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Sonnets for Sinners by John Wareham

John Wareham‘s Sonnets for Sinners is a book of poems I would recommend to those who enjoy reading sonnets, who love poetry, and those who are just starting to read poetry.  Wareham includes the classic sonnets of William Shakespeare and William Yeats, but he also crafts new sonnets from the words (available in the public domain) of famous figures, like Tiger Woods (click to read the poem Wareham created from Woods’ words), Elizabeth and John Edwards, and Princess Diana.

What’s most unique about this volume is the insight provided by Wareham.  He analyzes each poem, offers up lines that illustrate his examinations, and even poses questions that illicit laughter.

Discussing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129:  “To begin with, says the poet, sinners bypass rationality — past reason hunted — then, the moment the lusty act is completed they unreasonably despise themselves — past reason hated — for succumbing to a swallowed bait on purpose laid to make the taker mad.  The devil made me do it!”  (Page 11)

Sonnets for Sinners is broken down, categorizing sonnets into attractions, fevers, lamentations, farewells, endings, and epiphanies.  For anyone interested in reading more poetry, particularly classic sonnets and classic poets, readers would enjoy the commentary from Wareham.  It is not only informative, but witty.

Kind Cuts by Chandler Haste (page 66)

“I don’t want to hurt or abandon you
— so what to do?” you ask.  Well maybe first
drop me into a pot of boiling glue
then have a witch doctor apply a curse.
Or when that fails and I rise in pursuit
of you, have a firebug set me aflame.
Or cut out my tongue and render me mute
then poke out my eyes and publish my shame.
Or, here’s aptly felicitious fate
for this hopelessly addicted lover:
Bobbitting! — that could be the kindest bite
to slice me out from under your thumb of.
Off the top of my head that’s my advice,
Bow to it gently, and in love, rejoice.

Despite the mix of contemporary and classic sonnets, I think there is enough in here to count for the contemporary poetry challenge, and this makes book #13.
This is my 1st book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.
This is my 12th new-to-me author for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Sonnets for Sinners by John Wareham from publicist Sara Hausman at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney is a coming of age novel set during a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history.  Set in the early 1930s, Ireland and Britain were in the midst of an economic battle in which farmers refused to keep paying back the loans that enabled them to buy farmland.  And Britain consequently began placing tariffs on all Irish goods — all the while the political system in Ireland was tenuous.

“Of course it was all still being run by politicians.  We have an old saying here:  ‘No matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.'”  (Page 15)

The narration is conversational in tone as Ben MacCarthy tells his family history, with tales on the side about the political climate of the time.  Although he digresses from the main story of his father’s disappearance and reappearance with the Venetia Kelly Traveling Show, MacCarthy warns you ahead of time that he often falls off topic, but that most of his stories have some relevance to the main narration.  A quirky technique, but enjoyable given that the digressions are entertaining.

“So, throughout this story you can expect three kinds of sidesteps:  Important Digression, which will usually be something to do with factual history; Important Digression, where a clarification needs facts and I will ferry them in from a side road; and — my favorite — Unimportant Digression, which can be about anything.”  (Page 10)

Delaney has created a multitude of characters with their own depth and meaning in the story, and there are references throughout to other classic works.  He has created an energized menagerie through which readers will see and experience through Ben’s eyes as a young man in search of his father and himself.  In many ways Ben is like his father, especially as the narration progresses.  Readers will find that he is unwinding his story slowly and deliberately, mirroring how his father contains his emotions and his true passions from his family.

“Beside me, my father reacted so hard that he made the bones of his chair creak.  He pulled back his hands, tightened them into fists, and held them in front of him like a man containing himself.”  (Page 79)

The deliberate way in which the story unfolds enables readers to learn more about the MacCarthy family, the Kelly’s, and the climate of Ireland at the time.  A nation and families stuck between the old traditions and the modern ways of the world, seeking the best path through to the other side.  What propels Ben on this journey and what does he learn?  Readers will want to pick up a copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show to find out.

To enter for 1 signed copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show or 1 audiobook narrated by Frank Delaney (US/Canada only):

1.  Leave a comment on this post of what you would like to see in Ireland.
2.  Leave a comment on my interview with Frank Delaney.
3.  Blog, Facebook, Tweet, or spread the word about the giveaway.

Deadline March 1, 2010, at 11:59PM EST.

