Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Book Giveaway of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Valerie and Hatchette Book Group are generously giving away one copy of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by debut author Tiffany Baker.

The blurb:

When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Tiffany Baker lives in Tiburon, California with her husband and three children. This is her first novel. Learn more about on her website at http://www.tiffanybaker.com/ or her blog at http://www.thedebutanteball.com/

Reading Group Guide, courtesy of the publisher:

1. Truly is the “little giant” of this book, yet her size seems to make her less, rather than more, visible to the town around her. Can you explain this phenomenon? What do you think the author is trying to say about her outsider status?

2. Serena Jane and Truly are as physically different as sisters can be, yet Truly sees that this difference is crucial, explaining “the reason the two of us were as opposite as sewage and spring water, I thought, was that pretty can’t exist without ugly.” (pp. 97-98) How would you describe Truly and Serena’s connection? How is it different from Truly’s relationship with Amelia Dyerson? Which seems the more genuine sisterhood to you?

3. As the successor to a long line of old-fashioned, small-town doctors, Robert Morgan is traditional, strict, and often cruel. I the end, however, the legacy terminates with him and he becomes Aberdeen’s last Dr. Morgan. How do he and Bobbie stray from the family paradigm? What Morgan characteristics stayed with each of them? Is the town “more modern” without a Dr. Morgan, and with Bobbie and Salvatore’s restaurant instead? Is the replacement of nurturing through nourishment rather than doctoring a symbolic replacement?

4. Death haunts Truly and all of Aberdeen, sometimes in unexpected ways. As a gardener, Marcus’s aim is to “make things live,” but, as Truly realizes, “wasn’t it also true that gardeners were always wrestling with death, whether in the form of drought, or blight, or hungry insects? In a garden, Marcus always said, death was the first, last and only fact of life.” What other parallels do you see in the ways Marcus and Truly court life and death?

5. Truly’s size marks her as an outcast, but throughout the novel, other characters have trouble “fitting in” in a more figurative way. Examine how this manifests in Bobbie, Marcus, Amelia, even Serena Jane. What larger point do you this the author might be trying to make about the importance of conforming?

6. What role does Aberdeen County play in the novel? Could the story or these characters exist elsewhere? Do the effects of the 60s and the Vietnam War seem to touch Aberdeen in the same way they touched the rest of the country? What is unique and what is not about Aberdeen as a setting?

7. When Amelia discovers how Priscilla Sparrow and Robert Morgan died, she asks Truly whether it was mercy or murder that killed them. What do you think? How do you feel about Truly’s actions? What in Truly’s character draws her to “collect souls” as she comes to call it?

8. When Marcus and Truly finally come together, Marcus says “We’re not exactly a match made in heaven, you and I, but I figure we’re good enough for here on earth” (p. 334) What does he mean by this? Do you agree?

9. Why doesn’t Robert Morgan “care” that his son runs away? What does it say about what he thinks of himself? How does this connect to Serena Jane’s leaving and his reaction to that event?

10. After Robert Morgan’s death, Truly gradually takes on some of his responsibilities as town doctor by using the knowledge she’s gained from Tabitha’s quilt. How is this a fitting purpose for Truly, and a fitting counterpoint to the legacy of Morgan doctors?

11. What about this story is larger than life or possesses elements of a tall tale or folklore? How are these details woven into the story? How is the book similar to or different from other works in this tradition?


To enter, share a book recommendation. Or visit Tiffany Baker's website and share something that you've learned about her with the rest of us.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. For an extra entry, sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3. For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4. For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5. Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on January 31, 2010.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway and this review opportunity!

Book Giveaway of When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson

Thank you to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring the giveaway of 1 copy of Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News. It sounds like an engrossing read!

The blurb:

On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever...

On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound...

At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency...

These three lives come together in unexpected and deeply thrilling ways in the latest novel from Kate Atkinson, the critically acclaimed author who Harlan Coben calls "an absolute must-read."

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Kate Atkinson lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named Whitbread Book of the Year in the U.K. in 1995, and was followed by Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Not the End of the World, Case Histories and One Good Turn. Learn more on Kate Atkinson's website at http://www.kateatkinson.co.uk/

Reading Group Guide, courtesy of the publisher:

1. Many of the characters in When Will There Be Good News? have lost family members: Joanna loses her mother, sister, and baby brother in the novel’s opening pages; Reggie’s mother has recently drowned; and Jackson lost his mother, brother, and sister in the course of a year when he was twelve. In view of these tragedies, compare Joanna’s, Reggie’s, and Jackson’s respective outlooks on life with those of the other characters in the novel.

2. The question of Nathan’s paternity haunts Jackson Brodie. Why? How might Jackson’s life change if he discovered he was Nathan’s father? Is Jackson a good father to Marlee?

3. With When Will There Be Good News?—and previously also in Case Histories and One Good Turn—Kate Atkinson introduced elements of the traditional crime novel into her fiction. Other than the “crime,” what elements make up a crime novel? What crime-fiction conventions can you discern in this book?

4. When Will There Be Good News? has three central female characters: Joanna, Louise, and Reggie. Discuss the ways in which these three central characters are similar. Which of the three would you most like to encounter again in a subsequent novel by Kate Atkinson?

5. Of Jackson Brodie, Atkinson writes, “How ironic that both Julia and Louise, the two women he’d felt closest to in his recent past, had both unexpectedly got married, and neither of them to him” (page 90). What are the chances that Jackson will ever have a successful romantic relationship? Why do you think he has been unlucky so far, even though he is such an appealing character?

6. Discuss the idea of “good” characters and “evil” characters in When Will There Be Good News? Do you think the novel’s central characters are either essentially “good” or essentially “evil,” or are they a combination of both? How do Louise, Reggie, and Jackson—each of whom breaks the law to achieve the “right” result—figure into your viewpoint? What is the moral code at work in the novel?

7. Death, violence, and hardship seem to stalk Reggie, yet she remains remarkably resilient. What do you think sustains her?

8. Discuss the institution of marriage as it is portrayed in the novel. Consider Louise’s marriage, Joanna’s marriage, Jackson’s marriage, and Julia’s marriage. Are there any characters in the novel who are happily married?

9. Jackson Brodie believes that “a coincidence is just an explanation waiting to happen” (page 319). Discuss some of the coincidences in When Will There Be Good News? Do they make the story seem more real? Or less real?

10. Despite the novel’s title and the early statement that “everything was bad. There was no question about it” (page 10), there are many instances of humor in the story. Do you think When Will There Be Good News? is essentially a humorous novel with tragic events or a tragic novel with moments of levity?


