Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


Forsythia Hill, Dumbarton Oaks

Waiting on Wednesday: EVERY HOUSE NEEDS A BALCONY by Rina Frank

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"
is hosted by Jill from

Join in and tell us . . .

What are you waiting for?

My pick for this week is . . .

by Rina Frank

Pub. Date: June 08, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Hardcover, 336pp
ISBN-13: 9780061714238
ISBN: 0061714232

An international bestseller and publishing phenomenon, Every House Needs a Balcony—dubbed the “Israeli Kite Runner” by The Bookseller—is the story of one family, one home, and the surprising arc of one woman’s life, from the poverty of her youth, to the glowing love and painful losses of her adult years. If you enjoy the novels of Dalia Sofer (The Septembers of Shiraz), Amos Oz (My Michael, A Tale of Love and Darkness), and A.B. Yehoshua (Mr Mani), you’ll find much to love in Rina Frank’s beautiful and bittersweet Every House Needs a Balcony.

Description (from the publisher):
Hailed as the "Israeli Kite Runner" (The Bookseller), this international bestseller and publishing phenomenon is the bittersweet story of one family, one home, and the surprising arc of one woman's life, from the poverty of her youth to the glowing love and painful losses of her adult years.

Braiding together past and present, Every House Needs a Balcony tells the story of a young Jewish girl—a child of Romanian immigrants—who lives with her family in the poverty-stricken heart of 1950s Haifa, Israel. Eight-year-old Rina, her older sister, and their parents inhabit a cramped apartment with a narrow balcony that becomes an intimate shared stage on which the joys and dramas of the building's daily life are played out. It is also a vantage point from which Rina witnesses the emergence of a strange new country, born from the ashes of World War II. Later, after years of living abroad with her wealthy Spanish husband in Barcelona, Rina, longing for the simple life she has missed, returns to the Haifa of her boisterous youth, a move that soothes her soul but ultimately endangers her marriage.

Beautifully told, rich with questions of identity, love, and survival, Every House Needs a Balcony is an unforgettable social and historical portrait of a neighborhood and a nation. Steeped in the colors and smells, laughter and tears, of Rina Frank's own childhood memories, it is a heartbreaking tale about the deepest meanings of home.

About the author (from the publisher):
The author of three novels, Rina Frank was born in Wadi Salib, the poorest neighborhood in Haifa. She worked as a technical architect, marketing director, and television producer with Israel's Channel 2 before founding her own production company, Matan TV Production. Every House Needs a Balcony is her first novel. She lives in Tel Aviv.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spotlight and Giveaway: APOLOGIZE, APOLOGIZE! by Elizabeth Kelly


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 give away three (3) copies of
APOLOGIZE, APOLOGIZE!
by Elizabeth Kelly.

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.


by Elizabeth Kelly

Publisher: Twelve
Category: Fiction
Format: Trade Paperback
Publish Date: 3/30/2010
Price: $13.99/$0.00
ISBN: 9780446406154
Pages: 336
Size: 5-1/4" x 8"

Description (from the publisher):
APOLOGIZE, APOLOGIZE! takes us into the perversely charmed world of the Flanagans and their son, Collie (who has the questionable good fortune to be named after a breed of dog). Coming of age on Martha's Vineyard, he struggles to find his place within his wildly wealthy, hyper-articulate, resolutely crazy Irish-Catholic family: a philandering father, incorrigible brother, pigeon-racing uncle, radical activist mother, and domineering media mogul grandfather (accused of being a murderer by Collie's mother).

About the author (from the publisher):
Elizabeth Kelly is a magazine editor and award-winning journalist with several Canadian National Magazine Awards and nominations to her credit. Apologize, Apologize! is her first novel. It will be published as part of Knopf Canada's "New Face of Fiction" program in April, 2009. She has a profoundly (some might say tragically) Catholic education, attending a Catholic elementary school, a convent high school, and then St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto, where she majored in English, multiple fianc├ęs, and truancy. Years of poverty, strong opinions, and poor judgment ensued. Today, a largely unrecognized authority on Guns N' Roses, she lives in a century-old house in a little eastern Ontario village where she hides from visitors and nightly prays that she won't one day be found under an avalanche of old newspapers, partially consumed by dogs—one Labrador Retriever named Chip in particular.




