Send me your address so you can get these books!

One Season of Sunshine by Julia London Review

Adopted as an infant, Jane Aaron longs to know the identity of her birth mother and why she gave her up. Her only clue is the name of the small Texas town where she was born, so she’s come to Cedar Springs for answers.

Handsome ad executive Asher Price lost his wife, the beautiful, mysterious Susanna, in a terrible car crash eighteen months ago. When he hires Jane as the nanny for his two children, sparks fly. Jane finds herself falling in love with both Asher and his children, but begins to suspect that Susanna was not the perfect mother and wife the family portrays her to have been.

As Jane gets closer and closer to finding out the truth about both her own and Susanna’s past, devastating secrets begin to emerge that may be more than anyone can bear. Will the truth bring Jane and Asher closer together or tear them apart forever?

My Take: This has been sitting on my TBR pile for way too long. I think the above summary is off-putting and vague. The story is actually much better than the summary.  The book starts out with Susanna, drunk, at a bar. She's obviously at artist and lacks good judgment.  She dies by the third page in a head on collision. Next we meet Jane who is not plain but wants to gain her genetic history.  Although a teacher by trade, she moves to a small Texas town to place herself closer to her birth.

Asher is widower of Susanna. It's been nearly two years since her death and he is dealing with life as a single father of a pre-teen and pre-schooler.  He needs a nanny. Jane needs a job. He's handsome. She's beautiful. Perfect.

Actually, there is much more to the story than a romance.  The author covers subjects such as adult children of adoption and dealing with a mother's death as a young, near teen, and interpretation of mental illness label. It's really quite a nice story that reaches many different audiences.  I quite liked it.

3 and half stars.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Why can't you choose what you forget . . .  and what you remember?  There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon.  But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug. 

My Take
I know that the author is very well versed in the Young Adult Lit circles and has published incredible works.  This is my first book by her.  She is an excellent writer and definitely speaks to her audience.  She wrote an amazing character by introducing us to Doug.  I didn't like anybody else in the book. 

Truth be known, I think I would probably rename this book, "How to Lose Your Virginity at 17."  Zoey seemed intent on doing exactly that.  The secondary theme of Zoey trying to control her surroundings due to her lack of life control was excellent.  I really wish there was more on this compulsion.

I know I am part of the "parent crowd" but as a high school counselor, I pride myself on knowing a little more about the teenage culture.  There were parts of the story where Zoey seems to jump from thought to conclusion without letting me into the process.  I really didn't understand how Brandon continued to be her "boyfriend" when he didn't show up.  I thought Zoey was really rather stupid.

I didn't love the book and I wouldn't recommend it to any teenagers I know.  On the other hand, I thought the writing style was strong and I would probably read another title by the author before deciding whether or not I like her books.  This one just didn't draw me in.

3 stars

*This book was provided to me by Galley and Pocket Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Resurrection in May by Lisa Sampson Review

The story begins with Claudius, an older bachelor in the autumn of his life, praying to see an angel. Instead, he finds May Seymour, a twenty-something graduate of University of Kentucky, with dreams of journalism. A friendship is quickly developed and May becomes Claudius' surrogate daughter, as she continues her quest for what she wants to do with the rest of her life. She briefly brushes shoulders (perhaps more than just shoulders) with Claudius' distant cousin, Eli, who was of some interest to May at UK. At this point Eli is peripheral.

May has already made arrangements to be a relief worker in Rwanda. She stays on Claudius' farm for a couple of months before she leaves to Rwanda. At the same time, Eli leaves for war in Afghanistan. Eli also has a shotgun wedding and becomes a father shortly thereafter.

The time that the author has chosen for May to be in Rwanda is during the atrocious Hutu vs. Tutsi war. May is a relief worker in a village populated with mostly Tutsi people, the tribe that is being persecuted. Her experiences are told in a single chapter, as she learns the way of the people, loves the people, seeks solace with the priest at the church, the rising tensions, and her eventual escape which does not leave her unscathed.

May returns to Kentucky to heal. The healing process takes the rest of the book with further development of previous characters that completely delighted me. The author writes a cohesive story with solid writing style that pulls the reader from scene to scene. Very well written.

I have no specific complaint about the book. Again, well written and solid story. I just didn't love it. It is going to be one of those books that when someone mentions Rwanda, I will recall the two books I read about the war. I loved the characters the author created, and they are very well developed. I appreciated Eli's predicament and May's anxiety disorder. I guess I just feel like the book didn't give me a solid ending, although it does have a conclusion that covers all of the characters.

3 stars

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Imposter's Daughter: A True Memoir (GIVEAWAY)

Laurie Sandell grew up in awe (and sometimes in terror) of her larger-than-life father, who told jaw-dropping tales of a privileged childhood in Buenos Aires, academic triumphs, heroism during Vietnam, friendships with Kissinger and the Pope.