To enter, tell us about your favorite fictional detective.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. For an extra entry, sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3. For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4. For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5. Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on January 31, 2010.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Review of Rion by Susan Kearney

Rion (Pendragon Legacy, #2)

The blurb:
Marisa Rourke is a beautiful, fearless telepath who tames dragonshapers on Earth. Rion is a tall, dark, and sexy space explorer whose home planet is a galaxy away. The attraction between them is undeniable, but Rion is hiding a desperate secret that will change Marisa's life forever.

Marisa's gift is the only way Rion can communicate with his people, enslaved by a powerful enemy. He knows that kidnapping her is wrong, but saving his planet is worth sparking the fiery clairvoyant's fury. Yet hotter-and more explosive-is the psychic bond growing between Marisa and Rion. Could their passion be the key to freeing Rion's people? Only if he and Marisa can discover how to channel their desire . . . before a vicious enemy destroys them all.

While it is the second in the Pendragon Legacy, Rion is a satisfying stand alone novel.

Rion is a convincing romantic lead. He must betray a woman that he's come to care for and respect in order to protect his countrymen. Rion does not make this decision lightly and he somehow continues to behave with heroism and decency. The story is strengthened by Marisa's independent and nature. She acts as a hero in her own right.

The story is fun, engaging, and will have you eager for the third book in the series which comes out in March 2010.

Publisher: Forever; 1 edition (December 1, 2009), 384 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of her website:
Kearney, a native of New Jersey, writes full time and has sold books to the industries' top publishing houses — Grand Central, Tor, Simon & Schuster, Harlequin, Berkley, Leisure, Red Sage and Kensington. As an award winning author, Kearney earned a Business Degree from the University of Michigan. Kearney's knowledge and experience spans throughout the romance genre, and her fifty plus books include contemporary, romantic suspense, historical, futuristic, science fiction and paranormal novels. She resides in a suburb of Tampa—with her husband, kids and Boston terrier. Currently she's plotting her way through her 54th work of fiction.

In September 2009 Kearney began her Pendragon Legacy with Lucan. Rion is the second in the series. The third in the series, Jordan, comes out in March 2010.

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Book Review of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

In 1972 I was sixteen - young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions. He preferred to know that I was sitting attentively in class at the International School of Amsterdam; in those days his foundation was based in Amsterdam, and it had been my home for so long that I had nearly forgotten our early life in the United States. It seems peculiar to me now that I should have been so obedient well into my teens, while the rest of my generation was experimenting with drugs and protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, bu I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous.
- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The HistorianThe tale of The Historian is told by a sixteen year old girl raised as a privileged and protected diplomat's daughter. As she accompanies her father on his research and diplomatic missions through Europe, we learn that her father has a dark and painful secret that is somehow tied to the myth of the vampire Drakula or Vlad Tepes of Wallachia and the disappearance of his beloved advisor Professor Rossi.

As she tries to coax the story from him, the book shifts perspective and we read of his adventures from his own voice. Occasionally, the story of the search for Drakula is told through the voice of Oxford professor Rossi. Through carefully woven narratives from these three characters and from the letters and journal entries, we are taken into a dark and mysterious world where a centuries old evil continues to reign.

As the journey takes us from the libraries of Oxford, America, and Constantinople to remote towns in Hungary and Eastern Europe in search for the missing Professor Rossi, the story becomes one of courage, friendship, and a long abiding love.

Suspenseful and carefully crafted, The Historian evokes the leisurely prose of classics of the genre. An unusual read, I am very much looking forward to Elizabeth Kostova's next novel, The Swan Thieves, which comes out in January 2010.

Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009), 720 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
Elizabeth Kostova's engrossing debut novel is the culmination of ten years of research and a lifetime of imagining--since Kostova's girlhood, when her father entertained her with tales of Dracula, she has envisioned the story that would become The Historian. With her academic spirit and extraordinary talent, she's spun an intricate tale of sprawling mystery and suspense. Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.

Thank you so much to Miriam, Valerie, and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Friday 56: Week 25 - It Happened One Night by Lisa Dale

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at http://storytimewithtonya.blogspot.com/
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"She knew she was being reckless when she decided to sleep with Ron. But she hadn't realized how big the risk was, how far and wide the consequences reached."
- It Happened One Night by Lisa Dale

Book Review of James Patterson's The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King - A Nonfiction Thriller

If you're fascinated by King Tut and Ancient Egypt, you are sure to enjoy James Patterson's latest, The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King - A Nonfiction Thriller.

The Murder of King Tut
This is my first time to read a work of non-fiction by James Patterson. In The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King, Patterson tells us King Tut's story from three time periods.

Patterson first takes us to Ancient Egypt around 1490s B.C. when Pharoah Amenhotep the Magnificent, King Tut's grandfather, ruled Egypt. He shows us the decadence and style of governance under Pharoah Amenhotep IV and Queen Nefertiti's reign and gives us a glimpse of what King Tutankhamen faced during his reign. Next Patterson focuses on the 1880s onward where he paints a clear picture of the ups and downs of Howard Carter's career in Egyptian archeology, his excavation of the Valley of the Kings and his discovery of King Tut's tomb. Patterson also focuses on the present and shares what he went through as he searched for the truth behind King Tutankhamen's death.

Patterson writes as though he was a fly on the wall, watching the events of Tutankhamen's life unfold. He does not skimp on details and we read about the unsavory details of the lives of the pharoahs, their wives, consorts, and his unscrupulous advisors. I enjoyed the conversations that he extrapolated - Patterson takes you to right to Egypt and you share Tutankhamen's fear and uncertainty as he takes on his role as a young pharoah. I sympathized with the young Pharoah and his half sister and wife, Ankhesenpaaten. Patterson's hypothesis as to Ankhesenpaaten's death does not seem sufficiently substantiated to me. I would love to learn the truth about what happened to her after Tutankhamen passed away and she ruled as Pharoah. Did she really attempt an alliance? Was her burial truly that ignominious? Ankhesenpaaten was one of my favorite characters in the book. My only criticism of The Murder of King Tut is that I don't feel that Patterson's fully substantiated his inferences about Ankhesenpaaten's role in King Tut's demise.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 28, 2009), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Thank you so much, Miriam and Hatchette Books Group for this review opportunity!

Book Review of First Lord's Fury: Book Six of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher

I have been so excited to read the 6th and final book in Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series! I first came across Furies of Calderon (Book 1 of the Codex Alera) at the library a few years ago. It's one of the books that got me hooked on fantasy novels. I stayed up all night reading it, searched for the others in the series, and promptly reread the first in the series. I then pre-ordered Princep's Fury (Book 5) last year which arrived in time for Christmas. I'd been looking forward to the 6th and last in the series, First Lord's Fury which just came out. Then even before the release date, I was able to get an advanced copy, which was like an early Christmas and birthday present! Thank you so much, Angela! If you haven't read any in the Codex Alera series, I recommend that you begin with Furies of Calderon (Book One) since each book builds on the next.

