Monday, November 29, 2010

What's on the cover: the semi-healthy edition!


Can't seem to shake this cold. I woke up Wednesday with chills and a sore throat, and I was completely dazed when I went to work. How I got through that shift I don't know. I'm somewhat better, but not all the way there yet. Because of this my reading pace has slowed a little bit. It's hard to read in between sneezes and coughing. But there will be a review of Gar Fish & Long Gravy up by Thursday or Friday. And I'm hoping to have a review of By Fire By Water up by next week.

So on to the business at hand. Here's the cover of the next book on my list:

Under the Mercy Trees: A Novel

Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton. It doesn't come out until January, but thanks to HarperCollins I have a copy. It's a family drama, which I'm always drawn to. I'm guessing the girl in that cover is trying to get away from it all or maybe she is trying to start fresh. That picture is very inviting, I could use some quiet time by a lake. What's the big family drama? Is there a big secret? Are they being torn apart? Can't wait to find out.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hop, hop, hop!

Book Blogger HopNightshadeEvery week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: What is your favorite book cover? I haven't read it yet, but I love the cover of Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. I bought the book last week purely for the cover. I don't know if you can see it there, but the cover is very sparkly.

Here are some blogs I came across:


Note: I'm still looking for takers for my What's up Tweeps?! Check out the link here: http://asiturnthepages.blogspot.com/p/whats-up-tweeps.html

My take on: Everything I Never Wanted to be


Family, you love them no matter what, in good times and in bad. But what happens when they push you to the breaking point? Do you let it eat at you? Or would you find a way to cope? At one point for Dina Kucera, author of Everything I Never Wanted to be, it was a return to bad habits. The stress of coming from a family of addicts, including her children, led Kucera to start popping pills after years of sobriety from alcohol. But Kucera found a way out of the abyss with a career as a writer and ... as a comedian. Yes, even laughter has a way of healing.

For most families it's about living the dream. A mom, a dad, 2.2 kids, a house in the suburbs and nice dinners at the table. For Kucera that scenario is not the norm. Her normal was a thankless job as a cashier at a grocery store, a husband who lost his job, a brother-in-law who watches far too much TV, alcoholic parents and three daughters who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Oldest daughter Jennifer is a gay, alcoholic, hypochondriac -- every week she has some new disease. Middle child April is an alcoholic with relationship issues.

But all of that is tame when it comes to Kucera's youngest daughter Carly. There is no time to take a breath, as Kucera's life becomes consumed with Carly's addiction to meth and heroin.

"Food is not something I feel passionate about, so I don't prepare food in my house for my family to enjoy. I am merely trying to keep them alive."

Carly goes in and out of rehabs. Detoxing at home works for a little while, but then the cycle begins again, including judgments from others. To hear Kucera tell it, the state of Arizona isn't equipped to handle teenage addicts., all they know is how to treat adults. A funny exchange with Kucera and a caseworker cemented this for me. Said caseworker Lenny thinks "mirroring" (A.K.A repeating everything that is said) will work instead of actual therapy. After all a teenager shouldn't be capable of such adult behavior, so why bother to really treat them? I thought Kucera was going to throttle the young man, but she resisted.

Dina Kucera is very blunt with her past. There is no sugarcoating in this story. It will make you appreciate what you have. Despite hitting bottom, Kucera found a way to get back up. How many times can your children disappoint you? She never gave up on her children, although there were several moments when I thought she would. Her strength and resolve really come through. No matter how bad it gets, we all have the power to make our situations better.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received the book as part of a blog tour with Pump up Your Book (http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/). For more information on author Dina Kucera visit: http://everythinginever.com/

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble, Gobble!


Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, appreciate what you have because it could always be worse! Eat up!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

My journey into self-help

"You Already Know How to Be Great," that sounds like such a simple statement. If I already know what to do, why haven't I done it already? Why am I not living the life I dreamed of, or at least close to it? I'm sure there are several reasons, which is why I decided to read You Already Know How to Be Great by Alan Fine (with Rebecca R. Merrill).

My thinking going in, was that self-help books were for people going through a mid-life crisis, the over-40 set. I'm not a total convert to self-help books, but I know some of the things in this book could definitely help me.

The overall concept is rather simple, improvement upon yourself or your situation doesn't come from gaining new knowledge, but rather from within. But what's within is often blocked, or as Fine calls it -- interference. Something or even someone is blocking you from being better than what you are. If you have no faith in your own abilities, how can you be better. Or as some of the examples set forth in the book, what if someone is holding you back. If a coach is simply coaching an athlete to win, rather than improving their performance or setting goals, that athlete is going to have a hard time getting better.

What must one possess to remove the interference? Faith in yourself and others, something that is very hard to find in my own life. I often don't have faith in myself, so I automatically think I can't do something. I just stop trying, because what is the point? Second, you need to have Fire, the passion and commitment to do something. I'm passionate about my blogging, everywhere else needs some work. And lastly, you need to Focus, keep the commitment and pay attention to it. I'm easily distracted, again something I need to work on.