As a young woman, Laurie unconsciously mirrors her dad, trying on several outsized personalities. Later, she lucks into the perfect job--interviewing celebrities for a top women's magazine. Growing up with her extraordinary father has given Laurie a knack for relating to the stars. But while researching an article on her dad's life, she makes an astonishing discovery: he's not the man he says he is--not even close. Now, Laurie begins to puzzle together three decades of lies and the splintered person that resulted from them--herself.

Please note that this is not a comic book but a graphic novel. It is a memoir and contains possible adult themes. I have not reviewed this book yet but I will let you know as soon as I do. If you're interested in reading it, let me know.

1. Leave a comment with email.
2. Extra comments for extra entries (twitter, facebook, blog, and follow)
3. Exra comment for identifying your hero (besides me, of course)
4. U.S. Residents, no PO boxes
5. 3 Copies up for grabs.

Contest ends July 26th

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson

This is just a fun book to break up the summer reads.  The author, Susannah, finds herself drawn to search and rescue (SAR) and, as an animal lover, decides she wants to train, handle and use a dog for rescue missions.

In order to become part of this elite team, it is necessary for the volunteer to spend hours and hours and hours shadowing others who are already in the field.  The training is grueling both physically and psychologically, but somehow she managed to pummel her way through.

Puzzle, the 11 week old puppy chosen for Susannah, is a golden retriever.  Cute little guy, as you can see from the pictures but completely ambivalent to her handler.  The book chronicles the journey from puppy and handler growing together to become a team that trusts one another completely.  The book is interspersed with stories from the field, which add interest but is secondary to the thesis of the book - becoming a team with an ambivalent dog.

The author articulates herself very well and her wry humor left me laughing in spite of myself.  As an owner of a yellow labrador retriever, I certainly empathize with her experiences of chewed up and destroyed property, the excitement of the dog when it sees the owner going for the leash, and the unprovoked attack of other animals in the house.  Nobody gets hurt and all the other animals learn to tolerate rambunctious dog.

Subject is interesting.  Characters entertaining.  Writing style fun.  Recipe for a really enjoyable read.

4 stars

* Just in case the FTC were to ask, I was provided a copy of this book by PUYB (Julie) for an honest review. 

Shadow of the Sword

This novel is the second book by the author about the Crusades.  The book starts with Miriam, a young adolescent who has just run from a band of Crusaders that had attacked her family in the desert.  She watched in horror as her parents are murdered and her mother is violated.  She is also violated and would suffer the same fate as her parents had she not cut her attacker with his own dagger and run.  She survives but is deeply scarred.  Picked up by a kind Bedoin, Miriam is given to her kind aunt and uncle, the latter being a rabbi, doctor, and close advisor to the current Sultan.

Fast forward a few years and Jerusalem is retaken by the Mideastern lot, the Muslims and Jews having joined forces.  The kind rabbi brings his beautiful niece to Jerusalem with her aunt in order to protect her.  She becomes a person of interest for the Sultan.

The historical portion of this novel  is well over 50%.  It is not so much a love story as a war story. The author wanted to write a screen play about the crusades so others would have a greater understanding of it.  The idea came to him shortly after the attacks on 9/11.  Being Muslim, he was disheartened by the extremists who were not following the teachings of Mohammad. He also saw the parallel between Al-Qaeda and the crusaders; extremists who do not represent the true teachings of Mohammad nor Christ.

I did not know the author was Muslim by reading this book.  History of the two protagonists, King Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, the Sultan, paints the former as a young, brash, and somewhat power-hungry king who turned to perpetuating the crusades as a way to show his worth as king.  The latter protagonist is known throughout history as a patient, merciful, and accepting man who showed chivalry, honor, and principle.

The author also introduces a somewhat fictional character into the story named William.  William sees the stupidity of pride ruling war and needlessness of murdering, pillaging, and raping the villagers on the way.  He also does not agree with Richard to continue the crusades however, as a life long friend, he supports him, nonetheless.  This friendship is severely strained as Richard commands 9/10 of the occupants of one settlement to be executed in a show of power, including men, women, and children.  Tens of thousands were led to a pit and beheaded. Yes, this book is not for the faint of heart.

William is a piece of the author, who does not believe any religion or race should become so extreme as to not see that all human kind are the same.  We are brothers and sisters.  In one touching conversation, Richard asks William (who has had contact with enemy) of the the enemy, "Are they like us?"  William pauses, looks away and responds, "They are us."

