Tuesday, May 29, 2012

***Giveaway*** SHADOW OF NIGHT

DISCOVERY OF WITCHES fans rejoice! The countdown for the sequel has begun! If you haven't had a chance to read my review yet, go here.

I have the wonderful opportunity to give away not only a finished copy of SHADOW OF NIGHT but also a few extra goodies!

In addition to a copy of the book, you will receive an exclusive Ashmole 782 temporary tattoo:

And an exclusive set of buttons:

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment below along with a way for me to contact you. For extra entries, follow this blog on Facebook.  Leave an additional comment for the Facebook entry.  Entries close on Thursday, June 28 at 8:00am PST.

For another exciting contest on Deborah Harkness' Facebook fan page, go here and enter to win a copy of the book and a sample size set of Diana's and Matthew's perfumes!  They will give away a set every Friday from June 1 through July 6.   (four winners total)

SHADOW OF NIGHT will be released on July 10.  If you haven't had a chance to read the first book, Amazon will be offering the e-book version of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES for just $2.99 as their "Deal of the Day" on June 10th only.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Put Your Library Card Up!!!

Summer is almost here!!! The best bargain in town is your public library. I know our library will be hosting its annual Summer Reading Program which will include lots of wonderful programs from musicians to puppet shows.  All free!!!

Libraries are the best!

Check out this amusing video by Melvil Dewey and put your library card up!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WIFE 22 by Melanie Gideon

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

WIFE 22 picks up where BRIDGET JONES left off.  Alice Buckle is a 40-something mother, wife and part-time elementary school drama teacher.  Her life seems full but something just isn't right.  When Alice receives an e-mail from a research company looking for participants in a study on marriage, she jumps at the chance to participate.  At first, it seems that the financial compensation is her main incentive.  But as Alice answers the surveys that keep popping up in her inbox, she finds herself become addicted to this anonymous unburdening of her thoughts on her life and marriage.  For the purposes of the study, Alice is designated "Wife 22" and assigned to "Researcher 101."  Alice finds it far easier to reveal her innermost thoughts to this anonymous researcher and starts to get personal with him as she reveals things to him that she doesn't reveal to her husband, family and friends. The study begins to make Alice reevaluate everything in her life from her marriage to her job.

The story is interspersed with details from today's multimedia social networking culture such as Google searches and Facebook posts as well as Alice's answers to survey questions.  Part of the fun for me was trying to figure out what the questions may have been just by reading Alice's answers.  (the questions are listed at the back of the book but I recommend ignoring them until you have finished the book)  I think Alice's story will resonate with many women who are at a similar place in their lives.  Alice can be goofy and self-deprecating which makes her charming in her confusion and sometimes poor choices. I found myself laughing out loud several times in the story and empathized with a lot of Alice's confusion.

This would be a fantastic beach read or book club selection.  It is a very quick read and is often quite charming.  The ending was a little bit anticlimactic. For me, it felt very obvious what was going to happen.  Still, it did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. A fun read about one woman's mid-life crisis as revealed through various forms of social media and modern forms of commuication. Perfect for fans of BRIDGET JONES looking for a new heroine.

Monday, May 21, 2012

IN ONE PERSON by John Irving

John Irving is such a gifted writer.  I think he always comes up with compelling characters and always has interesting things to say about the intricacies of human relationships. This does not mean that I love all his books.  He nearly lost me forever with UNTIL I FIND YOU.  I think  A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY will always be my favorite but it is always pleasurable to pick up a new Irving novel. There are certain themes that tend to run through all of Irving's novels and you will find many of them here.

IN ONE PERSON explores the ideas of gender and sexual attraction through the story of William "Billy" Abbott.  William is a self-described "sexual suspect" because he doesn't fall into any any of the categories of gender and sexual identity that society deems acceptable.  He is a bisexual young man who has a particular penchant for transgendered women.  IN ONE PERSON is an unusual bildungsroman in that it not only provides us with a semi-traditional coming-of-age story but it puts it in a highly unusual context.  Billy is a New England boy at a traditional all-boys prep school who is struggling with figuring out who he is. The fact that his identity is colored by his sexuality and how others deem that identity as appropriate or inappropriate is the crux of the story. The story is not Billy's alone. We also see how the stories and histories of his family and friends develop as well. 

