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Teresa's Reading Corner: November 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Author Spotlight: A Guest Post from Vila Spider Hawk

Today we have a special guest post from author Vila Spider Hawk.  I introduced her book Hidden Passages yesterday. 

in your book, Hidden Passages – Tales To Honor the Crones you share eight beautifully crafted stories about women of different cultures and eras. The characters names are so very unique, Mrs. Po, Mima, Cara, Donnata, Heraulta, Gita and Nanu. Where did you come up with the idea for these names?

Oh that’s an interesting question. No one has asked me that before. Mima is the name my friend called her grandmother. I always liked it, and so I used it. Po is an abbreviation for a long and unpronounceable Czechoslovakian name. The neighborhood people gave up trying to get her name correct and so decided to call her Mrs. Po. Thus, Mima Po came into being.

Cara is a corruption of the French word coeur, meaning heart. Cara’s family cherishes her enormously, and so the name seemed appropriate for her.

Donnata is also a corruption of a French word—the verb to give donner. Donnata may have her challenges, but at bottom, she’s an open-hearted person, a giver.

I have done a great deal of corrupting, because Heraulta is also a corruption of a French word. Since she is the herald in the trilogy, and since the French word for herald is hérault, I therefore named her Heraulta.
I’m afraid that Gita is much more pedestrian. Years ago I met a woman whose name was Gita and liked her name. Therefore, that’s the name I chose for one of my characters. Gita the character and Gita my friend are strong and determined, in spite of their heartaches. I respect both women a great deal. Therefore I chose to honor Gita my friend by naming a character for her.

In my family Nana is a popular name for grandmother. However, I didn’t want to use Nana. I simply changed the final letter and came up with Nanu.

About Vila Spider Hawk
Vila Spider Hawk is taking a different view on the aging of womankind. Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones is a collection of tales, some of which are interconnected, others which stand alone, all of which deal with women who are finding or already using the wisdom acquired from years of life experience.

Vila SpiderHawk and her husband share a log home of their design in the woods of Pennsylvania where they live with their five cats and enjoy frequent visits with their many woodland friends. SpiderHawk is an avid gardener and a gourmet vegan cook.
You can find Vila at

Follow Vila’s Virtual Book Tour at Pump Up Your Book

Watch the book video

Vila reads from Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones

Thank you Vila!

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Impressions: Hidden Passages-Tales to Honor the Crones by Vila Spiderhawk

Synopsis from the Back of the Book:  An anthology of eight beautifully crafted stories about women of different cultures and eras, the Crones, sharing their wisdom and their joy, their hearts and souls with girls and women in times of difficulty, change, and transition. 

My First Impression:  This book appealed to be because it is presented as a Celebration of Womanhood.  I think that the art of storytelling and sharing of wisdom between generations is getting lost along with a multitude of other things.  We have so many other options for entertaining ourselves that we just don't seem to listen anymore and are often distracted.  

Previous generations have so much to offer.  While their experiences are certainly a little bit different, I think the overall message is something that can be learned from.  I'm looking forward to immersing myself in these tales which are sure to contain strong women and learning experiences.

I took a moment to visit the authors website and there were several rave reviews for the story on there. I hope you will take a moment to look at her site and and read some of the excerpts she has posted.

About the author:  Vila Spiderhawk lives in the woods on Pennylvania with her husband.  She has several books to her credit including Forest Song: Finding Home, Forest Song: Little Mother, Forest Song: Letting Go, and Forest Song Cookbook.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue (audio book)

Narrated by: 
     Michael Friedman
     Ellen Archer
     Robert Petkoff
     Suzanne Toren

Synopsis from Publisher:  To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

My thoughts:  When I first read the synopsis of Room I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to handle it.  I thought it might be too emotionally wrenching for a mother to a young boy.  There is no way that I could handle any sort abuse against Jack.  I wondered if it was going to be painful to read as the story is told from the perspective of five year old Jack.  

As I listened to Jack I was constantly picturing my little monkey.  This made it a little difficult to listen to at times, but it was well worth it.

The ending was not entirely unexpected, but still surprising if that makes any sense at all. 

On the narration: I thought the narrators did an excellent job.  At first I thought that "Old Nick" sounded like too much of a good guy to be the monster who could do such a thing.  After further pondering I realized that he HAD to sound like a nice guy in order to have gotten Ma to go along with him in the first place.  

I loved the youthfulness of young Jack's voice and the wonder about the world that was conveyed each time he spoke.  

The bottom Line:  I fully understand why this book has received so many award nominations.  I would encourage you to seek out either in audio or in print.  It is certainly worth the read and the subsequent discussion.

I received my copy of Room from the publisher.

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Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Synopsis from Goodreads:   
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. 

My thoughts:  I took a little bit of a different approach on this book.  Several bloggers who enjoy the same books as I do have read and enjoyed it so I didn't pay much attention to the synopsis. I dove into it with a general idea what it was about not seeking out additional information.   This was a great way to approach a book and I'm going to have to do it more often. 

There is a certain amount of intrigue to the story.  You know that something has happened to Andi, but you don't learn the extent of the tragedy until later in the story.   Andi is a character that is endearing and frustrating at the same time.  She is suffering but refuses to let anyone in.

Alex's plight is revealed through a series of entries in a diary that Andi discovers.  Alex is fiercely independent and stubborn, two of the traits that she shares with Andi.  Two very similar girls in two very different times makes for a very interesting story.

Revolution is targeted to the teens but could easily appeal to a wider audience.  I will definitely be recommending this one as one of my favorites from 2010.

