Thursday, September 30, 2010


One frigid Midwestern winter night in 1988, a ginger kitten was shoved into the after-hours book-return slot at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. And in this tender story, Myron, the library director, tells of the impact the cat, named DeweyReadmore Books, had on the library and its patrons, and on Myron herself. Through her developing relationship with the feline, Myron recounts the economic and social history of Spencer as well as her own success story—despite an alcoholic husband, living on welfare, and health problems ranging from the difficult birth of her daughter, Jodi, to breast cancer. After her divorce, Myron graduated college (the first in her family) and stumbled into a library job. She quickly rose to become director, realizing early on that this was a job I could love for the rest of my life. Dewey, meanwhile, brings disabled children out of their shells, invites businessmen to pet him with one hand while holding the Wall Street Journal with the other, eats rubber bands and becomes a media darling. The book is not only a tribute to a cat—anthropomorphized to a degree that can strain credulity (Dewey plays hide and seek with Myron, can read her thoughts, is mortified by his hair balls)—it's a love letter to libraries.

Thanks to Hatchette Book Groups, I have 2 copies for you!  Enter by filling out ridiculously easy form here or below.
Must have U.S. or Canada address
No P.O. Boxes
One copy per household
Ends Oct. 21st.

Venom by Jennifer Estep Review and GIVEAWAY!

From Publisher:  It’s hard to be a bada** assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you. Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work. My current mission is personal: annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family. Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.

To the public, I’m Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland’s best barbecue joint. To my friends, I’m the Spider, retired assassin. I still do favors on the side. Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversized stalker—Mab’s right-hand goon who almost got me dead with his massive fists. At least irresistible Owen Grayson is on my side. The man knows too much about me, but I’ll take my chances.

Then there’s Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland’s finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead. She probably thinks the same about me. Little does she know, I’m a cold-blooded killer . . . who is about to save her life.

My Take:  This is my first book by this author.  This is also the third book in a the series, "An Elemental Assassins."  This might have been a disadvantage except that the author writes a brand new story, gives a brief summary of each character from the previous books, and includes a only enough information about the previous stories that is relevant to this book.  Oh, how I hate when an author perseverates about previous books.  Estep has a gift for being concise.

Action packed and likeable characters, the book moves along quickly and keeps the reader turning the pages.  I had no problem jumping into this series without the first two.  I will have no problem continuing with this series.  Estep's gift for weaving a tale combining paranormal and regular life without it feeling awkward is refreshing.

Don't let your kids read this one.  Bad language, sensual scenes, blood and gore.  I'd rate it borderline PG-13 to R.

4 stars.

Win it!
*U.S. only
*Must fill out form and 
*Leave a comment at the end of post. If you can't think of anything to say, tell me I'm beautiful or clever or witty.  Or tell me about the last good book you read.  I'm not picky.  Just high maintenance.
*Ends October 15th

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Duck Song book and CD by Bryant Oden

Product Description

A one-of-a-kind musical picture book, this comical story tells the tale of a determined duck who pleads for grapes at the most unlikely of places: a lemonade stand. With a touch of a button on the cover, adults and children alike will delight in this singing book again and again, while learning important lessons about persistence and compassion. Included is a music CD featuring 12 original children’s songs.

My take: First impression - cheesy and not very original.  It's a cute book with simple illustrations which is best for young children but I just wasn't impressed.  I left it out and my kids go a hold of it.  That's when I started hearing my children singing the most hilarious songs and wondered where they heard these songs.  As a mother I had to pretend I disapproved but pretty soon it became our family theme song.  

The book includes a CD with original and hilarious songs.  First of all, when the story of the duck and the lemonade stand is put to music, it is catchy and fun.  Second of all, well, I'll let this song speak for itself.

And this is what I find I am singing to myself at work, the grocery store, while folding clothes, etc. My 15 year old daughter has taught it to her school marching band. I have parent/teacher conference next week with the 7th grader's teachers, 5th grader, and kindergartner. I won't deny that I am curious if they are singing this song.

It's a 5 star addition to any home. Truly enjoyable.

Testimony by Anita Shreve GIVEAWAY

At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape.

A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.
I just got this today so I won't have a review up for another week.  But I can't wait!

GIVEAWAY:  I have 5 copies up for grabs - thanks to the lovely folks at HBG.

