Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I'm thrilled to be able to offer a copy from Hachette Books to a lucky reader.
Leave a comment below with contact info. An extra entry for linking back to my blog. Open to both Canada and the U.S. and ends Monday, October 6th at midnight.
However, tragedy strikes at the eleventh hour. McCracken's son is stillborn.
How does one deal with such sorrow? How do you go forward?
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is the story of that pregnancy and loss, written after birth of her second child, a little more than a year later.
"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending."
I felt like I was privy to McCracken's journal, reading of the joy, anticipation, hurt, anger and grief that she and her husband went through. She is unwavering in her honesty, sharing her most intimate thoughts and emotions.
I haven't (yet) read any of her novels, but was captured by the way she uses words to paint vivid descriptions.
" Just then another would-be renter showed up, a yellow-clad lawyer from Boston, with wooden skin and leaden hair and the official dreary insinuating underfed brittle aura of a number 2 pencil".
Whether you are a parent or not, this is a personal and moving memoir that will touch you.
Visit my fellow bloggers Swapna and Carrie to hear what they thought about this new memoir from Hachette Books.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Raquel Rose is a harried housewife with two teenagers who take her for granted and a rather distant husband. When she receives the news that she has breast cancer, her family does an about face. Her kids start helping out with the housework, are thoughtful and her husband is being attentive. Raquel appears on her sister's successful television show ' Living with Lauren' and raises a lot of money for breast cancer.
The trouble is that at her next doctor's appointment, she gets the news that her test results were mixed up with another Raquel and she does not have cancer.
Stunned, Raquel goes home and tells her family the good news. Or tries to - they don't believe her, they're sure she's just putting on a brave face. In the end she decides to go with the lie. After all, she raised $250,000 so far...and this would be a chance to turn around her life and reinvent herself.....and her family is being so good to her......and ........
Well, you can see there might be a problem with this. Does she get caught out? I won't give away anymore, but you are in for a comical read. Green's descriptions of people, places and situations are laugh out loud funny. Her fantasies of Viggo Mortensen, her overachieving sister, her best friend and the local society ladies are hilarious. Once in a while it seems to escape and go a wee bit over the top.
At first I was a bit wary of the premise - pretending to have cancer? The women battling cancer in the book are depicted as strong and use humour as one of the weapons in their fight. And although this deception is what gets Raquel into her predicament it's as much a story of family and finding love.
There are some mild sex scenes that some readers may either enjoy or not. All in all a good chick lit read.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
How I Laughed at Depression, Conquered My Fears and Found Happiness.
You know me - I love a good memoir and with such an interesting cover and lead in I had to pick up Wendy Aron's tale from Kunati Books.
Hide and Seek opens with Aron spending her fortieth birthday at her therapist's office and wishing for the safety she remembered from a stay in a psychiatric hospital 20 years ago.
How did she get to this point? She has explored the reasons behind her ongoing depression and anxiety but believes "that somewhere out there, there was a magical solution to my problems that could put me in a state that I heard a psychologist once call 'invulnerable euphoria.' I knew that it was time to start looking for it."
Wendy begins her journey, exploring different avenues, therapies and workshops. The incomplete list includes; Winning Ways, Weight Watchers, Smokers Anonymous, Self Esteem and the New You, SpeedDating, Aromatherapy, a Creativity Retreat, Humour and Learned Optimism and a few more.
She shares her exploration of these with openness, honesty and an amazing sense of humour. While some of these ideas may not work for everyone, we can all learn something from Wendy's determination and continuing search.
At the end of a year, Aron has found some answers.
" It wasn't what happened to me that was the problem; it was strictly how I viewed these things and what importance I gave them. There was always an opportunity to feel gratitude if I reframed certain events. And feeling gratitude, I had learned, was the first step towards happiness."
I enjoyed following Wendy's journey, but wished she had gone a little further in an epilogue and tied things up. In the author bio it mentions that she has married. As this was part of her search, I would have enjoyed reading how she met and married. Is she off medication? Did she manage to lose the weight, stop the nicotine patches?
You can keep up with Wendy on her blog.
Monday, September 22, 2008
And the winners are:
Gwendolyn and Rebecca- I'll contact you both by email. Let me know if you have blogs and I'll link to those as well.
Thanks to Hachette and all who entered!
