Sunday, May 31, 2009

Giveaway: THE NIGHT GARDENER by George Pelecanos

The great folks at Hachett Book Group are at it again! They have authorized me to give away five (that's 5!) copies of the paperback novel, THE NIGHT GARDENER by George Pelecanos. Pelecanos is a terrific writer and one of my favorites. Don't pass up this great opportunity to win a copy of this book. (Rules for entering the giveaway can be found at the bottom of this post.)

From Publishers Weekly Starred Review:

Pelecanos (Drama City) delivers a dignified, character-driven epic that succeeds as both literary novel and page-turner. In 1985, the body of a 14-year-old girl turns up in a Washington, D.C., park, the latest in a series of murders by a killer the media dub "The Night Gardener." T.C. Cook, the aging detective on the case, works with a quiet, almost monomaniacal, focus. Also involved are two young uniformed cops, Gus Ramone, who's diligent, conscientious and unimpressed by heroics, and Dan "Doc" Holiday, an adrenaline junkie who's decidedly less straight.

Fast forward 20 years. Detective Ramone, now married with kids of his own, investigates the murder of one of his teenage son's friends. The homicide closely resembles the earlier unsolved Night Gardener murders. Holiday, now an alcoholic chauffeur and bodyguard, follows the case on his own and tracks down Cook, long retired but still obsessed with the original murders. While the three work together toward a suspenseful ending, Pelecanos emphasizes the fallacy of "solving" a murder and explores the ripple effects of violent crime on society.

Become a fan on Facebook


  • Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win.
  • Include an @ with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com. You must leave an @ in order to qualify.
  • You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.
  • Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.
  • Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. (Sorry, right now I only Tweet - Digging, Stumbling, etc. have not yet made it into my repertoire.)
  • Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to PO Boxes.
  • Deadline for entry is 12:00 midnight, Wednesday, June 17, 2009 EST.
  • Winners will have 3 days to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

Book Review #6: THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE by George Seldon

THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE by George Selden, Garth Williams (Illustrator)

Publisher: Square Fish
Pub. Date: April 2008
Sales Rank: 3,854
Age Range: 8 to 12

SYNOPSIS (from the publisher):
Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City—the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides—and friends—than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures—from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.
Chester makes a third friend, too. It is a boy, Mario, who rescues Chester from a dusty corner of the subway station and brings him to live in the safety of his parents’ newsstand. He hopes at first to keep Chester as a pet, but Mario soon understands that the cricket is more than that. Because Chester has a hidden talent and no one—not even Chester himself—realizes that the little country cricket may just be able to teach even the toughest New Yorkers a thing or two.


My Thoughts:

Since New York City figures so prominately in the book world this weekend, it seems an appropriate time to post my review of this children's classic. I read it to my niece and nephew over a couple of weeks, reading a chapter or two in the evenings. My nephew is 8 and my niece is 5. This is the first long book that has held both of their interests, and they eagerly looked forward to each session. My niece would often ask during the day if we'd be reading "the cricket book" that night.

Believe it or not, I had never read THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE before, and I found myself reading ahead after the kids went to sleep because I just had to find out what happened! And why not? This is a charming story full of adventure, friendships, and whimsy. I don't think anything I say would improve on the abundance of accolades showered on this book through the decades since it was first published in 1960. All I'm going to do is give it a big thumbs up and encourage anyone who hasn't read it, to do so -- with or without a kid at your side! It's thoroughly enjoyable!

There's a great website for educators that shows how to use the book as a teaching aid with lists of questions for comprehension, vocabulary lists, and grammar lessons. The site must get a lot of traffic because it's the first one to come up in a Google search.

You can listen to an audio excerpt at the Macmillan website.

Additional praise:

“The story of a musical cricket and his friends, a mouse and a cat of real character, who took up their abode in a Times Square newsstand . . . Most appealing whimsy with beautiful illustrations by Garth Williams.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review

“Delightful reading for the whole family.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“This is absolutely grand fun for anyone, a nine to ninety book with the most enchanting portraits by Garth Williams.”—The New York Herald Tribune

George Selden (1929-1989) wrote not only the adventures of Chester, Harry, Tucker, and their friends but also The Genie of Sutton Place, which was one of School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year.

Garth Williams (1912-1996) illustrated all of George Selden’s Chester Cricket books. His other distinguished work includes Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and the Little House books.

