Saturday, February 28, 2009

Winners - The Terror giveaway

Courtesy of the Hachette Book Group , the five lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of The Terror are:

1. Creative Mom
2. Lindsey
3. Lorri
4. cdrury

velocibadgergirl was originally the 5th winner. She graciously let me know she had already won a copy in another giveaway, so I have gone to the next number for the 5th spot.

I will be contacting you by email for your mailing address. Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Drood - Dan Simmons

Ohh - doesn't the cover just grab you? The script of the title, the foggy background, the mysterious figure in a top hat? I was so excited to read Drood as part of Hachette Book Group's Early Bird Tour.

It opens with Victorian thriller novelist Wilkie Collins as the narrator.

"This true story shall be about my friend (or at least about the man who was once my friend) Charles Dickens and about the Staplehurst accident that took away his peace of mind, his health, and, some might whisper, his sanity."

It is 1865 and Charles Dickens is riding a train that crashes, killing nearly all aboard. As Dickens tries to help survivors, he notices a tall, thin, pale man with a 'skull like visage', wearing a heavy black cape, also among the survivors. But those the caped man is attending to seem to die despite or as a result of his attentions. This mysterious figure, who introduces himself as Drood, comes to haunt Dickens. Dickens insists that Collins accompany him into the underbelly of London, into the sewers where it is rumoured that Drood may live. It is also rumoured that Drood is responsible for many murders. But Collins begins to believe that Drood does not exist, that Dickens may himself may be Drood.

Dan Simmons' research is detailed and extensive. He has recreated the friendship and rivalry between these two esteemed authors, whose works are known and loved over 150 years later. The social life, dialogue and historical details of Victorian London are impeccably described. I love this time period and Simmons has done an amazing job bringing it to life - opium dens, lime pits, crypts, mesmerism and the slums of London. I found myself taking side trips to the computer to follow up on many pieces of knowledge presented in the novel.

The introduction of a supernatural aspect to the plot line was a bit disappointing and unexpected to me, but shouldn't have been- Simmons has a background as a sci fi writer. I was caught up in the idea of a serial killer living in Undertown and personally would have preferred the story to proceed strictly in that direction. The ending is somewhat ambiguous and ended and left me thinking of several possiblities. But all in all, I really enjoyed it. If you're looking for a historical novel written in the style of the time, you would be hard pressed to find a better (and bigger! 800 pages!) one.

You can listen to some really great audio excerpts here, here, here and here! Or listen to Dan read from Drood himself here.

Or check out some of the other stops on the tour at:

Bermuda Onion's Weblog, Write for a Reader, The Book Czar, A Circle of Books, The Tome Traveller, Books Ahoy, Allison's Attic, Linus's Blanket, Medieval Bookworm, Cafe of Dreams, The Sleepy Reader, My Friend Amy, Jenn's Bookshelf, A Blog of Books for You, Cheryl's Book Nook, Shooting Stars Mag, Savvy Verse & Wit, Best Book I Have Not Read, Bookish Ruth,Marta's Meanderings, Drey's Library, Booking Mama, A High and Hidden Place and Book:30. Whew!

Like what you've read or heard? You can enter my giveaway here to win a copy for yourself!

Giveaway - Drood - Dan Simmons

Thanks to the Hachette Book Group, I have a copy of Dan Simmons' latest book Drood to giveaway. I thought it was a great read - you can see my review here.

Here's a quick synopsis from the publisher:

"On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. "

I'm going to make this one a little harder than just commenting. Name either a Wilkie Collins or Charles Dickens book title to be entered. Open to both the US and Canada, no po boxes. Ends Friday March 20th at 6 pm EST. Please ensure I have a way to contact you. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Got You Back - Jane Fallon

I first discovered Jane Fallon when I read her best selling debut novel Getting Rid of Matthew and was very happy to discover her second!

Stephanie and James are comfortably married with a seven year son, Finn. James is a vet and divides his time and week between two practices, one in the city and one in a country village. Although the marriage is a bit 'settled', Stephanie has no reason to think there's trouble until she inadvertently see a text on her husband's phone - "I'm really missing you. K xxx". She's not sure if it means what she thinks it does. He can't be having an affair can he? Ummm, yes he is. Instead of confronting James, she decides to track down the other woman - Katie. Katie is just as stunned as Stephanie - she thought he was divorced. They decide that James should not get off lightly and 'Operation Get Revenge on the Two Timing Shit' is hatched. But how far should you take revenge?

