Monday, August 31, 2009

A Very Special Giveaway: Cleopatra's Daughter

Summary: The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian's bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart. -- Crown

A few months ago, I shared my excitement about Michelle Moran's new book CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER by showing you the beautiful trailer. I have been anxiously awaiting Ms. Moran's new novel for what seems like forever. (It really hasn't been that long but I'm not a very patient person when I really want something.) I am so happy to announce that the wait is almost over -- CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER will be available on September 15th!

As many of you know, I am a HUGE fan of Ms. Moran's! I have read all of her books and have even had the opportunity to talk with her one evening with my book club. She is truly a gracious person and such a friend to the blogging community! I really can't say enough good things about her and her books.

So you can probably imagine how excited I am about this news! Ms. Moran has offered to send one very lucky reader a signed copy of CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER! If you'd like to enter this giveaway, please leave a comment with a valid e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book. 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, September 10th at 11:59 p.m. EST, and I will notify the winner the following day. Oh and by the way, Ms. Moran is willing to send her novel to a winner in any country (isn't that just so nice of her?) Good luck!

Sourcebooks B&N Heyer Receipt Promotion & Book Giveaway!

Danielle from Sourcebooks recently shared some exciting news with me:

This September, Sourcebooks is exclusively releasing THE FOUNDLING by Georgette Heyer in Barnes & Noble stores Nationwide!!

Sourcebooks is holding a fabulous receipt promotion! Send us your receipt/proof of purchase of The Foundling from your local Barnes & Noble to our office or a scanned receipt in an email to and you’ll be entered to win a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card! Receipts must be dated between September 1 – September 31, 2009, and can be from an in-store or online purchase. Any questions please contact

But WAIT—you can win a book from Sourcebooks now! As a thank you to Booking Mama for helping spread the word about our B&N Heyer Receipt Promotion, Sourcebooks is giving away 2 books from the list of books below! Leave a comment about your favorite Heyer moment and you’ll be entered to win your choice of book! 2 winners—US and Canada addresses only please.

Sourcebooks is so excited about the warm embrace everyone has given the Georgette Heyer reissues! Good luck—we look forward to hearing from you!

Send your Barnes & Noble THE FOUNDLING receipts to:

Sourcebooks, Inc.
c/o Publicity
PO Box 4410
Naperville, IL 60567

Remember: Leave a comment! Two lucky commenters will be able to choose a book from the following:

1. The Spoken Word Revolution edited by Mark Eleveld
2. Poetry Speaks Expanded edited by Elise Paschen and Rebekah Presson Mosby
3. Letters From Pemberley by Jane Dawkins
4. How (Not) to Have a Perfect Wedding by Arliss Ryan
5. Hundreds of Years to Reform a Rake by Laurie Brown
6. A Chain of Voices by Andre Brink
7. First Lady by Michael Malone
8. The Ultimate Bartenders Guide by Ray Foley
9. Improvisation for the Spirit by Katie Goodman
10. The Successful Novelist by David Morrell

Join our Georgette Heyer mailing list!

I will select the winners on September 7th and notify them by e-mail, so please make sure I have a way to contact you!

Review: Austenland

Summary: Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen-or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? -- Bloonmsbury

When I signed up to participate in the Everything Austen Challenge, I wasn't quite sure what six books/movies that I would eventually review; however, I did know that I definitely wanted to include AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale. I had heard many great things about this novel, and the challenge was exactly the excuse I needed to pick it up.

I have to give a big thanks to Stephanie for hosting this challenge because I am not someone who has read much Jane Austen -- I have only read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE YEARS and that was years ago. My intent with this challenge was to read at least one of Jane Austen's books while also reading some of the contemporary fiction ones that I seem to be drawn to. So far, I have really enjoyed both of the books that I've read for this challenge (RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and AUSTENLAND;) however, you clearly see that I am still shying away from the real deal! Although I think that I am getting closer!

I thoroughly enjoyed AUSTENLAND, and I highly recommend it if you are looking for a light, fun story. AUSTENLAND is rather short (under 200 pages) and it's a very easy read that is also very funny! I actually read it in one sitting. I thought the premise of the novel was extremely cute. Jane, a 30 something woman in New York, has had terrible luck with relationships -- partly because no man can live up to her idea of Mr. Darcy. When her great aunt wills her a vacation to an English resort that re-creates the Regency era, she gets to live out her dream and has the opportunity to meet the "perfect" gentleman. While she is on this three week vacation, she reflects on her past and ends up discovering a lot about herself. This self-awareness allows Jane to experience men and love on an entirely new level!

I thought Jane was a terrific character. Even though (or maybe because) she was a little quirky, I couldn't help but like her. Her honestly and self-deprecating humor were so refreshing and actually made the book so funny. I loved her insight into her life (and everyone else's), and I thought her reactions to the various characters was hilarious. She was just one of those characters that you rooted for -- I really wanted her to fall in love and live happily ever after.

One thing that I really enjoyed about this book were the brief descriptions of Jane's past boyfriends that appeared at the beginnings of some chapters. They were kind of like the icing on the cake for me. I found myself laughing (a lot) as I read them. From the little boy who was her first kiss to the boy who ended up snorting, I thought all of these stories gave some perspective into Jane and her issues with guys. I think any woman who has ever experienced the whole dating scene will appreciate these little snippets.

So if you are participating in the Everything Austen Challenge or are a Jane Austen fan, I highly recommend reading AUSTENLAND. (Actually, I think even if you're not a fan of Ms. Austen's books, you'll still enjoy this one.) It's a cute book that won't disappoint.

Note: This is the first book that I've read by Ms. Hale, and I definitely appreciated her writing. I have heard that she has written some fabulous books, and I can't wait to read some more of them! Does anyone have any recommendations for me?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: Burnt Shadows

Summary: Beginning on August 9, 1945, in Nagasaki, and ending in a prison cell in the US in 2002, as a man is waiting to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of love and betrayal.

Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad's half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu.

With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history--personal and political--are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences. -- Picador

This month, my on-line book club agreed to read BURNT SHADOWS by Kamila Shamsie. BURNT SHADOWS has received a lot of critical acclaim including the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist, so I was really looking forward to reading this novel and discussing it. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss our group's discussion later today because I am attending my nephew's 1st birthday party. (However, I can't be too disappointed because I am very excited to see the little guy and practice teaching him to say "Aunt Julie.")