About the Author: Jennifer Donnelly is a new to me author.  After reading Revolution and while writing this review I set out to learn more about her.  I discovered that she actually has several titles to her credit.  The next one that I will be seeking out is The Tea Rose.  

You can find Jennifer Donnelly on the web:
She is also on both twitter and facebook.

I received my copy of Revolution from the Publisher via the First Reads program on Goodreads.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

My 2011 Challeges

Wow, there are some great challenges popping up all over the place.  You already know that I'm participating in my Audio Book Challenge which runs from Jan 1, 2011 through December 31st 2011.

I also told you that I'll be participating in the What's in a name challenge hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  I'm still compiling my list for this one.  My plan right now is to choose these books entirely from my TBR shelf.  I've got some options for a few of them, but I might have to get a little creative for the others.  This one also runs on the calendar year.

I've also decided to take part in Dollycas's Just for Fun Reading Challenge.  As bloggers we can sometimes get caught up in reading for review purposes only, relying on deadlines to guide our reading.  This challenge asks us to read one book per month just because we want to. 

These two lead me to one that I found this morning hosted by Bookish Ardour.  This one is the Off the Shelf Challenge.  I want a bit more than the initial level of 5 books so I'm shooting for the second level  "Trying=15 books".  This one also runs on the calendar year.

The Amy Einhorn Books Perpetual Challenge is another hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Unlike the others, this one has no specific time frame.  There are some excellent books listed that I have wanted to read for some time, so I thought I'd jump in on this one. 

My personal challenge (which I haven't created a button for yet) for number of books in 2011 will be 85.  I was shooting for 50 in 2010 and exceeded that, but I don't think I'm going to make it past 80.  I didn't want to go for double because I'm pretty sure that I cannot continue reading at the same pace that I did for most of this year.  I think 85 is a pretty reasonable goal considering all of the other things that I have going on my life.

Have you found any challenges to participate in?


Friday, November 26, 2010

The Book Blogger Hop- Black Friday Edition

Happy Friday!  I hope that my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I hope my other readers have had a fantastic week as well.  I am so lucky, I get to spend the day today hanging out with my little monkey. 

Stop by Crazy for Books to see what the Book Blogger Hop is all about.

The question of the week is: What is your favorite book cover?

It's no secret around here that I do judge a book by its cover.  It is often a gut level reaction that causes me to either love or hate a cover.  Often the ones that I love have people featured prominently.  For example, the primary reason I wanted to read Fragile by Lisa Unger was because of the cover.  Seeing that cover led me to read the synopsis and ultimately read the book.
Although I was also intrigued by the cover of Georgia's Kitchen which doesn't feature people at all.  

My cover reaction is generally a first test as to whether or not I will read a book.  The exception to this is if someone specifically recommends a book to me.  If they think I will like something I'll pick it up even if I don't initially jump for the cover.  This is how I've discovered new authors and new genres.

How about you?  What draws you to a book?

Have you checked out my giveaway that is ending next week?  Alive Eve Cohen's What I Thought I Knew

Do you listen to Audio Books?  I have the pleasure of hosting the 2011 Audio Book Challenge.  I'd love for you to join me.

As always, thank you for stopping by.  I hope that you'll visit again.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's in a Name Challenge

Beth Fish Reads has just announced the What's In a Name Challenge for 2011.  

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a number in the title: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: 
  3. A book with a size in the title: Small Wars by Sadie Jones
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title: 
  5. A book with evil in the title: 
  6. A book with a life stage in the title: 
I'm not sure how I will fill in these blanks, but it should be fun.

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Author Spotlight: An Interview with Alice Eve Cohen

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a gripping memoir by Alice Even Cohen.  If you haven't stopped by that post you absolutely should as there is an opportunity for you to win a copy of What I thought I Knew.  In the meantime the author took some time to answer a few questions for me.

1. What are you reading right now?

I’m in the middle of a fantastic YA novel called, Going Bovine, by Libba Bray—a trippy, profound, surreal, hilarious and heartbreaking coming of age story.

2. Are there any authors you would name as influences?

So many! In no particular order, I’ve been influenced by these authors, among others:
Lorrie Moore, Abigail Thomas, David Sedaris, Frank McCourt, William Steig, Barbara Kingsolver, Tony Kuschner, Anna Deavere Smith, E.B. White, Sharon Creech, Jhumpa Lahiri, Lewis Carol, Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, William Carver, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Arundhati Roy, August Wilson, Charles Dickens, Tennessee Williams, J.K. Rowling, Patricia McCormick, William Faulkner, Maurice Sendak, Bertolt Brecht, Diane Ackerman, Vladimir Nabakov, Oliver Sacks…

3. What was the book that most influenced your life and why?

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It was the first novel I ever read. I was about seven years old, and I was utterly transported. It opened a door for me into reading as a journey of the imagination, and it made me want to write.

4. What are your 5 favorite books and why?

It’s impossible to choose just five! My favorites change regularly, depending on my mood, and on what I’ve been reading most recently. I love each of these books, because reading them is a transformative experience, and because each one, in its own way, is mind-blowing and perfect.
• Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
• The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
• The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
• Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
• Angels in America, by Tony Kuschner
• The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
• Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt

5. What are your favorite books to give others?

Well …I like giving friends books that I’ve written, and any book by anyone on my list of favorite authors, and whatever I happen to be in the middle of reading and enjoying.