In many ways, this novel is much more subversive than anything E.L. Watson could come up with.  Irving is no stranger to the exploration of societal taboos. Billy makes people so uncomfortable precisely because it is hard to pigeon-hole him into a particular category. It almost seems as if the people around him would be more comfortable if he were strictly a gay man.   Yet, no one in the novel really seems to fit any sort of traditional gender/sexual role. Maybe Billy really isn't the odd one.  Maybe he is just the mirror for everyone else.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. The subject matter may be uncomfortable for some readers but I think Irving handles it really well.  In addition to the his themes of identity and gender and sexuality, Irving reminds us of the value of acceptance and tolerance. I think there is a lot to think about in this book.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

THE ORPHAN MASTER by Jean Zimmerman and **GIVEAWAY**

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

THE ORPHAN MASTER is one of those rare books that combines a love of historical novels with a love of serial killer/murder mysteries.  The story takes place in the late 1600s in the New World Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.  Blandine van Couvering is an orphan who has grown up to be a formidable and beautiful female trader.  Edward Drummond is a British spy who has traveled to the colony to track down some individuals who conspired to murder the former king.  The colony is in an uproar as orphan children begin showing up dead and mutilated.  Rumor has it that a demon called a witika is responsible for the deaths.  The indigenous population believes in witika demons who possess people and turn them into cannibals.  Blandine and Edward are thrown together in their search for the murderer of the children as the colony is a place for orphans have no advocate but the local Orphan Master. Is the Orphan Master responsible for these deaths or is there really a demon on the loose?

It was very hard to put this book down as I was desperate to discover who the killer was. I felt at times that Zimmerman was a little too heavy-handed with her hints.  It became fairly obvious who the killer was fairly early on.  However, the killer's motivation doesn't really become clear until the end when all is revealed.  I liked the historical details within the novel as I didn't know much about this period of time in American history. I thought it was especially interesting to see how Blandine was treated as a young women attempting to infiltrate a man's world. The love story within the book was a bit off-putting.  It felt unnecessary and, to me, detracted from the more exciting storyline. 

I want to STRONGLY warn you that this book is not for the faint of heart.  If you read and were comfortable with the violence within GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO, you will probably be fine. However, this is pretty horrific violence directed towards children and I want to warn off anyone who may have trouble with that.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. This would make a terrific vacation read for fans of serial killer thrillers.  A little history, a little romance and whole lot of action and suspense. 

To see a trailer for the book, please go here.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment below.  For extra entries, follow me on Facebook and leave a comment below. Make sure you leave me a way to contact you!!!  This contest closes on Tuesday, June 19, 2012.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

20-yr-old Oscar Lowe lives in Cambridge and works as a nursing home assistant.  Each day he watches the privileged Cambridge students rush by as they hurry from class to class while managing to separate himself from it all.  One day, Oscar is drawn into the Chapel at King's College by profoundly moving music.  He meets the organist, Eden Bellwether, and his lovely sister Iris after the service.  Oscar quickly finds himself drawn into their circle as he falls for Iris.  Eden is a particularly charismatic individual who believes that he has discovered a way to heal with is music.  Iris believes her brother to be deeply emotionally disturbed and enlists Oscar's help in trying to determine how dangerous Eden really is and how far he will go to prove himself right.