I consider myself a pretty big fan of books about other cultures, and BURNT SHADOWS definitely fits the bill. This book encompasses a great deal -- from Nagasaki in 1945, to Delhi in 1947, to Pakistan in the early 1980s, and ends with New York and Afghanistan right after the attack on the World Trade Center. It also deals with characters who are from many different countries including the United States, England, Germany, Japan, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. I'm sure you can see how many huge world events were covered within the pages of this novel. I believe this book accomplished a great deal within its almost 400 pages, and I was extremely impressed with how the author told this story.

I actually don't feel worthy to write a review for BURNT SHADOWS, but I'm going to try anyway. I really liked this book and there are so many positive things to say about the author and her writing style, but I know I'm only scratching the surface. I'm embarrassed to say this, but I don't think I was smart enough to appreciate everything the author set out to do with BURNT SHADOWS. It's kind of like I can see what Ms. Shamsie's intentions were, but I didn't truly grasp all of them.

First and foremost, I do not have a strong understanding of history and world affairs. I was aware of all the major events in this book, but I didn't understand a lot of the political issues involved and much of the background that led to these incidents. I really feel like I missed out on some important elements of this story because of my ignorance. There were parts of this book (mainly those that took place in Pakistan and Afghanistan) where I felt a little lost. On the positive side, I do believe I learned quite a few things about this history of Pakistan as well as some of what happened in Afghanistan in the early 1980s.

Secondly, I was just blown away by Ms. Shamsie writing; and I know I didn't understood how deep this novel really was when I first finished it. I enjoyed the story and the character development, and I liked how she set up this novel in four different sections. In fact after I finished, I went back to the beginning of the novel and read the prologue again -- the book came full circle. I loved so much of the symbolism in this novel, especially the "veiled birds;" however, I also know that I missed out on some of the other themes. There is no doubt that Ms. Shamsie is an incredibly gifted writer, and I have such an appreciation for her understanding of the differences in people and their cultures. You can read more about her in this interview.

While I enjoyed this book, I have to warn you that some readers will find the pace of this novel to be rather slow. There were times when I definitely felt this way, but I just decided to focus on the beauty of the writing instead of the pace of the story. In some ways, this book reminded me a little of THE ENGLISH PATIENT; however, it is a much less difficult read. I do think this book is a worthwhile read, though, because it tells an amazing story of people who were brought together (and then tied together) through some very difficult events.

If your book group enjoys literary fiction and is looking for a very rich story with complex characters, then I definitely recommend BURNT SHADOWS. Your conversation has the potential to be extremely interesting, and I actually think that my opinion of this book could only increase after talking about it with friends. There is a fantastic reading guide available which brings up some topics that have certainly caused me to think. In fact, it was after I read the discussion questions that I realized how deep this novel really was (and how much I actually missed.) I've half tempted to revisit the book again later with these questions in mind!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Review: Lunch Lady Books

Summary: Serving justice . . . and lunch!

Hector, Terrence, and Dee have always wondered about their school lunch lady. What does she do when she isn’t dishing out the daily special? Where does she live? Does she have a lot of cats at home? Little do they know, Lunch Lady doesn’t just serve sloppy joes—she serves justice! Whatever danger lies ahead, it’s no match for LUNCH LADY! - Knopf

Summary: Serving justice . . . and lunch!

Lunch Lady can sniff out something rotten like no one else—and there’s definitely something rotten going on in the library. The usually friendly librarians have become cold and secretive. Even Dee can’t seem to crack a smile out of them. What darkness may lurk in the hearts of librarians? Lunch Lady is on the case! And Hector, Terrence, and Dee are along for a wild ride! -- Knopf

If you are looking for a very entertaining middle grade series that is sure to get kids reading, then you should check out LUNCH LADY AND THE CYBORG SUBSTITUTE and LUNCH LADY AND THE LEAGUE OF LIBRARIANS by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. These two graphic novels are the first in a new series of very funny books about a crime-fighting lunch lady. I thought they were just hilarious!

One thing that I really like about these books are that even the most reluctant readers will enjoy them. For one thing, they are in the form of a graphic novel so there are tons of pictures with only a few words per page. They are also a very quick read so kids can get through a complete book without getting frustrated. It's also an added benefit that these stories are action-packed and very funny. I am predicting that kids are going to love the Lunch Lady and her adventures!

I love the idea of having a lunch lady act as a secret crime-fighting superhero -- what a creative idea! I guess the author got the idea for this character when he visited his elementary school and found out that his lunch lady was still there. Not only is Lunch Lady a memorable character, but I also really liked her sidekick Betty who develops all sorts of creative crime-fighting gadgets. I was especially fond of the Lunch Tray laptop and the Hover Pizzas.

There is more exciting news about the LUNCH LADY series. Amy Poehler is going to star in a movie adaptation based on the Lunch Lady character. I adore Amy Poehler, and I can't wait to see how these books and the characters are brought to life. I'm hoping the movie is fantastic so more kids will want to read these books (and therefore more books.) And I'm also very happy that there are two more Lunch Lady books in the works. LUNCH LADY AND THE AUTHOR VISIT VENDETTA will be out in December, and LUNCH LADY AND THE SUMMER CAMP SHAKEDOWN is scheduled to hit shelves in summer 2010.

Booking Daughter thought these books were really cute too. She's probably a little old for these books (or at least she thinks she is); however, she did think they were funny. She thought that maybe boys would like them more than girls, but keep in mind that she is a major "girly girl."

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of these books.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Chadwick & Giveaway

A few days ago, I reviewed THE GREATEST KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick. I absolutely loved the book about the life of William Marshal, and I'm anxious to read more of Ms. Chadwick's books. In the meantime, I'll have to be content with this lovely guest post that she wrote for my blog! I am so honored that took time from her busy schedule to write a few words about many of the characters in her book.

I’d like to say a warm thank you to Booking Mama for sending me an invite to be a guest blogger today.

The Greatest Knight is about a largely forgotten medieval hero William Marshal who rose from a minor position in society to become the most important man in England.
William has been my obsession for some time and The Greatest Knight, is very much a book of my heart.