First Lord's Fury (Codex Alera, #6)
Set in a fantasy world of Jim Butcher's making, the Codex Alera encompasses a tumultuous period in the nation's history. The people of Alera have unique bonds with the elementals of earth, air, fire, water, wood and metal and are able to manipulate the elementals in objects and in their environment to perform acts of immense power. The feats are limited only by the individual's strength and imagination.

Aleran society is characterized by a strict caste system with slaves, freemen, citizenry, high lords, and the ruling First Lord. For the most part, the strength of each person's furies is related to their position in the system. The First Lord has unimaginable power while the slaves appear to have just enough to perform tasks that aid daily living. Since Alerans rely upon their furies to supplement their physical strength and to perform even ordinary tasks, the Alerans don't rely upon the technological innovations and do not have the same advances that exist in our world. According to the early accounts of Aleran history, their ancestors first arrived in Alera without these powers. In those early days, the Alerans performed all the tasks themselves and developed innovations that have since fallen by the wayside.

The main hero of the series is Tavi of Calderon. When we first meet him in Furies of Calderon, Tavi is a young shepherd, orphaned and living with his relatives in Calderon Valley, a remote area of Alera. He is an unprepossessing teenager - small for his age and the only person in Alera without the ability to furycraft. Furyless, Tavi would be considered a freak by those who did not know him. But those who get to know Tavi realize that his creativity, intelligence and personality make up for his lack of furies. Tavi stands out as the one person without furies in Alera, and yet this weakness has helped forge his character. It's his character and integrity that enables him to win the respect of the traditional enemies of the Aleran people, and to forge alliances that surpass the feats of many of the highest nobility.

By the sixth book in the series, First Lord's Fury, we have come to learn many of the secrets behind Tavi's identity. If you haven't read any of the Codex Alera series, I don't want to spoil your enjoyment or surprise and will try not go into the adventures in the earlier novels. When First Lord's Fury opens, Tavi goes by the name Octavian and commands the respect and loyalty of the army's First Aleran. Octavian follows the First Lord in the line of succession but his claim still has to be recognized by the Senate. Octavian forged strong alliances with the Marat Nation and the Canim, and their combined warriors must fight Alera's worst enemy yet: the vord.

An unusual species, the vord are insectlike creatures with exoskeletons. They are ruled by a Vord Queen that lays eggs and has absolute control over the millions of worker and warrior vord. The Queen can manipulate the form that each vord takes, and with the conquest of large portions of Alera, the vord now have the ability to furycraft. The invading vord have overrun Alera and it seems like a matter of time until the vord have complete control. The High Lords, citizenry and the military are fighting a losing battle against this rapidly growing enemy. By the time that Octavian, the First Aleran, their Canim and Marat allies return from a sea voyage, there are a few northern cities standing. Octavian must cross the country to join the fight against an enemy that outnumbers them almost 100 to 1. Octavian's only chance at winning will be if he slays the Vord Queen to break the mind hold that she has over her troops. To save his world, Octavian must face this challenge, even if it costs him his life and everyone he loves.

Jim Butcher is a master of world-building and the Codex Alera is one of the most engrossing and satisfying fantasy series that I've encountered. Butcher combines an admirable and inspiring hero with humor, romance, action, and adventure. And he does it brilliantly. Octavian's loyalty, sense of duty, and integrity keep the series fresh and I was completely invested in Octavian's victory. The dialogue is engaging - and the respect and affection among the main characters come across so well. I savored each chapter and thoroughly enjoyed the interaction between Octavian and his love Kitai, and the friendship and respect that Octavian shares with his schoolmates, with the officers and men of the First Aleran, and with Varg, Nausug and other former enemies.

This is one of my favorite books of the year. I wholeheartedly recommend the entire Codex Alera series to anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure stories.

Publisher: Ace Hardcover; 1 edition (November 24, 2009), 480 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of his website:
Jim Butcher is a martial arts enthusiast with fifteen years of experience in various styles including Ryukyu Kempo, Tae Kwan Do, Gojo Shorei Ryu, and a sprinkling of Kung Fu. He is a skilled rider and has worked as a summer camp horse wrangler and performed in front of large audiences in both drill riding and stunt riding exhibitions.

Jim enjoys fencing, singing, bad science fiction movies and live-action gaming. He lives in Missouri with his wife, son, and a vicious guard dog.

Thank you again, Angela for this review opportunity!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Book Review of My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times by Harold Evans

My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times

Harold Evans' My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times appears a bit intimidating at first, if only because of the breadth, depth, and heft of it. But Harold Evans' writing flows, I found myself thoroughly engrossed. Born in 1928 from working class parents, Evans became a reporter at sixteen. His natural ability, drive, tenacity, and nose for a good story led him not just to excel in his field but to take on unrecognized and unpopular causes and to sway public opinion. One of the book's greatest strengths is the extent to which Evans gives us the background and context for each of the events or stories that he shares.

At the start, Evans delves into his own background. His father had little formal education but was a genius at numbers. For instance, if you named a date whether it was 25 years ago or just a few months, his father could unerringly identify which day of the week it was. He worked his way up at the railway, beginning as an engine cleaner to the position of driver. His ability to calculate how much a person's wages would be, taking into account the different wage scales, overtime, deductions, and irregular hours, was recognized in his company's accounting staff and won him the gratitude and affection of his colleagues at the railway. Evans points out that in England at that time, his father's mathematical abilities, even coupled with hard work, would not have afforded him better opportunities because of "the Geddes axe." Sir Eric Geddes, a.k.a. Lord Inchcape, a Minister of the Crown and the former manager of the North Eastern Railway Company, had a strong contempt for the abilities of the working class. In his committee's examination of the expenditure of public funds, he advised against giving secondary school education to poor children, "children whose mental capabilities do not justify it" - essentially consigning an entire generation to very limited prospects.

Evans' generation were given the opportunity to advance through a limited number of scholarships granted to ex-servicemen by the Ministry of Education, through the Butler Education Act in Great Britain. The Butler Act was a more restrictive version of the G.I. Bill but it paid for Evans' university education.

Evans shares what it was like to work in the early newsrooms, where typewriters, typesetters, scissors, spikes, and paste were critical tools of the trade. In the chapter Stop Press, Evans shares what it was like as a young "copy taster" managing the coverage of the unfolding of the Harrow-Wealdstone disaster - a train crash that quickly became a collision of three trains with 75 dead and 110 feared dead for Manchester Evening News. He managed, edited, revised, and published eight editions in six hours, without the help of computers.

