Ashes of a Black Frost (11/1) | The Shattered Vine (11/3)
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FTC Disclosure: I am an affiliate at IndieBound, The Book Depository, and Amazon, and any purchases made by clicking on covers or links here may result in monetary compensation.

May Awesomeness - WINNERS!

May 31, 2009
PhotobucketThank you to everyone who entered my May giveaway, courtesy of Hachette! I'm sure y'all wanna know what's up, right? Here are the winners...

  1. Miracles of Motherhood By June Cotner ISBN: 1931722927
  2. Odd Mom Out By Jane Porter ISBN: 0446699233
  3. Mommy Grace By Sheila Schuller Coleman ISBN: 0446545414
  4. Beginner's Greek By James Collins ISBN: 0316021563
  5. The Road Home By Rose Tremain ISBN: 0316002623

  1. B as in Beauty By Alberto Ferreras ISBN: 0446697893
  2. Into the Beautiful North By Luis Urrea ISBN: 0316025275
  3. Hungry Woman in Paris By Josefina Lopez ISBN: 0446699411
  4. The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos By Margaret Mascarenhas ISBN: 0446541109
  5. Houston, We Have a Problema By Gwendolyn Zepeda ISBN: 0446698520

  1. Free Food for Millionaires By Min Jin Lee ISBN: 0446699853
  2. Trail of Crumbs By Kim Sunée ISBN: 0446697907
  3. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles By Jennifer Lee ISBN: 0446698970
  4. Transparency By Frances Hwang ISBN: 0316166936
  5. Strangers from a Different Shore By Ronald Takaki ISBN: 0316831301

Congratulations to all the winners! Emails have been sent out, please reply with your mailing information by eod Wednesday! Thank you for stopping by my blog... =)

Want the books? Click on the links to purchase your very own copy from Amazon.


The lucky duckies getting a copy of Billie Letts' Made in the USA are...


Anita Yancey! Anita already has a copy, so LuAnn, you're up! LuAnn's a lucky duck, too, so it's Lauren's turn!

Michelle E.!

The Book Resort!


Emails have been sent, please respond with your mailing information by the end of Wednesday...

Didn't win but want the book? Click on the cover to purchase from Amazon...

Last call!

May 28, 2009
Giveaways ending soon:

Billie Letts' Made in the U.S.A. ends tomorrow, 5/29.

Awesome Hachette 5-packs for May ends Saturday, 5/30.

82. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler...

May 27, 2009
Ok. First off, I didn't mean to read this one right away. It just showed up, & I have a TON of books to read ahead of it. But today's been crazy--leave work at 3, go to the little man's piano recital at 4, head for his swim class at 5, and then to his make-up soccer practice (from Monday's) at 6. Whew! So, since this was the only book on hand, it got read. I couldn't help it--not once I started it, anyway...

Second, this book should come with a warning--DO NOT READ WITHOUT TISSUES!! I cried. In the car while at soccer practice. With no tissues. And mascara on (don't ask!), so I couldn't just dab at my shirtsleeves. I cried at home, too, while finishing up... *sigh* So there you go. You've been warned.

twenty boysFrom the inside cover:
"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?"

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

Poor Anna. She's been in love with her best-friend-who's-also-her-best-friend's-brother since she was 10. And magically, unbelievably, finds out he feels something for her, too--right before he dies. She's in that hazy I-need-to-grieve-but-can't-because-his-family-needs-to-and-I-have-to-be-strong-for-Frankie place, and nobody realizes that Anna's carrying around all these memories, all these feelings, and that Anna needs to let go, too.

On vacation with Frankie's family in California for three weeks, a year later, Anna goes through conflicting emotions when she meets a new boy, Sam. Is she cheating on Matt's memory? Can there be such a thing when Matt's dead and gone? 

I think Anna might be the first teenager that I actually like--in real life or fiction. And that's high praise from me, lol! Twenty Boy Summer is touching and poignant, and will be on my 2009 list of favorites. Get it. Seriously, get it. And don't forget the tissues. 

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
ISBN-10: 0-316-05159-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-316-05159-0
Hardcover: 290 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (June 1, 2009)

Tour: 81. Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton ....

Welcome to this blog tour stop for Lauren Lipton's Mating Rituals of the North American WASP...  I'm excited to host it, and I hope you enjoy this!  =) And a huge THANK YOU to Lauren Lipton for swinging by - check out what she has to say below...

About the book:
Peggy Adams is comfortable in her New York life, until she makes an unusual agreement with Luke Sedgwick, the last scion of an old New England family. The deal: Stay married for a year, and the two will inherit the Sedgwick mansion in New Nineveh, a quaint, preppy Connecticut town.

But entering Luke’s world isn’t easy. Peggy must quickly learn how to pass herself off as a proper Connecticut wife and a perfect WASP. (Hint: At parties, nobody actually eats the food.) To make matters worse, she finds herself falling in love with the man she’s married to—despite that he seems to have no feelings for her.

drey's review:
I inhaled Mating Rituals. Seriously. I mean, who's never daydreamed about meeting the rich, handsome, sophisticated, dude? Not to mention actually marrying him? Who cares if it was all done in a drunken frenzy? Or that the WASP-ish life is stuffy & unyielding?

Well, Peggy does. After all, drunken frenzies are so not what she does! But! Oh, but! Here's an opportunity for both of them to get what they need - for her, the money to save her store and help her bestest friend in the whole world (I won't mention marrying the live-in dork who's hung around for 7 years without committing. Ok, so I did.); for him, the ability to care for his great-aunt in her declining years. (Yeah, gorgeous AND noble. They don't really make 'em like that, do they? Do they?)

