Category Archives: giveaway

Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green

6th March 2012

*The publisher St. Martin’s Press sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Andi marries Ethan in her late 30s, but she’s glad she waited. She and Ethan are in love, and for the first time, Andi knows she’s with the right guy. The only thing lacking is a child of her own, and Ethan isn’t overly concerned as he already has two daughters, Sophia and Emily. Sophia adores Andi and has from the first time they met. Emily is another story. The first time she sees Ethan hold Andi’s hand, she shoves Andi out of the way, without a word of rebuke from Ethan. Andi wants Emily to, if not love her, accept her, but the harder Andi tries, the less Emily warms to her. Tension escalates as Emily enters adolescence and begins drinking and sneaking in at all hours. Andi doesn’t feel it’s her place to correct Emily, and Ethan is so fearful of losing Emily’s affection that he consistently fails to take up for Andi, pitting the two women against one another. When Emily gets pregnant, it will bring Andi’s marriage and her family to the breaking point, and she’s not sure she can take any more.

Is this book typical for me? Not at all. It has a pink cover, y’all. WITH a heart. However, I was in the mood for something a little different.

Did I want to ring Emily’s neck? You guys. This little youknowwhat so had it coming. Andi tried so hard to be there for her, and Emily just kept figuratively slapping her in the face. It was really difficult to watch Andi take so much crap over and over again.

What did I think of Ethan, who allowed his daughter to act this way? Gah. It’s rough because you could see how torn he was. He loves his wife. He loves his daughter. He gets to the point where he’s so incredibly frustrated that he just shuts down, and honestly, I can see how easily this could happen. He’s a good guy. He’s a loving husband and father, but he just cannot deal with these women.

So…overall impressions? I enjoyed this book. As a 30-year-old woman who hopes to someday marry, the idea of stepchildren is horrifying. This book did not lessen that. I admire people who mesh families and do it well because I can see how I would just out and out hate Emily. She’s as cruel as only a teenager can be, and it would be so difficult to feel as if you could not discipline a child who lived in your house and acted that way.

However, parts of this book I struggled with because of the unusual storytelling style. The novel is written in present tense, which usually doesn’t bother me, but it was pretty annoying here. Plus, the entire first half of the novel was told from Andi’s perspective. Suddenly, halfway through, the narrator begins to switch between Andi and Emily. Well, by that time, I pretty much couldn’t stand Emily and had no desire to hear what she had to say, and in my mind, she never redeemed herself enough that I enjoyed her narrative voice. She’s incredibly selfish whereas Andi, though she does make some mistakes, is largely generous and loving. Had Emily’s narrative voice come in sooner, it may have changed my feelings of INTENSE HATRED, though I’m not sure it really would have. The thing is, I know there are people out there just like her, so it’s really not far-fetched at all.

And last but certainly not least, did this book include salsa dancing? YES! If you don’t know, I love to salsa dance. I’ve been dancing for years and love a salsa club. Green includes a great scene where Andi and her friends go dancing, and it was perfect. She says, and I quote, “Dark, and sweaty, and filled with dark good-looking men eyeing the women up and down, they realized quickly that what was missing from these clubs was a threat. The men weren’t eyeing the women seductively, but rather to see who was a good dance, whom they would choose next, not as a lover, but merely a partner in the sensual beat.” This is what I love about salsa dancing. Going to a salsa club is a unique experience. You’re judged, not by how tiny your skirt is or how much boobage is hanging out, but by how you dance. It’s an amazing feeling, and I love that guys will ask you to dance, smile and dance with you and then settle you back in your seat with no expectation. It’s. Amazing.

So all in all, this book was outside my normal reading experience, but I enjoyed it. AND, the nice people at St. Martin’s Press have kindly offered a giveaway copy as the book is out this week. Leave me a comment telling me if you have any cruel stepmother/stepfather/stepchildren stories, and I’ll pick a winner by Sunday at midnight!

Buy this for your Nook. Or from Indiebound.

UPDATE: Giveaway closed. Congrats to brn2shop for winning! An email has been sent to you with instructions on how to claim your copy.