Evans' projects range from battling air pollution to helping improve overseas newspapers, to beautifying Manchester to exposing the cause of the deadliest DC-10 air crash and uncovering one of the largest health scandals in the century.

I wish that I'd gotten this review out earlier to help people who might be looking for a good book whether for themselves or their loved ones. As I read My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times, I kept thinking of my uncle Eddy who would encourage me to read. It's the sort of book that he'd savor. I found it fascinating - it's a book that I'll enjoy rereading at leisure.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (November 5, 2009), 592 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Harold Evans, the author of The American Century and now They Made America, is a celebrated historian and journalist. He was the editor of the Sunday Times of London for fourteen years and then the Times of London before settling in 1984 in America, where he has been successively founding editor of CondéNast Traveler; president and publisher of Random House; editorial director and vice chairman of U.S. News & World Report, the Atlantic magazine, Fast Company, and the New York Daily News. In 2002 Britain's journalists voted Evans the greatest all-time British newspaper editor. He was knighted in Queen Elizabeth's 2004 New Year honors list. He lives in New York with his wife, Tina Brown, and their two children.

Watch an interview with Harold Evans. Visit Harold Evans' webpage.
Browse inside the book.

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Book Review of One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein

Harold Feinstein whose previous works include The Infinite Rose, The Infinite Tulip, One Hundred Flowers, One Hundred Seashells, Foliage and Orchidelirium recently released another beautiful collection of photographs in One Hundred Butterflies.

"Who among us has not at one time or another gazed at a butterfly with a sense of awe? In the journey of completing the photographs for this book, it was not unusual for me to cry out in astonishment while looking at these creatures. I had been transported. The earth laughs with flowers, but it dances with butterflies."
- One Hundred Butterflies by Harold Feinstein

One Hundred Butterflies
One Hundred Butterflies is a collection of artistically compiled and detailed photographs of butterflies from all over the world. The colors and wing designs range from striking greens, blues, and yellows and oranges to the discrete patterns that allow the butterfly to camouflage itself in the wild.

The book will surely interest those who already appreciate the butterfly. But for those that have a basic knowledge of the animal, Harold Feinstein teaches us about its life cycle and unique characteristics.

Did you know that the colorful wings are a collage of microscopic scales that are much like shingles on a roof that protect the wing from moisture? Our eyes only perceive a fraction of the wing's color patterns, but the full beauty can be seen under ultraviolet light - which is what butterflies' eyes see. Some of the yellow "sulphur butterflies" that we see come across to other butterflies as a flashy blue.

The adaptation of butterflies is fascinating. Some wing have evolved to look like leaves and animal faces, others use bright warning colors that announce "I'm deadly, eat me at your peril," and others mimic the color of their poisonous cousins.

As the author points out, "Butterfly museums and books are just some of the ways to tell people, 'Look what is out there in the world we live in every day. There is so much more than butterflies. . .yet look how much butterflies there are!'" One Hundred Butterflies affords us a rare glimpse into this rich and diverse world of butterflies.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (November 4, 2009)128 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:

Harold Feinstein began his career in photography in 1946 at fifteen. By the time he was nineteen, Edward Stieichen had purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and exhibited it frequently during his tenure there. Early in his career, Feinstein was best known for his black and white documentary style work. In early 2000, Feinstein began to master digital technology as an artistic medium, resulting in six color books published by Bulfinch press and Little, Brown and Company. The celebrated One Hundred Flowers (2000) is now in it’s third printing. His trend-setting in the arena of digital photography earned him the Smithsonian Institute’s Computerworld Smithsonian Award, in 2000. Feinstein’s photographs have been exhibited in and are represented in the permanent collections of major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center of Photography, the George Eastman House, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Musee d'Art Moderne, the Museum for the City of New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. His portfolios, photo essays, and articles have been published in major periodicals around the world including, LIFE, Aperture, Audubon, Connoisseur, L'Illustriazione, and Popular Photography. W. Eugene Smith, with whom Feinstein collaborated closely in his early years, said of his work: “He is one of the very few photographers I have known or have been influenced by with the ability to reveal the familiar to me as beautifully new, in a strong and honest way.”

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

The Young Victoria - don't miss it!

If you like period films, you are sure to enjoy The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt. R & I got free passes to watch an early screening last Tuesday evening and were so glad that we braved the cold.

All I knew of Queen Victoria was that she had many children, was related to many of the royal houses of Europe, and through this had united Europe. I had a picture in my head of the older, rather stout Queen Victoria. The Young Victoria was such a treat - you meet her before she reaches her majority while she is under the guardianship of her mother and controlled by Lord Conroy. Woven into the story of her coming of age and the start of her reign is the love story between Victoria and Albert. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are enchanting. If you enjoy period movies, don't miss The Young Victoria!

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, The Young Victoria has a talented cast:

Emily Blunt as Victoria
Rupert Friend as Albert
Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne
Miranda Richardson as Duchess of Kent, Victoria's mother

A NYC Snow Day - free hot chocolate & sledding!

Earlier this morning, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the parks are open today and the Parks Department will be giving out free hot chocolate and lending sleds in parks throughout the City while supplies last from 11 am to 3 pm.

Mommy Poppins posted a list of the snow fun and sledding locations in the five boroughs:

Crotona Park
Fulton Avenue between 172nd Street and Crotona Park North

Prospect Park
Prospect Park West at 9th Street

Riverside Park
Riverside Drive at 103rd Street

Lower Highland Park
Jamaica Avenue & Elton Street

Staten Island:
Clove Lakes Park
Martling and Slosson Avenues

Check out Mommy Poppins' list of the best sledding in NYC. Thank you, Mommy Poppins! She has the such good tips for NYC!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Review of To The Dogs by Peter Culley

To the DogsPeter Culley's To The Dogs is an engaging coffee table book. Culley discusses the domestication of dogs, the evolving relationship between dogs and humans, and the portrayal of dogs in literature.

But even more interesting than Culley's witty commentary are the wide range of dog photographs. The photos capture images as early as 1851, such as Gertrude Kasebier's Charging Thunder, American Indian, ca. 1900. And modern photos, such as Chris Steele-Perkins' Alcoholic Living Alone With His Dog, Birmingham (1978). The pictures depict the close friendship of dog and human.

