Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - Review and Blog Tour

Diana Gabaldon (website)
Diana Gabaldon (facebook)
Delacorte Press/Random House
850 pgs.

Frank and Claire Randall have been married for almost eight years but they don't really know each other.  For most of their marriage, Frank has been away on assignment. They decide to vacation in Scotland in the hopes of rekindling their romance before Frank takes a new job as a professor.  Things are going well until Claire walks through a stone henge and steps into 1743, almost 200 years into the past.  She's captured by Jack Randall, a distant relative of Frank's, and rescued by the clan Mackenzie.  She's taken to Castle Leoch where clan leader, Colum Mackenzie, decides she's to become their new healer based on how she's taken care of Jamie MacTavish while they were on the run. Claire soon settles into a routine at Castle Leoch but she can't put Frank and 1945 out of her mind.  Only her friendship with Jamie helps to ease her mind. But being English in Scotland during 1743 is risky business. The clan Mackenzie thinks Claire is a spy and so does Black Jack Randall. He'd as soon have Claire hung then allow her to live to tell his secrets.  In order to save her from Black Jack and prove her allegiance to the clan, she's forced to marry Jamie.  Which is not as bad as it should be. Her life with Frank starts to slip away as she's plunged into clan politics and grows closer and closer to her new husband.

Outlander is an absorbing read.  Gabaldon laces the story with so many details, including history and a description of the land, you feel as if you are right there with Claire.  Jamie's upstanding hero antics are charming and captivating and you can understand why Claire is confused about going back to Frank or staying in 1743.  Black Jack Randall was a little more depraved than I wanted to know about though.  The scenes Jamie recounts from Wentworth Prison were disturbing and, I felt, unnecessary.  I believe we could have still shared in Jamie's emotional struggle without the level of description Gabaladon provided.  Other than that, this book was hard to put down; so I didn't.  I pretty much read it straight through in 9 hours! I only stopped for a cross country meet, my daughter's not mine, and to eat.  If I had more time I would definitely pick up the next book in the series!  I would be interested in seeing how Claire's being in 1743 changes the future as she knows it.

About the Author
Diana Gabaldon is the New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels–Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, and A Breath of Snow and Ashes (for which she won a Quill Award and the Corine International Book Prize)–and one work of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion, as well as the bestselling series featuring Lord John Grey, a character she introduced in Voyager. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

TLC Tour Stops
Wednesday, September 1st: My Two Blessings (Outlander)
Thursday, September 2nd: Life in the Thumb (An Echo in the Bone)
Tuesday, September 7th: That’s What She Read (Dragonfly in Amber)
Monday, September 13th: Suko’s Notebook (Outlander)
Tuesday, September 14th: Luxury Reading (Outlander)
Wednesday, September 15th: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (An Echo in the Bone)
Friday, September 17th: Devourer of Books (Outlander)
Tuesday, September 21st: Rundpinne (An Echo in the Bone)
Monday, September 27th: Hey, Lady! Whatcha Readin’? (Outlander)
Thursday, September 30th: Pop Culture Junkie (Outlander)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Random House for this free copy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Epic Summer of Reading - August 29, 2010

I had a wonderful reading summer! I participated in Donalyn Miller's invitation to average one book per day during your summer vacation.  I also read a few professional books in order to prepare for the TV Studio class I'm in charge of.  I had a great time driving The Amazing Dancer to and from her summer PE experience since it afforded me time to listen to a few books.  I would also make a point of being there early so that I could read in the car.  Our library was awarded a grant to purchase 10 e-readers.  I'd written the grant for Kindles because of how I could see it beign used by student's with special needs as well as by teachers and small groups. But, alas, due to purchasing issues we got the Nooks instead.  So I spent the summer learning how to use the Nook and read a fair number of books on it.

Anyway, I need to do a July Monthly Update and my final NO Summer Slide both of which are late!

July Monthly Update
12 Young Adult
12 Middle Grade
8 Library

Total books read in July - 26
Best Book Read in July - The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

NO Summer Slide
Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (A) - re-read these in anticipation of Mockingjay release.

The Magician (E), The Sorceress (E), and The Necromancer (E) by Michael Scott - must read series.  Did you know John Dee is based on a real person?  I will be booktalking the heck out of these books. There's action and adventure and history.  So good.

The Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck - short, fun book of mysteries.  Our 6th graders read Don't Feed the Bully and are usually looking for another short mystery and this is the one I'll be pushing.

Manifest by Artist Arthur - reviewed.

Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine (N) - interesting story of a student with Asperger's dealing with the death of her brother who was killed as a result of a school shooting.  Told from the point of view of the student, it gives insight into how people with Asperger's struggle with emotions and feelings.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - been meaning to read this one since December.  I finally received an audio copy from HB and started listening.  I stopped cleaning so I could read it.  My daughter then borrowed it to read, she loved the audio too!

Sit in: How Four Friends Stood up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney (N) - great way to bring this story to a younger audience.

Premiere and Catwalk by Melody Carlson -great new series that combines fashion and faith. Reviewed.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (E, P) - Mock Printz contender.

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher - sequel to Incarceron.

Rae by Chelsea Swiggett - great story by a teenager that many of us can relate to. Reviewed.

Flipped by Wendalin Van Draanen - in anticipation of movie release.  Really liked this one and loved the flip at the end.  Told in alternating voices that were very distinct.  Fun to see what each person thinks really happened.

Over the End Line by Alfred Martino (A) - found this one through SYNC YA Listening.  Great story of what how it feels to be on the fringe as well as the cost of keeping quiet.  Johnny was a little bitter though.  The ending was fantastic.  Great audio.

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway - adult read. Reviewed.

So that was 19 books and it brings my NO Summer Slide total to 63, just two short of goal.  That was an insane amount of reading and though I'm proud, I'm not sure I could do it again!  May actually work next year...

Happy Sunday!  Must get some reading done before I have to do my August update!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Death (and further adventures) of Silas Winterbottom by Stephen M. Giles - Review

The Death (and Further Adventures) of Silas Winterbottom: The Body Thief
Stephen M. Giles
Sourcebook Jabberwocky
August 2010

They all received the check for $10,000.  And the letter.  They all needed the money.  But only one of them really wanted it.  Adele Winterbottom did not want to leave her dad and her books for two months to visit an uncle she'd never met.  But her mom threatened her with Ratchet's House, a boarding school that no one ever left.  Milo Winterbottom never wanted to see the man who killed his parents.  He would be fine if Uncle Silas dropped dead today.  But maybe he should go and make sure it happened sooner rather than later.  Isabella Winterbottom was running out of money. There were only so many times you could pilfer items from your rich "friends".  She did not want to go back to being poor.  She would not only visit Uncle Silas, but convince him that she was the only one worthy of his money, and she would do whatever was necessary.The three cousins arrive on the strange island with one thought - Uncle Silas is a weirdo.

The Death and Further Adventures of Silas Winterbottom has a cover that makes you believe this will be a light, funny, tongu- in-cheek sort of tale but alas, it's anything but!  Uncle Silas is creepy and sinister.  He rolls around in his wheelchair pretending to be nice but the next scene uncovers his true colors.

"Silas moved his chair forward rolling the front wheel directly over Bingle's right foot."

Someone tries to murder Silas but he senses it and gets away and then uses the attempted murder to carry out his own sinister plan.

"...the...children must never leave Sommerset.  Not alive anyway."

The Death and Further Adventures of Silas Winterbottom is a fast, engrossing read.  I kept trying to figure out what Uncle Silas was up to and hoping the cousins could figure it out before it was too late. I really enjoyed this one and give it 4 copies.  Hand this to a middle grader who likes mysteries and suspense with a just a little peek at danger.

About the Author
Stephen M. Giles lives in a shambolic apartment not far from the beach and spends most days wandering about his imagination – which is where he met the Winterbottoms. When Stephen is not busy writing he likes to collect old people and hopes one day to have enough of them to open a shop.

Stephen M. Giles website

Thank you to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for this ARC.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Waxed by Robert Rave - Review and Blog Tour

Robert Rave
St. Martin's Griffin
August 2010

Waxed is the story of three sisters, Carolina, Anna and Sofia.  Carolina has built Impresario's into the best wax salon in Manhattan, at least according to New York Magazine.  To get to the top she's had to make some tough choices and has no time to give out sympathy.  She work's hard and doesn't believe in handout.  Even for her sisters.

