Friday, July 31, 2009

Jantsen's Gift by Pam Cope

Nine years ago, Pam Cope owned a cozy hair salon in the tiny town of Neosho, Missouri, and her life revolved around her son's baseball games, her daughter's dance lessons, and family trips to places like Disney World. She had never been out of the country, nor had she any desire to travel far from home.

Then, on June 16th, 1999, her life changed forever with the death of her 15-year-old son from an undiagnosed heart ailment.

Needing to get as far away as possible from everything that reminded her of her loss, she accepted a friend's invitation to travel to Vietnam, and, from the moment she stepped off the plane, everything she had been feeling since her son's death began to shift. By the time she returned home, she had a new mission: to use her pain to change the world, one small step at a time, one child at a time. Today, she is the mother of two children adopted from Vietnam. More than that, she and her husband have created a foundation called "Touch A Life," dedicated to helping desperate children in countries as far-flung as Vietnam, Cambodia and Ghana.

Pam Cope's story is on one level a moving, personal account of loss and recovery, but on a deeper level, it offers inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered great personal tragedy or those of us who dream about making a difference in the world.
Hachette Book Group

Wow! Wow! Wow! That is how I felt about this novel. It touched me so deeply, and when I finished I had "that feeling" in my chest. The feeling of completeness and hope and a bit of yearning for more.

Pam Cope was a woman that those on the outside thought had it all. She grew up in a wonderful family, married a wonderful man, and had wonderful children -a boy and a girl-one adopted. However, on the inside she always felt like her life wasn't complete. She could never quite place it, and felt guilty that her "perfect" life wasn't enough.

Fast forward several years and perfection turns to tragedy. Pam's son Jantsen dies suddenly from an unrealized heart defect. This part of the novel is told with such clarity and reflection of the incidence that I sobbed. I felt my heart breaking while reading it. I am not exaggerating when I say it made me feel like my heart was ripped to shreds. A couple of years ago my son was sick and I thought he had died in my living room (it was only a febrile seizure, but I didn't know at the time). Those moments of my life were the scariest and the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to me. While reading this section of Pam's novel I was taken back to that time. I felt it all over again and I wept for her and for the fear and pain I had felt in my past. I kept thinking that she had that coupled with sadness and the actual loss of a son. I can't even fathom it. When she spoke of her depression and not wanting to go on I was feeling it with her while reading.

Unable to cope with the loss of her son over the holidays Pam decided to travel to Vietnam. She had been interested since friends had adopted a child from the country and thought it would be a chance to get away from the sadness. She also had money from a trust set up after Jantsen's death that she wanted to donate to a worthy cause and thought this might be it. Pam, her husband Randy and her daughter Crista made the trip that changed their lives in November 2000.

This trip to Vietnam changed the Cope family forever. In this trip Pam found the piece of herself that had been missing and the family found a son to bring home and love.

The rest of the novel focuses on the family's different journeys to improve the lives of children in other countries. They travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Ghana. They develop homes, education centers,medical treatment and safety for hundreds of children. Children sold into slavery, children orphaned by poverty and illness, and children who feel life has nothing to offer them. It is a touching story of what faith and asking for help can do. They adopt another daughter along the way and many friends become involved in the foundation they developed and others adopt children.

Each chapter after Jantsen's death begins with a short letter to him from Pam. As the novel progresses you can see the growth she has gone through. You don't see the sadness completely leave and she never stops loving or missing him, but she picks herself back up and lives again through his memory.

This isn't to suggest that the trip to Vietnam took away all the depression and longing for her son. This was a long process. It involved a hospitalization for her depression, and a confrontation with her faith. In this novel, Pam Cope realizes that although she has attended and been active in church she has never really known God and begins an actual relationship with him. Her faith in God led her through many difficult days.

Jantsen's Gift tells of Pam's life, but it also provides facts about the lives of the children she is helping and the states of their countries. It was very educational.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Warning: when you are done reading you will begin to question what you are doing in your life to help the less fortunate. You may even want to start planning your first trip abroad.

For more information on Pam's foundation Touch A Life please visit

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday Thunks - these questions are questionable

A Bunch Of Stupid Questions By Kimber

Welcome to the July 30th version of Thursday Thunks!
(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!
This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by
Kimber, the number 14 and the color of life. (2 questions by Ber, figure out which 2.)