Leave a comment for one entry. If you'd like extra entries, provide eparate comments (extra entries for followers, Twitter, sidebars, Facebook,  subscribing by e-mail etc.) Make sure to leave an e-mail address, especially if you are leaving a comment under Anonymous.

Rules: This contest is open to U.S. & Canada residents only. No P.O. Boxes. Winners will be drawn October 16th.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adam and Eve Review

Hours before his untimely—and highly suspicious—death, world-renowned astrophysicist Thom Bergmann shares his discovery of extraterrestrial life with his wife, Lucy. Feeling that the warring world is not ready to learn of—or accept—proof of life elsewhere in the universe, Thom entrusts Lucy with his computer flash drive, which holds the keys to his secret work.

Devastated by Thom’s death, Lucy keeps the secret, but Thom’s friend, anthropologist Pierre Saad contacts Lucy with an unusual and dangerous request about another sensitive matter. Pierre needs Lucy to help him smuggle a newly discovered artifact out of Egypt: an ancient codex concerning the human authorship of the Book of Genesis. Offering a reinterpretation of the creation story, the document is sure to threaten the literal foundation of all three major world religions . . . and there are those who will stop at nothing to suppress it.

Midway through the daring journey, Lucy’s small plane goes down between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. The severely injured Lucy is rescued by Adam, a delusional American soldier whose search for both spiritual and carnal knowledge has led to madness. As Lucy heals, the bond between her and Adam grows. Ultimately, the pair forsake their half-mythical Eden and make their way back toward civilization—where members of an ultra-conservative religious cult are determined to deprive the world of the knowledge Lucy carries.

Set against the searing debate between evolutionists and creationists, Adam & Eve expands the definition of a “sacred book” and suggests that true madness lies in wars and violence fueled by all religious literalism and intolerance. A thriller, a romance, an adventure, and an idyll, Adam & Eve is a tour de force by a master contemporary storyteller.

My Take: I honestly haven't decided how I feel about this story.  It's an odd story with metaphors and much is left for interpretation.  Greek mythology is integrated throughout the book, as are biblical references, poetry of well known poets, and works of art by mostly impressionists - which is significant, I believe, because so much interpretation is left up to the viewer.

Adam has created his own little reality based on Genesis.  He's peaceful in this reality, as the world around provides for his needs.  He even asks for Woman, and Eve falls out of the sky.  Except her name is really Lucy, which is significant in a few ways (think of the earliest carbon dated remains).  Together they provide healing for one another within their Eden which, in many ways, duplicates Genesis' Eden.

The author introduces so many factors to the story that I found myself puzzled in some ways.  My Greek mythology is rusty so I think I would have understood more symbolism if I remembered the gods better.  Poetry is completely lost on me, so I missed the significance of that.  Gifted artists skip a generation so I am the artistically challenged.  Yet the author paints a beautiful landscape, introduces the characters and their circumstances carefully, provides a story that plays on the imagination, and educates the reader of possible alternate stories.

Ultimately, I came away with an intriguing read.  Truth is subjective and open for interpretation.

4 stars

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

My take: This is a very suspenseful read.  Written for tween-agers, it's a pretty quick read yet the author develops major characters comprehensively.  Cheyenne's story is shared throughout the book and includes amazing insights into a blind person's life.  Very well researched and describes aspects of life without sight I'd never considered.  She also describes how a cane is used (sweeping) and how to discern surfaces by sound, and the immeasurable worth of a dog.

Although the reader feels sympathy for Griffin, the author establishes Cheyenne's strong and indomitable spirit.  Rather than tell the ending, I want to switch gears completely and discuss a movie called "Ever After" and featured Drew Barrymore. Don't worry.  It's relevant.

The movie is Cinderella only different.  There is an evil stepmother, evil stepsister, and bullied stepsister.  There is also a prince who falls in love with darling Drew Barrymore.  Then evil stepmother runs out of money and ends up selling Drew Barrymore to a really rotten guy who seriously and creepily obsesses about Drew.  Prince Charming figures out where to find darling Drew and comes to save her from the despicable guy who has her chained up and doing all of his cooking and cleaning.  As Prince Charming approaches the mansion, darling Drew is just leaving.  He announces that he has come to save her.

She gives him a sidelong glance and replies, "I saved myself."