While I was writing the novel though, I had opportunity to think about the women in William’s life. It may be a cliché, but in this case it was true that ‘behind every great man is a great woman - indeed several great women in William’s instance. The first was his mother, Sybilla, sister of the Earl of Salisbury. Although little is recorded about her in history, she had a tough row to hoe and she did it with great success. Her husband, John Marshal, divorced his first wife in order to marry her and thereby secure a peace alliance with her brother. She had no say in the matter. John had lost an eye in battle and the political circumstances of the time meant that his lands were at the front line of the fight, so there was little peace to be had in daily life. Sybilla bore John six children, William being her second-born. When he was five years old, he was taken as a hostage for his father’s word of honour and almost hanged when his father reneged on the deal he had made. Indeed, John Marshal is known to have told William’s gaolors to go ahead and hang the child because he had the ‘anvils and hammers’ to forge better sons. Luckily for William, the men holding him hostage, including the King of England, couldn’t bring themselves to do the deed. Worried for him, his mother sent one of her chamber servants to keep an eye on William from a distance. William himself was very keen to play games with King Stephen, and was such a bright, chirpy, confident little chap that he endeared himself to his captors. The underlying qualities of good nature, confidence and a willingness to cooperate whilst still retaining a sense of self all came from that original grounding of maternal care (in difficult circumstances) in his early years.

William was sent to Normandy to be trained in the knightly arts and in his early twenties was taken into the household of his uncle who was governor of Poitou. One day, while out on patrol, acting as an escort to the Queen of England, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, the party was attacked by enemies. William stood in the way of the attackers and fought them off while Eleanor made her escape. William was badly wounded and taken prisoner. He didn’t have any bandages for his injury, but when his captors stopped at a castle for the night, a woman took pity on him and sneaked him some linen bindings concealed in a loaf of bread. Without her act of kindness, William would have been in a much worse case, and it is interesting that she was moved to help him. One gets the impression that William had a vast amount of charm, both the boyish and the virile, and that women were very attracted!

Queen Eleanor herself paid William’s ransom and recognising his great talent and loyalty, rewarded him with a place in her household as tutor in chivalry to her eldest son, Henry the Young King. William was on his way to stardom. Stars though, sometimes fall and William was almost brought down by a whispering campaign about himself and Marguerite, the wife of his young lord. Jealous rivals accused him of having an affair with her, and although he denied it vociferously, he was banished from court and Marguerite was bundled off back to her brother in France. Was William guilty of the accusations? Read the book and find out!

Queen Eleanor and William remained friends throughout their lives. When Henry II died, William was sent to England with messages to Eleanor from her son Richard the Lionheart. I think it quite likely that Eleanor had some influence in arranging William a great marriage to Isabelle de Clare, a beautiful heiress of vast tracks of land in Normandy, the Welsh Marches and Southern Ireland.

The bond seems to have suited both William and Isabelle very well despite the age gap between them. She was about 18, he was 41. I think it telling of William’s tact and understanding that he took his young wife on honeymoon so they could get to know each other. Perhaps as a matter of pride, he kept his own small seal from the days when he was an ordinary knight, rather than have a new extravagant one made. Or perhaps it was to keep his feet on the ground. He seems to have consulted Isabelle on matters pertaining to the lands, which were only his by right of his marriage to her and it was a fact he freely acknowledged in full public before all their vassals. He could spend her money and rule her estates as he chose, by right of the marriage laws at the time, but he always involved her in decisions and sought her opinion.

William Marshal was raised in love by one woman, healed by another, given a staircase to climb to the stars by a great queen, almost brought down by another one of lesser degree, and held in balance by a young woman twenty years younger than himself, but his equal in every way. The women of the time might receive less comment in the historical record than the men, but they were frequently the secret driving force!

About the Author

Elizabeth Chadwick lives near Nottingham with her husband and two sons. She is the author of 17 historical novels, including Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, A Place Beyond Courage, The Scarlet Lion, the Winter Mantle, and the Falcons of Montebard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards. Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately re-creating the past. She won a Betty Trask Award for The Wild Hunt, her first novel.

You can learn more about Elizabeth Chadwick and her books on her website and blog.

I am so excited that I can giveaway two copies of THE GREATEST KNIGHT courtesy of Sourcebooks. To enter, please leave a comment with a valid e-mail address telling me if you have ever read any books about the Middle Ages. To double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. This contest is open until September 10th at 11:59 p.m. EST, and I will notify the winners the following day. This giveaway is for those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only -- no P.O. boxes please. Good luck!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Receive Me Falling

Summary: he haunting words of an historian and former cane worker on the Caribbean island of Nevis, launch Meghan Owen on her quest to unlock the secrets of an abandoned sugar plantation and its ghosts.

After Meg’s parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she’s inherited on Nevis. A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants.

Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father’s estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father.

In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Upon the arrival of British abolitionists to the hedonistic 19th century plantation society, Catherine Dall is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. An angry confrontation with Catherine’s slave, Leah, results in the girl’s death, but was it murder or suicide?

Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest. -- Elysian Fields Press

When I read the description of RECEIVE ME FALLING by Erika Robuck, I thought it sounded interesting. I usually tend not to read self-published books or books from smaller presses; however, I had read a few positive reviews about this one and thought I'd give it a try. Plus, I figured that I am always drawn to historical fiction books, and I thought RECEIVE ME FALLING had a somewhat unique perspective on a subject that was new to me. At the very least, I thought I'd learn a thing or two about plantation life during the 1800s in the Caribbean.

I'm having a very hard time articulating my feelings about this novel. On one hand, I thought the storyline was pretty good; and the historical aspects were very interesting. So on that front, I definitely am glad that I read it because it was a good story and I did learn a few things. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I did enjoy parts of the book; however, I definitely didn't love the book as a whole. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn't become "hooked" like I had hoped. Once I put the book down, I wasn't anxious to get back to it.

I've been trying to put my finger on what my problem was with this novel and the only thing I can figure is that it just wasn't polished. I think the premise and approach to telling the story were effective, but I had a few issues with the dialogue of the characters that lived in the past. I didn't feel that much of their dialogue rang true. In addition, I didn't think the slaves' dialect was properly represented. I also felt as if the journal entries at the end of the novel were kind of rushed. I realize that the author used this technique to give some background on the story, but it was a little odd to me. I'm not sure if the reader is just getting a glimpse of the entries or not, but a year could go buy between postings. These aren't major things, but it did detract a bit from the history aspect of the novel.

