Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010... Hard to believe another year has passed...

Do you make resolutions? I have some ideas of things I would like to attempt this year. A little more balance in life, focus on my health more and to try to enjoy each day as it comes, no matter what it brings!

(And the blog needs some work, but time... any designers out there who are interested....?)

Happy New Year and the best of 2010 to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winners- Giveaway - I, Alex Cross - James Patterson

And the three lucky winners (chosen by of an audio book copy of I, Alex Cross, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Erica
2. Ken
3. Rebecca Graham

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Giveaway - Denise's Daily Dozen - Denise Austin

Okay, so if you're anything like me, you kind of, maybe, sort of ...overate the last week.....just a little bit, but still.... Or maybe you've made your health one of your resolutions for 2010.

You might be interested in winning one of five copies of Denise's Daily dozen, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group!

From the publisher:

"From Denise Austin comes the perfect health book for anyone who wants to live better but just can't seem to find the time. Much more than just another exercise book, Denise's Daily Dozen covers a whole range of health and diet related concepts yet manages it all in a no-stress, time-conscious program of 12's. At it's core, this book contains the minimum daily requirements to keep the reader flexible, strong and trim. Organized simply into seven chapters, which equal the seven days of the week, it covers a full week in daily allotments. Each day will have it's own focus from Monday being "fat burning day" to Sunday's "recharge and rejuvenate."

Denise has created a total body program, including a 7-day balanced meal plan that includes healthy recipes, and a workout that encompasses 12 exercises done in 12 minutes each day. Everyone can take just 12 minutes, at whatever time of the day works for them, and turn it over to these simple and fun exercises. Cardio, toning, yoga and breathing exercises...they're all here but in a way the maximizes effect while minimizing time.

Beyond a dozen exercises for each day of the week this book will include many other of Denise's dozens for each day."

Follow Denise on Twitter. Or you can become a fan on Facebook. Or check out her website - Make sure you stop back for my review on Jan 24th.

Giveaway is open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends Jan 30th at 6 pm EST. Leave a comment to be entered.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Winners - Exit Music - Ian Rankin

And the five lucky winners of a copy of Ian Rankin's Exit Music, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. JustJanet
2. Jennifer
3. Rhonda
4. Bonnie
5. ChasingEmptyPavements

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Promise - Anne Perry

I always enjoy reading Christmas stories in December. (go figure huh?)Anne Perry is an excellent (and prolific) historical novelist, producing three separate series. My favourite is the Monk series. A Christmas Promise is the 8th Christmas volume she has written.

Set again in Victorian London, it tells the story of Gracie Phipps who befriends a young girl named Minnie just before Christmas. Minnie's uncle has been murdered and his donkey has gone missing. Minnie and Gracie set out to find the donkey and try to piece together who might have killed her uncle.

It's just a slim little volume that won't take you more than a couple of hours to read, but it's a perfect read sitting by your tree with a cup of tea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wishin' and Hopin' - Wally Lamb

Continuing with Christmas tales this week....

Wally Lamb is perhaps best know for his novels The Hour I First Believed, I Know This Much is True and She's Come Undone.

Lamb also has taught creative writing in a women's prison. Two anthologies of the women's writings have been published - I'll Fly Away and Couldn't Keep it to Myself. I've really enjoyed these two books.

Wishin' and Hopin' is just a great, fun Christmas read. Felix Funicello (yes - he's related to 'that' Funicello!) and his family live in Three Rivers, Connecticut in 1964. Felix is twelve. We follow Felix into his school - St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial - and get to relive the agonies of elementary school and the sixties ( remember the Pillsbury Bake-offs?) Lots happens in Felix's life on the way to the pinnacle - the Christmas pageant.

I found myself nodding along, emembering, sympathizing and laughing out loud with Felix. Lamb presents a Christmas message in a wonderfully entertaining manner. Perfect with a cup of cocoa and easlily devoured in one sitting.

Read an excerpt of Wishin' and Hopin'.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Secrets of a Christmas Box - Steven Hornby

Ever wonder what the Christmas ornaments are doing in the box over the year? Well - waiting to be unpacked of course.

And that's the Secret of the Christmas Box - that the ornaments come alive once a year for the time they're on the tree.

