Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mother's Day Giveaway from Hachette Book Group!

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group I have some books to giveaway. There will be five (5) winners who will each receive a package of these books:

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 HomeBy Rose Tremain ISBN: 0316002623

To enter, leave a comment below stating why you'd like to read these books. Please leave an email address if there isn't one connected to your blog profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win.

- The giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only. No P.O. boxes, please.
- You have until midnight (CDT), May 31, 2009 to enter.
- Five winners will be picked in a random draw on June 1, 2009. I'll email the winners at that time. Winners will have three days to respond with their mailing addresses.

Good Luck!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide

In The Household Guide to Dying, Delia, an author, writes a column and the "Household Guide" books offering readers a variety of tips and advice. When her cancer returns and she learns that she's dying, besides readying her husband and children for her impending absence, she has a brilliant idea to write "The Household Guide to Dying" to give readers advice on how to die. As she's writing the book, she knows that she has to tie up some loose ends from her past and to put her own house in order before the day comes.

This is a beautifully written book that's tender and heartbreaking one moment and very comical the next. While the title suggests a novel about dying, and indeed Delia is dying, the book is really about Delia's life and how she nears the end. There are flashbacks to her young adult life where the reader learns more about Delia's past and her need to go back to heal old wounds. It gets a little confusing at times as to whether Delia has returned in the present day or whether it's a flashback, but it all sorts itself in the end.

The funniest parts were the letters from Delia's advice column readers. Her responses were laugh-out-loud funny and more than a little bit snarky. I probably could have read a full book of these. The saddest part was definitely the end. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll leave it at that.

I loved Delia. There was no "woe is me" from her. She just keeps going; wrapping up loose ends, writing when she could and readying her family. From buying a coffin (um, I mean casket) to planning a funeral, Delia researches "how to die" for her book and for herself. While she's doing her research and writing, she takes the time to guide her family through a very difficult period. Delia's grace and style are something to be envied. I was surprised a few times by the reactions from her husband, Archie, and her two daughters. I don't know if I could have handled the situation as well as they did.

Delia also had a fascination with chickens. She named them, feed them, collected their eggs and petted them. They really seemed to have a calming effect on her. I'm sure there's some great symbolism that others can draw from this fascination. I'll leave that to them.

I think this book would make a great book for book clubs.

I've seen a few different covers for this book. My favourite is the simple one shown here:

Awards: Orange Prize for Fiction: Longlist 2009

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by Debra Adelaide.

For more information about the book, visit Pan Macmillan Australia or Penguin Canada.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Going Gray by Anne Kreamer

In Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self with Grace and Style, Anne Kreamer examines her decision to show her true self and stop colouring her hair. While she focuses a lot on her hair and how gray hair is perceived in society, the book is much more than that. It's also about going older and the lifestyle changes that happen as we age.

I loved this book. Along with an amazing amount of research, Kreamer draws on her personal experience with the subject matter to present this book. She lays out and examines her own decision to go gray and the reactions she receives. From working with her stylist for the transformation to restyling her wardrobe for her new "colours", Kreamer shares her personal struggles and triumphs. She also spends a fair amount of time examining how others perceive gray haired individuals (through online dating websites, attractiveness surveys, job hunting experiments) and the challenges they face. Some of the results were surprising, even to the author. In addition, Kreamer also looks at gray hair in the entertainment, political and other public arenas. While most of the book focuses on women, the author briefly touches on men and their issues with their own gray hair.

I really haven't given much thought to my gray hair. I started going gray in my late twenties and used those semi-permanent colours for awhile. I gave up on that after a few years and have been going "au natural" ever since. It was never a struggle for me. I have gray hair. At my age (45), I should have gray hair. I've earned every one of them. Even if I dyed it, it would still be there; just disguised. Kreamer showed me how and why it could be hard for others. I was so surprised that there are support groups and websites for those people deciding to stop colouring their hair and to let it go gray. I had no idea. I also had no idea how passionate women are on this subject, from both sides of the "battle". Kreamer brings all of that to light.

Both of the following quotes sum up my thoughts on gray hair quite nicely. The first one (page 42 and 43) is from Daniel Gilbert, author of "Stumbling on Happiness. What he says about bald men can be applied to women and gray hair. The second (page 157) is from Anne's husband, Kurt Andersen:
As bald men with cheap hairpieces always seem to forget acting as though you have something and actually having it are not the same thing, and anyone who looks closely can tell the difference.