Mating Rituals is sassy, if sometimes a bit long-winded. But I liked it. Add this to the pile for a good beach read. And if you can't buy it ('cuz you signed up for insane challenges like my Ban on Spending!), then read on!

Author profile:
Lauren Lipton is a deputy editor at Cosmopolitan. Previously she was a senior editor at In Style and a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, where for the popular Weekend Journal section she reported on supersize engagement rings, copycat brides who steal their friends' wedding ideas, and luxury homes with his-and-hers garages. Her work has also appeared in publications including Glamour and Marie Claire and on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She began her career as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, covering television and lifestyle trends.

She holds a bachelor's degree in English and anthropology from Occidental College and a master's degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California. She lives with her family in New York City and in Litchfield County, Conn. Lauren can be found online at her website and her blog.

In Lauren's own words:
I confess, I'm a bit of a fraud. Despite having written a novel about White Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, and despite my own part-WASP heritage-born in Providence, Rhode Island, to a native New Englander - I might not succeed if, like Peggy Adams, the heroine of my novel, I had to pass myself off as "one of them." Here are five reasons why not:

1. I can't drink gin-and-tonics. In fact, I can't drink gin or tonic in any form, separately or together, thanks to one unfortunate party my freshman year of college, when I decided it would be fun to toss back several G&Ts in succession. Just remembering this incident is making me queasy. Better change the subject...

2. Speaking of college, it was not an Ivy.

3. I look ghastly in pink and green. Coral and teal are lovely on me. But the authentic, preppy hues of powder-pink and lime make me look as if I've had too many gin and tonics.

4. It's hard to sail, golf or play tennis when you don't like to be in the sun.

5. I'd choose high heels over boat shoes any day.

I hope you and your readers enjoy MATING RITUALS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WASP anyway. Do have a G&T for me!

I have one copy of this lovely book for you lucky ducks (due to miscommunication on my part, I ended up with an extra)!   To enter, comment and share if you'd be able to be "one of them"! =) I couldn't: I burp. Can't be bothered with makeup. Forget G&Ts, I drink wine out of a box. Sometimes. Can't swim well, and golf & tennis involve hitting balls with something. While aiming at something. Hah! Good luck! =P Seriously - good luck that I don't hit (or maim) you, me, or the poor unlucky sod who's standing next to you or me.

Since I'm mailing it out, it can go anywhere that the USPS is able to deliver to. KittyCat and gautami, this includes you gals! =D As always, +1 for following, +2 for sharing. So go tell the world, peeps! And be done by 6:00 pm CST June 7th! Good luck!

Check out the other tour stops - there are tons of 'em, and who knows what you'll find? =)

I'm totally hopeless...

May 26, 2009
... when it comes to buttons, avatars, etc... I've been messing around trying to come up with a button for my birthday giveaway, and I'm just not good at that type of stuff. 'tis probably why I'm a computer analyst instead of a graphic designer, eh? =P 

Anyhoo, would any of you lovely peeps have some time to whip up something for me? Pretty please? It needn't be fancy, it just needs to say "drey's birthday bash!"...  Or something like that... Undying gratitude & your name in HUGE-A$$ font is offered in return! =D

Seriously. If anyone's interested, or would like to take pity on this design-challenged dudette, email moi! Merci!


May 25, 2009
Hey y'all! Thanks so much for entering my giveaways for Joshilyn Jackson's The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and Anita Shreve's Testimony. And now, the moment you've been waiting for (lol!)... WINNERS!!!

5 copies of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming goes to:
Ann Diana Dinh!
Erin R.! Erin didn't respond, so Marion Greenwood is next up!
Kitten22! lucky gal already won this, so the new winner is scottsgal!
nfmgirl! another lucky gal! new winner is Serena! Serena already has this, too... New winner is Katrina!

5 copies of Testimony goes to:
Kat Bryan!
gaby317! gaby already won somewhere else, so the new winner is a real librarian! Ok, a real librarian has won this, too... The new winner is gaylemckay!
Kitten22! (wow, lucky winner here!!) Kitten22 is lucky indeed, she won this somewhere else, & the new winner is chey!...

Thank you to everyone who entered! Want the books but didn't win? Click on the covers to purchase from Amazon...

80. The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly...

With how busy things have been 'round here, I completely forgot that there was another May release to review, on my shelves! O_O So I found it, and read it in one swoop last night. While the Mr. was playing GTA4...

About the book:
Forced out of the Los Angeles Times amid the latest budget cuts, newspaper-man Jack McEvoy decides to go out with a bang, using his final days at the paper to write the definitive murder story of his career.

He focuses on Alonzo Winslow, a sixteen-year-old drug dealer who is in jail after confessing to a brutal murder. But as Jack delves into the story, he realizes that Winslow's so-called confession is bogus. The kid might actually be innocent.

Jack is soon running with his biggest story since the Poet made his career years ago. He is tracking a killer who operates completely below police radar--and with perfect knowledge of any move against him. Including Jack's.
Can I just say that this read fit perfectly after the mounds of chick-lit-ish books I've been reviewing lately? (as someone very nicely pointed out to me)  Good characters, plot, story-telling... I loved when Jack informs the CNN news guy that he needs a "beeper"--because someone'll have to beep the mf coming out of Alonzo's mouth with every other word...  =)  I like that Jack's not perfect, he isn't one of those heroes that just knows what the bad guy is doing, or where he's at... Jack has to work at deciphering the clues he's given, which makes this a kinda thinking-book, too. Of course, it doesn't hurt my impression that Jack has to be rescued--the first time--by a gal... *grin* The Scarecrow is out tomorrow (yeah, I left it late!), grab it for the beach if you're looking for something other than summer fluff.