I don't want to make it sound like I didn't find anything of value in this book because that's definitely not the case. I enjoyed the story and basic concept for this novel; and I liked how the author unfolded the story and even created suspense. I also found both of the main female characters to be likable, and I felt that they were both pretty well-developed. They were both flawed; and as a result, they seemed very real to me. I also appreciated how well the author brought the Caribbean to life -- both in the past and the present. I thought Ms. Robuck's descriptions were beautiful and I could picture the tropical setting and the old house perfectly.

One thing that is going to attract a lot of readers to this story is the element of the supernatural. I'm not usually a big one for supernatural things, but I thought the incorporating of ghosts and ghost stories into this book was very well-done. I liked how the author was able to make the reader question things through the use of ghosts in the present day.

Despite the few drawbacks that I mentioned, I still think RECEIVE ME FALLING would be a book worthy of discussing. Not only did I find the historical elements of this story to be interesting, but I think it would be fun to delve into many of the characters' actions. Some of the topics for discussion include: ghosts, death, and family relationships, honesty and redemption. I found some discussion questions on the author's website that will definitely help focus your group. There were even a few questions about symbols in the story that really made me think.

Thanks to Kelley & Hall Book Publicity for sending me a copy of this book.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: The Greatest Knight

Summary: Royal protector. Loyal servant. Forgotten hero.

A penniless young knight with few prospects, William Marshal is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Henry II's formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. In gratitude, she appoints him tutor to the heir to the throne, the volatile and fickle Prince Henry. But being a royal favorite brings its share of danger and jealousy as well as fame and reward.
A writer of uncommon historical integrity and accuracy, Elizabeth Chadwick resurrects the true story of one of England's greatest forgotten heroes in a captivating blend of fact and fiction. The Greatest Knight restores William Marshal to his rightful place at the pinnacle of the Middle Ages, reflecting through him the triumphs, scandals, and power struggles that haven't changed in eight hundred years. -- Sourcebooks Landmark

I love historical fiction so I was looking forward to reading THE GREATEST KNIGHT by Elizabeth Chadwick. The reviews for the book were pretty positive, but I have to admit that I wasn't completely sold on a book about a knight. I mean, I knew I enjoyed reading about kings and queens; but I was a tad bit worried that THE GREATEST KNIGHT would be too focused on battles and fighting and other "knight" stuff.

I had nothing to fear because I thought THE GREATEST KNIGHT was amazing! I adored every page of this book (and there were a lot of pages to love since the book was well over 500 pages.) I loved the characters, and I think Ms. Chadwick did a fantastic job of telling William Marshal's story. This book seemed to have a little bit of everything -- suspense, deceit, love, wars, scandals, etc. -- and it was an added bonus that I was able to get a little history lesson too.

I think one of the major reasons that I enjoyed this book so much was the character of William Marshal. The author mentions in the back of the book that he was an unsung hero and maybe even the greatest knight of the Middle Ages; and I think she portrayed him as a very complex, yet extremely, likable character. I'm not one to swoon (usually), but I could so picture William as "the man." Not only was he a noble warrior and very brave, but he had so much integrity. That's not to say that he didn't have flaws, because he certainly had some weaknesses -- he was human after all; however, I think the author developed his character so well and made him so believable to me.

Another thing I really appreciated about this novel was the author's writing style. I was blown away by how well the author brought this time period to life for me. Ms. Chadwick's descriptions of the houses, villages, food and clothing were so detailed and precise that I had no problem picturing the scenes in this book. For someone who knew little, if anything, about the Middle Ages, I felt I had a grasp on this time in history after reading THE GREATEST KNIGHT. I have no doubt that she conducted a tremendous amount of research to write this book. I was also very impressed with how she handled the battle scenes in the book. I am not one who enjoys reading about wars and the tactics behind them, but she managed to keep my interest through all of these pages. Overall, I think she did a remarkable job of telling William Marshal's story!

There were a few sentences towards the end of the book that really jumped out at me. I think they do an extremely good job of summing up some of the major themes of the book as they pertained to the character of William Marshal. "Loyalty, integrity, necessity. All were valid; all had shaped his life, and in different concentrations would continue to do so." These few words give the reader a great deal to consider about Marshal and his actions; and they provide a wonderful starting point to discuss the book and its characters. And while this book is rather long for the average book club, I think most readers would feel that it was a worthwhile read.

Although I love historical fiction, I admit that I don't know a lot about the 13th Century (or really almost any time period if I'm being honest with myself -- sadly, history just isn't my thing.) After reading THE GREATEST KNIGHT, I must say I was fascinated by these characters and their actions. I feel as if I learned a great deal from reading this book. As an added bonus, I found the following information posted on the Sourcebooks website and thought it was interesting enough to share:


The Greatness of William Marshal: The descendants of the Greatest Knight himself include George Washington and Winston Churchill, as well as the Stuart kings of England and Scotland. He was partly responsible for the Magna Carta. He vowed his body to the Templars and is buried in Temple Church in London.

The Appeal of the Time Period: There are very few novels about Marshal, and no one has covered him as in depth as Elizabeth Chadwick has. In addition, unlike the Tudor era, there are not extensive amounts of historical fiction set in the 13th century.

The Integrity of the Research: Elizabeth Chadwick's research is impeccable. She not only visited many locations, but she re-enacted with a living history society where a quarter of the membership are either historians or archaeologists, and she collected and used replica artifacts from the period and engaged in experimental archaeology. She has taken courses in various medieval studies to facilitate her knowledge.

The Breadth of the Audience: Readers who are fans of Sharon Kay Penman, Anya Seton, Diana Gabaldon, Phillipa Gregory, and Jean Plaidy will like Elizabeth Chadwick. She appeals to readers who are looking for historical accuracy and strong, believable characters, readers who want to feel that they are being immersed in the period with well-rounded characters.

Also I just think this book trailer really captures the essence of the book:

I am so excited that Ms. Chadwick will be stopping by on Friday to share some more about her wonderful book THE GREATEST KNIGHT. It's a terrific guest post that you won't want to miss. (Plus I will be having a giveaway for two copies of her book!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: National Geographic Kids Almanac 2010 & Giveaway

Summary: National Geographic Children’s Books announces the launch of its first ever kids’ almanac, where kids can discover everything from how to survive adrift at sea to the secrets of the sunken city of Atlantis to ways you can volunteer in your community. THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2010 (ISBN: 978-1-4263-0501-6, June 2009, $12.99, Ages 8-12) grabs readers’ attention with more than 500 stunning photographs and over 300 pages bursting with fast facts, true stories, fun activities and interesting articles on every subject under the sun (and beyond!).

