Friday, July 31, 2009

Giveaway Package: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

How's this for a goodie package? While I was at Book Expo America I was able to get some great promo items for Catching Fire, as well as an extra Advanced Reading Copy!
Of course, I have a copy for myself, too! :)
I have yet to read The Hunger Games but am fascinated by how popular it is. Can't wait to find out for myself what all the excitement is about!

This giveaway consists of a new, unread paperback advanced reading copy of Catching Fire, this cool Catching Fire button and a promotional audio cd sampler of Catching Fire, read by Carolyn McCormick (please note that this is a sampler and NOT the complete audio edition).

So, to enter for this giveaway just leave me a comment here telling me why you liked The Hunger Games (or not, if there is anyone out there who didn't) and why I should make it the next book on my reading list. If you haven't read The Hunger Games yet then leave me a comment that tells me what you have heard or read about it that make you interested in reading it. This contest will be open WORLDWIDE and you can enter until midnight eastern on August 17. Extra entries can be earned by doing the following:

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Leave me ONE extra comment for each of these that you do. Winner will be drawn at random and will receive all three items in the package. Best of luck to everyone and thank you for visiting and entering!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Review & Giveaway: Dragon House by John Shors

Iris Rhodes has a neat and ordered life in Chicago, but her father's death changes all of that. Her Dad was a Vietnam veteran who was so tormented by the atrocities he had seen and participated in during the war that he was often absent from Iris' life when she was growing up. His demons caused a rift in their relationship that they tried hard to mend. And he was healing himself, in a way, by working on his project. He wanted to open a center for street children in Vietnam, to help in whatever way he could to heal the country that he had fought in.

Unfortunately, he dies before he can get the center up and running. Iris promises him that she will go and finish what he started. She had planned to go alone but ends up taking along her childhood friend, Noah. He is a veteran from a more recent war, Iraq, where he lost a leg. Unable to come to terms with his new situation and the daily pain and anger he feels, it is hoped that Noah will find some way out of his misery while he is in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, there are many people who live on the streets and a large percentage of them are children. Mai, a girl, and Minh, a boy with one arm, sell small items to tourists and Minh challenges them to games of Connect Four for one dollar. Minh has a brilliant mind and usually wins but never speaks a word. They scrape small amounts of money together, which is promptly taken from them by Loc, the opium addict who threatens the two young kids into working for him and supplying his cash. They sleep together in a basket under a bridge and are lucky if they can eat once a day.

Qui carries her granddaughter on her back every day between their shack and the market where she attempts to sell old books. Her beautiful little granddaughter, Tam, has leukemia and Qui puts every penny she can towards the pain medicine that eases Tam's suffering. It breaks her heart to watch this child in agony, though Tam rarely complains. Qui spent months saving enough money to take Tam to a hospital but by the time she did, it was too late, there was nothing the doctors could do for her.

When Iris and Noah reach the center they find Thien, a young Vietnamese woman who served as Mr. Rhodes' assistant, painting and generally getting ready for the opening, which is about a month away. She proves to be an invaluable asset to the center, she knows the city and a surprising number of its people. Her warm and open spirit shines through in her understanding of the Americans hopes and fears.

As they set to work, both Noah and Iris have their own issues to overcome. Noah is filled with rage at his loss and the pain he is in, so he doses himself with pain medication and alcohol. He doesn't see any good in the world anymore and is only going through the motions of living. Iris is unsure and tentative, she doesn't speak the language and is intimidated by the noise and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. But they will both find that the poor Vietnamese people have so much to teach and they experience profound changes within themselves.

Of course, it is a matter of opinion, but to me a great novel must have several qualities: it must pull the reader out of themselves, it must grapple with a basic human truth or moral tenet, it must resonate in the reader's own life or teach them something profound. Without these qualities, a book might be good and entertaining, but not be worthy of being called great. With Dragon House, John Shors has fulfilled all of my requirements. This is a GREAT novel, in fact it is the best I have read this year. He has taken a heart-wrenching fact of life and turned it into a moving and exciting fictional tale that serves to highlight the plight of poor children, not only in Vietnam, but around the world. He accomplishes all of this and polishes it with some excellent writing:

"Vietnam, a country that had known little but war for many generations, was strangely peaceful, as if the spirits of the slain had somehow infiltrated the prejudices of the living. Hope abounded across the land. Hope often obscured by shanties and brothels and misery but, nonetheless, the collective aspiration for a better tomorrow."

