Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton

You know those cute commercials on television, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"? Well, maybe that's true if you don't somehow manage to get yourself into a legally binding contract. You'd think those wedding chapels would know better than to perform ceremonies with inebriated participants. But then we wouldn't have a story...

Peggy Adams is in Las Vegas with her best friend Bex for a bachelorette party. She wakes up in a strange man's room after a night of too-strong margaritas, fully clothed (thank God!) and with no memory of the events of the previous evening. Mortified, she sneaks out without waking him and gets home to New York and her live in boyfriend of seven years, Brock, as quickly as possible. A worrier by nature, she can't help dwelling on what might have happened during the time she can't remember. But she tries not to think about it, it's over and done with, right?

Not quite. Peggy receives a phone call from Luke Sedgwick, who happens to be the sleeping man from the hotel room. Turns out they had impulsively gotten married during their evening together. Whoops. They agree that a swift annulment would be the best solution for both of them.

Luke, along with his ninety-one year old great aunt Abigail, is all that is left of the old Sedgwick family of New Nineveh, Connecticut. They have a crumbling old family mansion, their family name, each other, a cat, and not much else. Luke is trapped trying to juggle the frail family finances and Abigail's failing health. She has absolutely refused to consider selling the house. When she finds out about Luke's marriage, she makes the couple an offer that they can't refuse.

Abigail's offer? Stay married for one year, at the end of that year she will sign the house over to them to do with whatever they wish. With a value of three million dollars, they could split the proceeds of its sale and both have enough money to finance their dreams. Luke could provide health care for Abigail and finance his own poetry writing, Peggy could shore up the faltering New York store that she and Bex have owned for the last decade. A win/win situation for them both.

But the deal requires Peggy to spend her weekends at the Sedgwick house in Connecticut, where she must pretend to really be Luke's wife while mixing with the Sedgwick friends and neighbors. She is as far from an upper-crust Connecticut socialite as it is possible to be and fitting in is not at all easy. Things become even more confusing when she begins to care for her new life, the town, the house, Abigail and especially Luke.

This is an endearing, witty novel whose characters will charm you. I loved the slow development of the relationship between Peggy and Luke and the revealing look at WASPY life the story provides. It is a perfect summer read: fun, with enough drama to make it interesting and even a little mystery thrown in. Though the ending is predictable (what romance ending isn't?), getting there is a treat.

For more information about the author, visit her website and blog.

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP is published by 5Spot. ISBN 978-0-446-19797-7

Some other reviews from Blogland:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Review: Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Weary of the endless social whirl of London, with its inane amusements and harsh adventures, Dona St. Columb takes her children and escapes to their Cornwall estate of Navron. She leaves behind her tolerable but frequently drunk husband Harry and flees to the quiet countryside.

Once at Navron she finds William, the butler, is the sole servant and the house is largely musty and unused. All but her own bedroom, which is freshly aired and has a curious jar of tobacco in the bedside table.

As Dona begins to relax into the rhythms of country life, she hears rumors of a French pirate plaguing the area. Soon William will prove to be Dona's link to the handsome villain and his ship, La Mouette. She will be drawn to this unlikely pirate and experience the adventure, and the heartbreak, of a lifetime.

There is a reason that Daphne du Maurier's books are classics today and that reason is her haunting use of language. Her books, including this one, are so beautifully written and so perfectly evoke the timeless, lonely quality of Cornwall that the reader feels transported.