I hesitate to slap a chick lit label on this book. as it is much more than that. Fallon has written a smart, witty novel that draws you in (and won't let you put down - I devoured it in a day!). Her characters are realistic, likable and believable. They had depth and evolved. Katie is an innocent at first and the change in her character is convincing. It was satisfying to watch Stephanie's self confidence and search for personal happiness evolve after the bottom has fallen out. But I think Fallon particularly excelled with James, the husband. He is egotistical, pompous and firmly believes that he can have his cake and eat it too. The change in this character as the revenge scheme plays out is not what you would expect. I particularly enjoyed the ending.

You can read an excerpt of the book here!

Fallon is a British author and the partner of Ricky Gervais. Bet that's a fun household!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Little Bee - Chris Cleave

Wow....this is a book you need to read. Yes - need.

Quoting from the flyleaf of Little Bee:

"We don't want to tell you too much about this book. It is truly special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know something , so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice. Two years later, they meet again. The story starts there. Once you have read it you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how it unfolds."

Okay I was sceptical when I first saw the flyleaf, but then I started to read, and I couldn't put it down. And guess what? - I 'm going to honour the request to not tell you what happens. I know - what kind of review is that? But I think this book is a journey every reader should take on their own. What I will tell you is that author Chris Cleave has created a powerful, moving, exceptional story. The idea was inspired by his childhood in West Africa and by a visit to a British immigration detention centre. The character of Little Bee and her views of the world and life are heartbreaking and compelling. Cleave has created amazing prose, such as:

"Learning the Queen's English is like scrubbing off the bright red varnish from your toenails, the morning after a dance. It takes a long time and there is always a little bit left at the end, a stain of red along the growing edges to remind you of the good time you had."

The narrative moves between Little Bee and Sarah. What is interesting are their differing views on the same events. All of the supporting characters, Sarah's husband, lover and son are all powerfully written, provoking strong reaction and emotion. There is some violence in the book, but it is integral to the story. The ending is heartbreaking, uplifting and gives hope to our future.

Strong stuff? Yes it is - but it's a book you'll be glad you read. As I work with new Canadians every day, I will be recommending this book to co workers. It forces you to see the world through a different set of eyes.

Little Bee is shortlisted for both the Costa Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Newly released from Random House Canada.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thank you very much

Some overdue thank you's here.....

Thanks to Jen at Up Close and Personal with LadyTink and the Movieholic and Bibliophiles's Blog for sending a little fairy dust and this great Tink Approved award my way! Thanks Jen - if you haven't 'met' Jen, be sure to check out both of her blogs!

Thanks to Karen at Bookin' with Bingo for this wonderful " Your Blog is Fabulous" award! Wow - thanks Karen! Karen's a 'new kid on the block' and she is discovering what a wonderful community book bloggers are! Stop in and say hi!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Winners - Giveaway - The Italian Lover

The five winners (chosen by of a copy of The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group are:

Sweetsue, Janel, EricaG, Sachidewey and Ardy22. Congratulations! I will contact you by email for your mailing addresses.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Giveaway - Sway - Zachary Lazar

Here's your chance, courtesy of Hachette Book Group to win one of FIVE! copies of Sway by Zachary Lazar. What's it about?

"Three dramatic and emblematic stories intertwine in Zachary Lazar's extraordinary new novel, SWAY--the early days of the Rolling Stones, including the romantic triangle of Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg, and Keith Richards; the life of avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger; and the community of Charles Manson and his followers.

Lazar illuminates an hour in American history when rapture found its roots in idolatrous figures and led to unprovoked and inexplicable violence.
Connecting all the stories in this novel is Bobby Beausoleil, a beautiful California boy who appeared in an Anger film and eventually joined the Manson "family."

"With great artistry, Lazar weaves scenes from these real lives together into a true but heightened reality, making superstars human, giving demons reality, and restoring mythic events to the scale of daily life."

Comment below to be entered. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you are a lucky giveaway winner. Open to residents of Canada and the US, no po boxes please. Giveaway ends Friday March 13th at 6 pm EST.Good Luck!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival coming soon...