6. What’s next?

Reread Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

7. What is on your bookshelf?

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion
The Three-Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas
A Little History of the World, by E.H. Gombrich
Angels and Ages, by Adam Gopnik
The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll be Dead, by David Shields
A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman
The Center of the Universe, by Nancy Bachrach
Perfection, by Julie Metz
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
Where I’m Calling From, by William Carver
The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda
The Snowy Day, by Jack Keats
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
Zagat New York City Restaurant Guide

8. What isn’t on your bookshelf but should be?

Patti Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids”

9. What books would people be surprised to learn that you own?

I own loads of children’s books that my kids have outgrown but that I still love to read and reread and re-re-read. My daughters put their old books in a giveaway pile; I pilfer the pile and put my favorite children’s books by my bed.

10. What question are you never asked in an interview but wish you were?

I’m asked a wonderful variety of questions. No unfulfilled interview yearnings that I can think of.

11. What is a typical day for you?

Wake at 6:45, have breakfast with my ten-year-old daughter Eliana, take her to her school (both of us trying to read on the subway, unless we’re squished like sardines into the rush-hour train, which pretty much rules out reading), get an awesome cup of coffee in the Village (either drink it in a paper cup while walking, or sit down and have coffee with a friend), write for three or four hours, either in my living room or at The Writers Room in Greenwich Village, (while trying very hard not to be distracted by email and FaceBook), quick lunch (whatever’s in the fridge), go for a bike ride—either around Central Park, or bike on the Greenway, the bike path along the Hudson River, up to the Little Red Light House and the George Washington Bridge–(or be lazy and take a nap instead of biking, an excellent rainy day alternative), prepare to teach, take care of boring chores, pick up my daughter from school and seek the right balance of homework and play, make dinner and eat with family (my husband Michael and I take turns cooking), teach my playwriting class to college students at The New School, take the subway home (while trying to get reading done), have a glass of wine with Michael while watching John Stewart and Stephen Colbert on TV, listen to music, and go to bed way too late.

12. Are you a book collector? Do you collect any particular genre?

Nope, not a collector. I love libraries and book stores, so I can keep changing what’s on my book shelf.

Find Alice Eve Cohen on the web at:

Thank you for answering all of my bookish questions.  Its always interesting to see what authors are reading.  I'm already adding some of your answers to my TBR list.


Monday, November 22, 2010

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker

Synopsis from Publisher:  It's lonely being a Mormon in New York City. Every year, Elna Baker attends the New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. This year, her Queen Bee costume (which involves a funnel stinger stuck to her butt) isn't attracting the attention she'd anticipated. So once again, Elna finds herself alone, standing at the punch bowl, stocking up on Oreos, a virgin in a room full of thirty-year-old virgins doing the Funky Chicken. But loneliness is nothing compared to what Elna feels when she loses eighty pounds, finds herself suddenly beautiful...and in love with an atheist. 

My Thoughts:  I saw this title reviewed on another blog and was immediately intrigued.  I apologize, I don't remember which one it was so I cannot give them proper credit.  I really should keep track of these things.  

The title immediately jumped out at me and the cover looked fun.  I seem to be on a bit of a memoir streak lately.  This one is one of my favorites.  It is easy to see why Elna is "the funny one" in her family.  Her wit and humor shine through in all of the stories that she tells.  

I know the phrase "coming of age" is terribly over used, but this truly is a journey of self discovery.  Elna experiences the same things that most college age young women do, but she has the added pressure of adhering to the life guidelines imposed by her religion.  She expresses frustration several times leading her to question the guidelines and whether or not she truly wants to live as a Mormon.  

The only thing that I didn't really like about her story was the method she used to lose her weight and the rate at which she lost it.  Eighty pounds in five and a half months is a lot of weight to lose so rapidly.  Her diet included medication and very little food.  I'm not sure what kind of doctor allowed this to happen, but it is not reality and I don't believe that this should ever be attempted.  

The bottom line, Elna is a very funny young lady who has a lot of life ahead of her.  She has written a fantastically humorous account of her life so far. 

For more humor from Elna check out her webpage:

I received my copy of The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance from the Publisher.  This is my honest opinion of the book.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Author Spotlight: Guest Post and Kindle Give Away by Scott Nicholson

Today I have a special treat.  I have a guest post from author Scott Nicholson.  I'm sure you've seen other posts from him around the blogosphere.  Please welcome Scott to Teresa's Reading Corner...

E-book prices
By Scott Nicholson

I’ve had a few people ask me about e-book prices and what happens when the author is setting the price.

Actually, for the most part, it’s Amazon setting the price, at least for indie authors. You can’t upload your book for less than 99 cents, and if you want to earn 70 percent royalties, it must be at least $2.99. That earns the author two bucks per book, which is fantastic—nearly on par with what bestselling authors make on hardcover sales. So most authors are happy with that price range, and so are the readers, though a lemon turns up every now and then if you don’t sample before you buy.

Major publishers are still running their books up to the $14.99 level, though more and more seem to be falling in the $8-to-$10 range that Amazon originally envisioned. While outlets likes Barnes & Noble and Smashwords let you give your book away, I’ve yet to hear of many success stories from authors doing that—unless they have significant lines of product to sell. In other words, giving away free books to give away more books in the future is a terrible business model.

I believe that will change as e-books move to sponsorships and content ads, and giving away the book will be the name of the game—such deals will likely be measured by the number of downloads. But some think this will never happen. I’ve learned to never say “never” in the digital age, because most predictions look silly six months or a year later.

Does 99 cents lead to impulse buys? Some cheap books are getting hoarded and may never be read, but I think the same is true of free books. I downloaded a handful of free e-books to read on the Kindle for PC, mostly because they were “real books” usually listed at $8 or so, and I thought I was getting a good deal. Except the part where I realized I wouldn’t read them even if they were free, because time is worth more than money.

