Friday, June 28, 2013

If the Shoe Fits by Megan Mulry

If the Shoe Fits is a fun modern day romance.  Sarah James is a beautiful young American entrepreneur with a designer shoe business.  According to her stepmother, she is sadly twenty pounds overweight, but that voluptuousness only draws the attention of handsome Devon Heyworth.  Devon is the younger brother of Max, the Duke of Northrop.  He is an intelligent man with a gift for math, but he hides it behind a playboy persona.  I kept picturing him as a Prince Harry sort of man.
Sarah and Devon meet at the wedding of Devon’s brother Max, to Sarah’s best friend, Bronte (I love that for a name!).  The sparks fly and what was meant to be a weekend fling, turns out to be much more for both of them.  Trying to make a proper relationship when Sarah lives in Chicago and Devon lives in London causes problems, as does Devon’s jealousy, and Sarah’s need for independence.  Will these crazy two be able to work through these problems and find true love?
I loved all of the supporting characters, especially Sarah’s grandmother.  I would love to read more about everyone and must pick up A Royal Pain, Bronte and Max’s story.  If you would like to win a copy of A Royal Pain, please leave a comment on the following link by midnight on July 1st.  I wish I could enter!
I loved that Sarah had a professional job and career of her own and was not going to let Devon take away her goals and life.  Devon became a helpmate with these goals, but learned that Sarah did not want him stepping over his bounds.  I loved Sarah’s independence.
Devon is quite the sexy character.  I also loved that he works in an architect firm for the following reason.  “For some reasons, the ladies like architects.  That was my main factor when narrowing down the field, of course – that, and what I might be able to do with the least possible effort.  I just looked up sexy professions, you know, the guy most likely and all that, and the top five were athlete, fireman, doctor, architect, or model.”  I read this quote to my husband and we both had a good laugh.  My husband is a structural engineer and works extensively with architects.  I’m an environmental engineer myself.  We both lamented that engineers are never on the sexy list. 
I loved that professional careers were in this book on the forefront, although I wish engineering would have been brought up.  I was confused that Devon “could do the complex calculations for suspension bridges, flying buttresses, and undulating titanium fascia in very little time.”  This sounds like an engineer to me, not an architect.  I was also confused that he worked in the specifications department doing these calculations.  These types of calculations would be part of the design, and would be something the structural engineer would be doing.  Specifications are more directions on how the construction process will be completed.  They are riveting to write, I can tell you from experience.  I’ve lamented before how I wish engineering was in literature more, especially with sexy engineers, rather than the boring guy that no one wants to be around. Devon should be an engineer and help to show it can be sexy!
Overall, I loved If the Shoe Fits.  It was a very steamy novel, but it was balanced out by the fact that the two wanted a real relationship and had their own professional lives and family lives.  The characters were both charming and realistic, and I was only sad when the novel ended.  I want more!
Book Source:  Review Copy from Sourcebooks.  Thank-you!

Little Miss Austen Pride & Prejudice: A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams, Illustrated by Alison Oliver

 I’ve seen reviews of this cute children’s counting book of Pride and Prejudice over the past two years and decided it was high time I checked it out for myself as part of the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge.  I got a copy from our local library through inter-library loan and read it a couple nights ago to my two-year old daughter, Penelope.

Penelope and I both enjoyed the beautiful illustrations in the book.  Penelope likes to count and we had a fun time reading through the book and counting.  Her favorite page was the “6 Horses.”  She liked the colors and counted the page a couple of times.
The first half of the book is very Pride and Prejudice specific with such pages as “2 Rich Gentlemen” and “4 Marriage Proposals.”  The second half is more general, but regency related with the “6 Horses” and “9 Fancy Ball Gowns.”  The Pride and Prejudice references gave me a laugh, but did tend to befuddle Penelope a bit when it came to counting.  She liked the simple horse page, but was confused on the “1 English Village” page as it depicted a village with several houses.  To Penelope, there should have been one item.  She also got confused on the “10,000 pounds a year” page.  While I thought it was funny, she had a hard time counting as she wanted to count the red pound notes as well as the white.  Only the white equaled ten.
My seven-year old son Kile also listened to this book out of curiosity as well.  His favorite page was “4 marriage proposals.”  (Sorry for the flopped picture, I am having technical difficulties) He was flummoxed that someone would say no to a marriage proposal and really wanted to know why.  I tried to explain how Mr. Collins was unsuitable and Mr. Darcy was also not right at first, but he was befuddled.  Hopefully this does not lead to him not wanting to propose at a later stage in life!  If only there was a Pride and Prejudice for seven-year olds  . . .
Overall, Penelope said “This book is good,” which is a high praise from a girl who loves books.  I also enjoyed the book as well and will be checking out some other books in this “BabyLit” series. 
Book Source:  The Kewaunee Public Library

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer Audiobook Giveaway Blowout!

I have 15 great audiobooks available for a giveaway, courtesy of Penguin Audio. I have descriptions from Goodreads of each book below. If you would like to win one of the audiobooks, please leave a comment describing which audiobooks are your top two picks and why they sound interesting.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday July 12th.

