Monday, June 28, 2010

Mailbox Monday ~ June 28, 2010

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail.  I haven't posted a Mailbox Monday post for a few weeks and have gotten quite a few new books in the mail.  I'm still limiting the books that I'm accepting for review but I did receive a few books that were surprises.

Free to a Good Home

Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont a surprise from Penguin

Red Hook Road

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman from Random House

The Lace Makers of Glenmara: A Novel (P.S.)

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri from Harper Collins for
a TLC Book Tour on July 2nd

Sea Escape: A Novel

Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin from Simon & Schuster for
a TLC Book Tour on July 14th

Seven Year Switch

Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook from Harper Collins for a
Pump Up Your Book Promotion Book Tour on July 26th

Infinite Days (Vampire Queen)

Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel from St. Martin's Press

Every House Needs a Balcony: A Novel

Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: God Never Blinks: 50 Life Lessons for Life's Little Detours by Regina Brett

God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours

Regina Brett is a local newspaper columnist and her column is one that I read most every Sunday. Her articles are always relevant, thought provoking and deal with issues that most everyone can relate to. When she turned 45, she wrote a column on the 45 lessons life taught her. She added five more when she turned 50. The result is this book, God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours.  I listened to an audio book version read by the author. The book is written in a conversational style and tone which works well in listening to the book. Ms. Brett is brutally honest about her life experiences as a single mother, going back to college as an adult, marrying, and being diagnosed with breast cancer. She shares the lessons that life has taught her through these experiences and more.

These lessons are thoughtful, tender, funny, and honest. Many are common sense themes that most everyone knows but need to be gently reminded of. These lessons are ones that can apply to most everyone in a variety of life situations. Many of the lessons apply to Ms. Brett's faith which has been part of her journey in life. I wasn't expecting as much faith based information and for me it was a bit heavy at times. Although I do think that others may find this information helpful in their own spiritual journeys.

Each chapter was geared toward a life lesson which worked well as Ms. Brett shared a story related to real life events. Some of my favorites were "Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of now" and "Breathe. It calms the mind". This is the kind of book that you can go back to and read a chapter that may relate to a certain life experience. It can be used as a reference book of sorts or an inspirational and motivational tool for others. This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone from teens to the elderly. It would especially make a great graduation gift, a milestone birthday gift and may help someone who is dealing with a loss or grieving.

Listen to an excerpt from God Never Blinks, here.

Visit Regina Brett's website, here.

Disclosure: Thanks to Hachette for sending me a copy of the audio book for review. I am an Amazon associate and Indiebound associate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok

Most everyone is familiar with the saying "Don't judge a book by it's cover" but in the case of Girl In Translation and it's gorgeous cover art you should most definitely judge this book by it's cover. It's beautiful inside and out. I must admit I was drawn to this book by it's cover and that it was a coming-of- age story of a young girl that immigrates with her mother to the US from China. I love to read books about other cultures as my own family is from different cultural backgrounds. My grandparents immigrated from Poland and Russia and my mother immigrated to the US from Germany when she married my father.  To top it off, when I read that Jean Kwok's book Girl In Translation was "reminiscent of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", which is my all time favorite book, I knew that it was a must read for me. It does have many similarities which is one of the many reasons that I enjoyed this book so much.

Kimberly and her mother leave Hong Kong after her father dies  to live in Brooklyn, New York. Her aunt, her mother's sister, sponsors them allowing them only to stay a few days in her clean and comfortable home. The aunt moves them into an uninhabitable place of squalor and puts them to work in her Chinese clothing sweatshop. Kimberly is 11 years old, an intelligent girl and learns English and succeeds academically in school but socially she is quite challenged. She is forced to lead a double life of sorts as a child in school and a child working in a sweatshop after school, evenings and weekends.

As a reader, we are told the story through Kimberly's eyes and voice as she grows older and through her experiences in the sweat shop, at school and beyond. She learns to translate the language between both English and Chinese and the two worlds they come from. I found myself connected to Kimberly as she expresses her impressions, experiences and those of her mother as she learns to pronounce words in English.  Both mother and daughter have such a strong bond, they are connected by their strength, love and determination to make the best of their situation. There is no giving up no matter what and they endure great hardships over the years.

I enjoyed seeing Kimberly grow as a young child into a teen and young woman fiercely protective of her mother who still struggled to learn the English language and worked so hard without complaints in the sweat shop. Kimberly tries to fit into the American way of life which has it's challenges as an immigrant and you get an understanding of how hard that can be. She develops a few friendships and a love for a factory boy that is not following the same path as she is.  The ending was perfectly fitting to the story and one that may be a surprise to some readers.

