Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review: Shimmer

Summary: In just three years, CEO Robbie Case has grown Core Communications, a data technology company, from 30 people to over 5,000. Now a $20 billion company made legendary by its sudden success, Core is based on a technology no other company can come close to copying, a revolutionary breakthrough known as “drawing blood from a mainframe.” And Robbie, its 35-year-old CEO, is acclaimed worldwide for his vision, leadership and wealth. Except that all of it is based on a lie. The technology doesn’t work, the finances are built on a Ponzi scheme of stock sales and shell corporations, and Robbie is struggling to keep the company alive, to protect the friends who work for him and all that they’ve built. Each day, Robbie tries to push the catastrophe back a little further, while his employees believe that they are all moving closer to “grace,” the day their stock options vest, when they will be made rich for their faith and loyalty and hard work. The details of the lie are all keyed into a shadowy interface that Robbie calls Shimmer, an omniscient mainframe that hides itself, calculates its own collapse, threatens to outsmart its creator and to reveal the corporation’s illegal, fragile underpinnings. Shimmer is the story of a high-tech crusade nearing its end. The shell game Robbie has created is finally running out of room. And Robbie is the only one who knows or who has a chance to make things right. Or is he?

A breathless debut novel that charges the atmosphere with suspense and surprise and delivers complex characters you can root for in spite of their flaws,
Shimmer is Robbie’s race against the truth. -- Unbridled Books

When I first picked up SHIMMER by Eric Barnes, I had a feeling that I might not be the ideal audience for it. SHIMMER is a unique novel in that I would describe it as a "techno thriller." In the past, I used to read a lot of suspense/thriller books; but lately I seem to gravitate more towards historical fiction and women's fiction. It's not that I have anything against thrillers, it's just that they aren't my first book of choice anymore. And, while I definitely enjoyed (and appreciated) SHIMMER, I'm thinking that maybe I should have passed it on for Booking Pap Pap to read and review. I just don't quite know how to review it -- so all I can do is share some of my thoughts about this novel.

Having said all that, I don't want it to sound like I didn't like this book because I definitely did enjoy reading it. There were times when I was reading SHIMMER when I couldn't put it down. I think a lot of credit goes to the author Eric Barnes for creating so much suspense. This isn't one of those books where there is a lot of action. In fact, almost the entire story takes place in Core Communications Office building. However, I could actually feel myself become shaky and nervous along with Robbie as he faced possible exposure to his secrets. This book really did make me feel like I was on a roller-coaster ride. The story was fast-paced and the characters' actions were at times frantic. It was a very suspenseful read!

As mentioned in the book description, this story is based on a high-tech company that was basically operating a Ponzi scheme. I'm going to be honest and say that I am one of the least technologically minded people out there -- I basically shut down at the first mention of computer terms. And while I wasn't really interested in all the computer lingo and understanding how the company worked, I did think the scheme sounded feasible; and I didn't have any problems comprehending what Robbie was doing with his company. So if you are like me and feel a little overwhelmed by the idea behind this book, don't let that deter you from reading it.

I thought Mr. Barnes did a really good job of developing the characters. The majority of the book was written in Robbie's first person voice so the reader really gets inside his mind. Since Robbie had been keeping so many secrets for so long, he was definitely starting to fall apart; and the stress because so many people were dependent on him really came through on every page. I also appreciated how Mr. Barnes threw in very brief chapters about a few of the executive employees which he wrote in third person. These sections let the readers know more about Robbie's co-workers as well as giving them an inkling that Robbie's secrets weren't all that "secret."

Robbie was an extremely interesting and yet a highly flawed character. So often in these types of books, these characters seem to be one-dimensional. That wasn't the case in SHIMMER. I thought the author did a fantastic job of developing Robbie and giving the reader information about his youth. His insecurities, his fear of intimacy, and his guilt were definitely the result of many things that happened in his past. I found Robbie to be a fascinating character but I didn't always like him. What I did find strange, though, was that despite all of Robbie's deception, I found myself liking him and even rooting for his successes!

I don't want to give anything away about the ending, but I think I can't write a review of this book without mentioning it. I thought the ending made the book for me! As my emotions went back and forth about Robbie depending on his actions -- sometimes I liked him and other times I couldn't stand him -- I thought I had him figured out by the end of the book. Suffice it to say that I was a little surprised with how the author ended this story, but I thought it was perfect for this book and these characters.

SHIMMER is available today, June 30, 2009. Thanks to Libby from Unbridled Books for sending me an ARC of SHIMMER.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Game On! and Pounds Off! (I Hope)

Summary: The Game On! Diet is not a diet. It's a bold new approach to fitness that turns the latest, smartest, most successful health science into a fun, fierce, and exhilarating game. Developed by Az Ferguson, to help Grey's Anatomy writer Krista Vernoff shed forty pounds of postpregnancy weight, it is the ideal program for busy people who should be working out but have a thousand good excuses not to.

Az keeps you motivated and Krista keeps you laughing as they show you how to organize opposing teams, set goals, and compete to earn points for daily exercise, healthy meal plans, and positive lifestyle changes. With The Game On! Diet, the process of losing weight, for the first time ever, is actually fun. After all, what's better than a bikini body . . . and bragging rights?

Get out there and lose . . . to win! Game on! -- Harper

THE GAME ON! DIET: KICK YOUR FRIEND'S BUTT WHILE SHRINKING YOUR OWN by Az Ferguson and Krista Vernoff sounds like an awesome concept for losing weight. I had a lot of success last summer when I lost over 20 pounds with Weight Watchers and exercise, but I've noticed that a few pounds are creeping back on the past few months. After reading about Book Club Girl's endeavor, I admit that I was a little interested in this health plan. And then when I saw her success, I became very interested!