The Sunday Salon: May 31, 2009

Is it really the end of May already? I guess this is what happens when you've got your nose stuck in a book! Or your fingers flying over a keyboard! I continue to feel completely overwhelmed by my blogging endeavors, but I'm loving it too much to back off.

Learning to Blog Progress Report: I'm developing a format and structure for my reviews, and I have decided to start giving each book a rating based on the five-star plan. In early May, there was a long discussion at Books on the Brain called To Rate or Not to Rate. Prior to that, I was completely undecided. I appreciate so many bloggers weighing in on the subject. My thought is that the rating is there if you want to use it as a guide, but it can be easily ignored if you are so inclined. I'll be rating the books I read in Library Thing and GoodReads, so I might as well carry it through.

I'm also going to number my reviews as I see several bloggers do that, and I think it will be useful down the line.

Finally, I've learned that some days are better than others for releasing certain kinds of posts. After struggling for weeks with my review of THE RISK OF DARKNESS, I finally posted it on a Saturday and received a very limited response. I think in the future I'll save the weekends for reviews of picture books and early readers. This week, I've got two: JIBBERWILLIES AT NIGHT and THE CRICKET OF TIMES SQUARE.

Checking in on Challenges: Well, I have failed dismally in fulfilling my first challenge, The Unshelved Reading Challenge, hosted by Becky of Becky's Book Reviews. Only 3 books, and I couldn't do it! I think I took on too much too soon. Basically, I just misremembered the deadline as June 30 instead of June 1st! I'll still complete it, just late! Is there a penalty? Will it involve my credit card?! I expect to improve my performance with the 3rd Southern Reading Challenge, but I'd better buckle down because August 15th will be here before I know it!

BEA: I didn't go to BEA this year, but I did try to participate in the BEATwittyParty last Friday night. Whew! What a hailstorm of activity that was! I made my first foray into TwitterChat, which helped, but the party was almost over before I realized that I could control the speed at which the comments refreshed. Once again, I was in over my head, but I did have some fun and met several new-to-me bloggers. I count that as a success! A big THANK YOU! to Rebecca of The Book Lady's Blog for organizing the event.

GIVEAWAYS: Tonight at midnight, EST, is the deadline to enter the Hachette Book Group Mother's Day Giveaway here at A Sea of Books. This is a wonderful and varied selection of books that would really get your summer reading off to a good start. If you haven't entered yet, you've still got a little bit of time!

AWARDS!: I have been the lucky and humbled recipient of several awards over the last couple of weeks. I'll do a couple of posts where I formally thank my generous blogging friends as well as announce with whom I will be sharing some of the awards.

LOOKING AHEAD: There's some good stuff in store for June: great giveaways, blog tours, maybe even an author guest post! You'll just have to keep an eye on me to see what happens!

Have a great day everyone!
Enjoy this beautiful last day of May!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Book Review #5: JIBBERWILLIES AT NIGHT by Rachel Vail; illustrated by Yumi Heo

JIBBERWILLIES AT NIGHT by Rachel Vail, Yumi Heo (Illustrator)
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Pub. Date: October 2008
ISBN-13: 9780439420709
Sales Rank: 419,557
Age Range: 4 to 8

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Katie Honors is back! Katie loves playing with her friends and snuggling with her family, but sometimes at night she's afraid. For Katie, her fears and worries take the shape of Jibberwillies, creatures who fly through her bedroom at night. Luckily, Katie's mom knows just what to do. Together, they catch the troublesome Jibberwillies in a bucket and toss them out the window. It's tough work, but finally the Jibberwillies are gone and next time it happens Katie knows just what she'll do. An empowering book for any child who has ever had nighttime fears.


My Thoughts:

This is a delightful book with an enticing little heroine and an ingenious mom. Over the first few pages, we meet Katie, and she gives us a quick rundown of her day -- waking up with a smile, playing with her friends, and snuggling with her family. Then she gets down to business and explains that sometimes, only sometimes, when she is trying to fall asleep at night, the Jibberwillies come and pester her. She bravely tries to deal with them herself with a variety of sweet and childlike coping strategies, but when those pesky Jibberwillies prove to be too tough for her, Mom comes up with a fool-proof plan to oust the annoying rascals into the night.

The kids at my house really enjoy this book, and we have read it over and over. Colorful and expressive illustrations by Yumi Heo accentuate both the joyous nature of Katie as well as her sense of bewildering fear. The Jibberwillies themselves are yukky, but not overwhelmingly so.