Larry the snowman ornament and his friends set out to find his missing brother. Joined by various other ornaments and foiled by some evil lights, this makes for an entertaining Christmas tale. It actually has twenty four chapters and would make a great lead up to Christmas read with young ones.

The book is listed as being for reading level 8-12. I think that 10-12 year olds may find the story a bit juvenile, especially as the children in the story are 5 and 7. Some of the phrases used may be a bit dated or specific to country ( Hornby hails from Britain) such as 'guts for garters'.

Hornby is an award winning animator originally planned for "Secrets" as a screenplay. I think it would make an excellent animated tale, perhaps more so than a book.

Friday, December 18, 2009

True Blue - David Baldacci

I had read many of David Baldacci's early novels but kind of got away from him for a bit. I rediscovered him reading Divine Justice and listening to First Family.

I chose to listen to True Blue.

Mace Perry was a cop's cop on the DC force. Until she was kidnapped and forced to participate in robberies. She went down for two years. Newly released from prison, she returns to DC, determined to clear her name. Her sister Beth is the chief of police. In her first few days out, she becomes involved with a young lawyer, Roy, who discovers a female attorney's body at his office. Mace can't help herself - she was born to be a cop. She dives in, working outside the law with Roy to solve the case. She hopes it will get her reinstated. Others are hoping she fails and are willing to make sure that happens.

A mystery, legal and action thriller all rolled into one with lots of action. Yes, the characters of Mace and her sister Beth are a little over the top, but if you're looking for an entertaining read or listen, this is a good bet.

I was thrilled that Ron McLarty was the reader again. His voice is slightly gravelly and rich. He easily portrays the female Mace character and male roles with enough difference that you know who is 'talking'. His inflection is excellent and his voice effortlessly describes action and emotion.

Listen to an excerpt of True Blue.

Read an excerpt of True Blue.

Also mentioned in the Crime Fiction Carnival.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book related links

I thought some of you might find the following links interesting....

Thanks Amber for pointing this one out - 50 Awesome Facebook Apps for Serious Bookworms,
including lists, sharing, games, buying searches and recommendations.

And here's something different. From Hector at Book Drum:

"I’d like to introduce a new website for book lovers. Book Drum has pioneered a groundbreaking approach to reading. We're bringing the books we love to life with images, music, maps, video, and all the other riches of the Internet. We need writers and editors across the English-speaking world, and we're running a Tournament to find them. First prize is $1,500, and we're offering contract work to the best entries.

Please have a look around Book Drum. If there’s a particular book you’re passionate about, why not be the person who profiles it for the world?"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giveaway - Cleaving - Julie Powell

Julie Powell? Didn't she do that Julia Childs recipe thing that was turned into a movie? Yep, and she's back with a new book.

You're going to love the premise of this one....

From the publisher:

"Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she'd ever do--until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer's, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs--tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer's leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world--from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart."

Listen to an excerpt of Cleaving.

I have three audio book copies to giveaway, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends Saturday Jan 16/09 at 6 pm EST. To be entered - did you read or see the movie Julie and Julia?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blood Revenge - David Thor

This is David Thor's (normally I'd insert a link to info about the author, but couldn't find anything) first attempt at fiction. He has written a non fiction book - In Search of Ubiquitous Computing - that I could not find any reference to either.

In Blood Revenge, Thor plays upon the fears of Western Nations - that the enemy is among us. A good hook for a thriller book.

In China and the USSR in 1974, two different families send their children to the US. The children seem to assimilate on the surface, but are secretly still loyal to their homelands and history. Fast forward to 2009 - some kind of biological weapon has been unleashed in the U.S.

So yes, a good plausible premise for a thriller.

There are lots of characters quickly introduced - I did reread the first couple of chapters to make sure I had everyone straight. I started to have misgivings at page 33....

"The man was still a good thirty yards away, but Gwen Saunders could tell he was headed her way. It was difficult to make out all his features; his hair was shrouded in a turbine, and much of his face was covered with short, pubic-like hair."

Okay I could live with the pubes on his face, but a turbine? Methinks turban is the word you're looking for? The publisher, Cosacinco Press, spent money on a full front page colour ad on the Aug 31/09 Publishers Weekly cover. Linking to their website gives you no further information about themselves either. The only link working at the time of this writing was for Perhaps they should have spent some of the advertising dollars on editing/proofreading. This was not the only error, but the first really glaring one. I was reading from a finished copy.