About the Author: (Photo Credit: Jerry Bauer)

Frank Delaney was born in Tipperary, Ireland. A career in broadcasting earned him fame across the United Kingdom. A judge for the Booker Prize, several of his nonfiction books were bestsellers in the UK, and he writes frequently for American and British publications. He now lives with his wife, Diane Meier, in New York and Connecticut. Ireland is his first novel to be published in the United States.

 This is my 11th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

My 1st book for the 2010 Ireland Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney from publicist Leah Paulos and Random House.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben Winters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben Winters is another mash-up of classic fiction and fantasy.  The basic story is the same as the Marianne and Elinor deal with abject poverty, searching for love and affection, and relatives who are less than pleasant, while at the same time navigating their sisterly relationship. The twist is that sea monsters have taken control of the water and attack humans daring to cross the sea or live below it in Sub-Station Beta.

“Colonel Brandon, the friend of Sir John, suffered from a cruel affliction, the likes of which the Dashwood sisters had heard of, but never seen firsthand.  He bore a set of long, squishy tentacles protruding grotesquely from his face, writhing this way and that, like hideous living facial hair of slime green.”  (Page 37)

Readers will either enjoy reading a mash-up of Jane Austen’s work with its fantastical and historically inaccurate elements (i.e. the existence of wet suits, submarines, and underwater domes where people live and work) or they will throw the book aside as ridiculous.  The trouble with these genre benders is that they often polarize readers in one camp or another.  Unlike Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which merely inserts new sentences to achieve the goal of making the Bennets zombie slayers, Winters creates a story nearly all his own, but using Austen’s Dashwood sisters.

“‘It is impossible that she did not know,’ Sir John answered, ‘For a sister to a sea witch is certain to be a sea witch herself.’  . . .  ‘As I said, the witches take the physical form of human women,’ explained Sir John.  ‘There is nothing they can do about their personalities.'”  (Page 320)

By remaking Austen’s world and threatening the characters in it with deranged sea monsters, Winters takes a number of liberties with the text, although he does maintain Austen’s style for the most part.  However, unlike Grahame-Smith’s mash-up where readers discover how the Bennets became skillful zombie slayers, the mysterious Sub-Station Beta and its “experiments” are not revealed or even hinted at for most of the book.  This flaw can make it difficult for readers to continue reading this adventure because so much is unknown and the readers are scrambling in the dark as characters run from monsters, play games, chat while being attacked by monsters, bring up mysterious smoking mountains and five-pointed stars, and generally seem to shrug off the danger.

Overall, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters resembles the dangers of other sea-faring novels — even 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — and mixes it with ramped up social commentary a la Jane Austen.  The latter half of the novel is the most action packed and is almost hurried along.  But by the end, readers get swept up in adventure, myth, and outrageous challenges and have nothing to do but enjoy the ride. 

To Enter to win 1 copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith and 1 copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben Winters:  (This giveaway is global)

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what Austen novel mash-up you want to see next.
2.  Leave a comment on my review of Pride & Prejudice and Zombies.
3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. and leave a comment with a link on this post.

Deadline is Feb. 19, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST

About the Author:

Ben Allen H. Winters is a writer who lives in Brooklyn with all the other writers.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters from the FSB Associates and the publisher for review.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.




This is my 3rd book for the 2010 Jane Austen Challenge.

This is my 10th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

Thrity Umrigar’s The Weight of Heaven is a heavy with grief, emptiness, and struggle.  The Bentons (Ellie and Frank) lose their son, Benny, at age seven from meningococcus.  Ellie has liberal leanings politically and is a therapist to clients in Ann Arbor, Mich., while Frank is a proud, American business executive with residual issues of abandonment.  The loss of a child can be daunting for any family, and it is clear how grief of this magnitude can slowly rip a family apart.

“And now they were two.  Benny was gone.  What was left behind was mockery — objects and memories that mocked their earlier, smug happiness.  Benny was gone, an airplane lost behind the clouds, but he left behind a trail of smoke a mile long:”  (Page 2)

As this American couple struggles with the loss of their son, Ellie and Frank embark on a new life in India when Frank is transferred to a new HerbalSolutions factory.  The distance between them had gaped wide by this point, and both hope that the experience will help them repair their relationship and bring them closer to one another.  However, in rural India with its impoverished population, Frank and Ellie find that their values change and their current circumstances and grief dictate their reactions to one another, their servants, the local community, and other expatriates.