Here's the premise in a nutshell:

Rather than focus on losing weight, you get to focus on winning points -- this idea definitely appeals to the competitive side of my personality. You can earn a maximum of 100 points a day for doing the following:

1) 30 Meal Points - 6 points per meal -no snacks
2) 20 Exercise Points - 20 minutes of exercise per day
3) 10 Water Points - 3 liters a day
4) 15 Sleep Points - at least 7 hours a night
5) 20 Transformation Points - 10 points for a healthy new habit and 10 points for dropping an old unhealthy one
6) 5 Communication Points - being in contact with your team members every day

You can also lose points if you:
1) 10 Points - snack between meals
2) 20 Points - if you collude with another player
3) 25 Points - alcohol penalty per portion

The diet does cut you some slack:
1) One day off a week when you don't have to follow any of the rules
2) One meal off a week when you can eat what you want and have one unit of alcohol
3) Each day you can have 100 calories of anything as a bonus treat

Admittedly, dieting is not a good time for me; however, I think the Game On! plan does sound kind of fun. A group of fellow book bloggers has agreed to take on this challenge along with me. We have been divided into three teams; and we will compete against each other to see which team gets the most points.

The Twinkies:
Dawn – She is Too Fond of Books
Jenners – Find Your Next Book Here
Jenn – Jenn’s Bookshelf
Candace – Beth Fish Reads
Denise – M. Denise C.

The Ding Dongs:
Tina – Book Chatter and Other Stuff
Amy – My Friend Amy
Jill/Softdrink – Fizzy Thoughts
Jill – Rhapsody in Books

The Ho Hos
Kathy - The Brain Lair
and her three friends who will be writing about their experience on Facebook

Our challenge begins today, June 29th and ends July 26th -- it's a four week program. All of the participants will be blogging regularly (at least once a week) and tweeting to keep everyone in the loop about our struggles (oops -- I mean efforts.) You can follow our discussion on twitter by using the hashtag #gameondiet. We haven't worked out all the details, but I'm pretty sure that the winning team members are going to get some good prizes!

I am very excited about this but also very nervous. So far, the thing that scares me the most is that I have to give up my diet soda -- that's my drug of choice. I try to limit my soda to one per day, but I still consider myself addicted! At least, I can still have my coffee and iced tea. I think I'll be okay with the exercise part because I already run three miles a few days a week; and I know I can stick to the diet if I set my mind to it.

As far as the Transformation Points go, it's not going to be easy. For my healthy habit, I am going to do five Sun Salutations each day. For my unhealthy habit that I need to kick, I'm going to stay off of my computer for two hours a day and spend more time with my family. That's something I should be doing anyway, but....

Wish me luck -- I'm going to need it! And to the Twinkies and the Ho Hos -- GAME ON!

Review: The Devlin Diary

Summary: From the acclaimed author of The Rossetti Letter comes a dazzling novel of intrigue, passion, and royal secrets that shifts tantalizingly between Restoration-era London and present-day Cambridge.

London, 1672. The past twelve years have brought momentous changes: the restoration of the monarchy, a devastating plague and fire. Yet the city remains a teeming, thriving metropolis, energized by the lusty decadence of Charles II's court and burgeoning scientific inquiry. Although women enjoy greater freedom, they are not allowed to practice medicine, a restriction that physician Hannah Devlin evades by treating patients that most other doctors shun: the city's poor.

But Hannah has a special knowledge that Secretary of State Lord Arlington desperately needs. At the king's Machiavellian court, Hannah attracts the attention of two men, charming courtier Ralph Montagu and anatomist Dr. Edward Strathern, as well as the attention of the powerful College of Physicians, which views her work as criminal. When two influential courtiers are found brutally murdered, their bodies inscribed with arcane symbols, Hannah is drawn into a dangerous investigation by Dr. Strathern, who believes the murders conceal a far-reaching conspiracy that may include Hannah's late father and the king himself.

Cambridge, 2008. Teaching history at Trinity College is Claire Donovan's dream come true -- until one of her colleagues is found dead on the banks of the River Cam. The only key to the professor's unsolved murder is a seventeenth century diary kept by his last research subject, Hannah Devlin, physician to the king's mistress. With help from the eclectic collections of Cambridge's renowned libraries, Claire and historian Andrew Kent follow the clues Devlin left behind, uncovering secrets of London's dark past and Cambridge's equally murky present, and discovering that events of three hundred years ago may still have consequences today....

A suspenseful and richly satisfying tale brimming with sharply observed historical detail,
The Devlin Diary brings past and present to vivid life. With wit and grace, Christi Phillips holds readers spellbound with an extraordinary novel of secrets, obsession, and the haunting power of the past. -- Pocket Books

I was very excited to read THE DEVLIN DIARY by Christi Phillips because it just sounded like a book that I would really enjoy. Historical fiction has got to be one of my very favorite genres, and it seems like the books that go back and forth between the past and present day are especially appealing to me. I was not disappointed in the slightest! I loved THE DEVLIN DIARY and I hated to even put it down.

Before I go into my review, I have to tell you about my one regret. I really wish that I had read Ms. Phillips prior book THE ROSSETTI LETTER first. It wasn't necessary to read this book to have an understanding the characters -- THE DEVLIN DIARY definitely can stand alone and be enjoyed; however, I just loved this book so much that I felt as if I were missing out by not reading the books in order! Needless to say, I will be reading THE ROSETTI LETTER in the near future.

As you can see, I am so excited about this book that I barely know where to start! While I was reading THE DEVLIN DIARY, I kept telling everyone that it was just so good. I think my husband was getting a little annoyed with me. I guess the storyline is the first thing that really struck me as being special. Often times when I read a book that takes place in the past and the present, I find myself only interested in one of the story lines. That wasn't the case in the novel. I enjoyed both the stories and characters equally (whether they took place in current day or the 1670 London.) I also thought the historical parts of this story were extremely interesting, and it's very clear that Ms. Phillips did a great job with her research. I loved the way she incorporated the factual information with the fictional elements of this book. I also really appreciated the mystery aspects of the novel, and I loved how the story and the mystery eventually unfolded.

Besides the plot of THE DEVLIN DIARY, I also found myself liking the characters and how the author chose to develop them. It was very easy for me to like Claire and I enjoyed "being along" for her research. I also enjoyed seeing her interactions with Andrew (that's one of the reasons I want to read the first book), and I couldn't help but root for them to realize their feelings for each other. I also really liked Hannah, and I thought her character was developed so well. Hannah was a very complex character; and she was also a feminist and way ahead of her time. I really enjoyed reading about her (and her actions), and I found her so interesting because she was such a flawed character.

