Saturday, August 29, 2009

Barnes & Noble First Look Club Selection: Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell

I first discovered book blogs through Barnes & Noble's First Look Book Club. One of the participants mentioned several book blogs and sources of ARCs. That was a few months and one FL Book Club selection ago.

I haven't been able to be as active in my last First Look Book Club this August, but the book selection was terrific yet again. The FL selections are always by debut authors and they tend to be books that I wouldn't have heard of on my own. I've enjoyed some more than others but these last few have been wonderful. Let me tell you more about Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell.

Canadian cover - US cover - UK cover

Synopsis, courtesy of Barnes & Noble (First Look discussions):

Spring 1938. After nearly two years in prison for the crime of stealing his own grain, Ukrainian immigrant Theo Mykolayenko is a free man. While he was gone, his wife, Maria, their five children, and his sister, Anna, struggled to survive on the harsh northern Canadian prairie, but now Theo-a man who has overcome drought, starvation, and Stalin's purges--is determined to make a better life for them. As he tirelessly clears this untamed land, Theo begins to heal himself and his children. But the family's hopes and newfound happiness are short-lived. Anna's rogue husband, the arrogant and scheming Stefan, unexpectedly returns, stirring up rancor and discord that will end in violence and tragedy.


The story of Theo Mykolayenko and his family is heartbreaking and carefully crafted. Each character is well developed and tormented in his/her own way from Theo, his wife Maria and each of their children to his sister Anna, her husband Stefan and their two children. Reading Under This Unbroken Sky, it is hard to stop. The power comes from the beautiful melding of characters, events, and unforgettable writing.

If you are looking for an unusual and moving read, I highly recommend Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell.

About the Author, courtesy of her website:

Shandi Mitchell is a writer and filmmaker. She graduated from Dalhousie University with a degree in English and Theatre and then moved into film. Her award-winning shorts have been featured at festivals across North America. In 2008, she was awarded the Canada Council’s Victor Martin-Lynch Staunton Endowment for outstanding mid-career achievement in Media Arts.


Her debut novel Under This Unbroken Sky has been sold in seven countries and was simultaneously published by Penguin Canada, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (UK) and Harper Collins (US) in August 2009.

Raised on the prairies, Shandi now makes her home on the east coast of Canada, very close to the water, where she lives with her husband, Alan, and their dog, Annie.

Learn more about Under This Unbroken Sky at Shandi Mitchell's website.

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt (A Kari + Lucas Mystery)

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia (Kari + Lucas Mystery) "This is the story of how two teenagers from Minnesota lived a tale of adventure involving a woman from ancient Rome, a seventeenth-century painter, forgery and murder, abduction and rescue, disguises and deductions, two continents, three museums, four countries, a criminal hideaway, and two nuns from Amsterdam's famous Quarter."
-The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt

I was intrigued by this book from the start. Books with museums, child detectives, art fraud and adventures have always come through for me, ever since I stumbled upon E.L. Konigsburg's The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I don't want to reveal too much about this book and think that the passage above tells you everything that you need to know. If it intrigues you, then I recommend that you get yourself a copy of The Mystery of the Third Lucretia. I'll limit myself to two sentences. The writing, characters, and adventure will not disappoint. I promise. That's it.

If you're not drawn to the book, then it's likely not a fit. No worries - there will be plenty of other books for you and plenty of readers for these Kari + Lucas mysteries. I hadn't mentioned that The Mystery of the Third Lucretia is the first in a series, but it is! I love series books because I can get invested in the characters knowing that even if the book ends the adventures don't. The second of the series came out on August 20, 2009. The third is still in the works.

Though I didn't tell you much about The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, if you'd like to learn more, you might enjoy reading Susan Runholt's post on how the book came about because of her daughter Annalisa. And how Annalisa helped her come up with the book.

Here's a little more about Susan Runholt, from her website:

Susan Runholt shares her teenage heroines' love of art and travel and commitment to feminism. She has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and Africa, and lived in Amsterdam and Paris, working as a bank clerk and an au pair. She's also been a waitress, a maid, a motel desk clerk, a laundress, a caterer, and director of programming for South Dakota Public Television.

For the past two decades she has lived in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she serves as a fundraising consultant for social service and arts organizations. She was named runner-up for the Debut Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain for The Mystery of the Third Lucretia. Her next mystery in the Kari and Lucas series, Rescuing Seneca Crane, will be published by Viking Children's Books in summer 2009.

Visit Susan Runholt's blog to read about her, her daughter and what she's working on now.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Review: Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain by Lori L. Tharps

Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain


In Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain Lori Tharps takes us on an unusual and enjoyable journey. The book is part coming of age story, part narrative of a young woman finding herself, and part love story.