“Now she was trying to control the sway of her hips, trying hard to resist the tug of the pounding drums that were making her lose her inhibitions, making her want to dance manically, the way she used to in nightclubs when she was in her teens.  But that was the beauty of the dandiya dance — it celebrated the paradoxical joy of movement and restraint, of delirium within a structure.  This was not about individual expression but about community.”  (Page 220)

Readers will be absorbed by the local community and its traditions, the struggles of the Benton’s servants, and the stark beauty of India.  But what really makes this novel shine is the characters and their evolution from idealistic college students and young parents to a grief-stricken and dejected married couple in a foreign nation.  The tension between Frank and Ellie is personified in the dichotomous views each character reveals to the reader about the Indian community from the lax work environment and labor disputes at Frank’s factory to the deep-rooted sense of community and communion with nature shown through Ellie’s interactions with individuals at a local clinic.

The Weight of Heaven is more than a novel about grief; it is about how grief can distort perception and push people to make life-changing decisions that can broaden their horizons and transform them forever.  Umrigar’s prose is poetic and full of imagery that paints a vivid picture of India and its rural community and its city life in Mumbai/Bombay.  Class differences, the struggles of American expatriates, grief, death, and marital woes are explored deftly in this novel, and it is clearly one of the best novels of 2010.

To win 1 copy of The Weight of Heaven; this giveaway is international:

1.  Leave a comment about what nation you would move to or have moved to.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. about the giveaway.

Deadline Feb. 19, 2010, 11:59PM EST

About the Author:

Thrity Umrigar is the author of three other novels—The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. A journalist for 17 years, she is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and a 2006 finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. An associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University, Umrigar lives in Cleveland.

This is my 9th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

This is my 1st book for the 2010 South Asian Authors Challenge.

If you are interested in The Weight of Heaven, please check out the rest of the blog tour.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of The Weight of Heaven from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review.  Clicking on title and image links will go to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated to fund international giveaways.

Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield

Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat is a collection of cartoons that speak volumes about cat ownership and cat psyches. The cat has a one track mind — food. The cat finds a variety of ways to get his owner’s attention, including hitting him over the head with a baseball bat, like in this video. The cat has not only become a YouTube sensation, but this book is likely to become equally successful.

Some of the best cartoons in the book involve Simon’s cat acting like a bird feeder or bird bath hoping to catch birds. Through simple lines, shapes, and caricatures, Tofield creates an instantly recognizable and lovable cat.  There are subtle changes to each image that make the laughs even bigger.  Readers should check out Simon Tofield as he discusses how Simon’s Cat developed and how he came up with the name. Readers may find that the cartoon reminds them of other cartoon characters like Garfield, though Simon’s cat doesn’t have a dog to worry about or make look ridiculous.

Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield can provide readers with hours of entertainment, laughs, and fun.  Through self-deprecating actions, Simon’s cat gets into all kinds of trouble and makes a lot of messes, but he’s still adorable.  A cartoon book for any cat lover, those that need a good chuckle, and it would make a good gift for any occasion.

FTC Disclosure:  I receive my copy of Simon’s Cat from A Circle of Books in a giveaway win.  Clicking on title and image links will go to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated to fund international giveaways.

I’m also counting this as my 8th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

Government Girl by Stacy Parker Aab

Stacy Parker Aab’s Government Girl chronicles her time in the White House during the Clinton Administration from the age of 18 to her early 20s.  Expecting the bulk of the memoir to be about the Monica Lewinsky scandal or the like would be a mistake, although Monica’s fall from grace could have just as well been Stacy’s story if she did not have the personal drive to achieve more, live within the confines of her duties and principles, and focus on self-satisfaction.

“You want acknowledgment — all that comes when you’ve done a good job, when you’re so deserving.  You want that light.  That hand on your shoulder.  At least if you’re like me and this sort of loving affirmation from authority figures still feeds you, even if you wish it would not.”  (Page 13 of ARC)

Being young and in politics, Stacy had a daunting task of navigating an adult world when she was not quite secure in her self-identity and still evolving as a woman.  She’s a product of a single mother, an alcoholic father, and her mixed heritage as an African-American with a mostly unknown-to-her German ancestry.  All of these elements come into play as she navigates the White House media and policy web and the knotted ropes of her possible career ladder.