As for the GTA4 mention... The Scarecrow kept my attention even with the awesome radio stations broadcasting during the game...  =)

Title: The Scarecrow
Author: Michael Connelly
ISBN-10: 0-316-16630-8
ISBN-13: 978-0-316-16630-0
Paperback: 415 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, May 2009 (hardcover)

Last call for May's awesome giveaway!

Hey all! There's one week left for the awesome giveaway for May courtesy of Hachette Book Group! Up for grabs are three (that's 3!) 5-book sets for you to pick from:

Sign up here! Go! Go!

Giveaway: Bound to Please by Lilli Feisty...

Here's another lovely offering from the folks at Hachette...  I have up to 5 copies of Lilli Feisty's Bound to Please for you.

About the book:
Ruby Scott is a beautiful, quiet event planner who leads an oh-so-respectable life. Yet the things that go on in her secret fantasies are anything but. She has every intention of keeping her hidden desires under wraps-until she meets a gorgeous, hard-muscled man ten years her junior. Mark St. Crow is a gifted, up-and-coming musician who collects erotic art and loves to "play" women as much as his piano. After one night of uninhibited passion, Ruby realizes there's no turning back. But as she surrenders to her deepest needs and lets Mark control every forbidden thrill, her passion for him builds. Can the wild, intoxicating nights they share lead to a love that will last forever?

About the author:
Lilli was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spent the majority of her twenties working just enough to pay for extended trips to Europe. Some of her fascinating employment titles included makeup artist, secretary, and perpetual student. She owned an art gallery for several years, holds a degree in Creative Arts and was just a thesis short of her MA when she decided to drop out of school to write romance.

Other than writing, some of her obsessions include tattoos, reality television, and beaches. Visit her on her website,, where she loves to ramble about the strangest things.

Sneak peek:

Since this is a Hachette giveaway, it's only open to US and Canada residents, no P.O. Boxes. To enter, leave a comment & say "hi". (just kidding! you don't really have to say "hi"!) +1 for following, +2 for sharing. & this is where the fun starts - I'll start with one winner, and I'll add another winner (up to 5) for every 5 "shares" - that includes tweets, emails, blog posts... So be sure to come back and let me know what you did, & where. =)

Do it all before 6:00 pm CST on June 5th! Good luck!

79. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See...

May 24, 2009
Here's another book that I was absolutely thrilled to receive. After reading & loving Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, I couldn't wait to read Shanghai Girls

About the book:
Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are beautiful, modern, and living the carefree life in prewar Shanghai--until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime. In Los Angeles, they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married and striving to embrace American life. Along the way there are terrible sacrifices, impossible choices, and one devastating, life-changing secret.

Lisa See's spellbinding novel follows the fascinating lives of these sisters as they struggle to survive in a strange country while bound to the ways of the old. Readers who love Lisa See's mesmerizing command of character, setting, and story will find much to cherish in the pages of Shanghai Girls.

Ah, where to start with this review? ... Pearl and May are sisters who do what every sister-pair does - try to be cool & hip, push boundaries, enjoy life; all while trying to maintain traditions. They are privileged--their businessman father has provided luxuries others cannot even fathom. And they're recognized because they're "beautiful girls" whose images are used to sell everything the Chinese girl needs to be cool & hip. So when they're essentially sold off to pay gambling debts, they don't understand. How could this happen to them? They're modern! Enlightened! Employed!

Instead of accepting fate, the sisters rebel against the decision. It's so easy to just not do what your parents want you to... Unknown to them though, going along with the arranged marriages would have made their life just that little bit easier down the road. As it is, they're caught in Shanghai when the Japanese invade, and face a harrowing journey to get out. Deciding where to go is easy--there's nowhere else but America, where their husbands await.

Once in America, Lisa See sets a scene of immigrants looking to better their lives, & the lives of their families. Los Angeles in the 30's is very xenophobic, and nobody wants Occidentals moving in next door. The solution? Why, build an area just for them, of course. We'll even call it Chinatown! Residents are resigned to the fact that the American Dream is always on the other side of the fence--either because they're afraid to attract notice due to their immigrant status, or they're turned down outside the borders...

Shanghai Girls is rich in detail--both in the characters and the setting. Pearl and May have the unfortunate fate of learning that all is not what it seems--from their languid if busy lives in Shanghai, to the reality they face once they've reached America. The layers upon layers of the sisters' lives peel back like an onion under Lisa See's knife. I was completely immersed in the communication between the sisters--because there's always volumes in what is not said, or very briefly mentioned, when you are trying to protect yourself from even the ones you love the most. It will be available next week, I highly recommend picking up a copy.

Title: Shanghai Girls
Author: Lisa See
ISBN-10: 1-400-06711-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-400-06711-4
Paperback: 315 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Random House, May 26 2009


May 23, 2009
Soooo... I was browsing Amazon today -- really just browsing, since I can't buy *sniff* -- AND GUESS WHAT I SEE???  

I WANT IT! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease... I LOVE Kaylin & Michelle Sagara's Cast series...  I can't wait to find out what happens next!!  Amazon says it's out August 1st. I'll accept it as a birthday present. Really -- it can be pre-ordered.  Or maybe a late-summer present. Christmas??  Just in case there's a grantor-of-book-droolage out there. Ahem. Cherry on top?