1. You are in an enclosed space with a group of friends. Elevator, auto, small room, etc.. You fart and it really stinks. Do you take credit for it or do you play along with the questioning of who did it?
If you are in an elevator then nobody will even talk about it. We will all hold our breath until the doors open and then exit as quickly as possible. Any other location depends on who I am with. Family I take credit. All others I question. LOL

2. You are locked in a room sitting at a desk with just a piece of paper and a purple crayon. What do you draw?
I most likely doodle my name, my kids' names, my man's name, and then I doodle flowers. That's what I do in meetings so I assume it is what I would do then as well. Oh wait...i am locked in the room?? I am too busy hyperventilating to draw!

3. Do you ever pee in the shower?
Umm...yes, when I get in the warm water I j ust can't help it

4. Have you bought, sold or got rid of something on Craigslist?
yes, both. I have sold old kids stuff and I have bought a patio table and Ipod touch...whatever looks good and is priced right

5. You are in a convenience store. In the line in front of you is a drunk guy trying to purchase more alcohol. The cashier tells him they cannot sell it to him because he is obviously already intoxicated. He gets belligerent. The cashier is scared. What do you do?
Just watch...what am I supposed to do? If it gets out of hand I will call 911.

6. While shopping for produce, do you "sample" before you buy (i.e. grapes)?
My store usually has samples out. If not i will on occasion. Didn't all of us sample the candy that used to be for sale in the bins at the grocery store? I remember getting in trouble for that.

7. You are walking down the street and there is a toddler sitting on a bench by themselves in front of a store - do you just keep walking?
Um, NO what dumba$$ keeps walking?? I wait and watch the situationfor awhile. If no one shows up I will talk to the child. This just happened at the mall the other day and I finally saw the dad go after the baby that had wandered very far away. Then I made a comment to him to let him know someone had noticed.

8. Have you looked up an old friend and/or lover online?
Sure, curiosity killed the cat...thank goodness I ain't a kitty

9. You are nearly in a car/auto accident. Do you freak out, follow the person who nearly caused it & talk to them or just keep going?
I probably raise my hands in a WTH gesture and then keep driving. People are crazy!!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Pelecanos (Drama City) delivers a dignified, character-driven epic that succeeds as both literary novel and page-turner. In 1985, the body of a 14-year-old girl turns up in a Washington, D.C., park, the latest in a series of murders by a killer the media dub "The Night Gardener." T.C. Cook, the aging detective on the case, works with a quiet, almost monomaniacal, focus. Also involved are two young uniformed cops, Gus Ramone, who's diligent, conscientious and unimpressed by heroics, and Dan "Doc" Holiday, an adrenaline junkie who's decidedly less straight. Fast forward 20 years. Detective Ramone, now married with kids of his own, investigates the murder of one of his teenage son's friends. The homicide closely resembles the earlier unsolved Night Gardener murders. Holiday, now an alcoholic chauffeur and bodyguard, follows the case on his own and tracks down Cook, long retired but still obsessed with the original murders. While the three work together toward a suspenseful ending, Pelecanos emphasizes the fallacy of "solving" a murder and explores the ripple effects of violent crime on society. (Aug.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

I finished this book about a week ago and it has taken me a moment to write what I have been thinking. I have been busy, but I also had a hard time writing the review. First off, let me say that while reading this book I was suffering from a headache that lasted about 2 weeks and is still on and off. So, it took me longer to read The Night Gardener and it was more difficult for me to concentrate. With that being said, I want to let you know up front that I enjoyed this novel.

The writing style was a bit different to me. I think that -combined with my headache- gave me a hard time. It has less flow and more hard edges. I don't think that is really the wording I want, but I can't think of another one. This is the first sentence, "The crime scene was in the low 30s around E, on the edge of Fort Dupont Park, in a neighborhood known as Greenway, in the 6th District section of Southeast D.C." Ok, not bad writing and it is a great description, but I think I read it 4 times. Until I got into his writing style I found myself looking at previous paragraphs and realizing I had missed something. After I got used to it, it flowed okay and I was able to really get into the story.