Please make sure to check the third week of July to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

For the first time, legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist Neil Young offers a kaleidoscopic view of his personal life and musical creativity. He tells of his childhood in Ontario, where his father instilled in him a love for the written word; his first brush with mortality when he contract
ed polio at the age of five; struggling to pay rent during his early days with the Squires; traveling the Canadian prairies in Mort, his 1948 Buick hearse; performing in a remote town as a polar bear prowled beneath the floorboards; leaving Canada on a whim in 1966 to pursue his musical dreams in the pot-filled boulevards and communal canyons of Los Angeles; the brief but influential life of Buffalo Springfield, which formed almost immediately after his arrival in California. He recounts their rapid rise to fame and ultimate break-up; going solo and overcoming his fear of singing alone; forming Crazy Horse and writing “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River” in one day while sick with the flu; joining Crosby, Stills & Nash, recording the landmark CSNY album, Déjà vu, and writing the song, “Ohio;” life at his secluded ranch in the redwoods of Northern California and the pot-filled jam sessions there; falling in love with his wife, Pegi, and the birth of his three children; and finally, finding the contemplative paradise of Hawaii. Astoundingly candid, witty, and as uncompromising and true as his music, Waging Heavy Peace is Neil Young’s journey as only he can tell it.

Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson

During his storied career as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson won more championships than any coach in the history of professional sports. Even more important, he succeeded in never wavering from coaching his way, from a place of deep values. Jackson was tagged as the “Zen master” half in jest by sportswriters, but the nickname speaks to an important truth: this is a coach who inspired, not goaded; who led by awakening and challenging the better angels of his players’ nature, not their egos, fear, or greed.

This is the story of a preacher’s kid from North Dakota who grew up to be one of the most innovative leaders of our time. In his quest to reinvent himself, Jackson explored everything from humanistic psychology and Native American philosophy to Zen meditation. In the process, he developed a new approach to leadership based on freedom, authenticity, and selfless teamwork that turned the hypercompetitive world of professional sports on its head.

In Eleven Rings, Jackson candidly describes how he:

Learned the secrets of mindfulness and team chemistry while playing for the champion New York Knicks in the 1970s Managed Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the world, and got him to embrace selflessness, even if it meant losing a scoring title Forged successful teams out of players of varying abilities by getting them to trust one another and perform in sync Inspired Dennis Rodman and other “uncoachable” personalities to devote themselves to something larger than themselves Transformed Kobe Bryant from a rebellious teenager into a mature leader of a championship team. Eleven times, Jackson led his teams to the ultimate goal: the NBA championship—six times with the Chicago Bulls and five times with the Los Angeles Lakers. We all know the legendary stars on those teams, or think we do. What Eleven Rings shows us, however, is that when it comes to the most important lessons, we don’t know very much at all. This book is full of revelations: about fascinating personalities and their drive to win; about the wellsprings of motivation and competition at the highest levels; and about what it takes to bring out the best in ourselves and others.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.

All In: The Education by General David Petraeus by Paula Broadwell

General David Petraeus is the most transformative leader the American military has seen since the generation of Marshall. In the New York Times bestseller All In, military expert Paula Broadwell examines Petraeus's career, his intellectual development as a military officer, and his impact on the U.S. military.

Afforded extensive access by General Petraeus, his mentors, his subordinates, and his longtime friends, Broadwell reported on the front lines of fighting and at the strategic command in Afghanistan to chronicle the experiences of this American general as they were brought to bear in the terrible crucible of war. All In draws on hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews with Petraeus and his top officers and soldiers to tell the inside story of this commander's development and leadership in war.

When Petraeus assumed command in Afghanistan in July 2010, the conflict looked as bleak as at any moment in America's nine years on the ground there. Petraeus's defining idea—counterinsurgency—was immediate put to its most difficult test: the hard lessons learned during the surge in Iraq were to be applied in a radically different theater. All In examines the impact in Afghanistan of new counterinsurgency as well as counterterrorism strategies through the commands of several Petraeus protégés.

Broadwell examines his evolution as a solider from his education at West Point in the wake of Vietnam to his earlier service in Central America, Haiti, Kuwait, Bosnia, and Iraq. All In also documents the general's role in the war in Washington, going behind the scenes of negotiations during policy reviews of the war in Afghanistan in Congress, the Pentagon, and the White House.

Broadwell ultimately appraises Petraeus's impact on the entire U.S. military: Thanks to this man's influence, the military is better prepared to fight using a comprehensive blend of civil-military activities. As America surveys a decade of untraditional warfare, this much is clear: The career of General David Petraeus profoundly shaped our military and left an indelible mark on its rising leaders.

Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton

When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…

But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them

Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Hailed by USA Today as “a thrill ride best described as The Da Vinci Code meets Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Danielle Trussoni’s bestselling first novel, Angelology, wove biblical lore, the Orpheus myth, and Milton’s Rebel Angels into a present-day world tinged with the divine supernatural. The novel plunged two endearing loners—art historian V. A. Verlaine and Evangeline, a beautiful young nun—into an ancient battle between a secret society and mankind’s most insidious enemies: angel-human hybrids known as the Nephilim.

Now a decade has passed since Verlaine saw Evangeline alight from the Brooklyn Bridge, the sight of her wings a betrayal that haunts him still. The Nephilim are again on the rise, scheming to construct their own paradise—the Angelopolis—and ruthlessly pursued by Verlaine in his new calling as an angel hunter. But when Evangeline materializes, Verlaine is besieged by doubts that will only grow as forces more powerful than even the Nephilim draw them from Paris to Saint Petersburg and deep into the provinces of Siberia and the Black Sea coast. A high-octane tale of abduction and liberation, treasure seeking and divine warfare, Angelopolis plumbs Russia’s imperial past, modern genetics, and the archangel Gabriel’s famous visitations to conceive a fresh tableau of history and myth that will, once again, enthrall readers the world over.

Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton

Kinsey and Me has two parts: The nine Kinsey stories (1986-93), each a gem of detection; and the And Me stories, written in the decade after Grafton's mother died. Together, they show just how much of Kinsey is a distillation of her creator’s past even as they reveal a child who, free of parental interventions, read everything and roamed everywhere. But the dark side of such freedom was that very parental distance.

