Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday 56: Week 49

* 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.

The King's Mistress: A Novel

Here's mine from The King's Mistress: A Novel  by Emma Campion.   I just received the book this week and am very excited to start reading!
Here's the blurb:

Like most girls of her era Alice is taught obedience in all things.  At the age of fourteen, she marries the man her father chooses for her, dutifully accepting the cost of being torn from the family she holds so dear and losing the love of her mother forever.  Despite these heartbreaks Alice finds that merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and the two settle into a happy life together.  Their bliss is short-lived, however, unraveled the dark day a messenger appears at Alice's door and notifies her of Janyn's sudden disappearance.

In the wake of this tragedy, Alice learns that her husband kept many dangerous secrets -- secrets that have resulted in a price on her head and that of her beloved daughter.  Her only chance to survive lies in the protection of King Edward and Queen Philippa, but she therefore must live at court as a virtual prisoner.  When she is singled out by the king for more than just royal patronage, the stakes are raised.

Emma Campion paints a colorful and thrilling portrait of the court of Edward III -- with all of its extravagance, scandalous love affairs, political machinations, and murder -- and the devastating results of being singled out by the royal family.  At the center of the storm is Alice, surviving by her wits in this dangerous world where the choices are not always of their own making.  Emma Campion's dazzling novel shows that there is always another side to the story.

Here's my Friday 56:
I loved her.  I felt foolish for not having understood that she was not a grand horse.  I turned away from him and prayed that I might gain my composure.

June Giveaway Winners

 The Knight Life: "Chivalry Ain't Dead"    WAR   Innocent 

   Fever Dream   Montana Destiny


War by Sebastian Junger

Fever Dream by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston


Innocent by Scott Turow

 Montana Destiny by R.C. Ryan

Congratulations! I've notified the winners and they have until Tuesday evening  to send me their mailing addresses.  Thanks so much to Hatchette Book Group for generously sponsoring these giveaways and to everyone for participating!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Blog Tour of Based on Availability by Alix Strauss

Welcome to the TLC Book Tour of Based on Availability by Alix Strauss!
Based upon Availability: A Novel

Her face brightens when she sees you.  She hugs you first, awkwardly, because of her large belly, which lightly presses up against you.  How can your friend have a child?  You used to get drunk with her.  Crashed fraternity parties.  Crawled out of your second-floor freshman dorm to buy pot and wait for the cookie guy at the front of the building.  She can't be someone's mother.  You can't be thirty-five.  When you look in the mirror, on a good day, you still see a twenty-three-year-old.  An age when it was okay to be single.  Okay to not have the best job in the world.                                                          -- Based on Availability by Alix Strauss

The Four Seasons is one of the luxury places that evokes images of Beautiful People - good looking, wealthy, glamorous.    Based on Availability is an unusual novel that tells the stories of seemingly unconnected women who pass through Manhattan's Four Seasons Hotel.    Here are some of the characters that you meet:
  • Morgan, the hotel manager, is the dominant character in the novel who is somehow linked to many of the main characters.   Glamorous, efficient, and upwardly mobile, few people are aware that Morgan is haunted by the childhood death of her older sister and the extent to which this impacts her every day life.   As the manager of the Four Seasons, Morgan is often asked to comp or discount meals, rooms, drinks and to fix all sorts of emergencies.  She has her own risky ways of handling the disappointments and stresses of her personal life.  But what she really wants is a close female friend, someone to be as close as a sister; 
  • Trish is the daughter of celebrity parents: a writer and an artist.   Her parents have been busy with their careers and social lives all her life.   The breakup with her boyfriend hit her hard, but Trish is most upset about the recent changes to her best friend Olive.  Trish and Olive had been as close as sisters for as long as they could remember.  But now that Olive has found love and lost close to fifty pounds, and has developed a taste for dangerous diversions;
  • Louise, an old rock star who once partied with Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Iggy Pop.  Now, her glamorous friend in PR is helping Louise "dry out" and she's opting for the Four Seasons because of the staff's discretion and personal service;
  • Franny is a Southern girl and a recent transplant to Manhattan.  Franny's job means that she hovers on the fringes of celebrity:  She's the tv show stand-in who slips into a celebrity's seat during award shows or TV specials to prevent unsightly "empty seats."  Franny "participated silently at game shows, asked questions to guests on  morning talk shows, and laughed on command at sitcoms.  She contributed on focus groups, helped paper the house of previewing musicals, and ate at an array of new restaurants."  While the list of events and places make for good stories and small talk, Franny misses a sense of belonging and friendship -- she feels deeply isolated in the Big City.  She hopes to find friends and connections with her neighbors as they share a traumatic experience;
  • Anne is single, lonely, and has an obsessive compulsive disorder.  Things come to a head as she faces deep disappointment in her love life and professional life;
  • Catherine is an only child and married to a After a history of difficult pregnancies and miscarriages, Catherine's overwhelming desire is for a child of her own.   As this fixation begins to rule her life, it takes a toll on her marriage;
  • Robin is a Manhattan-based realtor and she's been looking forward to spending time with her self-centered and power-tripping older sister, Vicki.  They spend the day together shopping on Fifth Avenue and luxuriating in the spa,  and Robin realizes something critical about their relationship; and finally,
  • Sheila is a teacher living in one of the coveted rent-controlled apartments in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.   Like many in the City, she has her routine of morning coffee before the start of another day.   Sheila finds unexpected sweetness with a flirtation with a charming stranger.