I hope I'm not building up expectations too much for this novel, but I was also really impressed with Ms. Phillips and her writing. I've already mentioned that I couldn't put this book down, and that was the case from the first few pages -- I was drawn into the story right away. I loved how the author was able to go back and forth between the time periods without missing a beat; and I was very impressed with how she tied the two different story lines together. I also thought her attention to detail, especially pertaining to the historical parts, was terrific. You can learn more about Ms. Phillips by reading this interview and this special feature called Christi Phillips Revealed.

I highly recommend reading THE DEVLIN DIARY as a future book club pick. The storyline is intriguing, the characters are interesting, and I'm pretty sure that everyone will enjoy reading the book. I was very excited to see that there is a reading guide available for this novel, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the questions. There is a great deal to discuss in this novel including the characters' actions, the different time periods, and the themes of honesty and feminism. I also liked that the reading guide included some ideas for enhancing your meeting including menu ideas and links to the historical information in the book.

Check out these other tour stops:

S. Krishna’s Books

All About {n}
Jenn’s Bookshelf
Beth Fish Reads
The Literate Housewife Review
Book Soulmates
Chick With Books
Gimme More Books
We Be Reading
Book Bird Dog
Bookin’ with “BINGO”
My Friend Amy
Books and Needlepoint
A Working Title
Must Read Faster
Shhh I’m Reading
Debbie’s World of Books
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog
Write for a Reader
A Sea of Books
I Heart Monster
Pick of the Literate
Kingdom Books Blog
Drey’s Library
The Jaydit Reader
A Book Bloggers Diary

Thanks to Sarah from Pocket Books for allowing me to participate in THE DEVLIN DIARY blog tour.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: The House on Fortune Street

Summary: It seems like mutual good luck for Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod when they meet at St. Andrews University and, despite their differences, become fast friends. Years later they remain an unlikely pair. Abigail, an actress who confidently uses her charms both on- and offstage, believes herself immune to love. Dara, a counselor, is convinced that everyone is inescapably marked by childhood; she throws herself into romantic relationships with frightening intensity. Yet now each seems to have found "true love"—another stroke of luck?—Abigail with her academic boyfriend, Sean, and Dara with a tall, dark violinist named Edward, who literally falls at her feet. But soon after Dara moves into Abigail's downstairs apartment, trouble threatens both relationships, and their friendship.

For Abigail it comes in the form of an anonymous letter to Sean claiming that she's been unfaithful; for Dara, a reconciliation with her distant father, Cameron, who left the family when Dara was ten, reawakens complicated feelings. Through four ingeniously interlocking narratives—Sean's, Cameron's, Dara's, and Abigail's—we gradually understand how these characters' lives are shaped by both chance and determination. Whatever the source, there is no mistaking the tragedy that strikes the house on Fortune Street.

"Everyone," claims Abigail, "has a book or a writer who's the key to their life." As this statement reverberates through each of the narratives, Margot Livesey skillfully reveals how luck—good and bad—plays a vital role in our lives, and how the search for truth can prove a dangerous undertaking. Written with her characteristic elegance and wit, The House on Fortune Street offers a surprisingly provocative detective story of the heart.-- Harper Perennial

I have read a few raving reviews about THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET by Margot Livesey, including one from a person whose opinion I respect a great deal
; and I just knew that I had to read it. I had a feeling that this novel was going to be a beautifully written story with well-developed and memorable characters, and it indeed was! After I finished the book, I closed it and just said "Wow."

I absolutely treasured each and every word of this novel because the writing was just so rich and beautiful. The book was set up in four sections about four different characters. One section was written in first person while the other three were told in third person narrative. No matter which device Ms. Lively used to tell the story, each one was equally effective. I happened to appreciate that the section about the character with whom I had the most issues was written in first person. I think reading his personal thoughts allowed me to understand him more and actually be more sympathetic towards his actions.

I love how the author told each of these characters' separate stories while also showing some of the overlap. It was very interesting to see the same event and how two (or more) of the characters perceived it. I was very impressed with how Ms. Lively was able to weave all of the stories together and really show the effects that individual behavior can have on others. As a reader, I felt almost privileged to see inside these characters' lives and genuinely understand their actions and even their reactions.
This book definitely reminded me that our behavior can affect others in ways we don't even realize.

For me, this book was really an amazing example of how well an author can create and develop characters. It is an extremely character driven novel. Each of these characters was quite complex and flawed in what first appeared to me to be very different ways. However after I finished reading this novel, I kept thinking about these characters and I realized that many of their "issues" were common to all of them (and actually are quite common to many people.)

Another thing that I was blown away by was how Ms. Lively managed to effectively weave so many recurring themes throughout all four stories. Probably the most obvious to me was how she had each character have a special interest in a different literary figure. I wish I were more familiar with these authors' works, so I could have fully appreciated what this told the reader about each character. In addition, I thought the author did a terrific job in showing how all of the character had a secret or something from their past that either they couldn't come to terms with or still had a dramatic effect on their life.

I have to mention one thing about THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET that kind of threw me for a little loop. I read the back cover of the book before I actually started reading it; and I had an expectation of the story which was somewhat different than what the book actually was. The book summary focuses on the characters of Abigail and Dara so I was expecting the book to be mainly about them. The first two sections of the book are actually about Abigail's boyfriend and Dara's father, so I was a little confused. The last two chapters were about Dara and Abigail. Once I completed the entire book, it made total sense to me; and the stories all came together. I'm just saying that I found the summary to be a little confusing -- but maybe I'm way off base on this.

Trust me on this one, if your book club loves good literature, then THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET is an ideal selection. As I mentioned earlier, the writing and the development of the characters is amazing; and the entire story is incredibly thought-provoking. There is a
reading guide available which delves into some of the more complex issues including: love, trust, choice, luck, and secrets. There are so many topics to discuss that I'm not sure you could fit them all in one meeting. I really, really recommend this book for book clubs.

Thanks to Stephanie from Harper Collins for sending me a review copy of THE HOUSE ON FORTUNE STREET.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Review: Sylvie

Summary: Meet a flamingo of a different stripe!

“Mama, why are we pink?” asks an irrepressible and ever-curious young flamingo named Sylvie. When she learns that it’s due to the little pink brine shrimp they eat, Sylvie takes the maxim “You are what you eat!” to a whole new level. Her new diet leads to some very interesting new looks—from scarlet to stripey to positively purple! Like Leo Lionni’s chameleon in A Color of His Own, Sylvie eventually comes to learn that being yourself is the best thing to be—though with her own flair! -- Random House

I just might have found my favorite new picture book -- it's called SYLVIE and it's written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler. I should probably start out this review by saying that I absolutely love flamingos and I have ever since I was in high school. I'm not the type to put the plastic ones in my yard, but I think real, live flamingos are just beautiful. So when I found a book that featured an adorable little flamingo, I couldn't wait to read it!

