Category Archives: giveaway

Review: Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara

24th May 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Penguin in exchange for an honest review in coordination with Historical Fiction Virtual Author Tours.

In 1934, Cascade, Massachusetts holds tight to its vestiges of glamour. Once the place of a thriving Shakespearean theater where a young Rudolph Valentino graced the stage, the Crash has tarnished the appearance of the once-glitzy resort town.

Desdamona Hart Spaulding, the daughter of the theater’s owner, has left her dreams of a career in art and returned to care for her ailing and bankrupt father, marrying a local who has loved her for quite some time, Asa, in a move she quickly regrets. Once her father dies, Dez realizes just how provincial her life in Cascade will remain, particularly with the theater languishing and the town facing flooding to create a new reservoir.

When Jacob Solomon first appears on her property, commenting on Dez’s painting, Dez recognizes a kindred spirit, and her desire to be free takes over.

Charlie mentions in her review that the word “cascade” refers not only to the falls for which the town is named but also for the overwhelming emotion Dez experiences throughout the novel, and I think that’s apt. Jacob and his weekly meetings with her energize Dez. The two talk about art and artists, techniques and tools, the time flying by. She begins to romanticize their encounters until she obsesses over his visits.

Dez talks quite a bit about responsibility – her responsibility as a wife, a daughter, a citizen of Cascade – but ultimately, what wins out is her responsibility to her art. It’s a bold decision, as Dez leaves a good man, a man who cares for her, in order to pursue this life. O’Hara doesn’t help Dez either, making Asa out to be a hillbilly or a cad. Instead, he’s a stand-up guy and one that, even as you know it’s right for Dez to leave, you hurt for.

Though Jacob Solomon is ostensibly who Dez loves, I did feel that he’s just a means to an end. Dez wants to leave Asa and Cascade but cannot seem to leave just to paint and live in New York without something else propelling her forward. In fact, my one complaint would be that I wish Dez would have been able to acknowledge that. There was nothing to Jacob and Dez’s relationship that felt concrete or significant enough to have haunted her for as long as it does.

In some ways, Cascade reminded me of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub – the theater, the doting father, the failing marriage. Plus, both are interesting examinations of women who make nontraditional choices in order to forge a life for themselves.

Dez is selfish, but I think O’Hara explores the negative connotation of that word quite well. Dez sacrifices her marriage, her father’s legacy, and, though it isn’t all down to her, the fate of her town for her own gain. And if asked, I doubt she’d regret it.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (& Giveaway)

23rd April 2013

pg1*This book was sent to me by the publisher Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review.

I am an unabashed fan of David Sedaris and have been, from the first time I cracked open Naked on an airplane and embarrassed my sister by laughing out loud for the greater majority of the flight. Since my Sedaris reading was all pre-blog, I haven’t had an opportunity to share my love until today*. When I read that his latest book would come out this week, I decided I would gift it to myself for my birthday. Then, lo and behold, this book (actually two copies) appeared on my doorstep last month. I may have been a little excited, considering I’d just driven home from Dallas (a five-hour drive) but plopped down and read this in one sitting.

After the disappointment of When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I was nervous about Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I needn’t have been. One of the first stories describes how Sedaris’s father would drop trou each evening, remaining all business up top but sporting his undies for all and sundry to see, regardless of who or what was about. He talks about his parents, and their parenting methods, comparing them to modern parents: “I don’t know how these couples do it, spend hours each night tucking their kids in, reading them books … then rereading them if the child so orders. In my house, our parents put us to bed with two simple words: “Shut up.” That was always the last thing we heard before our lights were turned off. Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it, because our parents recognized it for what it was: crap. They did not live in a child’s house, we lived in theirs.” Harsh as it sounds, Sedaris successfully points out the pretty massive changes in our societal view and treatment of children now as compared to many of our own childhoods.

Along with his typical essays are short, fictitious monologues (which I could have done without), a form he says he’s learned from teens who perform “Forensics” for judges, and Sedaris is sharp tongued in the monologues, pointing out the absurdity of all of us – a man who justifies murder because of gay marriage, a woman writing to berate her sister for a cheap wedding gift after she’s stolen the sister’s intended – but he’s just as pointedly critical of himself. He discusses his compulsive diary writing: “I tried rereading it recently and came away wondering, Who is this exhausting drug addict? I wanted to deny him, but that’s the terrible power of a diary: it not only calls forth the person you used to be but rubs your nose in him, reminding you that not all change is evolutionary. More often than not, you didn’t learn from your mistakes…”

Although not as packed with laughs as perhaps Naked or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Sedaris’s collection reflects a maturing essayist and humorist. Yet even with the moments of sincerity and sobering self examination, Let’s Explore Diabetes is the bold, funny, and mildly offensive return to the Sedaris for which most have long waited.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Which I’ll do in this review but also as I hand out copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day for World Book Night. Yippee!