In Based upon Availability: A Novel, Alix Strauss skillfully incorporates her knowledge as a lifestyle writer as she recreates this world of privilege and luxury.  Some characters are more compelling than others,  I was most sympathetic to Trish.   I could relate to her feeling that life was happening so fast -- that the change to the 30s seems so sudden.   And it's not just that our bodies seem to betray us.  There's the sadness and anxiety as we find that our professional lives and personal lives haven't kept up with expectations.  While each of the characters had some particular vulnerability that made them interesting, there were other times when a character's myopia made me want to shake them.  I'm sure that Strauss had intended this to be so.  How much do you look for likability in the characters that you read about?

Overall, Based on Availability is an interesting glimpse into the lives of beautiful and dissatisfied people in New York.  If you're fond of New York stories or contemporary women's literature,  I think you might enjoy Alix Strauss's Based upon Availability: A Novel.

ISBN-10: 0061845264 - Paperback $13.99
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (June 8, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Alix Strauss is a lifestyle trend writer who appears on national morning and talk shows.  Her articles have been published in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Time, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications.  She is the author of The Joy of Funerals, Have I Got a Guy for You, and Death Becomes Them: Unearthing the Suicides of the Brilliant, the Famous and the Notorious.

Other participating sites:

Tuesday, June 8th: nomadreader
Wednesday, June 9th: Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, June 10th: Book Addiction
Monday, June 14th: Dolce Bellezza
Tuesday, June 22nd: Heart 2 Heart
Wednesday, June 23rd: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, June 24th: As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves
Tuesday, June 29th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, June 30th: Starting Fresh
Date TBD: Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Thank you to Trish and TLC Book Tours for this review opportunity!

Book Review of Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons

In Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, Natasha Solomons shares the story of her grandparents' move to England in the 1930s. It tells about their adjustment to a new life, her grandfather's determination to become a "proper Englishman" and her grandmother's sadness at everything that they left behind.

Sadie couldn't help feeling that the English language was deliberately designed to confound outsiders.  She refused to speak another word to him in that verrdammt tongue for the rest of the afternoon, and since he would not chat in German, they sulked side by side in silence, until Jack went out.  He insisted that they spoke only in English (something in that cursed pamphlet for sure) but speaking with her husband in her disjointed newcomer's tongue transformed him into a stranger.  He looked the same, but the easy intimacies were lost. 
- Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel by Natasha Solomons

In 1937, with Germany's antisemitism is on the rise, the Rosenblum decide to relocate to England.  Unable to bring their extended family,  Jack, Sadie and their young daughter arrive in Harwich and disembark from a boat full of refugees.  A member of the German Jewish Aid Committee hands Jack a pamphlet entitled "While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee."

"Please study this with great care."
"And this?  He will truly tell me everything that I must be knowing?"
The man smiled tightly, impatient to be moving down the lines.  "Yes. It tells you everything you need to know about the English."

Jack takes this advice to heart and pores over the list of prescribed behavior.   He switches to speaking only English, buys British, and aspires for and acquires what he believes to be the trappings of a true English gentleman.  The one thing that remains is membership to the right golf club.

Jack tries -- he applies to all the clubs in his vicinity,  reaches out to members, offers to buy his way in.  In the end, when it becomes clear that the regular golf clubs won't admit him.  And since Jack refuses to join a Jewish golf club, Jack Rosenblum makes a life changing decision.  He decides to build his own golf club -- to make the best golf club in South West England.  He sells their house and uproots his wife to Dorset. 

Jack Rosenblum doesn't realize how some of his old habits remain.  He retains the European habit of  tips lavishly (surely, they appreciate it -- for their good service) and is carefully polite.  He doesn't see the contempt that his attempts inspire in the regular English  around him.   But in Dorset, as he approaches this seemingly impossible task of creating a golf course,  his determination, hard work, kindness and good bring him the acceptance that he deserves.

Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel is whimsical, beautifully written, funny and poignant at turns.  Natasha Solomon captures the heartache of the diaspora and the yearning for a true home with accuracy, sensitivity and humor.   Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English: A Novel is a book that will resonate with readers of all ages -- it's a book to share with good friends and to revisit over time.