How do you get to have that Faith, Fire, and Focus? According to Fine, you have to GROW. Again that sounds simple enough. But how you get there isn't always easy. You have to set a Goal, be Realistic with that goal, have Options on obtaining that goal, and have a Way to move forward with that goal. Also in order to move forward, you have to take ownership of that interference using an inside-out approach, essentially you can't blame someone else for what is going wrong.

You have to plan out your course of action and really listen before moving forward, which makes a lot of sense. But some of the examples set forth in this book seem very realistic and some don't. One example is how to deal with a difficult employee with sub-par performance reviews. The conversation between the two didn't sit well with me. The superior is trying to get at the source of the problem, while the employee continues to be belligerent. How many employers would put up with that? Would they really still speak calmly or would they start to get angry themselves? On the other hand, Fine's own personal experiences rang true with me. His business partner was not holding his own, and Fine was reluctant to have a conversation with him. But the conversation was necessary. How does he get his point across without coming off as judgmental? Most importantly, Fine listened and the two of them worked together to move forward.

The book does focus a lot on coaching others, but I like that Fine stresses at the beginning to use the book however you want. My goal right now is to find a new job. But I admit, I haven't set a goal or really focused on what I want to achieve. What's blocking me right now is my own fear, the fear of failure. I have some ideas, and once I let go of that fear, I think I will be alright.

Rating: If you need an emotional lift, definitely read this book because it can help. Normally I go by a certain scale when I rate a book, but this is one of those times when I have to go off grid. I don't view this as reading for entertainment, so I felt the need to go in a different direction.

Notes: I received a copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review. For more information on Alan Fine visit: http://www.alan-fine.com/


What's that on the cover?


The Remains

It's Monday, so it must be time to take a look at the covers of my upcoming reading. Look at that cover. Looks sinister doesn't it. Like a lot of books, the cover of The Remains by Vincent Zandri drew me to it. Before I read the summary, that creepy cover pulled me in. When I saw that house, I thought that was the Bates home from Psycho. It's about twin sisters who were abducted and held hostage as teens. Thirty years later the past comes back to haunt one of them. Why? What happened when they were abducted? I don't know, but I can't wait to find out. This one is part of a blog tour with Pump up Your Book (http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/). A review and blog Q&A with Vincent Zandri will be posted on Dec. 16.


Note: I'm looking for takers for December's edition of What's up Tweeps?! Have a look at the link: http://asiturnthepages.blogspot.com/2010/11/whats-up-tweeps-2.html

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What's up Tweeps?!? #2


What's up Tweeps?! Welcome to the second edition of my monthly feature. This is when I take a look at bookish questions, and whatever else tickles my fancy. This month's question was: As a blogger, have you found your writing voice yet? If so how long did it take you? Thanks to Teresa (http://www.teresasreadingcorner.blogspot.com/) for participating.

Teresa: I have been blogging for eight months and am still finding my voice.  I can see the progress that I've made since I wrote my very first reviews, but there is still room for improvement.  In order to find my voice I've tried new things and kept those that seemed to work.  I think that its one of those things that is constantly a work in progress.

And what about me? I think I'm getting there. I started eight months ago, and wished I knew then what I know now. I'm still learning to say no. In the beginning I said yes to everything because I was trying to build my audience. I fought my way through books I didn't like because I thought I had to. How wrong I was! If I don't like something, I can easily say no. New features, like this one, have helped me find my way. I must be on the right track, since you guys keep coming back. Like Teresa, I'm still a work in progress. One day I'm going to get up the nerve to do a video post. I tried once, but I thought I looked HIDEOUS!!


Next month's question: The Amazon.com conundrum, what are your thoughts? Will you still buy from them? I'm torn. Amazon.com has been a hot button lately after their failed attempt to hide behind free speech. They let a pedophile publish a book about how other pedophiles can love children, without crossing a line. Riiiiiiiiiight!!! I know that idiot "writer" said he had never done anything to a child, but Amazon.com should have used some common sense. I know this is a long-winded question, but what are your thoughts? E-mail responses to bookangel224@gmail.com. Entries are open until Dec. 18. 



Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Friday, it's time to hop!

Book Blogger HopEvery week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are. Most of all I am thankful for my family. There are some days when I get a little crabby. I complain and whine, and then something happens that makes me realize I don't have it so bad. There are people out there who have it worse than me. I've worked the last couple of Thanksgivings, this year will be no different. But as long as there is air in my lungs, everything isn't so bad.
Here are some blogs I came across:

My take on: Buffalo Unbound

Sydney, Monaco, Madrid, Dubai, Majorca, and South Africa are just a few of the places I hope to visit in my lifetime. I have always been drawn to the exotic locales. The U.S. is OK, too. I have been to Alaska twice, had a nice one-day layover in Seattle, multiple trips to Florida and Georgia, a two-week sojourn in Lincoln, Nebraska, and a mad dash through O'Hare airport to catch a connecting flight. All of it was in good fun.

So much can be found right in our own backyard, and we don't even realize it. I've lived in New York most of my life, but I have never really felt the desire to explore the state. One city, Buffalo, was never on my list of places to visit, that is until I read Buffalo Unbound by Laura Pedersen.