If someone is specifically looking for an author’s book, they will probably pay a reasonable amount of money for it. If they are looking for books in similar genres, they may consider price. If they are going around and gobbling up 99 cent books, they probably aren’t paying too much attention to what they are buying. After all, when you can get 10 indies for the price of one “major publisher” book, it’s probably worth the risk. Chances are you’ll find two or three as good as the $10 book.

In my own case, I like to have a mix of 99 centers, and a body of work at $2.99 and $3.99. That means I earn more per book than when I was published in mass-market paperback, and readers have a variety of entry points to my work. I sell a lot more of the cheaper ones, and that suggests those readers aren’t all moving up to the higher prices yet, but we’ll see. This era is still new and raw and experimental.

Readers and writers, for the first time in history, get to sort out the prices on their own, just between them. With a little nudge from Amazon, of course.

Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the YA paranormal romance October Girls and the thrillers Disintegration, As I Die Lying, Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, Burial to Follow, and They Hunger. His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, Curtains, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers.

To be eligible for the Kindle DX or Kindle 3, simply post a comment below with contact info. Feel free to debate and discuss the topic, but you will only be entered once per blog. I’m also giving away a Kindle 3 through the tour newsletter and a Pandora’s Box of free e-books to a follower of “hauntedcomputer” on Twitter. Thanks for playing. Complete details at


Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Book Blog Hop November 19th Edition

Welcome to another Friday Book Blogger Hop! I've had a lot of things going on this week and not all of them have gone exactly as planned.

If you are new to the hop, stop by Jennifer's Blog Crazy for Books and she'll explain how this all works.  I have found a lot of great blogs and added many books to by TBR list by participating.  I hope you do too!

Each week Jennifer asks us a question to help facilitate discussion.  This weeks question is:

"Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!"

I am most definitely thankful for my wonderful husband and our family.  I am thankful that I have a job that I enjoy most of the time.  I am thankful that I found the fantastic book blogging community who has supported me and challenged me this year.  

As for holiday traditions, we're still working on those.  We usually spend Thanksgiving with my husband's family.  I'm fortunate in that my mother in law still does all of the family dinners so I don't have to worry about them.

For those visiting from the Hop this week, I've got a couple of cool things to offer.  I have a giveaway going right now for a fantastic memoir.  What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen.  Hop over and fill out the form for your chance to win.  The second thing I've got going is that I will be hosting the 2011 Audio Book Challenge.  Hop over there, grab the button and add a link to your blog.  I'm going to try to put together some fun things so I hope you'll join in.

Take a look around and make sure you say hello.  Have a fantastic weekend!

Have you Heard About?

The Naked Gardener by L.B. Gschwandtner
Synopsis from Goodreads: In a remote forest of northern Vermont, Katelyn Cross takes five women on a wilderness canoe trip where they hope to come up with ideas for saving their dying town. Although the river is not always what it seems and the women have not left their problems behind, a painting ritual creates a new way to look at the world - and themselves. 

Artist Katelyn Cross loves Greg Mazur and he loves her. He wants to be married but a previous relationship that went sour has made Katelyn overly cautious about any permanent commitment. And what about Greg's first wife? He lost her to cancer and Katelyn worries that he's only looking for a replacement. What's a girl to do? Canoe down a river with five gal pals, camp out, catch fish, talk about life and men. The problem is, a river can be as unpredictable as any relationship and just as hard to manage. On their last day, when the river turns wild, the women face the challenge of a lifetime and find that staying alive means saving themselves first while being open to help from a most unlikely source. As Katelyn navigates the raging water, she learns how to overcome her fear of change in a world where nothing stays the same. When Katelyn returns to her garden, she'll face one more obstacle and the naked gardener will meet the real Greg Mazur. 

Sounds like a good one doesn't it?  I'm really looking forward to reading it.  I'll let you know what I think as soon as I do!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Impressions: The Sixth Surrender by Hana Samek Norton

Synopsis from Goodreads:  In the last years of her eventful life, queen-duchess Aliénor of Aquitaine launches a deadly dynastic chess game to safeguard the crowns of Normandy and England for John Plantagenet, her last surviving son.

To that end, Aliénor coerces into matrimony two pawns-Juliana de Charnais, a plain and pious novice determined to regain her inheritance, and Guérin de lasalle, a cynical, war-worn mercenary equally resolved to renounce his.

The womanizing Lasalle and the proud Juliana are perfectly matched for battle not love-until spies and assassins conspire to reverse their romantic fortunes.

My first impressions:  I chose this novel because it has two of my favorite elements in a novel.  It is a historical and there are several strong female characters. The first thing that I thought when I looked at the cover art was that this women is a problem solver.  She will go to any means to protect whatever she is protecting.  I haven't finished it yet, but so far I am really enjoying it.  I'm curious to see how Juliana deals with her marriage to an unlikely groom.  I wonder what lengths she will go to in order to regain her inheritance.

So far I've enjoyed the writing.  The one thing that would be helpful for me is a cheat sheet of who's who.  There are so many names being thrown around that I've gotten lost a couple of times.

I'll give you an update when I finish this story.  In case you missed it, check out Hana's Guest Post

I received a copy of The Sixth Surrender from the publicist in order to participate in this blog tour.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Announcing the 2011 Audio Book Challenge

I would like to cordially invite you to participate in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge.  This challenge was formerly hosted by Alaine at Queen of Happy Endings.  Earlier this fall she was looking for a new home for the challenge and I happily volunteered.  