This'll teach me to host a Ban on Spending challenge (& then actually get tons of books to read!)... 

Replacement winners...

May 22, 2009
Alright boys & girls! I'm having a doozy of a time with the winners of my giveaways for Joanna Scott's Follow Me and Annie Solomon's One Deadly Sin... Namely, I still need one winner for each. Sooo... I am going to stop pulling numbers out of Randomizer, emailing the pick-ee (is this a word?), and waiting for either a response that says "I already have it" or no response at all. And, this is how it's going to be. 'cuz it's taking a long time to get the last person, and everyone else on the list has been waiting patiently, and I STILL have to email the info to Hachette. (So sorry if I sound cranky - it's been a looooooong week.)

IF (& only if, 'cuz I check) you entered either giveaways, AND you haven't already won it somewhere else, AND you still want it... (Boy, does that look like computer logic or what? I should put it in pseudo-code!) COMMENT HERE and say "Pick Me" and let me know which book you want.

Easy enough for you? First person for each book gets it. But only if you then email me & get me your mailing info. =) Alright, have at it. =D

78. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey...

In Santa Olivia - a forgotten town on the border between the U.S.A and Mexico - life can be hopeless. There's no jobs. No life. No prospects - for love, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness... And the cherry on top? You can't leave. Nosirree, you're good & stuck.  Stuck in a town surrounded by desert and the military.

Loup Garron is born in Santa Olivia, on the feast day of the town's patron saint. Her father was one of the lucky ones - he managed to get out (they think). Her mother? Not so much. As for Loup, she's special. She's fast. Strong. Doesn't feel pain. She has to learn to pretend to be normal, to protect herself from the townspeople and the military.

The only hope most residents have of getting out of Santa Olivia, revolve around the ring. As in winning a match against the military's champion fighter. Loup's big brother Tommy is going to try, so he can get them both out of there.  Thing is, nobody's won. Ever. 

When things work out as they will, Loup finds herself with a ragtag group of orphans cared for by the church. And they start meting out justice, sparingly, Santa Olivia style...

Santa Olivia is a very good read.  I personally didn't think it was quite on par with Carey's Kushiel series.  However, the characters are drawn well, the storyline interesting, and the plot believable (hey! I read fantasy!).  It comes out in a week or so - check it out!

Title: Santa Olivia
Author: Jacqueline Carey
ISBN-10: 044619817X
ISBN-13: 978-0446198172
Paperback: 341 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, May 2009

Giveaway: Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts...

May 18, 2009
Next up for y'all... Thanks to the wonderful folks at Hachette, I have five copies of Billie Letts' Made in the U.S.A. up for grabs. I can't wait to get my copy to read!

About the book:
The bestselling author of WHERE THE HEART IS returns with a heartrending tale of two children in search of a place to call home.

Lutie McFee's history has taught her to avoid people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father long gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, 15-year-old Lutie lives in the god-forsaken town of Spearfish, South Dakota with her twelve-year-old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the 300-pound ex-girlfriend of her father.

While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows and worrying about global warming and the endangerment of pandas. As if their life is not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac. Choosing the latter, they head off to Las Vegas in search of a father who has no known address, no phone number and, clearly, no interest in the kids he left behind.

MADE IN THE U.S.A. is the alternately heartbreaking and life-affirming story of two gutsy children who must discover how cruel, unfair and frightening the world is before they come to a place they can finally call home.

Check it out:

For one entry, leave a comment (I can't make you work ALL the time now, can I?).  As always, +1 for following, +2 for sharing/posting/tweeting/etc.  Do let me know what & where.  This giveaway ends at 6:00 pm CST Friday, May 29th, and is open to US & Canada residents only (no PO Boxes please).  Good luck!

77. Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea...

May 17, 2009
into the beautiful northOk, I have to start by saying this is definitely one of my favorite reads for this year! What a beautifully-written book it is...

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli has an idyllic life in her little village of Tres Camarones in Mexico - she works at a taco shop, whiles away her time with her girlfriends, and daydreams about the things 19-year-olds daydream about.

One day she realizes that there are no men left in her village, except for the old, or the really young. All the in-between-ers have left, to go up north to Los Yunaites - including her father. And when the bandidos come scoping out her little town, there are no men left to protect it.

So Nayeli does what any smart nineteen-year-old girl does. *grin* She organizes a "search party" to go up north to bring home their men. What spunk! How daring! And so starts the journey of four young people heading north, for no reason that other immigrants - legal or illegal - try to cross the border for.

Into the Beautiful North is lyrical and mesmerizing in its storytelling. From the squalid conditions in Tijuana, the criminal elements preying on the unsuspecting, the people they meet when at the bottom, the people who help them attempt the border crossing... I could not put the book down at all. One of my favorite passages has to be when Nayeli is caught by the Border Patrol, and she tells her story but they can't believe it, it's so incredible. Go read it for yourself - it's out May 19th, and you can pre-order from Amazon by clicking on the cover.

Title: Into the Beautiful North
Author: Luis Alberto Urrea
ISBN-10: 0-316-02527-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-316-02527-0
Paperback: 334 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, May 2009

76. Royal Blood by Rona Sharon...

First off, let me say that I LOVED the cover of this book, and couldn't wait to read it when it showed up on my doorstep! I took it with me (along with 7 others) on my 2-week jaunt (hah!) to Oxford, England, and finally (!) read it. I mean, seriously. Where better to read a novel of Tudor England, than in England?  =)

Michael Devereaux is sent by his patron and foster-father, the Earl of Tyrone, to the court of King Henry to win accolades and recognition at the games of the annual Order of the Garter.