The possibility of participating in the National Buffalo Wing Festival next Labor Day seems like way too much to pass up. The vivid descriptions of the various food festivals were enough to make me a convert. So what if the weather is bad during the winter when you have the fun of trying to wiggle out of your snowshoes!!

"The universal Buffalo sport, or maybe it's more of a dance step, is the flamingo. This where you stand on one foot while yanking on or off your boots. It's easy to spot Buffalonians and other Snowbelters in airports -- people of all ages, shapes, and sizes deftly removing shoes while holding luggage without needing to sit down or even balance against the metal detector. It's an acquired skill, like thumping bricks of greasy black snow off from underneath the car without getting your shoes or pant legs dirty."

Author Laura Pedersen knows all to well about the wonders of Buffalo, having grown up there. Her love for this city was part of the inspiration for writing Buffalo Unbound. A Forbes magazine article disparaged her hometown, calling Buffalo one of the ten most miserable cities to live in. Those were fighting words, the article also prompted Pedersen to cancel her subscription to Forbes.

When I think of Buffalo several things come to mind: a football team that was 0-8 until Week 10, cold weather, snow, and a horrific plane crash. But that is a very short-sighted view, there is much more to Buffalo. Its citizens are not miserable, they are quite lovely. Everyone came together following the plane crash in February 2009. More than 4,000 volunteers showed up to help build a house for an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. People take pride in shoveling their lawns and driveways following a snowstorm, including those who continue to shovel while the snow is still falling.

The kindness of people isn't just restricted to the modern era. Father Nelson Henry Baker was always thinking ahead in the late 1800s. He helped the local church get out of debt, helped spearhead the discovery of natural gas in the area surrounding the church, and helped unwed mothers with prenatal care and adoption services.

To hear Pedersen describe it, Buffalo is a place where you can take a breath. You can actually enjoy your surroundings, including Forest Lawn Cemetery. Yes, a cemetery. Rick James is buried there, so is a former President -- next to his two wives. It's even a popular backdrop for wedding photos. A bit unorthodox, but it doesn't sound very dreary to me.

There are so many things about Buffalo, it's hard to contain it in a review like this. At the start of this book I had no desire visit, but now I think I will. But I will be sure to bring a flashlight when I visit City Hall (I hear you need one!), and promise not to make jokes about the ever-present snow (I also hear that's a NO-NO!).


Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from Authors on the Web (http://www.authorsontheweb.com/) in exchange for an honest review. For more information on author Laura Pedersen visit: http://www.laurapedersenbooks.com/

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Growing Up With God's Frozen People

Hello all please welcome Laura Pedersen author of Buffalo Unbound. Today she is guest blogging about the wonders of living in Buffalo. Enjoy!

(Photo courtesy of Denise Winters)

Living in Buffalo, NY, that blizzard-prone polestar of the Rust Belt, during the stagflation seventies, made for some decorating choices that you don't read about in glossy magazines or see featured on the HGTV network. For instance, fabric "snakes" -- bean-filled socks that blocked drafts from coming underneath doors -- were popular handicraft projects right up there alongside rag rugs and mittens with strings.

Buffalo Unbound: A CelebrationForm didn't follow function so much as form followed warm. In addition to experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression, we were in the midst of a terrible energy crisis. When the power company's bills hit mailboxes in the winter months you could've heard the hollering from down the street if our windows hadn't been covered with heavy gauge plastic and the snowplow wasn't roaring past. Thermostats were cranked down, down, down, and fathers either took out the toolbox to permanently affix the dial on "morgue," or else set their Archie Bunker armchairs nearby to guard against heat bandits. The mercury standard was: If you can't see your breath hanging in the air then he isn't doing his job.

If you complained about being cold you were told to put on a sweater. If Jimmy "Cardigan" Carter could sport a sweater in the Oval Office then obviously you weren't too good for some good old fashioned knitwear. This was two decades before lightweight fleece and so we rumbled around looking like Michelin Men, carting twice our body weight in wool. If you were still cold you were told to jump up and down. If you complained again you were asked, "Do you think you're the only one who is cold?" which translated into "How could such saintly parents have given birth to such a selfish child?" If you held open the front door you were asked if we were heating the entire neighborhood. If you opened the refrigerator without a clear plan of action you were asked if there was a movie playing inside. However, no one ever asked, "Is it cold enough for you?" This was considered to be just plain stupid, like saying "Eh?" to Canadians.

I was a latchkey kid who came home on weekday afternoons to crank open a can of Alphabet soup or Spaghettios, warm it on the stove, and eat it out of the pot while watching reruns of The Brady Bunch. The twenty minute preparation time allowed for deep contemplation on the subject of what had happened to Mike and Carol's original spouses -- cancer, fiery auto crash, suicide? Living in Buffalo, my money was on industrial accidents or a chemical spill. Microwave ovens were just arriving in stores, but no one would be so silly as to waste money on another oven, even if it worked fifty times faster. Besides, you couldn't toast Wonder bread in a microwave and so really, what good was it?

