Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays



MizB of Should Be Reading hosts the Teaser Tuesdays weekly event

Here are the rules:

* Grab your current read

* Let the book fall open to a random page

* Share with us (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12

* You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from ... that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the "teaser" you've given!

* Please avoid spoilers!


This week's teaser is:


"When you cook, it's all about quality ingredients, and the same is true for making shoes. Sumptuous fabrics, fine leather, and hand-tooled embellishments make all the difference and define our brand."

- "Very Valentine" by Adriana Trigiani, page 125

Book Review: The Optimist by Laurence Shorter


The Optimist by Laurence Shorter

Published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada

Rating: 4 stars

About this Book - publisher's description:

When it comes to bad news, we’ve never had it so good.

Laurence Shorter is feeling anxious. Every time he opens a newspaper or turns on the radio he finds another reason to be tearful. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to be optimistic!

His plan is simple:

1. Learn how to jump out of bed in the morning.

2. Secure personal happiness.

3. Save the world.

The Optimist charts Shorter’s ambitious, year-long, international quest to seek out the world’s most positive thinkers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jung Chang, Matthieu Ricard, California’s renowned Surfing Rabbi, and Bill Clinton. But optimism doesn’t come easy, and Shorter’s resolve is tested at every corner: by a flagging career, a troubled love affair, and his ever-pessimistic dad.

My opinion:

I liked reading about Laurence Shorter's journey towards an improved definition of optimism and how to achieve it. His down-to-earth approach is very relatable and no detail is left unexplored. I also really appreciated his inclusion of his personal life, along with its share of ups and downs because it allows for the reader to feel more connected to him and his plight. Although there is the common theme of optimism throughout the novel, the chapters can almost be short stories on their own, revealing a different aspect or lesson learned. I enjoyed some of the chapters more than others, with my favorite being the one about former President Bill Clinton because it marked the culmination of all that Shorter worked for and it felt very satisfying and certainly inspired optimism out of me!

Though there were many parts in the book that I found funny, I don't think the book can necessarily be categorized as "humor". I do believe that Shorter set out on this quest whole-heartedly in the search for answers and not simply as a joke. While I can usually appreciate British sense of humour, there were some points when I wasn't sure if he was trying to be funny or not.

Nonetheless, The Optimist is an interesting and at times thought-provoking read that both amused and aroused my curiosity. Being a psychology major, I did know a lot about the psychological aspects of optimism and happiness already, particularly Martin Seligman's theories, but told through Shorter's perspective, I still learned something new.

BIG THANKS to Jessica and Random House of Canada for my review copy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Book Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley


"The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley

Published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada

Rating: 5 stars

This book has already been released in Canada and the UK, and can be pre-ordered in the U.S. until its offical release on April 28, 2009 from Delacorte Press!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is set in the summer of 1950, following Flavia de Luce as she attempts to solve the mystery of the man who was found dead in her family's cucumber patch in the early hours of the morning. Upon the discovery of the dead body body, Flavia thinks: “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life." With her determination and resourcefulness, Flavia investigates the murder which seems to be mysteriously linked to the presence of a dead bird found with a stamp on its beak on her front doorstep earlier that day. Although Flavia is only eleven years old, she is a very precocious girl who can often be found in her chemistry working on a new experiment. With her powers of deduction she begins narrowing down the suspects and learns more than even she thought possible.

I first heard about "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" while reading a review in my local newspaper , The Montreal Gazette, which got me very interested. I also recently read a great article about Mr. Bradley from The National Post which is worth checking out!

At first it may seem strange to hear Mr. Bradley and others speaking about Flavia de Luce as if she were a real person, but after reading this book it's hard not to feel personally connected to her. It's all too easy to forget that the story was not written by this eleven-year old prodigy herself! Her vivacious and inquisitive personality make her one of the most endearing and likeable characters I've read about in a long time. From the way she concocts her potions in the chemistry lab to her Sherlock Holmes-like detective skills, she captured my attention but more importantly my admiration and respect. Although an eleven-year old detective may seem unlikely, you just have to read the book to understand how all of the elements of the story work together so beautifully. The secondary characters are also eccentric and really great in their supporting roles, adding some interesting flavor to The Sweetnes at the Bottom of the Pie!

In addition to the marvelous cast of characters, the storyline itself is brilliantly crafted. There are a number of unexpected plot twists and everything so wonderfully in the end. I wish I could say more but I don't want to spoil anything because this is a story best left to the narrative skills of one Ms. Flavia.