The same feisty voice and witty apercus readers fell in love with in A Is for Alibi permeate the Kinsey stories. Those in the And Me section trace a remarkable voyage, from anger to understanding, from pain to forgiveness. They take us into a troubled family, dysfunctional as most families are, each in their own way, but Grafton’s telling is sensitive, delicate, and ultimately, loving. Enriching the way we see Kinsey and know Sue, these stories are deeply affecting.

The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of “Enough” by Julia Cameron

A dynamic new creative-renewal program from the woman who has inspired millions to discover and recover their creative souls.

A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Detective Carl Mørck has received a bottle that holds an old and decayed message written in blood. It’s a cry for help from two young brothers, tied and bound in a boathouse by the sea. After floating in the ocean for years before turning up, the bottle sat forgotten, unopened, on a police department windowsill, before the seal was cracked and the gruesome message, written in Danish, was analyzed. Could it be real? Who are these boys, and why weren’t they reported missing? Could they possibly still be alive?

Carl’s investigation will force him to cross paths with a woman stuck in a desperate marriage: Her husband refuses to tell her where he goes, how long he will be away, what he does while he’s gone—or even what he does for a living. Isolated after choosing him over family and friends, she waits for days on end, and when he returns she must endure his wants, his moods, his threats. But enough is enough. She will find out the truth, no matter the cost to him—or to herself.

In this heart-pounding thriller, Carl and his colleagues Assad and Rose must use every resource available to uncover the horrifying truth set adrift in that bottle all those years ago.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

In The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen introduced Detective Carl Mørck, a deeply flawed, brilliant detective newly assigned to run Department Q, the home of Copenhagen’s coldest cases. The result wasn’t what Mørck—or readers—expected, but by the opening of Adler-Olsen’s shocking, fast-paced follow-up, Mørck is satisfied with the notion of picking up long-cold leads. So he’s naturally intrigued when a closed case lands on his desk: A brother and sister were brutally murdered two decades earlier, and one of the suspects—part of a group of privileged boarding-school students—confessed and was convicted.

But once Mørck reopens the files, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Looking into the supposedly solved case leads him to Kimmie, a woman living on the streets, stealing to survive. Kimmie has mastered evading the police, but now they aren’t the only ones looking for her. Because Kimmie has secrets that certain influential individuals would kill to keep buried . . . as well as one of her own that could turn everything on its head

Chasing Midnight by Randy Wayne White

It began peacefully enough, on one of Florida's private islands.

At a reception hosted by a notorious Russian black marketeer, Doc Ford uses darkness, and his friend Tomlinson, as cover to get an underwater look at the billionaire's yacht. By the time Ford surfaces, everything has changed.

Environmental extremists have taken control of the island. Or are they thugs hired by the Russian's competitors? Whatever the motive, they have herded everyone together and threatened to kill one hostage every hour until midnight unless their demands are met-at which point they will just blow everybody up.

Electronic jammers make communications with the outside world impossible. The only hope of avoiding terrible consequences: The militants do not know Ford's capabilities, or that he is still on the loose. But that situation won't last for long . . . and the clock is ticking.

Potboiler by Jesse Kellerman

Arthur Pfefferkorn is a has-been, or perhaps a never-was: a middle-aged college professor with long-dead literary aspirations. When his oldest friend, bestselling thriller writer William de Vallèe, is lost at sea, Pfefferkorn is torn between envy and grief, for de Vallèe not only outshone Pfefferkorn professionally, but married the woman Pfefferkorn loved.

Pfefferkorn’s decision to reconnect with de Vallèe’s widow sets in motion a surreal chain of events, plunging him into a shadowy realm of double crosses and intrigue, a world where no one can be trusted--and nothing can be taken seriously.

Zero Hour by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
The dazzling new novel in the #1 New York Times–bestselling series from the grand master of adventure.

It is called zero point energy, and it really exists—a state of energy contained in all matter everywhere, and thus all but unlimited. Nobody has ever found a way to tap into it, however—until one scientist discovers a way.

Or at least he thinks he has. The problem is, his machines also cause great earthquakes, even fissures in tectonic plates. One machine is buried deep underground; the other is submerged in a vast ocean trench. If Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala and the rest of the NUMA team aren’t able to find and destroy them, and soon, the world will be on the threshold of a new era of earth tremors and unchecked volcanism.

Now, that can’t be good.

The Thief by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

On the ocean liner Mauretania, two European scientists with a dramatic new invention are barely rescued from abduction by the Van Dorn Detective Agency's intrepid chief investigator, Isaac Bell. Unfortunately, they are not so lucky the second time. The thugs attack again-and this time one of the scientists dies. What are they holding that is so precious? Only something that will revolutionize business and popular culture-and perhaps something more.

For war clouds are looming, and a ruthless espionage agent has spotted a priceless opportunity to give the Germans an edge. It is up to Isaac Bell to figure out who he is, what he is up to, and stop him. But he may already be too late . . . and the future of the world may just hang in the balance.

The Storm by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown

In the middle of the Indian Ocean, a NUMA research vessel is taking water samples at sunset, when a crew member spots a sheen of black oil ahead of them. But it is not oil. Like a horde of army ants, a swarm of black particles suddenly attacks the ship, killing everyone aboard, while the ship itself goes up in flames.

A few hours later, Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala are on their way to the Indian Ocean. What they will find there on the smoldering hulk of the ship will eventually lead them to the discovery of the most audacious scheme they have ever known: a plan to permanently alter the weather on a global scale. It will kill millions . . . and it has already begun.