With content that will make any kid go “wow!,” “ew!” and “cool!” this backpacked-sized reference book is sure to wake kids’ brains from their “summer slumber” and get them ready for school. Crafts, games, jokes, recipes and a “virtual pet” named Zimmer are just a few of the unusual and creative features that make the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2010 unique, engaging and FUN!

With full-color design and an easy-to-read format, THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2010 delivers chapter after chapter of fun factoids:

• Your World 2010 — What’s hot and what’s ahead for 2010
• Awesome Adventure — Modern-day adventurers, survival techniques and true stories of harrowing escapes
• Amazing Animals — More than 75 pages devoted to animals, their habitats and what makes each one unique
• Culture Connection — Food, currency, literature and lots more from around the world
• Geography Rocks — Maps, travel and famous or unusual landmarks — like a sculpture in Joshua Tree, Calif., made entirely of toilets
• Going Green — Eco-lingo, our threatened planet and steps we can take to help save it
• History Happens — Mummies! Wars! American heroes! Secret spies! The people, places, governments and events that make us who we are today.
• Wonders of Nature — From the highest mountains to the depths of the ocean floor — and everything in between.
• Super Science — Space, health and the human body, our future world and cool inventions -- Press Release

When I was a kid, I remember loving to look through all sorts of informational books like kids' encyclopedias, Guinness Book of World Record books, and even almanacs. So I was very excited to see that there is a new 2010 almanac available just for middle grade kids called the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2010. I just knew my daughter would love looking through it, but I didn't expect for me to enjoy it so much!

I was very impressed with this almanac! Probably the first thing that struck me was how many gorgeous, colorful photographs were between the pages of this book -- something like 500 pictures. I shouldn't have been surprised since this is a National Geographic publication, but I have to say that these pictures are stunning. The graphics are also bright and eye-catching and definitely complement the information.

Another benefit of this book is how it is formatted. The book is divided into nine different sections and the top of the pages are color-coded to match the topics. This makes it very easy to flip through the pages and find whatever you are looking for. Each page is also filled with colorful pictures and features consisting of different sizes and types of fonts. You can't help but be drawn into each page.

What really impressed me the most was how much information is contained in this book. It really does cover a tremendous amount of topics; however, I didn't find it overwhelming in the slightest (even for children) The information is written in very clear and concise manner -- perfect for kids. I also love all the different ways that information is presented in this book. A child cannot possibly get bored when there are crafts, games, jokes, stories, weblistings and even homework help. It really is a very fun book that is also chock full of interesting facts!

I'm pretty sure that most kids aren't going to sit down and read this entire book straight through (although I admit that I probably would have as a child.) More likely, they will skim through it and read whatever catches their eye or they might even use it as a reference book. I really appreciated that this book is softcover so it's easy to tote around or throw into a backpack for bus-ride reading.

Booking Daughter has had so much fun with this book. She keeps reading facts to me that she finds interesting. For example, "Mom, did you know the word nerd was first used in a Dr. Seuss book?" And, "Cold blooded animals, such as lizards, don't sweat." She is also very excited to be able to use the almanac for reports in school. I think this book definitely makes learning fun for kids.

In honor of that special time of the year when kids head back to school (my daughter starts 5th grade tomorrow), I am giving away a copy of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS ALMANAC 2010! Not only will one lucky winner receive this very fun and fact-filled book, but he or she will also win a backpack filled with water bottle, erasers, pens, pencils, a calculator, two pocket folders, spiral notebooks, colored pencils, markers, 3x5 index cards, loose leaf paper, scissors, highlighter, glue sticks, protractor and a ruler -- basically everything a child needs for the first day of school! To enter this awesome giveaway, please leave a comment with a valid e-mail address telling me what is your favorite school supply. If you want 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 Tuesday, September 8th at 11:59 p.m. EST; and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the U.S. and Canada only. Good Luck!

Thanks to Media Masters Publicity for providing the books and the giveaway package.

A Booking Mama Blurb!

Summary: At 34, Scarlet Kavanagh has the kind of homecoming no child wishes, a visit back to family and dear friends for the gentle passing of her mother, Addie, a famous bird artist and an even more infamous environmental activist. Though Addie and her husband, ornithologist Tom Kavanagh, have made their life in southeastern Pennsylvania, Addie has chosen to die at the New Jersey home of her dearest friend, Cora. This is because the Kavanagh’s ramshackle cottage is filled with too much history and because, in the last ten years or so, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, even bird song has seemed to make Addie angry, or sad, or both. Now, in their final moments together, Scarlet hopes to put to rest the last tensions that have marked their relationship.

Through tender conversations with Cora and Lou, another of Addie’s dear friends, Scarlet slowly comes to peace with her mother’s complicated life. But can she do the same with her own? Scarlet has carried a secret into these foggy days - a secret for Addie, one that involves Cora, too.

In its structure and style this novel follows in the tradition of writers like Virginia Woolf, Harriet Doerr, and Carol Shields: musical and dramatic, with myriad stories and voices. But the evocative language of this soaring novel is Hinnefeld’s own. -- Unbridled Books

Last summer, I read and reviewed an ARC of IN HOVERING FLIGHT by Joyce Hinnefeld. I enjoyed the book very much, and I thought Ms. Hinnefeld's writing was just beautiful. I am so excited to announce that Unbridled Books has recently released the paperback version of IN HOVERING FLIGHT. I'm sure you will agree with me that the cover is absolutely beautiful, but Unbridled always seems to have such gorgeous and unique cover art!

Much to my surprise, I am one of the bloggers who was "blurbed" in the front of the book! As you can imagine, I am extremely flattered. Here's what I said:

"Rich and beautifully written, and it touched me deeply."

If you've read IN HOVERING FLIGHT, I'd love to hear what you think.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Middle Grade Book Challenge

I promised myself that I wasn't going to do any more challenges. Famous last words!

While I find reading challenges to be fun and I do love the sense of community, I tend to drive myself crazy with the added stress. However, when Kathy (aka Bermuda Onion) sent me the link for Bambi Reads Middle Grade Book Challenge, I couldn't resist!

Here are the details:
1. Anyone can join.