4 1/2 stars

* Just in case the FTC were to ask, I was provided a copy of this book by PUYB (Julie) for an honest review.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sister Wife

From Publisher:
What if the man you loved told you God wanted him to take another wife? What if that woman was your best friend?
Set in the heart of the earliest days of a new nineteenth-century sect known as the Saints, The Sister Wife is a riveting account of two women forced into a practice they don't understand, bound by their devotion to Prophet Joseph Smith. When Mary Rose marries Gabriel, neither of them could foresee how quickly the community would turn to the practice of plural marriage. Devastated when Gabe is faced with an order from the Prophet to marry her best friend, Bronwyn, Mary Rose tries to have the faith to carry through with the marriage. But can she really be married to the same man as her very best friend? Can Mary Rose and Bronwyn face betraying both their husband and their God to do what they feel is right?

My take:  So many possibilities with such an interesting historical time and story.  I really liked the concept of writing a book using protagonists from the early Mormon pioneer perspective.  Unfortunately, I never really learned to care about any of the characters in the novel.  They seemed one dimensional to me.  Similar to Harlequin Romances I read when I was a teenager but cleaner (which I appreciated).  It seemed like the story jumped from experience to conclusion far too quickly.  For instance, Mary Rose and Gabe meet on a ship.  Within a couple of days, they witness a contrived miracle and, without knowing the church doctrine, Gabe is ready to convert and the couple are declaring their undying love for one another and are married within days.

The book is not without merit.  It has historical value and, I believe, the author has promise. I'd probably wait to buy it on sale.

My thanks to Harper-Collins publishing for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Winner of Weight and Dangerous

Dangerous Desires


Weight of Shadows
Atypical Girl

Congratulations, ladies! Emails already out.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Review and Giveaway

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel

From Booklist

Eating the cake her mother has prepared for her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein discovers she has a gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the food she prepares. Soon, every bite Rose takes is filled with feelings—not just her mother’s but those of other people as well—and what might have been a gift becomes a burden and then, perhaps, a curse. Because this is a novel rooted in family, Rose will learn that she is not the only Edelstein with a peculiar gift or burden. How she and others learn to cope—or not, as the case may be—is the small, sad story Rose shares. Bender’s earlier work has often been described as surrealistic; however, this novel seems more informed by a kind of magical realism that struggles with transformation and sometimes—fleetingly—succeeds, as in the case of the novel’s vividly realized Los Angeles setting. But the effect soon fades, and the reader is left only with a lingering feeling of emptiness and the realization that sadness tastes a lot like bitterness. --Michael Cart

From: Nancy's Musings *WARNING*  (may contain spoilers)

I absolutely loved this book. Another new genre for me but the story told was far deeper a few hours after I read the last word.  As my brain deconstructed each character, I found myself in each of them.  I also decided that each person represented life coping skills. Each character has his/her own story to tell.  They have their own tragedies and their own beauty.

Here's my breakdown:

Rose's father: Logical, factual attorney who makes mental checklists. Get married. Check.  Graduate from college.  Check.  Have 2.6 children.  Check.  Work hard.  Check.  His coping mechanism is to avoid.  He will avoid anything that might give him discomfort or growth.  He'd much rather work from a checklist than delve into emotion or possibilities.

Rose's mother: Delicate, attractive, self deprecating, flaky, weird.  This is a woman who firmly believes in magic and signs.  She creates her own reality.  She is incredibly depressed and empty.  She fills her emptiness with stories that she wants to believe.

Brother Joseph:  Coping mechanism is to disappear and no longer exist.

Rose:  Can't decide how to cope with her gift/curse/life.  Seeks help from other dysfunctional people in her life but her family can't see her pain at the time.  She reacts with anger by plowing through.  She then quietly becomes fatalistic and simply exists without joy.  Rose finally seeks to accept, understand and embrace.

George:  Although peripheral to the family, George is Rose's reset button.  George is centered and, when asked, he will help Rose to anchor herself in order to go on.  George is critical to Rose's choices even as he moves forward with his own life.

If you want this book for your very own, leave me a comment.  I have two copies to give.  This would be an excellent book for a book club.  Another book I want to discuss with others.  Allison, my dear friend, you are going to borrow this book so you and I can talk about something besides kids!

Leave your email.

Let me know if you are a follower in a separate comment for an additional entry.

Contest ends July 26, 2010

Thanks to Doubleday for sponsoring this contest.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Big Giveaway Winner Post

Hidden Wives
Amy in Africa wins this gem!
Incidentally, Amy is one of the most interesting women I know.  Check out her blog: 
You will not be sorry.

Damaged: A Maggie O'Dell Novel 
Nancye and Melanie L.

April & Oliver: A Novel 
Melanie L (again!) and Carol W.

A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances 
Elise and Jeff

Congratulations all you winners!  I have sent you an email. You have until Monday to respond.

Have a great weekend!