I can't praise this book highly enough, I thought that it was wonderful on so many levels. I had originally planned to review it at the end of August, just prior to its September 1 release. Then, my Mom called me and told me that she had received a copy of it in the mail and before she knew it, she had read half of it. She couldn't put it down and said that it was the best book that she had read in many years (she's quite a reader, so that is high praise). She got me so interested that I had to go and start reading it myself. So there you go, two thumbs way up for Dragon House!

The author plans on donating some of the proceeds of this novel to Blue Dragon Children's Fund, they work with children in crisis in Vietnam and have a center for street children in Hanoi. Anyone who donates $100 to Blue Dragon Children's Fund will receive a signed copy of Dragon House directly from John. You can find more information about John and his books at his website, please take a minute and visit!

Dragon House will be published by New American Library on September 1, 2009. ISBN 978-0-451-22785-0

I have one copy of Dragon House to give away. This copy is a little different from an ARC, it is a bound galley, which means that it is printed on regular 8 1/2" x 11" copy paper and then bound on the side. But it is complete and has everything the finished book will have, including a Reader's Guide and Discussion Questions. To enter, just leave me a comment here. You can earn extra entries if you do the following:

+1 become a follower (current followers automatically included)
+1 tweet giveaway on twitter or blog about it
+3 fave this blog at Technorati (click on the little green box on the left sidebar)
+3 subscribe via Feedburner

Leave me ONE extra comment for each of these that you do. Winner will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address. You can enter until midnight eastern on August 18. Many thanks to John for sending me the book for review...I loved it! Good luck everyone and thanks for visiting!

Product Review: A Life Well Read

The first thing that struck me when I received my "A Life Well Read" box was how beautiful it is on the outside. It is about the size of a hardback book and the spine looks like a book spine, so it fits perfectly on any bookshelf.

Inside you will find quite a few useful items:

56 Color Bookplates
24 lovely Color Gift Labels
5 divider cards already labeled (My Books, Books on Loan, Books I Want, Books to Give, My Favorites)
7 blank divider cards
3 cards with spaces on front & back to note books you want to give as gifts and to whom
1 very nice pen

But the best thing about this system is the book cards. They measure about 8 inches high by 5 inches wide and you get 50 of them. The cards are meant to be used as a book mark in your book, on the front of the card you note the title and author at the top and below that there is plenty of room to jot down your thoughts about the book as you are reading. On the back of the card is a Lending History section, so you can jot down who you loaned what to and when. Plus a section for your book club meeting notes.

This box would be a fantastic gift for any book lover on your list (the holidays will be here before we know it!) but it would be especially perfect for anyone in a book club. The individual cards are on sturdy stock and you can easily tuck it right in the book and take it to your book club meeting, all your notes are right there, ready for spirited debate!

I originally started my blog to keep track of the books I read, but if I had known about this system then, it would have done the job so nicely. Many people like to keep their records on computers these days, but the idea behind this lovely set is that sitting in front of your computer is not usually cozy or relaxing. The name of the company is A Life Unplugged and, while we can't do without our computers and electronics all of the time, it is nice to have a break from the keyboard and do things in a simpler way.

A Life Well Read sells for $29.95, but if you order it by clicking here (or on the title anywhere in this post) you will receive a discount of 25% for any order between now and August 23. And Priority shipping is only $5.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Review: My Lord John by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer wrote over fifty novels in her lifetime, starting when she was fifteen years old and continuing nonstop until her death at age seventy one. Her Regency romance novels where wildly popular, but her first love was for "armour," the Middle Ages.

I have read several of her Regency novels and can easily see her appeal, they are witty, frothy and full of fun. So it was with interest that I picked up My Lord John, one of her non-romance, non-Regency historical novels. It was, in fact, unfinished at her death and the current book only makes up about a third of the tale that she planned to tell. It would have been a trilogy encompassing the entire life of John, Duke of Bedford, third son of King Henry IV and brother and trusted advisor of King Henry V.

John grew to manhood in a turbulent time. His father, Henry IV ousted Richard II from the throne and took the crown for himself. Through Richard died shortly after (of course), that didn't stop different factions from trying to topple Henry. At the tender age of fourteen, John's steady hand and sensible head were rewarded and his father made him Lord High Constable of England. He couldn't have chosen a better man, though he was really still a boy. For the rest of his life, John would do the serious and difficult work of running a fractious nation, first for his father and later for his brother.