Anna's husband walked out on her and left her with three kids.  She's has to go back to work and finds she doesn't remember how to do this.  Her clothes are out of date and she's "overweight".  She feels out of place and Carolina has decided she needs to start at the bottom.

Sofia has the "perfect" life.  She and her husband, Scott, live a comfortable life in a great apartment.  Sure, Scott works a lot, but she doesn't mind being at home waiting for him.  He's always happy to see her and gives her lots of attention.  Sometimes she misses the night life but that's what getting married means, right, giving up on the partying?

Waxed is a fast, simplistic read.  Rave's tone is uneven as he alternates between excessive snarkiness, naming every store, every hip store, and all the latest products, and actually telling a story. Reading Waxed feels like you're reading the latest Star magazine.  I never felt any sympathy for the characters because there was so much going on it felt like a soap opera; so fantastic but you can't stop watching. You get these little sensationalistic bits of each person's life and then move on before getting too involved.  None of them seemed real, luckily.

About the Author
Former New York City publicist Robert Rave has worked on numerous public relations campaigns and high profile special events in the lifestyle, fashion, nightlife and entertainment industries. He is the author of Spin and currently lives in Los Angeles.

You can find Robert Rave:
On his Website
On Twitter
On Facebook

TLC Blog Tour
Monday, August 23rd:  Pop Culture Junkie
Tuesday, August 24th:  Starting Fresh
Thursday, August 26th:  Ask Miss A

Thanks to TLC Blog Tours and St. Martin's Press for this copy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Nights With a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare - Review and Blog Tour

Three Nights With a Scoundrel
Tessa Dare
Ballantine Books
July 2010

Three Nights With a Scoundrel is the last book in a trilogy.  The series starts with One Dance With a Duke where we meet Amelia, Spencer, Lily, Julian, and Rhys. One Night With a Duke covers the romance of Amelia and Spencer, two stubborn people determined to get their own way.  Amelia will do anything to save her brother, even marry Spencer.  Rhys and Meredith's romance is covered in Twice Tempted With a Rogue.  Rhys had a terrible upbringing that left him believing he was unlovable.  When he meets Meredith, he knows she's the one girl for him. Now he just has to convince her of that.

In Three Nights With a Scoundrel we find that Leo Chatwick's killer still has not been found.  Julian Bellamy is starting to believe, along with Rhys St Maur and Spencer Morland, that the last honest and decent man's life was taken in a random act of violence. He has increased his campaign to have Lily, Leo's twin sister, married off so she has someone to take care of her.  Lily, while realizing that she had been overly dependent on Leo, doesn't want to get married to anyone other than Julian.  She decides to go along with his plan to re-introduce her to society if he agrees to escort her three times.  He does.  Lily uncovers more of Julian's past and learns he's been living a double life.  And he believes neither personality is worthy of Lily.  She doesn't care but does ask that he stop trying to find her brother's killers because she doesn't want him to get hurt.  Julian agrees at first until he finds new evidence that maybe they weren't trying to kill Leo but him.  Now to figure out why.

Three Nights With a Scoundrel is a fast, engaging tale of romance and mystery.  It was fascinating to learn how Julian got his start.  It served to bring an understanding to his obsessive behavior and why he kept rebuffing Lily.  I would have liked to have learned more about Lily before she became deaf.  However, we do get some insight into her character. Three Nights stands apart from the other two books with more plot and less intimate relations.  No, this is not your mother's romance but Dare weaves in the amatory details easily. They took second place to the story and made for a more enjoyable read. I couldn't put it down.

About the Author
Tessa Dare a part-time librarian, full-time mommy, and swing-shift writer. She makes her home in Southern California, where she shares a cozy, cluttered bungalow with her husband, their two children, and a dog.

Connect with Tessa:
On her website
On Twitter
On Facebook

TLC Tour Stops
Wednesday, August 18th: The Book Faery

Find other tour stops for One Night With a Duke and Twice Tempted by a Rogue.