Thankfully, this book is the first installment in a Flavia de Luce trilogy so there is much to look forward to from Mr. Bradley in the future!

Watch this wonderful promotional video from Blanvalet (Random House) Germany, where the German language version "Mord im Gurkenbeet" ("Death In the Cucumber Patch") will be published in June. It's actually really close to how I pictured Flavia!








Don't forget to join the Flavia de Luce fan club!

BIG THANKS to Mr. Bradley, Sharon and Random House for my review copy.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain


The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain

Published by SOHO Press

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Rose Variations begins in 1975, and follows the story of Rose McGregor, who has just moved to Minnesota to teach music at a Midwestern college. She is on her own for the first time and must cope with academia's complex inner world, and being the only female faculty in the music department, she has her work cut out for her. Soon enough, Rose befriends some other members of the staff which only complicates her life even more.

After falling in love with a local stonemason named Guy, their affair is ripped apart by a bold choice Rose secretly makes and so she runs off to live with a group of female musicians in the countryside after being invited by the homeowner, an eccentric cellist named Lila. As soon as Rose is settled in her routine, her pregnant sister Natalie shows up in need of assistance, and Rose's life is turned upside down once again. The second part of the book takes places a number of years later as Rose's niece shows up on her doorstep by herself with no explanation, complicating Rose's life yet again. The narrative continues with more romances for Rose but even more heartache as she struggles with her independence and success in the face of many obstacles.

This book has so much more to it than meets the eye. What started off as a small story of a young woman develops into a complex saga filled with many love interests, friends, and the pain of betrayal from those who Rose loves the most. This is such a difficult story to summarize because its impossible to capture all of the depth and storylines. This is Marisha Chamberlain's first novel, however it came as no surprise to me that she is also an accomplished playwright, given the elaborate and dramatic story she has created.

At first it seemed like Chamberlain was attempting to tackle too many storylines and issues, however, after reading on, I began to discover that each event in Rose's life has shaped her on some way and is a crucial part of the story. I think that is particularly why I was disappointed with the story's ending because after having read so much about Rose's life, I was left to interpret and imagine where life will take her next. There are many unanswered questions and having developed a connection to Rose and her struggles and passion for life, I was sad that I didn't get the closure that I felt I needed as a reader.

Nontheless, The Rose Variations ia a complex character study of a very interesting and admirable woman and ultimately is a worthwhile read. Not only is the narrative captivating, but the writing is so well developed and expertly exposes Rose's inner thoughts and emotions. I hope to read more from Ms. Chamberlain in the future.



BIG THANKS to Sarah and SOHO Press for my review copy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays


MizB of Should Be Reading hosts the Teaser Tuesdays weekly event


Here are the rules:

* Grab your current read

* Let the book fall open to a random page

* Share with us (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12 (which I've modified to 2-4 sentences)

* You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from ... that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the "teaser" you've given!


* Please avoid spoilers!


This week's teaser is:


"On the drive down the mountain, I might have been able to keep my gaze planted firmly on the vista outside, but I couldn't block out the musky scent of his creamy leather seats. Even our cars sprang from different worlds."

- "North of Beautiful" by Justina Chen Headley, page 100

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Website: GraphicNovelReporter.com


I was recently informed about a great new website devoted solely to graphic novels, GraphicNovelReporter.com. Graphic novels have been entering the literary mainstream recently with best-selling books such as Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (GraphicNovelReporter's review here).

Here is some more information about GraphicNovelReporter.com:

This is the latest website from The Book Report Network, which now includes eight editorial websites devoted to helping readers explore their passion for books online.

Edited by John Hogan, former editor of Pages magazine and a lifetime fan of comics and graphic novels, GraphicNovelReporter.com features insightful reviews that will guide readers to books they will enjoy, as well as interviews and roundtables with the top creators, publishing professionals and academic librarians in the field today. Opinion pieces, a blog, news on upcoming releases and movie and DVD releases based on graphic novels will round out the editorial coverage and offers readers a fresh, in-depth look at graphic novels and their creators.

This month, capturing the enthusiasm for the theatrical release of Watchmen, GraphicNovelReporter.com is offering readers the chance to win one of three sets of two Watchmen books --- Watchmen: The Art of the Film and Watchmen: The Official Film Companion, both of which delve into the magic behind this much anticipated film. Between now and March 31st, readers are invited to share their thoughts on the movie to enter the contest.

GraphicNovelReporter.com is updated every other Wednesday and it includes content for adults, kids and teens. Readers can subscribe to a newsletter at or subscribe to an RSS feed that will alert them to updates about the site at .