For me, reading My Lord John was a bit of a struggle, though I could see glimpses of what a great book it could have become. It was never edited by the author and it does suffer from that lack. It reads almost like a non-fiction history, so I found myself growing sleepy time and again. There are so many characters and, as is common for this time period, multiple people have the same first names. Thomas, Henry, John, Mary, times it is very hard to tell who is who. Plus, the men are referred to by their given names at times and their titles at others (for example, Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel might be referred to as Richard, Fitzalan or Arundel), instead of picking one and using it throughout. Though there is a very good character list and also a nice family tree, constantly having to refer to it really breaks up the story.

The same can be said for the author's use of authentic middle English words/phrases. There is an extensive and helpful glossary at the back of the book and the use of these forgotten terms does add to the flavor of the story. But constantly having to refer to the glossary, sometimes multiple times while reading one page, slows down the reading process. I did learn quite a bit, which I enjoyed, but looking up words so often does become tedious.

So, unfortunately, I can't recommend this one to the average Georgette Heyer fan. Anyone who needs romance in their books will not be able to get through this one, as you will not find any here. I happen to be a die hard historical fiction lover and romance is not a must for me (I do find a little bit livens up a story, though!), but even I had a hard time with this one. It is truly unfinished - it ends in mid sentence. If you are interested in history and the middle ages and can accept the book as is, I think you will find both interest and enjoyment within its pages.

The preface, written by the author's husband after her death, made me sad for her and I wanted to add part of it for you here:

"Her research was enormous and meticulous. She was a perfectionist. She studied every aspect of the period-history, wars, social conditions, manners and customs, costume, armour, heraldry, falconry, and the chase. She drew genealogies of all the noble families of England (with their own armorial bearings painted on each) for she believed that the clues to events were to be found in their relationships. She had indexed files for every day of the year for the forty years she was covering with all noteworthy events duly entered on their dates. She learnt to read medieval English almost as easily as modern and amassed a large vocabulary. One summer we toured the Scottish-English borderlands, learning the country and visiting seventy-five castles and twenty-three abbeys (or their ruins). Her notes fill volumes.

For the work, as she planned it, she needed a period of about five years of single-minded concentration. But this was not granted to her. The penal burden of British taxation, coupled with the clamour of her readers for a new book, made her break off to write another Regency story. After such a break it was hard to recapture the spirit of her main work and it required a good deal of labour to refresh her knowledge. After this had happened a second time, she laid her manuscripts aside, foreseeing that at least two more such interruptions would inevitably recur before she could complete the work. So a great historical novel was never finished."

My Lord John is published by Sourcebooks. ISBN 978-1-4022-1353-3

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Giveaway: The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser

Tom Loxley, an Indian-Australian professor, is less concerned with finishing his book on Henry James than with finding his dog, who is lost in the Australian bush.

Joining his daily hunt is Nelly Zhang, an artist whose husband disappeared mysteriously years before Tom met her. Although Nelly helps him search for his beloved pet, Tom isn't sure if he should trust this new friend.

Tom has preoccupations other than his book and Nelly and his missing dog, mainly concerning his mother, who is suffering from the various indignities of old age. He is constantly drawn from the cerebral to the primitive--by his mother's infirmities, as well as by Nelly's attractions. THE LOST DOG makes brilliant use of the conventions of suspense and atmosphere while leading us to see anew the ever-present conflicts between our bodies and our minds, the present and the past, the primal and the civilized.

I have five copies of this interesting novel to give away to five lucky winners! To enter just leave me a comment here. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win. Want to earn extra entries? Here's how:

+1 Become a follower (current followers who enter will automatically get this)
+3 Subscribe via Feedburner
+3 Fave this blog at Techorati (just click the little green box at the left)

If you do any of these please leave me a separate comment to let me know. Winners will be drawn at random. Enter until midnight eastern on August 12. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes). Thanks for visiting! And a big thanks to Valerie at Hachette for providing the books!

Winners, Winners, Winners!

Yesterday I randomly drew the winners of my Mega Giveaway. I didn't quite get to 200 winners, the entries topped out at 149. So I rounded up and drew eight lucky names:


They have all been notified via email. Congratulations, ladies! I want to thank everyone for visiting and entering! And especially for helping me to clear some books out (you know that just leaves room for more!).

