Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Review: A Date You Can't Refuse

Summary: Serial dater and greeting-card artist Wollie Shelley goes undercover in a media-training company suspected of video piracy, but when a dead body appears on the company’s property, she’s caught up in a conspiracy that goes way beyond some stolen DVDs.

Wollie Shelley isn’t happy about taking the job as a “social coach” at MediaRex, but the FBI makes her an offer she can’t refuse. If she agrees to infiltrate the company, they’ll guarantee that her schizophrenic brother will have a home at the federally subsidized halfway house he’s come to love. So Wollie launches into teaching three foreign celebrities how to cope with the customs of Beverly Hills, improve their English, and become Oprah-ready. And when a coyote-chewed corpse appears in the MediaRex compound, Wollie realizes that her colleagues are concealing some serious secrets of their own. -- Broadway

This might sound a little weird, but I wanted to read A DATE YOU CAN'T REFUSE by Harley Jane Kozak because I remember watching Ms. Kozak on Guiding Light (many years ago.) I was addicted to the daytime soap and I just loved her character Annabelle. Ms. Kozak went on to star in many other movies including Parenthood, The Favor and Arachnophobia, but I'll always remember her best for her role on Guiding Light. When I learned that she was an author (and supposed to be a good one at that), I just knew I had to read one of her books.

I absolutely loved this book! I haven't read a lot of mysteries the past year or so, but A DATE YOU CAN'T REFUSE has convinced me that I shouldn't have stopped reading that genre. This book was terrific. This novel is the fourth book in the Wollie Shelley series and I am so excited that there are three more books out there for me to read.

This book hooked me in right from the start, and I think it's because I adored Wollie. She is not your typical detective, crime-solving character -- she's actually a greeting-card artist. She does not consider herself to be overly adventuresome, yet she finds herself in very strange circumstances with very strange people. I thought Wollie was hilarious. The book was told from her point-of-view, and I can't even tell you how much I laughed at her antics.

I also thought the mystery aspect of this story was wonderful. The storyline kept me guessing and I was pretty surprised when all was resolved at the end of the book. There were many twists and turns, and I found myself questioning characters that I thought I trusted (so did Wollie.) If you enjoy the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, then I'm betting that you will love this novel too!

As you can tell, I am absolutely sold on this book and dying to read the rest of the books in this series. Ms. Kozak's first book in the series DATING DEAD MEN won the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. The big question I keep asking myself is why I've never read any of these books before! Ms. Kozak has a terrific website, and she also writes for the grog (a group blog) The Lipstick Chronicles. If you aren't following this grog, you really should! Ms. Kozak along with her five best writer friends take turns blogging on a variety of subjects. I love reading all of the posts, and find myself smiling a lot of the time.

A big thanks to Alisha from the Crown Publishing Group for sending me this book.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hello...You Won The School of Essential Ingredients

Congrats to Alyce from At Home with Books. She has won a copy of THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister. Alyce submitted the idea of a lemon filling to go with the white cake and vanilla icing. You can't go wrong with lemon especially in the summer months. In the words of Ms. Bauermeister, it is "so delightfully sweet and tart at the same time..."

Make sure you keep your eyes open for more recipes -- Ms. Bauermeister will be appearing all over the blogosphere with more guest posts and book giveaways. And, she plans to eventually post all of the recipes on her website too!

Mailbox Monday: March 30, 2009

Here's my list this week! You'll notice that a lot of these books are wins. It seems like I've been on quite the winning streak lately!

OUTCASTS UNITED: A Refugee Team, and American Town (ARC) by Warren St. John

I WAS TOLD THERE'D BE CAKE by Sloane Crosley - I won this one from a website called Style Substance Soul.



THE ROMANOV BRIDE by Robert Alexander -- I won this book from Author Buzz!

MISTRESS OF THE SUN by Sandra Gulland

KNOW YOUR POWER: A Message to America's Daughters by Nancy Pelosi with Amy Hill Hearth



STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova -- This book was a win off of twitter from @glue_genie. If you aren't following him, you're really missing out!

What did you get last week?

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Review: Countdown to My Birth

Summary: "Countdown to My Birth" is a Mom's Choice Awards - Gold recipient for 2009

This award-winning pregnancy countdown calendar is completely written by ME - your baby-to-be! Tired of all the technical medical jargon and reading about all the things that can go wrong during pregnancy? This book will keep everything in perspective and remind you daily that you are creating a little miracle. I'll tell you what is happening each day of your pregnancy as I develop from conception to birth.

Just flip one page a day and find out when my heart begins to beat for the first time, when I can hear your voice, or when I reach the length and weight of a hot dog roll. You'll know every little thing that's happening.

You'll also be able to track how many days remain until your due date, and will have room to write your thoughts or notes each day. You also get free stickers to mark my first kick, hiccups, and other memorable pregnancy events.

How to use this calendar:
- Follow along every day to see the progress of your very own little miracle
- Have Dad be in charge of flipping the page each day to make sure he feels included
- Wrap up a copy for each of my grandparents-to-be to announce your pregnancy. Trust me - they didn't know this stuff when you were born and will love being part of the miracle of life again.

Give a copy to any friends who are pregnant - they will love you for it! -- Motherly Way Enterprises

I don't know if you saw my review yesterday for a terrific activity book for a future big brother or big sister called MAKING ME, but author Julie B. Carr has done it again. Her pregnancy journal COUNTDOWN TO MY BIRTH: A Day-By-Day Account from Your Baby's Point of View is another wonderful idea for someone who is expecting a baby. I sure wish I had had COUNTDOWN TO MY BIRTH when I was pregnant.

COUNTDOWN TO MY BIRTH is a daily account of a pregnancy as told by the unborn baby. It actually looks like one of those flip calendars, but it is also a journal (it even includes cute little stickers.) The premise is similar to MAKING ME -- you countdown the 40 weeks of your pregnancy by changing a page each day. Each page give you a little hint about what is happening with your baby on (or around) that day. It's especially cute since it's written from the baby's point of view. There is also a place for today's date, how many weeks and days you are into your pregnancy, and how many days are left. I also like that it has small section for the expectant mother to take notes. I like that you could capture your thoughts and feelings about your pregnancy using this calendar.

I would have loved it if someone had bought this journal for me when I was expecting. Truth be told, I probably would have bought it for myself had it been available. It makes a wonderful gift for the pregnant woman in your life, but it also would be a wonderful present for the expecting grandparents too! Check out the author's website Unique Pregnancy Gifts for more great gift ideas!