Lori Tharps was born and raised in middle class comfort in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she was often the only person of color in her school and neighborhood. Feeling dislocated in her home city and fascinated by other cultures and countries from a young age, Lori took all the available opportunities to travel from school sponsored exchange in Morocco in high school to spending her junior year of college in Salamanca, Spain. Lori went to Spain hoping that she would find a place where race doesn't matter. Although Lori didn't come across this idealized place, Spain was a did bring her self discovery and love and marriage with a young Spaniard.


I found Kinky Gazpacho a sensitive and fascinating read. The anecdotes of her childhood reveal the playground slights and ways that she was treated differently from her peers without bitterness or anger. I found Lori sympathetic, plucky and interesting - the sort of friend that I would loved to have at that age. I enjoyed reading about the different stages of her life and the ways that she and Manuel made a life for themselves and their family.

Kinky Gazpacho is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a memoir, coming of age story, or an unusual and satisfying read.

Publisher: Washington Square Press (May 26, 2009), 240 pages.
Book was courtesy of Color Online's Summer Madness Contest.

Quick contest closed

Thanks so much for participating! The winners of Tamed by a Laird by Amanda Scott will be notified by email.

quick book giveaway for Tamed by a Laird by Amanda Scott

Two of the winners were kind enough to let me know that they'd won the book on other sites. If you'd like a copy of Tamed by a Laird by Amanda Scott, please email me at gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com with your mailing address. I'll give preference to those that reply first and those that haven't won lately. I'll email the winners but if you don't hear from me, please assume that someone else has won.

Thanks again to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Review: Tamed by A Laird by Amanda Scott

Review of Tamed by a Laird by Amanda Scott


Young, wealthy, and orphaned and living in the 1300s, Jenny Easdale is in the unenviable position of being engaged to her guardian's brother-in-law, Reid. While Reid is good looking, he's immature and spoiled. Reid hasn't had experience managing an estate but expects to run Easdale once they're married.

During her betrothal celebration, Jenny yearns for adventure and with little planning, decides to sneak out with her personal servant when Peg visits her cousin among the entertainers. Jenny passes as her maidservant's cousin and takes on the role of a singer to be able to join the troupe. During their travels, Jenny overhears a strange conversation that may prove treasonous.

Meanwhile, when her guardian realizes that Jenny's missing, it's Reid's elder brother, Hugh Douglas, that offers to bring Jenny back. When Hugh finds her, he decides to listen to her pleas and agrees to protect her cover and become part of the traveling troupe himself while searching for the mysterious conspirators. As Jenny and Hugh work together, they gradually become friends. As Hugh realizes that Reid would be a bad match for Jenny - Reid would try to control her without understanding or valuing her strengths. So, what should they do when circumstances offer Hugh and Jenny the chance to be together?


Amanda Scott has delivered a fun and exciting romance set in medieval Scotland. Jenny Easdale is spirited, generous, and beautiful. Hugh Douglas is a wonderful romantic lead. Together, they make Tamed by a Laird an enjoyable escape - either for the beach or during a rainy day.

Publisher: Forever (July 1, 2009), 432 pages.

Courtesy of the publisher.

Thanks so much, Anna and Hatchette Books Group for this opportunity!

Friday 56: Week 14

* 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
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's mine:

I felt like Lucas and I needed more time to figure out how to handle the situation, but we just had to go on the best we could.

"Hi, Mom," I said, trying to smile.
"Hi, guys," she said. "I'm glad to see you survived your day in one piece."

Normally Lucas and I would have made some sarcastic comments, asking her how much trouble she thought we could get into when we had to talk to her on Robert's mobile phone every hour.

- The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt

On President Obama's Nightstand: The Way Home by George Pelecanos! Enter the giveaway

George Pelecanos's The Way Home is one of the books that President Obama brought on his vacation. Realizing that we might want to check out The Way Home for ourselves, Miriam and the Hatchette Books Group are generously sponsoring giveaways of George Pelecano's book.

Curious? Watch the trailer for the book below!

Learn more - visit George Pelecanos's website at


To enter, share your favorite read of the summer.

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 extra entry, follow me on Twitter or become a follower of miaking on Twitter. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry.
5. For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
6. 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 6 pm on September 21, 2009.

Learn what else President Obama's got on his nightstand here.

Want another chance to win The Long Way Home? Check out these participating sites:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

President Obama's Summer reading list

Obama's Summer Reading

Deputy press secretary Bill Burton read out the list of books that President Obama packed for the vacation on Martha's Vineyard.
  • The Way Home, by George Pelecanos
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded, by Tom Friedman
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price
  • Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
  • John Adams, by David McCullough
I'm happy to announce that Hatchette Books Group is sponsoring a giveaway of The Way Home by George Pelecanos. Fifteen blogs will give away 5 copies each. I'll post the details of the giveaway later in the week!