2. Read 12 middle grade novels (Challenge 1) or read 25 MG books (Challenge 2). You can read comics too, or listen to audio books. These can be in any language. You don't have to make a reading list now; you may select them as you go and you're free to make changes to your list.

3. The challenge begins September 1st, 2009 through August 31st, 2010.

4. You can join anytime between now and August 31st, 2010.

5. Sign up with MckLinky here.

That's it!

I'm hoping to read 25 MG books and qualify for Challenge 2 -- we'll see! I figure since Booking Daughter and I have been reading a lot of middle grade fiction lately, this is the perfect challenge for us. We read about 10 middle grade books a year for our Mother-Daughter Book Club alone. I don't know exactly what my daughter's role will be in this challenge because she doesn't always want to write reviews with me, but I am committed.

I'd love to have some more of my blogging friends join us -- pleeeeeeaaaaaassse! There are so many wonderful middle grade books out there.

Guest Review: The Doomsday Key

Summary: At Princeton University, a famed geneticist dies inside a biohazard lab. In Rome, a Vatican archaeologist is found dead in St. Peter's Basilica. In Africa, a U.S. senator's son is slain outside a Red Cross camp. The three murders on three continents bear a horrifying connection: all the victims are marked by a Druidic pagan cross burned into their flesh.

The bizarre murders thrust Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force into a race against time to solve a riddle going back centuries, to a ghastly crime against humanity hidden within a cryptic medieval codex. The first clue is discovered inside a mummified corpse buried in an English peat bog—a gruesome secret that threatens America and the world.

Aided by two women from his past—one his ex lover, the other his new partner—Gray must piece together the horrifying truth. But the revelations come at a high cost, and to save the future, Gray will have to sacrifice one of the women at his side. That alone might not be enough, as the true path to salvation is revealed in a dark prophecy of doom.

Sigma Force confronts humankind's greatest threat in an adventure that races from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway, from the ruins of medieval abbeys to the lost tombs of Celtic kings. The ultimate nightmare is locked within a talisman buried by a dead saint—an ancient artifact known as the Doomsday Key. -- William Morrow

When I received a copy of THE DOOMSDAY KEY by James Rollins, I knew exactly who would appreciate this book -- my good friend Melissa. It's no secret that Mr. Rollins is one of her very favorite authors; and I knew she wanted to read his latest novel. As you can see, I think the book lived up to her expectations:

I was thrilled when my friend, Julie, gave me a copy of THE DOOMSDAY KEY to read and review. I am a huge James Rollins fan and have read all of his books. If you are a lover of fast-paced action/adventures, this book will not disappoint you. Move over Indiana Jones! Back in Doomsday are Commander Grey Pierce and Sigma Force who must save the world from a nefarious powerful group (The Guild) out to control the world’s food supply. Rollins also brings back Rachel Verona, an old love interest of Grey’s and Seichan, a beautiful and dangerous agent, whose motives and allegiance are still murky at best, to round out his cabaret of interesting characters.

What I have always loved about James Rollins is that he almost always weaves a historical or mythical component into his stories. In DOOMSDAY, the plot centers upon a mysterious deadly plague from the past and the threat of unleashing it into the present. Also, seamlessly intertwined is Celtic and Druid lore about a lost ancient race and Saint Malachy’s prophecies detailing all the popes to the end of the world.

One of the things I liked best about this book is how the tangled relationships between Grey, Rachel and Seichan continue to develop and unfold. Still not completely clear is whether or not Seichan is friend or foe. With hints of a moral conscience and glimpses into her past, she is one of my most favorite characters.

Without giving away too much of the story, DOOMSDAY is a fun, archaeological smorgasbord. But it also delves into some very disturbing and thought-provoking issues. For instance, what will happen when and if the world’s population exceeds its food supply? To ensure the continuation of our species, is there a way to ethically manage the world’s population?

I highly recommend THE DOOMSDAY KEY and anything else by James Rollins. In fact, I just bought Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow, Rollin’s new children’s book for my nine-year old daughter and can’t wait to start reading it with her!

I think this book sounds terrific! A big thanks to Melissa for her awesome review and to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Author Signing with Maryann McFadden

It's taken me awhile to get around to writing this post, but that's only because this week has been super crazy for me! Between birthdays, parties, and BBAW, I feel like I'm losing it! One thing is for sure, my delayed write-up is definitely not because I wasn't thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet Maryann McFadden last Monday evening. Ms. McFadden is the author of THE RICHEST SEASON and SO HAPPY TOGETHER; and she came to traveled to Aaron's Books in Lititz, PA, for a book reading and signing.

I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be able to make the signing because it was Booking Daughter's 10th birthday; and as much as I love authors and books, I wasn't going to miss out on the celebration. Much to my surprise (and joy), Booking Daughter said that she'd like to go with me to see Ms. McFadden. This is a pretty big sacrifice for her because it's an hour away, and she's not the biggest fan of traveling in a car for any amount of time. I can't even begin to express how excited I am that she is developing a love of books just like her mama!

Despite horrific storms, power outages and downed trees, Booking Daughter and I made it to Aaron's with not a minute to spare. The hour trip was actually closer to an hour and twenty minutes. I was anxious to show my daughter Aaron's Books because it is my absolute favorite bookstore. Not only is it quaint, but the owners -- Todd and Sam -- are just about the nicest people you could ever meet. I could sit and talk books with them for hours! I just wish it were a little closer to my home.

Before reading the prologue from her new novel SO HAPPY TOGETHER, Ms. McFadden spoke about her "journey" to having a book published. She story is actually fascinating because she didn't begin writing novels until her kids were almost grown. She self-published her first novel THE RICHEST SEASON and did a huge amount of marketing on her own -- visiting bookstores, meeting with book clubs and hand-selling her book. After eight months, she had proven that she had a good book on her hands and ended up selling her novel to Hyperion. The rest, as they say, is history. If you'd like to learn more about Ms. McFadden, you should definitely check out her website.

Unfortunately, I had not read either of Ms. McFadden's novels prior to meeting her. Of course, I ended up buying both of them and having her sign them. Now, I can't wait to read them. They both sound terrific and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to enjoy them!