Aching for Always Review with Giveaway

Author Note:  Eighteenth century naval captain, Hugh Hawksmoor, is determined to avenge his brother's death. His quest takes him into the gleaming future of skyscrapers and cell phones. Joss O'Malley is determined to save the map-making company her mother founded. One map will change both of their lives. Hugh's deft touch and Old World charm stir Joss's senses like a storm at sea, but when Hugh lures Joss into a treacherous journey back through time, there's not a twenty-first-century trick that can save her--that is until she applies her instincts to a course she thought was set and discovers the high seas can hold some scandalous surprises.

Like Joss, the scrappy heroine of Aching for Always, I've always loved maps. I would pore over them as a child, wondering about places from the past and places I'd never visited. And as I got older, and began to travel, my enchantment with them grew. To me they are as close to magic as anything in this world can get, unlocking secrets to places both real and imaginary.

Giveaway:  Enter to Win a Kate Spade Leopard Print Purse from author, Gwen Cready, to celebrate her release of Aching for Always (blog tour this Thursday)! Click the below link to enter!

Enter to Win a Kate Spade Leopard Print Purse!

For contest details, click here.

The Tower, The Zoo, and the Tortoise Review and GIVEAWAY!

From Publisher: Balthazar Jones has lived in the Tower of London with his loving wife, Hebe, and his 120-year-old pet tortoise for the past eight years. That’s right, he is a Beefeater (they really do live there). It’s no easy job living and working in the tourist attraction in present-day London.

Among the eccentric characters who call the Tower’s maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases home are the Tower’s Rack & Ruin barmaid, Ruby Dore, who just found out she’s pregnant; portly Valerie Jennings, who is falling for ticket inspector Arthur Catnip; the lifelong bachelor Reverend Septimus Drew, who secretly pens a series of principled erot­ica; and the philandering Ravenmaster, aiming to avenge the death of one of his insufferable ravens.

When Balthazar is tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower walls to house the many exotic animals gifted to the Queen, life at the Tower gets all the more interest­ing. Penguins escape, giraffes are stolen, and the Komodo dragon sends innocent people running for their lives. Balthazar is in charge and things are not exactly running smoothly. Then Hebe decides to leave him and his beloved tortoise “runs” away.

Filled with the humor and heart that calls to mind the delight­ful novels of Alexander McCall Smith, and the charm and beauty of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a magical, wholly origi­nal novel whose irresistible characters will stay with you long after you turn the stunning last page. 

My Take: It's a bit like British humor, really.  It's subtle, quiet, and then you can't stop laughing.  It wouldn't work with American humor because Americans don't do subtle as well so it comes out cheesy.  No way could the description of how Hebe Jones avenges her lost sleep by going to the bathroom be duplicated in the White House.  
The other subtlety is the animal behavior.  The animals are not your usual fare but when you watch their odd behavior, there is a kind of mimicry of their human counterparts.  However, you really have to watch for it.  Otherwise, it seems quirky (which it is).  The writing style is incredibly creative and the reader must pay attention in order to not miss how very funny, sweet, sad, and triumphant the story is.  

Ultimately, the reader concludes that the story is really about relationships.  The incredibly endearing cast of quirky characters heal past wounds, discover new love, rekindle old love, and building bridges.

4 stars.

Want it?  Thanks to Judy at Doubleday, you can have it.  Fill out the form below.  Contest ends October 14, 2010.
U.S. Only
No P.O. Boxes
One book per household

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Pan by Daniel and Dina Nayeri

From Publisher: Sixteen-year-old Wendy Darling and her insecure freshman brother, John, are hitting the books at the Marlowe School. But one tome consumes their attention: THE BOOK OF GATES, a coveted Egyptian artifact that their professor father believes has magical powers. Soon Wendy and John discover that the legend is real—when they recite from its pages and descend into a snaking realm beneath the Manhattan school. As the hallways darken, and dead moths cake the floor, a charismatic new R.A. named Peter reveals that their actions have unleashed a terrible consequence: the underworld and all its evil is now seeping into Marlowe. Daniel Nayeri and Dina Nayeri return to reimagine Peter Pan as a twisty, atmospheric, and fast-paced fantasy about the perils of immortality.

My Take:  This was a mixed bag for me.  The authors, a brother/sister duo create the most intriguing story and world.  I could not predict what I would find from one page to the next.  As the underworld opens and spreads across the school, the authors describe in such amazing detail (but not too much) that I could visualize the transformation.  

Essentially the story is about John and Wendy Darling, also a brother/sister duo, who attend Marlowe, an upper crust private high school.  They attend because their father, George, is a professor teaching on campus, although they could never afford the tuition or housing.  Wendy has a great boyfriend who includes John, a social misfit, which pleases Wendy.  The mother ran off years ago with a younger, more attractive man.  