On the back flap of the book, Rachel Vail, who resides in New York City, explains that she wrote the story in September 2001 and "Lots of people had Jibberwillies right then." This knowledge adds an element of poignancy to the story. With older children, it can also lead to a discussion of the events of that September. My 8 year-old nephew has a fascination with New York City (as well as with reading book flaps!) and we talked about how kids living in the City must have felt and coped during that time.

Rachel Vail and Yumi Heo also teamed up for a previous book about Katie, SOMETIMES I'M BOMBALOO. I tried to find a website for Yumi Heo, but was unsuccessful; however, she has illustrated and written other picture books which you can look over here.

Rachel Vail has written many picture books and is also the author of several young adult novels, including the very recently released GORGEOUS. You can access her blog through her website.

I won this book through a giveaway hosted by Kimberly Pauley of Young Adult (& Kid's) Books Central (a/k/a YABC). YABC is a fun and in-depth site and, if you're not familiar with it, you should check it out. Kimberly Pauley is the author of SUCKS TO BE ME: THE ALL-TRUE CONFESSIONS OF MINA HAMILTON, TEEN VAMPIRE (MAYBE). Check out her blog and book, too!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Start spreadin' the news, 'bout those forced to stay
We want to be a part of it – New York, New York!
If we could just choose, we'd go to BEA
Right through the very heart of it – New York, New York!

We wanna wake up in the City with all our Tweeps
But we'll have to Tweet about it cuz – we're at the bottom of the heap!

Our blogosphere friends, are flying away
We want to follow them – to old New York!
If we can't see them there, we'll Tweet them everywhere!
Our hearts are yours New York, New York!

(With apologies to composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb as well as Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli and, I guess I owe all of you an apology, too!)

We can't ALL be in New York this weekend. That much weight might knock the planet out of its orbit! (Ba-dump-bump!) And nobody would ever get a cab! (OOPS! Now I have to apologize to all comedians everywhere, and to all of you--AGAIN!)

So even though it might LOOK like all the action's in Manhattan, those of us who have been left behind are making some fun of our own! Head on over to The Book Lady's Blog and find out how we can all connect for a group chat on Friday night via Twitter. Rebecca's done a lot of hard work organizing this event. Come on, let's get Twitterpated!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I'm a big fan of the Alea's lookalike postings at her blog, Pop Culture Junkie. She has an amazing eye for spotting similarities on book covers, whether it's just a trend or a stock photo that has been reworked, a cover model used frequently, or even an illustration based on a famous painting. So I was pretty excited when I saw this cover of MIDNIGHTERS #2: TOUCHING DARKNESS by Scott Westerfeld on Fyrefly's Book Blog yesterday because I just knew I'd seen the photo before!

So, I hunted it down and, sure enough, I found the book I was thinking of: SHELTER ME by Alex McAulay.

Then I thought, I better be sure before I post this. Aaannnndd, sure enough, Alea had already found it! Last October! See it here, and browse through her other postings while you're at it. They're very interesting.

See? I should have known better than to try taking on the master!

Monday, May 25, 2009

WINNERS of TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve

Announcing the winners of TESTIMONY
by Anita Shreve!

Each of the following people have won a copy of the Anita Shreve novel, TESTIMONY courtesy of Hachette Book Group.

*gaby317 of Starting Fresh
*Dixie and Gaby were kind enough to let me know they had won this book at other sites, so I picked 2 new winners: WANDA and LUCY. I've heard back from everyone now and have sent your addresses on to Hachette.

Congratulations! I have emailed the winners, and they have until midnight on Thursday, May 28th, to respond or I will pick another winner.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. Be sure and enter the Mother's Day Contest and to come by often for more book news and giveaways!

Thank you to Valerie of Hachette Book Group for making this giveaway possible.

What Book Are You?

I took this quiz over at Everything Distils into Reading. It's so fun, I just have to share! Turns out I'm WATERSHIP DOWN. Guess this is the incentive I need to finally get this classic read!

Take the quiz and tell us what book you are! Do you agree with the results? What if you could pick a book to be? What would you be then?

You're Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're
actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their
assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they
build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd
be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

(BTW: It's even more fun to take the quiz over and over giving different answers each time!)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sunday Salon: May 24, 2009

Happy Sunday, everyone! It will be thundering and raining in my neck of the woods today, so it's a good day to hang out with my mom and watch movies. And that's what I'll be doing after running a few errands. My mom is a big reader, so we'll probably laze around with our books as well. I just started reading LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL by Emily St. John Mandel. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but it's really good so far. I'll be participating in an upcoming blog tour and hosting a giveaway, so stay in touch!