The definitions that precede the beginning of the novel explain this.
"grift - n. a group of methods used for obtaining money falsely through the use of swindles, frauds, etc."
"gift - n. a special ability or capacity"
Intriguing...and even more so after the prologue. While out on the boardwalk with her junkie mother an old fortune teller identifies a young girl - Marina - as having the 'gift'. Her mother continues to exploit this ideas as Marina is growing up. Fast forward to the present and we find Marina making a living as a psychic, but as a grifter. She is very adept at reading someone's body language and small clues they provide to give them 'psychic' readings.
Marina has to leave Florida quickly and she opens a new shop in California, with a valuable ruby ring from her last client on a chain around her neck. While working at a party as a fortune teller, she meets Madeline - a spoiled rich woman, Cooper a confused gay man in love with Max, an even more confused psychiatrist. These introductions lead to more new clients whose lives are inextricably intertwined with each other's and with Marina's. And the ruby ring seems to be a part of all of it. Through a seemingly inevitable chain of events, Marina predicts a murder, but then becomes the prime suspect. But - she's not faking any longer- her psychic ability is actually real now. She just can't see the murderer's face.
Just released last month, The Grift defies categorizing for me. It's a mystery, it has some 'otherworldly' aspects but is also a love story and just a really good all round read. It doesn't descend into unbelievability despite the psychic theme but rather presents a 'what if' alternative.
Every character was distinctly drawn and came to life for me. Some are flawed, others lovable, some despicable but all come across as real. I found myself reading 'just one more chapter' to find out what would happen next. It's always a treat to find a 'new' ( for me) author like Debra Ginsberg.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Covers always catch my eye. This cover is very appealing. Bright and inviting - just makes you want to sit in a chair and watch the ocean doesn't it?
Egret Cove tells the story of Angela Dunn - a sixties something divorcee from Kokomo, Indiana who packs up her dog Gizmo and moves to a Florida retirement trailer community. Her brother lives there and has offered her a job with his pest control business.
The subtitle -'A good place to start over'- describes the jist of the novel. Angela is looking for more in life - although she's not always aware of it. At the trailer park we are introduced to many of the other residents, including the dashing, single Gilberto and full of life Katherine. Katherine is a member of the Foxy Ladies - pretty much the same idea as the Red Hat Society.
Although Angela is going through some upheaval in her life which could explain her behaviour, I just didn't quite bond with her. I found her to be a bit mercurical - rude, abrasive and cynical at times, then naive and shy. I found the character of Katherine to be more my cup of tea. She is ready to embrace and experience life and has a wonderful outlook.
I would place this book in the "hen lit" category. Light hearted but appealing to older readers. There are references made that will pass over younger reader's heads. "...Esther William's bathing suit..."and a few others.
I believe Nava has a great idea for a series here - there are plans for at least two more Angela and Gizmo books - and with more fiction experience the story will not seem quite so forced.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Devil Bones finds Tempe called in to consult on bones found in a cauldron in a hidden cellar. They seem to be part of a religious ceremony. Another body is found and the two may be connected. A local politician is using these murders to stir up the populace.
Reich's mysteries are intelligent and well thought out. The details and science are realistic. Her series features some similarities to Cornwell's - the rumpled cop crony, the angry young relative, conflicts with superiors, the on again off again romance with a fellow law enforcement officer and a few others. I just find Reich's writing superior to what Cornwell has put out lately.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I must admit that my initial impression from the cover shot was that 'Contractor' would be a sexual romp through the desperate housewives of Renovation Lane. I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong. Yes there is sex, but that's not the main thrust of the book.
Henry is a contractor to the wealthy of Los Angeles. For the most part, he dodges landmines as some of his wealthy women clients do have more than renovations in mind. Henry acts as a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on and reads his clients well. In fact he states that:
"The first thing a woman needs to know about renovating a house or apartment is simple: do not, under any circumstance, sleep with your contractor, no matter what your husband or boyfriend is doing to you or not doing to you"
But one summer he takes on two houses at the same time and falls in love with both women owners. The ensuing story is about love and friendship told with a healthy dose of humour. The supporting characters are well drawn and believable. His friend Bill steals the show when they are together.