READING GROUP GUIDE

Discussion Questions

1) Throughout this account of Collie Flanagan’s life (so far), he appears to be the only conventional—or perhaps even sane—member of his family. However, the novel is told from his perspective. Do you feel like you can trust what he’s saying?

2) What do you think of Collie’s mother? Does she seem to have lived a life of passion, or is she defined only by her rebellion against her aristocratic roots?

3) Should Collie have gone in after Bingo and the others, knowing as he did that there was no hope?

4) In one interview, Elizabeth Kelly referred to Bingo as “representative of full-blown adolescence, but in all its glory,” and as something of a heroic character as well. What do you make of him?

5) Elizabeth Kelly has clearly had a lot of fun creating the hilarious and often manic characters at the heart of this novel. How did you react to the various Flanagan family blowouts? Did you more often cringe or laugh out loud?

6) Talk about the role of money in this novel: who has it and who doesn’t; how it can be a motivator, or stunt one’s ambitions; how it insulates the Flanagans, yet forces them into the limelight; and so on.

7) “Dignity is the last refuge of scoundrels,” Collie’s father was known to say, and he certainly was one to put himself into undignified positions, despite his charm and sharp clothes. What do you make of him as a man, and as a father?

8) Who is your favorite character in this novel, and why?

9) Collie and Bingo have a relationship that’s not always straightforward, yet at its heart is a strong sibling love. What does each expect, and receive (or not), from the other?

10) What was Collie hoping to achieve in El Salvador? Did he change as a result of his experiences there?

11) What are Collie Flanagan’s personal strengths? Were there small events that stood out for you as monumental in terms of proving his character?

12) More than any other member of the Flanagans, Collie has a close—if complex—relationship with his grandfather, Peregrine Lowell. Why is that so? How has their relationship developed by the end of the novel?

13) The Flanagans inhabit a world of elite privilege, yet are so self-absorbed you can’t help but wonder whether they’d even notice if the rest of humanity ceased to exist. Does Collie rise above all that, or is he just like the rest of them?

14) Collie’s father has a knack for showing up wildly drunk for even the most staid of events, including the funerals held for his wife and son. Talk about how his disappearances and arrivals function in the novel.

15) Whenever anyone talks to Collie about the events of the day Bingo and his mother died, they always get the details wrong. What is Kelly saying about living up to the expectations of others in this novel? Should Collie have stood up for himself more often?

16) The Flanagans are a wild and wildly humorous bunch, and even their seemingly unwarranted jabs at Collie are terrific. Discuss the role of cutting humor and over-the-top judgment in the novel.

17) At the end of the novel, Collie appears to have come to terms with his family, or at least seems to have achieved some measure of peace. What does the future hold for Collie Flanagan?

RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address 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 or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• 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. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, May 7, 2010.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name. I use Random.org's sequence generator to determine winners.

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

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Teaser Tuesdays: THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE by Jennifer Ross



Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish memehosted by Miz B. of Should Be Reading.



Want to play along? Here's what to do:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser:

"Ansley headed to her grandmother's house to experiment. Luckily Vivian would be out for the next few hours so she wouldn't have to answer any questions about why she was making two hundred cupcakes."

Page 168, THE ICING ON THE CUPCAKE by Jennifer Ross

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blog Tour and Book Review #46: SMALL CHANGE by Sheila Roberts



Pub. Date: March 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: Paperback, 352pp
Sales Rank: 26,607
ISBN-13: 9780312594473
ISBN: 031259447X

Description (from the publisher):
Take a trip to the charming little town of Heart Lake, and meet three best friends who you’ll never forget…

Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany have money problems—major money problems. Tiffany’s whipped out the plastic one too many times, and now a mountain of debt is about to come crashing down on her. Jessica’s husband lost his job—thrusting this longtime stay-at-home mom out into the cold, cruel workforce. And Rachel’s divorce has transformed her from an upper-middle-class mom to a strapped-for-cash divorcee. What are three best friends to do?