SYLVIE is just a wonderful book for so many different reasons. First of all, it is an extremely entertaining story and very funny too! When Sylvie realizes that she is pink because she eats pink shrimp, she decides to try some other foods that are different colors (and patterns) to see what happens. She eventually gets sick and doesn't feel (or look) at all like herself. When she returns home and sees her family, she realizes that she should just be herself.

I also thought that the illustrations in the book were just beautiful. Since the author uses a variety of colors and patterns to tell the story, she had the opportunity to make everything in this book extremely eye-catching. Each page is just filled with tons of bright colors, and there are just a few words per page -- absolutely perfect for preschoolers! I have a feeling that it's a book that we're going to read again and again.

I also really liked the message in this story -- that it's always important to be true to yourself. And even if you seem to be just like everyone else (like Sylvie), you can still be special and have your own unique traits. That is a message that I'm constantly trying to tell each of my children and I love that this book reinforces it.

Even though this book features a pink bird, my almost five-year old son loved it too! I'm not going to tell you that my enthusiasm for this book didn't have a little something to do with that, but I really think he did like the book on his own. After we finished reading it (and before I could even ask him what was his favorite part), he told me that he liked "everything" in the story. When I asked him to explain to me what was the best part of the book, he told me that he thought it was funny when Sylvie got sick from eating too much. And then he told me that he really liked the end when Sylvie decided to go back to her family and start eating like a normal flamingo. I was so happy that he grasped the entire story and the message in it.

Thanks to Random House for sending me a copy of this wonderful book!

Review: Have You Ever Tickled a Tiger?

Summary: Not your average touch-and-feel!

Everyone knows what it’s like to pat a bunny that’s soft and cuddly. But for those babies and toddlers who want to touch something different—say prickly and tickly animals of a more exotic nature—Betsy Snyder’s Have You Ever Tickled a Tiger? offers the perfect opportunity. This novelty book asks its readers if they’ve ever kissed a walrus, poked a penguin, or hugged an octopus, among others! Rhyming couplets share more about the delightfully illustrated creatures boasting tickly whiskers, velvety tummies, bumpy tentacles, fluffy feathers, etc.—all for baby to touch and feel! -- Random House

I just discovered a really cute picture book for the little one in your life. It's called HAVE YOU EVER TICKLED A TIGER? by Betsy Snyder; and it's positively adorable! Not only is the story and pictures cute, but it's also a touch-and-feel book!

HAVE YOU EVER TICKLED A TIGER? is geared towards children under two years old, but that didn't stop by little guy from wanting to read it. I told him that this book is really for someone younger, like his little cousin, but he says he really likes it and doesn't want to give it away.

This book is being sold as "not your average touch-and-feel book;" and I have to agree. Both of my children absolutely loved touch-and-feel books, but this book is different than any of the other ones that we've ever read. Each page in the book shows a different animals that you can feel; however, these animals aren't typical. There is a penguin, a hedgehog, an ostrich, a walrus, an armadillo, and an octopus -- see what I mean about this book having more obscure animals?

The pictures in this book are downright precious. All of the animals are very cute and have big eyes which make them even more adorable. The words in this book are very catchy and rhyme, and some of the words even sound funny when you read them. For example, my son thought this was extremely entertaining, "have you ever kissed a walrus? whiskers tickle! pucker up for fishy kisses from this pup." What he loved even more was actually kissing the walrus and feeling the "real" walrus whiskers!

The textures in this book are wonderful for little hands and fingers to touch. There is a furry penguin, a velcro-ish hedgehog, and a feathery ostrich to name a few. My son has played with this book a lot and loves touching all the different animals.

I definitely think this book is a winner and little ones are going to love it if my son is any indication!

A big thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book!

Review: HairZing

Booking Daughter and I were so excited when we were contacted by Sherry for HairZing. She was wondering if we were interested in trying out some of these new hair accessories. Well, I probably don't have to tell you that we jumped at the chance. We are both girly-girls and love all things shiny and sparkly!

We each received a different HairZing -- Booking Daughter's is the one in the picture and I received a green beaded one. They are absolutely adorable and they do have lots of sparkles. While Booking Daughter and I both have medium-long length hair, we do have different styles and hair textures. What is so neat about HairZings are that they are designed with hair differences in mind -- there are actually three different sizes.

I was very worried about fixing my daughter's hair using the HairZing because I am not very good with styling hair (to say the least.) I watched the step-by-step video once to make sure I knew what I was doing; and it seemed easy enough -- click here for all of the step-by-step directions. I was successful in getting the HairZing into her hair on the first try, and we both thought it looked terrific. I will admit that I did have a more difficult time keeping it in her hair, but she does have very fine hair (and she tends to roll around a lot!) I think I definitely need to keep working on the "tug" part of the instructions.

Here's what Sherry had to say about the HairZing:

HairZing is the original double comb hair accessory. It’s used to create “hair healthy” quick, easy, comfortable, funky, fun and fashionable hairstyles. No two HairZings are exactly alike – the products are handcrafted by women artisans around the world. The HairZing is available in three different sizes—it was created for girls/women of all ethnicities and hair types.

With HairZing, you can effortlessly put hair up on the go and look fantastic. If you decide to remove your HairZing later in the day, there won’t be any lines or creases in your hair (which you know is a big deal!). You can even swim with the HairZing so it’s ideal for beach bags, camp backpacks and mom’s purse.

If you are looking for an easy, yet fun, way to wear your hair this summer, then I definitely recommend the HairZing. I am amazed by all of the different ways you can style your hair using the HairZing -- a french twist, butterfly, or ponytail to name a few. HairZings are also reasonably priced and would make wonderful gifts. Make sure you check out the website to learn more about this exciting new hair accessory!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Summary: A spellbinding, beautifully written novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating and disturbing periods in American history–the Salem witch trials.