The front hall was a jumble of moon boots, purple and green snorkel jackets with neon orange linings, Buffalo Bills sweatshirts, home-knitted scarves from all the aunts and grandmas in Sisters Hospital with broken hips, and some of those black Piglet caps with earflaps that would guarantee a citation for vagrancy in almost any other city. A few woolen dickies (half moon turtleneck tops) were lying about in case you weren't getting beat up enough on the school bus. The weak tea sister to the wedgie was to have it yanked over your head and tossed atop the rows of lockers, a veritable dickie graveyard. Nothing sent people into therapy twenty years later so much as being awakened in the night by those long ago demented shouts of "Give me back my dickie!"

The living room fireplace was not helpful in foiling Jack Frost since once the flue was open, frigid air rushed inside along with several birds (apparently they didn't like the cold either) and the heat from a fire, along with any other heat that happened to be lying aimlessly about, went right up in smoke. So the oven was turned on with the door left open and this made the kitchen a cozy place to gather throughout the protracted winter, which, as Samuel Johnson said about Paradise Lost, none ever wished it longer.

Buffalo was a city operating on factory time and so dinner was served at five o'clock and consisted of something hearty, like hunter's stew made in an all the rage red glazed Crock-Pot, lasagna, or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, followed by an apple brown Betty. No one dared eat some diet delight such as salad or a few scoops of pineapple cottage cheese because Buffalonians know what ranchers know -- when a storm hits, it's the undernourished that fall away from the herd. Extra hot chicken wings with blue cheese sauce were a popular entree, but we ordered those from a neighborhood restaurant called Duff's, and put the toilet paper in the fridge before eating.

Best of all was after dinner when everyone gathered around the oven and we made S'mores out of graham cracker squares, marshmallows and Hershey's chocolate bars. All that was missing were a copse of Scotch pines, log cabins and ghost stories. Instead, we were surrounded by cheerful harvest gold and burnt orange appliances with parents talking about the high price of gas and sugar while kids did homework or played board games such as Clue and Risk. Sometimes The Irish Rovers or The Mary Tyler Moore Show (on the sci-fi sounding UHF channel) played in the background on the 17-inch Sony black-and-white TV. If a neighbor or relative popped by another chair was pulled up around the oven and you didn't have to reach far to make a cup of Lipton tea or the popular Sanka instant coffee, which more than a few adults credited for their regularity. Mom was happiest in the kitchen because if anything spilled it was much easier to clean the beige linoleum floor rather than the lime green living room shag carpet.

All was well until bedtime, which meant a trip down a dark hallway to the Yukon and slipping between bed sheets cold enough to eliminate a high fever. However, you didn't dare wet the bed for fear that you might freeze to death.

Electric blankets were considered a luxury item to be found in the homes of the rich, although it was possible that parents had received one as a gift. What Dylan Thomas called "useful presents" in his classic short story, A Child's Christmas in Wales, were the overriding theme when it came to gift giving and the holidays weren't complete without a ritual exchange of jumper cables, flashlights, flannel bathrobes, and quilted slippers. Nothing said Happy Hanukah quite like a Buffalo Sabres facemask. However, electric blankets were feared because plenty of mothers and grandmothers were terrified of fire, as they'd seen too many kerosene stoves set houses ablaze. Before leaving home there were always frantic cries of, "Is everything turned OFF? Are you SURE?"

The working man's electric blanket was the canine, the bigger the better. In large Catholic families there might be a race and sometimes even a fight to get the dog into bed. My poodle was a miniature, more like a space heater, but with the addition of a medium-sized Burmese cat as a muffler I was quite comfy. In fact, I laugh when people look askance at me for still sleeping with several dogs in my bed. Don't they know where the band "Three Dog Night" (one of the founding members, Cory Wells, is from Buffalo) took its name -- the Alaskan term is a calculation of how many dogs it will take to keep warm with three being the max.

Homemade afghans were draped over the backs of couches and easy chairs and piled up on ottomans. (And now we're all kicking ourselves for not having invented the Slanket.) These weren't intended for decor so much as protective gear to prevent hypothermia if you suddenly stopped moving. However, by February our bodies had finally adjusted to the cold and a trip to someplace warm, basically a nursing home, hospital or mall, resulted in heavy Thanksgiving dinner-like fatigue. Around the mall fountain were heaps of discarded outerwear and people slumped on benches sound asleep.

When arriving home Mom shouted for the umpteenth time, "Take off your shoes!" As teenagers we were too cool for boots. Countless tap dancers found their true calling as they shuffle ball changed their way through knee high snowdrifts in open-backed clogs. These would leave a trail of greasy road grit across the shag carpeting and permanently stain it with a white river of salt that couldn't be eliminated no matter how hard you worked it over with the plastic shag carpet rake.

Since leaving Buffalo and the house in which I grew up I've been invited on many a camping trip. No thanks. I camped for the first seventeen years. And I have no complaints since it taught me that things don't have to be perfect in order to enjoy life and good company. We made the best of our situation by participating in lots of winter sports, joking about the inconveniences, and all pulling together during a blizzard. In the musical A Chorus Line by native Buffalonian Michael Bennett one character says, "It wasn't paradise but it was home."

Still, enjoy your camping trip. And may I suggest that you bring along a couple of dogs.


For more information on Laura Pedersen and her books visit: http://www.laurapedersenbooks.com/index.asp

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We have a winner!!!

Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration   Buffalo Gal  

Thank you to all of you for entering my giveaway for Buffalo Gal and Buffalo Unbound. And the winner is....

Jennifer from http://booksfromtheaddict.wordpress.com/. I have contacted you via e-mail, so keep an eye on your mailbox.

Stay tuned, tomorrow Laura Pedersen stops by with a guest post on growing up in Buffalo. I've read it, and it's funny. And, come back Friday for my review on Buffalo Unbound. As always, happy reading!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hey it's Monday, What's on the Cover?

Gar Fish & Long Gravy: Memoirs of Southern Sensibility           By Fire, By Water

Happy Monday everyone!! Today's the day when I talk about the covers of books I will be reading next. Reviews of Buffalo Unbound, You Already Know how to be Great and Everything I Never Wanted to be will be coming in the next two weeks.

On to the business at hand. Gar Fish & Long Gravy: Memoirs of Southern Sensibility by Alexander Devereux is a collection of stories about love, life and the mistakes we make. Devereux used stories from his own life and his rise from poverty. That's a lot to pack in such a small book. But the cover looks so light and cheerful. Doesn't that fish look good, something that would go good over grits!

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan will take me back to 15th century Spain. It's been a while since I've read a historical novel. I could always learn more. The woman on the cover looks like something is weighing heavily on her mind. Family strife? Marital strife? Social? Religious? We shall see! Happy reading everyone!


Notes: I'm still taking entries for What's Up Tweeps?!. I know I set a Nov. 14 deadline, but I'm extending the deadline until Friday. The giveaway for Buffalo Gal and Buffalo Unbound is open until Nov. 17. Check out the links at the top of the page for details.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hop, hop, hop!!

Book Blogger HopEvery week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: If you find a book that looks interesting but is part of a series, do you always start with the first title? Absolutely. I do the same thing with movies. I saw The Bourne Supremacy before I saw The Bourne Identity. The Bourne Supremacy was awesome, but I felt like I missed something. They were talking about things I didn't understand. I had to see the first movie to get it. I bought Shiver and Linger after hearing about them on other blogs. I haven't read them yet, but I will buy the third book. Whether I like the books or not, I want to know what happened. I'm tempted by Harry Potter, but there are seven books.


Here are a few blogs I came across:
http://www.just-one-more-chapter.com/
http://beneathshiningstars.blogspot.com/
http://wildlyread.blogspot.com/

Notes: Want to learn about Buffalo? I have a giveaway going on for Buffalo Gal and Buffalo Unbound by Laura Pedersen. Check out the link at the top of the page. I'm also looking for takers for my What's Up Tweeps?! feature. The link for that is at the top too!! Happy reading!!

My take on: Sugar Tower

Ever walk by one of those fancy Manhattan high-rise buildings, and think about what it must be like to live there? It must be glamorous. You have every material possession at your fingertips. Money, cars and jewelry, it must be nice to live there. Or is it?

What if no one likes you? Your mere presence strikes fear in your employees and neighbors. You constantly get into fights over the smallest things. Your own family is emotionally detached from you. Your husband gives you everything, most importantly his love, but that's not enough. You don't even like yourself, and material possessions aren't enough so you turn to drugs. Anything to mask the real you. The person I speak of is Anabel Trainor Sugarman, a character who is murdered in the opening pages of Sugar Tower by Jessica Dee Rohm.

Anabel seems to have it all, beauty, youth, money and power, and a much older husband, Barry Sugarman. Barry is the owner of Sugar Tower, a ritzy new building trying to stand out amidst the real estate crash. Anabel's suspicious death goes unsolved for a year, which doesn't sit right with real estate reporter Marchesa "Mach" Jesus Piazza. Mach is drowning on a flat beat. What's to report? Everyone is losing their homes?  Revisiting the Sugarman case could be her ticket to more in-depth reporting. After all, journalism isn't what it used to be.

"Journalism isn't about truth anymore; it's mostly about sensationalism, finding a way to enliven a jaded public, reverse its immunity to the time-worn horrors human beings subject other human beings to."

As a newspaper copy editor, I have to agree. Real journalism is a dying breed. The real news gets buried because the new starlet on the scene got sentenced to rehab.

The cast of characters in Sugar Tower are an eccentric and funny bunch. A drug-dealing couple, one of whom gets into a drag-out fight with Anabel over a dog. A front desk clerk who speaks in rhyme. A dog walker with a no-nonsense attitude. And of course real estate mogul Barry Sugarman.

Bary is a person Mach can't quite figure out. He can be kind and thoughtful one moment, and then cold the next. To get insight on the marriage and Anabel herself, Mach gets close to Sugarman. This is where I have a little problem with Mach's character. Most reporters want to get the story, that is the task at the end of the day. But, in my opinion, Mach crosses ethical boundaries. Dinners and lunches with potential suspects are borderline. But how many investigative reporters spend Thanksgiving with them too, in their home?