I love the way she opens Frenchman's Creek , through the eyes of a modern visitor (well, modern as of 1941 when the book was written) who feels the brush of the ghost of a long ago tale, a tale so deep with feeling that it echos even still:

"He is alone, and yet - can that be a whisper, in the shallows, close to the bank, and does a figure stand there, the moonlight glinting upon his buckled shoes and the cutlass in his hand, and is that a woman by his side, a cloak around her shoulders, her dark ringlets drawn back behind her ears? He is wrong, of course, those are only the shadows of the trees, and the whispers are no more than the rustle of the leaves and the stir of a sleeping bird, but he is baffled suddenly, and a little scared, he feels he must go no farther, and that the head of the creek beyond the farther bank is barred to him and must remain unvisited. And so he turns to go, heading the dinghy's nose for the roadstead, and as he pulls away the sounds and the whispers become more insistent to his ears, there comes the patter of footsteps, a call, and a cry in the night, a far faint whistle, and a curious lilting song. He strains his eyes in the darkness, and the massed shadows before him loom hard and clear like the outline of a ship. A thing of grace and beauty, born in another time, a painted phantom ship. And now his heart begins to beat, and he strains at his paddles, and the little dinghy shoots swiftly over the dark water away from enchantment, for what he has seen is not of his world, and what he has heard is beyond his understanding."

This is excellent and intense storytelling, many thanks to Sourcebooks for re-releasing the novels of this classic author. All the popular pirate romances these days (Jack Sparrow included) owe a debt of gratitude to Daphne du Maurier for paving the way with Frenchman's Creek.

If you would like to enter my giveaway to win a copy of Frenchman's Creek or My Cousin Rachel, click here. You can enter until midnight eastern on May 31 and must have a US or Canada mailing address.

Frenchman's Creek is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1710-4

Attending Book Expo America this weekend? Don't miss this!!

If you are going to be at BEA in New York this weekend, please stop by Booth 4077, Firebrand Technologies. The great people at Firebrand and Net Galley decided to host Book Bloggers at their booth this year and invited us all to sign up for time slots so that anyone interested can come and meet us. They got a great response and we are all so excited to be participating! The schedule for all the bloggers over the three day event can be found here and updates can be found on the Net Galley blog, Follow the Reader.

I'll be there on Sunday May 31 from 1-2 p.m. Please come over to say hello and enter to win a Sony E-Reader!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Review: The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone

The first six years of Annie Peregrine's life were non-stop motion and excitement, but not really the good kind. She spent those years with her father, Jack, a small time con man who was constantly in trouble. They were permanently on the road and more than once had to skip whatever town they were in at a moment's notice. Not a great life for a little girl.

On Annie's seventh birthday Jack drives her to his childhood home in Emerald, North Carolina: Pilgrim's Rest. There he abruptly leaves her with his sister, Sam, a lesbian who runs the local video store and her best friend, pediatrician Clark Goode, who lives with her. With his parting words Jack gives Annie his old Piper Warrior airplane as a birthday gift.

So, things settle down and Annie has a fairly normal childhood. Sam and Clark adopt her and the three form a loving family. But Annie has a driving need for perfection in every thing she does and she pushes herself, physically and mentally, to be the best. She learns to fly on that old plane and becomes a Navy pilot. She impetuously marries a fellow pilot, Brad, and then files for divorce when she catches him in bed with someone else.

That's where things stand when, on her 26th birthday, she returns to Pilgrim's Rest and finds an envelope from her father. He claims to be dying and wants her help. It seems that he has had a stolen statue, The Queen of the Sea, for years. He has removed most of the precious gems that were on the statue and hidden them all over the place. He sends Annie on what basically amounts to a scavenger hunt to recover the statue and the gems that go with it. She agrees, on one condition. Jack has never told her who her mother really is (her birth certificate says her mother is Claudette Colbert) and she will help him in exchange for her mother's name.

As Annie goes after Jack, who is always a step ahead and remains as elusive as ever, she begins a search that will change her in ways she cannot imagine.

Up until the end, I really enjoyed this novel. The mystery of the statue and the suspense of the search were exciting and action-packed. There are flash backs woven in that serve to fill in the background and extend the drama. I thought the characters were interesting and the bonds of their relationships felt sweet and true. They were well rounded and flawed in various ways which made them all the more lovable.