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Feed Readers

21st March 2013

bloggiesta

Hello, bloggiesta-ers….bloggiesties…BLOGGERS! I hope your Bloggiesta weekend will be productive and fun. As most of you know or have heard, Google Reader will no longer be available after July 1, 2013. What to do? Agh! Instead of panicking, check out this primer. I did the research so you don’t have to! I’ve taken the most popular feed readers and checked out what they look like and what they do. Depending on how important a number of elements are to you (availability of apps, pure RSS, ability to view original blog), you can make a decision below.

Some biases to be aware of: I disliked pure RSS because I enjoy seeing the individual blog. Therefore, what I may see as a benefit, you may see as a drawback. However, I detail what each one is, so you should be able to distinguish. I also use minimal organization within my reader, so if you want more bells and whistles, look for that within the descriptions.

For instructions on how to save your Google Reader feed, check out Charlie’s post and scroll to the bottom.

Here we go:

Feedly

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.07.05 PM

Benefits:

  • Powered by Google Reader, so you have the same data/support Google gives to all its products, and same goes for if you already have a gmail account.
  • Has an app.
  • Easy to share posts through Twitter or on your Facebook account, directly from the site.
  • Also, aesthetically pleasing with links opening in a new window. The beauty of this is you can actually see the website.
  • Ability to manage blogs via folders and tags.

Drawbacks:

  • Must be installed on your computer. This could be viewed as a benefit because you can instantly add a site to feedly using a bookmarklet; however, this isn’t easily accessible from all computers – say your work computer when you need a 15-minute break.

Import: Feedly has worked on a transition just for the GR switch, called Normandy. If you switch before July 1, 2013, you should be able to “migrate seamlessly” – go here for instructions.

Feed Demon

Benefits:

  • Simple customization but similar to Google Reader – very technical, not so attractive.
  • A bit primitive.

Drawbacks:

  • Again, must be downloaded.
  • If you’re not a techie, there are LOTS of different tools you may not need and that may inhibit your viewing.

Download: Download Feed Demon here.

Bloglovin

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.10.52 PM

Benefits:

  • Simplicity.
  • Aesthetically pleasing. (I’ll be honest, this is the feed reader I currently use and adore.)
  • No installation. Just log on to see your favorite sites.
  • Easily customizable.
  • The dominant image and a teaser of the post is shown Click on the link, and it opens the site in a new tab. Love. It. (And no, they don’t pay me to say that).
  • Ability to view blogs in folders, alphabetically, or by date updated.
  • Has an app.
  • Once you open one site, Bloglovin gives you a utilities “frame”, from which you can “share” or “favorite” the post or click to the next post in your feed. That way you aren’t opening multiple tabs. It’s quick and easy.

Drawbacks:

  • Few bells and whistles. If you are used to mass data and organization options, this won’t be your feed.
  • Also, Bloglovin’ was originally a fashion blog aggregate, so there are occasional ads at the top for fashion blogs.

Import: Import your feed here.

Newsblur

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.16.23 PM

Benefits:

  • Lots of customization and organization.
  • You can view the original site or just the plain RSS.

Drawbacks:

  • Newsblur is free for up to 64 sites or $1 a month for unlimited access.
  • Not as intuitive because of all the options available.

Import: Import your feed here.

Bloglines

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.19.44 PM

Benefits:

  • Familiar to many.
  • Simple to use.
  • Traditional.

Drawbacks:

  • Signup required instead of immediate import.
  • Since changing hands, has less of a reader feel.

Create account: Sign up here.

WordPress

 Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 10.22.01 PM

Benefits:

  • Perfect for those with WordPress accounts (keeps all data in one place).
  • Aesthetically pleasing.
  • Opens blog in new window.
  • Gives preview of post.
  • Ability to share post within reader.

Drawbacks:

  • For those looking for a pure RSS reader, may not like.
  • Not ideal for non-Wordpress users.

Import: Go here to import your feed.