There are photos of well heeled dogs and their keepers from historical figures to actors, socialites, artists and designers: General George Custer and his Dog (1911), Martin Parr's Valentino and His Business Partner Giancarlo Giametti Check Erin's Outfit Before the Show, Paris (2001), Bruno Barbey's The French Fashion Designer Yves Saint-Laurent at Home, Paris (1983), Steve Shapiro's Andy Warhol (1965), David Seymour's Mrs. Peggy Guggenheim in her Palace on the Grand Canal, Venice (1950), Dennis Stock's Grey Advertising (1959), and Inge Morath's Jane Mansfield, Hollywood, California (1959).

To The Dogs captures dogs of all types engaged in play, work, and relaxing, as well as pictures of dogs in popular culture. The book is a quick and fun read - and sure to be appreciated by dog lovers everywhere.

Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2008), 224 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Thank you so much to Janice and Arsenal Pulp for this review opportunity!

Cym Lowell's Book Review Blog Party - I won a KINDLE!!!


Cym Lowell, international tax lawyer, author, and book blogger, hosts weekly Book Review Blog parties. He's given away Amazon gift certificates, and all sorts of prizes that book lovers enjoy. For December, he generously offered a Kindle for the grand prize. And I won!!

I'm so excited - I can't believe it. I just wanted to thank Cym and to plug the weekly Book Review Blog Party! Bloggers link up reviews, whether old or new, from any genre. It's a chance to meet other bloggers, read about books that they've enjoyed and to share your own reviews. And win amazing prizes! Thank you again, Cym - I still can't believe it!!

Book Review of Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen by Mollie Katzen

I have often used Mollie Katzan's Moosewood Cookbook and was very excited to review her latest cookbook, Get Cooking. Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen

The blurb:
Get Cooking is the first book from bestselling cookbook author Mollie Katzen designed specifically for beginners, whether you are just starting to cook for yourself or trying to kick the restaurant habit. Unlike most cookbooks, the goal in Get Cooking is to get you in the kitchen no matter what your experience level might be. Along with her own color photographs of each dish throughout, Mollie gives you clear, step-by-step instructions from making everything from classic mashed potatoes to Broccoli-Cheddar Cheese Calzones to Hot Fudge Sundaes (with homemade hot fudge!). With this book, anyone - (you included) can make delicious, fresh food with a lot less expense (and a lot more satisfaction) than ordering in.

You may know Mollie as the author of famous cookbooks as Moosewood Cookbook or The Enchanted Broccoli Forrest. Get Cooking has all the accessibility and personal warmth of those beloved books but is Mollie's first cookbooks for vegetarians and carnivores alike. With Get Cooking, you'll be serving everything from salads (such as Wilted Spinach Salad with Hazelnuts, Goat Cheese, and Golden Raisins) to desserts (try the Cheesecake Bars), with stops along the way for party snacks, a full array of side dishes, and a brilliant assortment of hand-crafted burgers (bean, tofu, and mushroom - as well as beef, turkey, and tuna). Here at last is the cookbook that will make a cook out of everyone.

Get Cooking takes the beginner through all the steps, clearly and briefly, from how to study a recipe to make sure that you have all the ingredients and tools and to understand the whole process of preparing the food to getting it on the table on time.

Each chapter begins with the essential facts about the type of food, the tools and ingredients that you will most often use, and even an assessment when the inexpensive or moderately priced tools and ingredients will suffice and the times when the added expense is worthwhile.

Katzen describes the cuisine as "'Big Tent,' accommodating a broad base of tastes and needs, vegetarian, meat-loving and everything in between." Most of the dishes are familiar - the items that you'd find at a party, picnic, or enjoy at home. We've made the teriyaki chicken thighs and the poached salmon - which were both easy and tasty! I am eager to try the recipes for carmelized balsamic-red onion soup with cheese-topped croutons, linguini with clam sauce, linguine with spinach and peas, green pea and feta quiche, and deeply roasted cauliflower.
The three bean salad, mac and cheese, spaghetti with meatballs, pasta with tuna, white beans, and artichoke hearts, chinese-style peanut noodles, chocolate-chip mint cookies and intensely chocolate brownies are sure to become regulars at our home.

Get Cooking would be excellent for someone just learning to cook - it gives you the essentials of cooking in simple steps and offers tasty rewards for your effort.

Publisher: HarperStudio (October 13, 2009), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
With more than six million books in print, Mollie Katzen is listed by the New York Times as one of the bestselling cookbook authors of all time. A 2007 inductee into the prestigious James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame, and largely credited with moving healthful food from the "fringe" to the center of the American dinner plate, Mollie has been named by Health magazine as one of the "Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat."

In addition, she is a charter member of the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Roundtable and an inaugural honoree of the Natural Health Hall of Fame. An award-winning illustrator and designer as well as a bestselling cookbook author and popular public speaker, Mollie is best known as the creator of the groundbreaking classics Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Her other books include the children's trilogy Pretend Soup, Honest Pretzels, and Salad People (referred to as the "gold standard" of children's cookbooks) by the New York Times), and a collaboration with Walter Willett, M.D., of Harvard, on Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less.

Since 2003, Mollie Katzen has been an adviser to Harvard University Dining Services, and co-creator of their new Food Literacy Project. This is the first volume of her new Get Cooking series, continuing Mollie's lifelong mission to spread cooking knowledge and food literacy as broadly as possible.

Visit the Get Cooking website for cooking tips, as a companion to the book, and for a chance to win a copy of Get Cooking.

Thank you so much to Mollie Katzen, Sarah and HarperStudio for this review opportunity!

Friday 56: Week 24 - Harold Evans' My Paper Chase

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at http://storytimewithtonya.blogspot.com/
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"Among other things, Howard taught me magic tricks. Of course I hated him at first, not just for his sexual prowess but also in my Christmas stocking I received a velvet bag that could make an egg disappear, and he was better at the trick than I was."
- My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times by Harold Evans

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book Review of Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish: The Heeb Storytelling Collection edited by Shana Liebman

Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish: The Heeb Storytelling Collection
The blurb:
Adapted from Heeb magazine's popular storytelling series, the stories in Sex, Drugs, and Gefilte Fish range from sentimental to strange, vulgar to virtuous, and give an honest and humorous examination of what "Jewishness" means to some of this generation's leading writers, comedians, actors, artists and musicians.

With close to fifty humorous, self-reflective, and angst-ridden tales, this collection has a little something for everyone, including a mentally unstable stalker from New Jersey and an ill-tempered and heartbroken Bigfoot.

Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish captures a unique moment in time for a generation of Jews who have lost their ties with traditional Jewish life, but still consider themselves Jewish. Nevertheless, it's a book that will appeal not only to young, hip Jews, but to anyone who shares its bawdy and irreverent take on traditional and secular life.