I am going to shoot for the Addicted level.  I think one per month is pretty reasonable.

I hope that you'll jump over the the 2011 Audio Book Challenge Page and join me!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Author Spotlight: Hana Samek Norton

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Hana Samek Norton at Teresa's Reading Corner.  Her book, The Sixth Surrender is a 2010 Finalist in the New Mexico Book Awards.  Come back tomorrow for more about The Sixth Surrender tomorrow. 

Five and a Half Rules I Learned about Writing

By Hana Samek Norton

During a recent book signing, the book store manager mentioned that quite often her customers would ask her about how to get their book onto the book shelves—a book they haven’t written yet. Sometimes they say they have an idea for a book, but don’t know how to do it.

Frankly, the book store manager’s words surprised me – doesn’t everyone know that you have to WRITE a book first? I think, however, that the question is in fact the “how to,”  or more precisely, WHERE to start. Actually, a good question.

For those who have already ventured into writing, there seem to be “rules” in the writing world for just about anything—plot, characters, setting—and getting started on that first or latest project. If any of those “rules” work for you, great! But the most difficult thing still seems to be that “where/how” to start.

Many of my accomplished friends love to write—I don’t, and I hate them (just kidding). It may seem like a heresy to confess it, but I really don’t like “to write.”  I like to dawdle over research—occupational hazard of a historian. So here are my five rules and a half rules from getting me to “THE END”.

  1. Deadline. I have to have a dead line. It’s the “dead” that inspires me more than anything else. A page in the next l5 minutes is a good deadline for me.
  2. The tighter the deadline the better. Thirteen minutes and counting—the characters start shouting at me to sit down and start typing. 
  3.  Ok, ok--start typing while they are doing something interesting. 
  4. “Bad” characters are always doing something interesting.
  5. What next—where are all these guys heading?  I reach for Chris Vogel’s The Writer’s Journey . He knows where they all ought to be heading and how to get them there.
     5 1/2 Repeat

    Hana’s passion for the Middle Ages dates to a childhood exploring the ruins of castles and cloisters in the (now) Czech Republic. She also developed that “lurid taste in fiction,” by reading dog-eared novels full of the drama and melodrama of history. She graduated with an MA from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, and a Ph. D. (both in history, of course), from the University of New Mexico where she currently resides. She is married to an Englishman, teaches part-time, and works as a historical consultant.

    Her latest book is The Sixth Surrender.

    You can visit her website at


    What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir- Alice Eve Cohen (a review and giveaway)

    Synopsis from Goodreads:  At age forty-four, Alice Eve Cohen was happy for the first time in years. After a difficult divorce, she was engaged to an inspiring man, joyfully raising her adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming. Alice tells her fiancé that she’s never been happier. And then the stomach pains begin.

    In her unflinchingly honest and ruefully witty voice, Alice nimbly carries us through her metamorphosis from a woman who has come to terms with infertility to one who struggles to love a heartbeat found in her womb – six months into a high-risk pregnancy.

    My thoughts:  This was actually the first memoir that I read in my recent foray into the genre.  I received it in the mail one day and started reading it because it was close by.  It is a very intense read but I could not put this book down.  I was reading it in EVERY spare moment.  I was horrified by her experiences with her medical practitioners.  I felt her anguish when her world was turned upside down.  

    It's not really a journal, yet it is.  Cohen is absolutely sharing her innermost thoughts and experiences with the reader.  She is brutally honest throughout.  So honest that some may find her thoughts and language offensive so I do issue a word of caution.  

    The title is born of a habit that the author has.  A habit of making lists titled "What I know".  These lists appear periodically throughout the story and are absolutely fantastic.  I think it would be incredibly interesting to compile more of these lists over time.  Just random lists that give an extensive peek into someones life.  Not necessarily about anything at all.  Hmmm... maybe I should do this.  Something to think about.

    This is a great book for anyone who likes a dramatic story. 

    You can find Alice Eve Cohen on the web: 

    The Good News is you have a chance to win a copy of this fantastic memoir!

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    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Song of the Orange Moons by Lori Ann Stephens

    Synopsis from Goodreads:  A mosaic of stories that follow the intertwined lives of three girls coming of age. Two young girls from Jewish and Christian families and their elderly widow next door try to find happiness in a seemingly cruel world. In spite of their different cultural and economic backgrounds, Rebecka, Helen, and Adelle all share the delicate and self-conscious journey to womanhood. All three search for love and meaning in a variety of places a charismatic church, a Depression-era orphanage, a moonlit Savannah park, an orthodox Jewish boarding school and end up finding lasting strength in the power of their friendships. 

    My thoughts:  This debut novel from Lori Ann Stephens is beautifully written.  It took me a little while to get into it, but once I did I couldn't wait to see what happened to each of these women.  Each of the girls has a vastly different experience yet they are able to come together to form a bond that stands the test of time.   We meet Rebecka and Helen as young girls, but Adelle shares her growth through her memories.  

    One of the things that I found interesting was the passage of time.  Stephens didn't feel like she had to tell us every little detail to make the transition from young girls to women.  I think that the story reinforces the importance of those people that you choose to keep in your life for whatever reason.  It demonstrates how those people help to mold you into the person that you are.

    There were times where I wondered where she was headed.  There wasn't a clear path that allowed you to guess where they were all going to end up.  I am interested to see what Stephens writes next.

    This one is just releasing, I encourage you to check it out.

    My copy of Song of the Orange Moons was provided to me by the author and her publicist to participate in her blog tour.  In no way did this affect my opinion of the book.  