Stay tuned, I have some very exciting giveaways coming up shortly. I'll be giving away a copy of Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross...signed by the author with any inscription you would like! And.....Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins!!! Yep, I have an ARC copy to give away along with a cool Catching Fire pin/button. You won't want to miss the opportunity to get this one before its September 1 release!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review: The Devil's Company by David Liss

London in 1722 was a place ruled by two entities: the King's Government and the East India Company. Benjamin Weaver, ex-pugilist turned precursor to what will in later years become the private detective, is compelled by force into the presence of one Mr. Jerome Cobb. Mr. Cobb has a job for Weaver and has anticipated Weaver's refusal to perform the requested tasks. So Cobb has taken steps to insure Weaver's cooperation, namely buying up all the loans of his relations and friends and threatening them with debtor's prison.

What does Cobb want? Well, for a start, he wants Weaver to get some documents from inside the offices of the East India Company. At first this seems an impossible task but Benjamin soon has a plan and is able to deliver the requested papers. Only to find that this request was but the first, there will be many more before he is released from service and his loved ones freed from the threat that hangs over them.

When Benjamin discovers that multiple insurance policies have been taken out on his life, he realizes that the game, whatever it is, is much more complicated than he first imagined. With the help of his good friend Elias, they set out to discover what is at the bottom of the scheme because his complete understanding of the larger plot is the only way Benjamin can see to get out of this mess alive.

Weaver's fame has preceded him and on the strength of it he is able to secure a position as security director within the East India Company. Here he meets many people who contribute to both the mystery and its solution, not the least of whom is servant Celia Glade. She is more than she seems, but what side is she on? He will have to find out and must also figure out how to control his growing fascination with this beautiful young woman, while using every bit of cunning he possesses to sniff out the motives of some of the most powerful groups in his world.

I found this novel completely engrossing. It has all of the elements that I love in a historical tale, intriguing characters, evocative sense of place, a twisty plot that surprises at numerous turns. Add to that superb writing and you have a book that is going onto my favorites list. What I can't figure out is why I haven't read anything by David Liss before. I know I have The Coffee Trader
sitting on a shelf somewhere. You can be sure that I will be pulling it out and ordering each and every other book he has written so far! This is a fantastic story, compellingly told...a winning combination that shouldn't be missed!

Many thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me The Devil's Companyfor review! For more information about David Liss and his books, please visit his website.

The Devil's Company is published by Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6419-9

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reveiw & Blog Tour: Ravens by George Dawes Green

Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, bored with their dull jobs as telephone technical support in Ohio, decide to go on a lengthy Florida vacation. They hop in Romeo's old car and drive south. When they have a slight mechanical issue they pull off the highway and into a convenience store parking lot in a small Georgia town. Shaw goes inside and happens to overhear the clerk gossiping on the phone about someone in town having just won the lottery. The ticket was bought at that convenience store and the jackpot is more than 300 million dollars. The winner hasn't been announced yet and this information sets Shaw's brain whirling...he is on to a diabolical scheme.

The owners of the winning ticket are the Boatwright family. Mom Patsy is an alcoholic who compulsively buys lottery tickets each and every week, believing that a pile of cash will be the answer to all of their problems. Ineffectual Dad Mitch runs his own business but can't control anything at home. Daughter Tara is putting herself through college with the single goal of getting free of her bizarre mother. Son Jase is happy to sit and play video games. When they end up with a winning ticket, they are all in a blissful state of stunned disbelief in their good fortune.

Their happiness will not last long. Shaw, aided by that predator's friend MySpace, has found out all he needs to know about this family. He presents himself at their home under false pretenses and then proceeds to hold them hostage. He wants half of the jackpot and he will be on his way and no one will get hurt. By his reasoning, they should be happy to share. Half of over 300 million should be more than enough for any family. This is money they never had in the first place, why should they care if they only get half of a huge fortune? For the next week, the Boatwright family must act to the entire outside world as if everything is normal. Meanwhile, Shaw lives with them as an old family friend and Romeo cruises the town ready to start killing extended family members and friends if the Boatwrights step out of line.

I found this book to be a chilling psychological thriller with an interesting, if not completely plausible, premise. The character interactions were extremely compelling for me, I have a little knowledge of hostage behavior and the response of the hostages to form attachments to their persecutor is accurately and fascinatingly portrayed here. If you like suspense fiction, this is an absorbing tale that you won't be able to put down until the last page has been read.

I read Ravens as part of a Blog Tour, for a complete list of participating blogs, click here. Thanks to Miriam and Hachette for sending me my copy for review! For more information about the author and his books, please visit his website. You can listen to an interview with George Dawes Green on Blog Talk Radio by clicking here.

Ravens is published by Grand Central. ISBN 978-0-446-53896-1

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Giveaway: The Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock

The new Americana romance from bestselling author Dorothy Garlock, this time set against the backdrop of WWII.