 

Blue Monday by Nicci French

5th March 2012

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

Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist, walks the streets of London at night. It’s not her patients or their stories she’s trying to escape, however. She just can’t sleep and finds the quiet of the city at night comforting before facing the day. When her former mentor becomes unreliable, she takes one of his patients, Alan Dekker. Alan can’t have children but has vivid dreams of a child, a redheaded boy who calls him Daddy and plays on the playground. When Frieda sees the news and discovers a redheaded boy has disappeared, she wonders. Could Alan be the culprit? He remembers feeling the same way 20 years earlier, when a young girl was abducted near a candy store. Are Alan’s latent desires expressing themselves in horrific ways? Frieda, unsure of her duty, goes to the police, and embarks on a fraught-filled journey to discover the depths and limitations of the mind.

The husband-wife writing duo Nicci French have written several novels together, but Blue Monday is the first in a series (in which each book will be named after a day of the week) following Frieda Klein. Frieda is complicated. She isn’t close to her family and has few friends, practically none outside her work. She lives alone in a dark flat, and her life is quiet and ordered. Her mentor is struggling, and Frieda’s confidence in him is tempered by her need to get him back on his feet and in the clinic, a need that seems to be personal as much as it is practical. She is unsure how to proceed when she suspects her patient of wrongdoing, and instead of forging boldly ahead, she seeks counsel, even though it’s from her flawed and troubled mentor.

As for the central mystery, once the main twist is revealed, I found it relatively easy to reconstruct the rest. However, after a discussion on Twitter, I think it may be my excessive mystery reading that’s to blame. 😉 In fact, I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. There is a good bit of exposition, but in the first installment of a series, that’s hardly unexpected, and I liked that French doesn’t reveal the details of Frieda’s past life. The ending, though I had anticipated it, was still incredibly chilling and left me with an eerie feeling.

If you’re typically wary of reading books with possible violence to children or with abductions, Blue Monday focused much more on the mind of a kidnapper as opposed to graphic or unnecessary scenes with either child. The aftermath of an abduction on families is difficult to experience, but it also illustrates how differently those faced with such horror react.

Initially, I was concerned that the novel may feel unstable, as I could not recall having read a novel with two writers. The publisher kindly included a Q&A with the pair, and they said, “It’s a question of moving between the two of us. We never decide in advance who’s going to write what chapter, there’s no division….If Sean writes something and I change absolutely nothing about that whole section, but I read it and approve it, then it becomes mine as well. It becomes a kind of Nicci French thing so we both own each word of it.” Interesting. And it worked.

Interested in Blue Monday? Leave me a comment and your email address, and I’ll draw a winner by Friday at midnight.

Blue Monday is out today. Buy your copy from Indiebound or on your Nook.

UPDATE: Giveaway closed. Congrats to Brian Brady for winning a copy of this book!

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness: Review and Giveaway!

5th January 2012

*This book was sent to my by Lindsay at Viking/Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

The first novel in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches is Diana Bishop’s story. Linked to witches before her, all the way to Salem, Diana shuns magic…except for every once in a while when her washing machine overflows. She’s stringent, always on guard against it, though her academic studies bely her interests. Diana studies alchemy, those intersections between magic and science. Much to her aunt’s dismay, once Diana’s parents died in Nigeria under mysterious circumstances, Diana has wanted nothing to do with her heritage. However, a strange book she calls for in the Bodleian Library at Oxford will change all that. The book, Ashmole 782, apparently interests all the magical world as its secrets pertain to them, and Diana’s research will lead her much deeper into the world of witches, vampires (and one particular vampire), and daemons than she ever wanted to go.

I have this bad habit. It’s kind of a secret, but when everyone and their mom is reading a particular book or talking about it, I am instantly turned off. Can’t help it. My sister thinks I’m a book snob, but I swear I’m not. You guys see what I read. It’s varied. I don’t only read highbrow books. Anyway, somebody stop this incessant rambling!

So. Discovery of Witches was one of those books. My mom and sis both read it. Every blogger I could imagine read and loved it. It was too much. But the fuss died down, and Lindsay at Viking sent me the paperback. Oh. My. Gosh. I can only liken my response to my total annihilation of Hostess cupcakes, should they ever be near me. It looks a little something like this…

and please, oh please do not Google "animal eating quickly" - it's disturbing

But yeah – that’s about right. I know those Hostess cupcakes aren’t really the best thing for me, but they taste. so. damn. good. Similarly, A Discovery of Witches is not the best thing for me. Why? Because seriously, Diana’s love interest, the vampire Matthew Clairmont, reminds me of one of my eternal loves – Jamie from Outlander, who turns my insides to mush. (Side note: if you haven’t read it yet, shame on you.) I felt like I was making moony eyes every time he walked in the room – Matthew, that is.