Get financially fit, that’s what! Together, Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany start a financial support group called The Small Change Club—challenging each other to bring balance back to their checkbooks, and their lives. Even though frugality is a lot harder than they ever imagined, these women are about to learn some very important lessons: that small changes can make a big difference…and that some things in life, like good friends, are truly priceless.

Click here to view the Reading Group Guide online.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars - An optimistic and happy read.

My Thoughts:
First, let me say how much I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Life's waters have been a little rough for me lately, and there's nothing quite like the support of family and friends to help keep you bobbing and afloat until you reach a nice tranquil bay. In SMALL CHANGE, Sheila Roberts writes about just that - the strength and encouragement that three women friends provide to each other during difficult times, and how that friendship also helps to strengthen and renew the women's individual family relationships as well.

Our heroines, Rachel, Jessica, and Tiffany, are each experiencing financial problems in a realistic reflection of what has been happening across the U.S. in the last couple of years. It's not hard to relate to any of these women or the tough times they experience and the choices they have to make. Rachel is a single mom struggling to land a permanent job, Jessica is a not-so-empty nester who is forced back into the workplace after years of being a stay-at-home mom, and (the saucily named) Tiffany is a shopaholic whose retail therapy just perpetuates her problems.

Though their problems are serious, Roberts writes with a light touch and plenty of wit. I think I found Jessica to be the most fun character. She has to resort to some clever scheming to get her grown son up on his feet and out of the house. And her decision to audition as a lead singer for an all-girl oldies band is spunky and bold and just made me smile.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tiffany's inability to control her spending and the potential threat to her marriage is a cautionary tale. The term "shopoholic" really rather trivializes Tiffany's affliction. But this is not a heavy book, and I like the way Roberts handled Tiffany's problem. She made it serious enough that it could not be ignored, but not so devastating that recovery wasn't possible. 

There's also room in this story for romance, which provides tension of another sort: how will the long-suffering Rachel react when her Prince Charming presents her with an engagement ring AND a pre-nup? I'm not giving anything away, but I loved the way Roberts resolved that issue.

Additionally, Roberts found a terrific way to weave in some basic financial tips and advice -- Rachel creates a blog! Now raise your hands if you can relate to that!

This was the first book by Sheila Roberts that I've read, but it won't be the last. It's an enjoyable and "light" read that also provides plenty of provocative material to mull over and/or discuss. I like the way Roberts focused in on real issues and created believable and empathetic characters. I don't think reading SMALL CHANGE will change your life, but its story and characters will provide a triple threat of humor, hope, and happiness against whatever hard times might be clouding your days.

About the author (from the publisher):
Sheila Roberts lives in Bremerton, Washington. When she’s not speaking to women’s groups or at conferences, she can be found writing about family, friendship and other things near and dear to women’s hearts.

Click here to visit the author's website.

Click here to read an interview with the author.


Thank you to Dorothy at
for organizing this tour and supplying my review copy.

Mailbox Monday: April 12, 2010


Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. If you'd like to join in, stop by Marcia's and leave a link - or just browse through the comments to see what new books have been showing up.

What's in your mailbox?

I have to admit, I'm pretty bowled over by the riches that I found in my mailbox this past week. I wouldn't have known where to begin except that on Friday night, I was really angry about something and seeing red. So my reading choice was obvious!

BLOOD OATH
by Christopher Farnsworth
An ARC for review from G.P. Putnam's Sons

Vampires, zombies, politicians! Oh my!  I think this one is going to be BIG!
I read it over the weekend, and rate it 5 fangy stars of fun! It was a great choice for getting my mind off my troubles and provided edge-of-my-seat suspense as well as chuckles. Oh, and btw, the author is a screenwriter, and we all know what that means . . .