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest--to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation. --Voice

Here I go again! I just finished another wonderful book and I'm afraid that my review isn't going to do it justice. I guess it's a good thing that I've been reading so many wonderful books, but I'm having a heck of a time writing my thoughts in an articulate and cohesive manner. The latest book that I've read and adored is
THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE by Katherine Howe. I just loved this book and treasured each and every page, and I can't recommend this book enough.

I have to admit that I am fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials and books that deal with this subject, and I'm guessing that I'm not alone since there have been quite a few in recent memory. I guess one of the things that I really enjoyed about THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE was in how the author chose to handle this event. Rather than assume that all of the women charged with being witches were innocent, she chose to ask the question, "What if some of the women were actually practicing some sort of magic/witchcraft?" I loved her take on this, and it really made me sit back and think -- a lot.

Another thing I loved about this book was in how Ms. Howe told the story. The book went back and forth between the present (or at least 1991) and the 1670s; and it was seamless. I especially appreciated how she incorporated Connie and her research into the story of Deliverance Dane and her family. I honestly can't say which portion of the book I enjoyed more -- the past or the present because they were both done so well. I definitely enjoyed the story of Connie, and I liked that I discovered things about Deliverance Dane through Connie's research; however, I also loved learning about the characters in the past as well as the trials. This might sound strange, but it was almost as if I were researching the past along side with Connie and learning things as she did.

I love historical fiction so it was no surprise that I appreciate how Ms. Howe incorporate this time period and real-life people into this story. It is apparent that she knows her stuff and conducted a ton of research to write this novel. I think what brought this book to another level for me was her development of Deliverance and her descendants as well as the creation of the Connie character. I definitely found that Ms. Howe made Deliverance and Connie believable characters to me with both strengths and flaws. I also loved how Ms. Howe demonstrated the effects that these trials had on the families of the accused women -- she even showed how the effects lasted for many generations.

THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE is just an amazing book, so I was blown
away when I found out that this novel is Katherine Howe's first book. Not only did she come up with a wonderful story, but she also told the story in a beautiful way. The book contained some mystery, intrigue, magic and even a little romance. It is just a fabulous and interesting story -- plus it's unique! Ms Howe is actually a descendant of two women who were tried for witchcraft -- Elizabeth Howe and and Elizabeth Proctor. She was working on her PhD in American and New England History when she came up with the idea for this novel and wrote it. I sincerely hope that she continues to write bokss because I will be waiting in line to read more of her work! In fact, I read that she has an idea for a sequel to THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE -- YAY!!!!

I think the website for this book is so interesting, and it really does seem to just "fit" the book. It has the normal things I expect like a summary of the book and information about the author, but it also has facts about the town of Salem which I found to be very interesting. It also has some examples of the loads of praise that this book has received as well as an excerpt from the audio book.

THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE would, without a doubt, make for a fantastic book club selection. I am almost positive that every member of my book club would enjoy reading and talking about it. I know many people find the Salem Witch Trials to be fascinating, and I think the author's take on this event makes this book extra special. I was thrilled to find this reading group guide on Barnes and Noble's website -- it was picked as part of their First Look Book Club and as a B&N Recommended Title. I think a discussion of this book would be extremely interesting, and I definitely appreciated quite a few of the discussion questions. Some of the themes which you can explore are: the role of women, witchcraft and the supernatural, religion, and especially mother/daughter relationships.

If you aren't tempted yet but all the praise, check out the book's trailer:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Giveaway: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Summary: Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it. -- Harper

One of my favorite books so far this year has to be THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein -- you can read my review here. My book club read it a few months ago, and we all agreed that it was just a marvelous book! I have been recommending this book to everyone I know, and I'm just so happy to say that I have a copy of this novel to share with one lucky reader. In addition to the book, I also have some "Enzo" swag to share with three of you!

To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me the name of your favorite fictional dog. If you'd like to double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post. This contest is open until Thursday, July 9th at 11:59 p.m. EST; and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

Review: Mackenzie Blue & Giveaway

Summary: Meet Mackenzie Blue, aka Zee

She has it all—smarts, talent, humor, and style. . . .

Is it enough to survive middle school?

Countdown to a 7th Grade Meltdown

1. Your BFF moves away.

2. Someone steals your diary and reveals your deepest secrets—to the entire class.

3. You have one chance to become a rock star and one chance to totally blow it. Guess what!? All three happened to me! School's a disaster already. Don't get me wrong—I love Brookdale Academy and I have a fabulous crew of friends. (At least, I think I do.) But, if I'm going to survive, I need all the help I can get!-- Harper Collins

There are just so many precious books out there right now for middle grade girls. The latest one that I've found is MACKENZIE BLUE by Tina Wells. Booking Daughter almost had a conniption when she saw this book and read the description (and the book even mysteriously disappeared from my desk)! I think the cover alone made her want to pick it up because it's just so appealing -- it has an adorable young girl on the cover with lots of hearts, stars and shine.

I thought this book was very cute. It was a great mix of a lot of elements that I find myself enjoying in middle grade books. The storyline definitely captured my attention, and there was even a mystery about a missing diary that kept me hooked. In addition, there were "real" diary entries on lined notebook paper, loads of text messages (with a glossary in the back for the abbreviations), as well as illustrations of Zee and her friends. It was a very quick read for me, and I think even young girls who aren't big readers are going to be attracted to this book and the story.

I absolutely loved Zee. She seemed to be a pretty normal tween who just happened to live in Los Angeles and attend a pretty posh private school. I especially appreciated that Zee and her friends were all very gifted with musical and singing talents. Zee was actually a singer/songwriter who had dreams of winning the Teen Sing contest; and I know girls are going to really like the "American Idol" performance aspect of the book. I liked the Zee's lyrics and really enjoyed seeing how she learned to express herself through her music.

All of the characters in this story were just terrific,and I think kids will recognize traits from the children they know from school. There was the cute, nice guy that Zee had a crush on; and there was her best guy friend Ally who moved to Paris. In addition, there were also the "mean" girls that almost every tween girl will relate to knowing. I especially liked Zee's best friends Jasper and Chloe who both added some humor to the story as well as a vehicle for Zee to learn some valuable lessons.