Princess Renee de Valois has disgraced herself in the French courts, and is sent to the Tudor court on a mission. And she must succeed, if she is to retain her mother's inheritance.

They meet (of course!) at King Henry's court, and must decide if they should help each other attain their goals. The larger question? Can they trust each other? In the end, it turns out that they're both after the same thing. Lots of plotting in this one, but it's not so convoluted that you would be confused. However, it was a tad verbose, in my opinion. In the last quarter of the book, a huge whomper gets dropped in your lap - if you hadn't already suspected, or guessed. All in all, a good read.

Title: Royal Blood
Author: Rona Sharon
ISBN-10: 0-7582-2858-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-2858-1
Paperback: 488 pages
Publisher: Kensington, 2009

& George Rabasa's The Wonder Singer goes to...

Thanks for stopping by the tour for George Rabasa's The Wonder Singer and entering my giveaway... My first opera ever was Carmen, which I went to at 12. It's still a favorite, although I've been blown away by Aida. Anyway, without further ado, here's the lucky Randomizer-picked winner of their own copy of The Wonder Singer... sharon54220!!

Congratulations!! Email has been sent, please respond with your mailing address by Wednesday.

Didn't win but still want the book? Click on the cover to purchase from Amazon...

75. All About Us #4: Who Made You a Princess? by Shelley Adina...

May 16, 2009
This is my first All About Us novel, & I wasn't sure whether it would be easy to pick up without having read any of the others. Rest assured, this is easy enough to read as a stand-alone.  

Shani Amira Marjorie Hanna is back at Spencer Academy with her friends, and a new boy to drool over. Adding excitement to the student body at Spencer is Prince Rashid al Amir, who gets fawned over by everyone but somehow only wants to hang with Shani. 

When Shani finds out that she is the Prince's intended, she is confused and angry. Who has their marriages arranged in this day & age anyway? How could her parents do this to her? And after learning of the history between hers & the prince's family, Shani has to decide whether she can & will become Rashid's princess, or if she can stand up for her own choices.

This was a quick and easy read.  The plotline was predictable and the girls a little overly bratty, in my opinion.. But hey, summer's coming up, and this is a perfect beach read.

Title: All About Us #4: Who Made You a Princess?
Author: Shelley Adina
ISBN-10: 0446179620
ISBN-13: 978-0446179621
Paperback: 215 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Faithwords, May 2009

74. The Way Home by George Pelecanos...

May 15, 2009
The Way Home by George Pelecanos is a story about how your past can not only come back to haunt you, but it influences the way everyone sees you and your actions thereafter. It is also a story on rising above, growing up, and doing the right thing.

Christopher Flynn just couldn't seem to make the right decisions.  Bad attitude and bad habits send him on his way to incarceration while still a teenager.  When he gets out, he does the responsible thing - gets a job working for his dad, meets a girl, tries to settle into "normal" life. 

One day while on a job he & his partner are tempted by a treasure trove. Not wanting to get dragged back into the life he has finally put behind him, Chris convinces his partner to leave it where it was. When the treasure disappears, the owners come a-hunting Chris & his partner. Now Chris has to find out who's hunting him, and who took the treasure they're looking for. All while convincing his father that he hasn't reverted to his former life.

The Way Home is a sad story about life and it's breaks (or lack thereof) when you get caught for your irresponsibility and have to pay the price to society. It is also the story of a young man's redemption and maturity. I found it hard to read - I wanted bad Chris to leave good Chris alone. But all is not as we want it, which is good, for to be otherwise would mean a boring world, indeed. My wanting aside, this was a good read with very well-drawn characters who will pull you into their story.  

Title: The Way Home
Author: George Pelecanos
ISBN-10: 0316156493
ISBN-13: 978-0316156493
Paperback: 323 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, May 2009

Giveaway: Testimony by Anita Shreve...

May 13, 2009
Are y'all ready for this one? =) I have five copies of Anita Shreve's newly-released-in-paperback Testimony, available for you courtesy of Hachette Book Group.  Read my review here.

About the book:
At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.

Enter to win a copy if you live in the U.S. & Canada, & have something other than a P.O. Box address! How? Comment & dish on something from school - good, bad, or ugly. As always, +1 entry for followers, +2 for sharing (come back to let me know what you did & where!)...

This all ends at 6:00 p.m. on May 24th! Winners will be posted soon after.  Can't wait? Click on the cover to get your own copy from Amazon!

Is today your lucky day? C'mon & see...

May 11, 2009
It's about time I put up the winners post!! I'm still out of the country, and internet access is COMPLETELY spotty, except for the past weekend, when it was absolutely non-existent (for good reasons!!). Regardless, here's the picks due you... =)

Annie Solomon's One Deadly Sin goes to the following 5:
  1. Ashley
  2. jeanereads
  3. rhapsodyinbooks (rhapsodyinbooks has already won this somewhere else, so windycindy's it!
  4. ann marie (ann marie's already won this somewhere else, so nfmgirl's next up!) Ok, you gals have to stop winning!! =P nfmgirl's already won this, too. Hopefully my next winner completes the list: Stacia!
  5. Kaye

Three lucky ducks getting a copy of Joanna Scott's Follow Me:
  1. Teddy Rose (so, Teddy's already received this too, so nightdweller20, you're up! Well, apparently nightdweller20 has ALSO received this, so it's now Ashley! Ashley, I hope you don't already have it. I mean, I like Randomizer & all, but ... =P)
  2. Cheryl S. (Cheryl's already got a copy too, so it's now Melanie's!! Melanie, I don't have an email address for you, so PLEASE email me ASAP!)
  3. MJ (alright, MJ says she's already received a copy, so... jessica.marie, you're it!)