Enter Peter, the new resident assistant of a dorm.  He's young but connected.  He brings with him another RA named Tina (Tinkerbell) who will do anything for him.  She's a Latina bombshell but feels at home with Peter and the LB's, an intricately connected worldwide gang.  LB stands for Lost Boys.  

Professor Darling arranges for an Egyption exhibit to be shown at the school but it comes with some baggage.  There is a dangerous form attached along with a book that could open the gates.  There are 5 legends of loss.  Each legend tells of a person from the same lineage that lost everything and died with life in his/her bones.  

Simon, a pompous curator wannabe from the museum is included with the baggage of bones (pardon the pun).  Simon is an academic and social climber.  He just wants to rise in the ranks of Egyptionology.  He's the eptiome of the crocodile, waiting, watching and stealing bones.  

Captain Hook is also included as another character, although I don't recall Smeed.  

So the foundation of the story is pretty strong and the execution of the story is interesting yet I finished the book feeling unsatisfied.  It's taken me a couple of days to figure out why I didn't enjoy the book more.  I just didn't care about the characters.  None of them have any redeeming qualities.  In fact, none of them have any qualities that really stand out besides Peter's drive for eternal youth.  If any of the characters were to develop for me, I'd wish it was Tina.  She seemed to be the most interesting.  

Without feeling anything for the characters in the book, I felt like the story was only half told, although the story seemed to be complete.  So that leaves me feeling pretty ambivalent about the book.  It's a clean read which I like.  Minimal swearing and no sensuality.  

3 stars.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Falling Away by T.L. Hines Review

The Falling Away 
Dylan Runs Ahead has been running all of his life. He ran away from his people to join the army, thinking he could get away from the guilt he felt. He served in Iraq got a terrible leg injury and becomes addicted to pain meds. Involved in a drug deal that goes bad he is on the run again. Running from people that would just as soon see him dead.

While on the run he meets up with Quinn, a Christian who practices embedding, which essentially means that she cuts herself to deal with her anxiety.  She also claims to have some psychic abilities and tells Dylan that he is chosen and destined to be someone amazing. He isn't really surprised to hear this because he has been told this before.

To fulfill his destiny he must face the demons that have been chasing him all his life.

My take: The book was interesting once I was able to get into it about halfway through.  It jumps around and the thread is difficult to follow for me.  I found the content to be confusing and not as congruent as I would have liked.

Hines uses the allegory of a virus to describe how demonic activity infiltrates humankind. The premise of "Falling Away" is that a few demons infect key "Chosen" people who then spread the demonic virus to others.  Since this is touted as Christian Fiction, this didn't sit well with me.  The war between good and evil seems to have missing key elements like 1) free agency 2) Christ's atonement.  The falling away component comes from 2 Thessalonians "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition."

Quinn and the others in the group have different ways to cope with their job.  To put it bluntly, they all have different compulsions and varying degrees of obsessive compulsive disorder.  They are cutters, germophobes, obsessive about numbers and patterns, and other coping mechanisms that are common in the mental health field. On the one hand, I am uncomfortable with the behavior being deemed as an acceptable way to deal with anxiety.  On the other hand, I applaud Hines for celebrating the differences of people and their coping skills.  If this were a real world, I would be pretty darn special.

The story is unique and interesting.  Although gritty, there is a feeling of hope with this book. Not my cup of tea, but not a bad read by any stretch.  Recommend it?  Nah.  Discourage anybody from reading it?  Nah.

Solid 3 stars.

Tracy Anderson's 30-Day Method Review and Giveaway

From Publisher: Did you know muscles get bored, just like people do? And did you also know that there's a 9 out of 10 chance that you're working the wrong muscles when you exercise? With TRACY ANDERSON'S 30-DAY METHOD you don't have to worry--her unique workout will help you drop the weight and shrink your body in just 30 days.

Based on ten years of scientific research and experience getting not just herself, but A-list stars and everyday people, red carpet ready, Anderson has developed a unique 30-day diet and workout routine that reshapes the body and defies genetics to tone the muscles and drop the pounds. While most people incorrectly target their major muscle groups, like the bicep or hamstring, the focus should be on the smaller accessory muscles that can create a long, lean, balanced look--instead of bulked up look. Anderson's program is composed of a groundbreaking three-tiered approach, including a mat workout and cardio routine targeting the all-important accessory muscles, and an exclusive 30-day meal plan, complete with dozens of delicious recipes.