To me, coloring gray hair is like painting over the brick or stone or cedar shingles on a nice old house--it's not necessarily awful, but part of the beautiful essence of the real thing is how it looks as it ages. It's why we love old cities like Paris and Rome.

Highly recommended for those who dye and those who don't; for those who've embraced their gray hair and those who fear it; for those who are not afraid to show their authentic self and those who are still undercover. Know that where ever you stand on the issue, you are not alone.

For more information about this book, visit Anne Kreamer's website.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Afraid by Jack Kilborn

In Afraid, Safe Haven, Wisconsin, is under siege after a helicopter crash lets loose a gang of superhuman terrorists determined to complete their mission. They will destroy anything and everyone who tries to get in their way. As the bodies start to fall, it's up to a few brave individuals to try to save those they can against all odds. One thing is for sure, the town will never be the same.

This fast paced thriller is packed with tons of action, plenty of bodies and more gore than I thought was possible. This book is definitely not for the squeamish, but I *loved* it. I usually don't read horror novels and didn't know if I'd like it. However, this book grabbed my attention from the first page and didn't let go until the end. Kilborn writes a very convincing story. While this scenario is not very probable, he convinced me that it was at least possible for something like this to happen. At times I was too grossed out or scared to read more, but I couldn't help myself. It was so good.

I've read one other book by Jack Kilborn [aka J.A. Konrath], Fuzzy Navel. In some ways, the books were similar. The chapters are relatively short (which I love) and the major characters seem to have more lives than a cat. Just when you think they can't possibly survive this event, they do. The books were also very different. If I remember correctly Fuzzy Navel was a little gory, but nothing like Afraid in that respect. Also, the humour that was present in Fuzzy Navel was absent from this book. It was pure horror. While I loved the humour of the previous book, I really didn't miss it here. Like I said before, I don't usually read horror novels, but on the goriness or frightening scale (if there is one), I'd rank this quite high.

If I ever visit Wisconsin again, I'll be sure to steer clear of Safe Haven. You just never know...

Highly recommended. I'm really looking forward to reading more works by this author.

For more information about this book, visit J.A. Konrath's website.

Read Heather's review at Books and Quilts

My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

My Little Red Book is a wonderful collection of stories about women's first periods. The stories come from women from different walks of life, different age groups and different cultures. Because of this, each story was unique, yet equally fascinating.

This book is awesome. While I was reading this book I kept thinking "Where has this book been all my life? Why didn't someone think of this before?" If someone had told me years ago that I'd be reading a book on menstruation (Argh! I hate that word), I would have told them they were crazy. I not only read this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The collection reminds us that even though we are in many ways different from each other, there's a common bond with share with all women. That bond should be celebrated and talked about rather than hidden and silenced.

Gloria Steinem's "If Men Could Menstruate" was priceless...and so true. Also, I especially loved the section on "Euphemisms and Code Words" for periods. Some of them made me cringe a little ("Arts and Crafts week at panty camp", "Ordering l'omelette rouge") and lots of them made me laugh out loud. ("Having the painters in", "Cleanup in aisle one", "Closed for maintenance".)

It's amazing how many women mentioned Judy Blume's book Are You There God? It's Me Margaret in their stories. I wonder if anyone realized at the time of its original publication just how many women (or generations) would be affected by the book. I know it was really popular when I was a preteen/teen.

I'm not going to share my first story (it's mostly unremarkable), however, I will say that I've always hated my period. Ok, that's a pretty strong word, eh? Let's go for not-liked-very-much-at-all. Better? I didn't think it was something to celebrate...more like something to hide or be embarrassed about. However, now that Nalebuff has issued this "call for a change in attitude", I can celebrate the 120 or so periods I have left. [Yes, I've counted...using mid-fifties as a guideline for menopause). So...Yippee! Period. Bring it on. I'm ready for you now.

Highly recommended. I can't say that enough. This book would make an ideal gift for any woman in your life...daughter, mother, niece, aunt, grandmother, sister, cousin, friend. Pick up a copy for yourself, too. The royalties from this book will go to a worthwhile charity.

For more information about the book, visit the book's official website.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm back!