Murphy himself worked in the renovation field before working as a screenwriter. 'Contractor' is told in the first person and is filled with lots of advice and humorous situations that have to be the product of experience. It is a fun,enjoyable read that went deeper than the cover predicted.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Trent works for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. The GBI is called in to work on a case with the Atlanta police. Trent isn't too popular with the APD as he investigated and convicted a number of dirty cops. He is a highly effective cop, hiding his illiteracy from all but his boss.
In a well to do neighbourhood, a mother comes home to find her daughter lying in a pool of blood with the murderer standing over her. She kills the attacker. Trent and the girl's father have a history as well. But there is a second girl missing. Trent is forced to work with Faith Mitchell, a detective who has her own reasons for hating Trent.
Slaughter writes tight thrillers with unusual characters and unexpected twists. This one kept me engrossed right to the end.
Slaughter also writes another good series - Grant County - featuring a small town coroner and her husband the chief of police.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
If you follow along for the festivities of BBAW at My Friend Amy, you will find many chances to win LOTS of goodies! Like what? Well have a look below. All of these things will be given away between September 15-19. There will be a huge variety of ways to win them and giveaways will be announced constantly throughout the week. So be sure to check in often!
A HUGE thank you to Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group USA, Harlequin, The B&B Media Group, Shera of SNS Blog Design, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, Catherine Delors, Pamela Binnings Ewen, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Ceceilia Dowdy, Sormag, Book Club Girl, Savvy Verse and Wit, Cafe of Dreams, Fashionista Piranha, and Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?.
Daily Raffles:Monday--Books and Chocolate sponsored by My Friend Amy and Hey Lady! Whatcha' Readin?
Tuesday--Books and Going Green sponsored by My Friend Amy
Wednesday--Books and Coffee sponsored by My Friend Amy
Thursday--Books and Charity sponsored by My Friend Amy and Fashionista Piranha
Friday--Books and Movies sponsored by My Friend AmyWin a Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit!
Do you find it's your turn to host book club and not only do you not know what to serve but you don't know what books to offer up for the next month's selection?! Let Book Club Girl come to your rescue with the Book Club Girl Hostess Survival Kit.One lucky winner of the kit will receive:
* A basket of cheese, crackers, cookies and wine for up to 12 people
* 5 great book group books to vote on for your group's next pick.
And Book Club Girl will then donate 12 copies whichever book is chosen for your entire group to read.
* 12 Book Club Girl mousepads to give out as party favors that night
* 12 Book Club Girl bookmarks to mark everyone's favorite passages
* 12 Book Club Girl coasters to protect your coffee table from all those wine glasses!
TWO SORMAG Goody Bags containing books and more!A Special Pamper Me Basket from Cafe of Dreams!
From Avon Foot Works~ Inflatable watermelon shaped foot tub~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Cooling Foot Lotion~ 3.4 FL oz Watermelon Exfoliating Foot Scrub~ 12 count Watermelon Effervescent Foot Tablets~ An ARC of So Long At The Fair by Christina Schwarz~ A variety of Hot Chocolate and Tea mixes
A pre-made blog template from SNSDesign!
A Subscription to Poetry Magazine from Savvy Verse and Wit!
Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors
The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen
The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax
John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy
Confessions of a Contractor by Richard Murphy
Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
A Tale Out of Luck by Willie Nelson with Mike Blakely
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Exit Music by Ian Rankin
The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik
Gunmetal Black by Daniel Serrano
Isolation by Travis Thrasher
The Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Every Freaking! Day With Rachell Ray by Elizabeth Hilts
Dewey by Vicki Myron
The Shiniest Jewel by Marian Henley
Keep the Faith by Faith Evans
The Book of Calamities by Peter Trachtenberg
A is for Atticus by Lorilee Craker
After the Fire by Robin Gaby FisherMike's Election Guide by Michael Moore
War as They Knew It by Michael Rosenberg
Fixing Hell By Col. (ret.) Larry C. James
Wild Boy: My Life with Duran Duran by Andy Taylor
The Last Under-Cover: The True Story of an FBI Agent's Dangerous Dance with Evil By Bob Hamer
Border Lass by Amanda Scott
Insatiable Desire by Rita Heron
Hungry for More by Diana Holquist
Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee
Trespassers Will Be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Trish Ryan
Never Surrender by General Jerry Boykin
Dream in Color by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez
Beyond Belief by Josh HamiltonCobain
Unseen by Charles R. Cross
Doing Business in 21st Century India by Gunjan Bagla
Branding Only Works on Cattle by Jonathan Salem Baskin
Launching a Leadership Revolution by Chris Brady, Orrin Woodward
How to Hear from God by Joyce Meyer
Knowing Right from Wrong by Thomas D. Williams
Pope John Paul II: An Intimate Life by Caroline Pigozzi
Pure by Rebecca St. James
He Loves Me! by Wayne Jacobson
So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore by Wayne Jacobson and Dave Coleman
Move On, Move Up by Paula White
The Rosary by Gary Jansen
Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
Right Livelihoods by Rick Moodyby George by Wesley Stace
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh
Dead Boys by Richard Lange
The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez
Sisterchicks Go Brit! by Robin Jones Gunn
Beyond the Night by Marlo Schalesky
With Endless Sight by Allison Pittman
Harlequin Titles: To Be Announced
Many other blogs are giving away books and prizes for BBAW as well! You can see the links to all of these giveaways here.Interested in gaining entries into the daily raffles? Post this complete list on your blog with links and you'll earn two extra entries!