Ethical boundaries aside, I enjoyed the story. Each chapter you get a clue into Anabel's life and Mach's as well. The murder and method are...um...unique. I won't say what it is, but it's a first for me. Reading the book, you feel sorry for the murderer. How often does that happen? I was hoping it wasn't this person. It has to be someone else. What drives a person to that point? But if you can empathize with the murderer, that's the mark of a good writer. Sugar Tower is very timely and believable, check it out!

Rating: Superb

Notes: Check the links at the top of page for my giveaway and upcoming feature. I received a copy of the novel from the author in exchange for an honest review. For more information on author Jessica Dee Rohm, visit: http://jessicadeerohm.com/

Blog Q&A with Jessica Dee Rohm

Here are the questions I had for Jessica Dee Rohm author of Sugar Tower:

1. Anabel and Marchesa both have problems with self-esteem. They both deal with it in different ways. Anabel with drugs and Marchesa looks for flaws in her relationships with her father. Was it important to show such a big contrast? How different people deal with different problems?


I don't think either has low self-esteem. I think each has chosen a different path. Anabel wants to use her beauty and youth to marry a rich husband. In this she succeeds but sells a bit of her soul in the process. Not a happy woman when she dies. Marchesa wants to be independent. She doesn't want to be under a man's thumb as her mother was. She has a love/hate relationship with her father, which may be at the root of her fierce independence, but she resolves it and forgives him in the end. I did intend to illustrate how two women - all women - choose to be taken care of or to take care of themselves. Both have pros and cons but I'm on the side of Marchesa!

2. There's a part in the book about Sugar Tower being it's own universe or it's own economy? Do you think that's how some of the ritzy buildings in Manhattan really are?

YES! Think about it. They are like micro-economies, with their own elected leadership, rules, budgets, problems. Eventually neighbors meet, develop prejudices, preferences, pet peeves. Some fall in love. Some sue each other. Some die. Babies are born, etc.

3. There is a Bernie Madoff-type character in the book. Did part of the idea for your book come from the Madoff fallout?

YES!
4. Mil said Purchase, NY is the richest zip code in America. Is that really true?
YES! These things change from time to time but it is certainly one of the richest.
5. I ask everyone this one. In three words how would you describe your book?

Gripping, insightful, timely.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Schedule change


Change of plans with the guest post and review for Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera has been changed. The tentative dates are Nov. 24 for the guest post from Dina Kucera and a review will be posted on Nov. 26. A review of Sugar Tower and blog Q&A with author Jessica Dee Rohm is still on track for Nov. 12. Stay tuned and happy reading!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's on the cover?


You Already Know How to Be Great: A Simple Way to Remove Interference and Unlock Your Greatest Potential

It's Monday, it's time to see what's on the cover of the next book up for review. This will be my first foray into a self-help book. When I first saw the pitch e-mail for You Already Know How to be Great by Alan Fine, my first instinct was to say, "No Way!" My mother is the one who usually reads the self-help books in the house. What good could come from me reading a self-help book? Instead of instantly deleting the e-mail, I decided to think about it for a couple of hours. Then I remembered I'm trying to find a new job. Maybe a new way of thinking would help in my search, because my current mindset isn't working.

I'm not sure how to tackle the cover art for this one. A pawn in the shadow of a king? Perhaps we all feel like pawns in this big world, but maybe we have it in us to be kings. We have the power to be better, but just don't know it yet. It should be an interesting read! I hope to have a review up by Nov. 22. Stay tuned, and happy reading!!

Notes: Giveaway for Buffalo Gal and Buffalo Unbound is still ongoing, and I'm still taking entries for the next entry in my What's Up Tweeps feature. Check the links at the top of the page for details. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

My take on: A Friend of the Family

The Suburbs. They are everywhere. Some middle class, some upper class. Some things are talked about, like gossip, but the hard things are stuffed in a box until they overflow. In some neighborhoods, people are in competition with each other. Who has the flashier luxury car? Who has the latest gadget? Which couple can outdo each other? Who has the better dinner party? Who has the bigger house? And how many children can they fill that house with?

Of course the children aren't off limits because they have to be a part of the competition, too. The children have to grow up and be better than their parents. Only the best schools will do. Second-best, third-best, or heaven forbid nothing at all, just won't do. What happens when your children stray off the path? What if they disrupt what you had planned for them? Those are just some of the themes at hand in A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein.

Dr. Pete Dizinoff is a man in turmoil. A man from Round Hill, N.J. He would rather stay on the unbeaten path, and watch his beloved Nets on TV. Pete has been accused of medical malpractice, his friendship with Iris and Joe Stern is falling apart, his marriage to Elaine is on the skids, and his own son, Alec, hates him. If only everyone could see he had good intentions at heart. It all stems from Alec's relationship with the Stern's much older and troublesome daughter, Laura.

Laura Stern has just returned to town after years of living a nomadic lifestyle. Most people, especially Joe, embrace Laura and ignore her past. Why bring up the past when it is so ugly? But Pete can't just sit and watch. Laura spent years in a mental institution following the death of her premature baby. Was she really crazy or did she get away with murder? Pete wants to protect his son at all costs, and can't understand what people see in Laura. He sees a flighty slut, but he would never tell Joe that, and Elaine sees someone who deserves sympathy.