This comprehensive kick-start program is unlike any other workout on the market and it leaves no chance for anything but terrific, fast results! 

My Take: Tracy Anderson was a ballerina who struggled with her weight.  Through trial, error, personal research and willing human lab rats, Tracy has developed this program to sculpt the perfect body.  The program consists of three key components; building accessory muscle tissue, cardiovascular, and healthy eating.

What I liked:
  • The exercises themselves.
  • Recipes at the end
  • A black and white DVD (easier on my eyes) for a fun cardio workout
  • Illustrations in the book itself for stretches and building muscle
What I didn't like:
  • The self-promotion.
  • Time commitment.  45 - 90 minutes every day.  Hello!  That might just be my reading time.  I think not.
  • Claim of scientific research without providing supporting citation.
Overall, I really do like the program.  I'm skeptical that I could have the body of a ballerina since I didn't have it when I was dancing, but it certainly gets the blood pumping and provides motivation for a healthy lifestyle.  My biggest complaint is that the book and DVD are riddled with pictures of Tracy Anderson.  She taunts me.  I have a jealousy complex about abs like that.

Want it?  Fill out this easy form below. 
-U.S. or Canada residents only
-No P.O. Boxes.
-One copy per household
-2 copies available!  
-Contest ends October 15th

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Glaen: A Novel Message on Romance, Love and Relating - Review

Product Description: Annie is a college grad-student who is stumped about love. Her mom and dad are in the throes of a divorce, her teenage sister is obsessed with how her boyfriend makes her look, and her closest friend Jennah is on a continual ride of running off every guy she dates.

Friendships, dating, romance, and marriage—it's all confusing to Annie until the day a white-haired stranger appears in her life. Glaen is an unusual professor with an unusual name. Her white-haired unconventional mentor guides Annie on a path of discovery that unlocks the secrets of real relationships in a world gone phony. By abandoning herself to learn, Annie discovers the mystifying affect of how learning to tell the truth changes everything in friendship, family, and love.

The solutions Dr. Lybrand offers in this book will astound and free you to quit doing the very things that take away your ability to find the love and friendship you want. More importantly, you'll discover a fresh path to the possibility of greater connections with those you care most about. You'll want everyone you love to read this book...twice!

My Take: Dr. Lybrand uses a story to share his recipe for a successful marriage.  The first thing to note is that I thought the story was cheesy and unrealistic.  That's the only downside to the book.  The concepts the author lays out are mostly common sense but he has organized them in such a way that the basis of a good marriage are all contained within the book.

There are a couple of things that I really appreciated about the book.  Stupid as it sounds, I needed the white space.  Each page contains one or two paragraphs with plenty of white space to contain my own thoughts and reflection.

Next thing I really liked is the way the author introduced each concept.  Like I said, I thought the story was a little cheesy but I realize it had to be the way it was in order to uncover each concept.  Annie, the protagonist, goes through a process to define each concept.  In her journal she consistently writes her observations in the form of "Lie" then "Countering Truth."  I found this format extremely helpful because the book approaches the socially accepted story and counters with the truth.  For instance:

"Lie - If you follow the right process, you will be guaranteed a good marriage.

"Countering Truth - No process can guarantee a good relationship, because there are no future guarantees in relationships. Relationships happen in the present."

The book progresses and Annie uncovers many nuggets of excellent guidelines for good marriage.  On a personal note, I have been married for nearly 19 years to a wonderful man.  Being married to a wonderful man does not guarantee a constant state of bliss.  I learned some habits I have been practicing that I will now be conscious of changing to improve the way I relate to my husband.

Worth reading and worth owning.

4 stars

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God and Dog Review and Giveaway

GOD AND DOG is a phenomenon. First appearing on YouTube, the video of Wendy Francisco's charming animated illustrations and moving song tells of the unconditional love of both God and Dog.

With over 2 million YouTube viewings to date, Francisco's story appeals to all ages, to animal enthusiasts, to people of religious persuasions, and especially to anyone who has been loved by a dog.

Now in book format, Wendy's touching narrative will be expanded on through additional lyrics, illustrations, photographs and some of the powerful mail that is continually being sent to Francisco.