The story - very good. Mr. Pelecanos did an excellent job with this mystery. It wasn't until the very last paragraph that you knew the complete story. As he wove his tale you kept getting sucked into every little bit. I wanted to know what had happened to the children and I wanted to know why. I also wanted to know if the current crime was a coincidence or another serial killing. Each fact could be used to pull you both directions. Mr. Pelecanos also writes with much realism. There is no sugarcoating. He highlights racism, family life, poverty, and the police. Sometimes you might be a little tired of his sexual innuendos or homophobic put downs, but they were there to make the story accurate. Let's be honest - this world is full of good cops, bad cops, racists, inequality, and a lot of other crap. I don't think you can write a story of low income families and racially tense areas without putting it in.

The characters were very well developed. Each had a very distinct personality. Gus Ramone was a family man who just wanted to do his job and keep everyone safe. Gus Holiday was an ex-cop with an alcohol addiction who made some bad choices in his past. Cook was the retired cop who never let go of the one case that had evaded him. These characters interacted with personalities intact. They showed their dislike and they attempted to work around it.

On top of being a good mystery, the characters and the realism create a novel that touches on life's inequity and how each person copes with it differently. It gives you enough background of each character to see where they made the choice to live their current life. Some turn to addictions, some turn to family, and some bury themselves in a job to avoid it all.

I would definitely read another one of George Pelecanos novels. Has anyone else read his other work? If so, let me know what you thought. Also, if you read this novel did you like it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thursday Thunks...I thunk I'm gonna like this

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's the July 23rd version and I can't think of a catchy title

Welcome to the July 23rd version of Thursday Thunks!
(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!
This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by
Berleen, the number 22 and the color of the last road kill you saw.

1. You walk into a store and the cashier is being held up by a robber. The robber's accomplice is dead on the floor at your feet with a shotgun laying next to him. The robber does not see you, but the cashier does - what do you do?
Hmmm....I really want to say that I will pick up the gun and shot the m'fer, but I would probably back out of the store slowly and call 911

2. We go to an ice cream shop for an ice cream cone. You say you are buying and I am going to stay in the car. You ask me what I want and I say "surprise me", what kind of ice cream cone am I going to get?

I would get you whatever I know you like...I wouldn't agree to surprise you without knowing some you like fruity flavors, how about chocolate...are you allergic to nuts..buying ice cream is serious and I don't want to mess that up or I might feel bad and then have to give you mine

3. You have a dream that your co-worker, friend or whoever is hit
by a garbage truck after they back into a ladder with a black cat on it. The next day you see that person standing by a ladder with a black cat on it and there is a garbage truck driving down the road.... what do you do?
Is this even a question? I would tell them to move the opposite way I saw them going in the dream. I want to at least say I tried to save them. wait you said "whoever" that answer could be different if I dislike you. LOL

4. What is the most money you've won on a lottery or scratch off ticket?
I rarely play so I think it was $2. Why is it that when you don't even play you still dream of winning big?

5. A neighbor kid down the street comes to your door and offers to wash all of y
our windows outside for $10 - do you have him do it?
Again, why are we questioning this uh yeah!!

6. Go to Google Images. Type in the name of the last movie you saw. Post the first picture that comes up.

7. Your local animal shelter calls you and says there are 3 dogs that need an immediate foster home for 3 days. If you do not accept, the dogs are put down that day. Do you take them in?
I'm a sucker yes I would

8. What is the messiest room in your home?

My bedroom. We have all of the laundry in there

9. Have you ever been to a wedding that participated in a strange tradition that you had never heard of?

10. Name one sport that you just don't get.

that sport on the olympics with the brooms and the discs on ice...what is that called?

11. What was the last email that came into your inbox about?
my giveaway for the book A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

12. Have you ever purchased anything from a sex shop? Extra points if you tell us what it was....
yes. on my 30th birthday I was sent on a scavenger hunt. I had to purchase a candy cane stripped "massager". The worst part is
that the previous clue had been to lead me to money to pay for it, but when I got there someone had taken the $20 and left a penny. Had to pay for that "massager" myself

13. Go back to that Google Images link... type in the last food item that you ate. Post the 2nd picture it comes up with.