A big thanks to Julie B. Carr for sending me a copy of COUNTDOWN TO MY BIRTH.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Review: Making Me

Summary: "Making Me" is perfect for step families, large families, or any family with a 5+ year difference in their children's ages.

CONGRATULATIONS! You're going to be a big brother or sister!

I want to teach you about me, the baby-to-be, and make this pregnancy as fun as possible for you. Every day, from the time I'm just a single cell to the day I'm born, I will let you know what's happening with me. I'll also have something fun for you to do each day, whether it's coloring, counting, measuring, jumping, journaling, or something else. Wow! Learning *and* having fun. What a concept.

You have probably noticed that most big brother/big sister books are written for toddlers - but this one is designed just for the 5-10 year old.

You'll be able to see how big I am with the Mighty Measuring Tape and can track the days to my due date with the cool Countdown Car on every page.

Bonus features!
- Includes 4 colored pencils to help you write, color, and draw.
- Includes the 24" Mighty Measuring Tape to track my growth.
- Hard cover, 286 pages -- Motherly Way Enterprises

Oh how I wish MAKING ME: The Pregnancy Activity Book for My Big Brother or Sister! by Julie B. Carr was available when I was pregnant with my little guy. My daughter was almost 5 years old (just a few days shy) when I delivered him, and she would have loved this activity book. Actually, I would have loved it too and I am not sure who would have had more fun with it!

The idea behind this book is terrific. This book is actually a hardcover binder filled with tons of activities for the future big brother or sister to complete. It even comes with a ruler and colored pencils in its own plastic pocket (gotta love that it's all self-contained.) Ms. Carr does a wonderful job explaining how to use this book for both the mother and the big brother/sister. Based on the mother's due date (or conception date), you fill in the date on each page and there is a fun activity a day (for nine months) to get your child excited about the new baby.

I think it's absolutely adorable that this book is written in first person from the unborn baby's point of view. The first page of the book is actually a little note from the unborn baby to the big brother/sister asking for your child to explain a little bit about him/herself. From that point on, there is a countdown until the baby's birth and loads of fun (and easy) activities. I personally think the "Measure Me!" pages are adorable. On these days, the child is supposed to take the ruler provided and see how big the baby is. There are also jokes, search-a-words, coloring, measuring, weighing, etc. I think it's terrific that these activities are fun while not being time-consuming!

This book is geared towards children who are around five years old and up, but I think my four year old could do most of the activities. Some of the activities actually relate directly to the stage of the pregnancy. For example, there are some weighing activities that show the child approximately what size the baby is. There are also pages that have the child color an object that is about the size of the baby, or an activity to color a body part that is developing.

My favorite part of the book is the part on each page where a little baby is holding a sign with the age of the baby. There is also a little description from the baby's point of view saying something about its development -- like comparing the size to ordinary household objects, telling when the baby's body parts grow (fingernails, ears, etc.), and what the baby can do (move eyes, taste, etc.) I think most mothers-to-be would enjoy reading these daily status reports too.

I can't recommend this book enough for a future big brother or sister. I think this book is wonderful because it includes the sibling in the entire pregnancy process. MAKING ME makes the perfect gift for a child from the unborn baby, but remember it should be bought early in the pregnancy! Check out the author's website Unique Pregnancy Gifts for other terrific baby gift ideas for babies, parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.

A big thanks goes out to Julie B. Carr for sending me a copy of MAKING ME!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review: The Only True Genius in the Family

Summary: From the author of The Last Beach Bungalow: a portrait of a family—in all its heartbreaking complexity.

Though she lives in the shadow of her legendary landscape photographer father, and is the mother of a painter whose career is about to take off, Claire has carved out a practical existence as a commercial photographer. Her pictures may not be the stuff of genius, but they’ve paid for a good life.

But when her father dies, Claire loses faith in the work she has devoted her life to—and worse, begins to feel jealous of her daughter’s success. Then, as she helps prepare a retrospective of her famous father’s photographs, Claire uncovers revelations about him that change everything she believes about herself as a mother, a daughter, and an artist… -- Berkley

THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY by Jennie Nash is a wonderful novel. I have seen some incredible reviews out there and knew I really wanted to read it. I requested a copy from a Shelf Awareness ad and was so glad when I received a copy. I devoured this book in just a few hours because I couldn't put it down.

The writing is this novel is just beautiful. I have not read a book by Jennie Nash before THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY, but I definitely want to go back and read her first novel THE LAST BEACH BUNGALOW. I love how she developed all of the characters in this novel, and I thought all of the characters were very believable (even Claire's father who was kind of a tyrant.) I really think Ms. Nash has a talent for writing about family relationships. I was so impressed with not only how she portrayed the the mother-daughter relationship, but I also thought her portrayal of Claire's marriage and the relationship with her father were extremely well done. Like the characters, these relationships were extremely complex and very deep on so many levels.

THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY really made me think, and I love finding books that make me do that. I was naturally troubled with Claire's father and his treatment of her; however, I was particularly intrigued with Claire and her daughter's relationship. At times, Claire found herself jealous of her daughter's artistic talent. I thought I'd be upset with her for having those feelings -- I mean a mother is supposed to want the best for her daughter, isn't she? But I surprised myself because I actually felt compassion for her and even understood her feelings. Claire desperately wanted to be a "genius" and feel worthy of her father to the point that it almost destroyed her. I couldn't imagine wanting something so badly and then having to watch my daughter and my father have what I always desired. I found this part of the story to be so tragic, and I even questioned how (or if) I would be able to handle it.

I think I most enjoyed this book because I loved how Claire's character learned not only about her father and his talent, but also about herself. After her father's death (which just had to happen at the worst possible time), Claire really began to question her relationship with her father and even started questioning her artistic abilities. I'm sure that dealing with the loss of a parent is difficult in the most normal of circumstance, but Claire has led her entire life feeling as if she wasn't "good enough" for her father. (Now in all fairness to Claire, her father didn't exactly do anything to make her feel worthy of him.) I found Claire's feelings to be extremely destructive, not only to herself but to those she loved; and I found myself hoping that she didn't ruin the good relationships in her life because of her pain. I really liked Claire, despite her shortcomings, and wanted her to find some peace and happiness.

THE ONLY TRUE GENIUS IN THE FAMILY is the perfect book to discuss, especially if your book club enjoys stories about family relations. There are so many topics to talk about including father/daughter relationships, mother/daughter relationships, marriage, "true genius," passion, jealously, etc. I think it would be fascinating to discuss what actually constitutes a "genius". I definitely think that talent is derived from both genes as well as environment, but I would love to hear my friends' opinions. I also think it would be interesting to talk about all of the family dynamics. A Readers Guide is included in the back of the paperback version of the book; however, I unfortunately wasn't able to find a link to the questions.