This book was not only entertaining, but it also teaches kids some important things. Zee's friend Jasper was very interested in finding ways to make their school "green;" and Zee herself was a little embarrassed that her father drove a big gas-guzzling SUV. I appreciated the author's attempt of bringing the environmental issues to the forefront; however, I really appreciated the moral lessons that Zee learns in this book. When her diary goes missing, she suspects and eventually blames her two best friends. By the end of this book, she learns the value of friendship and how to give and accept apologies. I don't know about you, but I think those lessons are especially important for young girls in today's society!

MACKENZIE BLUE is the first book in a series, and I have a feeling that many girls are going to be wanting more. The second book MACKENZIE BLUE: THE SECRET CRUSH will be available in late 2009; and there is a little excerpt in the back of MACKENZIE BLUE which gives a few teasers. In the next book, the kids in the music class will be making their very own band. It sounds like the next book picks up right where the first one ended!

There is just the cutest website for the book MACKENZIE BLUE, and I thought it captured the essence of the book perfectly. There are so many fun things for young girls to do including: visiting Kathi's closet and dressing her for a photo shoot, learning some green tips with Jasper, identifying which character you are most like, and learning money tips with Marcus. There is also a site on YouTube where young girls can make their own video telling why they are "the real Mackenzie Blue." The buzz around this book is just wonderful and I think middle grade girls are just going to love not only the book but all the hype surrounding it!

Here are Booking Daughter's thoughts:

I thought MACKENZIE BLUE was good because Mackenzie was really funny. I think Tina Wells put Mackenzie in a lot of hard situations like losing her diary and having her best friend move away. I liked how the book ended and how Mackenzie learned to trust her new friends.

I am so excited that I have an autographed copy of MACKENZIE BLUE to share with one lucky reader! If you'd like to win, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me one of your favorite books that you read as a child. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this giveaway with a link back this post. This contest is open until July 15th at 11:59 p.m .EST, and I will notify 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 to Kathleen from Buzz Marketing Group for sending me a copy of this book.

Make sure you check out the Mackenzie Blue website for lots of fun activities!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

Ever since I heard that Stephanie at Stephanie's Written Word was hosting an Everything Austen Challenge, I've wanted to sign up. I have only read one Jane Austen novel, one Austen inspired novel; and I've never seen any movies based on her works. It's rather embarrassing since I consider myself a book lover! And, I have a feeling that I would really enjoy all of them.

So, I've been toying with the idea; and I'm finally taking the plunge.

Here are the details! The Everything Austen Challenge will run for six months (July 1, 2009 – January 1, 2010)! All you need to do is pick out what six Austen-themed things you want to finish to complete the challenge.

I haven't worked out exactly what six Austen-themed things I'm going to do over the next six months. But here are a few ideas I'm toying with -- please realize that these are subject to change based on my whims!







AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

I realize I listed seven items, and there are still quite a few more that I was tempted to put down! These are just my initial thoughts. I'll probably change this list quite a few times in the next six months. If you have any "must read" or "must watch" Austen-themed things, please let me know it the comments!

OMG - A Booking Mama Quote & Giveaway

Just last week, Miriam from Hachette Book Group tweeted that a quote from my review of A SUMMER AFFAIR by Elin Hilderbrand was printed in the front of the trade paperback edition! I was thrilled beyond belief, and Booking Daughter and I were actually doing the happy dance. The book arrived yesterday and I could barely open the package because of all the excitement.

Here's the blurb:

To me, this book represents pure escapism -- it will make a great book to take on vacation with you. There are lots of juicy storylines including ones dealing with adultery, addictions, and criminal behavior. The book is filled with enough scandals that it should appeal to the voyeur in all of us!

Most of you probably know that I think the world of Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog. She is such a terrific friend that she actually texted me from Target earlier this week when she saw the book and the quote. She actually said that she was showing off the book to other people in the store -- to the point of embarrassing her son! She is just the best to want to share in my happiness!

And just to let you know that this hasn't gone straight to my head, my husband has managed to keep me grounded. When my daughter and I told him that I had a "blurb" in the front of a book, he said, "What's a blurb?"

Would you like to win a copy of A SUMMER AFFAIR? I have three copies to giveaway courtesy of Hachette! Just leave a comment with your e-mail telling me your favorite summertime beverage. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. This contest will be open until July 8th at 11:59 p.m. EST; and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!

Guest Blogger: Susan Gregg Gilmore & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a terrific new novel called LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN. I am very happy that the author of this book, Susan Gregg Gilmore, has written a guest post for Booking Mama. I just love her essay because it's so heartfelt -- just like her novel!

It’s time to come clean. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, is much more autobiographical than I first thought or was willing to admit. Yep, I had a grandfather that sold moonshine and ran on the wrong side of the law till he went to a revival and started preaching himself. Yep, I had an aunt Gloria Jean that was a very striking young woman with deep auburn hair and married five times -- well maybe six -- there is still some family debate since there’s rumor she married one man twice. And yep, I spent a lot of time at the Dairy Queen eating Dilly Bars of course.

But that was where the similarities between my life and Catherine Grace Cline’s ended -- or so I thought. I grew up in a big town, i.e., Nashville, Tennessee. Catherine Grace grew up in a small-town, i.e., Ringgold, Georgia. I have a great mama. She, well, not so much. My daddy sold insurance. Hers sold salvation.

A couple of months ago, I was at a bookstore and taking questions from the audience as I always do at the end of a reading. A woman asked if the book was autobiographical. And yes, I have been asked this question many, many times. But for some reason, I looked this woman square in the eyes and said, “yes, I think it may be.”

What I realized in that moment was that even though Catherine Grace and I may have lived very different lives, we had always wanted the same thing. We both just wanted to know more, see more, touch more. We wanted to know what was out there in this big, big world of ours. And I think we both realized, somewhere along the way, that as trite and corny as this may sound, that after a whole lot of looking, the very best things can be found right here at home.

I absolutely adored Ms. Gilmore's debut novel LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN! I am so excited that I have five copies to giveaway. To enter, leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me what you're favorite Dairy Queen treat is. To double or even triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. I will accept entries until Wednesday, July 8th at 11:59 p.m. EST; and I will notify the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Summary: Sometimes you have to return to the place where you began, to arrive at the place where you belong.

It’s the early 1970s. The town of Ringgold, Georgia, has a population of 1,923, one traffic light, one Dairy Queen, and one Catherine Grace Cline. The daughter of Ringgold’s third-generation Baptist preacher, Catherine Grace is quick-witted, more than a little stubborn, and dying to escape her small-town life.