Filled with the boundless invention unique to Clive Cussler, this is one of the most thrilling novels yet from the grand master of adventure.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pride and Prejudice (audiobook) by Jane Austen

Title: Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen

Read by: Carolyn Seymour

Publisher: Blackstone Audio - 2011

Length: I can’t find the length!!

Source: MP3 Audio through Wisconsin Public Library Consortium – Overdrive on my Droid

Listening to Pride and Prejudice is a good way for me to relax. I enjoyed listening to it in the evening after I had put the kids to bed and was doing the dishes and other mundane chores. It was a good way to actually enjoy the tasks. This review will not be a synopsis of the story of Pride and Prejudice (which you can find in my old reviews), but a review of this audiobook version.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of my favorite novels of all time. I have read it and countless spin-offs numerous times, and have watched many different versions, but I never tire of it. I decided to listen to an audiobook version that I had not listened to before as part of the 2013 Bicentenary Celebration hosted by Austenprose. It is two-hundred years since the world first received this wonderful classic novel, and now is the time to celebrate.

I had listened to an audiobook version of Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago and was not impressed. While I will always enjoy my favorite novel, the previous narrator I listened to was rather dry. If I hadn’t loved the material, I would have fallen asleep while listening! Luckily, this new Blackstone Audio version from 2011 has a wonderful narrator, Carolyn Seymour. While Ms. Seymour has a polished English accent, she brings the liveliness and fun to the narrative that one could imagine Elizabeth Bennet bringing to it if she were reading the novel. She also had a unique voice for each of the characters that also brought great enjoyment as I was listening to the novel. I especially loved Mrs. Bennet and Lydia’s voices.

I loved hearing my favorite lines being read while I was working around the house.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

“An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do.”

“Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

“From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

There were many, many more quotes that I loved, but those are a few of my favorites. I was struck again while listening to Pride & Prejudice, what a change comes over both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy as the book progresses. They are both better people by the end, and I believe they will find happiness together.

While I also laughed throughout the book at the folly of Mrs. Bennet, I couldn’t help think about how Mr. Bennet was the true villain of the novel. My British Novel professor brought up this point in college and it has always stayed with me. He is funny and loves his daughter Lizzie, but the novel talks frankly about how he married foolishly and was not wise with his finances. It is because the family will be in desperate straits when he dies, that Mrs. Bennet has to work so furiously on finding a husband for all of her daughters. I think it is one of the ironies of the books that Mrs. Bennet is actually the parent in the right, even if she is foolish.

I think the true reason why Austen’s novels have lived on is because the characters in the novels are still with us today. Who has not had a family member that embarrasses them at a party? The shy sister, the flirty sister, the person who acts like your friend, but is really not. We all have known our own Janes, Lydias, Miss Bingley’s, and Mrs. Bennets. Austen was able to capture these personalities faithfully and they resonate true to today.

Overall, this 2011 audiobook version of Pride and Prejudice narrated by Carolyn Seymour was a joy to listen to. If you are looking for a great audiobook, I would highly recommend this version.

All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

Who does not like to read books set in relaxing island community? Three friends since childhood, meet for a weekend in Avalon, New Jersey, to escape the stresses of everyday life and to finally discuss their past. Kate is lawyer with her life mapped out ahead of her. That all changes the day her fiancé breaks of their engagement, and she finds out she is pregnant with their child. Vanessa is a beautiful woman that gave up a successful career to be a wife and mother. She starts to wonder if it was all worth it when her husband cheats on her and her past boyfriend reconnects. Danni has been writing a novel for the past eight years, but can’t seem to put away alcohol and drugs long enough to finish the novel and hold on to a job. While on the island, they discuss these problems as well as the part they all played in the mysterious death of Kate’s twin brother Colin on the island eight years before.

I flew through reading this short novel. I will truthfully say that all three main characters annoyed me, but that Colin was the real star of the novel. I really wanted to know what exactly happened to him and how that in affected the three protagonists to become what they are today. I was not disappointed in the riveting conclusion.

In short, read All of the Summer Girls for the great mystery of the death of a 21-year old twin eight years before and how this changed the lives of the summer girls forever. You will not be disappointed.

Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you!

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Royal Pain Baby Name Game and Giveaway!

It’s time to play A Royal Pain Baby Name Game! To celebrate Megan Mulry’s upcoming July release, If the Shoe Fits, Sourcebooks would like to know what you think the name of Will & Kate’s new addition will be! Comment below with your boy name and girl name prediction! I will pick one winner who will receive a print copy of Megan’s first book A Royal Pain!

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).

No P.O. Boxes.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Monday July 1, 2013.

Please make sure to check the next week to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Coming July 2nd – If the Shoe Fits by Megan Mulry

The only thing worse than being in the spotlight is being kept in the dark...

With paparazzi nipping at his heels, Devon Heyworth, rakish brother of the Duke of Northrop, spends his whole life hiding his intelligence and flaunting his playboy persona. Fast cars and faster women give the tabloids plenty to talk about.

American entrepreneur Sarah James is singularly unimpressed with "The Earl" when she meets him at a wedding. But she's made quite an impression on him. When he pursues her all the way across the pond, he discovers that Miss James has no intention of being won over by glitz and glamor—she's got real issues to deal with, and the last thing she needs is larger-than-life royalty mucking about her business...