Recent creator interviews on GraphicNovelReporter.com include Alan Davis (Captain Britain, Marvelman), Gerard Way (The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite), Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole), Dan Goldman (08, Shooting War), David B. (Nocturnal Conspiracies) and Dean Motter (Mister X).

There are more than 130 reviews already on the site. In the weeks and months to come, even more compelling content is coming:

A roundtable with academic librarians about the challenges and issues they face today

A sneak preview of the three stories in Gene Luen Yang's new book, Eternal Smile (First Second)

Interview with James Sturm, author of Adventures in Cartooning (First Second)

Interview with artist Zid about the process he used to create the artwork for City of Dust (Radical)

An op-ed piece on animation in the autobiography genre by Ellen Besen, award-winning animator and author of the new book Animation Unleashed: 100 Principles Every Animator, Comic Book Writer, Filmmaker, Video Artist and Game Developer Should Know

Graphic novel lovers be sure to check out the website!

Also, keep a lookout for my review of "Unlovable" by Esther Pearl Watson , a hilarious graphic novel loosely based this graphic novel on a teenager's diary from the 1980s found in a gas-station bathroom, published by Fantagraphics Books!

Friend award

Thanks so very much to Alyce of At Home With Books who has awarded me with the Friend Award:

These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

I am giving this award to the following people/blogs (in no particular order):

Sheri from A Novel Menagerie
Anna from Diary of an Eccentric
Sandra from FRESH INK BOOKS
Luanne from A Bookworm's World
Avis from she reads and reads
Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog
Alea from Pop Culture Junkie
S. Krishna from S. Krishna's Books

These are some of the first blogs I read each day and they are all written by very special people!

Book Review: The Price of Silence by Camilla Trinchieri



Published by SOHO Press

Rating: 5 stars

Narrated from three different perspectives, "The Price of Silence" provides an insider's look into the life of Emma Perotti, who is on trial for the murder of her former student and friend, An-ling Huang. Through flashbacks, courtroom transcripts and emails, readers learn about the complicated relationships between Emma and her husband Tom, her son Josh and ultimately An-ling. There was something wrong with An-ling right from the start which Tom sensed but Emma refused to acknowledge. As Emma grew closer to An-ling, her connection to her husband and son weakened. The story centers around the dangerous consequences of obsession and jealousy, while showing just how far someone will go to hold onto what matters to them.

"The Price of Silence" blew me away. I was captivated right from the start and I literally did not want to put the book down. This book is a perfect combination of all the elements that make up a great psychological thriller. There is so much depth to each of the characters and as the book progresses, another layer of their character is exposed. Though it seems like all the facts are presented at the beginning of the book, nothing is at seems and there were twists and turns that I could not have predicted.

I was also amazed by how the author's writing style shifted between each character's narration. Camilla Trinchieri truly embodied Emma, Tom and Josh as if they really had completely separate identities. I found myself thinking about this story and murder trial as if it were real. Ironicaly, it was An-ling's character that was most real and alive to me, despite her being dead throughout the entire book. Her presence in the book was haunting as she cast such a powerful shadow over the lives of the entire Perotti family.

This impressive book is not to be missed!


BIG THANKS to Sarah and SOHO Press for my review copy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Book Review Policy

Book Review Policy

After reading a wonderful article by Paula Krapf of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., I’ve decided to write a formal Book Review Policy for potential publicists and authors.


March 20, 2009: I am currently open to review requests (until noted otherwise) but please keep in mind I try to be as selective as possible to ensure that each book I read and review receives the necessary time and attention it deserves. If I don’t think I’m going to like a book then I will simply not review it, which is probably why many of the books I’ve reviewed have received high ratings. Nonetheless, my reviews won’t always be strictly positive, but they will always be honest.

Contact me: bookopolis AT live DOT com

Genres I DO review*: Humor, Contemporary fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick-lit (selectively though), Mysteries and Psychological Thrillers

I don’t read or review many YA books but I will consider certain ones.

The non-fiction books that I typically read and review are memoirs but I occasionally like to read something different, such as art, fashion, decorating and “green” living.

* Please understand that just because a book you propose falls into a given genre that I enjoy reading, doesn’t mean that particular book will appeal to me.

Genres I DO NOT review: Christian fiction, science fiction, horror, romance, or erotica

Acceptable book submission types: I typically don’t accept self-published books BUT in certain circumstances I will consider reviewing them.

I do not accept e-books because it’s too hard on my eyes and I can’t curl up in bed and read my computer!