Sophie Heller's family immigrated from Germany to Victory, a small town in Illinois, before WWII began. Now that the war has affected the town, the townspeople discriminate against Sophie and her family. When a train derails, it is an accident but the Heller family is blamed. Coming to Sophie's rescue is a teacher from the high school, and despite their cultural differences, a romance starts to bloom.

Visit Dorothy's website at

I think this one sounds so interesting, I am looking forward to reading it. Anna at Hachette is providing copies for five lucky winners (thanks, Anna!) who will be drawn at random. To enter, just leave me a comment here with the title of any book you have read that was set in World War II. If you haven't read any you can leave a comment about why you would like to read this book. I will give one additional entry to anyone who becomes a follower (current followers get this automatically), blogs about the giveaway or tweets it on twitter. Subscribe via Feedburner and receive three extra entries! If you do any of these, please leave a separate comment. Winners must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes) and you can enter until midnight eastern time on August 1. Please be sure to leave your email address if it is not part of your ID. Good luck everyone and thanks for visiting!

By the way, if you haven't entered my Mega Giveaway yet, please click on the link to the left and check it out. I am giving away boxes of ten books to as many as ten winners and I need more entries!!! Enter til midnight on July 21 and tell your friends!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Review and Blog Tour: Last Light Over Carolina by Mary Alice Monroe

The small coastal town of McClellanville, South Carolina has always relied on the bounty of the sea to sustain its citizens. Most of the residents of the town make their livings shrimping or fishing. Bud Morrison is no exception.

Bud is a third generation shrimper, going out with his dad on the boat from the time he could walk. It has been a hard-working life, but he wouldn't trade it. There is something special about working your own boat, being your own boss. Things have been going downhill for a while now, though. Foreign shrimp dumped on the market drives the prices down, regulations for shrimping hamper every catch and the numbers of shrimp are down, too. It's getting harder and harder to make a living.

So Bud is caught in a classic catch-22. He has to work more, longer hours to support his family and pay his bills. But the harder he works, the less time he spends with his wife, Carolina. She chose to marry Bud even though she knew that their lives would be full of hard work. She didn't count on their physical separation becoming an emotional one, too. Their constant battles have just about ruined their thirty year marriage. They have struggled to get back to the close relationship they had when they were first married but the strain is difficult to bear.

On the morning of September 21, Bud gets up before 4 a.m., as usual. When his cousin and deckhand fails to show up at the boat, Bud leaves without him - even though he is aware of the risks he faces going out alone. Carolina awakens with a feeling of lingering gloom that she is unable to dispel. Throughout the day, both Bud and Carolina reflect on the events that formed their relationship and their lives together.

When Bud fails to return to the the dock in the afternoon, everyone bands together to find him. Though both Bud and Carolina have lived with the dangers of an occupation at sea for many years, the actuality of a disaster brings them both to stark realizations about themselves. If they can get through this one day, they might be able to get back what they had, because now they both realize how precious it is.

Mary Alice Monroe brings to life a struggling American family in an industry plagued with hardship. I loved the way she told both sides of this couple's story, thoughtfully drawing the history as seen from each partner and weaving them together into a portrait of a marriage. The warm southern style of the narrative makes the reader feel right at home in this enjoyable novel.

Last Light over Carolina is published by Pocket Books. ISBN 978-1-4165-4970-3

I read Last Light over Carolina as part of a Pocket Books blog tour (thanks, Sarah!). Here's the list of all participating blogs:

All About {n}

Bookin’ with “BINGO”

My Guilty Pleasures

Just Jennifer Reading

Chick With Books

Bella’s Novella

Books and Needlepoint

Booksie’s Blog


Medieval Bookworm

Living Life and Reading Books

Book N Around

The Eclectic Book Hoarder

Pick of the Literate

A Book Bloggers Diary

My Friend Amy

Gaijin Mama

Blog Business World

ScarpettaJunkie’s Blog

Frugal Plus

Carolina Gal’s Literary CafĂ©

This Book For Free

Marta’s Meanderings

Friday, July 10, 2009

Review: Something of the Turtle by Sandra Clayton

Sandra and David Clayton, worn out from long commutes and freezing winters in Northern England, decide to retire early and live on a catamaran called Voyager. The author's first book, Dolphins Under My Bed, describes their adventures from the time they first set out from Wales, with minimal sailing experience, to when they arrive safely in the Mediterranean several months later. (Read my review of Dolphins Under My Bed here.)