Tracy from Bookroom Reviews is hosting the next Book Giveaway Carnival starting on March 2nd and running through until March 8th. I'll be participating again and am really looking forward to it! Want to join in the fun? You can find more information here.
So stop back March 2nd for my giveaway and the link to over 100 other giveaways!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Apologize, Apologize - Elizabeth Kelly

Apologize, Apologize is the debut novel from Elizabeth Kelly, one of Random House Canada's
New Faces of Fiction.

This is the story of Collie Flanagan, his brother Bingo (both named after dogs, breaking the family tradition of naming boys after birds) and their chaotic, quixotic family. The boys live in Martha's Vineyard with their mother, father and his brother, Uncle Tom. The family does not have to worry about money, as their grandfather Peregrine is very wealthy. Collie is the antithesis of his immediate family - he wants to have a job, education and plans for the future. Bingo is opposite in every way. A simple day's outing for the boys turns into tragedy and further damages an already unstable family.

I found the subtitle - 'a novel about a family that puts the personality in disorder' and on the flyleaf - 'Welcome to the world of the fantastic Flanagans' to be somewhat deceptive. I started reading expecting some family disarray and problems, but in more of a light hearted manner. I was unprepared for the cruelty and madness that is Collie's mother and the unconcern of his father. Bingo is the favoured son and Collie has been made very aware of it.

'His magic expressed itself in many ways. I wouldn't have minded a little of what he had. There was no magic in me."

The unspoken love shown by Uncle Tom towards the boys is somewhat redeeming. It is this character that I enjoyed the most.

The Flanagan household is loud, tumultuous and boisterous. The conversations between family members are rambling, but strangely logical. They go every way but what you would expect. Kelly masterfully creates a sense of chaos with a cacophony of words and unexpected views.

" Tom once vanished for a day and a half trailing his crabby old cocker spaniel Fagan around the island - I was well into adolescence before I realized that other people actually made the decision for their dog about when to end the walk and not the other way around.

Many of the scenes were emotionally painful and hard to read. I felt that some of the later plot lines, taken to San Salvador and Ireland seemed almost removed from the first part of the book. They are part of Collie's journey but I found them somewhat disconnected from the earlier character driven chapters. The ending is somewhat ambigous and anticlimatic and left me feeling unsatisfied. This was a poignant, magnetic read, one I'm glad I undertook. Definitely not your cookie cutter book. Have you read it yet? What did you think?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Houston, We Have a Problema - Gwendolyn Zepeda

Houston, We Have a Problema is Zepeda's first adult fiction foray.

Jessica Luna is a 26 year old single Latina woman living in Houston. She has trouble making decisions and counts on fortune teller Madame Hortensia to guide her. She's bored with her seemingly dead end insurance job, frustrated with her artist lover Guillermo and tired of her mom and sister trying to set her up with a 'nice' man.

Although this has all the promise of a good chick lit novel, it fell a short for me. I just couldn't make a connection with Jessica's character. I found her to be shallow and vapid, not the endearing protagonist I'd hoped for.

As her sister says "'re selfish, you're spoiled and I'm sick of it."

I found the writing to be somewhat forced and contrived. The supporting characters were themselves caricatures - the bad boy sexy lover, the gay best friend, the lazy co workers, the uptight white guy. Which brings up an underlying theme of the book. Jessica herself says "She wasn't racist, of course, but she had to admit to herself that she had issues about dating a white guy." I think the book would have been much better had it explored such preconceptions, race and relationship issues rather than trying so hard to be humourous. The second half of the book is much better as Jessica does make inroads towards self awareness and fulfillment. I did enjoy her work with the arts centre. However, I felt the book ended on a sour note, with Jessica taking two steps backwards.

Lots of readers have enjoyed this book - it just didn't grab me. I'd recommend The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters instead.

Zepeda is a blogger - you can read her here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Little Pink House - Jeff Benedict

- A True Story of Defiance and Courage-

Susette Kelo decides to leave her second marriage - her five sons are grown, she has had to struggle much of her life and she just wants to have a little house overlooking the water that belongs to her. She finds an older home in the working class Fort Trumble neighbourhood of New London, Connecticut. It needs some work, but the view of the water is priceless. She fixes it up slowly while studying for her nursing degree.