A big thanks to Berkley for sending me a copy of this book.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Guest Review: The Crimes of Paris & Giveaway

Guess who's back? Booking Pap Pap! This time he has written a terrific review for THE CRIMES OF PARIS by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. He came to visit me a few weeks ago and saw this book sitting on my desk. He grabbed it right up and said he wanted to read it -- I didn't really request it with him in mind, but... I think you'll be able to tell how much he really enjoyed this book.

Summary: Turn-of-the-century Paris was the beating heart of a rapidly changing world. Painters, scientists, revolutionaries, poets--all were there. But so, too, were the shadows: Paris was a violent, criminal place, its sinister alleyways the haunts of Apache gangsters and its cafes the gathering places of murderous anarchists. In 1911, it fell victim to perhaps the greatest theft of all time--the taking of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Immediately, Alphonse Bertillon, a detective world-renowned for pioneering crime-scene investigation techniques, was called upon to solve the crime. And quickly the Paris police had a suspect: a young Spanish artist named Pablo Picasso.... -- Little, Brown and Company

THE CRIMES OF PARIS by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler is a true story account of several sensational crimes that occurred in Paris in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The authors introduce the book by describing Paris during that time as the cultural center of the world as well as the epicenter of modernism, the revolution that was changing the way people looked at the world. For the first time people were seeing technological advances such as movies, automobiles, telephones, airplanes and railroads, among others.

For all the progressive aspects of Paris there was a dark side which included constant changes in the form of government, the violence of anarchism and the threat of common street criminals. Because of the Paris citizenry’s fascination with crime, the focus of newspapers, theatre and fictional writings was on this dark side of Paris. The authors do a good job of taking the reader through the development of fictional detective stories which often mirrored real life crime situations. Often the heroes of these books were the criminals. Sometimes the stories utilized current police methods and sometimes the writings created ideas that were later utilized by the police.

The Hooblers give detailed accounts of several real-life crimes to portray the continuing battle between criminals and the scientific advances used to solve crimes. In these historical accounts the authors chronicle advances in scientific crime solving methods such as toxicology, finger printing, body part identification methods, disguises and crime-scene investigation techniques. They record the first use of the automobile as a getaway car and the first police use of the car as a crime solving tool. Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler also utilize some of the crimes to describe the Parisian’s attitude toward female criminals during this time.

The most sensational of these crimes was the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Ironically, the crime was not solved by the Paris police despite applying all the new scientific techniques. Interestingly, Pablo Picasso was considered a suspect in the case.

Although the book started off slowly for me the action picked up as the authors began to describe the crimes. The detailed discussion of the Mona Lisa theft was well done and left me with a good understanding of the crime and the surrounding historical perspective. The other cases were excellent examples of how police work changed during this short time. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who has interest in crime solving, suspense novels or early twentieth century history.

A big thanks to Hachette for sending me this ARC and to Booking Pap Pap for his review. THE CRIMES OF PARIS will be available on April 27th.

Does this sound like a book that you'd like to read? I just happen to have three copies of THE CRIMES OF PARIS to share courtesy of Hachette Book Group. For one entry, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book. For an additional entry (or two), you can blog about this contest with a link back to this post and/or mention it on Twitter. This contest is open until April 15th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will pick the winners randomly and announce them the following day. This giveaway is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Review: The Teashop Girls

The Official Rules of the Teashop Girls

1. Teashop girls are best friends forever.

2. Tea is held every week, no matter what.

3. All tea and scones must be split equally at all times.

Annie, Genna, and Zoe have been hanging out at the Steeping Leaf since elementary school. The Teashop Girls do everything together -- at least they used to. With the end of eighth grade approaching, Genna's too busy with theater, Zoe's always at tennis, and Annie feels totally left out. What happened to tea every week, no matter what?

When Annie convinces her grandmother to give her a job as a barista at the Leaf, things begin to look up. In between whipping up chai lattes for customers, and attempting to catch the attention of her Barista Boy crush, Annie is finally beginning to feel as grown-up as her best friends. But an eviction notice spells trouble for the Leaf and unless they can turn the business around, the teashop will have to close its doors forever.

Fresh, honest, and sweet, Laura Schaefer's debut novel is sure to resonate with readers everywhere. -- A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon and Schuster

Some of you might know that I'm addicted to Twitter! I love "talking" with all my blogging friends and even meeting new ones. I also love that I can learn something new almost every day. I especially like it when I hear about a new must-read book like THE TEASHOP GIRLS by Laura Schaefer. This book came highly recommended, and I'm so very thankful I picked it up. I loved this book so much and Booking Daughter did too. In fact, she is desperately hoping that this book becomes a series!

THE TEASHOP GIRLS is geared towards ages 8-14, and I can't think of a young girl who wouldn't adore this book. The story is told from the point-of-view of Annie, an 8th grader who loves all things tea and has always wanted to work in her grandmother's tea shop. On her very first day, she discovers that her grandmother is having financial difficulties; and Annie decides that she is going to "save" the store with the help of her two best friends, Genna and Zoe.

I loved Annie! She was such a wonderful character and a terrific role model for young girls. She had all the traits you would want in a young woman -- honest, hardworking, conscientious, sensitive, loyal, ambitious, caring, etc. Her friends Genna and Zoe were also terrific characters. Both of these girls were Teashop Girls along with Annie, yet they were each dealing with their own set of parent problems. All of the girls learned important things about themselves in this novel that made them grow into better (and stronger) young women. I have no doubt that any young girl who reads this book will relate to at least one of these characters.

There is a great deal of humor in this novel that I also enjoyed. Annie has just enough quirkiness and insecurity around boys that was adorable. I also thought the author's portrayal of Annie's family was very funny (probably because it was so true.) Some of the scenes with Annie's classmate (and nemesis) Zach reminded me so much of some boys in my childhood. There are just so many scenes that I found positively adorable!

One thing I really appreciated about this book were the little extras that were thrown in -- they were so cute and added a lot to this book. At the end of each chapter, there was always something to look forward to such as recipes, old tea advertisements, stories written by Annie, and some of Genna's drawings. I found so many of these tidbits to be very interesting. I also thoroughly enjoyed all of the "Annie-isms" in this book. She was constantly making lists (something I can relate to) like: to-do lists, how to save the shop, and even reasons why she should be hired to work at the tea store. The author also included Annie's reports on Japanese tea ceremonies and the history of tea as well as a newspaper article that Annie wrote for the student paper.