My Take:  As readers of my personal blog may already know, I have a love/hate relationship with my dog.  I even wrote my own storyblog about her.  In fact, she is the muse to many of my posts.  Did you know that if you spell God backwards, you get dog?  Did you know that if you spell mad backwards and add an "n" at the end, you get part of what I call my dog?

The real truth is that she frustrates me at times but she is pretty special.  There is a correlation between God and a good dog. Our dog, Sunday, joined our family just in time to give us a glimpse of hope.  Aptly, we named her Sunday.  The reason is found here.  Actually, I'm not much of a promoter of my personal blog, but I invite you to take the time to read this post.  It is relevant to any person who is struggling or tired.

WIN IT: Thanks to Anna of the Hachette Book Group, I have two (2) copies of DoG and GoD to giveaway!

To Enter: Tell me something that makes you happy!

Extra entries for making a comment on the post.  Tell me your favorite animal's name.

Ends October 1, 2010 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson Review and GIVEAWAY

Product Description

Tillie Harris's life is in disarray—her husband is away on business, the boxes in her new home aren't unpacked, and the telephone isn't even connected yet. Though she's not due for another month, sudden labor pains force Tillie to reach out to her estranged father for help, a choice that means facing the painful memories she's been running from since she was a little girl.

An extraordinary debut from a talented new voice, Up from the Blue untangles the year in Tillie's life that changed everything: 1975, the year her mother disappeared.

My Take: This one really sneaked up on me.  I don't remember what I was expecting when I ordered it, but whatever I expected, this wasn't it.  In the same vein as "The Sweet Sadness of Lemon Cake," the writing of this book was a visceral experience.  The author creates a story that, for the first 30 pages or so, I easily put down and wondered if she was really just writing a memoir.  How else could she possibly know with such clarity how a child seeks relief from her pain by biting and how she feels when her teeth sink into the flesh?  Or the intense impulse to act out just to prove that she exists?  Then I really got pulled in.

The story is beautifully crafted as the protagonist's past and present is further revealed.  Symbolism is used, however not excessively and the author does not beat the reader over the head with the explanations, which I appreciate.  Tillie begins with the first pangs of contractions and meanders into her past, when she is 8 years old.  Her father is a colonel and lives in army housing.  He is precise, orderly, and undemonstrative. Her mother is eccentric and, as revealed early in the book, mentally ill.  I'm thinking clinical depression with psychotic features or schizoid personality disorder.

I'm not showing off, I am processing while I am blogging.  Nothing is clear cut but everything is relevant.  The characters are complex and provide a rich plethora of sensory details that somehow resonate.  This is not a shocking book that disturbs the reader with unwanted imagery.  Rather, it is the all-American family who are trying to hold it together but each member brings a unique flavor to the family unit.  None of the characters are polarized and one dimensional.  Tillie's mother is, without a doubt, completely nuts (this is a clinical term, of coursed).  On the other hand, I see pieces of her within myself, although I have not been guilty of doing what she did although I do know mothers who have.

Cryptic enough for you?  Again, not a stunning revelation but somewhat disturbing all the same.  And she wants desperately to protect her children.

Tillie's dad begins as a career Army man but even he can not hold this single dimensional persona.  He craves order and solutions.  He works with concrete problems that can be solved.  He is completely befuddled by his wife's withdrawal yet willing and able to step up to do what he can do.  He's a man to mark off his checklist.

Two children are at a crossroads, watching their mother fall apart, Tillie feeling the need to protect and keep her, Phil trying to not be noticed.  Will the family survive?  If so, how?  Will Tillie's need to be noticed recede or escalate?  Are the children destined to repeat their parents' paths?  If so, which parent?

The story is not shocking.  I'd go as far as to rate it as quite clean. Swear words are contained within one chapter.  The images conjured by the author are not necessarily disturbing.  The identification with each character may push the reader a little off kilter. That's what makes the book so powerful.

Strongly recommend.

Better written:

Susan Henderson’s UP FROM THE BLUE deftly portrays a family with contradictions we can all relate to—it’s beautiful and maddening, hopeful and condemning, simple, yet like a knot that takes a lifetime to untangle. This is a book that you will love completely, even as it hurts you. It is a heartbreaking, rewarding story that still haunts me. I absolutely loved this book…gushingly, unequivocally, loved it. —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.

Thanks to my new best friend, Vanessa, at Harper Collins, 2 of you get a chance to own this one.  Fill out the form below and I'll let do the rest.

Ends October 5th.