This book reminded me a little of Donna Tartt's SECRET HISTORY.  The setting of Cambridge and the rarefied world of its students provide the perfect contrast to Oscar's life and demonstrates how seductive that world can be. Eden is one of those mad geniuses and it is difficult to tell whether he is crazy or brilliant or both. The story manages to build into a very effective psychological thriller that proved to be very compelling. My only complaint was that the buildup was so profound that I felt the ending was a little anti-climactic.  It went on just a wee bit too long for me. I wish Wood had ended the book sooner. Still, I was really drawn in by this story. I could not put it down. I only wish the book came with a soundtrack because I would have loved to listen to some of the music mentioned in the while I was reading it.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  A great book for fans of psychological thrillers.  I found the whole premise very compelling.

Monday, May 14, 2012

SHOEMAKER"S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

There is something especially compelling about the immigrant experience in the United States.  As an adopted child, I don't really know where I come from or the story of my birth family.  I do love reading family histories, though.  In THE SHOEMAKER'S WIFE, Adriana Trigiani tells the tale of two individuals whose fates are joined as they carve out new lives for themselves in America.  Ciro's mother left him along with his older brother at a small convent in the Italian Alps when they were boys.  When, as a teenager, Ciro sees something he shouldn't, he is forced to leave his adopted home in the convent and make a new life for himself in the United States as an apprentice shoemaker.  Enza is the eldest daughter of a poor family in a town not far from Ciro's.  When her family faces financial hardship, she and her father must journey to America to earn money to support the family.  Before the two young people leave for America, they share a brief but profound encounter that will bind them together forever.  The two are finally reunited years later but it appears Fate will continue to keep them apart.

While this is most definitely a love story, it is also a compelling tale about the immigrant experience in the early 1900's.  The story started off very slowly for me and did not really pick up until both individuals reached America.  At that point, it was hard to put down. It was very easy to be drawn into the experiences of the two young people. It is a story of love and fate and family that can often feel sweeping in its scope.  A wonderful and sentimental read.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  This is definitely a sweet "feel good" read. Fans of love stories will be particularly charmed.


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

My knowledge of Helen Keller doesn't extend far beyond the basic facts that everyone knows.   I am most familiar with the aspects of her amazing story that were presented in "The Miracle Worker." When I heard that this book dealt with Helen's cladestine love affair with assistant Peter Fagan, I was intrigued.  Why had I never heard about this before?

HELEN KELLER IN LOVE opens with Helen waiting for Peter to come and get her so they can secretly elope. She recounts how their love affair began with Peter's arrival as an assistant when Annie became ill with possible tuberculosis.  Helen is in her thirties and young Peter provides perfect romantic fodder as her personal secretary.  She is completely reliant on him and her form of communication necessitates touch and close proximity.  In spite of the best efforts of her family and Annie, Helen begins to fall for this charismatic young man. He inspires her to dare to dream about things she thought would forever be denied to her such as love and a family.  The book imagines the frustrations that Helen must have felt in her dependence on the people around her and the limitations that everyone placed on her.  I was surprised to learn about her political interests and how she was an active Socialist.  The book gave me a very different view of Helen Keller.

In spite of these intriguing details, I felt a bit frustrated by the book. It felt too simple as if it only skimmed the surface of the emotions and complexities surrounding the relationship.  The relationship moved far too quickly. I didn't believe that the two of them would have fallen for each other that quickly.  Peter comes off as an opportunist and shyster. Maybe he was. But Helen seems far too intelligent to fall for that kind of man.  The book ends on a sad and wistful note as history is clear that she never married.  The book is at its best when it reveals Helen's state of mind and her frustrations about the limitations of her life.  I really disliked the whole relationship between her and Peter and thought those were the weakest parts of the book.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended.  An interesting premise but the presentation was lacking for me.  It felt too superficial and the love story wasn't believable for me. There was nothing likeable about Peter and I often felt frustrated with Helen.  I really wanted to like this book but it just didn't work for me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


I love children's books.  I always have.  I still read them and feel lucky that I sometimes get to review them. It is so wonderful to be able to share my childhood favorites with my little boy.  My husband was not read to very much as a child so he is finally catching up on the kidlit canon that he missed.

I just saw this wonderful quotation by C.S. Lewis today:

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am fifty I read them openly.  When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."