At the same time pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, just across the river, is looking to expand it's facilities by building a new research and clinical centre. In an effort to woo them, the city of New London, in the form of the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) offers Pfizer, free of charge, a four million dollar piece of property. Pfizer is also interested in having suitable housing, shopping and recreational facilities nearby.

And here's where two worlds collide. The NLDC decides that ninety acres, including Susette's neighbourhood, is better suited to Pfizer's needs than that of the people living there. Pfizer will generate jobs and more taxes. The NLDC invokes eminent domain and decides to take the houses.

Eminent Domain is defined as the power of the federal or state government to take private property for a public purpose, even if the property owner objects. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property if the taking is for a public use and the owner is "justly compensated" (usually, paid fair market value) for his or her loss. A public use is virtually anything that is sanctioned by a federal or state legislative body, but such uses may include roads, parks, reservoirs, schools, hospitals or other public buildings.

Little Pink House is the story of Susette Kelo and her refusal to let her house be taken. In a fight that went to the Supreme Court, the Kelo case is a landmark.

Investigative journalist Jeff Benedict has done extensive interviewing, providing coverage of not just Susette's view, but that of the opposing side. For a fantastic video with Benedict and footage of the site click here.

The reader, Maggi-Meg Reed, does an excellent job. She captures Susette's defiance, courage and determination perfectly. Her voice also manages to capture the arrogance of the NLDC and those involved with it.

I was so captured by this true story. I listened in the car on the way to and from work and had to frequently flip back to the radio as I was so incensed by the arrogance, indifference and downright cruelty shown to the people of the Fort Trumble neighbourhood. Susette, her friends, supporters and their story are such an inspiration, choosing to stand up for their beliefs in a long, protracted ten year battle.

For my Canadian readers - this happens here as well. It's referred to as expropriation. My grandfather's farmhouse was taken by this means to make way for a highway.

If you'd like a chance to listen to this story, you can enter a giveway for three copies here.

Giveaway - Little Pink House - Jeff Benedict

I have three copies of the audiobook Little Pink House to giveaway courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.

"In Little Pink House, award-winning investigative journalist Jeff Benedict takes us behind the scenes of this case -- indeed, Suzette Kelo speaks for the first time about all the details of this inspirational true story as one woman led the charge to take on corporate America to save her home."

This is an such an amazing story! You can read my review here.

To be entered, simply comment to be entered, extra entry for linking/tweeting. Open to both Canada and the US, no po boxes please. Please make sure you leave a way for me to contact you. Open until Saturday March 7th at 6 pm EST.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper - Larry Doyle

The premise of I Love You, Beth Cooper sounded fun and didn't disappoint.

Denis Cooverman decides as he is making his high school valedictorian speech, that it is now or never to declare his love for the very popular head cheerleader Beth Cooper. He has loved her from afar for five years. Well not too far, he has sat behind her in almost every class for five years. But as captain of the debate team, they don't run in the same circles. Or even walk.

I was laughing out loud in the first ten pages. Larry Doyle is very funny. (He has written for The Simpsons television show)

Beth decides to let Denis know that although she found his declaration embarrassing, it was kind of sweet. Beth's boyfriend, home on leave from the army, isn't too thrilled with Denis's announcement or Beth's talking to him. Denis and his best friend Rich, who can't stop spouting movie lines, host a grad party in the hopes Beth and her cool friends might come. Things don't go entirely as Denis had imagined. The real Beth isn't quite what Denis has fantasized for the last five years. The entire book takes place on graduation night. Think McLovin and friends from the movie Superbad. Or think of your own high school days and grad night.....

Doyle's debut novel kept me chuckling the entire way. This perennial edition from Harper Collins also includes some extras, including entries from the I Love You, Beth Cooper Agony/Ecstasy Contest.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Winners - Giveaway - A Long Stone's Throw

Well, I am feeling somewhat human again after a week long bout with a really nasty bug. I was so sick I didn't even feel like reading (or listening)! How bad is that?! So I hope to catch up on my Google reader and my reviews soon....