Blogger

 Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.19.27 AM

Benefits:

  • Perfect for those with existing Blogger accounts.
  • Opens blog in new window.
  • Gives preview of post.

Drawbacks:

  • No ability to share post or favorite it.
  • No customization options.
  • No settings to change blog list/viewing options/folders.
  • Not ideal for those without existing Blogger accounts.

Import: Visit site here and click “Add” – this will give you the ability to import your feed.

Challenge: Post about your first impressions and which feed reader you think you’ll like. That way, if you’ve experienced any others or have tips, others can benefit! Link your post below for a chance to win a $15 gift card to Book Depository.

Cheers! It’s a NYE Readathon!

11th December 2012

So last New Year’s Eve, Tasha, Becky, and I had an impromptu readathon and rang in the new year together. None of use had plans or really wanted any. It was odd weather here, and it was the perfect day to stay in, curl up with a good book (or four) and read into the wee hours with a glass of champagne, and some decadent snacks.

I ended up having such a fun time, I decided that this NYE would be the same, only better! How can it be better? I’d love for you to join us! Of course, I know plenty of people do have plans, and that’s fine. If you want to jump in part of the day or before you put on your face and/or fancy duds, we’d love to have you.

Part of the reason I haven’t ever “officially” participated in any readathon is that I always feel so much pressure (self imposed) to cancel everything and just read, and that doesn’t really fit my lifestyle. Plus, they almost always fall during a super busy time for me. This readathon has no major rules, other than we’ll read up until the ball drops. Read for fun. Read because you have time. Read because you want to sneak in a couple of extra books in 2012. Of course, I plan to do check-in posts throughout the day, and I encourage you to do the same (though the point is to read, so feel free to post sporadically).

I decided it would be super fun to include prizes before the readathon, too. I came across some really fun holiday crackers with “champagne” bubbles, lip gloss, cocktail ring, and noisemaker, and I’ll choose two winners at random if you…

  • post about the readathon on your own blog before Sunday night.
  • tweet about the readathon before Sunday (just mention me @picky_girl), or
  • post about it on Facebook before Sunday (just shoot me the link)

I plan to draw the winners by this Sunday at midnight so that I have enough time to gather addresses and ship your goodies to you. And if we have a really good response, I’ll likely choose another winner or two.

On NYE, we’ll use the hashtag #nyereadathon on Twitter and Instagram so that we can keep up with one another throughout the day. Get your champers ready, and cheers!

Review: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde & Giveaway

29th October 2012

Via Goodreads

*I received this book from the publisher Viking in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday Next lives in a world…slightly different than ours. Librarians are highly respected and well paid. The punishment for overdue library books is a bit stiffer than a quarter-per-day fine, and then there’s Bookworld, where the characters and places in books actually exist. After being injured in the line of duty as a literary detective, Thursday Next is recuperating. But that doesn’t mean the world is perfect. A mindworm has left her with memories of a daughter she doesn’t have and a tattoo on her wrist as a reminder. The Global Standard Deity is planning a smiting, and Thursday’s genius daughter, Tuesday, hasn’t quite figured out an anti-smiting technology. Thursday’s son, Friday, has problems of his own. The time engines have shut down, and the career he would have had has been replaced. Now he’s slated to murder someone in less than a week, and he feels powerless to stop it. Thursday has been instated as Chief Librarian, but she comes up against her enemy, Goliath and faces a 100% budget cut.

If that sounds like a lot, it is. In fact, it had been long enough since I read a Fforde, that, in the beginning, I felt like I was reading a very fun but very different language. Partly, though, that’s because Thursday and her family are confused. One day she wakes up with cuts and bruises and doesn’t know how she got them. Then, the mindworm with the memory of Jenny, the fake daughter, switches to Thursday’s husband. Her children wake up with signs of fights but can’t recall how they got them, either. What’s going on?

The Woman Who Died A Lot is so enjoyable. In many ways, Fforde’s writing feels much older than it is and in fact reminded me of a book I read when I was young, Rivets and Sprockets (though I don’t remember much about it). The sci-fi feel along with the humor and a touch of mystery is perfect, and I can’t wait to go back and re-read The Eyre Affair and pick up the other books in the series.

Courtesy of Viking, you get a chance to join in the fun. Just leave me a comment, and I’ll pick a winner by next Sunday at midnight (CST).

Check out other reviews or add this to your shelf on Goodreads.

**Congrats to Rebecca at Love at First Book who won a copy of The Woman Who Died A Lot!