14. Got any bumper stickers on your vehicle? What are they?
No, I don't like to do that

15. What meme question do you wish was never asked again?
maybe the one about my sex know my family reads this sometimes LOL

The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell

Laurie Sandell grew up in awe (and sometimes in terror) of her larger-than-life father, who told jaw-dropping tales of a privileged childhood in Buenos Aires, academic triumphs, heroism during Vietnam, friendships with Kissinger and the Pope. As a young woman, Laurie unconsciously mirrors her dad, trying on several outsized personalities (Tokyo stripper, lesbian seductress, Ambien addict). Later, she lucks into the perfect job--interviewing celebrities for a top women's magazine. Growing up with her extraordinary father has given Laurie a knack for relating to the stars. But while researching an article on her dad's life, she makes an astonishing discovery: he's not the man he says he is--not even close. Now, Laurie begins to puzzle together three decades of lies and the splintered person that resulted from them--herself.

Here was my immediate thought when I opened The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell "Holy Toledo Batman it's a comic book!!". Ok, I guess it is technically an autobiographical graphic novel, but it was my first thought. I don't know how I missed that fact, but it wasn't really publicized that way. Anyway, I am not going to lie I was disappointed - I don't usually read graphic novels. Since Hatchette Book Group had given me the book with the intent to review it, and the plot really did sound good I said to myself, "JUST READ IT!" I'm glad I did. Itwas a quick, enjoyable read.

The story begins during Laurie's childhood. Laurie not only loves her father, but is proud and enamored by all of his experiences. This is a man who has been a war hero, had friendships with famous people, and was extremely intelligent. He had degrees from NYU and Columbia and had been a professor at Stanford. As a child Laurie spent all of her time listening to his stories and working to earn his approval. As his "favorite" child she was the boss over her sisters. Unfortunately as his favorite child she was also the one that bore the brunt of his anger as she got older. He liked to tell her it was their similar personalities and because of her pride in him she liked to believe it.

When Laurie reached high school she realized her father was different than others and began to worry. She began questioning her father's stories, but then left it alone. In college she received a rude awakening when she found her father had used her identity for credit card fraud. From that point forward the relationship between Laurie and her father began to go downhill. Laurie spent many years searching to find herself. It was if learning that her father wasn't honest caused her to lose who she thought she had always been. If she had always been just like him then who exactly was she?

As an adult Laurie began an in depth search to discover exactly who and what her father was. The last half of the novel focuses on this journey. It led to family issues and personal disconnect from relationships. She also found herself with an ambien addiction and inablity to cope with life in general.

I found this to be a very easy to follow format and an interesting story. In fact, I finished it in two sittings because I couldn't seem to put the book down. I appreciated the brutal honesty of the story. This was about her father and his lies, but it was also about Laurie and her personal story of growth. She puts it all out there...every failure, embarrassment, addiction, you name it.

I found I was able to connect with Laurie, but there weren't any other characters to bond to in the novel. I felt not only anger, but sadness toward her father. He seemed to have created his fantasy world due to his upbringing. However, he had delved so deep into it that even when confronted he was never honest. Most of the other characters are only in the background...they are a product of what Laurie and her father have done.

An important note: Because she is so brutally honest and the story is in pictures you should watch where you read it. Cartoon pictures of naked women were a bit embarrassing when sitting in my work breakroom. They were done to tell the story not to be x-rated, but still not good to be in public and open to those pages.

Here is an interview with the author from Marie Claire.

I will be ending my giveaway on this book tomorrow evening (July 23rd, 2009) so be sure to enter before it is too late. It is definitely worth reading.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm Still Alive and Kickin'

Well, I have been spending time at work and in bed for the last week. I have been reading and doing small things, but nothing major. I have this headache
that won't quit! Anyway, I feel like I have fallen off my blog page. Just wanted to let you know that I am still reading and I am getting ready to post reviews on several books:

The Night Gardener - Done posted on 7/27
The Imposters Daughter- Done posted on 7/22
Jake the Snake and the Stupid Time Out Chair (may wait a minute on this for a possible blog tour)
Jantsen's Gift (serious tearjerker)

I have also received quite a few books in the mail this week and I can't wait to get to every one of them! My daughter told me that she thinks I am nuts!

I will still reading all your entries to my giveaways and will be giving away a couple of books at end of the week.