I just couldn't understand the ending. I'm trying to avoid spoilers here so I will just say that Annie comes across some astounding information and then...nothing. She doesn't mention it beyond a couple of cryptic comments, doesn't explain her thinking or feelings to the reader. Doesn't do what any average person would do with that revelation. Maybe that is the point, but I am totally flummoxed by it. I kept expecting the information to be talked about, or thought about, or SOMETHING. I feel like I'm not sharp enough to figure out why the author did this, or that I totally misunderstood and got it wrong. Argh.

I wish I had read this one in a book club, I would love to discuss it!

At any rate, after that you will want some additional reviews, I'm sure! So here they are:

At Home With Books
Savvy Verse and Wit
Diary of an Eccentric
Review from Here
A Bookworm's World
Books are My Only Friends
Library Queue

The Four Corners of the Sky is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-57071-744-4

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Movie Review: Star Trek

Guess what I did tonight? I went and saw the new Star Trek movie and it was, in a word, fantastic! But more about that in a sec...

I find it a little weird that I am such a big Star Trek fan. Okay, not a big enough fan to go to conventions or dress up as characters (though I do admit to going to Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton...Very Cool). I was too young to watch the first Star Trek when it was originally on in the 60's, though I've seen all of the episodes in reruns over the last forty years. But what really hooked me was The Next Generation. That was MY Star Trek, I was totally hooked on it with my roommate in college and when I met my husband I converted him, too. And I loved Janeway in Voyager. Never a fan of Deep Space Nine really, maybe someday I'll try to watch them in order on DVD and like them better. I enjoyed the most recent television incarnation of Enterprise, too, but wasn't as dedicated a watcher as I was with TNG and Voyager. I've seen all the movies, too, of course.

Now my favorite sci-fi is the new (relatively, started about four years ago) Doctor Who. I never saw this staple of the BBC before the new series started but now I am as big a fan of the Doctor as I am of Star Trek.

The really strange thing is that I don't really read sci-fi much, I don't really like it. Isn't that weird? I love historical fiction, fantasy, even contemporary fiction, but I hardly ever pick up any science fiction at all. Maybe I'm afraid that if I tried it I would be sucked in immediately. I hardly need another genre, I don't have enough time to read as it is! I do want to try out Terry Pratchett, though. That Discworld series looks seriously cool.

So, back to the movie. I was sceptical, along with half the world, of how true this new movie could possibly be to the spirit of this series. Happily, my fears proved to be unfounded. Within the first ten minutes, I was in tears. (Believe me when I say that has never happened before. Tears at the end sometimes, but in the first ten minutes? Nope.) And it just got better from there. That single event sets off a brilliant twist that buys the world of Star Trek a whole new future. Has this device been used before? Absolutely, but never to such wonderful effect.

The actors also deserve high praise, they have done an amazing job translating the little mannerisms of the earlier players while still making the roles their own. Doctor McCoy's speech cadences are strikingly close to the original, Spock's arched eyebrow is perfect. And Kirk somehow develops that signature swagger during the course of the film. Set them up against a sinister group of rogue Romulans and there's nothing more a fan could want.

My verdict?

Live long and prosper.

Awesome Audiobook Giveaway!

Too busy to read this summer? How about trying an audiobook instead? You can listen while you are busy cooking, cleaning, lying in the sun (whoops, we aren't supposed to do that anymore, are we?). I have three copies each of this great selection of audiobooks to give away and there is something for everyone here. Happy summer!!

Military intelligence officer Ryan Evans is married to his work; so much so that his wife and daughter have written him out of their lives. Sent to Fallujah and captured by insurgents, he is asked to kill children not unlike his own. The method: a meticulous, excruciating death by broken bones that his captor has forced him to learn.

Returning home after the ordeal, a new crisis awaits. A serial killer is on the loose, and his method of killing is the same. Ryan becomes a prime suspect, which isn't even the worst of his problems: Ryan's daughter is BoneMan's latest desire.