While I was excited to review Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't fully appreciate the humor or the nuances of the writing. I found the book thoroughly entertaining, even though I'm not Jewish. The book is divided into six parts: Sex, Drugs, Work, Youth, Family, and Body & Soul. Each part has from six to twelve short stories, each by a different author. The stories of young love, awkward encounters, and self-discovery are sometimes touching, often hilarious, and fun.

The stories aren't connected, so you can start with any story. You'll likely not be able to stop at one. I would read at least three or four at a sitting. No doubt the stories would be even more enjoyable to someone fully familiar with the culture and religion.

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 26, 2009), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Thank you so much to Brianna and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Blog Tour of The Scottish Thistle by Cindy Vallar

I am excited to be part of Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tour of Cindy Vallar's The Scottish Thistle!

The Scottish Thistle
Thistle is a masked hero of the Highlands, akin to Robin Hood but Thistle helps smuggle goods into the Highlands instead of stealing from the rich. Like Robin Hood, Thistle shares the food and riches with those that need it most. When the book opens with "Thistle" has saved a man traveling alone from an attack. Thistle and his men aid injured Duncan Cameron and take him to their secret quarters.

Duncan Cameron had traveled into the territory searching for the outlawed MacGregor clan with a missive from his lord Lochiel that will require the fiercely independent Rory MacGregor to fulfill her father's decades old promise to marry a person of Lochiel's choosing. This early promise was made as a way to offer Rory the protection of a powerful clan and to give the MacGregor's a better future. They had not expected Rory to become chieftain of the MacGregors.

As chieftain, Rory agrees to marry Duncan Cameron but imposes two conditions: the marriage will be of short duration and it will not be consumated. Duncan agrees to the marriage because his lord demands it, but he agrees to Rory's conditions because he has come to respect and love her. Rory and Duncan slowly settle in to married life on Cameron lands, but their peaceful existence is shattered when the Stewarts ask longtime supporters to aid their return to the throne. Bonnie Prince Charlie drags Rory, Duncan, and all they love into the deadly battle.

If you enjoyed Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, you will surely love The Scottish Thistle. It combines political intrigue, Scottish history, and a powerful love story. Rory MacGregor is strong, courageous, gifted and loyal - she takes on all odds to save those that she loves. Rory is well matched with Duncan Cameron. Duncan is an unmatched warrior and a leader who will fight to the end. While the details of the love story of Rory MacGregor and Duncan Cameron are different from those of Diana Gabaldon's Claire and Jamie, you will find yourself equally admiring of their courage and will and rooting for their survival. I thoroughly enjoyed The Scottish Thistle and recommend it highly!

Publisher: Amber Quill Press, LLC (November 20, 2006) 420 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours and the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
A former librarian, Cindy received the first Friend of Clan Cameron Award at the clan's North American Rally in 2005. She and her husband, Tom, are co-membership directors of the Red River Branch of the Clan Cameron Association. She teaches online workships and spaks to groups about Scottish history and culture, as well as her own passion - maritime pirates. She is the editor of Pirates and Privateers and the Associate Editor of Industry for Solander, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society, for which she pens the "Red Pencil" column where she profiles authors and compares a selection from their published novels with an early draft of that work. She also reviews for their journal, Historical Novels Review. She is an editor and copyeditor, and does freelance editing. She belongs to the Historical Novel Society, the Texas Coalition of Authors, the Scottish Clans of North Texas, the Laffite Society, the National Maritime Historical Society, the Louisiana Historical Society and EPIC. Learn more about her through Cindy Villar's website called Thistles & Pirates.

Thank you so much to Cindy Vallar, Tracee, and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours for this review opportunity!

Pump Up Your Book sig

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Review of These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades
Justin Alistair, the Duke of Avon, is called "Satanas" by friends and enemies alike. He's brilliant, strikingly attractive, wealthy beyond measure and cynical. He has a reputation in London and in Louis XV's Paris as both dangerous and debauched. The Duke of Avon and the Comte de Saint Vire have a longstanding enmity.

When the Duke stumbles upon Leon, a red-headed urchin fleeing punishment from his brutal brother, the Duke intervenes. On a whim, the Duke purchases Leon from his brother, trains him to be his page, takes an interest in his welfare. Leon adores his savior and when it turns out that Leon is not what he seems, the Duke whisks Leon away to England and to safety.

In England, Leon the page is transformed into Leonie Bonnard, ward of the Duke of Avon. Justin looks to his sister Fanny to help Leonie learn to dress and behave like a young lady. When Leon is transformed into the enchanting Leonie, the Duke is surprised by his deep reaction to his young ward. Justin Alistair is equally affected by Leonie's respect and unwavering love for "her Duke."

I loved These Old Shades, it's now one of my favorites because both Leonie and Justin are both decent and loyal but also bitingly witty at the same time. The plot is fun, convoluted, and full of twists. The dialogue sparkles. There is enough drama and romance to keep you reading through the night. If my mother didn't already have a copy of this, I would have ordered her one.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (October 1, 2009)384 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Thank you so much to Danielle and SourceBooks for this review opportunity!

A huge thank you to Danielle and SourceBooks for this review opportunity!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Free flu vaccines through weekend clinics & health centers in NYC

The City is making the H1N1 flu vaccine available for free through health clinics and weekend clinics in all 5 boroughs. This weekend's five vaccine clinics will admit any New Yorker who is at least 4 years old, including any healthy adult who would like to be vaccinated. Learn more about the NYC flu vaccination program at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/flu/html/home/home.shtml

R & I just went to the Brooklyn weekend clinic which was very organized and well run. There was barely a wait at 9:30 am.

If you'd like to check out the closest health center or weekend clinic near you, go to
http://a816-healthpsi.nyc.gov/DispensingSiteLocator/mainView.do This is supposed to be the last of the weekend clinics, so it's worth making the trip.

Here's a quick list of the 5 weekend clinics:

I.S. 127 Castle Hill (X127)
1560 Purdy Street, The Bronx
Sat. Dec 12 9 am - 6 pm
Sun. Dec 13 9 am - 5 pm

P.S. 186 Dr. Irving Gladstone (K186)
7601 19th Ave., Brooklyn
Sat. Dec 12 9 am - 6 pm
Sun. Dec 13 9 am - 5 pm

George Washington High School (M465)
549 Audubon Avenue, Manhattan
Sat. Dec 12 9 am - 6 pm
Sun. Dec 13 9 am - 5 pm

I.S. 25 Adrien Block (Q025)
34-65 192nd Street, Queens
Sat. Dec 12 9 am - 6 pm
Sun. Dec 13 9 am - 5 pm

Staten Island:
I.S. 24 Myrna Barnes (R024)
225 Cleveland Avenue, Staten Island
Sat. Dec 12 9 am - 6 pm
Sun. Dec 13 9 am - 5 pm

Friday, December 11, 2009

A quick thank you

I love books - browsing, reading, trying to think of which friends and family members might enjoy a particular story or book. Even as a kid, I would spend a large part of my allowance on books. When I lived in the Philippines and studied in the U.S. for boarding school or college, I would fill my suitcase and backpack with the hard to find books. Months worth of reading. I would stockpile books for the day that I'd graduate and relocate to Asia.