Every Saturday afternoon, she sits at the Dairy Queen, eating Dilly Bars and plotting her getaway to Atlanta. And when, with the help of a family friend, the dream becomes a reality, she immediately packs her bags, leaving her family and the boy she loves to claim the life she’s always imagined. But before things have even begun to get off the ground in Atlanta, tragedy brings Catherine Grace back home. As a series of extraordinary events alter her perspective–and sweeping changes come to Ringgold itself–Catherine Grace begins to wonder if her place in the world may actually be, against all odds, right where she began.
Intelligent, charming, and utterly readable, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen marks the debut of a talented new literary voice. -- Three Rivers Press

I am a huge sucker for good Southern fiction! Even though I now live in Central, PA, I did spend the majority of my childhood living in the South; and maybe that's one of the reasons that I enjoy these types of books so much. When I read the praise for LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN by Susan Gregg Gilmore and saw that this novel was being compared to Fannie Flagg's books, I just knew I had to read it. I absolutely love some of Ms. Flagg's novels and especially her characters, and I can definitely say that LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN did not disappoint me (even given that big build-up). I treasured each and every page of this book!

I read this book in almost one sitting (which you know is hard if you are a stay-at-home mother of two.) There are just so many things that I loved about this novel, but I think what I appreciated the most were the characters -- and especially Catherine Grace. This book is really a coming-of age novel about Catherine Grace growing up in the South in the 1970s, and she is just one of those characters that you can't help but fall in love with. She was smart, sassy, stubborn and even a little vulnerable; and reading about her actions both as a child and an adult were just so much fun. I loved seeing how Catherine Grace handled the various challenges in her life, and I enjoyed seeing her mature into an amazing young woman as a result of them.

The supporting characters in this book were wonderful too from Catherine Grace's sister, father, and even the various citizens of Ringgold. I especially loved Catherine Grace's colorful neighbor Gloria Jean who provided the much-needed woman's touch in Catherine Grace's life. Not only did Gloria Jean teach her about boys, clothes, and nail polish, but she also taught her so many wonderful life lessons about acceptance and forgiveness. Her support of Catherine Grace, even when Catherine Grace wasn't always appreciative, was such a heart-warming form of kindness.

Another thing I really liked about this book were the many messages about life that Catherine Grace learned while growing up. Many of these messages seem obvious to me now, but I can remember being young like Catherine Grace and not yet being able to see the bigger picture. There were also many lessons in this story that I still haven't quite figured out, and seeing how Catherine Grace was able to forgive the people in her life that harmed her really caused me to take a step back and think. I love it when I can take messages from books and apply them to my real life!

I am so impressed that this book was Ms. Gilmore's debut novel. Ms. Gilmore has written articles for numerous newspapers as well as a weekly column on parenting in the South; however, I am very glad that she decided to apply her writing talents to a novel. I loved her writing style -- it was so real to me; and I think the characters she created are very memorable. And while this book deeply touched me, I also found myself laughing out loud at certain parts -- it was a great blend of storytelling and humor. If you think you might be interested in reading some of Ms. Gilmore's work, you should definitely check out this excerpt of the book or even her personal blog.

I highly recommend LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN! It's just a very sweet book that is guaranteed to make you smile; however, it also contains some pretty substantial and thought-provoking themes. I think this novel would make for a terrific book club selection because there is just so much to talk about; and I was very happy to see that there is a
reading guide available with some very interesting questions. Some topics for discussion include parent/child relationships, sisterhood, redemption, death, religion, happiness, salvation, escapism, and especially forgiveness. Food was also a huge recurring theme throughout this novel, and I can only imagine how fun it would be to serve (and eat) some of the foods mentioned in this story like strawberry jam and dilly bars. Check out some of the fun ideas this book club had for a LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN meeting.

I do have to warn you that reading this book will make you crave ice cream and especially a dilly bar or chocolate dipped cone. I can pretty much promise that you'll want to make a trip to Dairy Queen before you are done!

Make sure you come back tomorrow because Ms. Gilmore will be stopping by with a fantastic guest post and I just might have some copies of this book to share!

A big thanks to Priya and Three Rivers Press for sending me a copy of this book.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: The Host

Summary: The author of the Twilight series of # 1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake.

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time. -- Little, Brown & Company

I am one of those rare individuals who has not read any of the TWILIGHT books -- GASP! I guess I'm interested in reading them, but I think it's only because I don't want to feel left out. Having said that, I've had plenty of opportunities to read them and still haven't picked them up. I'm not sure that they even appeal to me -- I just feel as if I should read them to know what all the fuss is about.

So, when the opportunity came to read THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to give Ms. Meyer a try. I have to admit that the premise of this book did interest me more than teenage vampires, and I had heard from many fellow bloggers that this was definitely her "best" book. I was a little intimidated though, because this book is pretty darn big and weighs a lot -- it's over 600 pages. I had been assured by many not to worry because THE HOST is a quick read. After finishing this book, I agree with them -- but only to a certain extent.

I did end up enjoying THE HOST; and the more I reflect on it, I find that I like it better and better. However, I had a heck of a time getting into the story! It could be that I had other things going on in my personal life that kept distracting me, but it took me about 150 pages to become involved with this novel. I really appreciated the storyline and the characters, but I just felt as if the first quarter of the book took entirely too long to develop. After I finally got into the story, I really enjoyed reading it and found myself caught up in the characters' lives. And then I understood what everyone was talking about -- THE HOST actually was a very quick read.

I have a huge appreciation for the story that Ms. Meyer created within the pages of THE HOST. I am not a big fan of science fiction, and I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to get past that; however, I didn't have that problem at all. In fact, I thought this book dealt with so many relationship issues and social commentary that I didn't even really consider it "science fiction." I loved how Ms. Meyer created the concept of a soul living inside a human host; and I thought the twist on the story that the human mind didn't just disappear when it was invaded was wonderful. Having the interactions between the human host Melanie and the soul Wanderer made for terrific reading as well as presenting many ethical dilemmas.

This book actually contained a lot of adventure and action as the humans struggled to hide from the Seekers and stay safe. I think these stories definitely intrigued me and kept my interest, but I think I really liked all the characters' interactions and personal relationships even more. I was amazed by how much thinking I did about human nature while reading this book (and even when I wasn't.) I especially enjoyed seeing how humans were perceived by the hosts. This book definitely pointed out to me many of our "human" characteristics -- some good and others not so good!