Friday, September 12, 2008
Innercity Girl Like Me is a frightening, fascinating look at gang life in Canada.
Set in Winnipeg, Manitoba it tells the tale of Maria who survives her gang initiation - being beat on by four people for five minutes and not crying - and becomes know as G Child of the Diablos. At the age of thirteen.
This is a gritty look at the desperate, dangerous world of 'thugs'. At nine and ten years old, they are hero worshipping the older members, wanting to be just like them. Poverty, all types of abuse, poor parental relationships and above all, a need to belong seem to drive many young people to this life.
G Child becomes immersed in a world of drugs, alcohol and danger, where loyalty to your colours supersedes all else.
The shooting death of a friend at fifteen triggers some doubt - but not enough to leave the life.
"I didn't think it was going to be the last time I'd see him. It's almost like, I don't know how to put it, a waste of a life."
She progresses to dealing drugs and a rift develops in the gang. The focus changes for some, but not all.
"It isn't about representing the Diablos anymore. It's about filling your pockets, right?"
Life for G Child and her gang seems to spiral out of control, leading to a final drastic conflict.
Althought this book is marketed as fiction, it reads more like a biography. Bernardo herself was never in a gang, but associated with one in Winnipeg. She has witnessed what she writes about. This is a young adult novel, definitely meant for those 14+, but adults will certainly gain much out of reading it - perhaps with their teen.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The book opens in Kenora, Ontario in 1973. Raymond Seymour, a young native man, has just been dropped off and left to die on a remote island by a local cop. His crime? Dating the white cop's niece.
The Byrd family arrives in the summer of 1974 to stay at the Retreat, which is just outside Kenora as well. It's leader is the self styled 'Doctor'. He promotes the Retreat as a spiritual and practical escape for the summer. But to the reader his motives seem to have a darker side.
" Take a group of people and plunk them down in a village, a village that is created from scratch, and make those people live together. What happens? That's what interests me."
Mrs. Byrd sees this Retreat as her salvation from her unhappy life. Her husband Lewis loves his wife and will go along with whatever she wants. Their four children - Lizzy, the oldest, her brothers William and Everett and the youngest boy Fish, aren't thrilled to be there.
The Retreat is also populated with other guests, all seeking or hiding from something.1974 is also the year of the Ojibway occupation of Anicinabe Park in Kenora.
Lizzy crosses paths with Raymond Seymour, who escaped from the island and now delivers fresh game to the Retreat. They begin a relationship.
What follows is a haunting, unsettling story of lives, wants, needs and undercurrents never quite brought to the surface. The clash of cultures and beliefs fuel the fire.
Bergen's phrasing and language are beautiful. I often had to stop and savour a phrase.
"He was moving his crooked fingers, as if attempting to pick up some slippery idea up off the floor."
I felt as if I was watching a train wreck. You don't want to see the destruction but feel compelled to witness it. As the novel hurtles towards it's inevitable end, I could not put it down. I was thinking about The Retreat long after I turned the final page.
Bergen is a previous winner of the Giller Prize for his last novel, The Time in Between.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Thanks for the Memories was released by Harper Collins Canada earlier this year.