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Nicola Marter has a rare gift, and she is afraid of it. The gift makes her different, but it can also give her a window into the past. She can touch an item and see the history of the item. When a poor dying woman brings a rare treasure her family has saved through the years into the art store where she works, Nicola, is able to see that it was given to the woman’s ancestor, Anna, by Empress Catherine of Russia. Unfortunately, seeing it through the use of psychometry is not proving it legally. Nicola cannot get the object out of her mind. She knows her powers are limited, but she does know of someone that can help her.

A few years ago, Nicola had met another person gifted with ESP in Edinburg. Robbie is at one with his gift, and when Nicola goes to find him, she also discovers that his small town accepts him as he is. Nicola has spent her life trying to hide her gift as her grandfather had warned her to do. Robbie and Nicola set off to Russia on a trip for Nicola’s work as well as to discover the past of the Firebird by following the imprints of history of Anna.

Anna is an intriguing character. The daughter of a Scottish patriot that is trying to get King James back on the throne, Anna is hidden while a child to protect her from the forces of King George. Anna travels to France during another uprising in Scotland and lives for a time with nuns. After unwittingly exposing family secrets to a spy in the nunnery, Anna runs away while getting relocated, and ends up with kindly Vice-Admiral Gordon in St. Petersburg during the reign of Peter the Great. The novel skips ahead to Anna as a young woman and the relationship she has with her adopted family and other families that support the “King over the Water” and also with a young and handsome Rogue. Will Anna be able to find her true family and true love? Will Nicola and Robbie discover the truth behind the Firebird? Will Nicola admit the truth about herself?

I loved, loved, and loved The Firebird. I had just finished The Shadowy Horses and eagerly started The Firebird. It starts after The Shadowy Horses with young Robbie now a twenty-something police officer. It was fantastic to get some of my questions from The Shadowy Horses answered and also to see what a grown-up Robbie was like. I loved Robbie and Nicola’s relationship and would love to see it explored even more in the future. I must admit though that even though I loved Robbie and Nicola, I loved Anna even more. As the story switched back and forth between the two timelines, I couldn’t wait to go back to the past. I also loved that the story mostly took place in Russia during the time of Peter the Great. I learned some new things and was fascinated by the Russian history.

I also loved the author notes at the end where Kearsley describes her research and how most of the characters in the novel were true to history. Fascinating. She also stated that many of the characters were from her novel, The Winter Sea. I have heard so many good things about that novel; I definitely need to pick it up!

Overall, the Firebird is an excellent historical fiction/contemporary/suspense novel with memorable characters, great romance, and a riveting plot line. I highly recommend this novel.

Book Source: Review copy from Sourcebooks – Thanks!

Daddy’s Gone a Hunting by Mary Higgins Clark

Title: Daddy’s Gone a Hunting

Author: Mary Higgins Clark

Read by: Jan Maxwell

Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio

Length: Approximately 9 hours (8 CDs)

Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Review Copy – Thanks!

I have been a fan of Mary Higgins Clark since I first started reading her books as a teen. I was fortunate enough to hear her speak and meet her at a book signing in Milwaukee about ten years ago. It was very exciting. Her talk about her life and writing was very inspiring.

Her latest novel, Daddy’s Gone a Hunting, was a perfect book to engage you in an audio format. I loved listening to it on my way to and from work. I usually don’t listen to audiobooks with my kids around, but it accidentally came on one day when we got in the car on the way to Green Bay. In that part of the novel, a mysterious fire was being investigated. The boys begged to listen to it, and my 7 and 5 year old were quiet for the half an hour trip listening to it with fascination. I was amazed. There was a murder after they stopped listening so I didn’t let them listen to all of it, but I will keep it in mind that this is something they like for the future! What I really liked was that the audio was not vulgar or sensational on the details of the murder.

In Daddy’s Gone a Hunting, the Connelly Fine Furniture Antique reproductions factory and museum has burned down in the middle of the night. Mysteriously, Kate Connelly, the daughter of the owner, and a disgruntled former employee, Gus Schmidt are there in the blaze. Gus unfortunately doesn’t make it, and Kate ends up in a coma. Kate’s younger sister Hannah tries to keep the blame for the fire off of Kate and prays for her recovery. Kate’s father Doug is seemingly more concerned about getting the insurance money for the factory, and the tragedy harkens back to past family misfortunes.

The mystery deepens with a vast cast of interesting characters and a plot that soon involves murder. It kept me guessing right up until the thrilling conclusion. I told my husband I was ready to drive around the block a few times to finish the book up. I did bring it in the house and finish it as I couldn’t wait until my next drive.

I don’t know if I noticed as much when I was younger, but I was interested in the references to Catholicism in this book. Higgins-Clark has her characters express their faith be they faithful or lapsed Catholics with two Priests playing a minor role in the drama. I liked it.

Jan Maxwell was a fantastic narrator of this audiobook. I could listen to her narrate all day. I will definitely keep my eye out for more audiobooks that she narrates.

There was a slight downfall to the book, but it is related to the ending. I loved the ending, but wasn’t convinced on the motives of the killer in his initial deception. I want to discuss this with someone, but I also don’t want to ruin the ending so I will leave it at that.

Overall Daddy’s Gone a Hunting was a riveting mystery that translated wonderfully to an audiobook version and definitely made my long drives to work more enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

I loved The Shadowy Horses. It was another great novel that I had a very hard time putting down and I finished it in record speed. Kearsley’s novels remind me of the haunting suspense novels of Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt. I love the genre and Kearsley’s novels are a welcome addition to my reading book shelf.