Diana meets Matthew when she thinks she’s unobserved in the library and uses just a little magic to pull a book from a high shelf. Instantly, she senses Matthew’s presence. In Harkness’s world, vampires, witches, and daemons don’t associate with one another. However, after Diana has put back Ashmole 782, suddenly the Bodleian library is full of creatures, and Matthew is oddly protective of her. Think Twilight for adults but better written.

That said, I will say there were moments when my gagging from Twilight was brought forth. Similarly to Bella, Diana is often swept into Matthew’s arms somewhat needlessly. Diana is a strong woman, a well-respected academic who has lived on her own and fended for herself. Her personality changes, though, as she and Matthew become involved. Granted, she is overwhelmed at her sudden re-entrance into the magical world and its secrets, but it grated. The story sucked me in nonetheless.

The other thing that bothered me were the sometimes blatant means of exposition. Diana uses the word chimera, but her witch aunt asks what it is, leading to the author’s definition of the creature. First, I already knew what a chimera is, and I was pretty darn sure a witch would as well. To me, this type of explanation is a bit lazy.

BUT. If you’re looking for a can’tputitdownnotgoingtosleepuntilIfinishthisbook, read this one and get ready for the second in the series this July. I assure you I will be.

[P.S. I didn’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve read this, do you see the Outlander parallel? Or is it just me?]

[P.P.S. Don’t miss Steph (from Steph & Tony Investigate) interviewing Deborah Harkness at BookPage. I knew there had to be an Outlander connection.]

Oh wait! I promised a giveaway, didn’t I? Thanks to the people at Viking/Penguin, I am giving away a paperback copy of A Discovery of Witches to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment, including your email address, telling me your biggest literary crush. So go on, do it!


Winners of BBAW Giveaway

22nd September 2011

Using random.org, which uses ugly-sounding words like “algorithms” and “atmospheric noise” to come up with true random winners…I pulled the winners for the BBAW Giveaway are as follows:

 

Nadia of A Bookish Way of Life won The Arrival.

Kate of Nose in a Book won City of Glass.

Thank you all so much for entering!

BBAW Day Four and Giveaway

15th September 2011

So, today’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week topic is:

Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!

And while this is a great topic, I want to put this into action by sharing books you may not pick up on your own. Last year, I had such a great time reading, reviewing, and discussing Madame Bovary with Frances of Nonsuch Book. I don’t know if I would ever have picked up that particular book otherwise. If you’ve been around here a bit, you know I love graphic novels, though I don’t read too many of them. So today, in the true spirit of the thing, I have two books up for grabs. Two for two of you, two for me (so not solely altruistic). Two graphic novels – neither of which I have read, both which look intriguing:

My only experience with Paul Auster was a bad one and, unfortunately, highly stereotypical, as in “I wanted to throw the book at the wall” sort. I know. I’m ashamed. I promised I’d never use that phrase here. Alas.

City of Glass is the story of a detective on a meaningless case, who questions who he is, what he is, and how he got here. For some reason, I can see this translating really well into a GN. Plus, I’ve heard others rave about Auster, and this graphic novel with an intro by Art Spiegelman has me pretty pumped.

This is one of those books I’m not sure why I haven’t bought before now. I have heard amazing things about this wordless book. So know up front: no words. Is it still a book? Of course it is. Just a different kind. It’s about an immigrant’s isolating experience in a new place, and I think, as a new ESL teacher, the timing is perfect.

 

So…who’s in? All you have to do is leave a comment (with email address) telling me a little bit about your experience with comic books or graphic novels. Then, on Sunday, I’ll draw a winner for each book. Plus, if you enjoy the book, I’d love to do companion posts – hey, it’s all about book blogger community. And I’d love the chance to review a graphic novel with someone else.

Please note: Since it is, in fact, Book Blogger Appreciation Week, this giveaway is open only to bloggers. It is, however, open internationally. 🙂

Rules:

Open Internationally

Open only to book bloggers

Open until Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 8 p.m.

Emails will be sent to winners. Winner must respond within 48 hours.