In a story that is devastating in its skill and suspense, - Ted Dekker brings to bear his ability to terrify and compel in BONEMAN'S DAUGHTERS.
In his first audiobook, Bob's trademark charm and charisma shine as he shares a lifetime of experiences. In front of the camera, he has been invited into the homes of millions of Americans as host of The Price Is Right, Truth or Consequences, Miss USA, Miss Universe, The Rose Parade, and many other programs and specials. He will share stories of favorite contestants, episodes, and behind-the-scenes happenings.

Beyond his public persona, he will open up about his personal life. From being raised on a Native American reservation by a single mother through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, to training as a pilot in the Navy during World War II, through his romance with the love of his life and high school sweetheart, Dorothy Jo, and his success at retirement.

His support of animal rights has always been a central part of his life. Bob delves into stories of how he has taken on Hollywood and the government in his crusade, including his anti-fur stand-off with beauty pageants, his involvement in uncovering animal abuse in movies and television, and the legislation he helped to pass. He also shares personal stories of rescuing animals, from dogs to elephants.

For the innumerable fans who have welcomed Bob into their homes over the last fifty years. This audiobook will be like catching up with a dear and familiar friend who continues to lead a full and endlessly interesting life.


When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson was devastated, afraid he might never be able to communicate with his child. But when Isaacson, a lifelong horseman, rode their neighbor's horse with Rowan, Rowan improved immeasurably. He was struck with a crazy idea: why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses and shamanic healing intersected?

THE HORSE BOY is the dramatic and heartwarming story of that impossible adventure. In Mongolia, the family found undreamed of landscapes and people, unbearable setbacks, and advances beyond their wildest dreams. This is a deeply moving, truly one-of-a-kind story--of a family willing to go to the ends of the earth to help their son, and of a boy learning to connect with the world for the first time.

If you would like to be entered to win, just leave me a comment here with the title of the audio you would like to be entered for. You can enter for any or all, it is up to you. If you enter for more than one, I will add you name to the pot for each one you list. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address. Winners will be drawn at random and notified via email. Please be sure there is an email address so that I can contact you if you win. Enter until midnight eastern time on May 31. Thanks for visiting and good luck!
Many thanks to Anna at Hachette Book Group for providing the audios for this giveaway!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Giveaway: Frenchman's Creek or My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

Happy Birthday, Daphne du Maurier!!


Jaded by the numbing politeness of Restoration London, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against high society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and her longing to escape.

But when chance leads her to meet a French pirate, hidden within Cornwall's shadowy forests, Dona discovers that her passions and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused. Together, they embark upon a quest rife with danger and glory, one which bestows upon Dona the ultimate choice: sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him.

Frenchman's Creek is the breathtaking story of a woman searching for love and adventure who embraces the dangerous life of a fugitive on the seas.


From the bestselling author of Rebecca, another classic set in beautiful and mysterious Cornwall.

Philip Ashley's older cousin Ambrose, who raised the orphaned Philip as his own son, has died in Rome. Philip, the heir to Ambrose's beautiful English estate, is crushed that the man he loved died far from home. He is also suspicious. While in Italy, Ambrose fell in love with Rachel, a beautiful English and Italian woman. But the final, brief letters Ambrose wrote hinted that his love had turned to paranoia and fear.

Now Rachel has arrived at Philip's newly inherited estate. Could this exquisite woman, who seems to genuinely share Philip's grief at Ambrose's death, really be as cruel as Philip imagined? Or is she the kind, passionate woman whom Ambrose fell for... with a tremendous longing to be loved? Philip struggles to answer this question: Ambrose's estate, and his own future, will be destroyed if his answer is wrong.