I took quite a few pictures at the event, but I figured since Booking Daughter spent her birthday at the book signing, she deserved to have the one of her and Ms. McFadden posted here. I mentioned to Ms. McFadden that it was Booking Daughter's 10th birthday, and she made sure to give her some special attention. Ms. McFadden told her that when she was 10 years old, she decided that she wanted to be an author. In addition to getting to meet an author, Booking Daughter received a bag of books from Aaron's (plus the two that I ended up buying her.) Needless to say, Booking Daughter was thrilled with the whole experience! The entire ride home she talked about potential book and story ideas with me. I probably don't need to tell you how much that warmed my heart!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Review: Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter

Summary: Philippa Fisher is trying to have a good time on vacation with her parents, but she’s feeling lonely. When she meets Robyn, a girl with sad eyes and a strict father, she enjoys the company, but can’t help wondering what Robyn and her dad might be hiding. Meanwhile, Daisy, Philippa’s best friend (and fairy godsister), sneaks into her former charge’s room for a visit, but now has a furtive new mission and must dash away. Philippa longs to uncover the reasons behind her friends’ odd behavior, but friendships can be tricky when there are secrets -- and unexpected danger -- involved! Best-selling author Liz Kessler is back with a sympathetic story about navigating between old friends and new, a tale full of mystery, whimsy, and all the magic tween readers could wish for.

Philippa Fisher reunites with her spunky fairy godsister in a sparkling new adventure from the creator of Emily Windsnap. -- Candlewick Press

Last month, my daughter and I read THE TAIL OF EMILY WINDSNAP by Liz Kessler for our Mother-Daughter Book Club. Not only did all of the girls in our group absolutely adore this story, but I thought it was pretty terrific too. We all agreed that it was a good thing that THE TAIL OF EMILY WINDSNAP was the first book in a series because we could read more about Emily and her family.

So you can probably guess how excited I was to find that Ms. Kessler has written another series for middle-grade girls. I just finished reading PHILIPPA FISHER AND THE DREAM-MAKER'S DAUGHTER, which is actually the second book in this Philippa Fisher series; and I think I enjoyed it as much as the Emily Windsnap book. The only issue I had with the book is that I wanted to get my hands on the other books in the series right away.

When my daughter and I discovered that there was a prequel to this book, I immediately tried to request it from the library. Unfortunately, our local branch doesn't carry any of the books in this series -- I think I'll be having a little chat with the children's librarian next time I'm there! I want to mention that PHILIPPA FISHER AND THE DREAM-MAKER'S DAUGHTER definitely can be read and appreciated as a stand-alone book. I thought the author did a great job of giving hints about what occurred in the first book; however, I just like to read a series in order!

All of the things that I enjoyed so much in EMILY WINDSNAP were definitely in the PHILIPPA FISHER book -- the beautiful imagery, the fantasy, the wonderful characters, and so many terrific messages. I just flat out enjoyed this story and I have a feeling that young girls are going to love it too. I think Ms. Fisher's books are a wonderful blend of fantasy and reality; and the characters are all so memorable. I would be remiss not to mention how much I enjoy all of the beautiful descriptions -- I could picture the story as I read it. Plus, there are a few illustrations scattered throughout the pages which definitely enhanced the story.

As a mother, I absolutely adored all of the messages and lessons that were in this book. I loved the character of Philippa -- she has so many terrific character traits. I thought it was precious how she appreciates her parents even when they act a little goofy; and I thought she was the perfect image of a good friend. There were so many reminders of what makes a good friendship in this book; however, there were also some deeper messages about love and loss. I thought this book did a good job with the way it handled grief as well as the mourning process. PHILIPPA FISHER AND THE DREAM-MAKER'S DAUGHTER would be a fantastic book for a mother-daughter book club to read or even a book to co-read with your daughter!

Ms. Kessler has a truly beautiful website that you should really visit. I had so much fun just scrolling my mouse over the page and discovering all the little tidbits on the site. I especially enjoyed visiting the secret area where you could unlock "secrets" about the books by answering some questions.

Thanks to The Picnic Basket and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: North! or Be Eaten

Summary: Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.
In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest,1 the thieving Stranders of the East Bend,2 and the dreaded Fork Factory.3

But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart, and Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.

1. All possessing very sharp teeth.
2. Murderous scoundrels, the lot.
3. Woe! -- Waterbrook

I have been reading a lot of middle-grade fiction lately, so I decided to give NORTH! OR BE EATEN by Andrew Peterson a try. I knew My Friend Amy was a big fan of Mr. Peterson's 1st book in the series ON THE EDGE OF THE DARK SEA OF DARKNESS (you can read her review here) as well as his music; and you know how much I respect her opinion... Although I admit that I wasn't without a little hesitation about reading this book. I am not a huge reader of fantasy books and I didn't like that I was starting with the second book in the series - I like to do things in order!

After finished NORTH! OR BE EATEN, I'm still not sure that I'm a huge fan of fantasy books. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I fully appreciated everything the author accomplished in this book. I absolutely wish that I had read the first book in the series before picking up this one because I did have a hard time catching on with all the terms. Because it was a fantasy book, there were lots of make-believe places, creatures, names, etc.; and I just didn't always get it. I'm assuming that had I read the first book before this one, things would have been a little easier to understand; but I just might not be all the bright when it comes to fictional worlds.

Having said my problems with this book (and I definitely think they were my own issues and not overall problems with the story), I did find a lot of very positive things about this story. This book was very exciting, filled with loads of suspense, and contained so many unique creatures. I'm pretty sure that kids would be riveted to the story and on the edge of their seats; and I am almost positive that they would become very involved in the characters' lives.

As a mother, I thought the overall messages in this book were fantastic. In fact, I think NORTH! OR BE EATEN would make a great book for parents and children to read and discuss together. Naturally, there were many instances of good versus evil, but there were also times when the characters (especially Janner) showed wonderful personality traits. I liked that this book showed Janner's strength and resilience as he always tried to do what was right. He was an outstanding example of a young boy who was constantly facing horrific situations yet still had faith and hope -- he never gave up!

Despite all the troubles that the characters faced, NORTH! OR BE EATEN definitely ended on a hopeful note. I still have lots of questions and I am very curious about what the future holds for the Igiby's. I have a feeling that there will be another book or two in this series; however, I am looking forward to reading Book 1 first. I also think when I revisit The Wingfeather Saga series, I will read it aloud with my kids!