The past couple of weeks I've had some restrictions on my computer access. At home, I share a computer and, at the office, I haven't had the off-hours peace and quiet that I like for writing. We'll be setting up a wireless network system at home soon, so hopefully I'll have all the access I need!

Also over the last couple of weeks I have really struggled with my posting for THE RISK OF DARKNESS by Susan Hill. It's a complex book, and I had a complex reaction to it. Between limited computer time and the difficulty of getting my thoughts down in writing, I haven't gotten much blog work done. I stubbornly refused to write any other reviews until I had this one in the bag. Maybe that was the wrong approach. I "published" my post yesterday, even though I am not completely happy with it, and now I'm ready to move on. I'd love to see your opinions on the piece, though, so please comment!

I have several reviews to catch up on. I'll be careful not to paint myself into a corner as I did with THE RISK OF DARKNESS, so you can look forward to my thoughts on such varied titles as THE INDIFFERENT STARS ABOVE and THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE.

And don't forget my giveaways! If you haven't already entered to win a copy of TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve, you have until midnight tonight! Get to it! Enter here. I'll be announcing the winners on Monday.

You've got a little more time to enter the giveaway for the MOTHER'S DAY ASSORTMENT from Hachette Book Group. That contest closes at May 31st. You can enter it here. What are you waiting for?

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Book Review #4: THE RISK OF DARKNESS by Susan Hill

British, brooding, and blonde . . .

As will become evident to all over time, I prefer my detectives British and brooding. As for blonde, well, it makes a good lead in.

Frankly, though, I don't think you can pull off a really authentic air of brooding from under a shiny crown of golden locks, do you? So whenever an author describes the brooder as also being blonde, I just darken things up a bit with my mental Crayolas. Doesn't hurt anybody. After all, when the BBC brought Elizabeth George's blonde-haired Inspector Lynley to life on the small screen, they cast Nathaniel Parker - without dousing him in peroxide!

But, as long as I'm being honest, the British thing is really optional. The most important quality I look for in a good detective is the ability to brood. And the best brooder I've come across is James Lee Burke's Louisiana detective, Dave Robicheaux, who has brooded his way through roughly 17 novels and 4 wives. Maybe 5. If not 5 yet, it will be sooner or later. (How do I know this? Because that's what they brood about. No matter where, no matter who, the basis of a good brood is being unlucky in love - lonely, alienated, misunderstood. But that's a discussion for another essay.) Dave Robicheaux broods wide, deep, and long - and I don't believe he has ever set foot on the British moorlands. On the other hand, there's an awful lot to be said for atmosphere . . .

So, let's see how Susan Hill's DCI Simon Serrailler stacks up as a detective after my own heart:



(Lonely, alienated, misunderstood.
Check, check, and check.)

Oh, all right! So he's blonde! In fact, he's "white blonde" and several times jeeringly referred to as "Blondie." There's brown crayon marks all over my book! Now, can we just get on with the review?!

Susan Hill's THE RISK OF DARKNESS is the third book in her series featuring Chief Inspector Simon Serreiller. This is an intelligent, provocative, and well-written novel. I just didn't like it. I read it because I received an advanced reader's copy through Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program. I had read the first book in the series, THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN, and it never quite clicked with me. At the time, I chalked it up to being distracted by some pretty serious real-life stresses and upheavals and not with any flaws of the book. But as I began THE RISK OF DARKNESS, I was overcome with a feeling of deja vu - I just couldn't get into it properly; I had trouble thinking of Simon Serreiller as the "main" character; interesting things were happening, but the threads seemed too random, and I wasn't connecting the pieces. When the murderer was apprehended within the first third of the book, I finally realized this was no who-dunnit.

Perhaps if I had not initially approached the book as a detective novel, I would have enjoyed it more, but the profusion of dead bodies added to my misconception. Aside from an unnamed number of children, there are several other deaths from both violent and natural causes. It seems to me that the novel is more of an examination of the ripple-like effects of death on those left behind. Simon, still grieving deaths which occurred in the first two novels of the series, not only attempts to support friends and family members suffering sudden losses but also endures yet another major loss of his own. I don't believe there is a single character in the novel who is not touched by death. It is the different ways in which the characters react and cope with these deaths that drive the story. Whether you find these reactions and coping mechanisms realistic and sympathetic will determine how much this novel appeals to you. As a psychological exploration of grief, I found it ultimately generalized and superficial. I would have preferred more in-depth focus on less characters. I also found the depiction of Max Jameson, a grieving husband who descends into insanity, to be distractingly over the top.