Books provided by TLC Book Tours and Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Catwalk by Melody Carlson - Review - FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zondervan (May 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Krista Ocier of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***


Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books for teens, women, and children. Before publishing, Melody traveled around the world, volunteered in teen ministry, taught preschool, raised two sons, and worked briefly in interior design and later in international adoption. “I think real-life experiences inspire the best fiction,” she says. Her wide variety of books seem to prove this theory.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310717876
ISBN-13: 978-0310717874


My Thoughts
We're back with Erin and Paige Forrester and their show, On The Runway. The girls are gearing up to work Fashion Week in New York. They are talking to some local LA Designers, working their way up to the big wigs. In New York, they meet an up and coming designer named Dylan Marceau and spend the night with some young girls trying to break into the modeling scene. It just so happens that these girls are from Melody Carlson's other series, The Carter House Girls.

Erin has gotten into a groove and is not nearly as judgmental as she was in Premiere.  She loosens up a bit and gets more into the fashion aspect starting with her interview of Granada Ruiz, one of two "green" designers they meet.  She's getting along well with Blake but her friendship with Mollie is starting to crumble.  Erin is sure Mollie is just jealous of her new career and will eventually come around.

Paige's interviewing skills have moved On The Runway up in the ranks of fashion reality shows and the accompanying fame is starting to go her head.  Feels a little cliched that the un-Christian goes diva on us while the Christian keeps her head, but, Carlson makes it work.  Paige's romance with Benjamin is still going on but she's starting to feel a little antsy.  It helps that one of the designers has his eye on her.  When Benjamin goes overboard she starts looking for a way out of the relationship.

The girls have a sleepover with some of the Carter House girls and Erin finds that some of them are Christians.  That helps them to bond.  They also "use" their faith to try to help Eliza understand that maybe she isn't supposed to be a model.  This doesn't go over well because Eliza wants to be seen and telling her that maybe God doesn't want that seems a little too flip.  She calls Erin on her judgmental stance but Erin doesn't back down.  I wish I had her confidence. I'm really enjoying this series and the story is getting better.  I'm also learning a lot about fashion and it's way more interesting than I would have thought.  The books have some predictable parts but not enough to make me stop reading.  They are fun and light and I'm looking forward to the next book, Rendezvous.

I'm an Amazon Associate and clicking links in my review will help me keep this site going.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Premiere by Melody Carlson - Review - FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zondervan (May 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Krista Ocier of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***


Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books for teens, women, and children. Before publishing, Melody traveled around the world, volunteered in teen ministry, taught preschool, raised two sons, and worked briefly in interior design and later in international adoption. “I think real-life experiences inspire the best fiction,” she says. Her wide variety of books seem to prove this theory.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (May 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310717868
ISBN-13: 978-0310717867

Press the browse button to view the first chapter:

My Thoughts
Erin is heartbroken because Blake broke up with her unexpectedly. She's let herself go and hopes to fade into the background.

Erin's starting to feel jealous of her sister, Paige, but, at the same time, she also wishes she was more like her. When the girls get their own reality show, Erin feels it's her duty to keep Paige in line. This becomes increasingly difficult as Paige gets involved with the cast from a rival reality show. Although Erin wants to continue supporting Paige she believes she's somehow compromising her morality but as the only Christian in the household, she doesn't know who to confide in.  Add to this, she thinks she wants the duplicitous Blake back and you can see why Erin is confused.

Although I felt Erin was judgmental overall the story was entertaining.  It was easy to fall into as you got the "behind the scenes" on a how a reality show is not all "real".  I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway - Blog Tour

How To Be An American Housewife
Margaret Dilloway
274 pgs and Author Notes

Shuko grew up believing that her beauty would get her almost anything.  It led her to a man she truly loved but that love was forbidden and so she promised never to see him again.  Out of duty, she married Charles. Shoku knew this marriage would save her from a life of being second in status and provide her with the security she craved.  One thing she hadn't expected was her brother Taro's reaction to the marriage and, a lifetime later, she wants to reconnect with him and set things right.  Her health prevents her from going so she sends her daughter, Sue.

Sue's life isn't what she expected adn she's now a single mom in a dead-end job.  She sees the opportunity to go to Japan as one that might, finally, set things right between her mom and herself.  Maybe she can please her mom and that will lead to changes in her own life. 