The other titles I received are much more serious fare and they all look so good . . .




STILL MISSING
by Chevy Stevens
an ARC for review from Macmillan






GIRL IN TRANSLATION
by Jean Kwok
for review from G.P. Putnam/Riverhead








BROKEN GLASS PARK
by Alina Bronsky
for review from Penguin



THE EYES OF WILLIE McGEE
by Alex Heard
an ARC for review from Harper Collins






LADY OF THE BUTTERFLIES
by Fiona Mountain (Don't you just love her name?!)
an ARC for review G.P. Putnam/Riverhead







Thank you to the publishers and publicists for providing these to me for review.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spotlight and Book Giveaway: JUST LET ME LIE DOWN by Kristin van Ogtrop


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 give away three (3) copies of
JUST LET ME LIE DOWN
by Kristin van Ogtrop.

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.


Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Category: Biography and Autobiography
Format: Hardcover Book
Publish Date: 4/1/2010
Price: $24.99/$29.99
ISBN: 9780316068284
Pages: 272
Size: 5-1/2" x 8-1/4"

Description (from the publisher):
Kristin van Ogtrop knows she's lucky--fulfilling career, great husband, three healthy kids, and, depending on the hamster count, an impressive roster of pets. She also knows she is tired. Always. Using stories and insights from her own life, she provides a lexicon for the half-insane working mom. Anyone who has left a meeting to race to the Halloween parade immediately understands van Ogtrop's definition of "Kill the messenger" as "The action you must take in order to forget about the office for a time--that is, to remove your Blackberry/Treo/iPhone/whatever from your person and store it as far away as your neurotic self will allow.

Click here to join the HalfInsaneMom.com community.

Click here to visit the author's Real Simple blog, Adventures in Chaos.

About the author (from the publisher):
Kristin van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple magazine and has held positions at Glamour, Vogue, Travel & Leisure, and Premiere. She lives outside New York City with her family.


RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address 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 or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• 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. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 24, 2010.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name. I use Random.org to determine winners.

Thank you to Anna
at Hachette Book Group
for making this giveaway possible.

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Giveaway: ALEX CROSS'S TRIAL by James Patterson & Richard Dilallo


Thanks to the generous folks at
Hachette Book Group,
I have been authorized to
 give away three (3) copies of
ALEX CROSS'S TRIAL
by James Patterson and Richard Dilallo

Rules for entering this giveaway are at the bottom of this post.

by James Patterson
and Richard Dilallo

Publisher: Grand Central Publishers
Category: Fiction, Suspense & Thrillers
Format: Trade Paperback
Publish Date: 4/6/2010
Price: $14.99/$17.99
ISBN: 9780446561808
Pages: 416
Size: 5-1/4" x 8"

Description (from the publisher):
Separated by time . . .

From his grandmother, Alex Cross has heard the story of his great uncle Abraham and his struggles for survival in the era of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, Alex passes the family tale along to his own children in a novel he's written--a novel called Trial.

Connected by blood . . .

As a lawyer in turn-of-the-century Washington D.C., Ben Corbett represents the toughest cases. Fighting against oppression and racism, he risks his family and his life in the process. When President Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his home town to investigate rumors of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan there, he cannot refuse.

United by bravery . . .

When he arrives in Eudora, Mississippi, Ben meets the wise Abraham Cross and his beautiful granddaughter, Moody. Ben enlists their help, and the two Crosses introduce him to the hidden side of the idyllic Southern town. Lynchings have become commonplace and residents of the town's black quarter live in constant fear. Ben aims to break the reign of terror--but the truth of who is really behind it could break his heart. Written in the fearless voice of Detective Alex Cross, Alex Cross's Trial is a gripping story of murder, love, and, above all, bravery.

Click here to visit James Patterson's website.