"I didn't ask Elaine what her reckoning was, why our local baby-skull smasher belonged in heaven. I only kissed her head and wondered at the way she saw the world, and at the largeness of her mercy."

The friendship between the Dizinoffs and the Sterns has seen its ups and downs, but Pete's determination to sabotage Laura and Alec's relationship could bring it all down. What lengths does a parent go when they see their child making mistakes? Pete's choice is to be the third wheel in the relationship, further alienating him from Alec. Pete has to be in control. He has to save Alec, just as Joe and Iris did with Laura. Except in Laura's situation, Pete feels the need to be judgemental from afar and desert his friend in his hour of need. It's OK for Pete to assert his own morality in Laura's case, but nobody should dare be judgemental when it comes to Alec. His son is different, his son isn't a baby killer. His son has a chance to be great.

Laura is messing up Alec's future, which Pete had all planned out. After years of infertility, the Dizinoffs were blessed with a child, and Alec must reward his parents (really Pete) for their efforts. College, a good job, marriage and children. But hurricane Laura messes with Alec's head, ruining everything.

"How little respect he had for us -- how little respect any of them had for us! We were foolish, idiotic, the relics of another age. Obsolete. He was the future. And this was what he was doing with himself."

Lauren Grodstein's novel is gripping from start to finish. The mystery surrounding Pete's personal and professional career, and Laura's past are revealed little by little. Each chapter left me wanting for more. There were moments in the final 60 pages that left me with my mouth wide open. Love, parenting and friendship are themes everyone can relate to, make sure to check this one out.

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information on Lauren Grodstein visit: http://laurengrodstein.com/

Blog Q&A with Lauren Grodstein

Here are a few questions I had for Lauren Grodstein author of A Friend of the Family

1. The different facets of suburban life play a big part in the book. What is it about suburbia that fascinates you?

I suppose it's the veneer of sameness - suburbs are frequently communities built around similarities in socioeconomics, in values, sometimes in religion, often in race - and yet that veneer is so fragile. In "Friend," it felt sort of fun, sort of rebellious, even, to shred that veneer and expose the very profound and sometimes ugly differences between suburban neighbors.

2. Is this book your way of pointing out some of the flaws (status, material possessions) in suburban life?
Nope. I really wasn't judging these characters at all when I was writing them, nor was I holding them up to be examples of how not to behave. I just put them on the page and let them be themselves, and although some people have read a critique of suburbia in this book, I was really just going for a depiction - not a critical examination.
3. The book is told from the point of view of a middle-aged male, something you're not. Where did the inspiration for Pete's character come from? Ever worry about writing from a male point of view as a woman?
I worried about it occasionally, but I took faith in the idea (which I hope is right - I think is right!) that men and women aren't really so different in the end. We might behave differently, sure, but we experience love and faith and joy and pride in similar ways. To channel how Pete felt, say, about losing his beloved father, I simply tried to imagine how I'd feel in that circumstance, and then I transcribed that feeling as accurately as I could (using Pete's voice, of course). As for where he came from - I wish I had a better answer, but the truth is I woke up one morning, and there he was, telling me his story. Does that sound a little insane? Because that's how it felt.

4. In three words, how would you describe your book?
Huh - nobody's ever asked me that before. Okay, three words. Three words. Um: totally completely amazing? Or maybe: funny, sad, honest?

A Friend of the FamilyA Friend of the Family5. Cover art is one of the many things that attracts me to a book. The paperback cover (left) for A Friend of the Family is very enticing. It is also very different from the hardcover. What prompted the change?
I don't actually know, since I'm not involved in the art decisions at all (which is all to the best, since I have the visual acuity of a bat) but I have to say I love each of the covers. To me they seem striking and memorable and welcoming, which is exactly what I look for in a book jacket.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's that time of the week!!

Book Blogger HopEvery week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog? I know some of my followers are just spammers, but they are few. But if I lose followers, I'm not going to stress it. There are so many bigger things going on in the world, I can't let that get me upset. True followers will always be there, they might not always comment but I know they are still around. I have stopped following some blogs, but only when the person doesn't post regularly. If a person has gone a month or more without posting, you've lost me.

Here are some blogs I came across:

Notes: Take a look at the top of my header. There are two standalone pages for my giveaway, and next month's question for What's Up Tweeps?! A review of A Friend of the Family and blog Q&A with author Lauren Grodstein will be up shortly after midnight. Happy reading everyone!!!

My take on: Testarossa

John Testarossa is a red-headed, red-blooded and complicated LAPD detective. For years he's been running from love and instead is drowning himself in work. A childhood tragedy and a long-buried secret come to the surface when Testarossa meets the beautiful Dr. Karen Gennaro. Is this relationship right? Is it for life or just the moment? On top of all of that, a complicated case comes across his desk. And now, this savvy, wise-cracking cop will have to deal with his past.

What starts a standard detective story morphs into a tale of redemption told by Julie Dolcemaschio.

An arm washes up on the beaches of Santa Monica, the first piece of a complicated puzzle. The rest of the body is discovered and eventually identified as young college student David Crane. Who would want to kill him? Why? He was close to his family, but something in David changed. A friend from school committed suicide, leaving David to wonder why. Was it even suicide? David starts investigating, and doesn't like what he sees. It's a world full of college athletes, steroids and power.