THE RISK OF DARKNESS is definitely not a stand alone novel. I'm sure my enjoyment of the story was compromised by not having read the second book in the series, THE PURE IN HEART. It might surprise you to learn that I have every intention of "backtracking" and reading that one as well as the next volume when it is released in the U.S. Why? Well, this may not be a conventional detective series, but it is not without some elements of mystery. For instance, what is the significance of Simon being one of a set of triplets? It's mentioned frequently enough that obviously it's a fact meant to be noticed. Simon's family members are important secondary characters, and we learn a lot about them, but why should he be one of a triplet? Has this distinction shaped his development in some way? It seems counter to him being so emotionally isolated. Also, what is the point of Simon so often being mistaken as gay? Male, female, straight, not, in both novels I've read, one character or another repeatedly assumes him to be gay. Coming across as gay is more complicated than just being good-looking, impecably dressed, and emotionally distant with women. As I read I kept asking myself, What is the point? THE RISK OF DARKNESS is less a "who-dunnit?" than a "why-is-it?"

That I believe there are answers to these questions (and others) is indicative of the respect I have for the author. Susan Hill's first book was published in the early 1960's, and since then she has written numerous novels, non-fiction, children's books, plays, and short stories as well as won multiple awards including the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize (1972 for THE BIRD OF NIGHT). This is a woman who puts enormous thought and planning into her writing. I haven't read any of her other works, but several titles are now on my to-be-read list, particularly THE WOMAN IN BLACK. I can't help but think there is some overarching theme to the Simon Serrailler novels that it not yet evident from my spotty reading of the series, and I want to find out what it is. I do so love a mystery!

And besides, I've thought of an actor to play Simon in my mental movie that makes his brooding blondeness much more appealing. Want to know who? Of course you do! (click that to find out)

MY RATING: 3.5/5

Synopsis (from
Simon Serrailler in love at last — in the third crime novel about Susan Hill’s fictional Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler’s story began in The Various Haunts of Men (about a serial killer against a background of alternative medicine) and continued with The Pure in Heart (about a kidnapped schoolboy against a background of the “innocence” of children and the handicapped). Susan Hill is not afraid to tackle difficult issues, or face up to the realities of stress in a busy police station. Her third crime novel, The Risk of Darkness, equally compulsive and convincing, follows up the child abduction and explores the crazy grief of a widowed husband, a derangement that turns to obsession and threats, violence and terror. Meanwhile, handsome, introverted Simon Serrailler, whose cool reserve has broken the hearts of several women, finds his own heart troubled by a feisty female priest with red hair. The Risk of Darkness is packed with action and adventure. Like Various Haunts, it hinges on a terrific twist that comes as a complete surprise to the reader.

Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Pub. Date: March 2009
Sales Rank: 81,802

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Giveaway: TESTIMONY by Anita Shreve

Thanks to the generous folks at Hachette Book Group, I am authorized to give away 5 copies of the paperback novel Testimony by Anita Shreve. Check out the book, and see the Giveaway Rules at the end of the post.

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.

Listen to an excerpt

Download a podcast

View the video

Get Reading Group Guide


"Shreve, consummate craftsman and frequent provocateur, is on fire in her latest novel, a mesmerizing read centering on a sex scandal at a prestigious Vermont prep school....Shreve views all of the characters, even the most flawed, with a good deal of compassion, revealing the heartbreaking consequences of a single reckless act."--- Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist (starred review)

Anita Shreve is the critically acclaimed author of fourteen novels, including Body Surfing, The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England's Orange Prize. She lives in Massachusetts.