To celebrate Daphne du Maurier's birthday today, I have one copy each of Frenchman's Creek and My Cousin Rachel to give away. The books are courtesy of Sourcebooks, who have recently re-released these classic novels. To enter, just leave me a comment here telling me which book you would rather win. Three extra entries for anyone who becomes a follower (or follows already), blogs about this giveaway or tweets it on Twitter. (Please leave a separate comment if you do any of those, to let me know). You can enter until midnight eastern time on May 31. Winners will be drawn at random and will be notified via email. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address. Best of luck to you and my thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for providing the books!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: A Gift From Brittany: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside by Marjorie Price

In 1960 twenty-eight year old Marjorie Price did a daring and brave thing. She bought a ticket on a transatlantic ship to Paris, third class. Alone. Her family and friends (who call her Midge) are shocked and dismayed. Young ladies just don't DO that in 1960. But Midge is determined. She is an artist, a painter, and Paris is where artists are nurtured, taught, inspired.

Of course, she meets a man. Fellow artist, and native Frenchman, Yves sweeps Midge off her feet and they are soon married. They are very happy together and have a beautiful daughter, Danielle. After a couple of years they begin looking for a summer place. A little cottage in the country by the sea where they can escape the bustle of Paris and paint in peace.

La Salle

Yves finds a place he says is perfect. An ancient farm house and other buildings that make up half of a tiny hamlet in Brittany. Spartan and without any modern conveniences, it is far from what Midge had in mind. But he is insistent and she is forced into the purchase of La Salle.

At first living conditions are rough but the place works its charm and they begin to fix it up. Midge meets her neighbors, among them Jeanne, a peasant woman nearing seventy who lives in a cottage with no running water or plumbing, has never ridden in a car, eaten in a restaurant, watched television, talked on the telephone, or even been farther than a few miles from her home.


Over the next few years, Yves personality begins to change radically. As her marriage disintegrates, Jeanne becomes the closest friend that Midge has ever known, they form a bond of friendship that transcends their differences in culture, age or language.

Marjorie (Midge) Price
I loved this book. It is a wonderful, loving tribute to a special woman who was the product of a dying way of life. Even during the years she lived at La Salle, Midge saw beautiful old stone farms being bulldozed to make room for pre-fab houses. The peasant life the Jeanne endured is completely gone now. While the country life may seem like an idyll, the author makes clear that Jeanne's life was one filled with back breaking labor and a paucity of sentiment.

This is a story that is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. Here is a peek at a European way of life that endured for centuries and then completely died out in a few decades. It is one of the best memoirs that I have ever read and I highly recommend it. It would be an excellent choice for book clubs.

Please visit Marjorie Price's excellent website where you can see more photos of La Salle and Jeanne, read excerpts from the book and see examples of Marjorie's beautiful paintings. (The watercolors are my favorites).

A Gift from Brittany is published by Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1-592-40434-6

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo

Amid the social whirl of Washington society balls, in the midst of the American Civil War, lovely young Alice Green meets a dashing Mexican aristocrat, Angelo Iturbide. Over the protests of her family, she marries Angelo, who is the son of Mexico's last failed (and executed) Emperor. When rebellious leader Santa Anna is exiled, Angelo feels it is safe to take Alice and move back to Mexico.

Alice quickly adapts to life in Mexico, embracing the culture and the food and tweaking her name to the more Spanish 'Alicia.' Soon she is pregnant and the couple have a healthy son who they name Agustin.

Not long after Agustin's birth, Mexico is invaded by the French army. They drive out the Mexican Republic's president, Benito Juarez, and it seems that all of Europe conspires to place a new Emperor on the throne. This time a Hapsburg (they rule everywhere else, why not Mexico, too?) in the form of Maximilian, Archduke of Austria. Unfortunately for Max, he is basically forced to accept the throne of Mexico and also forced to relinquish his birthright in the process. His wife, Carlota, is determined to go to Mexico, anything to escape the boredom of their European backwater.