Archaeologist Verity Grey has moved to the Scottish seaside to work for the mysterious Peter Quinnell on a dig. Quinnell has spent his lifetime looking for the infamous Ninth Legion of Romans that had been ordered North of York, and then were never seen again. He believes he has finally found proof of their existence north in this small Scottish village. And the proof all hinges on the gifts of one small boy, Robbie, who believes that he can see and talk with a lone Roman Sentinel that walks the fields of Rosehill. David Fortune is also an archaeologist that is a lifelong family friend of Quinnell and a local. He is helping out with the dig and Verity finds she is very attracted. Through it all, a mysterious force works against the team and against Quinnell personally. Who is this force? Will they discover the elusive ninth? Will Verity and David find true love?

I really enjoyed this novel. I love suspense and this story was full of it. I find archaeological digs fascinating and it was very interesting to read about the day to day aspects of a dig as well as the mystery behind what was the Ninth Legion of Romans. Overall though, the best element of this novel was the characters. There were many different unique and appealing characters in this novel from Verity herself to Nancy Fortune (David’s Mother), and young Robbie. At the end of the novel, I wanted to read more about the characters. I was more than happy to discover that one of the characters, Robbie, will have more of his story told in Kearsley’ s latest novel, The Firebird. I’m almost finished with that book and it is great!

The only downfall of this book was that I really wanted a more definitive conclusion on the mystery of the Ninth Legion and the Sentinel. Luckily a lot of my questions were answered at the start of The Firebird.

Overall, The Shadowy Horses is a fascinating romantic suspense novel and I highly recommend it!

Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have had numerous friends recommend John Green novels to me over the years, now I finally know what they were talking about! The Fault in Our Stars is the June selection for the FLICKS Book & Movie club, and we will have a lot to discuss at our meeting this week.

I knew going in that this book would be sad. It is the love story of two teenagers that meet at a Cancer support group. Hazel has terminal Stage Four Cancer, but has been reprieved the past few years by a miracle drug. She still has to carry around her own tank of oxygen everywhere she goes in order to breath. She may be seventeen, but she has already graduated from high school and is taking classes as a local college. After deciding she suffers from depression, her mother takes her to a cancer support group. Hazel soldiers through it, until the fateful day that she meets Augustus Waters. Augustus is in remission after having his leg removed.

Augustus and Hazel hit it off right away. They have hilariously witty dialogue and begin their relationship by recommending books to each other, which is my idea of a perfect way to meet! The book goes through their relationship and it is not always pretty, but it did show the humanity of the characters and what it means to live and love.

I made the mistake of reading a review of this book before I wrote my own (something I usually avoid) and the one I read faulted the book for the two teenage main characters speaking at levels they thought were beyond their years. I disagree with that review. Why is it that teenagers are always assumed to be stupid by people older than them? Looking back at my teenage years from my thirties, I still think I was pretty adult and responsible for my age. I also think my friends and I had a good understanding of life and witty dialogue. All teenagers are not silly idiots that can’t have a deep discussion about literature or death. Besides all of this, I think that Augustus and Hazel are forced into wisdom beyond their years by having to face their mortality at a young age. Also hanging out in a cancer ward of a hospital and seeing other kids that you have befriended die, would have to age someone.

As a mother, one point that struck me the most about this novel was Hazel’s overwhelming concern for her own mother and what would happen to her after her own death. While sick in the hospital, she had heard her mother tell her father that she wouldn’t be a mother anymore after Hazel died. Hazel was struck by this and the thought of herself destroying her own parents’ lives after her death consumes her. This makes her obsessed with her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction, which is also about a teenage girl grappling with cancer. That book ends with an incomplete sentence and Hazel is consumed by the idea that she needs the answer to the fate of the protagonist (Anna’s) mother and the other people in her life, so much so, that she contacts the author. What ensues is both hilarious and painful.

I don’t want to describe too much more and ruin the book for those that have not read it. I can say though that this was a wonderful novel, well worth the recommendations. I will definitely be reading more John Green novels. This book has stayed in my thoughts in the two weeks since I’ve read it. It was one of those books that I had a very hard time putting down to do anything else, it consumed me. I highly recommend this book, but keep the tissues handy.

Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

As a lover of all things Jane Austen, I am not sure why I have not signed up for the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge yet. I love, I loved the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge, and I love all things Pride and Prejudice. I blame my relatively new job and the family schedule with running kids around, but I am going to sign up before it’s too late!

I would love to celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by reading/viewing the following:

1.  Listen to a Pride and Prejudice audiobook

2.  Listen to a Pride and Prejudice Radio Production (shortened like a play with various actors)

3.  Read the original Pride and Prejudice

4.  Watch the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice

5.  Read Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

6.  Watch the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary

7.  Read a spin-off novel or two

This puts me at seven items or so, which would make me a “Disciple.” I am looking forward to this!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Title: And the Mountains Echoed

Author: Khaled Hosseini

Read by: Khaled Hosseini, Navid Negahban, and Shohreh Aghdashloo

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Length: Approximately 14 hours (12 CDs)

Source: Penguin Audio Review Copy – Thanks!

And the Mountains Echoed is one of the best books I have read (or listened to) period. I don’t know if any other audiobook has gotten me to tear up so much on my drives to and from work. Khaled Hosseini is a master story teller. I loved The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, but to me, I liked this ambitious novel even more. We’ve all read one hit wonders; Authors who have one spectacular book and then fizzle out soon after. With And the Mountains Echoed, Hosseini shows that he is here to stay and that the quality of his novels is only increasing with time.

And the Mountains Echoed begins with a father telling a heartbreaking fable in a rural village in Afghanistan in the 1950’s. The fable was heartbreaking enough that when it ended with the first CD, I cried. It haunted me for days and I couldn’t even retell it to my husband without tearing up. The book alone is worth it for the fantastic fable. What the children don’t know is that their father is telling them this fable as a way to explain his actions the next day, selling young Pari to a wealthy childless couple. Abdullah was Pari’s older brother and he took care of her after her mother died during childbirth. Both are devastated at being torn apart and it is a loss that haunts them for the rest of their lives.