Our move went way better than expected and I'm back online early. Yippee! It's still pretty chaotic around here with tons of boxes to unpack. I'm still working on my reviews and thinking about the Zombie chicken award. I'll post more later this week. Hope I didn't miss anything. ;)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ooops...I knew I was going to forget something.

There's one more thing I have to do upon my return (around April 9, 2009). The lovely Luanne at A Bookworm's World gave me the Zombie Chicken Award. Thanks Luanne! I'm honoured. Rather than risk the wrath of a zombie chicken, I will give this award to 5 bloggers after I've moved and things have settled down a bit. I wonder who it'll be? Stay tuned...

Moving Day!

Moving day has arrived. I'm going to be off line for a bit while we pack up the rest of our stuff, move to a new house and get a new ISP. If all goes well, I'll be back in business by Thursday, April 9, 2009. During my down time, I won't be posting on my blog, answering any emails, or reading any of the great blogs I try to follow. Once the computers are set up and hooked up to the internet, I'll post something to let you know that I'm back online. Then I'll start catching up on all of the things I missed. ;)

All of this packing has seriously cut into my reading time. I've managed to read a few books and write a few reviews amidst the chaos , but I'm behind on both.
I have two outstanding reviews that need to be polished and posted:
1. My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
2. Afraid by Jack Kilborn. I'm sad that I couldn't get it read and reviewed before the blog tour was complete. I wasn't part of the blog tour, but I was hoping to unofficially join in on the fun.

I hope to get both of these reviews posted by April 11, 2009.

I'm currently reading Going Grey by Anne Kreamer. I hope to finish it by April 11 and have my review posted shortly after that.

All of the above dates are tentative and rely heavily on our new ISP's ability to get us up and running quickly. It really sucks that our current provider (Shaw) doesn't offer service in our new location. I really liked their service. I'm sure the new one (MTS) is going to be fine once I get used to it. *crosses fingers*

That's it. Back to packing...and maybe a little reading.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Vigilante Witch Hunter by Gary Turcotte

In Vigilante Witch Hunter, the sequel to Memories of a Fortune Teller, Melissa has inherited her Mother's fortune-teller abilities. Her friend, Stephen hunts down evil-doers and does away with them based on tips from Melissa. She soon meets his stock broker, a wonderful man named Richard. It doesn't take long for her to discover that he too is a fortune teller who inherited his gift from his father. Throw in some mobsters, a marriage, a few deaths and you have pretty much have the whole story of this latest book by Gary Turcotte.

This book didn't really work for me. It was billed as a thriller, but it didn't read like that. I did appreciate the funny bits. Turcotte has a good sense of humour. The scene where he has his fortune told was clever and cute. However, he didn't convince me with this story. The conversations seemed forced and contrived, rather than flowing and natural. The wedding scene was too over the top for me.

Turcotte's descriptive passages were interesting, but at least one of them is physically impossible. He writes: The fluffy clouds rolled behind the sun. It seemed to look like the sun was putting a pillow behind his head readying himself for bed. Sounds nice (although a little corny), but how is this possible?

I found many spelling errors in the book. Normally I don't catch things like this, however, there were too many to be ignored. Errors are acceptable in an advanced reader's copy, but I believe this is a finished book. Not cool.

Having said all that, I did finish the book. That's more than I can say about other books I didn't care for. I kept hoping for it to get better. It didn't. This is the first book I've read by Gary Turcotte. I probably won't read any more. I'm sorry I couldn't find more positive things to say about the book. The premise was a good one and I really wanted to like it.

For more information about the book, check out the publisher's website Outskirt Press or a press release about the book.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Warm Up For Winter Reading Challenge

HarperCollins Canada has been hosting The Warm Up For Winter Reading Challenge over at The Savvy Reader. I rarely participate in challenges, but I decided to give this one a try. So far, I've managed to read four.

My list:
Fool by Christopher Moore
Addition by Toni Jordan
Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup
Darkness at the Stroke of Noon [My Reader's Choice selection.]

I also picked up After River by Donna Milner the other day. It would qualify under the HarperPerennial Canada imprint. I had hoped to have it read by April 30, but that doesn't look very likely at this point. I'll post another update if I succeed.

Anyway, many thanks to Deanna for hosting this reading challenge. It's been fun! If you are up for a challenge, there's still time to read to get in on the action and read some great books. See you over there!