This is a book that will make you think and it did that for me, even after I finished the book. Which to me, is a sign of a great book. Reading Girl in Translation has made me aware on a deeper level, what it must be like to be an immigrant and come to a new country feeling like an outsider. Transitioning into a new way of life, learning a new language, fitting in, being accepted etc. I appreciated the novel even more when I read the background of Jean Kwok, on her website. Ms. Kwok shares that Girl in Translation is a work of fiction but many of the experiences were similar to her own life. I believe that this reality infused with fiction gives Girl in Translation strength and life. Ms. Kwok is a gifted writer and this is a fabulous debut novel. I look forward to more of her writing in the future and was thrilled to read on her website that she is already in the process of writing her next book. Girl in Translation is truly a beautiful novel and one that everyone should read, especially those who are interested in culturally based books and coming-of-age novels.

Disclosure: Thanks to the publisher, Penguin, for sending me an advanced reading copy for review. I am an amazon associate and Indiebound associate.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferrris

The Unnamed

It's hard to imagine having an "unnamed" disease that makes you feel compelled to get up and walk without a destination or plans...just walk. This is what happens to Tim Farnsworth, a man who has a wife and daughter and a successful career as a partner in a law firm. Tim's mind appears to shut down and he doesn't even prepare for these spur of the moments impulses of extreme walking. He has travelled the globe to find answers but no medical professional can identify the cause of this malady. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris takes you as a reader on a roller coaster of a ride as Tim tries to fight the force of this unnatural state that grips his life and the unpredictability it brings. We see the effects of this illness and how Tim manages this journey as well as how it affects his wife and daughter.

I listened to The Unnamed as an audio book which the author narrated. This story is definitely unique and a bit unpredictable but it's sad and depressing. I was hoping for some redeeming or uplifting moments in the story but they never surfaced. I have to say that evoking emotion is a skill and one that Joshua Ferris does well as an author. Although, for me, I found this book very depressing. Listening to the book may have made it more real and visceral as the author reads it with his own emphasis on certain parts of the story. I did enjoy listening to the author interview as he explained his thoughts about the characters and writing the book.

You can listen to an excerpt of The Unnamed, here.

You can read an excerpt of The Unnamed, here.

Disclosure: Thanks to Hachette for sending me a copy of this audio book for review. I am an Amazon and Indiebound associate.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mailbox Monday~ June 7,2010

Mailbox Monday is a fun meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that came into our house by mail.  My system of limiting review copies so that I can catch up on my stacks of books is working! Yeah, I only got one book in the mail this week. I'm still reading slowly as a lot is going on to keep me busy these days. This is what arrived in my mailbox this week:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guest Post with Karen White author of On Folly Beach & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed On Folly Beach, a wonderful story that intertwines the stories of two women during different time periods. It ties in family issues, love, loss, mystery and more.  I'm thrilled to welcome Karen White author of On Folly Beach to share a wonderful guest post with everyone today. Karen will be talking about where she gets her ideas and characters from as a writer.

I’m Not Making This Up. Really.

Tomorrow I’m heading out of town for the second family funeral in as many months. The first funeral was for my ninety-five year old grandmother, who’d had a long and wonderful life despite her last years with Alzheimer’s. The second, my mother-in-law, was seventy-seven and like my grandmother, had a long life and left behind many friends and family members who remember them with smiles and love.

As sad as losing two family members is, there’s something about the gathering of family and loved ones that lends a certain gaiety to the proceedings; the impromptu family gathering becomes a celebration of the deceased’s life. It also becomes the breeding ground for story ideas in the head of a writer. I know, I know—but I can’t seem to help it.

My beloved grandmother, Grace Bianca, was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, in the small town of Indianola (where BB King also hails from). There are no hills, or even bumps in the road in the Delta—just flat land as far as you can see filled with cotton fields and catfish farms. My grandmother (MoMo as she was affectionately known by her nineteen grandchildren) knew everyone in the county, and they all knew her. She owned a successful shoe store in downtown Indianola and always gave us shoes as gifts.

MoMo was well-known for her penchant for what we call bling, but which she referred to as her “jewry.” (I didn’t know the word had an ‘l’ in it until I was in middle school). I never saw her sleep, and I never saw her without her hair brushed, her makeup on, fully dressed, or without a cup of coffee in her hand. And I never, ever saw her without her “jewry.”

At the viewing, MoMo looked beautiful (in a lovely red suit she would have loved). Long lengths of costume pearls hung around her neck, and a matching bracelet adorned her wrist. But she wore no earrings. Not even little studs (impossible since she’d never had her ears pierced). I was dismayed, as were my other cousins standing with me at the coffin. We knew MoMo would not want to meet Jesus without her earrings.

A small tussle ensued around the coffin between my aunt (who’d removed the earrings because she thought they were too big) and her daughter, my cousin, who insisted that MoMo would want those earrings on her ears. Luckily, my cousin prevailed and was soon leaning over MoMo and placing the earrings back on.

I’m not telling you this to be morbid. I’m telling you this so you can get a visual of nineteen grown adults arguing with an elderly aunt about a pair of earrings over the coffin of the deceased. It reads like a scene from a book, doesn’t it? And I sincerely don’t think I could make up anything half as good!

Tomorrow is the service for my mother-in-law. Her Irish brothers (her maiden name was Houlihan) will be there and I’m sure drinking will be involved. At least it was at my wedding. My husband’s uncles do seem to like to toast a lot and I can’t imagine this family gathering will be much different. Except this time my dad won’t be paying for it.