“Maybe it was like going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and seeing a rubber version of yourself blown up and ‘walking’ with the help of a dozen attendants, this version of you more than ten stories tall, knowing that your celebrity was just that, something outside you, something as big and as vulnerable as giant balloons”  (Page 87 of ARC)

The narrative of this memoir is smooth in its transitions between her intern days and her past in Troy, Michigan.  The struggles of family life and the dedication of her mother to help her out with schooling expenses and other costs clearly influenced Stacy’s drive for financial independence, even if the job opportunities at the time were not the most fun.  Politics is at the forefront of her work in the White House, but it often takes a backseat to her internal struggle to become a strong, independent woman with a clear idea of where she wishes to be and what she wishes to achieve.

“Working, I wanted that feeling of rowing on the Potomac River, that feeling in the eight with all of us pulling our oars.  Sixteen arms and sixteen legs powering that slim boat forward, as we were lead by our coxswain, as our coach called out to us from his motorized boat nearby.”  (Page 39 of ARC)

In many ways, what drives Stacy is the hole inside her — an absence of fatherly love — as she falls into transient relationships with co-workers, fellow students, and others.  While this desire to fill this emptiness does little to improve her romantic life, it does often push her to perfection in her work life.  In terms of memoir, readers will find Government Girl is deliberate, vivid, and eye-opening — especially in terms of behind-the-scenes politics.  Readers will find Stacy’s prose frank and honest, almost like a friend telling a portion of her life story to another friend.

Please stay tuned for a guest post from Stacy Parker Aab on Feb. 2, 2010.

Interested in winning 1 of 3 copies of her book (US/Canada only, sorry), please visit this giveaway link.

About the Author:  (Photo credit: David Wentworth)

Writer, blogger, and former political aide, Stacy Parker Aab served for five years in the Clinton White House, first as a long-time intern in George Stephanopoulos’s office, and later as an assistant to Paul Begala. She traveled as a presidential advance person, preparing and staffing trips abroad for the president and Mrs. Clinton. She also served as a special assistant for Gov. David Paterson in New York.  Please check out her Website.

Also check out this video where she talks about her memoir:

If you are interested in Government Girl, please check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour.

I’m also counting this as my 7th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Government Girl from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour and review.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary. 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

First, I want to apologize to the author, TLC Book Tours, and the publisher for failing to meet my deadline for this review.  I think this is one of the only times I’ve missed a deadline, and in my defense, I erroneously wrote today as my tour date and not yesterday.  Clearly, my mind was not focused!  I apologize.  OK, on with my review.

Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a pot of water on the stove that takes a long time to boil.  Henry Lee is the main protagonist, but really his story happens nearly 45 years in the past, and those are the chapters that breathe and live.  Much of the present day (1986) life of Henry Lee is somber and lifeless.

“He’d meant to finish it when his son, Marty, went away to college, but Ethel’s condition had worsened and what money they’d saved for a rainy day was spent in a downpour of medical bills, a torrent that lasted nearly a decade.”  (Page 8)

The death of his wife, Ethel, from cancer six months before happens early on in the book.  Readers are left with a drifting character who really doesn’t find his way into his own story for about 100 or more pages.  When we finally delve into his young love with Keiko, the story blossoms into an emotional torrent, especially when they are ripped apart from each other.

Discrimination is on every page given that in 1942 the United States was drawn into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  For Henry’s father, the war began many years before when Japan invaded his homeland.  Henry and his father have a tenuous relationship — a relationship that is mirrored in the present between Henry and his own son, Marty. 

“‘He was vehemently against all things Japanese.  Even before Pearl Harbor, the war in China had been going on for almost ten years.  For his son to be frequenting that other part of town — Japantown — would have been bad form.  Shameful to him . . . ‘”  (Page 105)

Readers will appreciate the immersion into war-time America with its simmering angst against Asians — not just the Japanese — and the plight of those second generation Asians who try to maintain their livelihoods and tout their American loyalties in a nation that increasingly wanted to get rid of any reminder of war.  Overall, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a meandering novel about love, growing up, dealing with discrimination, and more, but in a way readers may find that the sequencing of events and alternating chapters between present day Henry and his younger persona could have been executed better.  In many cases the present day chapters take away from those during the war years, halting the narrative and adding little to the story’s arc.

About the Author:

Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children.  Check out his Website or the BitterSweet Blog.

To Enter the Giveaway for 1 copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Sorry, US/Canada only):

1.  Leave a comment on this post about one moment in your past you’d like to revisit or change.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway and leave a link in the comments.

Deadline is Feb. 5, 2010 at 11:59PM EST

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!!