Here's the list of participating blogs:

Posted using ShareThis

Thanks so much to Miriam and Hatchette Books Group for generously sponsoring this giveaway!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Winners of Seduce Me by Robyn DeHart

Winners of Seduce Me by Robyn DeHart

lizzi0915 - confirmed
zenrei57 - confirmed
made4books - confirmed

Congratulations! Thanks so much for participating. Thanks so much to Anna and Hatchette Books Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Review: No Mad by Sam Moffie

Review of No Mad by Sam Moffie

Aaron Abrams is a writer, the most popular professor on campus, and a family man. When his agent calls with news of his first book deal, he hurries home to find his wife and brother in bed together. Aaron's reaction is to hurl an ice bucket and his wedding ring at the two, grab his dog, credit cards, and his car and peel out of Youngstown, OH for New York City. On his way to meet with his agent and pitch his new book, we follow Aaron on his trip through Interstate 80 and the adventures along the way.

In NYC, Aaron's situation picks up. Not only does he hit it off with Elizabeth, his agent's assistant, but his concept for the book deal is a hit. Aaron's next project will be a book about all the diverse people that went to college and what happened to them over the years. It's Aaron's first stab at nonfiction and is an opportunity for him to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. With his own music, Newman's Own Virgin Lemonade, Aaron travels all over gathering material for his book: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Boston, Massachusetts, Roswell, New Mexico, are just a few of the stops. Throughout the trip, Aaron's observations and chats give us a clear picture of a man with a quirky sense of humor and in love with life and his family.

Aaron is an interesting character who has a love of discovery and adventure coupled with a kind spirit. Traveling with Aaron over thousands of miles is an enjoyable adventure with many unexpected twists and turns.

I wouldn't have found this book on my own and am grateful to Tracee and Pump Up Your Book Tours for the introduction to No Mad, Aaron Abrams, and to Sam Moffie's writing.

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (Feb.24, 2009), 336 pages.
Courtesy of Pump Up Your Book Promotion and the author.

About the Author, courtesy of his website:
A lifelong baseball fan, Youngstown, Ohio resident Sam Moffie graduated from Wittenberg University. He manages two sports bars, serving on the front lines of America’s most heated debate topics: sex, sports and politics. Sam has three children, one son-in-law, one grand daughter, two dogs, two cats and one1 strike-out at marriage. Forty-nine years old, No Mad is his third novel. To learn more, visit his website at

Thanks so much to Tracee, Pump Up Your Book Promotion and the author for this opportunity!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Blog Tour: My Cousin Caroline by Rebecca Ann Collins + giveaway

My Cousin Caroline (The Pemberley Chronicles, #6)Review of My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles (Book 6) by Rebecca Ann Collins


My Cousin Caroline builds on two well liked characters in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Colonel Fitzwilliam, cousin to Fitzwilliam Darcy, who had been portrayed as an agreeable and attractive gentleman who only lacked wealth to be considered an eligible bachelor discovers, woos and marries Caroline Gardiner, cousin to Elizabeth Bennett Darcy.

In Pride and Prejudice, the Gardiners stood out as a sensible and refined middle class family, the family that Elizabeth enjoyed visiting and trusted to help when her sister Lydia eloped. Caroline carries on these sensibilities - she is educated, sensitive, generous, and interested in the world around her. My Cousin Caroline covers Caroline's life from a young girl to her growth through the years. We learn of her reformist tendencies, her support of her husband's political aspirations, and involvement in the suffrage movement, the difficulties that she faced raising her children, her involvement in her father's trading business, and her constant love and friendship of the Darcys.


My Cousin Caroline is an enjoyable extension of the adventures of the characters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. We glimpse enough of Elizabeth and Darcy to know that they are a central part of the action but Caroline and her husband remain the lead characters in the novel. This allows Rebecca Ann Collins to develop a fresh new story altogether while retaining the flavor of Pride and Prejudice. My Cousin Caroline covers a much longer period and brings a sense of the sort of life the Colonel and Caroline as well as Darcy and Elizabeth might have had as they became grandparents surrounded by large and loving families.

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (September 1, 2009), 352 pages.
Courtesy of the publisher and author.

Danielle and Sourcebooks are sponsoring a giveaway of The Pemberley Chronicles: A Companion Volume to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (Book 1) and a copy of My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles (Book 6). There will be two winners - one for each book.


Please tell us your favorite romantic character in a novel and what attracts you to him or her. Please include your email address so I can get in touch with you if you win. No contact details, no entry. Limited to U.S. and Canada only. Contest ends at 5 pm on September 30, 2009.