U.S. Only

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Book Thief

What can I say that has not already been said?  The book thief herself discovers the greatest and most powerful persuader, weapon, soother, instrument of all.  Words.  Words can create anything.  Funny little men who part their hair on the opposite side of everybody else and grow small, stupid mustaches use words to control a nation and murder millions without ever having to lift a gun or sword himself.  

Growing girls can use words to call out to those she loves the best.

Or build bridges to those she can't reach.

She can haunt Death, himself with words from her heart.  


Sunday, September 19, 2010

In My Mailbox and It's Monday! What are You Reading? 9/20/10

Y'know, I honestly don't remember what I read this week.  I know I've been working on "The Book Thief" but I didn't finish it.  I started a new series called "House of Night."  Vampyres and Wiccan rituals, new girl, special powers, love triangle, pressures of being a teenagers, gay friends, drug and alcohol use, losing virginity, and all that jazz. 
Marked: A House of Night NovelBetrayed: A House of Night NovelChosen: A House of Night Novel

There will be 12 in the series.  I'm done.  I wish I had stuck to "The Book Thief." 

This week, my only goal is to finish
Memory Between Us, A: A Novel (Wings of Glory)The Book Thief

I'll be out of town for part of the week.  My genius, fun-loving, uncle died on Thursday.  His family (my mom) is devastated. 

I'm downer today.  So sorry.

Friday, September 17, 2010

She's Gone Country Winners!

Shannon, Booksnob, and Brenda Jean!

You lucky dogs!

Check your email!

Winners from Blogfest!

If you won, you've been emailed.  I'd announce it but I've already sent the books and lost my list.  Because I'm organized like that. 

Except for Christine, who forgot to give me her email address.  She won Adam and Eve.  Hey Christine!  Check your blog!  I left you a comment!

I am being used. . .

Apparently, my friend, Stephanie, doesn't think I have enough giveaways.  Pahuh!  I know. 

Little Miss Fancy Pants has a new book giveaway every day.  Fortunately, this whole I'm-so-cool-I'm-giving-a-book-a-day-away-for-a-whole-month business is almost over so I can reign as the coolest book blogger everafter.  Until then, give Steph some love.  Today she has is giving away Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code."
DaVinci Code 
I don't mind if you win.  I already read it.

Tomorrow she has Stephen Colbert.
I Am America (And So Can You!)
The man looks so seriously deranged on the cover.  I like it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Holy Ghosts Review

Holy Ghosts: Or How a (Not-So) Good Catholic Boy Became a Believer in Things That Go Bump in the Night
In this extraordinary true story, the haunting of a Long Island household forces a respected writer and editor to reevaluate the mysteries of life and death as he struggles with the frightening truths of his childhood home and his town's past.

Growing up in Rockville Centre, Long Island, Gary Jansen never believed in ghosts. His mother - a devoutly Catholic woman with a keen sense for the uncanny - claimed that their family house was haunted. But Jansen never found anything inexplicable in how their doorbell would sometimes ring of its own accord; or in the mysterious sounds of footsteps or breaking glass that occasionally would fill their home; or even in his mother's sometimes unnervingly accurate visions of future events and tragedies. Though he once experienced a supernatural encounter in a Prague church as a young man, Jansen grew up into a rationalist, as well as a noted writer and editor.

In 2001, Jansen moved back into the very same house where he had once grown up, to raise a family with his wife. One day in 2007 he encountered a weird physical sensation in his toddler son's bedroom - "like an electric hand rubbing the length of my back. I stopped and couldn't move, not because I was stuck but for the simple reason that the feeling was so strange. What the hell is that? Then the pressure seemed to break apart and for a brief moment I felt like I had a million little bugs crawling all over my back and neck."

This became the first step in uncovering a frightening, full-blown haunting in his home-a phenomenon which lasted a full year and eventually included unveiling the identities of the spirits who occupied his house; reliving a tragic murder in his hometown; encountering mind-boggling coincidences between local history and episodes in his household; and finally, with the help of Mary Ann Winkowski, the real-life inspiration for TV's The Ghost Whisperer, ridding his house of these uninvited visitors. The events of that year, in which Jansen's family was terrified by ghosts in their own home, would forever change how he viewed the mysteries of life and death.

Holy Ghosts is not only a gripping true-life ghost story but a wry and touching memoir, as well as a meditation on the relationship between religion and the paranormal, which are often considered at odds with each other, but which the author shows are intimately linked. 