Justin Hitchcock has moved to England to be closer to his daughter, after he and her mother divorced. He travels to Ireland to work as a guest lecturer at Trinity College. It is there that he is persuaded to donate blood for the first time.
Back in England, Joyce Conway suffers a serious fall that results in a hospital stay. She needs a blood transfusion. Joyce starts having memories of things that have never happened to her. Hmm - see where this is going?
I enjoyed the characters of Joyce and her friends. They came across as realistic. I was not so taken with the character of Justin. Although he is the 'romantic' lead in the story, I just never really bought it. I found him to be rude and boorish and he just never redeemed himself in my eyes. But it is Joyce's father Henry who steals the show. He is a the only parent Joyce has left. He is elderly and set in his ways. He has never travelled much beyond his neighbourhood. His views on just about everything provide laughter but tears as well. This is the character I engaged with the most.
The dedication in the front of the books is to her grandparents and includes photographs. I could see her Grandfather Ahern as Henry.
Ahern has a new book coming out later this year for Christmas.
This is a great chick lit read. Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot will enjoy this author as well.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I'm a big fan of Billie Letts - I've read all her novels. I loved her latest - Made in the U.S.A. You can read my review here.
If you'd like a chance to read Letts and own a copy of Shoot the Moon, simply comment here. Post a link back to this contest for an extra entry.
This giveaway is open to both Canada and the US, no post office boxes please. If you don't have a blog, please leave your contact info. Closing is Sunday, September 21 at midnight. Two random winners will be selected.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by!
Friday, September 5, 2008
The entire novel takes place over the course of one day. Jon is having an affair with Freddi, a woman her works with. His wife of many years, Ginny, senses that something is a bit off, but chooses to ignore her feelings. This is the day that Jon decides to end either his marriage or his affair.
Scattered throughout the book are chapters from the past. Ginny and Jon live in the same town they grew up in . Their families live there as well. These past chapters slowly expose secrets over the course of the book that are affecting the present. I did find this a bit distracting as I had to flip back and forth to make sure I was tracking the backstory correctly. The characters from the past are introduced into the present, but you really have to be on your toes to catch who's who.
Schwarz's forté is the exploration of relationships. Her dialogues expertly expose the hidden feelings, desires and failures of her characters. Her descriptions of both people and settings draw strong pictures. So Long at the Fair ends ambiguously. Each reader will draw their own conclusion. I did find the cover art ambigous as well. After reading the book, I found the title to be a bit of an uninspired afterthought as well.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Rachel is a single mother of two who obsesses over accident reports, parenting tips and ensuring her children are safe.It is out of character for her to pull over and help a man and his daughter change their flat tire. Len is the widowed father of Olivia. Surprising herself further, Rachel agrees to a date with Len. As they continue to date, Rachel's children are horrified to find out that Len's daughter Olivia is the ' Inside Out Girl" who attends their school. Olivia has non verbal learning disorder. Although very bright, she is unable to process facial and voice cues, resulting in socially inappropriate behaviour and anxiety. She often chooses to wear her clothes inside out, thus the name. She is extremely well informed about rats, frequently quoting rat facts in times of stress.
As she falls in love with Len, Rachel is forced to face some issues from her own past. Her children are also going through difficulties that she is unaware of. Could this relationship really work?
Cohen's writing is so real. I found myself furious at the bullying of Olivia, nodding in sympathy with Rachel's angst and applauding the parenting of Len.
Cohen has done a remarkable job with all the characters - they truly come to life - especially Olivia, who will make you laugh, make you cry and cheer for the little girl who can teach us all a thing or two - and not just about rats.
This would be a great read for a book club.
Tish Cohen is also one of the founding members of the grog I've mentioned before - The Debutante Ball. She also writes her own blog. I'm off to find a copy of Town House - Cohen's first novel for adults, which has been optioned for a movie.
Monday, September 1, 2008
I listened to this in audio format, driving back and forth to work. Katherine Kellgren is one of the best British readers I have listened to. Her lively voice, expressions and accents all bring the book to life.
Maggie, Roxanne and Candice all work at The Londoner - a fashion magazine. They regularly get together for cocktails. Although the best of friends, they are keeping a few secrets from each other. When Candice befriends their waitress, a girl from her past, their lives are all affected.
Although this is chick lit, it is not as comical as the Shopaholics. I don't know if I would have enjoyed it as much in written form, but it was a good listen!