I think THE TEASHOP GIRLS would be a wonderful selection for our mother-daughter book club. We just have to wait until it's our turn to host to select it. How adorable would it be to discuss this book over tea, cucumber sandwiches and some of the desserts mentioned in this book? If you think you (or a young girl in your life) might be interested in reading this book, you can read the first chapter here.

If my review isn't enough to convince you to read this wonderful book, then Booking Daughter 's thoughts definitely will:

I loved this book! It might be one of my favorite books ever, but it's definitely in the top three range. My mom told me that the author liked the Baby-Sitter Club series; and I love those books too. I always read them at school and nothing else because my teacher has lots and lots of them.

If I had to pick one thing to be my favorite part from this book is would be hard. It was all so great. But there are three things I really enjoyed about this book. First, I liked the friendship between Genna, Zoe and Annie. Even though the friendship changed throughout the story, you could never guess what was going to happen next. I also liked the way Annie cares for the tea shop. She really worked hard to save the tea shop. Finally, I liked the ending. It was nice the way everything worked out. I know you will enjoy this book.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reviews: Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand and Kitty Raises Hell


Already the alpha pair of Denver's werewolf pack, Kitty and Ben now plan to tie the knot human-style by eloping to Vegas. Kitty is looking forward to sipping fru-fru drinks by the pool and doing her popular radio show on live TV, but her hotel is stocked with werewolf-hating bounty hunters. Elsewhere on the Strip an old-school magician might be wielding the real thing; the vampire community is harboring a dark secret; and the irresistible star of a suspicious animal act is determined to seduce Kitty. Sin City has never been so wild, and this werewolf has never had to fight harder to save not only her wedding, but her very life. -- Grand Central

Summary: Sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.

Kitty and Ben flee The City That Never Sleeps, thinking they were finished with the dangers there, but the sadistic cult of lycanthropes and their vampire priestess have laid a curse on Kitty in revenge for her disrupting their rituals. Starting at the next full moon, danger and destruction the form of fire strikes Kitty and the pack of werewolves she's sworn to protect.

She enlists the help of a group of TV paranormal investigators - one of whom has real psychic abilities - to help her get to the bottom of the curse that's been laid on her. Rick, the Master vampire of Denver, believes a deeper plot lies behind the curse, and he and Kitty argue about whether or not to accept the help of a professional demon hunter - and vampire - named Roman, who arrives a little too conveniently in the nick of time.

Unable to rely on Rick, and unwilling to accept Roman's offer of help for a price, Kitty and her band of allies, including Vegas magician Odysseus Grant and Kitty's own radio audience, mount a trap for the supernatural being behind the curse, a destructive force summoned by the vengeful cult, a supernatural being that none of them ever thought to face. -- Grand Central

KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND and KITTY RAISES HELL by Carrie Vaughn and books five and six in the Carrie Vaughn werewolf series. If you've been following my blog for the past few days, you already know that I have thoroughly enjoyed this series (and I have to admit that I wasn't sure werewolf books would appeal to me.) I found these two books to be very entertaining and consistent with the other books in the series.

I thought it made so much sense to send Kitty to Las Vegas in KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND. Kitty and Ben decide to get married and head to Vegas so they don't have to deal with all the hassles of planning a wedding. I can't think of a place more perfect for weirdness and quirky characters than Las Vegas. I liked how the author brought the vampire community and other freaky lycanthropes into this novel through the various shows and magical acts -- it was such a creative way to develop the characters. Although, I will admit that some parts of this story did get pretty far out for me, I still love Kitty and enjoyed her Vegas experience; however, I was happy to see that she was returning home for the next book. I like that the author left the reader with a big cliffhanger at the end of KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND, and I was personally glad that I already had my copy of the next book in the series and didn't have to wait to read it!

In KITTY RAISES HELL, Kitty picks up right where she left off with a mysterious message from her encounters in Las Vegas. It's clear that she is dealing with a power unlike anything she's ever experienced before. I thought the premise of this novel was interesting because it included a lot more of the supernatural and paranormal. I enjoyed learning about these types of creatures and some of the remedies for fighting them. I also like that the author introduced some characters from a reality based television show. I thought a few of them were terrific supporting characters, and I liked how they worked with Kitty to solve this mystery.

I haven't read a lot of books that quality as the fantasy genre, so I really don't have anything to compare the Kitty books too; however, I was very impressed with this series -- I had so much fun reading these six books. Miss Vaughn has created very memorable characters and definitely has the ability to tell a great story. I am guessing that there will be more Kitty books in the future because I'm pretty sure that Kitty will manage to get herself into some more trouble. I consider myself a fan of Kitty and I'm looking forward to reading about more of her antics.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to participate in the BlogTalk Radio show with Ms. Vaughn. It was a very interesting interview and it definitely made me want to read this entire series. You can listen to a recording of the show here. Ms. Vaughn has also written a some essays that you might enjoy -- Books are Friends and An Ode to Kafa. You can take a look at the author's website and her blog if you still want to learn a little more about her.

Check out this video for KITTY RAISES HELL:

Participating sites:

If you haven't been following my little blog tour, here are the links to the first three books in the Kitty Norville werewolf series:


A big thanks goes out to Hachette Book Group for allowing me to participate in this very fun book blog tour!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review: Deep Dish

Summary: After years of hard work, Gina Foxton, chef extraordinaire and former runner-up Miss Teen Vidalia Onion, is hosting her own show, Fresh Start, on Georgia public television. She's also dating the producer. But when Fresh Start goes bad—and her boyfriend is caught in flagrante delicto with the boss's wife—Gina decides it's time to pursue bigger dreams. Namely a gig on national television.

Gina knows she's destined to be the Cooking Channel's next superstar. But the execs also have their eyes on Tate Moody, Mr. "Kill It and Grill It" himself, host of the hunting, fishing, and cooking show Vittles. The ultimate man's man, Tate is a tasty side of beef with a large, swooning female fan base. Gina's loyal devotees consist of her free-spirited college-dropout sister and her mother . . . who calls every single day.

When the smoke clears there can be only one TV chef standing, and Gina and Tate are ready for the cook-off of their lives. -- Harper

When Book Club Girl announced that Mary Kay Andrews, author of DEEP DISH, was going to appear on her BlogTalk Radio show, I jumped at the chance. I try to never miss one of her shows because I absolutely love them; and I remember reading one of Ms. Andrews books a few years ago and thoroughly enjoying it. Plus, I've read some very positive reviews about DEEP DISH.