The investigation into Crane's murder is gripping, but Testarossa's internal struggles are what drew me in. Each chapter begins with personal vignettes into Testarossa's past. Testarossa was the son of a cop, who protected his son from bullies. That protection is gone when he is killed, which shapes the rest of Testarossa's life.

He marries and divorces, every relationship since has been forgettable. That is until he meets Dr. Karen Gennaro. Their conversations are long and meaningful. Cooking together is not just to nourish their stomachs, but it is also very sensual. Readers of romance, will especially love those parts. But is this relationship right? Without realizing it, Testarossa begins to sabotage the relationship. What he views as commitment and love, Karen sees as the need to be the hero. The need to be in control. Is he committed to this relationship or is he just staying out of obligation?

I'm always a pushover for a happy ending, but this one is open-ended. I thought this can't be the end for Testarossa, but this is just the beginning of the journey. The story is well written and engaging, I will be looking forward reading more about Testarossa.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review. For more information on Julie Dolcemaschio visit: http://testarossabook.com/

Blog Q&A with Julie Dolcemaschio

Here are a few questions I had for Julie Dolcemaschio author of Testarossa
Photo courtesy of Alexis Rhone Fancher

1. To me family issues are a big theme in the book. Whether it is with Testarossa or the Crane family. Why such a deep connection with family?

Family defines who you are, who you become. John Testarossa comes from a close-knit Italian family. There's a lot of love there, but also some distrust. As a child, John knows of his father's affair, and suffers along with his mother in the devastation that is left in the wake of his father's murder. All of that shaped who John has become-an extremely dedicated detective, friend and lover, and someone who has a deep need to connect with the people in his life. Because of this experience he made some decisions regarding his father that CAN come back to haunt him in the future. I have experienced familial disappointment-I think we all have, and it can be quite poignant.

With the Cranes, I wanted to show that tragedy can strike anyone at anytime. I was raised Mormon, so I understand that kind of deep family bond, and the utter devastation this family feels at losing their only son, a future patriarch-the family's future, really.

2. As a woman do you find it hard to write from a male prospective? Testarossa certainly doesn't talk like a woman.

Good! That's great to hear! Writing Testarossa in the first person was not something I thought a lot about. It was how I began the story, and I never wavered from that. I think his was a story I wanted to tell from his perspective. I will also admit that John is who I'd be if I were a man.

3. In three words, how would you describe your book?

Emotional, believable, connected.

4. I see you plan on having more books in the Testarossa series, do you have it planned out it your head how his journey will end?

Yes, for the most part, I do. Testarossa will have his challenges, and he will continue to evolve in some ways, and not so much in others. I think what makes him not only a great cop, but an intriguing character, is his unapologetic approach to everything he does. He's a certain kind of man, and sees no reason to change. He's a handful. He can be wonderful, then turn around and be a real jerk-both personally and professionally. I think all cops can relate to that-by their very nature they are reactionary and conservative and, while their working world might carry shades of gray, I think their ideals are very black and white.

He will pay for the past, and he'll also have some happiness. I was asked by my agent how I planned to keep the sparks flying if Testarossa and Karen end up together. I've been married 25 years, so I think I can keep the two of them interesting enough for the readers. We'll get to know Alex and some of the other minor characters better, and Testarossa will continue to chase down the bad guys and make the city a safer place, because that's what he does, first and foremost.

5. Do you look to other crime writers for inspiration? Who are some of your favorites?

The writers who draw out their characters well are my inspiration. Joseph Wambaugh, from the beginning, has been the most influential. I've been reading his books since my early teens. He does a tremendous job of showing cops from all angles-from the rookie just out of academy to the hardened beat cop who has seen it all. His characters are funny and sad and dedicated and beaten down and idealistic and narcissistic, and he paints such a fine portrait of all of those things, set in the city I love. Robert Crais writes well-crafted characters as well. I like him, too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Monday, What's on the Cover?


Buffalo Unbound: A Celebration

What do you know about Buffalo, NY? I don't know about everyone else, but I don't know much about Buffalo. It gets very cold in winter. They get a lot of snow in winter. Right? It's very very far from where I live, even though I live in New York. Outside of those little nuggets, I know nothing about Buffalo. Judging from the cover of Buffalo Unbound by Laura Pedersen, there is a lot going on in Buffalo. Can't be a quiet town based on the fireworks on that cover. I'm intrigued! Thanks to the people from The Book Report Network (http://www.tbrnetwork.com/content/index.asp) for bringing it to my attention. A guest post by Laura Pedersen will be up on Nov. 18, followed by a review on Nov. 19. We also have a copy of Buffalo Unbound and Pedersen's previous book Buffalo Gal to giveaway to a lucky reader. Entries are open until Nov. 17 (U.S. and Canada residents only).

I'm "attempting" to use Google Docs for this giveaway!  Sign up down below. I don't need to know your Twitter name, but if you want have at it. The only rule is you have to be a follower of my blog, and only one entry person! Duplicate entries will be deleted. Happy reading everyone!!



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