The book goes through the lives of several people that are impacted by this separation. Each tale was riveting and unique. The tales were told from female and male perspective from countries around the world. While their own stories, each inched the reader toward the final resolution of the overall story. I thought it was a masterpiece, perfectly crafted.

Some of the tales included that of Nabi, a servant who loves his mistress, the unique, talented Nila, and who suggests that she adopt his niece Pari. Parwana, Nabi’s sister that married Pari’s father after her mother’s death also has her own tale. Parwana was the “ugly” twin of her beautiful sister Masooma. Masooma had an enchanted life until one fateful day. An ex-pat Afghan returns to Kabul after 9/11 to reclaim lost family land, and finds that he no longer belongs nor understands his native land. A Greek doctor works in Kabul to try to help those devastated by war and has a landlord with an interesting tale. A young boy adores his father until he learns what it means to be a warlord, and how all of the good things his father has done, come with a price. These are snippets of what the book holds and the stories are unforgettable.

I listened to the audiobook version of this novel. It was wonderful. I enjoyed how there were three different narrators to give each different chapter/story a unique spin. This audiobook held my attention on my drive to work and made me wish it were just a little bit longer!

Overall, I don’t have enough good things to say about And the Mountains Echoes. You should pick it up and discover it for yourself!

The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice by George W. Martin

Title: The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice

Author: George W. Martin

Read by: Graeme Malcolm

Publisher: Penguin Audio

Length: Approximately 22 minutes

Source: mp3 Download from Penguin Audio – Thanks!

The Battle of the Frogs and the Mice is a Homeric Fable. As it is told in the author’s note at the end of the fable, this fable has been translated numerous times and at one point was thought to be authored by Homer. Homer is not the author and the true author is unknown. George W. Martin (not to be confused with George RR Martin), put together the threads of the tale to make a complete and moving parable.

The death of Crum-snatcher, a Mouse, after he mounts the back of Puff-jaw, King of the Frogs, to explore the pond is seen by another mouse. Soon the mice and frogs are at war after this tragic death, and it is interesting to see how things escalate. The battle is epic, and I can see why it was thought to be a Homeric tale, it sounds a lot like the Iliad, but with critters. The narrator, Graeme Malcolm is perfect and brings gravity to the proceedings.

I enjoyed the fable and I think it would be a great audio for older children as well, perhaps 10 or so, as it is a tragic fable with death. I am a great fan of fables, myths, etc. and I thought this was entertaining and also very interesting. The author’s note on the origins of the story was fascinating.

Overall, a nice quick audio that will enthrall both adults and older children alike.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected by Kelle Hampton

Bloom is a beautiful memoir about one mother’s journey after she gives birth unexpectedly to a beautiful baby girl that has Down Syndrome. Kelle Hampton tells her journey from the pain and struggle to coming to terms with her daughter’s prognosis, to acceptance and rejoicing in her daughter.

I need to start with just how beautiful this physical book is. Hampton is also a photographer and this book is an oversized paperback with glossy paper pages filled with beautiful pictures of Kelle, her daughters, family and friends. My two-year old daughter loved this book as well. Whenever I was reading it, she had to sit on my lab and turn the pages looking at the “mommy” and “baby.” The photography alone makes this book worthwhile.

I admire the way that Kelle Hampton puts it all out there in this book and is brutally honest. She is honest that she might be more concerned about what people think than she ought to be. She was brutally honest on after the birth of her second daughter, Nella Cordelia, that she immediately knew that something was wrong. When she found out Nella had Down Syndrome, she was brutally honest in her feelings of disappointment and feeling that she had “wasted” a perfect name on an imperfect baby. This sounds harsh and was harsh at times to read. This overall made me value that Hampton did not shrink from putting things out there that she knew would not put her in the best of lights. The value in this story to me is that she was honest about her feelings and also honest on her journey to acceptance and to really valuing Nella as herself.

One of the most poignant passages to me was when a mother stopped by to visit Hampton in the hospital to see the beautiful clothing Hampton’s mother had knitted for the baby, or so she said at first. But then the mother admitted that she herself had just given birth to a Down Syndrome baby that didn’t make it because of a heart defect. This made Hampton realize just how lucky she was that Nella had survived, and it really brought a tear to my eye. Hampton writes a moving blog post about Nella’s birth and soon becomes an advocate for Down Syndrome children and families. I loved that she explored Down Syndrome not through printed materials, but by meeting other mothers and children, and by attending functions with adults with Down Syndrome. She really learned how to value everyone and to value that life that Nella will lead.

The one aspect of this book that I didn’t like is that it did focus a lot on the birth and not so much on Nella’s life afterwards. I would have loved more on the growing pains of Nella through the first year (when this book ends). Also at times, Hampton’s need for perfection was a bit off putting at the start of the novel. Seeing the how she had to have each thing perfect, from the welcome home sign, to the champagne glasses, seemed excessive. Her room during and after birth was a constant girlfriend party complete with beer cooler. But it is different strokes for different folks, and I am just more of a privacy and quiet minded person during birth. The one purpose this did serve though was to show how it was a struggle for Hampton that she was really used to trying to have the perfect everything, and to unexpectedly not find perfection was hard for her to work through.