Become an Anita Shreve fan on Facebook

  • Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win.
  • Include an @ with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com. You must leave an @ in order to qualify.
  • You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.
  • Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.
  • Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. (Sorry, right now I only Tweet - Digging, Stumbling, etc. have not yet made it into my repertoire.)
  • Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to PO Boxes.
  • Deadline for entry is 12:00 midnight, Sunday, May 24th, EST.
  • Winners will have 3 days to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.
Please note: I use Comment Moderation. That means your comment will appear after I approve it.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009



Each of the following people have won a copy of the Billie Letts' novel, MADE IN THE U.S.A., courtesy of Hachette Book Group.

jessica.marie of Books Love Jessica Marie
Sharon (sharr1226)
LorieJean (ljs65)

Congratulations, ladies! I have emailed the winners and already heard back from all of them. They will receive their books within a couple of weeks.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. Be sure and enter the Mother's Day Contest and to come by often for more book news and giveaways!

Thank you to Valerie of Hachette Book Group for making this giveaway possible.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Southern Reading Challenge

No way could I pass this up! I love Southern literature, and I could probably fulfill this challenge a hundred times over if I just didn't have to work for a living!

Maggie from Maggie Reads is hosting the 3rd Southern Reading Challenge. Just read 3 books about the South (fiction or nonfiction) between May 15th and August 15th. Follow the link for more details.

I've picked 3 books from my towering TBR pile:

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What would you pick to read?


In honor of Mother's Day, Hachette Book Group has generously authorized me to give away 5 sets of 5 books. Take a look at the books, then read the Rules for Entry below.

THE ROAD HOME by Rose Tremain

Rules for entering giveaway:

  • Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win.
  • Include an @ with your comment so that I can contact you if you do win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com . You must leave an @ in order to qualify.
  • You can earn an extra entry by being or becoming a Follower or Subscriber of this blog and telling me about it in a separate comment.
  • Blog about this contest and provide me with the link to the post in a separate comment, and I'll give you yet another entry.
  • Tweeting about this contest and providing me the link in a separate comment will get you one more entry. (Sorry, right now I only Tweet - Digging, Stumbling, etc. have not yet made it into my repertoire.)
  • Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to PO Boxes.
  • Deadline for entry is 12:00 midnight, May 31st, EST.

Please note: I use Comment Moderation. That means your comment will appear after I approve it.


This contest is now closed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

MAILBOX MONDAY - May 4, 2009

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

A couple of weeks ago, I was extremely lucky winning several giveaways, and the books have started to arrive! First, from Book Reviews by Bobbie, I won the Massive Hachette Giveaway which included a total of 13 books! My sister was especially happy that I received a copy of THROW OUT FIFTY THINGS - I'm a "collector," she's a purger! I'm thrilled with all the titles and, lucky for you, a few represent duplicant wins on my part so I will be announcing some giveaways in the upcoming days. Thank you so much to Hachette for this wonderful selection of books and also to Bobbie for hosting the giveaway.

From Marie at The Burton Review, I received a copy of LAURA RIDER'S MASTERPIECE by Jane Hamilton. This looks like fun.

From Jennifer at Jen's Jewels, I received a copy of SERENDIPITY by Louise Shaffer. I've had my eye on this one for quite a while, so I was tickled as pink as her skirt!

From Library Thing's Early Reviewer's Program, I received an ARC of THE INDIFFERENT STARS ABOVE: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party by Daniel James Brown. I couldn't stop myself - I dove right into this one, and it's very good. Expect my review in a few days.

From Soho Press came a finished hardcover of HAUNTING BOMBAY by Shilpa Agarwal for review. (I didn't think I would be so lucky as to receive this!)

A while back I requested a reveiw copy of THE WALKING PEOPLE by Mary Beth Keane, and Houghton Mifflin informed me that they were all out of ARC's. They asked if I would accept a PDF or a finished copy of the book when it became available. I didn't have to think twice about that one!

FIRE by Kristin Cashore is an ARC I requested for review through Shelf Awareness. This book is a prequel to GRACELING, which I think I should breeze through first.

And finally, last but not least, a finished copy of FODOR'S NEW YORK CITY 2009. I haven't been to New York in a couple of years, so this will inspire me to make the trip!

I already seldom watch TV anymore; now it looks as though I should put my Netflix membership on hold for awhile!

Thank you to all the authors, publishers, and bloggers who have had a hand in bending my bookshelves! I'm going to go read now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review #3: RUBY THE COPYCAT by Peggy Rathmann

RUBY THE COPYCAT by Peggy Rathmann is the endearing story of a sensitive and creative little girl learning to confidently be herself. I fell in love with this book a few years ago, and it's become an enduring family favorite. I even bought a second copy when the first one went missing.