RULES FOR ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY:

• Leave a comment on this post telling me you would like to win. Include an email address 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 or geebee.reads [at] gmail [dot] com

You must leave an email address in order to qualify. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

• 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. I've added a Retweet button at the bottom of every post.

• Stumble this blog, Digg it, or Technorati Fave it, whatever, and leave a separate comment for another entry.

• Winners must provide a U.S. or Canadian street address. Hachette is unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes.

Deadline for entry is 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, April 30, 2010.

• Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email announcing that they have won; if I don't hear from a winner, I will draw another name.

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

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who Won What -- Lots and Lots of Winners!


My pesky personal life has been interfering with my blogging again! Do they make bumper stickers that say "I'd rather be blogging"? If they don't, someone should hop on that idea!

I have lots of winners to announce. Everyone has been notified, and I've heard back from all but 3 people. Those names are printed in red, and they must contact me by 6:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, April 8, 2010. After that, I'll contact "replacement winners" so hurry! Respond to my email!

Thank you to everyone for stopping by and entering these contests. If you weren't one of the lucky ones in these drawings, keep an eye on this blog because I'll be posting a bunch of new giveaways over the next few days - that is, if "real life" doesn't get in the way!

Graphic courtesy of Cupcakes for Clara.





#16 librarypat








#15 librarypat
#20 Jennifer L.
#43 Rebecca O.
#56 Wanda
#64 Laura







#11 Orchid
#24 enyl
#65 Jennifer L.






#4    Mystica
#9    Kelsey
#29  Bermudaonion
#71  Dina
#97  librarypat







#1  baileythebookworm
#13 Marda -- Still waiting to hear back from Marda! Email me!
#30 areallibrarian
#39 Linda Kish
#52 Dawn M.





#13    misskallie2000
#109  Dina
#151  Nancye





(audiobook)

#10 Simply Stacie
#17 Anonymous (a/k/a ditchdiggergirl) - Need to hear from you! Email me!
#43 Anonymous (a/k/a loki304[at]tds[dot]net)




(audiobook)

#7   Kelsey
#71 Misusedinnocence - still waiting to hear back from you! Email me!
#78 Dawn M.






A big thank you to
and
for making these giveaways possible.

Waiting on Wednesday: SWEET DATES IN BASRA by Jessica Jiji


"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"
is hosted by Jill from

Join in and tell us . . .

What are you waiting for?

My pick for this week is . . .

by Jessica Jiji

Pub. Date: April 27, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback, 368pp
ISBN-13: 9780061689307
ISBN: 0061689300

Description (from the publisher):
Just when her family should be arranging her marriage, Kathmiya Mahmoud, a young Marsh Arab maiden, is sent from her home in Iraq's idyllic countryside to the unfamiliar city of Basra, where she must survive on her paltry earnings as a servant. Her only asset—her exquisite beauty—brings more peril than peace. Worse, her mother appears to be keeping a secret about her own mysterious past, one that could threaten Kathmiya's destiny forever.

In this lost Iraq of the 1940s, a time of rich traditions and converging worlds, Kathmiya meets Shafiq, a Jewish boy whose brotherhood with his Muslim neighbor Omar proves that religion is no barrier to friendship. But in a world where loss of honor is punishable by death, the closeness that grows between Kathmiya and Shafiq becomes dangerous as a doomed love takes root. When British warplanes begin bombing Iraq and the country's long-simmering tensions explode, the power of an unbreakable boyhood bond and a transcendent love must overcome the deepening fractures of a collapsing society.

Set during the tumultuous years surrounding the Second World War, Sweet Dates in Basra is the redemptive story of two very different cultures, and a powerful reminder that no walls can confine the human spirit.

Click here to visit the author's website.
 
About the author (from the publisher):
The daughter of an Iraqi immigrant, Jessica Jiji is a speechwriter for the secretary-general of the United Nations. Her first novel, Diamonds Take Forever, was published in 2005. She lives in New York City with her husband and three sons.