Something of the Turtle picks up as the couple are happy berthed at Mahon, in the Mediterranean, for the winter. They have a buyer for their house, so they race back to England to begin the painful process of clearing out a lifetime of accumulated stuff:

"I pick up the items one-by-one. This is from my earliest childhood; this was given to me by an incredibly kind neighbor. This was my Dad's, my Mom's, my grandparents'; these were gifts from family, friends, a teacher, and David's lovely, giggly little Grandma. David brought this home when we were first married; this was my coming-of-age present from my parents; here are the 78rpm records my Dad used to play and my drawing exercises from night school. And over there is the brass bowl that resulted from the metalwork option at day-continuation college during my first year at work. Looking at it I can still smell the metal filings, hot from the grinder. Everything I touch conjures up a loved person, a happy moment, a small achievement."

Once she comes to the realization that the loss of the objects themselves will not result in the loss of the memories associated with them, the task becomes easier. After an extended delay, a sale on their home is finally completed and they are able to return to Voyager to continue their exploration of the Mediterranean. They are anxious and worried about the condition of the boat after so long away, but thanks to a kindly marina manager they return to a sparkling clean Voyager and soon set out.

This summer they explore the Balearic Islands and Sardinia. Once again the author describes picture perfect villages and bustling towns, her vivid portraits of them make the reader feel that they are seeing them, too. However, she makes clear that a life at sail is not the easy idyll that most people imagine it is. When they are at sea they sleep in three and a half hour shifts so that one person can keep watch. Anchoring in a marina often provides disturbances of a different sort: loud or disruptive individuals on shore in the middle of the night, noisy garbage collectors in the middle of the night, boats arriving and trying to squeeze in where there is no guessed it, in the middle of the night. So sleep deprivation, along with bad weather, fellow sailors with no experience and irritated fishermen are a few of the downsides of life afloat.

But the upsides abound. They are fit and healthy, relaxed and happy. They are in a beautiful place where each day brings something wonderful:

"During the afternoon, over the course of several hours, a large number of turtles of varying sizes paddle laboriously towards us wearing that look of intense concentration peculiar to reptiles on the move. They are so close to us as they pass that they are almost touching our sides. It is unknown, in our experience, for a turtle to get so close. They usually dive and disappear long before the boat gets anywhere near them....There is something of the turtle about us, come to think of it. Our pace is leisurely. We are vulnerable to gales and strong currents and we carry our home with us wherever we go. Our journeys are usually solitary although we do occasionally meet up with our own kind at marinas and town quays and have a gossip. But with such a vast territory in which to roam, we rarely meet up with the same people twice. This time last year, wary of our capabilities and all too aware of our inexperience, we were more akin to the dolphin-rapid in or movements, darting and diving, a little edgy. Watching the pod for confirmation. But twelve months on we have settled into our new world and in pace, rhythm and restful solitude this is our summer of the turtle."

In the fall they plan their biggest sail yet, three thousand miles across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. A journey that is daunting and exciting all at once. They tackle it as they have everything else so far: together. They each excel at things the other doesn't, they are a great team.

This book is a delight. Whether you have always dreamed of sailing away or you never intend to leave your chair, go along with Sandra and David as they experience the excitement (and yes, there is a little terror, too) of life at sea. The author has a lovely, easy way of writing that just invites you in and keeps you turning pages. Her sparks of humor are wonderful. I am so looking forward to the third book! Something of the Turtle is a perfect choice for both the armchair traveller and the true globe-trotter.

For more information about the author and her books, please visit her website and be sure to check in to her new blog, where you can go along on their travels!!

Something of the Turtle is published by Wheatmark. ISBN 978-1-60494-066-4.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review & Blog Tour: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

Nantucket itself, not counting the tourists, is a close knit community. Four couples are year-round residents and the best of friends: Ed & Andrea, Jeffrey & Delilah, Addison & Phoebe, Greg & Tess. They do everything together: holidays, weekends, fantastic vacations, everything. Andrea and Tess are cousins and their close relationship forms the heart of this group of eight, who call themselves "The Castaways." They have been together for years, through all of the ups and downs of life.

Lately, there has bit quite a bit of down. Greg is a music teacher at the high school and one of his students accused him of making advances. He denied it, of course, but Greg is a movie-star handsome musician and even his close friends, in their heart of hearts, believe him capable of it. So things have been rough, especially for Tess, but she and Greg are working through their issues and have planned a romantic sail to Martha's Vineyard to celebrate their twelfth anniversary.