ISBN-10: 0316077585 - Hardcover $23.99
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (June 21, 2010), 368 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Natasha Solomons is a twenty-nine-year-old screenwriter who lives in Dorset, England. She based this story on the experience of her own grandparents. Learn more about Natasha, check out the reading group guide to Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, see photos of the grandparents that inspired the book all on her blog at

Thank you to Henry,  Reagan Arthur Books and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Blog Tour of Cara Elliott's To Surrender To A Rogue

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of Cara Elliott's To Surrender To A Rogue! This is the second book in her Circle of Sin series, following the fun historical romance To Sin With A Scoundrel (Circle of Sin Trilogy). I loved To Sin With A Scoundrel and was very excited to read the next book in the series. (Read my review here.)

The blurb:
An expert in antiquities, Ladie Alessandra della Giamatti arrives in Bath to excavate newly discovered Roman ruins -- only to find herself caught in the webs of a blackmailer threatening to expose her scandalous past. The one man who can help her is Lord James "Black Jack" Pierson, a fellow member of the expedition and a sinfully handsome rogue whose tempting presence ignites a different sort of danger.

Jack has clashed with Alessandra in the past, so when she suddenly surrenders her body he can't help being suspicious. Is she a scheming temptress? Or is she truly a lady in trouble? As desire and deception swirl around them, Asessandra and Jack must find a way to win each other's trust. For if they don't work together to uncover a shocking truth, their enemy and their own simmering passions -- may destroy them and everything they cherish.

To Surrender To A Rogue (Circle of Sin Trilogy)

I love Cara Elliott's Circle of Sin series. The heroines aren't the usual helpless, lost women looking for a wealthy and powerful lord to save them from their circumstances. Instead, the members of the Circle of Sin are well educated, unconventional, and deeply interested in learning. These women have interests that go well beyond fashion, men, and children. Each woman has a different area of expertise and the heroine of To Surrender To A Rogue is the archeologist Lady Alessandra della Giamatti.
Lady Alessandra played a role in Elliott's earlier novel To Sin With A Scoundrel (Circle of Sin Trilogy), where she had clashed with the dashing Lord James Pierson ("Black Jack").

The heroes in Cara Elliott's novels just as fun and satisfying. They're smart, successful, and they're not threatened by the unconventional. Elliott creates just a romantic hero that I can't help but fall for! Deep sense of honor, kind, funny, athletic, protective, generous, and always strikingly attractive!

In To Surrender To A Rogue, Alessandra and her daughter have been forced to leave Italy for England. As they adjust to their new circumstances, Alessandra agrees to participate in a prestigious and exciting archeological dig. Both the English and the Italian delegation defer to her expertise in planning and the actual excavation. The dig brings many surprises -- both pleasant and unwelcome. Black Jack is a bit of both -- the interaction between Jack and Alessandra is great fun. The banter, the uncertainty and their yield to their mutual attraction is well done and kept me thoroughly entertained. Cara Elliott has a deft touch for historical romance -- she mixes just the right amount of intrigue, uncertainty, and foreshadowing.

If you enjoy historical romance novels with spirited heroines, twisty plots, and constant banter, grab To Surrender To A Rogue! It's a fun, romantic read and a perfect summer escape! My mother stayed up all night reading it -- and then I did too!

ISBN-10: 0446541311 - Mass Market Paperback $6.99
Publisher: Forever (June 1, 2010), 384 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

Author Bio, in her own words:
Cara Elliott started creating books at the age of five. And she has the proof — a neatly penciled story, the pages lavishly illustrated with full color crayon drawings of horses and bound with staples — to back up her claim. She has since moved on from Westerns to writing about Regency England, a time and place that has captured my imagination ever since she opened the covers of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Cara Elliott has a BA and an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University and now works as the creative director of a lifestyle sporting magazine, a job which lets her combine her love of the printed word with her love of art. She's very fortunate in that her work allows her to travel to interesting destinations around the world — however, her favorite spot is London, where the funky antique markets and used book stores offer a wealth of inspiration for her stories. Visit the website which she created and designed herself! You can also find Cara on twitter as @CaraElliott_1 or blogging at Word Wenches

Participating Sites: 6/14/2010 Giveaway 6/14/2010 Giveaway 6/14/2010 Feature, Giveaway 6/14/2010 Giveaway 6/14/2010 Feature, Review, Giveaway 6/14/2010 Giveaway 6/14/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/15/2010 Feature, Giveaway 6/16/2010 Feature, Review, Giveaway, Q&A 6/16/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/16/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/16/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/16/2010 Feature, Review, Giveaway, Guest Post 6/17/2010 Feature, Review, Giveaway 6/17/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/17/2010 Giveaway, Guest Post 6/18/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/20/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/21/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/22/2010 Feature, Giveaway 6/22/2010 Review, Giveaway, Q&A 6/23/2010 Review, Giveaway, Q&A 6/23/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/23/2010 Feature, Giveaway 6/24/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/24/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/25/2010 Feature, Giveaway 6/25/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/25/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/26/2010 Review, Giveaway, Q&A 6/27/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/28/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/28/2010 Review 6/28/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/28/2010 Review, Giveaway 6/28/2010 Giveaway


To enter please share a recommendation for Cara's seminar on Historical Romance at Yale. Name the book, author and why you'd choose this book. Or tell us about your favorite romance novel or romantic hero.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
3. One entry per person and only one winner per household.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on July 30, 2010.