From the start, Maximilian and Carlota are ineffective rulers, at best. They have no real interest in or talent for leading, Max would rather chase butterflies than attend to the business of running a country. They have some problem within their marriage, too. Though both are young (Max in his thirties, Carlota in her twenties), they have no children. They take the extraordinary step of requesting that the Iturbides turn over their two year old son, so he can be raised as the heir to the Mexican throne.

The reasons for this request are never explained fully. Alicia sees it as a fantastic opportunity for her son, to be educated in the best European schools and to have a future that his parents could never provide for him. She is assured that she will be able to see the boy daily. Angelo is totally against what amounts to giving his only child away. He resists and resists but finally is unable to stand against the pressure. They sign Agustin over to Maximilian and Carlota.

The instant the boy is safely ensconced in the palace, Angelo and Alicia are exiled and forced out of the country. Their efforts to reclaim their son are hampered by Mexico's slide into chaos as the government breaks down, Europe turns its back and the French Army begins to retreat.

This is a fascinating and complex novel about a little known period in Mexican history. The author's extensive research and richly detailed settings bring to life nineteenth century Mexico in a vast, colorful tapestry. From the lowly kitchen maid and the rough soldier to the bluest blood of the European aristocracy, we are treated to pieces of the story from every point of view. While I enjoyed the way the author wove together the many characters, I did find the profusion of them slowed down the narrative a bit for me. A reference chart would have been helpful for keeping them straight.

All in all, a very enjoyable book, a must read for the dedicated historical fiction fan.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo is published by Unbridled Books. ISBN 978-1-932961-64-5

Here are some other blogs participating in the tour:

Booksie's Blog
Caribou's Mom
Darby's Closet
Devourer of Books
Drey's Library
Kylee's 2009 Blog
Medieval Bookworm
We Be Reading

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Review & Giveaway: One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon

It seems that every small town has at least one dirty little secret. (Mine certainly does, it was publicly and famously brought to light in the 1950s, the ripple effects are still felt today).

Redbud, Tennessee has a big black angel in the cemetery and a deep, dark secret. Twenty years ago, the accountant of the Hammerbilt plant (the town's big employer) was accused of embezzling and committed suicide. Charles Swanford hurtled himself off of the edge of the town quarry, leaving behind a widow who descended into madness and a troubled ten year old daughter. The black angel marks his grave.

Now that little girl is grown up and she is determined to find out the truth behind her father's death. Edie Swann appears to be a wild child, with her skimpy clothes, tousled hair and Harley motorcycle. She has never believed in her father's guilt and isn't above a little intimidation to get what she wants. With a list of names and a bag of tiny black angels, she blows into town and lands herself a bartending job at the local bar. Soon she is anonymously distributing those tiny angels to the first few names on that list.

Until a run in with the local police chief, Holt Drennan, starts to unravel all of Edie's plans. She didn't expect to become involved with anyone but she can't deny the strong attraction she feels for Holt. As the two become better acquainted, it becomes clear that there is going to be more between them than just an attraction. A relationship with Holt has one big problem. Holt's Dad, James, is the last name on Edie's list.

And somehow the recipients of Edie's angels have started dying. If Edie wants to preserve her own life and a future that she never realized she wanted, she must find out the truth behind Redbud's secret before it is too late.

This book is a treat, a great example of romantic suspense. The characters are well rounded and interesting and the mystery satisfyingly knotty. I enjoyed every page and read the last third of the book without putting it down. It is perfect for those who like an engaging mystery or a sizzling romance and would make a great addition to your summer reading list!

For more about Annie Solomon and her books, check out her website.

This review is part of a Blog Tour. For a complete list of participating blogs, click here.