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet from the publisher for a TLC Book Tour and review.  Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.

This is my 6th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

If you are interested in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, please check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour.

Tainted by Brooke Morgan

Brooke Morgan’s debut novel, Tainted, is a thrill ride in a small, shoreline town in Massachusetts — Shoreham — as Holly Barrett meets the man of her dreams on a bus.  Jack Dane is dashing, charming, and British — an accent to die for — but there is something below the surface that is not so inviting.

“Tell your heart lies enough times and it will fashion them into the truth.”  (Page 34)

Holly’s had a tough youth from getting pregnant at a young age to losing her parents and struggling as a single parent.  Jack swoops in and casts a spell that she is unwilling to break, despite the objections of her family and friends and only knowing him for about three weeks.  Morgan’s writing is upfront and engaging, though at times chapters shift from the point of view of Holly, her five-year old daughter, her grandfather, and others.

“‘Jesus, Holl.  You’re traveling faster than the speed of love.'”  (Page 106)

Readers will eat up these pages, trying to uncover Jack’s dark secrets, while at the same time wishing they could shake Holly into her right mind.  At times, Holly is very naive about Jack and moves too quickly into a relationship, which can be attributed to her inexperience with men and her self-imposed isolation.  However, there are a number of occasions where Holly sees clear red flags in Jack’s behavior and chooses to ignore them, reminiscent of abused women.  Morgan’s debut novel is a solid thriller with many twists and turns that will have some readers guessing until the very end.

To enter this INTERNATIONAL giveaway for 1 copy of Tainted by Brooke Morgan:

1.  Leave a comment on this review.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway.
3.  Comment on the guest post.

Deadline is Jan. 29, 2010, at 11:59PM EST

About the Author:

Brooke Morgan is a Bostonian who now lives in London with her two children. Tainted is her first novel.

If you are interested in Tainted, you should check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour.

This is my 5th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 2nd book, a romantic thriller, for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

 

FTC Disclosure:  Thanks to TLC Book Tours, HarperCollins, and Brooke Morgan for sending me a free copy of Tainted for review.  Clicking on image or title links will lead to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated. 

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See examines the relationship between sisters, May and Pearl, their immigration story from Shanghai, China, to Los Angeles, Calif., and the political changes between the 1930s and 1950s.  Pearl was born under the sign of the Dragon, and May was born under the sign of the Sheep.  Do these signs define who they are?  Will they guide their fate?

“Mama insists May and I couldn’t change who we are even if we tried.  May is supposed to be as complacent and content as the Sheep in whose year she was born.  The Sheep is the most feminine of the signs, Mama says.  It’s fashionable, artistic, and compassionate.  The Sheep needs someone to take care of her. . . I have a Dragon’s striving desire, which can never be properly filled.  ‘There’s nowhere you can’t go with your big flapping feet,’ Mama frequently tells me.  However, a Dragon, the most powerful of the signs also has its drawbacks.  ‘A Dragon is loyal, demanding, responsible, a tamer of fates,’ Mama told me. . . ”  (Page 9 of the hardcover)

Considering themselves modern Chinese ladies in Shanghai and shunning the old ways of their ancestors, Pearl and May become painted, beauties on calendars that sell products ranging from tobacco to other household goods.  Pearl has a crush on the painter who makes the calendars, and despite being the older sister, often loses sight of her sister’s actions and whereabouts.  Soon, their world is blown apart when the secrets of their father’s gambling are revealed and they are sold into arranged marriages with Chinese-Americans.  Still, these young sisters dream of escape and willfully defy their parents’ wishes, only for the fates to step in and force them to honor their original plans to meet their husbands in America.

The ravages of war hit home in Shanghai as the Japanese invade China, and the Communists flee to the hills of China.  Lisa See deftly interweaves the political backdrop of China and the world at large behind the more present plight of the Chin sisters.  Through a series of twists and turns that mirror the rise and fall of political powers across the globe, Pearl and May face adversity together, but both emerge vastly changed.  Reminiscent of Amy Tan‘s writing about mothers and daughters, particularly the clashes of old and new cultures, See grabs hold of the sisterly relationship to shed light the joys, sorrows, painful moments, and sacrifices that only sisters can share and feel deep down to their core.  Larger issues of discrimination and political dissension also are prevalent themes.