I am so happy to say that I really liked DEEP DISH and I found it so very entertaining! This book was such a light, fun read and I really felt like I was escaping from the grind of my daily life when I read it. Because I read so much and I read a lot of intense books, sometimes it's just nice to sit back and be entertained. That's exactly what DEEP DISH did for me. I found myself laughing (a lot) at the characters' antics; and I really think Ms. Andrews is a master of this type of book.

I thought all of the characters were wonderful, but I absolutely loved Gina and Tate! I thought the author did a great job of showing the competition between the two while also showing their softer, more human sides. I loved how Ms. Andrews was able to keep the tension in their relationship by showing the back and forth nature of love/hate relationship. It was so much fun rooting for both of them, not only in the food competition but on the romance front as well.

My book club is already talking about our summer picks, and I think DEEP DISH would make a terrific selection. It is a light book with great characters as well as lots of humor and romance. I can't think of a better book to read while lounging around the pool. There is a reading guide available which lists some very fun questions to discuss with your friends. And, just imagine all the wonderful dishes you could prepare since the book is about food and cooking shows. There are even a few recipes listed in the back of the book -- I especially think Tate's Grilled Ginger Peachy looks awesome, but you might prefer Reggie's Simply Sinful Tomato Soup Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I can't wait for the radio show tomorrow evening (March 25th at 7:00 p.m.) I already read an interview with Ms. Andrews, and I can tell that she's going to be a lot of fun. Even if you haven't had the chance to read any of her books yet, I still think you'll enjoy listening in on this interview.

A big thanks to Jennifer/Book Club Girl and Harper for sending me this book!

Also reviewed at:
Redlady's Reading Room

Review: Kitty and the Silver Bullet

Summary: Kitty's radio show is as popular as ever and she has a boyfriend who actually seems to understand her. Can she finally settle down to a normal life? Not if this is just the calm before the storm. When her mother falls ill, Kitty rushes back to Denver--and right back to the abusive pack of werewolves she escaped a year ago. To make matters worse, a war is brewing between the city's two oldest vampires, threatening the whole supernatural community. Though she wants to stay neutral, Kitty is again drawn into a world of politics and violence. To protect her family, her lover, and herself, she'll have to choose sides. And maybe become what she hates--a killer. -- Grand Central

KITTY AND THE SILVER BULLET by Carrie Vaughn is the fourth book in the Kitty Norville werewolf series, and it was another enjoyable read. While I can say that I definitely liked this book, it probably wasn't my favorite in the series. This book had a lot more of the werewolf and vampire politics as well as more violence; and I seem to like the books that focus more on Kitty and her life.

One thing that I have really liked about this entire series, but particularly this book, is the way the author handles Kitty's family relationships. Because Kitty was a normal 20 something before she was attached by a werewolf, she still tries to maintain as normal a relationship as possible with her parents and sister. It is clear throughout all of the books that Kitty deeply loves her family and doesn't want to involve them in any of the werewolf parts of her life. In KITTY AND THE SILVER BULLET, Kitty has a lot more contact with her family. I think it's just wonderful how supportive Kitty's family is of her situation. And, I really liked how Kitty rushed to her mother's side when she got sick even though her life was in danger.

As I read this book, I could definitely tell what direction the story was going to take. Both the vampires and werewolves in Denver were battling for control, and I knew there was going to be a big battle before things were resolved. I felt like this book was a little more violent than the first three; however, I think the author does a great job of keeping the fighting and gore in check. It's natural that a werewolf book would include a lot of violence, but I do think, relatively speaking, that Ms. Vaughn handles these scenes in a pretty "clean-cut" way.

If you haven't been following my little blog tour, here are the links to the first three books in the Kitty Norville werewolf series:


Please stop by tomorrow when the "official" Kitty book blog tour is taking place. I will be reviewing books 5 and 6 in the series -- KITTY AND THE DEAD MAN'S HAND and KITTY RAISES HELL. Plus, I'll have lots of other interesting tidbits about these very exciting books!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mailbox Monday - March 23, 2009

Oh my gosh -- did I have the most awesome book week or what? Check out these goodies!

LOVE MERCY by Earlene Fowler

DEAD EVEN by Brad Meltzer -- audio book

BOUND SOUTH by Susan Rebecca White -- I won this book from Michele at Reader's Respite.

CURSE OF THE SPELLMANS by Lisa Lutz -- I won this book from Free Book Friday.


THE MIDWIFE by Jennifer Worth

FREDERICA by Georgette Heyer


THE STAY-AT-HOME SURVIVAL GUIDE: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for yur kids by Melissa Stanton

THE CRADLE by Patrick Somerville

THE HOUSEHOLD GUIDE TO DYING: A Novel About Life (ARC) by Debra Adelaide

WATER GHOSTS (ARC) by Shawna Yang Ryan

RAIN VILLAGE by Carolyn Turgeon

EVERYONE IS BEAUTIFUL (ARC) by Katherine Center - I think the neighbors could hear my squeal when I got this one from Library Thing Early Reviewers!

DOGFESSIONS: Secret Confessions from Dogs compiled by Nikki Moustaki - I won this a few months ago from Harper Collins Children Books.

NUTTY TO MEET YOU by Alan Venable - My son and I read this one immediately after we opened it. I hope to write up the review very soon.


SIMPLE WISHES by Lisa Dale - I won this book from Fresh Fiction!

THE LOST HOURS by Karen White


What did you get last week?

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Review: Kitty Takes a Holiday

Summary: After getting caught turning wolf on national television, Kitty retreats to a mountain cabin to recover and write her memoirs. But this is Kitty, so trouble is never far behind, and instead of Walden Pond, she gets Evil Dead. When werewolf hunter Cormac shows up with an injured Ben O'Farrell, Kitty's lawyer, slung over his shoulder, and a wolf-like creature with glowing red eyes starts sniffing around the cabin, Kitty wonders if any of them will get out of these woods alive... -- Grand Central

Today is Day 3 of my "unofficial" book tour for the Kitty Norville werewolf series by Carrie Vaughn. KITTY TAKES A HOLIDAY is the third book in this series, and right now I'd have to say that it is my favorite. I am going to admit that I read these books out of order because I was concerned that I wouldn't get all of them read before the "official" book blog tour date. (I read the first book and then books 5 and 6. Then I went back an read books 2, 3, and 4.) This book definitely cleared up a lot of major things mentioned in books 5 and 6 that I was dying to know; however, I really wish I had read this series in order because I think this book would have knocked my socks off!