Thank you so much to Danielle and Sourcebooks for this opportunity!

Blog Tour & Guest Post of Rebecca Ann Collins's My Cousin Caroline

My Cousin Caroline (The Pemberley Chronicles, #6)

I'm excited to participate in the Blog Tour for My Cousin Caroline by Rebecca Ann Collins and to share a post from Rebecca where she talks about her love for Jane Austen's work and how she began her wonderful Pemberly Chronicles!

Without further ado, welcome Rebecca!!

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog site, Gaby. I’m pleased to be here!

I first read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility when I was 12 years old and fell in love with the characters and style of Jane Austen. I was very fortunate in my English teacher, who not only encouraged my interest, but also let me use her library, which was a veritable treasure house of material about Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Mrs Gaskell, George Elliot and the era in which they lived and wrote, 19th century England. I read everything that I could lay my hands on and progressed also to Charles Dickens, who is my next most favourite English novelist. At University, I pursued this fascination by specializing in the literature of this period and over the years I have accumulated an immense amount of literature and related information, which helped me understand the themes and characters in the novels, but also to appreciate the manners, morals and world view of the writers who created them. It has been a most rewarding study, but I had never contemplated writing a sequel to any one of them.

It was in 1996, after the BBC’s magnificent TV production had brought us Miss Austen’s masterpiece, that I first came upon the phenomenon of modern sequels to Pride and Prejudice. I was presented with a couple of books which claimed that they were sequels to Pride and Prejudice. To my surprise, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy had been transformed into players in a Regency soap opera, whom I felt Jane Austen would never have recognised as her own! Quite incredible that Jane Austen’s beloved Darcy and Elizabeth had morphed into these strange new re-imagined people!

Having fulminated about this to no avail, I was finally persuaded by a literary friend to try to write a genuine sequel to Pride and Prejudice—using the resources I had collected over the years as well as my own creative imagination, which is how I started work—mainly as a labour of love and with little hope of publication, on The Pemberley Chronicles, the first volume in the Pemberley series.

I saw it as a means of extending the lives and stories of Jane Austen’s characters into the dynamic, challenging environment of 19th century England, placing them in context and observing how they coped with events in their own lives as well as the consequences of profound social and political change, affecting the lives of all the people of England. A sort of “Life after Meryton,” if you will.

Since I wasn’t chasing a particular “market” or meeting a deadline, I could take my time developing the characters and storylines that would be needed for such an exercise, using the main characters of Jane Austen’s original novel and others, family and friends, who needed to be added to the cast of The Pemberley Chronicles. The title came to me quite naturally, because that was what it was all about- I was simply recording the “chronicles” of a number of related families- the Bennets, Darcys, Bingleys and Gardiners, who in Pride and Prejudice, had been linked by family and friendship. Using the pen name of “Rebecca Ann Collins” (a relation to Mr. Collins) to suggest an internal narrator rather than a complete outsider as storyteller, also helped to add a level of credibility and verisimilitude.

As I developed the stories of the Pemberley families into the second and later the third generation, I needed to introduce new characters, and they came in various ways: by marriage, through business, political and cultural contacts and occasionally by a happy accident of fate. This gave me all the flexibility I needed to extend the range and variety of my cast of characters. Creating the right characters to suit the context was not difficult, because my reading and research had given me plenty of scope and as the plot developed, my familiarity with the period and what was happening in society at the time made it easy to pick the person to suit the situation. I enjoyed the exercise of finding the right characters and giving them the appropriate names- since these were limited by certain conventions and traditions of the period. How these new characters behaved was a matter for me, since they were mine rather than Jane Austen’s and the only limitation on my imagination was relevance and credibility. It was a most exhilarating experience and as the books were published, the response of my readers suggested that they enjoyed the results of my work.

In my sequels, I do my best to maintain integrity of Jane Austen’s characters and develop their stories, as far as possible, within the guidelines she has left us in her work and letters. So, Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley, Lydia, Wickham, Georgiana Darcy, Mr and Mrs Bennet, The Gardiners, Mr Collins, Charlotte Lucas, Lady Catherine even Mrs Reynolds, the housekeeper- all remain recognisably as they were in the original novel. Of course, they grow older, change and mature as we all do, and their actions reflect this, but they don’t behave in ways that cannot be reasonably and logically justified. I believe this is important when writing a sequel, because it imposes a useful discipline on the sequel writer—to retain a strong link with the original work.

That’s my view and thanks very much again for letting me put it to your readers.
Rebecca Ann Collins August 2009

Thank you so much, Rebecca for taking the time to share all this with us!