Overall, Shanghai Girls is a deep novel that will lend itself to animated discussion among book clubs.  Readers will enjoy unraveling the family secrets of the Chin women and their new families, and be exposed to the intricate and complex political and social dynamics of some of the most turbulent times in world history.  Not only have these women grown through adversity and sacrifice, but they are sent on a journey to discover what it means to be family.

How I’ve missed reading Lisa See before, I have no idea.  But she’s an author I hope to read more of in the future.

To Enter to win 2 copies of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (U.S./Canada only):

1.  Leave a comment on this review about what intrigues you about this novel.
2.  Leave a comment on my interview with Lisa See.
3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc. the giveaway.

Deadline is Jan. 26, 2010, at 11:59PM EST

About the Author:

Lisa See is the New York Times bestselling author of Peony in Love, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Flower Net (an Edgar Award nominee), The Interior, and Dragon Bones, as well as the critically acclaimed memoir On Gold Mountain. The Organization of Chinese American Women named her the 2001 National Woman of the Year.  She lives in Los Angeles, California.  Please check out her Website.  Read an excerpt of Shanghai Girls, here, and for book clubs, there are discussion questions.

I also interviewed Lisa See, here.

This is my 4th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

If you are interested in the rest of the tour stops for Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, I encourage you to check out the TLC Book Tour site.

FTC Disclosure:  I received my free copy of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See from Random House and TLC Book Tours for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though I appreciated.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

“Sadly, this action prevented her from saving the second musket man, who had been pulled from his perch.  He screamed as the dreadfuls held him down and began to tear organs from his living belly and feast upon them.”  (Page 117)

Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic, Pride and Prejudice, and a zombie conflict.  Grahame-Smith effectively weaves in the zombie attacks and how the Bennet clan dispatches them with skill.  A majority of this novel is Austen’s words, but the dialogue and descriptions that are modified to accommodate zombies are done with aplomb.

“‘My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world in your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding, particularly in the slaying of Satan’s armies, but permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy.  After all you may wield God’s sword, but I wield His wisdom.  And it is wisdom, dear cousin, which will ultimately rid us of our present difficulties with the undead.'” (Page 77)

Fun and entertaining on a base level, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an exercise in revision and an examination of Austen’s characters in a new light.  Many readers will disagree with Grahame-Smith’s portrayal of Lizzy as a cutthroat assassin who is quickly turned by her own emotions or strict sense of duty and honor, particularly since she often talks of dispatching her peers for slighting her family, imagines beheading her own sister Lydia simply because she prattles on, and other unmentionable actions.

“‘Jane, no one who has ever seen you together can doubt his affection.  Miss Bingley, I am sure, cannot.  She may not be a warrior, but she has cunning enough.  Dearest sister, I implore you — this unhappiness is best remedied by the hasty application of a cutlass to her throat.'”  (Page 95)

However, one of the most perceptive and playfully done sequences in the novel is the sparring match between Mr. Darcy and Lizzy.  Some readers could find this sequence too forceful, but others may view the physical combat between the characters as just a manifestation of their verbal tete-a-tete in the original novel.  The elements of zombies and ninjas provide additional circumstances that further delineate the class differences Austen sought to examine in her novels, enabling readers to further investigate the social conventions and prejudices inherent in this society.

There are other instances, however, in which these revised scenes do not work as well, and many of the social conventions of the time are overlooked in favor of ensuring the Bennet sisters, who are of little means, were shipped to the Orient for training in the deadly arts — even if it was with the inferior Chinese Shaolin monks –and were prepared for combat, which is inevitable in a nation nearly overrun by the undead.  In Austen’s novel, it would be unconventional for Lizzy to converse so openly with Wickham about Darcy, and it would be outside convention for Darcy to write her a letter to explain himself.  Here, convention is defied even more so in that the Bennet women are trained to kill — even if it is only zombies — and Lizzy openly displays her talents and shuns marriage.

Austen purists will NOT enjoy this novel unless they loosen their reverence for the author’s work.  Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a creative revision with an edge that modern readers may enjoy for its drama and action-packed zombie slayings.  There is a lot more to this rendition than simple entertainment.

This is my 3rd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge, though should I consider it a new author if a majority of the book is written by Jane Austen, who is an old favorite.

This is my 2nd book for the Jane Austen Challenge 2010!

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies from FSB Associates for review.  Clicking on titles or images can bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated. 