Thank you so much to Anna, Forever and Hatchette Book Group for generously sponsoring this giveaway and this review opportunity!

Book Review of The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

The Life O'Reilly is Brian Cohen's debut novel. I admit that I wanted to read the book in part from its description but also because Cohen wrote it while practicing law. He continues to practice law and write in his spare time. The Life O'Reilly won the Indie Book Award for First Novel and was a finalist in the 2010 Indie Excellence Awards.

"Let me tell you a little story about when I was a senior associate here at the firm working on a very important case. I was part of a team that was conducting an important document review. My wife and I had planned a trip to Florida to attend my brother-in-law's wedding and take the kids to Disney World. I notified the partner I as working for, who I'll leave nameless, that I would have to be away for a while, and you know what he said to me? " He paused. I deadpanned blankly in response.

"He said, 'Well, if you want to get married and start a family, that's certainly your prerogative. But as far as your trip is concerned, think about what we have at stake here. What you have at stake here. This is a very important case, and, as you know, the document review is crucial." He took a breather, but clearly had more to say.

"l'm listening, " I said, feeling achy. My face remained impassive.

"So, I took the hint, set my familial obligations aside, and stayed behind and worked. Now, while I admit I practically ruined my marriage over that, you see, Nick, that's the kind of dedication we need here at the firm. That's the kind of dedication it takes to succeed here, making big money working on important matters. Understand?" - The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

The Life O'Reilly
The blurb:
On the outside, Nick O'Reilly has it all: a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park. Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nich can remember this was his dream. But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally -- his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon Nick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case. Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan. A far cry from Nick's specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life. But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassesshis life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself. Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in his life does he face his toughest -- and probably final -- challenge: a battle for his own survival.

Exploring the flaws of being human and the importance of controlling one's own destiny, The Life O'Reilly reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change. Written with great empathy, The Life O'Reilly is an emotional and unforgettable talke that will challenge one's expectations of the modern love story and introduces a poignant and sensitive new voice in fiction.

Knowing about the author sometimes influences how you approach his work. I started The Life O'Reilly with a strong sympathy for the author since he must have written it while he worked at his successful law practice during the day. I also paid particular attention to his descriptions of Nick O'Reilly's professional life - the intrigue and power plays of the partners at Williams Gardner & Schmidt.

Cohen captured the small details of life at a law firm from the perks to the "fluid schedule" that governs the lives of everyone from paralegal to associate to partner. When Nick changes his schedule, his mentor Phil immediately notices the change and challenges his dedication to the firm. This slowly forces Nick's position to crisis. Cohen's description of Nick's mentor Phil and Will Schmidt, the hard-driving name partner at Williams Gardner & Schmidt are carefully drawn and well done. The rather negative portrayal of lawyers and law firm life is offset in part by Evan, Nick O'Reilly's partner and colleague. Though a successful attorney with a strong independent practice, Evan is deeply dissatisfied with life at Williams Gardner & Schmidt. Evan is torn by demands at the firm and his desire to carve out time for his family. The conversations between Evan and Nick about life at the firm give the book a certain authenticity.

The one part that bothered me was the actual conflict that arose -- but this may have come from my own biases. The one criticism that I have of the book is that I could not understand the path that Nick O'Reilly took. Other reviewers had a different take and gave The Life O'Reilly glowing reviews. You might check out the glowing reviews that the book received at Suko's Notebook, Life in the Thumb, Cy Hilterman at Ezine @rticles, Frugal Plus, Michelle's Masterful Musings.

I had expected the book to be a thriller and was alert to sudden violence. The "UNEXPECTED EVENT" caught me by surprise and made The Life O'Reilly an unusual and enjoyable read.

ISBN-10: 1440150273 - Paperback $17.95
Publisher: (October 21, 2009), 276 pages.
Review copy provided by the author.

About the Author:
Brian Cohen earned his Bachelor of Accountancy from George Washington University and his Juris Doctor from St. John's University School of Law. He as been practicing law for twelve years. Brian lives with his wife and their daughters in the suburbs of New York City. He is at work on his second novel. Visit Brian at