I felt that KITTY TAKES A HOLIDAY was kind of a misleading title for this book. Kitty decided to take some time off from her radio show to sort things out in her life and write a memoir. She goes away to a secluded cabin; however, in typical Kitty fashion trouble follows her. I thought that this novel was actually a little darker than the first two books (although these books deal with werewolves and other supernatural creatures so they are dark by nature), and it definitely had a lot less humor.

There are two major things that happen in this novel, and it's hard to review this book without mentioning them. But I don't want to come close to giving them away because they are terrific surprises. Suffice it to say that both of these occurrences are life-altering for Kitty and her two close friends. Due to unforeseen events, Kitty and her friends are forced to evaluate their lives and their actions. I felt that this book was definitely the most insightful into the thoughts and feelings of Kitty as well as the actions of werewolves.

If you haven't been following my little blog tour, here are the links to the first two books in the Kitty Norville werewolf series:


Make sure you stop by tomorrow when I'll be reviewing Book 4 KITTY AND THE SILVER BULLET.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Kitty Goes to Washington

Summary: Celebrity werewolf and late-night radio host Kitty Norville prefers to be heard and not seen. So when she's invited to testify at a Senate hearing on behalf of supernaturals, and her face gets plastered on national TV, she inherits a new set of friends, and enemies, including the vampire mistress of the city; an ├╝ber-hot Brazilian were-jaguar; and a Bible-thumping senator who wants to expose Kitty as a monster. Kitty quickly learns that in this city of dirty politicians and backstabbing pundits, everyone's itching for a fight. -- Grand Central

KITTY GOES TO WASHINGTON by Carrie Vaughn is the second book in the Kitty Norville werewolf series, and I think I enjoyed this one as much as KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR (my review.) This series is very readable, the characters are very interesting, and the storylines definitely hook me in. I am a little surprised with how much I am liking these books.

Once again, I found myself liking Kitty and her antics; however, I did find myself getting frustrated at times with her promiscuity. I don't want to come across that there were a lot of sexual scenes in this book because there really weren't many details. In fact, I am actually kind of pleased with how Ms. Vaughn handles the sex that takes place in the first two books -- she could have been so much more graphic. I am thankful that it's not a major focus of these books, but I was still disappointed that Kitty chose to go home with someone she met at a bar.

I also enjoyed that the majority of the book took place in Washington, DC -- a town that I lived in for over ten years. I thought it was interesting to have Kitty visit the normal "touristy" spots, and I really appreciated how she got emotional when talking about Arlington Cemetery. Even though Kitty is a werewolf (and by the way, how funny is it that "Kitty" is a "werewolf?"), she still comes across in these books as very human. I found in interesting in this book that Kitty existed in her human state for the vast majority of this book rather than her werewolf state. Maybe that's one of the reasons that I liked this book so much -- more people and less animals!

I felt that the author did a better job with building suspense in this book that the first one. There were quite a few odd characters that Kitty met, and there were also a handful of mysteries that Kitty was trying to figure out. By now, I've pretty much realized that if trouble doesn't follow Kitty, she'll manage to find it herself. I also thoroughly enjoyed the vampire aspects of this story, and I love the complex relationships between the werewolves and the vampires.

Make sure you stop by tomorrow because I will be reviewing book three in the series -- KITTY TAKES A HOLIDAY.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Review: Kitty and the Midnight Hour

Summary: Kitty Norville is a midnight-shift DJ for a Denver radio station and a werewolf in the closet. Her new late-night advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged is a raging success, but it's Kitty who can use some help. With one sexy werewolf-hunter and a few homicidal undead on her tail, Kitty may have bitten off more than she can chew? -- Grand Central

I am going to preface this review by saying that KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR by Carrie Vaughn is not a book that I would normally read. However, I decided to "go a little crazy" and sign up for the March Book Blog tour for the Kitty Norville werewolf series. As part of touring books five and six, Hachette sent me all six books in the series. I have to admit that I was a little concerned about reading all six books if I didn't like the premise. I shouldn't have been worried because I am thoroughly enjoying this series.

I am so glad that I went out of my comfort zone and picked up this book -- I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. KITTY AND THE MIDNIGHT HOUR is Book 1 in this series, and it does a great job of setting up the story and the characters. The book was a very quick read for me, and (much to my surprise) I found that I didn't want to put the book down. I actually read this book in less than a day! I can't remember ever reading any werewolf books before, but I have to say that I am hooked.

One of the things that I really liked about this book were the characters. I thought Ms. Vaughn did a fantastic job of portraying Kitty. The book is told in first person narrative by her, and I loved learning her feelings and insecurities about being a werewolf. I was very surprised by how much I liked Kitty and how normal she seemed (except for her ability to change into a werewolf.) I also thought Ms. Vaughn showed Kitty's internal conflict about her werewolf nature in a very convincing way.

Since my intent is to post a Kitty book review a day until the blog tour, I'm going to end my review here -- I know you're thinking that it might be my shortest review ever! I need to save some of the things I like about these books to discuss in my future reviews.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Review: A Reliable Wife

Summary: Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.

With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis. -- Algonquin Books

I have been reading so many incredible reviews about A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick that I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. I absolutely devoured this book and completely agree with what all the critics are saying -- A RELIABLE WIFE is an amazing book. I highly recommend this novel and suggest you add it to your must-read list.

When I first read the book description for A RELIABLE WIFE, I thought it sounded intriguing. A wealthy widower has purchased an ad looking for "a reliable wife." The book begins with him impatiently waiting at a train station for his future wife to arrive. He is shocked when a beautiful woman gets off the train because she doesn't match the picture of the "plain" woman he was expecting. I immediately knew that Catherine wasn't the woman she was pretending to be and had a very questionable past -- she actually was planning on killing her new husband and taking all his money. Catherine's actions were a big indication to me that things in this story might be a little more complex than they first appeared. And, it was the first sign that this book would be filled with many twists and turns.

I absolutely love how this story unfolded! I felt as if I was always discovering something new about these incredibly complex characters. What I found odd about this book was that I didn't actually like any of the characters, yet their lives and actions had me completely mesmerized -- I usually enjoy books more when I can relate to the characters. All of the main characters were coping with a great deal of baggage, and as a result, were very damaged and flawed. I'm sure I was attracted to their stories because they were so sordid, but I have to admit that I found them fascinating.

A RELIABLE WIFE is Robert Goolrick's first novel and I have to say that it's a very powerful debut. I cannot rave enough about this book -- it's riveting. Mr. Goolrick is an extremely gifted writer, and I was blown away by the way he told this story. I'm not exactly sure how to describe his writing style, but to say it's almost understated. Every word was carefully chosen for a reason and to evoke a particular feeling. His descriptions of the Wisconsin countryside and the town's inhabitants are just perfect -- I could visualize the desolate, snow-covered countryside and even understand how some of the people in this town went mad. This book would without a doubt make an incredible movie, and I wasn't surprised that the film rights to A RELIABLE WIFE have already been purchased by Columbia.