Thinking hard about who to pass the Kreativ Blogger Award to, and who to nominate for the BBAW awards. There are some AWESOME blogs in this community!! Sometimes I get so caught up checking them out that I forget to read LOL!

This week my 14 y.o. daughter competes in a World Series softball tournament (so many games during the work day I will have to miss) and 2 of my brothers and their families will be here this weekend to go to Great Wolf Lodge...busy week.

'Til I blog again...


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Giveaway - A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

Woohoo thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group I have another giveaway. This is a book I have been wanting to read for awhile.

I have 3 copies of A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand. This contest will run until July 31 at 11:59 p.m. Central time.

Book Information:

View the video
Listen to an excerpt
Download the podcast

Claire Danner Crispin, mother of four young children and nationally renowned glassblower, bites off more than she can chew when she agrees to co-chair the Nantucket's Children Summer Gala. Claire is asked to chair the benefit, in part, because she is the former high school sweetheart of rock star Max West. Max agrees to play the gala and it looks like smooth sailing for Claire-until she promises a "museum-quality" piece of glass for the auction, offers her best friend the catering job, goes nose-to-nose with her Manhattan socialite co-chair, and begins a "good-hearted" affair with the charity's Executive Director, Lockhart Dixon. Hearts break and emotions are pushed to the limit in this riveting story of one woman's attempt to deal with loves past and present, family, business, and high-powered social pressures. Elin Hilderbrand's unique understanding of the joys and longings that animate women's lives will make this her newest summer bestseller.

There is also a reading group guide available here if you would like to make this your next book club pick.

To enter this giveaway:

*Leave a comment and make sure you include your email address

*Extra entry if you publicly follow my blog. 2 entries if you already follow.

*Extra entry if you tweet or blog about this giveaway. If you tweet include me in the tweet @alipet813. If you blog give me the link

Winners must be from the US or Canada only and no P.O. boxes. Sorry!

Thursday Thunks - I am new to this!

Welcome to the July 16th version of Thursday Thunks!
(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!
This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by
Kimber, the number 15 and the color of windows.

1. Do you know anyone with heterochromia? Does it freak you out or do you think it's interesting?
Yes, a friend in HS had it and so does a current BFF. It doesn't freak me out at all. In fact, it makes me a little is an attention getter. The picture of the cat did freak me a little for some reason...
2. Should a 5th face be added to Mount Rushmore? If so, who?
Hmmm...I can't decide. I would have to think intelligently and I am just too tired for that
3. If you could live on any planet other than earth, which one would you choose and why? are from mars and women are from VENUS...wait maybe I should want to go to Mars then...
4. We're going to spend the night at a reportedly haunted location, are you going with us?
If so, which reportedly haunted place are we going?
Ok, curiosity makes me want to go, but it will probably make me sick from the anxiety. I don't ecen know where we are are the ones who invited me
5. Did you play The Queen's Meme this week? If so, was it fair of The Queen to put Berleen in the dungeon by association with Kimber? (We all know Kimber deserved it, but Berleen?!)
Hate to say this, but I haven't been following...
6. What color is the towel(s) hanging in your bathroom?
I'd like to say it is some awesomely perfect bathroom, but this is a house with 4 kids. We have whatever towels are clean at the time. Bathroom downstairs has a burgandy towel right now.
7. Tell us something funny that happened to you recently.
My 14 y.o. daughter taught me how to sneak into a movie...I never did it as a kid
8. We just bought you a cow. Do you kill it & grill it, feed it & milk it, or sell it?
Right now I am broke so I will sell it for immediate funds. Does that hurt your feelings? You bought me a gift and I immediately get rid of it???
9. It's 115 degrees outside (46 degrees Celsius), are you able to go without Air Conditioning?
No, not in my house. At that temp I don't even want to go outside unless I am in a pool.
10. When you visit the zoo do you wonder which animal tastes better with a bit of butter & spices?
I have never thought about this. I only go with the kids and I am normally drained and hot. I bet you I will think about this next time though.
11. Dog ate your homework/work papers. Does it crap out Shakespeare, quantum physics, or just crap?
work papers - some kind of accounting crap. At home it means the damn dog just ate one of my books. I would not be happy!
12. We are taking you to a broadway show, what are we going to see?
I am up for anything. I really like Chicago, but maybe I could see Cats.
13. Gunshots in your neighborhood. Pop, pop, pop. Do you go out to take a look, or hide?
You bet I am out there. Phone in hand calling 911 then all my friends.