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    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    The Heights by Peter Hedges (audio book)

    Narrated by: 
         Peter Hedges
         Any Ryan
         Alison Pill

    Unabridged CDs, 7 CDs, 8 hours 
    Released March 2010 by Penguin

    Synopsis from Penguin:Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights. As he says, "I was an odd-looking, gawky kid but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I'm now convinced, helped in my quest to be worthy of Kate Oliver." Now, Kate is not inherently ordinary. But she aspires to be. She stays home with their two young sons in a modest apartment trying desperately to become the parent she never had. They are seemingly the last middle-class family in the Heights, whose world is turned upside down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn, sending the local society into a tailspin.

    Anna is not only beautiful and wealthy; she's also mysterious. And for reasons Kate doesn't quite understand, even as all the Range Rover- driving moms jockey for invitations into Anna's circle, Anna sets her sights on Kate and Tim and brings them into her world. 

    My thoughts:  I wasn't really sure what to expect when I popped in the first disk.  Hedges is a new to me author.  If I am honest I have to say that I probably wouldn't have picked this one up on my own based on the cover art.  (yes, I am influenced by these things) I will say that I loved the narrators.  Their voices easily guided me through the story.  The story is told in segments narrated by the different characters.  An approach that was new to me just a few months ago, but appears to be increasingly popular. 

    This story had potential but I think it fell short.  The characters never felt connected to one another and I never connected with them.  There wasn't much depth to the characters or to the story.  Kate and Tim are often described as being "normal".  I think this couldn't be further from the truth.  I suppose if life were like a soap opera they would be considered the "normal" couple.  Their relationship was nowhere near normal.  Kate and Tim NEVER communicate with one another.  

    The author goes off on tangents on occasion into seemingly unrelated stories involving Tim's parents and sister or some of the other mothers in their circle.  There were a couple of these tangents that did eventually wind back around, but weren't really necessary in the story as a whole.  There are a couple of segments that are pretty sexually explicit.  I'm still undecided as to whether they were needed to tell the story or just there to grab a certain audience.  I'm leaning toward the latter.  

    My copy of The Heights was sent to me by the publisher as part of a contest win.  This is my honest opinion of the story. 

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    Kids Corner: Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan

    Synopsis from Goodreads:  Lizzie loves to make up stories and tell them to anyone and everyone, even though now that her annoying baby brother, Marvin, has joined the family, no one has time to listen.  She's so full of ideas, it seems like nothing can stop her. And then one day, something does. What’s a star writer to do?
    Lizzie finds inspiration where she least expects it in this funny picture book, illustrated with energy and pizzazz by award-winning artist Tricia Tusa.

    My Thoughts:  This is such a cute story.  While the content was a little advanced for my little monkey, I think he'll enjoy it in the very near future.  As the oldest of three girls, I could (and can still) relate to Lizzie.  Sometimes my sisters would annoy the heck out of me when they were around, but I sure miss them when they are gone.

    I received this book from the author as a prize won during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. 



    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    First Impressions: Bobo's Daughter by Bonnie Barnett

    Synopsis from Goodreads:  Bonnie Barnett first met her father at the circus. She was a four-year-old spectator; he was one of the world's most famous clowns, a veteran performer for shows like the Shrine Circus and The Ed Sullivan Show. Though his star persona was always present in the periphery of her life, she rarely got to see him in person, and the inconsistency of her mother, a former clown herself, only increased her loneliness. As she entered adulthood, put herself through college, and sought spiritual fulfillment, Bonnie found herself seeking out her father at every turn. It wasn't until she finally showed up at this doorstep that he stopped being a larger-than-life myth and became a very human father, full of faults, regrets, and love. Bobo's Daughter recounts Bonnie's quest for the affection and acceptance of her legendary father--and the lessons she learned along the way. 

    My first impression:  I selected this book because it involves a relationship between a father and daughter.  A "normal" father and daughter relationship can be complex and difficult.  Factor in celebrity and it takes on another dimension.

    You can read an excerpt

    Thank you to Lindsay at Phenix & Phenix for sending me this book to review.  I hope to be able to read it soon and share all of my thoughts about the book. 


    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    The Mermaid's Pendant by LeAnn Neal Reailly

    To see the synopsis and my initial thoughts you can view my mini review

    My thoughts:  There have been several occasions upon finishing a book that I've wondered "what happens next?"  Did they in fact live "Happily Ever After" having worked so hard to get together?  The Mermaid's Pendant answers that question about the popular fairy tale "The Little Mermaid". 

    I mentioned in my mini review that The Mermaid's Pendant is a long story. While it is not officially broken up into two parts, there is an obvious division. The first part of the story is the retelling of "The Little Mermaid".  In this part of the story John and Tamarind's relationship is built and revealed slowly. We get to know each of them as individuals along with the people that influence their relationship.  A lot of time was spent on this part of the story which I know some readers found tedious because we know that they get together.  I felt like this was necessary in order to get to know the characters, and the process revealed the intricacies of the relationship. 

    The second part of the book is what happens after the "Happily Ever After".   Life is no longer a fairy tale for John and Tamarind.  I'm sure each one of us knows a couple whose situation resembles that of John and Tamarind.  Once the honeymoon is over things change and the real work marriage begins. 

    There were some twists and turns in the second part of the book that I didn't expect.  The author explored some of the relationships surrounding John and Tamarind further demonstrating who they were as people and how their own relationship was faltering. 

    Even though the book took longer for me to get through than I'd planned on, I enjoyed it.  Reading it reminded me that we all can have the fairy tale if we are willing to put in a little work.   