Congratulations, everyone!! Please send me your mailing info as soon as you can, but definitely by 3pm on the 14th!

Didn't win? Click on the covers to purchase from Amazon!

Giveaway: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson...

Here's another great Hachette giveaway for y'all! About the book:
Lauren Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother keep family skeletons in the closet or sewing her acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister, Thalia, is her opposite, an impoverished actress who prides herself on exposing the lurid truths lurking behind middle class niceties.

While Laurel's life seems neatly on track-- a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, a lovely suburban home-- everything she holds dear is threatened the night she is visited by the ghost of her 13-year-old neighbor Molly. The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly, floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is an unseemly mystery that no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Laurel enlists Thalia's help, even though she knows it comes with a high price tag.

Together, they set out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about their family's haunted past, the true state of Laurel's marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.
I have a copy for 5 lucky winners - if you live in the U.S. & Canada, & have something other than a P.O. Box address! To enter this giveaway, comment & tell me: Do you believe in ghosts? If so, why? **cue spooky music** & par for the course here, +1 for followers, +2 for sharing. Do remember to let me know what you did & where. =)

This all ends on May 22nd! Come back after to find out if you're a winner! Can't wait that long? Click on the cover to get your own copy from Amazon!

Tour: 73. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo...

May 7, 2009
Welcome, everyone, to this Unbridled Books tour stop for C.M. Mayo's THE LAST PRINCE OF THE MEXICAN EMPIRE!

From the book:
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a sweeping historical novel of Mexico during the short, tragic, at times surreal, reign of Emperor Maximilian and his court. Even as the American Civil War raged north of the border, a clique of Mexican conservative exiles and clergy convinced Louis Napoleon to invade Mexico and install the Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg, as Emperor.

A year later, the childless Maximilian took custody of the two year old, half-American, Prince Agustín de Iturbide y Green, making the toddler the Heir Presumptive. Maximilian’s reluctance to return the child to his distraught parents, even as his empire began to fall, and the Empress Carlota descended into madness, ignited an international scandal.

This lush, grand read is based on the true story and illuminates both the cultural roots of Mexico and the political development of the Americas. But it is made all the more captivating by the depth of Mayo’s writing and her understanding of the pressures and influences on these all too human players. Her prose makes the reader taste the foods, smell the spices and flowers and feel the heat of Mexico. Mayo writes for the senses. And for the ages.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a story both sweeping and intimate, of geopolitics, the glamour of royalty, and the grit of military command, of the arrogance of power, the dark labyrinths of ambition, and, above all, of a child who was not, in the end, a prince, but a little boy who belonged to his parents.
drey's review:
I picked out The Last Prince because of the cover - it's beautiful. The story made me so sad for the poor little boy, looking for the familiar faces of his parents, his nurse; wondering where they were. I had a hard time imagining how they could give him up - I could never give up my little man. At least not till he's a sullen, rebellious teenager, lol!

The story's characters & motivations are complex, as I hope it should be for those who've contemplated giving up a toddler (sniffle). Can you tell I'm hung up on that? In any case, Last Prince is the story of Alice Green and her husband, Angel(o) Iturbide, his family, and family history. It is also the story of Maximilian von Habsburg and his wife Charlotte, and his own insecurities in dealing with his family. (Just goes to show ya - being royal isn't all it's cut out to be... =P) And more importantly, it is the story of the interconnecting spaces between these two groups of characters, and ultimately, the sacrifice of a child for both families' ambitions.

This is not a quick read, for me. I found myself having to pay close attention to the detail woven by Ms. Mayo. It also took me a little while to "remember" the history behind the motivations of each camp. It is lush, as described above, and I found it a worth-while read. Want it? Click on the cover to purchase from Amazon!

About the author:
C.M. Mayo has been living in and writing about Mexico for many years. Her books include the widely-lauded travel memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico, and Sky Over El Nido, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award. An avid translator of contemporary Mexican literature, Mayo is founding editor of Tameme Chapbooks ~ Cuadernos, and has also edited the anthology Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, a portrait of Mexico in the fiction and literary prose of 24 Mexican writers. She conducted extensive original research to write this novel, her debut. Mayo divides her time between Washington D.C. and Mexico City.

Tour stops:
we be reading
Devourer of Books
Kylee's 2009 Blog
Booksie's Blog
Medieval Bookworm
The Tome Traveler's Weblog
Darby's Closet

First Family WINNERS!!!

May 5, 2009
'tis that time again. I apologize for the lateness in announcing the lucky winners of my contest for 3 copies of David Baldacci's First Family... I was traveling on May 2nd, and have finally just gotten around to compiling all the entries & enlisting Randomizer's assistance. I know you're all just totally anxious, so here goes.

Kat Bryan!!

Congratulations all! And thank you for your patience!! Please provide your mailing address by the 10th! (I am traveling on the 8th, so if you can get it to me by the 7th, which is less than the 3 days I always mention, I will get your info to Hachette before the weekend. Promise!)