A RELIABLE WIFE should be on your book club's list of books to read because it would make a fantastic discussion book. It has already been selected as one of The April 2009 Indie Next List Great Reads. Just last week, Reading Group Guides blog had a terrific guest post written by three librarians about A RELIABLE WIFE. I especially enjoyed reading their most talked about discussion questions at the end of the essay. The themes in this book aren't unique to this story, but they are told with an entirely new slant. Some of the topics your club might discuss are lies, deceit, loneliness, forgiveness, madness, violence, and revenge. You could probably just talk about the psyche of the characters for an entire evening. This book really is that interesting.

A RELIABLE WIFE comes out on March 31st. You might just want to pre-order it to make sure you have it right away! A big thanks to Algonquin Books for sending me an ARC to review.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: The Girl She Used to Be

Summary: When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, and they went gratefully. But the program took Melody's name, her home, her innocence, and, ultimately, her family. She's been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others--everyone but the one person she longs to be: herself. So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another town, she's stunned when a man confronts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to hunt her down, knows her, the real her, and it's a dangerous thrill that Melody can't resist. He's insistent that she's just a pawn in the government's war against the Bovaro family. But can she trust her life and her identity to this vicious stranger whose acts of violence are legendary? -- Grand Central Publishing

In high school, I used to read a lot of books about the Mafia. Chalk it up to the influence of The Godfather movies and RAGE OF ANGELS, but I couldn't get enough of them. Since that time, I can't say that I've read very many fictional Mafia books (I have read a few non-fiction ones) but THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE by David Cristofano looked kind of interesting to me. I was drawn to it because 1) it was a story with some Mafia references, and 2) the main character was a woman. I thought it was a unique premise for a novel.

I found THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE a very readable novel. I definitely had some issues with Melody because I really didn't like her very much. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the book -- I'm just saying that I found myself getting upset with her and thinking that she needed to grow up. I tried to feel sympathy towards her, and at times I did; but she was a complex character that had a great deal of self-pity. While I can never relate to the traumas that Melody experienced in her life, I did understand the difficulties of starting over (and fitting in) that she felt. As a child, I moved every few years; but at least, I was always able to be me. I can't imagine having to start a new identity and not being able to discuss my past.

Despite not feeling a great deal of compassion towards Melody, I couldn't put this book down. Melody gets caught up in whirlwind of activity going back and forth between the federal government and the son of a mafioso -- she doesn't know who to trust. And to be honest, I didn't know either. The action in the book became much more frantic, and I found myself reading at a faster and faster pace because I couldn't wait to find out what happens. This book definitely has its fair share of twists and turns and it kept me guessing until the last few pages.

THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE is Mr. Cristofano's first novel, and I think it's a very impressive start. While I was interested in this book because the main character was a woman, I was a little surprised by the author's decision to write this book from a woman's point of view. I was so happy to stumble upon this essay where Mr. Cristofano writes about this very idea. I really appreciate how he thinks writing in a female voice gives him additional insight into the women in his life. I definitely didn't relate to Melody at all (mainly because I can't imagine hiding out for twenty years with different identities), but I think he did a pretty good job of creating a memorable female character. There is also an interview with him that sheds some light on the novel.

I wasn't so sure that I was going to recommend THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE for a book club selection; however when I read the discussion questions, I changed my mind. These questions will definitely help keep your discussion on track; and they cover a lot of interesting issues. I especially like the questions having to do with Melody's state of mind and her inability to trust and form relationships.
Thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for sending me this book!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Review: Godmother & Giveaway

Summary: Lil is an old woman who spends her days shelving rare books in a tiny Manhattan bookstore and lonely nights at home in her apartment. But Lil has an intriguing secret. Tucked and bound behind her back are white feathery wings–the only key to who she once was: the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball to unite with her Prince Charming.

But on that fateful night, something went terribly and beautifully wrong. Lil allowed herself the unthinkable: to feel the emotions of human beings and fall in love with the prince herself, going to the ball in place of Cinderella in her exquisitely gorgeous human guise. For her unforgivable mistake, she was banished to live among humans, far from her fairy sisters and their magical underwater world. But then one day she meets Veronica–a young, fair-skinned, flame-haired East Village beauty with a love of all things vintage and a penchant for falling in love with the wrong men–and suddenly it becomes clear to Lil that she’s been given a chance at redemption. If she can find a soul mate for Veronica, she may right her wrong and return to the fairy world she so deeply longs for. . . . -- Three Rivers Press

I have to admit that the description of the book GODMOTHER: THE SECRET CINDERELLA STORY by Carolyn Turgeon intrigued me. I know books that re-tell fairy tales are popular right now, but I haven't read a lot of them. For some reason, this one really appealed to me probably because the fairy godmother character worked in a bookstore and the book takes place in the present. Whatever the reason, I am so glad that I picked up GODMOTHER -- it was a fabulous book.

This book is a must read if you enjoy fairy tales. The book is a wonderful re-telling of the age-old Cinderella story but it is filled with some twists. Suffice it to say that in GODMOTHER, the Cinderella story that we all know and love isn't the real story. I love how the author created this new version; and while it is drastically different, I love how it still fits with the original story. GODMOTHER is at times funny, dark, touching, and even surprising; but above all, it is just a magical story!

Ms. Turgeon is an amazing writer! Not only did she come up with a new Cinderella story in this novel, but she also made up another storyline that is extremely creative. I love how she told this story by going back and forth between present day when Lil is trying to work a little fairy godmother magic and her past when she was Cinderella's fairy godmother. I absolutely adored how Ms. Turgeon wove these two stories together -- it was seamless. I was drawn into Lil's story from the very start; and I couldn't put the book down until I found out what happened to her.

Lil is a wonderful character and the perfect choice for narrator of this book. There is much more to Lil than I first thought when I started this novel -- she is an extremely complex and interesting character to say the least. After Lil botched her role as the fairy godmother in the Cinderella story, she was forced to live as a human (rather than a beautiful fairy) and deal with her mistakes. Lil, now an older woman working in a used bookstore, receives a few clues that maybe she is being given a second chance. She decides that if she can just make a match between her new friend and her boss, she just might redeem herself and return to the fairy world. My heart went out to Lil because it was obvious that she was living with a great deal of loneliness and guilt. I certainly found myself rooting for her and hoping that she was getting a second chance.