I'm happy to announce that the three lucky winners (chosen by of an audio copy of A Long Stone's Throw, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group are: Betty C , Jodi and clc408. I have contacted you via email for your mailing addresses. Thanks to all who entered and stay tuned for the next audiobook giveaway later this week!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - Alan Bradley

Oh I loved, loved, loved this book!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie introduces us to eleven year old Flavia DeLuce. She lives with her father and two sisters in an old mansion in 1950's England. The house is full of nooks and crannies - and a old chemistry lab. Flavia practices making poisons there. (yes poisons!) She and her older sisters are constantly thinking of ways to torment each other. Their eccentric father keeps himself occupied with his philatelic obsession.We are introduced to Flavia in the first paragraph of the novel....

"It was as black in the closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily through my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air."

Flavia escapes unharmed, but plans to pay her sisters back. However, the appearance of a dead bird with a postage stamp speared through it's beak and her father's horrified reaction distract her. But it is the dead body found in the cucumber patch that really enthralls her. When her father is arrested for the murder, Flavia sets out to solve the crime on her own.

Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book. The crime is interesting, but it is Flavia's personality that is the real draw for me.

"Whenever I'm out of doors and find myself wanting to have a first-rate think, I fling myself down on my back, throw my arms and legs out so that I look like an asterisk, and gaze at the sky. For the first little while, I'm usually entertained by my 'floaters', those wormy little strings of protein that swim to and fro across one's field of vision like dark little galaxies. When I'm not in a hurry, I stand on my head to stir them, up, and then lie back to watch the show, as if it were an animated cinema film."

Although the idea of an eleven year old for a protagonist seems unusual for an adult detective novel, it just somehow works. Harriet the Spy for grown ups. (I really wanted to be Harriet when I was younger!)

I've just found out that Flavia has a fan club! ( So of course I joined!) There are some great discussion groups and author Alan Bradley stops in to answer questions.

This is the first in a series that Bradley has planned - The Buckshaw Chronicles. I will be on the edge of my seat waiting for the second!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Giveaway - The Terror - Dan Simmons

Well I've had enough of snow this winter, but here's your chance to win a tale that will really chill you....

Courtesy of Hachette Books, I have five copies of The Terror by Dan Simmons to giveaway!

"The men on board HMS Terror have every expectation of finding the Northwest Passage. When the expedition's leader, Sir John Franklin, meets a terrible death, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and leads his surviving crewmen on a last, desperate attempt to flee south across the ice. But as another winter approaches, as scurvy and starvation grow more terrible, and as the Terror on the ice stalks them southward, Crozier and his men begin to fear there is no escape.A haunting, gripping story based on actual historical events, The Terror is a novel that will chill you to your core."

Giveaway open to US and Canada, no po boxes please.Simply comment to be entered, an extra entry for linking/tweeting. Ends Sat, Feb 28/09 at 6 pm EST. Good luck!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winners - Cross Country Audio Book - James Patterson

And the three lucky winners of an audio book copy of Cross Country by James Patterson, courtesy of Hachette Books and chosen by are:

2. Angelacisco
3. I never heard back from the original third winner, so on to #4. Congrats to rmc1ra!

I will be contacting you via email for your mailing information. Congratulations and thanks to all who entered!

Plum Spooky - Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is back in this 'Between the Numbers' novel.

For those who haven't heard of this series, Stephanie is a bail bond recovery agent in New Jersey. Her adventures include the outrageous antics of her sidekick Lula, her off the wall Grandma and other residents of the 'Burg. She has two men in her life - cop Joe Morelli and the mysterious Ranger.

Plum Spooky is a bit longer than previous between the number offerings. Diesel, the rather otherworldy character from Plum Lucky and Plum Lovin' returns. Diesel has 'abilities' - he doesn't seem to need keys to open and start things among others. He is after his cousin Wulf who has teamed up with of Stephanie's 'failure to show' bonds. Wulf and his sidekick are out to dominate the world by controlling the weather.

Far-fetched? For sure. But that is the appeal of the Plum novels. Not to be taken seriously, just enjoyed for some fun, fluffy reading. As Stephanie says when Morelli asks her how her day was...

" It's average. Stole a truck. Blew up a house. Brought seven monkeys home with me. And now I have a naked man in my shower."

Actually Carl the monkey is pretty funny in this one. Grandma Mazur, who is my favourite, isn't featured too much. Evanovich does go a bit overboard with some of the characters in the Barrens - the fire farter was a bit too much for me.

If you're looking for a fun series that won't tax your brain, then you'll enjoy Evanovich's books.