    A Big Thank you to Lisa at TLC and the publisher for sending me a copy of The Mermaid's Pendant to review. 

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    First Impressions: Lydia's Charm by Wanda E. Brunstetter

    Synopsis from Goodreads:  Widowed and jobless, Lydia King moves her son and herself to Charm, Ohio, to be close to her mother and help with her grandfather. Menno Troyer, a furniture store owner, is also recently widowed and the father of four energetic boys. Levi Stutzman, another newcomer to the area, is the only one in his family not handicapped by dwarfism and has dedicated his life to caring for them. As fall colors the countryside, will anonymous gifts left for Lydia bring her hope for a new life and romance, or will another tragedy flood her with infinite despair? 

    My First Impressions:  I was drawn to Lydia's Charm because of the story.  A young mother who has to do what needs to be done.  It seems like a story of strength and perseverance which we all know that I adore. 

    Thank you to PTA Reviewers for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  


    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Preview of Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan

    I am excited to share a preview of Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan with you.  This fantastic novel was released in paperback on November 1st.  It would be great paired with a beverage from your favorite coffee shop or even a bottle of your favorite wine.


    Helen of Pasadena
    By Lian Dolan

    Chapter 1

    Now I knew: I’d get a full church at my funeral. What a relief. It was the kind of thing I lost sleep over at night, being a planner and all. How many times had I sat at funerals, counting the hundreds (or, more depressingly, dozens) of mourners in the pews and thought, Who would show for me? Do people like me more or less than Jane’s mother? Do I know a hundred people who would care? Two hundred? Who should cater? Now I had my answer: full church. Because if this many people could show up for my husband, my late husband, then I’d get almost this many, right?
    One thing I’d never planned on was my husband dropping a bombshell on me and then dropping dead.
    That would have been good to know.
    At least Merritt would have been pleased at the standing-room-only situation in the church. Merritt was a big deal in his world, and to prove that, there were the partners from the firm and the fraternity brothers, town officials, boards of schools and organizations, a Pasadena who’s who. Merritt’s people, many of whom he had known his whole, short life.
    But there were lots of my people, too: the thin, young mothers from Millington School turned out in their best black suits, Prada purses and Tory Burch flats despite the economic downturn; the formerly thin team moms from a decade on the sidelines of every sport from basketball to soccer; the lovely sustaining members of the Symphony Guild, whispering together in the back rows about losing such a big donor in such a tough time; the handsome dads from water polo contemplating if they’ll be next. Half of them longing for a drink; the other half wondering who did the flowers. Their presence meant the world to me.
    I was shocked by Merritt’s death, maybe even in shock. But I was not devastated. I was relieved.
    Very, very relieved.
    “It’s a tragedy when a husband is taken from his wife, when a father is taken from his son, when a son is taken from his mother, when a citizen is taken from his community, as Merritt Fairchild was taken from his lovely wife, Helen, his brave son, Aiden, his adoring mother, Mitsy, and his beloved hometown of Pasadena,” sang out Monsignor Flaherty, working his Irish brogue and his gift of oration from the altar of St. Perpetua’s, the most socially progressive and socially acceptable Catholic church in town.
    Merritt had donated the altar. That’s the kind of big, public gesture he liked to make. It was a simple, hand-carved mahogany altar influenced by the Mission at San Luis Obispo. Merritt had asked me to do the research and make the recommendation to the Church Restoration Committee. It was all a little contrived for me, but I’d risen to the occasion, loving history and architecture as I do. I still preferred to slip an anonymous $25 in the envelope at collection. Merritt never understood that. “Why give a little every week when we could just write one big check at the annual auction?” he’d say.
    The Monsignor was a cult figure, inspiring the kind of following that most Catholic priests could only dream of these days. Maybe it’s because he understood the power of myth, because he was certainly spinning one now.
    “Merritt Fairchild will be missed,” continued the Monsignor. “His sense of generosity, his sense of humor, his sense of dignity. This is a man who will be missed.”
    Thank you, Monsignor, on behalf of my son, who will miss him, even though he never knew him that well. Or maybe precisely because he did not know him well. I squeezed Aiden’s hand. How did he get so big? Not 20th percentile anymore, so I guess all that worrying paid off. Thirteen years old and now he has no father.  After two days of alternating between sobbing and silence, Aiden looked surprisingly strong, sitting there in his itchy Nordstrom suit that I barely even remember buying, even though it was only two days ago. My God, what a two days it had been! I thought you were supposed to get five stages of grief; I got about 36 hours.
    Hold it together and get through this performance.
    “He was a man who honored his commitments deeply.”
    Until he didn’t. I used to be in love with my husband—really, really in love. When I first moved to Pasadena to become Mrs. Merritt Fairchild, I thought I was the luckiest girl in town. Marriage to Merritt meant stability and social status, something I never had growing up. Central Oregon wasn’t too big on cotillions and country clubs. Who needed to socialize in formalized groups when there was plenty of pot and bootleg Grateful Dead tapes to share? My parents meant no harm, but, really, a life selling macramé and scented oils out of a VW camper van was not for me. I read everything I could get my hands on, from Walker Percy to The Preppy Handbook, made good grades and got out of Jerry Garciaville as soon as I could.