The entire time I read GODMOTHER, I kept thinking that it would make the perfect movie. Stories that re-tell fairy tales with some twists have such a huge audience right now, and this one would most certainly appeal to a lot of people. As I read this novel, I could almost picture the scenes as a movie, especially the ones with Cinderella and the other fairies. So I wasn't surprised when I read that the book has been optioned for film by Random House Films/Focus Features. I really hope this movie gets made because I think it has the potential to be wonderful.

After I read this book and enjoyed it so much, I decided to check out Ms. Turgeon's website and learn a little more about her. I was so excited to see that she's written another book RAIN VILLAGE which I am now dying to read. I also learned that she's a Penn State graduate (like me) and even lives in Central PA (also like me!) I love how she mentions that her New York friends refer to her as a hillbilly now because my DC friends said the same thing when we moved here! If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Turgeon, you can also check out her blog. There is also a great article about the magic of books clubs that she wrote for Reading Group Guides -- you can read it here.

Speaking of book clubs, I think GODMOTHER would be a really fun pick for a future book club meeting. It's a terrific read and there's actually a great deal to talk about. The book contains a reading guide in the back which will help direct your discussion. I would love to hear my friends opinions on the ending of the story, as well as their thoughts on the themes of loss, friendship, redemption, loneliness, and beauty. There are so many issues which a book group could delve into and analyze.

Does GODMOTHER sound like a book that you'd like to read? I just happen to have an extra, autographed copy to share with one lucky reader. To enter the contest, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book. To double or even triple your chances, blog about this contest with a link back to this post and/or tweet about it. The contest will be open until Friday, April 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

A big thanks goes out to Alisha from Crown Publishing for sending me this wonderful and enchanting novel!

Also reviewed at:
Melody's Reading Corner
The Written Word

Hello...You Won Standing Still

Congratulations to Julie from Girls Just Reading! You won an autographed copy of STANDING STILL by Kelly Simmons. Please e-mail me with your name and mailing address so I can forward them to the author.

Make sure you check out my other giveaways:




Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Review: Galway Bay & Giveaway

Summary: Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch--and their crops--to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop--their only staple food. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Danger and hardship await them there. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century", fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's 44 million Irish Americans. -- Grand Central Publishing

Happy St. Patrick's Day! And I can't think of a better way to celebrate than talking about GALWAY BAY by Mary Pat Kelly. I love that the bloggers voted for GALWAY BAY to be the March Early Birds Blog Tour book -- it is just so timely. Since I'm not Irish and don't really enjoy green beer, I never feel like I am "worthy" to celebrate this holiday; however, after reading this book, I definitely feel like an honorary Irishman this year!

As many of you know, I am always drawn to historical fiction books. GALWAY BAY was a wonderful read. I haven't read many books about Ireland and its history (and it's been a very long time since I've read Leon Uris' TRINITY), but I've always been very interested in the Irish people. Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I have any Irish blood in our veins; and I have to admit that I don't know much about Ireland's history beyond the potato blight in the mid 1800s. I think that's one of the reasons that I enjoyed GALWAY BAY so much was that it contained so much of Ireland's fascinating history.

When I first started this book, I was a little concerned about all of the native Irish words that were referenced. Most I could figure out from the sentences' context, but some had me wondering. I'm not sure if there were eventually less Irish words in the book or I got used to them, but by page 100 I wasn't having any issues with the language and I was totally caught up in the story. It wasn't until I had about 100 pages to go that I noticed there is a glossary in the back of the book. I felt so dumb and I do think it would have enhanced my reading experience had I used the glossary from the start.

GALWAY BAY is based on the life of Mary Pat Kelly's great-great-grandmother, Honora Kelly. I love that she wrote this entire novel based on some stories about her great-great-grandmother. I can't imagine how fascinating the entire process of writing this book would have been for her. She not only learned about Ireland's history and the beginnings of Chicago, but she also got to "know" her relatives. You can read more about what an honor it was for her to write this book here; and Ms. Kelly has also written a letter which explains some of the the things she discovered about her ancestors while researching this novel. If you still want to learn more about Ms. Kelly, check out her blog.

This book covers the life of Honora Kelly from the time she was a teenager until she was an older woman. She is a wonderful character that captured my heart from the very start; and I won't easily forget her. She was an incredibly loyal wife and mother (and grandmother) and was definitely the force behind her entire family. While she did eventually come to America because it was the best for her family, she still told all the old Irish folk stories and lore that she had learned from her grandmother. I thought these stories were a terrific addition to this book because I wasn't familiar with any of them. I also appreciated how the author wrote about the beginnings of Chicago, the fight for Ireland's freedom, and even some events in the Civil War. This book was an amazing blend of fiction and history -- there really is something for every reader in this novel.

Honora Kelly, as was her sister Maire, were without a doubt survivors and an inspiration to women everywhere. I am mind boggled by the hardships they endured throughout their lives. Even though my family isn't of Irish descent, I still related to the characters in GALWAY BAY and was touched by their plight. My relatives came over with nothing from Germany, Poland and Italy to make a home here and find a better place for their families. I think this novel speaks to people everywhere whose ancestors took humongous risks and immigrated to the United States.

I am just thrilled that Ms. Kelly is going to be interviewed today (March 17th) at 11:00 a.m. EST on Blog Talk Radio. Based on her bio, Ms. Kelly sounds very interesting. I was so impressed with not only her ability to tell a wonderful story, but also the amount of research she conducted to write this novel. I can't wait to hear her talk about her family and their Irish traditions; and I'm very anxious to learn more about what inspired her to write their story.

I highly recommend GALWAY BAY for book clubs. The only issue would be the length of the book (over 550 pages); however, it is well worth the extra time you'd spend on it. There is a reading guide in the back of the book that has some excellent discussion questions. There are so many wonderful topics such as family relationships, surviving hardships, endurance, love, religion, adapting to new environments, customs and traditions, etc. You could talk about this book for hours. And if you really want to make your meeting special, this is the perfect book to discuss over a variety of Irish foods and drinks!

Check out these other blogs participating in the GALWAY BAY tour:


Are you feeling lucky? I have three copies of GALWAY BAY to share with you. To get one entry, leave me a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book. To double or even triple your chances, blog about this giveaway with a link back to this post and/or tweet about it! The contest will be open until Tuesday, March 31st at 11:59 p.m EST. I will announce the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and/or Canada mailing addresses only.

A huge thanks goes out to Miriam from Hachette Book Group for allowing me to partipate in this book blog tour!