From the first illustration of Ruby shyly peeking around the door at her new classmates to the last image of her happily hopping toward the horizon, hand-in-hand with her new friend, Ruby had my heart. As the new girl in school, Ruby immediately latches onto Angela and begins to copy her every move. Angela becomes increasingly annoyed and pulls away, and the discerning Miss Hart encourages Ruby to just be herself. "You can be anything you want to be, but be Ruby first. I like Ruby." Alas, Ruby's concentration is not on Miss Hart's advice but rather on her beautifully polished pink fingernails. Ruby doesn't copy Angela any longer -- Miss Hart has become her new idol to imitate.

One of the things I like best about this book is that the writing lends itself very nicely to being acted out. There's hand waving and gesticulating, whispering and weeping, and of course the joyous hopping that is revealed to be Ruby's own special talent. (That'll wear the kids out!)

The illustrations are colorful and expressive. They are so detailed, they almost tell the complete story themselves. Certainly, they tell parts of the story that words do not. You'll need to dawdle over the pictures to realize just how inventively Ruby copies Angela's purple flowered sweater. And when you get to the page with the seemingly inconsequential student drawings hanging on the wall, make sure to take the time to pick out Angela and Ruby's strikingly similar artwork.

Much to my sorrow, as the kids at my house get older, we are reading this story less and less often. I'm thinking it would be perfect to set aside for the day I get to read to THEIR kids!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars


It seems that something other than coincidence is at work when diminutive Ruby, a newcomer to Miss Hart's class, is entranced by schoolmate Angela's attention-getting red bow and returns from lunch with an identical bow atop her head. Ruby's maddening habit becomes increasingly apparent as she happily endures a rainbow of wet paint in imitation of Angela's hand-painted outfit, proudly plagiarizes Angela's poetry and tries pink press-on nails after admiring Miss Hart's manicure. Finally, challenged to display a talent all her own, Ruby admits that she likes to hop and masterfully bounces around her desk. To her surprise, she impresses her classmates and wins Angela's friendship at last. Rathmann's expressively illustrated, quirky and individualistic first book encourages readers to have confidence and not to take skills, however unimpressive they may seem, for granted. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)


I'm slowly managing to find my way around this big, bold blogging world. I'm still keeping things as simple as I can as I make my way, step-by-baby-step, along. I'm surprised at how many corollary paths there are to maintaining a blog -- suddenly, I need to really pay attention to my Library Thing account and keep up with my postings there; I've joined Book Blogs, and there's much to explore, learn, and follow there; I'm trying to organize my reading, writing, and posting around the rest of my chaotic life. Let's not even begin to talk about Twitter! Throw in getting sick and then having a bad reaction to my antibiotic, and well, I wish I could just take a blogging vacation! Not the kind where you get AWAY from blogging, but the kind where all you DO is blog-related activities! No such luxury on the horizon . . .

This past week, I struggled with my review of THE RISK OF DARKNESS by Susan Hill. I probably should have written a couple of other reviews to post while I kept working on this one, but whenever I had time to write, I really wanted to work on this review. (Pacing is another thing I will have to learn!) I'll not say more about what struggles I've had because I truly hope to post it later today or for Monday, and then you can read all about it!

Today I plan to spend some time reading THE INDIFFERENT STARS ABOVE by Daniel James Brown. This is an ARC I received through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. The book is about the horrendously doomed Donner party's experience in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1885-86. It seems weird to say that I enjoy reading about catastrophic events. I think what I enjoy is learning about how people endure and overcome staggering hardships. From the comforts of my modern life, I wonder if I would have the fortitude, intelligence, and (yes, sometimes) just plain luck to survive. Stories such as these also help keep my focus on what is really important in life - my family and friends, being compassionate and helpful as much as possible, appreciating the beauty of the present moment, and preparing for any possible difficulties in the future.

This past week, I also started reading MADE IN THE U.S.A. by Billie Letts which I'm enjoying quite a bit. The giveaway I'm hosting for the book is still open (until next Sunday, May 10th), so enter here if you haven't already!

I'll also be picking up again ANGELS OF DESTRUCTION by Keith Donahue. I'm finding this book to be quite intense, and when I reached the end of Book I, I decided to take a short break from it so I could digest what I'd read so far. This is a really good book, and I'm looking forward to getting back into it.

Most immediately, I'm about to turn my attention to one of my favorite little girls, RUBY THE COPYCAT. My next post will be a review of this family favorite. Come back in a little while and see if you think you'd like her, too.