But hey... if you really miss us you can always join us over at the InsanityCafe Community & Forums. It's a small online community that offers some sanity to our strange world. And hey... you think Thursday Thunks is weird? You ain't seen nothing yet! (and we hand out free meds!)
Im gonna keep this going until every last one of you join us over there. It's been awful slow over there recently and we really need some new blood to spice things up. We have about 15 members right now that are somewhat active - summertime sucks for forums. It's not a busy place, honest! Less than 10 posts a day usually. Just think of it as shortened blogging! LOL

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham

Holly Denham has a lot on her plate. It's her first day as a receptionist at a busy London corporate bank and, frankly, she can't quite keep up. Take a peek at her email and you'll see why: what with her crazy friends, dysfunctional family, and gossipy co-workers, Holly's inbox is a daily source of drama. But it's the laughter, friendship, and a hint of romance that keep Holly going.

Last month my book club read Wally Lamb, so for July we wanted a "lighter" read. Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham certainly fit that description. This book is daunting at 665 pages, but is a very quick read because it is formatted entirely in emails. The story revolves around Holly who has just started a new job at a bank in London. It is obvious from the beginning that she is new to this type of work. She soon makes friends with her co-worker Patricia, and becomes involved with a banker from upstairs. Drama ensues as her relationship becomes troubled, a friend from her past becomes a total bitch, and a former boyfriend shows up at the same company. Along the way she also emails her best friends and her family, who have much drama in their lives. It is obvious throughout the novel that Holly has some secrets in her past that only a select few know about. The reader isn't let in on those until near the end.

I found this to be an enjoyable read, but it didn't have much depth. It was a bit predictable. I felt like I got to know the characters, but I never developed a deep affection for any of them. I would recommend this if you are looking for a light, entertaining read.

Interesting fact about Holly's Inbox. It was actually written by a man named Bill Surie. He owns a secretarial firm in London and thought up the book while looking at the emails of a woman he had fired. Here in an interesting article with the author: NY Post Article - Interview with Author Bill Surie

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Giveaway - The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell

Thanks to Anna and Hachette Book Group I have 3 copies of The Imposter's Daughter by Laurie Sandell. This contest will run until July 23rd at 11:59 p.m. Central time.

Laurie Sandell grew up in awe (and sometimes in terror) of her larger-than-life father, who told jaw-dropping tales of a privileged childhood in Buenos Aires, academic triumphs, heroism during Vietnam, friendships with Kissinger and the Pope. As a young woman, Laurie unconsciously mirrors her dad, trying on several outsized personalities (Tokyo stripper, lesbian seductress, Ambien addict). Later, she lucks into the perfect job--interviewing celebrities for a top women's magazine. Growing up with her extraordinary father has given Laurie a knack for relating to the stars. But while researching an article on her dad's life, she makes an astonishing discovery: he's not the man he says he is--not even close. Now, Laurie begins to puzzle together three decades of lies and the splintered person that resulted from them--herself.

To enter the giveaway:

Leave a comment answering the question What would be your perfect job? (I am in my 30's and besides dreaming that I could get paid for this blog I still don't know my perfect job) Don't forget to leave your email.

**For an extra entry sign up to publicly follow my blog. 2 entries if you already follow.

**Tweet or Blog about this giveaway and send me the link for another entry.

This contest is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. No P.O. boxes. The publisher will send the books directly to you.

I will randomly draw the winners on July 24th and will send you an email. You must respond within 3 days.

Giveaway - Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Thanks to Anna and Hachette Book Group I have 3 copies of Julie and Julia by Julie Powell to giveaway. Contest ends July 23rd at 11:59 p.m. Central time.

Julie & Julia, the bestselling memoir that's "irresistible....A kind of Bridget Jones meets The French Chef" (Philadelphia Inquirer), is now a major motion picture. Julie Powell, nearing thirty and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, resolves to reclaim her life by cooking in the span of a single year, every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child's legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her unexpected reward: not just a new found respect for calves' livers and aspic, but a new life-lived with gusto. The film version is written and directed by Nora Ephron and stars Amy Adams as Julie and Meryl Streep as Julia.