And speaking of finishing - this is the only book I have not finished this year. Yep, couldn't do it. The plot is clumsy and just tries too hard. The sexual tension thrown is ill timed and laughable. Too busy, too many characters, too ... I could go on, but won't.

I tried to find other blog reviews to link to provide other opinions, but could only find Harriet Klausner's - 'nuff said. Here's the Amazon page. If anyone else wants to give it a try, I will happily mail it to you.

Not to be confused with author Brad Thor!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story - Carolyn Turgeon

Resident guest blogger Julia is back with her reiveiw of Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon.

Everyone loves a fairy tale. But do you know what really happened the night Cinderella went to the ball? Meet Lil, an old woman who works in a book store and has a dark and deep secret past. As the book unfolds we learn the truth of what happened when Lil, in her former life, met Prince Charming. Like all of us who are human, Lil made a mistake that night that altered the course of her life.

This book can be read on several levels. It can be read as the “true” Cinderella story, or the story of a woman with regrets who tries to right her wrongs. Or, you will find that the book can be read on a whole other level – maybe this is a story of how we all make mistakes and have regrets. Maybe it is the story of one woman finding a way to avoid dealing with a terrible truth in her life by, as Lil says, wishing she could change history and opting out of her own life.

One thing is certain, the description of the ice blue ball gown, “a confection of ice blues and crystals, layers of silk and tulle… strung through with crystals” will make you long for an invitation to a ball!

As always Julia, thanks for the review!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Giveaway Winner - Sesame Street: A Celebration

Thanks to the sponsorship of The Miami Book Fair, the lucky winner (chosen by of a copy of Sesame Street: A Celebration by Louise Gikow is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 48 hours. Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways and make sure you mark the 2010 dates for the Miami Book Fair on your calendar - Nov 7-14/2010.

Giveaway Winner - Waiting for Columbus - Thomas Trofimuk

And the lucky winner (chosen by of a signed first edition of Waiting for Columbus, courtesy of the author, Thomas Trofimuk,is:

Mille Feuille

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 48 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Giveaway - Dear John - Nicholas Sparks

Here's one you'll want to listen to! Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is being released as a movie on Feb 05, 2010. Visit the official movie site for details. Better yet - watch the movie trailer here. Or listen to an excerpt of Dear John.

Or best of all - enter to win one of three audio book copies up for giveaway, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group.

From the publisher:

"An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else."

Open to both the US and Canada, no po boxes please. Simply comment to be entered. With the holidays, let's make the end date of this one Saturday January 9/10 at 6pm EST. Good luck!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

i am neurotic (and so are you)- Liana Kong

Oh this one was a hoot!

Lianna Kong started her blog "to create an entertaining procrastination tool...and provide a space where my friends and I could anonymously confess our neuroses." Soon people she didn't know were sending in their quirks. And a year later, they've been compiled into this book - i am neurotic. Everything included in the book was sent into the blog. Each neuroses is accompanied by a colour photo illustration by Matthew Stacey.

Well, like what Luanne?

Aligning the strings of people's hoodies.
Throwing out your pen if someone else touches it.
Alphabetizing your canned goods.
Tacks must be in rainbow order. Crayons in heatscale order.
Aligning the hangers in a department store.
Alternately - having something out of place, so it's not 'perfect'.
Eggs must always be in pairs in the carton.

Oh there's a lot more. But I saw myself when I read this one - "Whenever I buy a new book, I have to bury my nose in between a few random pages and take in a deep breath."

Just a fun book to leaf through. Anyone who likes Postsecret will appreciate i am neurotic.

You can follow at Twitter or on Facebook and of course, contribute your neurosis on the blog.

Anyone care to share?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Separate Country - Robert Hicks

Author Robert Hicks is, in his words, a passionate Civil War preservationist. His first novel, Widow of the South is based on a real event. In A Separate Country, Hicks again explores the ramifications of the historic Battle of Franklin. Specifically he explores the life of Confederate General John Bell Hood, who played a key role in that battle, when he returns to New Orleans and marries Anna Marie Hennen.