Overall, this was a good memoir and I would love to read more about the Hamptons as Nella grows older. Some of my favorite quotes from this book are as follows:

“They made life big for us, and we learned early on, that pouring yourself into activities to make life special for your kids is worth all of the sweat and tears and helps chisel grooves into their personalities that will later find beauty in living big too.” Kelle Hampton about her parents. I found this quote to be inspiring and true. I find myself doing special things with my kids (family bike rides, movie nights with popcorn, special holiday celebrations) that my parents did with me. You realize when you are older how much work it is to make things special and you appreciate it, and hope that your kids appreciate it too.

“I don’t think it ever stops being surreal when you become a mother. It’s just this constant state of I can’t believe I had a baby, I can’t believe I have a two-year old, I can’t believe I have a kindergartener, I can’t believe I have a teenager, and then one day you wake up, hopefully not sooner than later, and ask yourself, When the hell did I become a grandma?” This is how I feel, but I’m not to the teenager state yet!

“It’s incredibly disappointing when our reality contradicts our ideals, but the challenge and beauty of growing older is realizing that when our ideals embrace what’s really important in life, our ideals and reality can dwell harmoniously more often than not.” One of the major points of this memoir.

“I asked myself difficult questions. Do you care too much what people think? Are you hung up on perfection? How painful will this be? How did this happen? Is this a coincidence or did God do this on purpose?” I thought Hampton’s struggle here really opened up some underlying issues that she had that she worked through.

“I’m not crying because I don’t love her, I’m crying because I do love her, and I don’t ever want anyone to make fun of her.” Brandyn, Hampton’s Stepson, on meeting his new baby sister. This made me want to cry, and really brought out to me how society does make fun of people that are different and make their road so much more difficult.

Book Source: Review copy from William Morrow – An Imprint of HarperCollins Publisher. Thank-you!

Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard by Sally Cabot

I literally couldn’t put this book down last week and finished it quickly. One of my favorite items that I read in American Literature in college was Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. It was a humorous tale that had me laughing out loud constantly. It also opened my eyes up to the fact that the American founding fathers were not all virtuous god-like beings, but that they were firmly grounded in reality with sins of their own. One of Franklin’s sins is that he had an illegitimate son. My American Literature book said the mother was a prostitute, but it is unknown who the mother was of Franklin’s son.

Cabot spends this novel focused on the two women in Franklin’s life, his wife Deborah, and the mother of his illegitimate son, Anne. Deborah Reed first meets Franklin when he boards with her family when he first arrives in Philadelphia. Young Deborah and Benjamin soon fall in love, and want to marry before Benjamin heads to London on business. Deborah is only 16 and Benjamin 18 and her parents want them to wait until he has a way to support her. Benjamin takes off for London, writes Deborah once, and never responds to her two letters. Time passes and he does not come back in a few months as promised. Meanwhile Deborah’s father has died and the family is in dire straits. Deborah’s mother basically forces her to marry a young John Rogers, and things do not turn out well. Benjamin finally returns from London and finds Deborah a married woman without a husband, but also not widowed. Their love story resumes.

Meanwhile (hopefully) before Benjamin and Deborah resume their love story, Benjamin meets young tavern lass named Anne. Anne is fascinated with his scientific experiments and it is rather amusing that Benjamin uses the same pick-up lines on Anne that he has previously used on Deborah. Anne lives in poverty from a large family with a sick father who is unable to work. When Benjamin offers her cash for her “favors,” Anne accepts as a new way to make money. Benjamin is surprised to learn that Anne is a virgin, but that does not stop him from visiting her. One day Benjamin stops by to say he can’t see her anymore (presumably as he is getting married), and Anne is left alone. She soon discovers she is pregnant with Franklin’s child. She falls into a life of prostitution to support her and is having a hard time of it. Eventually she has to give up her son William to Franklin as she knows he will have a much better life with his father.

The tale continues with the lives of Benjamin, Deborah, and Anne interwoven through the years. William is also shown from a point of few. I feel sad for him as he is always considered Benjamin’s “bastard” child although he is his only surviving son. William also yearns for the love of his mother, “Deborah,” but they always remain at odds.

This historical fiction novel focuses mostly on the personality and romance without too much of the deep history of the time or Franklin himself. His inventions and politics are shown more in the light of how they affect his family. I’ll admit that I was annoyed at how much of a cad Benjamin was more than once. But then I thought back to his autobiography and also a couple of biographies I’ve read of him and he was a cad. This book just made him seem even more so with a few scenes I don’t want to spoil. It seemed that although he was fond of his family, his number one concern was himself. But on the other hand, it took guts to raise your illegitimate child and also to marry Deborah in the first place. I admired that about him.

Truthfully, I didn’t really like either Anne or Deborah. Poor Deborah was a no nonsense woman who had no interest in Franklin’s work. They seem very mismatched except for the fact that Deborah is an excellent housekeeper and cook . . . and I’ve seen the paintings of Franklin. I think he liked good cooking. Although they are mismatched, Deborah loves Franklin through all of his misdeeds and the ending really makes me angry at Franklin. Sadly I know that it is true.

I thought Anne’s portrayal was very interesting. Most historical fiction does not focus on the poorest of the poor or prostitutes so I thought it was intriguing. Anne though really seemed to care most about money (which you would if you were always so hungry) and not so much about love. She did love William, but she did not know how to care for him. She was also a very smart woman and would have made a better match for Franklin, except for her coming from poverty and falling into a career of prostitution.

Overall, I vastly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it for lovers of American Historical Fiction or anyone looking for a light historical fiction read. There are a lot of steamy scenes in this book so beware.

Book Source: Review copy from William Morrow – An Imprint of HarperCollins Publisher. Thank-you!