    Enter Merritt Fairchild, a straight-arrow Berkeley law student in a blue blazer and khakis. I was an archaeology grad student who was working at the food co-op when Merritt strolled down my aisle, solid, graceful and slightly sweaty after a game of Ultimate Frisbee. Merritt feigned interest in the eternal question: quinoa vs. bulgur. After he asked me out, I actually looked over my shoulder to see if there was a sorority girl behind me. I loved it when he introduced me to his law school buddies as his “yurt-raised hippie chick” or his “genius Greek-speaking goddess.” Like he appreciated my past but believed in a future free of weekend craft fairs. When he asked me to marry him six months later, despite his mother’s objections to my unorthodox upbringing and my parents’ objection to his conventional upbringing, Merritt was my hero.
    I sailed through the early years, thinking how very clever I was to have found Merritt and given him a healthy, strapping baby boy. Merritt was a solid citizen in the solid, suburban town of Pasadena, home of the Rose Parade, the Norton Simon Museum, Caltech, Greene and Greene homes and old money. Old, old money. The kind of credentials that could only be sexy if you grew up in a town like Sisters, Oregon, which had more bead stores than banks and featured “art” galleries full of tree trunks shaped into beavers by chain saws.
    Merritt was busy building up a law firm and then making the switch into capital investments; I was busy building friendships and navigating the social waters with complete naiveté. I happily traded in my grad-student status for membership in the young mothers’ club of Pasadena. I think it was the car. Not admirable, but I loved that Volvo. It was new and shiny and not at all like the rusty relics I’d seen at the Oregon textile symposiums of my youth. That car was the most beautiful shade of blue. Hello, keyless remote entry. Goodbye, archetypes of the feminine in classical mythology.
    I’ll just take a few years off, I thought once I was pregnant. I’m only 26, I’ll finish that thesis someday. But for now I had money to raise for the new children’s museum. Merritt used to laugh, amazed that I was asked to be on the board at Kidseum with my natural-fiber past and subscription to Biblical Archaeology magazine. He’d tease me in front of his clients, but all in good fun, I’d thought. But in the last few years, the teasing had stopped being funny. It had started to feel real.
     Still, that was no reason to feel relief at his death.
    “Merritt Fairchild was the kind of man who inspired others to be their best, raise their game, achieve more. He brought out the best in those around him.”
    Or their insecurities. Should I have I paid more attention to social obligations? Or my grooming? Or any of the other minutiae the mattered to Merritt? I’ll never know now.
    “It is fitting that a man who gave so much to his community should die in service to the organization that he loved so much.” Monsignor let it go at that, but I thought I heard snickers. A manicured hand squeezed my shoulder warmly, then my friend Candy McKenna, scented by Michael Kors and coiffed by Stephen of Stephen Stephens Salon, whispered in my ear, “Jackie Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy.” My Candy-recommended mantra for the next few days. Be the stoic widow, Candy directed. I conceded to Candy in matters like this.
    Candy had a profound sense of the appropriate, being a former Rose Queen, the pinnacle of teenage social success in Pasadena. Out of thousands, literally thousands, of fresh-faced candidates, Candy was chosen to reign. Rising to the top of the Rose Court through excessive grooming, academic achievement and community service is usually a prelude to a charmed life in TV news or charitable works. Candy had been a spectacular Rose Queen, squeezing every ounce of extra camera time and connections out of her moment in the sun.
    Then came the fall.
    She called it “an unfortunate case of misjudgment,” her Vanessa Williams incident in the late ‘80s. Candy had taken her 1987 reign as Rose Queen right to the Ivy League, only to discover that no one at Brown cared that she’d worn a diamond crown and waved to millions on New Year’s morning. Being Pasadena’s Rose Queen meant nothing to the jaded East Coast undergrads of Providence, Rhode Island, especially to her roommate, a women’s studies major with a minor in comparative feminist lit. By her sophomore year, long after her official reign ended, Candy was desperate to reclaim her status. So, in “an unfortunate case of misjudgment,” Candy posed for Playboy’s Women of the Ivy Leagues issue. Back then, a naked photo was shocking, not like today, where every beauty queen has some X-rated video posted on the Internet. Once the Tournament of Roses caught wind of her, umm, exposure, she was shunned. Not officially tossed out of the Tournament family, but not welcomed back for reunions either. Candy reeled, transferred back to UCLA to plead her case and wound up the black sheep of the Rose Queens.
    Now, twice divorced with two kids, the same killer body she had in high school and a midcentury modern house on Linda Vista, she made her living as a digital media maven, running the hugely popular gossip and entertainment site, She covered events and news stories from all over Los Angeles, including Hollywood. But she paid the rent with her local stories. Candy spilled about everything that matter to Pasadenans, from proper black tie events to preschool blackballing. She was respected, fawned over and feared. On the inside, but not quite.
    Candy, true to her Rose Court training, had rushed to my side when she heard the news about Merritt. God, everyone in town had heard the news before the Rose Parade was even over. How could you not read the headlines? Rose Parade Volunteer Killed by Float. And underneath, the details unfolded: Police Investigate Collision of Scooter and Giant Panda Float Sponsored by the Chinese Tourism Board.
    In the 112-year history of the parade, no Tournament of Roses volunteer, or White Suiter, as they are known to locals because of the white suits and red ties they wear on New Year’s Day, had ever been killed during the actual parade. The White Suiters were CEOs and lawyers and bankers with deep social connections and a sense of civic duty, hand-chosen to oversee the parade, the football game and the myriad of events associated with the Tournament of Roses. They knew how to handle rain, cold, flower shortages, war protesters, crowds of millions—but a Death by Float? New territory for these pillars of society.
     “Making Lasting Memories” was this year’s Rose Parade theme, and Merritt certainly did, as he plowed his official Honda scooter into the oncoming panda. He was texting at the time, but only I knew that.
    And only I knew to whom.