One thing is for sure about NORTH! OR BE EATEN. Kids are going to love this book -- I think it will be especially appealing to young boys! There is just so much action and adventure in this story, and the author's descriptions of the fantasy world are amazing! I truly believe that NORTH! OR BE EATEN would be perfect for story time or to read aloud with your children. As I read this novel to myself, I kept thinking that Mr. Peterson wrote this book with the intent that the words to be said out loud. His prose is almost lyrical at times and I think children could imagine the entire story perfectly with his unique writing style. Plus, the chapters are pretty short and ideal for bedtime reading!

There is a fun website devoted to The Wingfeather Saga. I probably should have referenced it a few times while I was reading NORTH! OR BE EATEN because there is so much information about the books. There is a link to the Creaturepedia which gives pictures and descriptions of some very scary creatures. In addition, there are illustrations and maps that appear in the books as well as a Note to the Parents Section. I recommend taking a look at Mr. Peterson's "note" because I thought his message and explanations of his book were great.

A big thanks to for allowing me to participate in the book blog tour for NORTH! OR BE EATEN. Here's a list of the other participants in this tour:

The 160 Acre Woods
A Christian Worldview of Fiction
All About Children’s Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Cafe of Dreams
Dolce Bellezza
Fireside Musings
Homeschool Book Buzz
My Own Little Corner of the World
My utopia
Novel Teen
Olive Tree
Reading is My Superpower
Through a Child’s Eyes

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Publicist Claire McKinney, of SallyAnne McCartin & Associates, recently contacted me about a new project she is working on called It's a newly launched Web site that focuses on marketing and selling self-published books.

Here's a little bit about the site straight from Claire's e-mail:

Since leaving my Publicity Director job at a big name publishing house and having spent almost all of my career in one of the major houses, I've been pleasantly surprised and awed by the amount of fabulous books out there that I never knew about. These people have been flying a bit under the radar, but will change all of that. Also, the people who buy books from our site will be a part of a community of readers that have access to things that others don't through mainstream sales channels (like Barnes & Noble, Costco, etc.) We plan to offer discounts to independent booksellers too so that if they decide down the road to carry copies of these books and purchase them through us, it will make sense moneywise to do so.

We are also starting a companion magazine called The Indie Reader which will have regular columns from independent bookstores, celebrities, agents, authors, journalists, and we are hoping book clubs too, all about indie culture and indie books.

I think is a great idea and I was definitely impressed with it. I am looking forward to watching this site grow in the next few months, and I am especially interested in the IR Zine. Why don't you take a look and let me know what you think?

Review: Labor Day & Giveaway

Summary: With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonement and Nick Hornby's About a Boy, acclaimed author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery as seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy—and the man he later becomes—looking back at an unexpected encounter that begins one single long, hot, life-altering weekend.-- William Morrow

I decided to read LABOR DAY by Joyce Maynard in preparation for a BlogTalk Radio show. I didn't know when I sat down to read it that I would become so wrapped up in this novel. LABOR DAY was just so easy for me to read, and I didn't want to stop until I finished it. I am such a sucker for a good coming-of-age story, and LABOR DAY definitely was that! In fact, LABOR DAY was chosen as a #1 IndieNext Pick for August 2009.

I thought the premise of this book sounded interesting -- a strange man goes home with a young boy and his mother over the Labor Day weekend. It seemed like a simple enough story, but I had no idea how much deeper it would be. As I read LABOR DAY, I kept waiting for something bad to happen to Henry and his mother -- for a shoe to drop if you will. Surprisingly to me, this book wasn't like that. This story gently lured me in and the writing was just so beautiful. LABOR DAY really made me think and yet still touched me on so many levels .

The characters in this story were all flawed and also very real. Each one had their own set of insecurities and issues, and Henry and his mother were especially vulnerable. I absolutely loved the character of Henry, and I thought he was the perfect narrator for this story. Henry was 13 years old and he had all of the normal teenage issues associated boys that age. He was caught between being a boy and a becoming a man -- such a hard time under regular circumstances. I couldn't believe how real and honest the character of Henry seemed, and I couldn't help but be affected by everything in Henry's life. As an aside, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how well Ms. Maynard captured the essence of a 13 year old boy. I thought Henry's voice and feelings were spot on!

After I finished this book, I couldn't stop thinking about Henry. Don't get me wrong, the other characters made an impact too; but I was just so concerned about Henry and his well-being. To me, this book was ultimately about Henry growing up and learning about love and forgiveness. Even though the story took place over just a few days, there was so much impact on Henry's entire life. This book demonstrated to me how influential single things can be in a young person's life - the effects can be life-altering.

There were a few scenes in the book that have really stayed in my thoughts. Without giving too much away, Ms. Maynard has Frank, the man who comes to stay with Henry and his mother, prepare some baked goods including a pie. Ms. Maynard gives detailed instructions about making a pie crust while also showing how it can serve as a metaphor for live. I loved the analogy and thought it was very well done. Evidently, baking is near and dear to the author's heart. You can read an essay written by Ms. Maynard about the importance of baking in her life (and her book) here.

I thought the BlogTalk Radio show with Ms. Maynard was extremely interesting. I was absolutely (am still am) blown away by how quickly she wrote this novel. The entire story in LABOR DAY takes place over a long Labor Day weekend -- around five days. Ms. Maynard shared that she actually wrote this novel in around the same time frame! It's almost as if she wrote the book in real-time -- how cool is that? She further added that not all of her books are written in this fashion! I was also thrilled that Ms. Maynard answered one of my questions during the show. I asked her if it was hard to write a book in the voice of a 13 year old boy? She said it really wasn't because she has a lot of experience being a mother to teenage boys. Evidently, LABOR DAY was a story that she was meant to tell and it just kind of poured out of her.

I highly recommend reading LABOR DAY. It's a pretty fast read, but it packs a powerful punch. I also think it would make an excellent discussion book for your next book club. There is a reading guide available to help facilitate your meeting, but I think it wouldn't be difficult to come up with some discussion topics on your own. Some topics your group might want to talk about include love, trust, parenting skills, loneliness, honesty, betrayal, and forgiveness. There really is a lot to explore between the pages of this book.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book!

For some reason, I received an ARC of LABOR DAY after I finished reading the hardback version. If you are interested in winning a brand-new ARC, just leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me what your plans are for the Labor Day weekend. If you'd like to double or triple your chances, you can blog and/or tweet about this contest with a link back to this post. I will accept entries until Thursday, September 4th 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. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!