Review timeframe: When given advanced notice for ARCs (minimum of 2 weeks) I will post my review on the day or the week of its official release date.

For finished copies, I try to have my review posted a maximum of 3 weeks after it’s sent but that’s not always possible so please let me know if you have certain deadlines/requirements so I can make a note of that.

If however, a book is being sent for a virtual book tour (which I love participating in) then I will post my review on the assigned date.

Cross-posting: I usually cross-post my reviews on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Chapters.ca and occasionally on LibraryThing. If there is anywhere else you’d like my review posted please let me know in advance and I’ll consider it.

Miscellaneous: Your ARCs are safe with me – I do not believe in selling them!

For any other questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Friday Finds


What great books have you discovered this week?

Share your Friday Finds at Should Be Reading


I have to say that I especially adore all of the book covers of my Friday Finds this week!



"The Sari Shop Widow" by Shobhan Bantwal (found on Popin's Lair)
















"Honolulu" by Alan Brennert (found while randomly searching amazon.com!)











"Bonjour Tristesse: A Novel (P.S.)" by Francoise Sagan (found on The Roaring 20s)








"The Ballad of West Tenth Street" by Marjorie Kernan (found on The Roaring 20s)

More info in another post by The Roaring 20s



Thursday, March 19, 2009

Book Review: Posed for Murder by Meredith Cole

"Posed for Murder" by Meredith Cole

Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Publishing Group

Rating: 4.5 stars

"She had never killed so many people in so many ways". That is exactly how "Posed for Murder" begins with Lydia McKenzie relishing in her photographic genius. Her hauntingly brilliant photographs are being displayed in her first art show and Lydia is trying to take it all in. Lydia dressed her friends up as her models and recreated scenes of real murders she had read about described in great detail. Though she is worried that people might misunderstand her intentions of recreating unsolved murders of the past, she hopes that people can recognize them for their beauty and perhaps even help in the identification of the victims, who have yet to be recognized. However, nothing could have prepared her for what happens next. When one of her models and friend is found dead in the same pose as in Lydia's photo, the police begin a close investigation that leaves Lydia paranoid and in desperate need of answers. Being the independent woman that she is, Lydia decides to conduct her own investigation and becomes personally involved in a shocking murder mystery.

From the very first sentence, I was intrigued by the book and its compelling and unique plot. Although Lydia's photographs are creepy in some ways, I think her intentions to create beauty and honor the dead are commendable. Lately I've been reading a lot more mysteries and thrillers, but I'm always a little wary that I'll solve the case too soon and spoil the surprise. I'm happy to say that "Posed for Murder" kept me guessing until the very end and concluded with a satisfying twist. It comes as no surprise that "Posed for Murder" is the winner of Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition!

I loved that the main character was a strong woman and a great role model, not relying on others to seek out answers. She has her own funky fashion sense and stays true to herself. In the face of danger, Lydia rises to the challenge. She is the ultimate heroine and I loved following her to very end of the story.

Though this is Meredith Cole's first novel, she already shows much talent with her creative and well-crafted writing. I loved how modern and fresh the story was and the way it differs from traditional mystery books. I look forward to reading more from Meredith in the future!

Meredith Cole is also a member of this year's Debutante Ball. To read her past weekly posts, click here


BIG THANKS to Meredith and her publicist for my review copy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guest Post: Katherine Center, author of "Everyone is Beautiful"




I am pleased and honored to welcome Katherine Center to Bookopolis! As you can tell by my review of "Everyone is Beautiful", I really enjoyed the book and I can't wait to read Katherine's next novel! Given the delicious-looking cupcake on the cover of "Everyone is Beautiful", it's only fitting for Katherine to discuss "The Truth About Cupcakes". Enjoy!

***************************************


The Truth About Cupcakes
© Katherine Center 2009


The truth about cupcakes is that most of them look a lot better than they taste.

I know this from experience.

For the Mom 2.0 Summit in Houston this year, I decided to bring cupcakes with me to the speakers’ dinner. I had this idea of making toppers for them with quotes from Everyone Is Beautiful, and the notion completely swept me up.

There were 50 speakers. And making 50 handmade cupcake toppers turned out to be a heck of a task. I spent hours leafing through the book, marking passages with post-its. Then more hours typing the quotes up and laying them out. Then the pasting and assembling. It wound up taking several days to get it done.

And meanwhile, every day, my kids and I were tasting cupcakes all over town. Because I wanted to find cupcakes that looked just like the cupcakes I remembered from my childhood. And I wanted them to taste as good as those had, too. I wanted to find that old thrill.