As always, thanks for stopping by my lil' ol' blog, and do come back... =)

Want the book? Click on the cover to purchase from Amazon.

Tour & Giveaway: 72. The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa...

Welcome, everyone, to this Unbridled Books tour stop for George Rabasa's THE WONDER SINGER!

From the book:
Mark Lockwood's life is a small one. He's made his living writing a series of little books for hire called How to Talk to Your Teen about.... But for the past few months he's had a ghostwriting assignment beyond his dreams. To prepare her "autobiography," Mark has been interviewing the internationally renowned Spanish diva, Mercè Casals. When the Senora dies suddenly - afloat in her scented bath - her life story becomes a hot property and a celebrity biographer arrives to take over the project.

But Lockwood realizes this is his one chance at greatness, and so he runs off with the interview tapes. Abetted by the beautiful and scrupulous Perla, the Senora's nurse, and by a female impersonator who is the diva's greatest fan, Lockwood locks himself into his study, endlessly plays the tapes, and begins to craft his greatest book. Once the three conspirators rescue Mercè's husband from the retirement home, Lockwood's sense of his own heart begins to expand beyond his considerable imagination.

Moving between the diva's lyrical account of her life on three continents and the frantic pace of Lockwood's notes from underground, The Wonder Singer portrays for us just what it can mean to live a beautiful life to its fullest.
drey's review:
The Wonder Singer was a fun romp through the consequences of Mark's decision to abscond with his interview tapes. Yes, there's a "before," including the diva's childhood and discovery. But I thought the fun really started with her death (am I bad or what?). And Mark, who up to that point was just another interviewer, really, seems to finally open his eyes and run with the realization that he can be the author that he's always wanted to be. So what if he has to run off with the tapes like a common thief? You only get a chance like this once, and by golly, he's ready to take it! =) An entertaining read that alternates between Mark's adventure, and The Wonder Singer chapters (like, the "real" book, not the one you're reading...).

About the author:
George Rabasa’s collection of short stories, Glass Houses, received The Writer’s Voice Capricorn Award for Excellence in Fiction and the Minnesota Book Award for Short Stories. His novel, Floating Kingdom received the Minnesota Book Award for Fiction. And his most recent novel, The Cleansing, was named a Book Sense Notable. His short fiction has appeared in various literary magazines, such as Story Quarterly, Glimmer Train, The MacGuffin, South Carolina Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry, American Literary Review, and in several anthologies. Rabasa was born in Maine, raised in Mexico, and now lives in Minnesota.

George Rabasa has kindly agreed to answer some of my babbling questions, read on!
drey: Just curious, do you like opera? If yes, do you have any favorites?
George: When I started The Wonder Singer some ten years ago, I did not particularly like what little opera I had listened to. Rock and roll, roots, symphonic, choral, chamber – all of these I loved. Then, when I decided to write about an opera diva, I though I’d better figure out what these people did. So thanks to the Minneapolis Public Library, I checked out “Tosca.” I played it over and over one weekend, and by Monday morning, I was a convert. Once opera’s sublime melodies get a hook into your brain, there’s not much, musically, that can match the experience. Add to that the great emotional and intellectual challenge of almost mythical theater and you’ve got the stuff of ecstasy and catharsis. No small achievement for people in big wigs and fancy dress singing really loud.

I go back and forth with favorites. Right now, I would travel anywhere to hear “Aida” by Verdi. Next week, it might be Puccini’s “Turandot” or Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte.” All of these have good stories, beautiful melodies, and amazing singing.

d: There are so many other divas out there, why an opera singer?
GR: My intention was to write a sort of picaresque novel about a ghostwriter. In my checkered professional life I’ve written in practically every medium, besides fiction, with varying degrees of success. But I was never a ghostwriter. The idea of a journeyman writer serving as the voice for a famous personality has a kind of elegance to it. I needed a bigger-than-life foil for the humble scribbler. There are no bigger personalities than old-school opera divas. And the irony of serving as the conduit for a voice that cannot sing her own song captivated me.

d: Is Mark based on anyone you know in real life? His mannerisms, quirkiness...
GR: Having written a great variety of words for money – from advertising and junk mail to jokes and obituaries, I know Lockwood as I know myself. In a way, he is me, but with better manners. In the wider sense, I am all my characters – from divas to sleazy agents to transvestite opera queens. When Flaubert was asked where Emma Bovary came from, he answered, “Madame Bovary c’est moi.”

: I liked the flow of the book, alternating between Mark's quest to put the story in writing, and the actual "book". Did you flesh out the book first, then interspersed it with Mark's story? Or did you work on both in parallel, & in which case, was that difficult to do?
GR: Oh God, yes! I will never write a novel this way again. I had the basic structure – Lockwood’s attempts to write his big book, the story of La Señora in her own words, the relationship between the writer and the diva. So for about two years I just wrote random scenes, fragments, snatches of dialogue as the mood hit me, with the idea of putting it all together eventually. After about 130,000 words I had a mess to cut and paste into some coherent arc. A wonderful mess to be sure. But it took years of grief, and thousands of words cut, to come up with the novel that is the object of our attention today.