Hick's exploration of these historic events is more on a personal level. Hood's regret, his attempts to atone for his past actions as well Anna Marie's non conformity and deep love for her husband are told in the form of manuscripts and journals. It was interesting to hear the same story of an event from two, sometimes three, viewpoints. A lot of the story is very much character driven. There is a storyline involving childhood friends of Anna Marie's and that of Eli Griffin, but I found some of these characters 'over the top' and unbelievable. I would be curious to know if Hicks based these characters on known historical figures as well. Hicks has a beautiful way with words. His descriptions of places and emotions are riveting, evoking vivid pictures.

I enjoyed this book as a whole, but at times I wished for a faster pace.

A Separate Country utilizes the skills of three readers - Sherman Howard, Kevin T. Collins and Isabel Keating. Howard's voice is deep and sonorous, giving voice to the angst, anger and gravity of Hood. Keating has an interesting voice, alternately strong and playful, bringing a southern belle to life. Collins plays a young man named Griffin from Hood's past. Hood charges him with a task on his deathbed. Collins plays his role well - his voice is naive, defiant and laconic. All three conveyed a southern accent well.

Listen to an excerpt. Or watch a video.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress- Rhoda Janzen

~ A Memoir of Going Home~

Rhoda Janzen is 40ish English professor. She is married to Nick, successful and happy. Well, at least she thought she was...

"Which is all to say that given the surprising events of the Year of the Pee Bag, I assumed I was safe from ill heath and trauma for decades. But no." "Two months after the move to the expensive lakefront property, Nick left me for a guy he'd met on (Yep - it's real)

So, with the thing and some health issues, Janzen moves back to her parent's home to gather herself together. Janzen was brought up in the Mennonite church, but chose to not actively pursue the Mennonite life and faith as an adult. Her parents are very active in the church.

When she goes home,we are treated (and I say treated because this is one of the best memoirs I've read) to an intimate look at her family, friends, community and her childhood memories.

Janzen's voice is fresh and funny, witty, wry and warm. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much reading a book. Janzen puts it all out there - she is brutally honest in revealing the shortcomings in her marriage and her part in it. No subject is sacrosanct. Body functions, sex, friendships, family, community, religion, food - you name it. I enjoyed 'meeting' her family - especially her mother, who has a perpetual sunny outlook on life, no matter what. The descriptions of Mennonite life were fascinating.

Janzen's exploration of her life and her future, by calling on her past make for a riveting read. I absolutely loved it. A memoir you must read and then pass on to every one of your friends.

Want a sneak peak? Read the first chapter of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. The publisher, Henry Holt, has lots of extras - photos, reading guide, audio and video as well. Oh and some Mennonite recipes too.

(Canadian connection - Janzen's mother is from the Ontario area, which boasts a large Mennonite community)


Monday, December 7, 2009

Giveaway - I, Alex Cross - James Patterson

Yay! Alex Cross is back. And thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, I have three audio book copies of I, Alex Cross by James Patterson to giveaway.

From the publisher:

"Detective Alex Cross is pulled out of a family celebration and given the awful news that a beloved relative has been found brutally murdered. Alex vows to hunt down the killer, and soon learns that she was mixed up in one of Washington's wildest scenes. And she was not this killer's only victim.

The hunt for her murderer leads Alex and his girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, to a place where every fantasy is possible, if you have the credentials to get in. Alex and Bree are soon facing down some very important, very protected, very dangerous people in levels of society where only one thing is certain--they will do anything to keep their secrets safe.

As Alex closes in on the killer, he discovers evidence that points to the unimaginable--a revelation that could rock the entire world. With the unstoppable action, unforeseeable twists, and edge-of-your-seat suspense that only a James Patterson thriller delivers, I, Alex Cross is the master of suspense at his sharpest and best."

Listen to an excerpt of I, Alex Cross.

Open to both Canada and the US, no po boxes please. Let's have this one finish up on Wednesday, Dec 30th at 6 pm EST. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Simply comment to be entered.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Brightest Star in the Sky - Marian Keyes

The Brightest Star in the Sky opens with an unknown entity, with an unnamed task, flying over the streets of Dublin, Ireland, hunting for an address - 66 Star Street. Once located the entity? fairy? spirit? enters through the roof and starts some reconnaissance.

There are four apartments at 66 Star Street. Through the eyes of the visitor we come to know the lives of each of the inhabitants intimately and the entity's task is slowly revealed. Clues are eked out if you pay attention.