Tragically, there is an accident during their sail, the boat capsizes and they are both drowned. Ed, the police chief, is left to deliver the devastating news, first to his wife and then to the rest of the group. The deaths of Greg and Tess rock the remaining six friends to their cores, exposing the hidden secrets and the cracks beneath the surface of their relationships. Grief is a process, affecting each of them in different ways and forever changing their bonds with each other.

This interesting novel explores the complex emotional ties of the friendships of couples, which differ greatly from any group composed of just one gender. The narrative switches between the six remaining Castaways as they reflect and remember their lives, process their feelings and try to move forward. The characters were all interesting and I liked the way their relationships were woven together to form the story as a whole. It's a perfect summer read, a great combination of both lighthearted fun and heartbreaking darkness.

For more information about the author and her books, please visit her website. There you will find book club information, "The Castaways" cocktail recipe and much more!

This review is part of a Blog Tour, for a complete list of participating blogs, click here. Many thanks to Miriam at Hachette for the book and adding me to the tour!

The Castaways is published by Little Brown. ISBN 978-0-316-04389-2.

Friday, July 3, 2009

July Giveaway: Fantastic Fiction Summer Reading Picks!

A Tale of two Shakespeares...

Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about the Bard. Kind of...

Cut off by his father for laziness, and desperate for dough, Willie agrees to deliver a single giant, psychedelic mushroom to a mysterious collector, making himself an unwitting target in Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs.

Meanwhile, would-be playwright (and oppressed Catholic) William Shakespeare is eighteen years old and stuck teaching Latin in the boondocks of Stratford-upon-Avon. The future Bard's life is turned upside down when a stranger entrusts him with a sacred relic from Rome... This, at a time when adherents of the "Old Faith" are being hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors.

Seemingly separated in time and place, the lives of Willie and William begin to intersect in curious ways, from harrowing encounters with the law (and a few ex-girlfriends) to dubious experiments with mind-altering substances. Their misadventures could be dismissed as youthful folly. But wise or foolish, the bold choices they make will shape not only the 'Shakespeare' each is destined to come... but the very course of history itself.

For more info, please visit Jess Winfield's website and blog.


Acclaimed novelist Anne Rivers Siddons's new novel is a stunning tale of love and loss.

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly--happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past--to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety-- to try to figure out her future.

It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

Click here to read an interview with the author and be sure to visit her website.

I have five copies of each of these fantastic fiction titles to give away. You can enter for one or both, just leave me a comment telling me which ones you want to be entered for. I will give an extra entry to anyone who becomes a follower (all current followers who enter will automatically get this), tweets the giveaway on twitter or blogs about it. If you tweet or blog please leave me a separate comment with the link. You can enter until midnight eastern on July 27. Winners will be drawn at random and must have a US or Canada mailing address (no PO Boxes). Thanks so much to Valerie at Hachette for providing the books! Thanks for entering and best of luck.

Review: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

When Waldo Hawkridge comes to inspect his newly inherited country estate, he causes quite a stir with the local gentry. Sir Waldo has an immense fortune and excels at sporting pursuits, he is well known to be the best driver in the country. Hence his nickname, the Nonesuch:

"It means being the greatest Go among all the Goers!' stated Courtenay. 'Particularly on the roads - though they say the Nonesuch is a clipping rider to hounds harness and out no man can do more with a horse than the Nonesuch."

An admired and respected man who, at thirty five years old, is a great catch for all those country mamas with daughters to marry off. Accompanying him is his young cousin, Julian, a Lord whose love of the countryside and country life means that he is completely happy to fish and ride while Sir Waldo is seeing to his business.

Julian's eye is caught almost immediately by the beautiful Tiffany Wield, who lives with her aunt, Mrs. Underwood, her cousins, and her governess, Miss Ancilla Trent. Tiffany is the most beautiful girl around, easily eclipsing every other girl in the county. Too bad she doesn't have a disposition to match her lovely face. Miss Trent is constantly trying to gently make Tiffany aware that her scheming and her selfish, boorish behavior are unbecoming, but to little avail.

It surprises everyone that Sir Waldo seems to be interested in the penniless but lovely and levelheaded Ancilla. He has been known to be something of a flirt in the past, mostly turning his attentions to married ladies, which hasn't helped his reputation. But he sees, much to his own surprise, something special in Miss Trent. She, in turn, is irritated by her own inability to control her emotions as she falls deeply in love for the first time in her twenty six years with a man whom she knows will never be hers.