Ravens by George Dawes Green (audio)

Ravens by George Dawes Green on audio, which I received from a giveaway on Peeking Between the Pages, is action-packed, engaging, and unique.  Readers are first introduced to Shaw McBride and Romeo Zderko, two young gentlemen fed up with the “system” and anxious to leave Ohio for the great unknown and make their mark.  Unfortunately, Shaw has a dark side and Romeo can lose control of his emotions.

The young men are traveling south and end up in Brunswick, Georgia, where they learn the identity of the state lottery winners — the Boatwrights.  Shaw concocts a plan to garner the men at least half if not more of the $318 million prize.

The narrators shift between the Boatwrights, the local police officer, Romeo, and Shaw, with Maggi-Meg Reed’s Southern accent pretty close to the real thing and Robert Petkoff slightly dramatic in his portrayal.  However, each character’s voice was easily discernible, making it easy to follow the shifting narration.  Listeners will be drawn into the plight of the Boatwrights and may even sympathize with Romeo, but Shaw is another story.  The tension is palatable, and readers will be kept guessing as to how the extortion situation will be resolved.

Ravens on audio made the commute fly by, and those that love mysteries and thrillers will find this a satisfactory listen.  My husband and I often became absorbed in the story and had to wait for a chapter to end outside my office building in the mornings before I got out of the car.  He loved the ending the best, though it is graphic, because it resolves the situation in a satisfactory way.

This is my 2nd book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I’m considering this for my 1st book in the psychological thriller category for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: I received my free copy of the Ravens audiobook from a fellow blogger.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

The Bum Magnet by K.L. Brady

K.L. Brady’s The Bum Magnet is local chicklit for Washington, D.C., residents and stars the bum magnet herself, Charisse.  She’s a real estate agent with a serial dating problem, always seeming to attract the wrong kind of man and hanging onto them.  Dwayne, Lamar, Sean, and Marcus are just some of the bums in this book, but are they all bums?  That’s what Charisse has to figure out, if she can get past her own hangups.

“‘Charisse, a good man is like Santa Claus, believing in him feels real good until you find out he doesn’t really exist.'”  (Page 1)

Brady’s debut novel uses a lot of colloquial language and delves into the wrong relationships of her characters through journal entries and flashbacks, but readers may not feel a connection to Charisse right off.  She’s a bristly, independent woman on the one hand, but a dependent, lonely woman on the other.  Like all of us, Charisse has her strengths and her weaknesses, but she seems to have a hard time recognizing the obvious and in many ways she goes off the deep end.

“No, to me, spying on a boyfriend was not only justified, it was a requirement.  Hey, I keep it real.  To ask me not to spy on a scheming boyfriend would be like asking a lion not to hunt, a dog not to bark, or babies not to throw up.  ‘Verification’ was an instinctive to me (and all womankind), as giving birth.”  (Page 61)

As she makes the decision to focus on herself and analyze her past relationship failures to improve her relationship capabilities, she stumbles upon the man of her “dreams,” Dwayne, shortly after breaking it off with Marcus.  Things are soon spiraling out of control for Charisse when past flames reappear and past mistakes rear their ugly heads.   

“I hoped she wasn’t crazy.  For some reason, I’d always attracted crazy people.  Not eccentric crazy, but wear aluminum foil as a fashion accessory crazy.  They always shared their life stories with me.  Did I have an inviting demeanor or a friendly face? Perhaps.  Although I had a deep-rooted fear that crazy people might just be naturally drawn to other crazy people, which would make me one of them.”  (Page 122)

The Bum Magnet has a lot of drama, and Charisse attracts it like wildfire.  Readers will either enjoy the roller coaster ride or wonder when they can get off.  Brady has an active imagination and the dialogue will have readers giggling.  Brady’s writing is entertaining and has great potential.

FTC Disclosure:  Thanks to K.L. Brady for providing me with a free copy of The Bum Magnet for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

K. L. Brady is a D.C. native but spent a number of her formative years in the Ohio Valley. She’s an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively. She works as an analyst for a major government contracting firm and is an active real estate agent with Exit Realty by day—and writes by night (often into the wee hours of the morning). She lives just outside of D.C. in Cheltenham, Maryland, with her son, William, and two pet Betta fish, Spongebob and Jerry, and lives to eat chocolate, shop, read, and write.

***International Giveaway Details*** 

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what new author you’ve found in the new year.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link on this post.

Deadline Jan. 14, 2010, 11:59PM EST

This is my 1st book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

Also, this another stop on the Literary Road Trip.