My Take: I finished this book an hour ago. I refused to leave my bedroom.  When my husband complained he couldn't sleep, I moved to the master bath. I am not easily manipulated by ghost stories but a few still get me.  Every so often I'm scared to go to the bathroom at night in case the hair on the back of my neck stands up.  According to "Sixth Sense," that means the ghosts are close.

That aside, Gary Jansen is a fun and gifted story teller.  He's also articulate, well read, and persuasive.  This is his story of living in a house that seems to be inhabited by ghosts.  Growing up traditional Catholic, he spends a lot of time reconciling the idea of ghosts and his Catholic upbringing.  My own understanding of the Catholic beliefs being slim, I completely enjoyed his intro to Catholicism as well as his supporting research from relevant sources. He made me laugh, he made me hide under my blanket.  He held my interest on every page. I read it in ARC form so there is some cleaning up to do, including some irrelevant information, but as professional writer, my guess is this book will be even more amazing.

4 stars. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hey Look! An Awesome Book Blogger!

And so, it with great honor and reverence, I introduce you to Introverted Reader, who, coincidentally, did a fascinating interview on her site today about another book blogger.

However, Jennifer is absolutely fascinating and writes amazing reviews!  Here is what she has to say:

I joined GoodReads in April of 2007.  I just love that site.  As I started joining groups and posting reviews and getting more and more active on the site, I started accumulating a group of awesome friends.  My friend Misty started posting links in her reviews to extra material on her blog, Book Rat, sometime last summer.  I clicked through and loved what I saw.  I wrote about Misty on Monday.  What I liked for me personally was the freedom to design my page the way I wanted it, add in extra links and videos as I saw fit, and having a place to write something other than reviews.  After thinking about it for a little while, I wrote my first blog post on November 16, 2009.

On my blog, my main focus is reviews.  I read almost anything fiction, but historical fiction, fantasy, YA fantasy, some mysteries and thrillers, Southern literature, and Holocaust literature are what I gravitate toward most.  I also host a meme every Thursday called Character Connection.  This is where we talk all about characters we love, or sometimes that we just love to hate.  I also do Reading Rendezvous on random Sundays.  I post pictures of nice places I've found to read, either around my town or on vacation.

My favorite books are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, and Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint.  I recommend these to anyone!

My family, including my extended family, reads quite a bit.  My younger sister and I have remarkably similar taste.  A book that she's recommended to me that I haven't read yet is The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.  My mom loves Nicholas Sparks and my dad loves Louis L'Amour.  My husband didn't read much at all when we first met, but I've been working on him.  He reads one or two books a month now that we've found out that he really enjoys historical fiction, especially historical mysteries.  He can't choose a favorite, so he's listed The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel, and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.  Do you see my influence there?  :-)

I was fortunate to be able to go to Italy for my anniversary back in 2008.  We loved everything we saw, but I fell in love with Rome.  I'm a country girl at heart, so I was completely surprised by how much I loved The Eternal City!  I loved doing the touristy things, like touring the Vatican and the Roman Forum, but I also loved walking around the city after dark.  Everything just looked magical and felt so vibrant. 

Thanks for interviewing me!

Wow.  Do you see why I have friends like these?  She is truly amazing!  Check out her site for some fantastic giveaways!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

I'm going to be honest.  I am enjoying this book blogging stuff more than I ought to.  I'm reading, I'm writing and groaning every time a student sitting across from me at my desk says, "I hate reading and I hate writing!"

A piece of me dies a little every time.

This happens every day.

To spite those unenlightened teenagers, let's have a giveaway from my gently used book collection.  I need more room for more books. Maybe I'll get a nice, heavy book and smack some sense into my students.  Do you think I might get fired?  

Here are the choices:

Trust: A NovelAngel of Death Row: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense LawyerVivian RisingSolitary: A Novel (Solitary Tales Series)

Is it better to share or go broke with shipping?  I'm going to have to keep this one in the U.S.

Give me comment love.

Air kisses!


Big weekend planned!  Free books and stuff all over blog world.  It just makes me giggle.

Lots and lots of sites are hosting giveaways.  For a complete list, visit here.

Enter to win one of my ARC books that are cluttering my house.  I also have other contests on the right side bar.  See?

Just to spice things up a little bit, I will also choose one commenter for a copy (ARC) of Adam & Eve: A Novel

This book will be released on September 21st.

Your chances of winning something are just so good!