There is no doubt that Georgette Heyer is the queen of witty banter and sparkling repartee. Her wonderful use of language leads to a light and frothy novel that is so enjoyable that it is impossible to read it without smiling. The convoluted romantic entanglements are delightful and the use of period slang is nothing but pure fun:

"A very good sort of boy: nothing of the rum 'un about him! But as for Laurence -! Upon my word, Waldo, I wonder that you should bear with him as you do! Well, I was used to think him more flash than foolish, but after listening to his damned insolence today I think him the most buffleheaded clunch I ever saw in my life! If there's one person anybody but a sapskull would have taken precious care not to rub against, it's you! Good God, where does he think he'd be, if you was to abandon him? Don't you tell me he hasn't cost you a small fortune, because I'm not a gapeseed!"

Delightful and so, so enjoyable! If you haven't tried Georgette Heyer yet, you are missing out! She wrote fantastic romances, historical fiction novels and mysteries, over fifty books in her lifetime! Sourcebooks is reissuing these classics in lovely trade paperbacks. Thank you Sourcebooks, and to Danielle for sending me The Nonesuch for review!

The Nonesuch is published by Sourcebooks Casablanca. ISBN 978-1-4022-1770-8.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Review & Giveaway: The Swan Maiden by Jules Watson

Many years ago, Conor, king of the Uliad, received a prophecy concerning a baby girl, Deirdre. The druids proclaimed that she would cause strife amongst his Red Branch warriors and bring ruin to his kingdom. Ignoring their warnings, Conor fostered the baby with two peasants deep in the forest and sent a female druid, Levarcham, to instruct her and groom her to become his wife when she reached an appropriate age for marriage.

Nearly twenty years have passed and Deirdre has grown into a stunningly beautiful young woman who is talented in the arts of the druids. Conor has been a frequent visitor and is eager to take her into his bed. Levarcham has put him off for as long as she dares, she knows that Conor obsessiveness will quickly break Deirdre's spirit.

By chance, Deirdre comes across three of the Red Branch warriors when they are hunting in the forest. The three are brothers: Naisi, Ainnle and Ardan. As she eavesdrops on their fireside banter, she realizes the kind of life that she is about to be committed to and is struck by the strong urge to rebel against it. She has no desire to become Conor's wife, he is a bitter, hard old man and the thought of being with him makes Deirdre ill. So she convinces the brothers to rescue her, to escort her to a neighboring kingdom where she can take refuge.

Helping her goes against every tenant of the Red Branch warrior code, but the brothers still agree to do it. They have become increasingly unhappy with Conor's abilities as King. Naisi, in particular, feels this way and Deirdre offers him an opportunity to highlight the growing dissatisfaction toward the King.

Little do any of them know that their plan will take them far from home, sundering them from all they hold dear. Except each other, though those relationships are also strained by their long journey. Naisi and Deirdre form such a strong romantic bond that it becomes the stuff from which legends are made. But it also means that they can never return to Emain Macha unless they face the wrath of Conor, who will have the power of a kingdom behind his vengeance.

More and more, I find this particular genre to be a favorite of mine. Historical fiction with just a touch of fantasy thrown it, set in a time when magic was believed in, it was still part of daily life. I love to see the author's interpretation of how a myth or folktale might have at its heart an actual occurrence, as if you could wipe away the embroidering that comes from years of retelling and see the spark of what started it all. Jules Watson does just this and does it so well that I could hardly put the book down. It is an excellent story, brilliantly told and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Visit the author's website for more information about her and her books. She is also the author of the wonderful Dalriada Trilogy, set in Ancient Scotland: The White Mare, The Dawn Stag, and The Boar Stone (titled The Song of the North in the U.S.). Her next book, The Raven Queen, will be published in 2010 by Bantam.

The Swan Maiden is published by Bantam. ISBN 978-0-553-38464-2

Now for the giveaway. To enter, just leave a comment that includes your email address, telling me why you would like to read this book. An additional entry will be given to anyone who becomes a follower (any current followers who enter will automatically get this), tweets the giveaway on twitter or blogs about it. If you do tweet or blog, please leave me a separate comment with the link. You can enter until midnight eastern time on July 16, you must have a US mailing address to win (sorry!). Winner will be drawn at random. Good luck everyone. Thanks so much to Jules and Bantam for providing my review copy and the book for this giveaway!

**Edited to add that I just got an email from the author, she will be sending me a signed bookplate for the winner of this giveaway! YAY! Thank you, Jules!

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

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Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

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.