I’d pick up the kids after school and say, “Guess where we’re going?”
And they’d say, “Where?”
And I’d say, “On a cupcake hunt!”
And they’d all shout, “Yay!”

The first place we tried had cupcakes with magazine-quality icing. But the “cake” part tasted like a corn muffin. We licked all the icing off and left lumps of cake.

The second place’s cupcakes were sleek and modern. And no fluffy dollup of icing on top--the icing on these was flat and perfectly round. And they weren’t sweet enough. Or maybe they were too sweet. We mostly drank our milk.

We tried red velvet cupcakes, cream cheese cupcakes, regular and jumbo-size cupcakes. We went to grocery stores, bakeries, and cupcake shops—both in town and outside it.

After a week and a half, I‘d pick up my kids and say, “Guess what we’re doing?”
And they’d shout, “No more cupcakes!”

In the end, I never found the cupcakes I was looking for. I finally chose standard-issue grocery store cupcakes with a buttercream icing that tasted pretty good.

But I never found any that tasted as good as the ones I remembered from childhood. I never could get the taste of the cupcake to match the idea of the cupcake. Maybe if you look too hard for something it’s more difficult to find. Maybe nothing from childhood is ever as good as you remember. Or maybe time and the filter of memory just always make everything a little bit sweeter.



*****************************************




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katherine Center’s second novel, Everyone Is Beautiful, is featured in the March issue of Redbook. Kirkus Reviews likens it to the 1950s motherhood classic Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, and says, “Center’s breezy style invites the reader to commiserate, laughing all the way.” Booklist calls it “a superbly written novel filled with unique and resonant characters.” Katherine’s first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, was featured in People Magazine, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and the paperback of Bright Side was a Breakout Title at Target. Katherine recently published an essay in Real Simple Family and has another forthcoming in Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond this April. She has just turned in her third novel, Get Lucky, and is starting on a fourth. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children.

You can visit her website at http://www.katherinecenter.com/


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Lanie Coates’s life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.

These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.
Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.

Katherine Center’s Everyone Is Beautiful is a hugely entertaining, poignant, and charming new novel about what happens after happily ever after: how a woman learns to fall in love with her husband–and her entire life–all over again.


BIG THANKS to Katherine for her wonderful guest post and Dorothy for organizing this great tour!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays


MizB of Should Be Reading hosts the Teaser Tuesdays weekly event


Here are the rules:

* Grab your current read

* Let the book fall open to a random page

* Share with us (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12 (which I've modified to 2-4 sentences)

* You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from ... that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the "teaser" you've given!

* Please avoid spoilers!


This week's teaser is:



"This was misguided loyalty, she realized, fear that the others would think she was making friends elsewhere, moving on. How had she gotten herself into such a state, inhibited, mistrustful of herself and other people, unable to take the open hand of friendship?"

- "The Rose Variations" by Marisha Chamberlain, page 127

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center



"Everyone is Beautiful" by Katherine Center

Published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.


About the book:

Lanie Coates’ life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.

These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.

Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.


******************************************


My review:

"Everyone is Beautiful" is a charming story with a lot of heart (plus, don't you just love the cover - it totally fits). The characters are really likeable, even when they find themselves in some awkward situations! Katherine Center's writing is very engaging and down-to-earth, making me feel like I was reading about real people and not just characters in a story. There are themes of love, relationships, family and certainly parenting that complicate and simultaneously enhance Lanie's life.

This book has a great message about respecting yourself and learning to feel beautiful, particularly for mothers who don't take any time for themselves. Once Lanie started working out and taking photography classes, she became a happier and more productive person and an even better role model and parent for her children. I absolutely loved the conclusion Lanie reaches at the end, that like the title of the book, everyone truly is beautiful.

This is a quick read and a light book, but definitely one with important lessons and more depth than your average chick-lit book. I look forward to reading Katherine's next book "Get Lucky".










About the author:
Katherine Center’s first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, has been featured in People Magazine, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the Houston Chronicle, and theDallas Morning News, among others. BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and the paperback of Bright Side was a Breakout Title on special display at Target last spring. Katherine recently published an essay in Real Simple Family and has another essay forthcoming in the anthology Because I Love Her: 34 Top Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond. Katherine’s second novel, Everyone Is Beautiful, will come out both in hardcover and as an audiobook in February of 2009. She has just turned in her third novel, Get Lucky, and is starting on a fourth. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children.

For more of Katherine Center, check out her wonderful guest post!


BIG THANKS to Random House for my review copy and Dorothy for organizing this great Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour!




Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review: The Simplest of Acts And Other Stories by Melanie Haney

"The Simplest of Acts: And Other Stories" by Melanie Haney


Published by Lulu.com

Rating: 4.5 stars

In this compilation of short stories, Melanie Haney explores the pain of loss and its consequences for those who are left to grieve. Whether it be a death of a family member or the death of a romance, the raw emotions are felt from each story through the beautiful writing and imagery. Each story is unique with its own characters and circumstances, and yet they are all tied in the common bond of deep meaning and all elicit powerful emotions.The touching stories are all wonderfully developed and yet simultaneously succinct slices of life in the face of tragedy and pain. Though there are elements of sorrow woven throughout these stories, they are not depressing or overwhelming, rather they embrace pain and in a subtle way, even offer hope.

I enjoyed each one of them, but of course I did have my favorites, including:

"Milk" - A mother's pain after losing her son in a car accident leads to a difficult period of adjustment as she envisions a boy who is not really there. Because her son died while driving to pick up milk for her, she carries a tape recorder everywhere to ensure she never forgets another item again. Her son's death continues to haunt her until she takes a final stand.

"The Simplest of Acts" - A beloved mother passes away, leaving her children to pick up the pieces in an effort to continue her legacy. For her wake they must bake her speciality, an almond pound cake, which reveals an ironic twist.

"An Ordinary Evening" - A mother spends her days sitting by her daughter's bedside in the hospital, despite ackowledging that her daughter's brain and soul have passed on and nothing but her physical body remains. She is faced with the difficult decision of whether or not (or perhaps when) to finally let her daughter rest in peace and take her off life support.

Melanie Haney is a great talent writer with a promising future and this collection of short stories is the perfect introduction to her writing. She is currently working on a novel, which I cannot wait to read!

BIG THANKS to Melanie for sending me a copy of her book to review.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review: To My Senses by Alexandrea Weis


"To My Senses" by Alexandrea Weis

Published by BookSurge Publishing

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book is about Nicci Beauvoir (love the last name!), who is from a wealthy family and part of New Orleans high society. Though she holds a place of prestige within the community, Nicci's down-to-earth personality prevents her from desiring a lavish lifestyle. Nicci has many admirers but is not interested in any of the men she encounters until she meets David, the one man who is off limits. Despite the difficult circumstances, Nicci and David fall in love and he awakens a passion for life that she didn't even know existed within her. Things are going smoothly until Nicci overhears secrets that tear her and David apart, causing her to seek solace in the arms of another man, Dr. Michael Fagles. Though her relationship with Michael lacks the intensity of her past affair with David, Nicci stays with him. As Michael becomes more invested in her, Nicci must decide if she is willing to spend the rest of her life in a loveless relationship.

From the first page, I became immersed into the storyline and I found myself admiring Nicci's strength and independent character. I loved reading about the passion she had with David, and began to experience the same ups and downs as Nicci, after the relationship ended. Though there are some serious subject matters, there is always comic relief in the hilarious characters, such as Nicci's aunt and cousin. This book provided just the right blend of tearful emotion and amusement to satisfy my reading palette.

Another great element of the storyline is how timeless it is. Though it's set in modern times, I could easily envision it taking place decades ago, especially with all of the traditional New Orleans festivities and banter.

Just when the plot starts following a somewhat predictable course, it takes an unexpected turn and the ending comes as a shock! One of the most important elements of a book to me is how the author ends the novel because ideally that is what leaves a lasting impression. Alexandrea Weis has definitely succeeded in writing an unforgettable novel, especially in the beautiful way she has crafted the ending!


Here's the trailer for the book:





BIG THANKS to Alexandrea for sending me a copy of her book to review.

WINNER of Cool Jew by Lisa Alcalay Klug


Congratulations to .................

rottawa

who has won a copy of "Cool Jew" by Lisa Alcalay Klug





"Cool Jew", is a recipient of an honor in the "Jewish Pulitzers," the 2008 National Jewish Book Awards. It was named a finalist in the category of "Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice." It is the only pop culture/humor book among the 2008 National Jewish Book Award honorees. In fact, it is the only funny book honored in recent years!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Finds



What great books have you discovered this week?
Share your Friday Finds at Should Be Reading







"Barbie and Ruth" by Robin Berger (found on The Savvy Reader)









"In the Land of No Right Angles" by Daphne Beal (found on Paperback Frenzy)












"Breaking Lorca" by Giles Blunt (found on A Bookworm's World)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Month-Long Book Tour: My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff


"My Little Red Book" by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

Published by Twelve, a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 5 stars


Publisher's description:


"MY LITTLE RED BOOK is an anthology of stories about first periods, collected from women of all ages from around the world. The accounts range from light-hearted (the editor got hers while water skiing in a yellow bathing suit) to heart-stopping (a first period discovered just as one girl was about to be strip-searched by the Nazis). The contributors include well-known women writers (Meg Cabot, Erica Jong, Gloria Steinem, Cecily von Ziegesar), alongside today's teens. And while the authors differ in race, faith, or cultural background, their stories share a common bond: they are all accessible, deeply honest, and highly informative. Whatever a girl experiences or expects, she'll find stories that speak to her thoughts and feelings.