I actually think THE HOST would make a wonderful discussion book for book clubs. I was pleasantly surprised by how deep this book was and the serious subject matters that it addressed. I also found myself wanting to talk about it with friends as I read it just to get some feedback on my ideas. There are many themes to delve into including: basic human nature, maternal bonds, romantic love, free will/choice, sacrifice, and loads of ethical issues. It is a fascinating book on so many levels.

THE HOST is currently on tour for the entire month of June so you can see lots of opinions about this novel. Yesterday, Marta at Marta's Meanderings reviewed THE HOST; and tomorrow you can see a review at Wrighty's Reads. You can also read an excerpt of THE HOST.

A big thanks goes out to Miriam from Hachette Book Group for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Guest Review: Are You Kidding Me?

This might be a little something that you don't know about me -- I love to watch golf. I can't play golf for squat (in fact, golf was one of my lowest grades in college), but I will watch it on television for hours on the weekends. Recently, I've associated golf with Father's Day because for the past two years I've spent Father's Day watching the U.S. Open. In 2007, my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend the U.S. Open when it was held at Oakmont -- it was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life; and last year, my family was visiting my parents and we all sat by the television and watched an incredible round of golf. Because there was a tie, we actually spent all day Monday watching Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods play an exciting (and historic) historic sudden death round.

So when I saw that Rocco Mediate and John Feinstein had written a book called ARE YOU KIDDING ME?: THE STORY OF ROCCO MEDIATES'S EXTRAORDINARY BATTLE WITH TIGER WOODS AT THE U.S. OPEN about the 2008 U.S. Open, I knew that it was the perfect book for my dad to review. Here's what Booking Pap Pap thought about it:

As a fan of all sports I looked forward to reviewing ARE YOU KIDDING ME? by Rocco Mediate and John Feinstein. The writing of the book was motivated by the exciting 2008 U.S Open in which Rocco Mediate, a 45 year-old journeyman golfer battled Tiger Woods through 72 holes of regulation golf and a 18 hole playoff before losing in the first hole of sudden death. The book not only relives these exciting 91 holes of golf but recounts the golf life of Rocco Mediate from early childhood through the 2008 Open.

The reader gets a good glimpse of Mediate’s first interest in golf, his college golf experience, his time in Qualifying School and his injury riddled professional career. Mediate left school before graduating to try his game on the pro tour. This is not uncommon and follows the path taken by such golf greats as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Mediate’s back injuries relegated him to “middle-of-the-road” professional, often very close to losing his eligibility to remain on the professional tour. Even then, it is quite surprising how much money Mediate was able to earn as a golfer.

The book gives the reader a good idea of how the professional golfing world works but falls a little short regarding the personal life of Mediate. The authors talk about how little time Rocco had for his family and that he took up with his therapist while on tour but they never address how these issues impacted his career.

Even though Mediate is often described as easy going and talkative, the book shows another side of his personality. Mediate gave the impression that his battle with Woods entitled him to certain considerations and he was more than disappointed when he wasn’t selected to the Ryder Cup Team or invited to Tiger Woods’ pre-Christmas tournament after the 2008 season.

The reader is given a good comparison between golfers of the caliber of Mediate and golfers like Tiger Woods. These comparisons are not always the most complimentary to Woods.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? is a well written and enjoyable book and is a good read for golf-minded individuals, particularly those who want to relive the 2008 U.S. Open.

A big thanks to Miriam from Hachette Book Group for sending me a copy of this book and to Booking Pap Pap for a terrific review.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters

Summary: Alvin Ho is back, and this time he’s facing his biggest fear: The Great Outdoors.

Alvin Ho is back and his worst fear has come true: he has to go camping. What will he do exposed in the wilderness with bears and darkness and . . . pit toilets? Luckily, he’s got his night-vision goggles and water purifying tablets and super-duper heavy-duty flashlight to keep him safe. And he’s got his dad, too. Lenore Look’s touching, drop-dead-funny chapter book about an Asian-American second grader—with illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham—is perfect for beginning and reluctant readers alike, and has tons of boy appeal. -- Schwartz and Wade Books

I am so glad that I'm getting to relive my youth through my daughter! Don't take that wrong because I'm not one of those parents....I just love reading books that are geared towards her age range. What I love even more is when we both read the same book and then discuss it! That is the case with ALVIN HO: ALLERGIC TO CAMPING, HIKING, AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS by Lenore Look and pictures by LeUyen Pham. I just don't remember there being this many good middle-grade books out there when I was ten years old.

My daughter is probably a little on the older side for this book because it is really aimed for children ages 6 through 10; however, I still think many 10 year olds will enjoy the book as a quick, funny read. Alvin Ho is absolutely hilarious as a young boy who is afraid of almost everything. In this book, his father wants to take him camping and poor Alvin is just terrified of everything that could possibly go wrong. Maybe one of the reason that I liked this book so much is that I can so relate to his feelings about the great outdoors!

This book is really perfect for those kids who are ready to read chapter books, yet aren't quite ready for a book with a lot of pages. This book is a little over 150 pages, but the print is large and there is lots of white space on each page. There are also a few very cute (and funny) illustrations thrown into the body of the chapters. I especially liked that there is a glossary (Alvin Ho's Very Scary Glossary) at the back of the book with definitions of some possibly "new" words.

Kids are going to love Alvin and his adventures. I thought his paranoia was so funny, and I found myself laughing a lot at his insecurities. Even if your child isn't quite ready to read this book on his or her own, it's also a great book to read with your child. This book is being sold as "ideal for any father and son to read together before braving the untamed wilderness. Or, a perfectly manicured trail." Each chapter is just about the perfect length for a bedtime story.

I really thought Alvin Ho was a great character, and I want to go back and read the first novel in the series ALVIN HO: ALLERGIC TO GIRLS, SCHOOLS, AND OTHER SCARY THINGS. If it's anything like this book, I'm sure Booking Daughter and I will both enjoy it! I am looking forward to more Alvin Ho books, and I'm betting that Booking Son is going to love them in a few years.

A big thanks to Random House Kids for sending me an ARC of this book.