Marion Keyes has done a phenomal job of creating characters you can actually believe in and care about - people you'd like to actually know. Not all are lovable and I changed my mind several times about each of them. Even the dog speaks his mind. (I'm actually quite taken by Grudge the dog - he's very funny) Strangers at first, the inhabitant's lives begin to intersect - new relationships are formed, old ones are cast aside. Secrets are kept and revealed, some good and some hurtful. I'd rather not detail the characters themselves as I think it's more fun to discover them yourself as you read.

Each chapter heading is a countdown of days, beginning at 60, leading me to wonder what happens at day one. Keyes takes seemingly disparate story lines, magically weaving them together.

When I first received this book for review, I thought 600 pages! But you know, I never got bogged down and was enthralled from start to finish, turning the last page with regret. Chick lit - yes - but with a little bit more. A magical tale that I truly enjoyed!

If you haven't discovered this Irish writer, what are you waiting for? A good one to curl up with over the holidays.

( You can read the first chapter of The Brightest Star in the Sky.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Giveaway - Exit Music - Ian Rankin

I have five copies of Ian Rankin's John Rebus series Exit Music to giveaway, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group!

If you haven't discovered this Scottish series - here's your chance!

From the publisher:

"It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.

Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus's investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.

Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?"

Listen to an excerpt of Exit Music or follow Ian Rankin on Twitter.

Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Hmm, let's make the end date Monday Dec 28th at 6 pm EST. Just comment to be entered.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Alex & Me - Dr. Irene M. Pepperberg

We've all heard stories of animal communication, most notably with primates and dolphins, but Dr. Irene Pepperberg set out thirty years ago "to explore the cognitive capacities of a nonhuman, nonprimate, nonmammalian animal, using communication as a window into his mind." She was ahead of her time, but her studies have scientifically proven that using 'birdbrain' as a putdown is, well, wrong!

Alex & Me begins at the end. African Greys' lifespans are 50 years+, but Alex died unexpectedly after only 30 years. His passing was noted in many prominent publications, including the New York Times. I found the opening outpouring of grief in the first chapter a bit overwhelming as I hadn't yet read Alex's story.

We then go back to the beginning, learning a bit about Pepperberg and how a small childhood pet influenced her life and led her to her life's research.

And what fascinating research it is. The fact that this bird was able to not just mimic sounds, but count, choose, differentiate between shapes, colours and much more.

I found Dr. Pepperberg's research fascinating. It's written in easily understandable terms, providing great fodder for thought. I've always looked at my border collie's eyes and known there was so much intelligence behind them. Pepperberg has proven without a doubt that the same intelligence is in the avian brain as well.

Pepperberg is honest in her book. Her research was not widely accepted in the begining. The fight for funding and her own personal life are discussesd openly.

It is Alex who is the star of this book for me. I respect Dr. Pepperberg's dedication, devotion and perserverance, but it is Alex who captured my heart.

I always enjoy Canadian connections. In Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake a character watches a video of a parrot identifying shapes. That reference was based on Alex and Atwood actually came to meet Alex. (who snubbed her!)

Visit The Alex Foundation's website, which further supports this research.

I am the final stop on this TLC Book tour. For other opinions here's the other stops.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Reading Comfort - Amanda Crawford Designs

Reading Comfort makes one of my absolute favourite book related products. The Book Buddy. I literally use mine every day! They range in price from $14.95 and up. A picture is worth a thousand words - the video gives you a clearer idea...

But they also have a lot of other book related items that would make great gifts or stocking stuffers.

These book covers come in a variety of sizes (mass, trade and hardcover) and patterns.
Jeannie is pictured here. I tried out the mass market size. I like to look after my books and this is a great way to protect the cover. Just slip the covers into the pockets. Or a a friend pointed out - you can keep what you're reading private. And the bookmark is built in.

On the right is the elastic 4 ribbon bookmark. The elastic in this model is very sturdy - meant only for hardcover books. It has a really beautiful button at the top. I must be backwards. I found it easiest to have the bookmarks holding from the bottom of the book. Having 4 is great to keep track of quotes you want to use in reviews. This would also be handy for cookbooks or researching a paper for school.

The glittermark bookmark also fits over the cover of your book and features a single ribbon bookmark. It's really very pretty. Again, I found it best suited to a hardcover. It does work on a softcover book, but it's best if you're about 25 pages into it first.

All items are well stitched and attractive. Thanks to Amanda for the review samples!