I married a Yankee so my children won’t need translators to understand their cousins or great-aunts and uncles (like they did during their Mississippi visit). My husband is the executor of his mother’s will and was the first to see how my mother-in-law distributed her estate. Right off the bat, my sister-in-law gets a lump sum, the rest to be divided between all three children. No explanation as to why one child would be favored over the other. Interesting, huh?

No, my husband doesn’t begrudge his sister a cent. She helped care for their mother during her illness and was truly a rock for all of us who lived far away and couldn’t help with her day-to-day care. Still, we wonder. Tim wonders if he did something to offend his mother in some way he wasn’t aware of. But he’s a guy, and a banker and therefore his imagination is limited. Because I’m sitting here and my mind is wandering far and wide as I contemplate her reasons for the uneven distribution: a stolen child, or an illegitimate birth, maybe a castle inheritance in Ireland, or a royal claim! Did I mention I’m a writer?

I’m about to head out on a book tour for my May release, ON FOLLY BEACH, and I know I will be asked more than once about where I get my ideas. That’s easy. I live my life just like everybody else, and take notes.

The hard part comes later when it’s time to use those notes to create a believable page-turner, filled with characters my readers care about and want to root for. Characters I swear come from my head and have no basis on anybody real like cousins, or aunts or grandmothers. Which is why I call what I write fiction. Because it is. Well, most of it anyway.

Thanks to Karen White for sharing this interesting story about where she gets ideas for her writing. You just never know who is watching you and taking notes! Check out Karen White's website, here.


I am excited to tell you that you have the opportunity to win your own copy of On Folly Beach! The publisher, Penguin, has offered to send a copy of the book to TWO lucky winners!

All you have to do is leave a comment, make sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you are a winner. Otherwise, I won't be able to include your name in the drawing. Open to US & Canada only. Books will ship directly to the winners from the publisher. Enter by June 12, 2010.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: On Folly Beach by Karen White

Synopsis from TLC Book Tours:

To most people, Folly Beach, South Carolina, is simply the last barrier island before the Atlantic. To some, it’s a sanctuary, which is why Emmy Hamilton’s mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly’s Finds, hoping it will distract Emmy from the loss of her husband in Afghanistan. Emmy is at first resistant, but intrigued after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly’s Finds, and decides to take the plunge. The store’s seller insists on one condition: Emmy must allow Lulu, the late owner’s elderly sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard.

Emmy generally ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers of the letters’ authors, the closer she feels to Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during World War II are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control, sixty years apart, have brought them together, here on Folly Beach. And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope for a second chance…

My Review:

On Folly Beach is a beautiful novel that successfully ties together two parallel stories, one set in the 1940's during WWII and the other set in the present time. The two stories are connected by a love of books and literature, loss, and mystery.  Emmy is the newcomer to Folly Beach as she has just moved there and is a recent widow, losing her husband Ben who fought in Afghanistan. Emmy has a library science background and has bought the local bookstore, Folly's Finds. She is intrigued by the box of books that her mother had purchased from the store months before. In this box, she finds love letters and a beautiful picture of a bottle tree drawn on the inside of an old book. She is drawn to these mysteries and tries to piece things together from the past.  Folly's Finds was originally owned by Maggie, who is the sister of Lulu and is still alive and living on Folly Beach. Lulu is an artist of sorts who creates the beautiful bottle trees that are sold from the backyard of Folly's Finds. Lulu isn't the easiest person for Emmy to get to know. She's not thrilled that Emmy is stirring up memories from the past and ones that she isn't fond of revisiting. Lulu has been protecting a family secret for a long time and she isn't sure that she wants to reveal it.

On Folly Beach was the first book that I've read by Karen White and I was captivated by the story and her writing. I liked so many things about this book...the wonderful and diverse characters, the beautiful southern setting, the bookstore and literary references, the mystery and the history. I felt that all of these pieces were drawn together beautifully to form a wonderfully strong and rich novel.

I was drawn in by the historical aspects Ms. White weaved into the storyline and felt compelled to do some research after I finished the book. I was fascinated by the tie in to the presence of German U-boats off the coast of the US and Nazi spies infiltrating our society during WWII. I enjoyed learning about the history and folklore related to Bottle Trees as I had not heard of them before. The Bottle Trees are considered a colorful folk tradition with the purpose of protecting you by warding off evil spirits who are drawn to the insides of the bottles as they shimmer with color and trap the spirits inside the bottles forever.

I look forward to reading more books by Karen White in the future. Make sure to visit Karen White's website, here to learn more about her and her books.

Make sure to check back tomorrow ,June 2nd, for a special guest post written by Karen White and a giveaway for two copies of  On Folly Beach!

I read on Folly Beach by Karen White as part of her blog tour with TLC Book Tour. To check out other blog tour stops go here.

Disclosure: A copy of the book provided by the publisher for review. I am an Amazon and Indiebound affiliate.