One Deadly Sin is published by Forever, a division of Hachette. ISBN 978-0-446-17844-0

So, would you like to win a copy? The generous Anna at Hachette has provided me five copies of to give away. To enter, just leave me a comment here. Please make sure there is an email address so that I can contact you if you win! Three extra entries to anyone who becomes a follower (or follows already), blogs about this giveaway or tweets it on twitter. (If you do any of these, please leave a separate comment to let me know). Enter until midnight eastern on May 20. Winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes). My thanks to Anna and Hachette for providing my review copy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Giveaway: Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater (Audiobook)

Okay, I know I probably have way too many giveaways going at the moment but there was no way that I could resist this one. It's a little ridiculous for me to be so excited about it. At forty one years old, it has probably been thirty years since I've read Mr. Popper's Penguins, but I remember loving it as a kid and I can't wait to hear it read by Nick Sullivan. Here's the synopsis from the publisher (no way I can remember it well enough to do my own!):

Mr. Popper dreams about leaving his boring life and going on an adventure to the Antarctic. When the legendary Admiral Drake sends him a live penguin in response to his letter, he is thrilled. Very soon, he also receives a female companion for his penguin and they have 10 children. But Mr. Popper has enough trouble supporting his human family, and so he has the idea to take his penguins to the stage. Soon, Mr. Popper is up to his ears in adventure as he tries to manage 12 performing penguins and the trouble they inevitably get into.

Mr. Popper's Penguins remains a classic, read and remembered by generations of loyal fans. Now, 70 years after its publication, it will be given a fresh new voice as an audiobook to attract a new generation of listeners.

I have three audio copies to give away. To enter, leave a comment here by midnight eastern on May 21, telling me your favorite childhood book. Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. You can earn three extra entries by becoming a follower (if you already do, that counts), blogging about the giveaway or tweeting it on twitter. (If you do any of these, please leave a separate comment letting me know). Winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes). Thanks to Hachette for providing these audiobooks!

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society out today in Paperback!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was easily my favorite book of 2008. Not only that, it is in my top ten favorites....ever. Yup, ever! If your Mom loves books or loves to read, this book would make a fantastic Mother's Day gift.

To celebrate the paperback publication, Dial Press is having a "Take Your Book Group to Guernsey" Sweepstakes. One lucky winner will travel to Guernsey with five friends from Friday October 2nd through Monday October 5th, 2009. Activities will include a joint book discussion with a UK book group, an island tour, and more! Enter here.

The story behind the novel is almost as good as the book itself. On a trip to Guernsey in 1976, Mary Ann Shaffer found herself at the tiny airport, fogged in. To stave off boredom she read through the books and pamphlets in the paperback rack, filled with items of local interest like "Jersey Under the Jack-Boot." Mary Ann explained: "The airport was so cold, the manager suggested I go read in the men's room; they had one of those warm air blowers for your hands and I could relax, lie on the floor, hit it on with my foot, keep warm, and read in comfort." Thus began the author's love of all things Guernsey, which lasted for the rest of her life and resulted in this wonderful book.

My review is here. Truly, this book is not to be missed! But don't take my word for are some other reviews for you to check out:

Booking Mama

Bermuda Onion

Caribou's Mom

Lost in a Good Story

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

A Girl Walks into a Bookstore

Medieval Bookworm

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is published by Dial Press. ISBN 978-0385341004.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review: The Foreign Field by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

1917 was another hard year for England. The third year in a brutal war that seemed to have no end. The Americans had finally joined in but it would be at least a year before they had trained troops in the field. For the soldiers, the misery and discomfort of trench warfare became a way of life. Bertie Parks, still leading his company in their third assault of Ypres, sums it up:

"Now happiness is Cooper bringing me a mug of tea, or a spoonful of chutney to make the bully beef more interesting, or a copy of the Magnet I've not read before. When every day brings fresh horror, you get along by such tiny things. Its pitiful for grown men to live like that. And the worst thing is that we've grown used to it, we accept it. You can't fight it, when it's all there is."

The homefront was desperate to help, even more so when the new German Gotha bombers began their brutal raids on London and the English countryside. Recently widowed Jessie Morland made herself useful by training as a nurse and jumped at the chance of a transfer to a hospital in France where she can make a greater difference.