And, of course, the Proust-lite:
  1. What is your idea of earthly happiness? A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a good day’s work behind me, my love before me.
  2. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? The years 2000-2008.
  3. Who is/are your favorite heroine(s) in fiction? Susan Burling, from Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose.
  4. Who is/are your favorite heroine(s) in real life? My wife, Juanita. I know no other woman who displays in synergistic combination, such love, humor, courage, intelligence and spiritual depth.
  5. What sound do you love? Tweet, tweet, tweet! (The first bird of spring after six months of Minnesota winter.)
  6. What sound do you hate? Car horns.
  7. The quality you admire most in a man? A small head and a large heart.
  8. The quality you admire most in a woman? Intuition. (Yes, there is such a thing as female intuition.)
  9. If not a writer, you would be a mathematician. To understand God you have to speak his language: mathematics.
  10. What is your favorite swear word? I use America’s most popular percussive expletive with enough abandon as to get me a guest role in the next remake of “The Sopranos.” But I reserve the Mexican chingar for special occasions. It is marvelously versatile, whether as a verb, an adjective or a noun. It can be violently aggressive: Chinga tu madre. Or complimentary: Rabasa es un autor muy chingón. Or describing the depths of existential despair: Me lleva la chingada. Everyone should try it for its cathartic benefits.
Have some fun...
To pay your respects to Ms. Casals, we invite you to check out the Diva’s fan page on Facebook.
To hear opera selections that inspired this story, please visit
To learn more about Mark Lockwood, his series for teens, and his work with the Diva, please visit Unbridled Books or Facebook.

Thanks to Unbridled Books, I have one copy of The Wonder Singer for you, but only if you live in the U.S... To enter the giveaway, comment and tell me - do you like/love/hate/not care about opera? If you like it, which one(s)? Is it the music that draws you? The story? The singer(s)? As usual +1 for followers (here, Twitter, anywhere else you can find me!), +2 for spreading the word. Come back & let me know what/where/what color my eyes are. Hah! Gotcha! =D

Do it all by 6:00 p.m. CST MAY 15th! Come back after to see if you're a lucky duck. Can't wait that long? Click on the book cover to purchase from Amazon. Have fun!!

Tour stops:
Write For A Reader
Cheryl's Book Nook
The Epic Rat
Booksie's Blog
Medieval Bookworm
Morbid Romantic

May Awesomeness...

May 4, 2009
Wow. Hachette has TOTALLY blown me away with their May giveaways!! Check these out...

Behind Door #1:

  1. Miracles of Motherhood By June Cotner ISBN: 1931722927
  2. Odd Mom Out By Jane Porter ISBN: 0446699233
  3. Mommy Grace By Sheila Schuller Coleman ISBN: 0446545414
  4. Beginner's Greek By James Collins ISBN: 0316021563
  5. The Road Home By Rose Tremain ISBN: 0316002623

Next up:

  1. B as in Beauty By Alberto Ferreras ISBN: 0446697893
  2. Into the Beautiful North By Luis Urrea ISBN: 0316025275
  3. Hungry Woman in Paris By Josefina Lopez ISBN: 0446699411
  4. The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos By Margaret Mascarenhas ISBN: 0446541109
  5. Houston, We Have a Problema By Gwendolyn Zepeda ISBN: 0446698520

And, last but definitely not least:

  1. Free Food for Millionaires By Min Jin Lee ISBN: 0446699853
  2. Trail of Crumbs By Kim Sunée ISBN: 0446697907
  3. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles By Jennifer Lee ISBN: 0446698970
  4. Transparency By Frances Hwang ISBN: 0316166936
  5. Strangers from a Different Shore By Ronald Takaki ISBN: 0316831301

Whew! Are you amazed? I sure am!!! I am so grateful to Hachette for letting me offer these up. Wish I can win 'em myself!

So. Without further ado. Here is the 4-1-1:
#1. You can enter this giveaway if you have a mailing address in the USA or Canada. P.O. Boxes do NOT count.

#2. To enter, comment & tell me, which set would you want to win, and why? You can only pick ONE! Multiple picks, or no picks, will disqualify your entry. As always, +1 entry for followers, +2 for sharing (that's +2 for every share). You can share this ANYWHERE, as long as I can check it out. Unfortunately, unless you're my fb friend, this means fb shares don't count. =( Don't worry about entering multiple comments for your shares, I am a geek & do keep track. (boy, I so need a life, eh?)

#3. I will pick winners after 6:00 p.m. CST on May 30th. I have up to 5 of each set to give away. There will be 10 winners total, picked one at a time. Complicated mathematical formulas will determine the number of each set available to give away, based on the preference mentioned in your entry. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is, & I'm the one who'll have to manage this. Yikes!!!

You have all month to enter. Just don't forget to do so! =) Oh, & yeah. Good luck! =D

71. Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead...

May 1, 2009
Sag Harbor was my first B&N First Look book club books. I have been very remiss in my club "duties". While I dutifully read each chapter on the assigned week, I did not really participate in the discussions as much as I want to.

I've only made it through 2/3 of the book. I think I lost interest with the slower reading pace of the book club. And while I kept meaning to, I never picked it up again. So, this review's based on a partial read.

Sag Harbor follows Benji and his brother Reggie on their annual summer escape, in 1985. This coming-of-age novel reveals the nuances of summer life for these African-American high-schoolers, who're trying to maintain social relationships with people they only see for those short few months. From the start of summer, where they try to find out who's made it out to Sag Harbor, to negotiating social rank with their compatriots, to the first job, Sag Harbor is a poignant story of the angst of growing up, fitting in, and finally, growing up.

I personally will pick this up again, I just need to find some free time that isn't already spoken for! =)

Title: Sag Harbor
Author: Colson Whitehead
ISBN-10: 0-385-52765-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-385-52765-1
Paperback: 273 pages (ARC)
Publisher: Doubleday, 2009
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