These months of book reviews have been an unparalleled experience for me. There's the excitement of looking at a beautiful cover and interesting blurb, then receiving the book - wading through it and describing it to friends here on Starting Fresh.

I've always had immense respect for writers. I've loved interviewing and hosting guest posts. I hope that you've come across new books and writers at Starting Fresh. I'm incredibly grateful to the publishers, authors, book tour promoters and agents that have generously given me the chance to review these books. (Thank you!!)

It's hard to fit in everything that I'd like to do - visit other blogs, read all the books that interest me, write reviews, read up on authors, and do the other things that occupy my life. For the other bloggers out there, how do you balance everything? How has this year been for you?

I also just wanted to thank you guys for visiting, reading, and commenting. You've made this a wonderful experience for me. If you have any suggestions on how to improve this blog, I'd love to constructive criticism. Feel free to comment below or to write me at gaby317nyc at gmail.com

Winners of Nelson DeMille's The Gate House

Winners of Nelson DeMille's The Gate House

beapangilinan.0921 - confirmed
kmkuka - confirmed
tiramisu392 carlos - confirmed
booklover0226 - confirmed
womackcm - confirmed

I've contacted the winners who have until noon on Monday to send me their mailing addresses. Thanks for participating!

Thanks so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Winner of Judi Fennell's Mer Novels

Congratulations! Wanda (aries18) won Judi Fennell's In Over Her Head and Wild Blue Under. - confirmed

Please send me your mailing address by noon on Monday and I'll forward your details to the publisher who will send you the book directly. Thanks for participating!

Thanks so much to Danielle, Sourcebooks and Judi Fennell for sponsoring this giveaway!

Hatchette Audio Book Winners

I'm sorry for to send this out so late - here are the winners to the Hatchette Audio Book giveaways! Congratulations!

Winners of Michael Connelly's Nine Dragons

bgcchs - confirmed
dakota - confirmed

Winners of Uwem Akpan's Say You're One of Them

enyl - confirmed
bekki1820cb - confirmed
janemaritz -confirmed

Winners of Malcolm Gladwell's What The Dog Saw and Other Adventures

catss99 - confirmed
r_lapus - confirmed
sharon54220 - confirmed

Winners of David Baldacci's True Blue

Bethie (lizzi0915) - confirmed
lahlstedt - confirmed
tbranco - confirmed

Winners of Dr. Jane Goodall's Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink

walkerd - confirmed
allisonsattic - confirmed
tanyainjville - tony - confirmed

Winners of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Cheating Death: The Doctors and the Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds

redbike599 - confirmed
copperllama - confirmed
merryweatherbookblog - confirmed

Winners of Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman's NurtureShock

daanel - confirmed
jason - confirmed
rsgrandinetti - confirmed

Winners of Robert Feldman's The Liar In Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships

pbclark - confirmed
Aitmama - confirmed
ssummmer - confirmed

I've emailed the winners and they have until noon on Monday to send me their contact details. Thanks so much for participating!

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for generously sponsoring these giveaways!

Winners of The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton

Winners of The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton

wheresmyrain - confirmed
librarygrinch - confirmed
dorcontest - confirmed
lizzi0915 - confirmed
cenya2 - confirmed

I've contacted the winners and they have until noon on Monday to send me their mailing addresses. Thank you so much for participating!

Thank you so much to Valerie and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Winners of The Lovely Bones (audio) by Alice Sebold

Winners of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

chinook92 - confirmed
r_lapus - confirmed

Congratulations! I've emailed the winners and they have until noon on Monday to send me their mailing addresses. Thanks so much for participating!

Thank you to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Friday 56: Week 23

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends at http://storytimewithtonya.blogspot.com/
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

"I found your rig on my property." Henry pointed vaguely. "I've returned it."

- The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book Review of The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

The Magic WarbleThe blurb:
Dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals, and an evil queen - all these and more can be found in The Magic Warble, an enchanting tale of adventure and friendship.

Twelve-year old Kristina Kingsly feels like the most unpopular girl in her school. The kids all tease her, and she never seems to fit in. But when Kristina receives an unusual Christmas gift, she suddenly finds herself magically transported to the land of Bernovem, home of dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals, and the evil Queen Sentiz.

In Bernovem, Kristina not only fits in, she's honored as "the chosen one" the only one who can release the land from Queen Sentiz's control. But it's not as simple as it seems. To save Bernovem, she must place the gift she was given, the most famous "Magic Warble," in its final resting place. And she must travel through the deep forest, climb a treacherous mountain, and risk capture by the queen's "zelbocks" before she reaches her destination. Guided by her new fairy friends, Clover and Looper and by Prince Werrien, a teenage boy, as well as an assortment of other characters, Kristina sets off on a perilous journey that not only tests her strength but her heart.

In The Magic Warble, Victoria Simcox creates a rich fantasy world full of magical creatures and villains. Bernovem has an elaborate magical world. I enjoyed the book but felt the book would have been stronger if there were more details about the nature of the quest facing "the Chosen One" (Kristina) and Prince Werrien at the start of the novel. Simcox makes clear that the Magic Warble has the power to restore the balance in Bernovem and that the land has suffered the loss of magic, but the steps that need to be taken to remove the evil queen and to help save Bernovem only become known towards the end of the novel, just before they must be performed. Overall, The Magic Warble is a fun and wholesome quest fantasy full of magical creatures - a tale of loyalty and friendship.

Publisher: Two Harbors Press (January 1, 2009) 276 pages.
Review copy provided by Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours.

Thank you so much to Victoria Simcox, Dorothy and Pump Up Your Book Promotion Tours for this review opportunity!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book Review of Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds by Sanjay Gupta

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: When the heart stops beating, it's not the end. In fact, you might say that your troubles have only just begun. As it turns out, life and death is not a black-and-white issue. There is a gray zone - a faint no-man's land where you are neither truly dead nor actually alive. In order to control it, in order to cheat death, we have to first better understand it.
-Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds by Sanjay Gupta

Cheating Death: The Doctors and Medical Miracles that Are Saving Lives Against All Odds
The blurb:
An unborn baby with a fatal heart disease. . .a skier submerged for an hour in a frozen Norwegian lake. . . a comatose brain surgery patient whom doctors have declared a "vegetable."