How to be An American Housewife has so much potential.  We get a small glimpse into Shoku's life, then and now, but we don't really get to know her.  She seems whiny and needy and bossy and I kept hoping for some redemption, but didn't get any.  When Sue travels to Japan to find the family she's never known, it's all too easy.  There's lots of acceptance and forgiveness but no atonements.  It happens quickly and with very little fanfare or having to win anyone over.  A better choice would be Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.

About the Author
Margaret Dilloway was inspired by her Japanese mother’s experiences when she wrote this novel, and especially by a book her father had given to her mother called The American Way of Housekeeping. She lives in Hawaii with her husband and three young children.

How to Be an American Housewife is her first novel.

Visit Margaret’s blog, American Housewife, HERE.

TLC Tour Stops
Monday, August 2nd: Savvy Verse and Wit

Tuesday, August 3rd: Redlady’s Reading Room

Wednesday, August 4th: The Brain Lair

Thursday, August 5th: Crazy About Books

This ARC was provided by TLC Book Tours and Putnam.  Thank you!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rae by Chelsea Swiggett - Review - Blog Tour

Chelsea Swiggett
HCI Books
156 pgs + Discussion Questions

Rae covers about 8 years in the life of Chelsea Rae Swiggett. Each chapter examines a part of her life, not in a nonfiction, boring, recital sort of way but like she's telling us a story.  One that teenagers will be easily drawn into, and some adults too.

Swiggett recounts her overwhelming fear of school.  Not just test anxiety but fear of people looking at her, talking to her, talking about her, and fear of just being.  Not knowing the right way to act, or dress, or breathe.

She also tells us of her battle with her weight and how she tries to control what she's eating or not eating.  How she turns her love of walking into hate by using it for exercise.  We hear about how her mom's drinking colored her childhood and, even though she's now sober, how it still has an effect on Swiggett.

But mostly she let's us know how her fear affects every single aspect of her life and how she is determined to overcome. 

"It's embarrassing. Very, very embarrassing. But I've lived with embarrassing my entire life, and after a while, you've just got to laugh." 106
Rae brought back a lot of my high school years and even some parts of my life now.  I know what it means to battle with trying to fit in and being so different it makes you cry.  Reading Rae would have made me feel a little less alone and I think it can do the same for many students today.  It was a fast, eye-opening, read that would be a welcome addition to any middle or high school library.

About The Author
Chelsea Rae Swiggett is 18 years old and lives in Ohio. She will soon be heading to college to major in English and immerse herself even further into the world of books and writing. She currently serves on the Ypulse Youth Advisory Board and plans on traveling the world—or at least the US—by the time 2012 hits. Just in case. Visit her on her YA book review blog, The Page Flipper.

Rae Book Video

TLC Book Tour Stops
Thursday, August 5th:  Once Upon a Review
Tuesday, August 10th:  La Femme Readers
Thursday, August 12th:  Book Junkie 
Monday, August 16th:  Luxury Reading
Wednesday, August 18th:  The Book Scout
Friday, August 20th:  YA Book Queen
Thursday, August 26th:  WORD for Teens
Tuesday, August 31st:  Peeking Between the Pages

Check TLC Book Tours for stops for Alexis and Hannah, two other books in the Louder Than Words series. 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and HCI Books for the finished book.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Sunday Salon - Writing Challenge with LHA - August 2010

Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, Wintergirls, Fever 1793, Chains and other books, is hosting her third Write Fifteen Minutes A Day (WFMAD) Challenge.  Anderson will be sharing daily prompts and/or tips to help get your creative juices flowing and will offer some giveaways, including an ARC of the upcoming FORGE which is the sequel to CHAINS!

Every once in a while I dream of being a writer.  I wish I could make someone forget who they were because they were so immersed in a world that I created.  I want to have the ability to make people in books seem more real than the people around you.  Barring that, maybe I could write short stories or magazine articles.  It would be neat to see people reading, and enjoying, something I created.

But, ultimately, I know that thinking about writing is not the same as writing.  So, I thought I'd test my mettle and write 15 minutes a day for one month and take-up Laurie's challenge.  At the end of the month, I'll decide my next step.  Laurie Halse Anderson has devised some guidelines and is encouraging everyone to go for a walk to get their thoughts in focus. So, I'm off for some brain exercise!

So, what are some dreams/goals you have?  
What can you do for one month, fifteen minutes a day, towards that goal? 
Well, let's get to it!


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