To enter this giveaway:

**Leave me a comment and answer the question: What is the most difficult recipe you have ever followed (did it turn out LOL)? Don't forget to leave your email.

**Extra entry if you sign up to publicly follow my blog. 2 entries if you already follow.

**Another entry if you blog or tweet about this giveaway. Give me the link.

I will randomly pick 3 winners on July 24th. I will contact you by email and you will have 3 days to respond.

This contest is only open to U.S. and Canada and winners can't be sent to P.O. Box. The books will be sent by the publisher.

Good luck!

Giveaway - Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons

Thanks to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group I have 5 copies of Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons. This giveway will run until July 25th at 11:59 p.m Central time.

Book Information:

Acclaimed novelist Anne Rivers Siddons's new novel is a stunning tale of love and loss.

For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly--happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past--to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety-- to try to figure out her future.

It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

To be signed up for the giveaway:

**Please post a comment answering this question: If you could travel anywhere to get time to reflect on your life to this point where would you go? Don't forget to give me your email address.

**For an additional entry follow my blog publicly and let my know by leaving a comment. If you already follow you get 2 extra entries.

**For another entry blog or tweet about this giveaway and send me the link.

This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only. No PO Boxes. The books will be shipped to the winners directly from the publishers.

I will randomly pick the winners and email them! You must reply within 3 days with your mailing address or a new winner will be picked.

Thanks and GOOD LUCK!

A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

The sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut, is shocked when a little girl is found brutally murdered. With the murderer on the loose, the police desperately look for any clues to lead to his identity. Meanwhile, a psychiatrist in a nearby hospital is also in a desperate search to find the cause of seven-year-old Naya Hastings s devastating nightmares. Afraid that she might hurt herself in the midst of a torturous episode, Naya s parents have turned to the bright young doctor as their only hope. When these two situations converge, they set off an alarming chain of events. In this stunning psychological thriller, innocence gives way to evil, and trust lies forgotten in a web of deceit, fear, and murder.

This is Preetham Grandhi's debut novel, and if this is any sign of what his future will looks bright.

This novel pulled me in from the very beginning. It opened with a prologue that had me asking questions, and then immediately followed with the disappearance of a young girl. By chapter three Naya,a young girl with sleep walking and talking, had been added into the mix. I knew these sections were related to each other, but it took me the entire novel to figure out exactly what was going on.

Can Naya's dreams really be communication with the dead? Who could the slaaf be and who is his master? These are the two main questions in the novel. I knew from the beginning that the young girl was murdered by the slaaf and that somehow Naya seemed to be channeling the spirits of the dead. It was the way that Mr. Grandhi took his time weaving the story together and slowly exposing more that kept me pulled in. Mr. Grandhi's background as a child psychiatrist made the many scenes in the psychiatric unit of the hospital easy to follow and believable. He did a wonderful job of character and relationship building and made me feel as if I knew them. Near the end I thought I had determined the guilty party, but the twists and turns left me with enough of a question that I wasn't sure until it was revealed.

There were a couple of things about the novel that I really liked besides the story itself. First, it has short chapters that flowed together well. The chapters switched from one character to another, but were easy to follow. I also appreciated that the gore was kept to a minimum. Several gory things occurred, but the novel wasn't hard to read. The scenes were described in a way that left you with no doubt as to what happened, but didn't get lost in unnecessary gruesome details.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves a good mystery. This is a psychological thriller that makes you think about exactly what the mind can do, and what exactly your dreams may mean.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nothing but Ghosts - Beth Kephart

Yesterday - July 4, 2009 - I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer's and an infection. I felt loss. When I returned to my mother's house I was drawn to Ms. Kephart's book. She is lyrical and insightful and healing. So, please forgive me if this review strays a little off the path, but I assure you that what I write is where the book led me. Thank you Beth Kephart.

This novel is depth and simplicity in one. It takes the tragic loss of losing a mother and walks us through the grieving of a husband and a daughter. It also takes us down a path of making the decision of what life you choose to live after loss.