Twenty years ago all of them would have been given up for dead, with no realistic hope for survival. But today, thanks to incredible new medical advances, each of these individuals is alive and well. . .Cheating Death.

In this riveting book, Dr. Sanjay Gupta - neurosurgeon, chief medical correspondent for CNN, and bestselling author - chronicles the almost unbelievable science that has made these seemingly miraculous recoveries possible. A bold new breed of doctors has achieved amazing rescues by refusing to accept that any life is irretrievably lost. Extended cardiac arrest, "brain death," not breathing for over an hour - all these conditions used to be considered inevitably fatal, but they no longer are. Today, revolutionary advances are blurring the traditional line between life and death in fascinating ways.

Drawing on real-life stories and using his unprecedented access to the latest medical research, Dr. Gupta dramatically presents exciting accounts of how pioneering physicians and researches are altering our understanding of how the human body functions when it comes to survival - and why more and more patients who once would have died are now alive. From experiments with therapeutic hypothermia to save comatose stroke or heart attach victims to lifesaving operations in utero to the study of animal hibernation to help wounded soldiers on far-off battlefields, these remarkable case histories transform and enrich all our assumptions about the true nature of life and death.

Sanjay Gupta shares stories of patients that had fallen within that gray zone where they are "neither truly dead or actually alive," and have subsequently benefited from good luck and medical expertise and recovered to lead productive lives.

I found the book fascinating. The clear and detailed descriptions of the medical cases and discoveries were riveting in and of themselves. For instance, learning how hypothermia can slow down the effect of lack of oxygen caused by a stroke or a heart attack is helpful, but it made a difference to learn that "next step." The use of hypothermia only became practicable when doctors discovered that it is essential to minimize the use of liquids when raising the body's temperature. By keeping the use of liquids to a minimum, the doctors are able to prevent the brain from expanding and avoid subsequent brain damage.

I hadn't known much about CPR and did not know that that survival rate from cardiac arrest outside of a hospital is rare. Did you know that only about 2% of the victims survive without long term damage? In certain parts of Arizona, people have a substantially better survival rate because of the use of a modified CPR technique and a public health effort to train more people in CPR. The number one thing that can save your life if you have a heart attack is to have a bystander who is trained in CPR and is willing to help.

The bystander rate of CPR is 20%, in large part because many people are hesitant about performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Through training and education programs, places like Seattle have a 50% rate of bystander CPR assistance and this has meant that the cardiac arrest survival rate in Seattle is much better than in other parts of the country.

Doctors studied the role of artificial respiration in emergency resuscitation and analyzed the three-phase model of cardiac arrest (electrical, circulatory and metabolic). I won't go into a technical explanation here, but the in the first 4 minutes, the heart has its own energy and has oxygen. The heart needs assistance in getting its beat back. Defibrillation works during this phase because it reinserts the heart's rhythm. From the 4 to 10 minute mark is the circulatory phase, the heart needs assistance to circulate oxygen. It is critical to have someone pump the heart artificially. If there is a delay pumping the heart because the rescuer is performing mouth-to-mouth,then the heart isn't receiving the oxygen that it needs. Sanjay Gupta and the doctors that he cites point out that the most important thing is to get the blood and oxygen moving by compressing the chest.

Those are just two examples of practical and revolutionary advances in medicine that Sanjay Gupta covers in Cheating Death. I found Cheating Death to be a fascinating read and recommend it to both laypersons and medical professionals both for the scientific innovations that it chronicles and for its clear writing style.

Publisher: Wellness Central; 1 edition (October 12, 2009), 304 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Sanjay Gupta, MD, is a practicing neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital and assistant professor at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He is a columnist for TIME magazine and chief medical correspondent at CNN. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Book Review of True Blue by David Baldacci

I'd been dying to read a David Baldacci novel since I'd heard him speak at ThrillerFest this year. So, I jumped at the chance to review his latest detective thriller True Blue.

True Blue

Mason "Mace" Perry had been an outstanding cop in Washington D.C. - until her public arrest for armed robbery and drug use. Mace knows that she was kidnapped and framed for the crime, but she's lost her badge, her apartment, the life that she knew. Two years have passed and Mace has been released from prison. Now Mace's one goal is to clear her name and win back her badge. It helps that her sister, Police Chief Beth Perry, believes in her and will not be deterred from hunting down the truth of what had happened two years ago. Mace tries to recreate what had happened and to solve the mystery of who had set her up and why.

Mace accompanies Beth Perry at the her latest crime scene at a lucrative corporate law firm where a partner was discovered dead. Mace connects with Roy Kingman, the associate who discovered the body, and somehow Mace enlists Roy's aid in investigating the death and uncovering secrets. The routine homicide soon proves to be part of a complex crime. While Beth, Mace, and Roy must work together, Mace curb her reactions and instincts and learn to play by the rules.

The Perry sisters face an additional danger. U.S. attorney Mona Danforth is dead set against the Perry sisters. Danforth had sent Mace to jail the first time and is looking forward to sending Mace back to jail - and removing Beth from office.

Fast-paced, action packed, and full of plot twists, True Blue is a fun escape. Beth and Mace Perry are strong woman lead characters - which makes the book even more enjoyable. The relationship between the sisters gives True Blue an additional layer of complexity. True Blue was my first exposure to David Baldacci's writing and I am looking forward to the next Baldacci novel!

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009), 464 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:

David Baldacci was born in Virginia, in 1960, where he currently resides. He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. Mr. Baldacci practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C., as both a trial and corporate attorney.

David Baldacci has published seventeen novels: Absolute Power, Total Control, The Winner, The Simple Truth, Saving Faith, Wish You Well, Last Man Standing, The Christmas Train, Split Second, Hour Game, The Camel Club, The Collectors, Simple Genius, Stone Cold, and The Whole Truth; and in his young adult series, Freddy and the French Fries: Fries Alive! and Freddy and the French Fries: The Adventures of Silas Finklebean. He has also published a novella for the Dutch entitled Office Hours, written for Holland's Year 2000 "Month of the Thriller." Baldacci authored a short story, "The Mighty Johns," as part of a mystery anthology published in 2002.

His works have been in numerous worldwide magazines, newspapers, journals, and publications. Baldacci has authored seven original screenplays. His books have been translated into more than 45 languages and sold in more than 80 countries. All of his books have been national and international bestsellers. Over 60 million copies of Mr. Baldacci's books are in print worldwide. Learn more about him at www.DavidBaldacci.com and his program to spread books across America at www.FeedingBodyandMind.com

Thanks so much to Valerie, Anna, and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!