Jessie's mother, Henrietta, keeps Morland Place running smoothly for her brother, Teddy, the current master of the estate. Despite having lost a beloved son, Frank, and son in law, Ned, in the fighting of 1916. There is still much to do, growing children to be cared for and an army camp in the Morland field livening up things for everyone.

It is very hard to properly review a book in this series (The Morland Dynasty) because they are so much a part of the whole. But I am going to bang the drum a little (again) here for one of my favorite authors. Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is a fantastic writer who brings history to life as she weaves it into the story of one family from its beginnings in 1434 (The Founding ) down through the years. This is book #31 and she is planning to continue the series through the end of World War II.

I know it is hard to obtain a few books in a series, let alone a vast amount like the thirty one volumes so far in this one. But I don't think you can really get the most from the story unless you read them in order. Someone picking up just one, somewhere in the middle, would be understandably lost and would probably not enjoy the book like they might if they read it in context. Let me just say that I ADORE this series and, if you are a historical fiction fan, you can't go wrong with them. The character development is exquisite and the writing is excellent, too. I have read some of the WWI scenes with tears streaming down my face. They just get better as they go along. Kudos to Ms. Harrod-Eagles for tackling such an ambitious project. If you have ever visited, or even looked at, a big old manor house and thought, "If that building could tell what it has seen...", this is the series for you.

For an entire list of the series, and a synopsis of each book, click on the Morland Dynasty link above.

The Foreign Field is published by Sphere. ISBN 978-1-84744-093-8

Friday, May 1, 2009

Review & Giveaway: Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland

Little Louise de la Valliere, known as "Petite" by her family, was crazy about horses from the time she could walk. When she was six years old she found an untameable white stallion at a gypsy horse fair and convinced her father to buy it. The white horse, named Diablo, was aggressive and would not let anyone near him. Petite had heard of a dark magic spell that was said to tame horses. She tried it while her family was away, committing her soul to the devil (she believed) to work the magic. She was successful, the horse was tamed and allowed her on its back.

The trouble began as soon as her parents returned. The sight of Petite on Diablo caused her beloved father to collapse. He recovered but did not live long. On the day he died, Diablo disappeared. Soon Petite's mother sends her son to school and Petite to a convent so she can find a rich husband.

Louise-Franciose La Baume Le Blanc de la Valliere

It takes a few years, but eventually Petite's mother marries a Marquis and gets Petite a place at court as a lady-in-waiting. There she captures the eye, and heart, of young King Louis. Their affair catapults Petite from the heights of happiness to the deepest of grief. The years they spend together are the formative years of Louis as King, he repairs the damage done to the country by corrupt officials and France becomes prosperous and wealthy once more. The couple have four children together. Through it all, Petite is haunted by the memory of the white horse, guilt over the death of her father and her belief that she was cursed by her long-ago spell.

King Louis XIV

I must admit, Petite won my heart on the very first page. Her feisty personality leaps off of the pages and I was rooting for her the whole time. The book is packed with Sandra Gulland's excellent detail of France in the seventeenth century. I was already a fan of Ms. Gulland, I read and loved all of her previous books, The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales Of Passion Tales Of Woe and The Last Great Dance on Earth (The Josephine B. Trilogy). This was an exciting, rich historical novel and I was sorry to see it end!

Many thanks to the author and publisher for providing my review and giveaway copies!

Mistress of the Sun is published by Touchstone. ISBN 978-0-7432-9892-6

I have one copy of Mistress of the Sun to give away! This contest is open WORLDWIDE. To enter, please leave a comment here telling me who your favorite historical figure is. Three extra entries for anyone who becomes a follower (or follows already), blogs about the contest, or tweets on twitter. (Please leave me a separate comment if you do any of these). Enter until midnight eastern time on May 18. Winner will be drawn at random and notified via email, please make sure you leave your email address so I can contact you if you are the winner! Good luck!

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.