Katie spends most of the novel searching for a mother who has "disappeared". She knows that she has lost her to cancer, but has yet to come to terms with losing a loving, full of life mother. There is no blame or anger just a sadness and loss that grips her heart and makes her almost afraid to live too fully anymore. She has closed off from friends and a "normal" teenage life. She decides to begin working in the garden of the town recluse and soon finds that this home also holds a mystery that she feels drawn to solve. While solving the mystery she becomes close with a teenage boy who also works in the garden and spends time in the library with Ms. McDermott. Her father also begins to solve a connected mystery when he is given a painting to restore and finds it was painted by the father of the recluse she is researching.

I can't give more details of the story without feeling like I tell too much, but I will tell you what I learned and what I think Ms. Kephart was trying to instill in each of us with this novel. Death is inevitable and many times unexpected...even if we know it is coming. It is how we live our lives after a loss that can bury us away from our own lives or let us live life fully.

There is more than one loss in this novel. In one loss, the loved ones left behind chose to close themselves off from the world and bury all that would remind them of the pain and suffering. With the loss of the one they loved they were breathing but dead as well. In the other story is Katie. She hasn't come to terms with her grief and is trying to decide which path she will follow. It is when she makes this promise "to live my life with my eyes wide open. To honor exuberance, and color." that she begins to live again. One choice presents a life of pain and regret the other presents a life of love and rememberance and healing.

This novel is full of symbolism and lyrical phrases that are beautiful. The poetry of her words are there, but not overwhelming to the reader. It is beauty and knowledge and love all together.

It is with this review that I say. Grandma I promise "to live with my eyes wide open. To honor exuberance, and color." I promise to keep you in my heart and never bury you in the past. You were truly a blessing from Above and will be missed. God has brought you home and you are now free of pain and suffering and where you belong. I choose life, I choose love. When something reminds me of you I promise to smile and say "Hi's good.".

Book Description from Amazon:

Ever since her mother passed away, Katie's been alone in her too-big house with her genius dad, who restores old paintings for a living. Katie takes a summer job at a garden estate, where, with the help of two brothers and a glamorous librarian, she soon becomes embroiled in decoding a mystery. There are secrets and shadows at the heart of Nothing but Ghosts: symbols hidden in a time-darkened painting, and surprises behind a locked bedroom door. But most of all, this is a love story—the story of a girl who learns about love while also learning to live with her own ghosts.
This is a heartfelt, lyrical tale from the National Book Award-nominated author of Undercover and House of Dance.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

ARC that spells FREE got my first Free Book Baby! (to the credit report svc song)LOL

Ok, today I got my first request to read and review an ARC. I am super siked! The reality is that an ARC isn't really free. It comes with a great responsibility. You must read the book in a timely manner and provide a review. You can be honest if you didn't enjoy the book, but you cannot- I repeat CANNOT- trash the author. It is rude and unprofessional. Plus, they are trusting you with something they have poured their life and soul into. So, any author can trust me to be honest, but professional in my opinion either way.

The way I see it as a new blogger I am following the 3 R's:

Responsibility: If you say you will review a book then do it. Also, do it within a decent time frame. If you know you won't have time or it is a genre you don't like then don't take the book. The offer is so cool, but not always meant for you.

Respect: Be sure to show respect the author as I stated above. They are trusting you and you should not let them down. Not enjoying something doesn't mean you have to be rude.

Real: With that being said, receiving a book to review doesn't automatically mean you are required to love it. Write your honest opinion. If there are some things done well on a book you don't like or you think it really targets a specific audience then say that. Even if you love the book be sure to mention why so others will be able to use your review in deciding to read it themselves

As I go along I am sure I will learn much more, but that is where I am starting...

Here's the book that is on the way to my house. Please look at the site and if it looks awesome be ready to buy it!! It is available now and has awesome reviews on Amazon...right now almost out of stock even! My review will be out after I get it and get a chance to read.

Book: Circle Of Souls
Author: Preetham Grandhi

Beth Kephart is Awesome!

Well, last night My Friend Amy hosted a chat with Beth Kephart, author of Nothing But Ghosts. Beth was so wonderful to chat with all of us and answer all of our questions. What a group of great ladies and I believe at least one gentleman on the chat! I should recieve this book soon and as I said before I will review it on here. I hope I love it, because I certainly enjoyed learning more about Beth as an author and a person.
Thanks to My Friend Amy for the set-up! She is also holding a book drive for this book, so if you are interested in buying check out her site.