Ultimately, MY LITTLE RED BOOK is more than a collection of stories. It is a call for a change in attitude, for a new way of seeing periods. In a time when the taboo around menstruation seems to be one of the few left standing, it makes a difficult subject easier to talk about, and helps girls feel proud instead of embarrassed or ashamed. By revealing what it feels like to undergo this experience first hand, and giving women the chance to explain their feelings in their own words, it aims to provide support, entertainment, and a starting point for discussion for mothers and daughters everywhere. It is a book every girl should have. Period."


My opinion:

I think the idea for this book is so ingenious. It is the kind of book that women of all ages, cultures, religions and backgrounds can relate to and from its pages reap wisdom and guidance. More importantly though, My Little Red Book unites women in its message that no matter how different each and every one of us is, we share a common bond. It tells girls that what they're going through is normal and literally happens to all women and that having your period is nothing to be ashamed of but rather should be embraced and celebrated. That is why there is no better book to celebrate Women's History Month!

The stories represent women of all backgrounds and even reveal customs about menstruation from different cultures and eras that I hadn't even heard of until reading about them in the book. Many of them are funny, others are sad, and some are thought-provoking. No matter what emotion they elicit, they are all powerful representations of girls and women all over who have all had that memorable first period. This is the type of book that can be re-read over and over again for generations to come.

As if putting this book together wasn't impressive enough, Rachel Kauder Nalebuff has also decided to donate the proceeds of My Little Red Book to women’s health charities to ensure that the book can help other girls in need, beyond those who read its contents! This truly is the perfect gift , especially for a girl who has just gotten her first period!


About the author:


Rachel Kauder Nalebuff was initially embarrassed by her first period, but the power of these recollections has rubbed off. She has come to embrace her own story (and has even used it as a conversation starter). Because she talked about periods...let’s just say more than once a month, it was inevitable that she would go down in her high school's history as "the period girl." She is absolutely cool with that.

Rachel is on a gap year before heading to Yale. In her free time, she plays guitar, rides/falls off her unicycle, and indulges in late-night pie baking with friends. My Little Red Book is her first published work.

Have questions? Send Rachel an email





Here are the other blogs participating in this month-long My Little Red Book Tour:

She Reads and Reads
Marta's Meanderings
Confessions of a Romance Book Addict
Write for a Reader
Reading With Monie
Marjolein Reviews
Worducopia
The Review From Here
Zensanity
Scribe Vibe
Cafe of Dreams
Carol's Notebook
Ms. Bookish
B & b ex libris
Brimful Curiosities
Cindy's Love of Books
Books in Every Room
Seaside Book Worm Blogger
Books Ahoy!
At Home With Books
The Reading Room
Book Bargains and Previews
Wendy's Minding Spot
The Epic Rat



BIG THANKS to Hachette Book Group for my review copy and Anna for organizing this great tour!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford


"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" by Jamie Ford


Published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.


Rating: 5 stars

The book begins in 1986 and follows Henry Lee, a Chinese-American whose wife has recently passed away. He is dealing with his heartache and a strained relationship with his grown-up son Marty. The Panama Hotel, a renovated hotel in what was once Seattle's Japantown, recently discovered belongings that were once hidden there by Japanese immigrants in WWII. This news sparks Henry's memories of his youth and flashbacks to the 1940s when Henry had developed a close relationship with a Japanese girl named Keiko. Henry's father however, was a strict advocate for his Chinese heritage, forcing Henry to wear a pin stating "I am Chinese" and showed a stubborn dislike of all things Japanese. Henry's relationship with Keiko, set to the backdrop of WWII, forces him to grow up quickly and make difficult and sometimes dangerous decisions in order to fight for what he believes in.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish. It is surprising that this is Jamie Ford's first novel because his writing is so professional and polished while retaining its passionate flair. Henry and Keiko are two of the most endearing characters I have ever encountered and it is hard not to feel connected to them and become deeply invested in their outcomes.

"Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" also explores important issues of culture and the ramifications of prejudice, proving that there is more depth to this sweet story than meets the eye. Though it's often hard for an author to separate his or her own personal judgments and opinions, Jamie has done his best as he so eloquently states in his author's note:
"My intent was not to create a morality play, with my voice being the loudest on stage, but rather to defer to the reader's sense of justice, of right and wrong, and let the facts speak plainly."

Though there were predictable elements in the storyline, I still soaked up every detail of this novel and read it in one sitting. My emotions were tied up in the characters and I even cried at the end.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a heartwarming story that explores many issues and is ultimately filled with much needed hope!

Be sure to follow Jamie on twitter and read through his website- not only is he a talented writer, he's also really hilarious!


BIG THANKS to Jamie and Random House for my review copy of this book.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Review: The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks


"The Laws of Harmony" by Judith Ryan Hendricks


Published by HarperCollins


Rating: 5 stars


Tune in tonight at 7:00 P.M. and join Judith Ryan Hendricks on Blog Talk Radio as she discusses "The Laws of Harmony" and answers questions from her fans!

There is no easy way to summarize "The Laws of Harmony" because of all the plot twists and revelations infused throughout the book. I was pleasantly surprised when the story turned out to be filled with elements of mystery and deception, instead of being simply the women's fiction style novel that I was expecting. The straightforward part of the story revolves around Sunny Cooper, who is living with her boyfriend in Albuquerque, New Mexico until she discovers that people are not always as they seem and he has plenty of secrets of his own after a tragic accident. Sunny feels compelled to uproot her life and find somewhere else to call home. In a new town, Sunny befriends the locals and develops a whole new lifestyle but her past catches up to her and new challenges arise.

Judging by my rating, you can probably tell that I absolutely loved this book! Since I tend to enjoy plot twists, especially ones I don't see coming, this book offered a bonus for me, in addition to its charming story about love, life and relationships. Sunny is a complex character and yet really easy to relate to her feelings and fears. The secondary characters in the book are also really expertly crafted and I especially saw the residents of Harmony come to life.

There is also a really interesting inclusion of food and baking throughout the book. I love baking and so I was particularly fascinated by Sunny's expert culinary skills and the catharsis that baking brings to Sunny's life. I wish I could have some of her recipes to try out!

*edit: Sunny's recipe for Blackberry brownies can be found here!!

The ending of the story is somewhat open-ended which left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it leaves readers the opportunity to imagine whatever they'd like for Sunny's future but on the other hand, I feel like a part of the book is missing. An interview with the author at the end of the book seems to suggest the possibility of a sequel but nothing definite yet. I sincerely hope that there will be more of Sunny Cooper to come because I really feel like there is so much more that can be explored and I want to know what happens to her next!

This is the first book I've read by Judith Ryan Hendricks and I am positive it will not be the last!

I was so lucky enough to have received a copy of this book through Book Club Girl so a BIG THANKS to Jennifer and to HarperCollins, as well as for the lovely shawl, just like the one pictured on the cover!

THE WRITERS' BLOCK - KQED's weekly series


I recently was informed about KQED, the PBS affiliate in San Francisco, and their amazing weekly series called "The Writers' Block" that features authors reading from the first chapter of their books.

It is always really interesting to hear how an author reads from his or her own book and so this series is a great opportunity to hear books you've already read or ones you have yet to discover because those book tours can't reach everyone!


Here are some great ones to check out:




Tiffany Baker's reading of her debut novel, "The Little Giant of Aberdeen County" (my review)


Andrew Davidson's reading of his book, "The Gargoyle" (which is sitting in my TBR pile)











Teaser Tuesdays



MizB of Should Be Reading hosts the Teaser Tuesdays weekly event


Here are the rules:

* Grab your current read

* Let the book fall open to a random page

* Share with us (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12 (which I've modified to 2-4 sentences)

* You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from ... that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the "teaser" you've given!

* Please avoid spoilers!



This week's teaser is:




"Conventional wisdom suggests that recovery begins with submitting to a higher power. I have always had trouble getting the hang of that - less about a spiritual deficit than a tendency to overintellectualize things - but I found a pretty handy substitute in Marion."


- "The Night of the Gun" by David Carr, page 199

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Finds




What great books have you discovered this week?

Share your Friday Finds at Should Be Reading






"Keeping Hannah Waiting" by Dave Clarke
(found on Diary of an Eccentric)















"The Brightest Moon of the Century" by Chistopher Meeks












"Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story" by Carolyn Turgeon
(found on living read girl)