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Giveaway: 1 set of Boxed Set of Blackboard Books by Caroline Taggart, J.A. Wines, and Judy Parkinson

Thanks to FSB Associates, I’ve got a giveaway for the trivia buff in your circle just in time for the holidays.

They can brush up on grammar and punctuation, spelling, literature, history, and more in i before e (except after c), My Grammar and I…Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right, and I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School in the Boxed Set of Blackboard Books from Readers Digest.

Check out the details of these great books:

i before e (except after c):
old-school ways to remember stuff In this clever-and often hilarious-collection, you’ll find engaging mnemonics, arranged in easy to find categories that include geography, time and the calendar, numbers, and astronomy. Perfect for students of all ages!

My Grammar and I…Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right
Avoid grammatical minefields with this entertaining refresher course for anyone who has ever been stumped by spelling confusion, dangling modifiers, split infinitives, or for those who have no idea what these things even are.

I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School
Take a trip down memory lane with this light-hearted and informative reminder of the many things we learned in school that have been forgotten over time, from Shakespeare and diphthongs to quotients, phalanges, and protons. After all, as Stantayana reminds us, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

About the Authors:

Judy Parkinson, author of i before e (except after c): old-school ways to remember stuff,  is a graduate of Bristol University. She is a producer of documentaries, music videos, and commercials, and won a Clio award for a Greenpeace ad. Parkinson has published four books. She lives in London.

J. A. Wines, author of My Grammar and I…Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right, is a graduate of Oxford University and the author of several books on grammar and trivia.

Caroline Taggart is the author of the best- selling I Used to Know That, The Classics, and An Apple a Day and coauthor of My Grammar and I . . . Or Should That Be Me? She is also the editor of Writer’s Market UK & Ireland, a guide for aspiring writers. She has worked in publishing for more than thirty years, the last twenty in nonfiction.

To Enter: (US Only)

1.  Leave a comment about which trivia buff these books would be perfect for.

2.  Blog, Tweet, and/or Facebook for a second entry.

Deadline is Dec. 15, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST. Just in time for the holidays!

The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates

The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates is an excellent resource for aspiring novelists, especially those that have full time jobs and are writing in their spare time.  Housed in a hard bound, spiral notebook format, the book makes it easy to find the best advice for the crisis of the moment for beginnings, middles, or ends of novels with its outlined table of contents.  Most writers are fond of taking notes or using sticky papers to highlight gems of information . . . what’s even better is that we color-code that information to keep it all fresh.

Some of the ideas in the book are those writers have heard a number of times, such as keeping a small notebook handy at all times when dialogue is too juicy to pass up or someone’s style catches the eye.  Story ideas always come from experiences and what writers see in other art or in other books.  What’s unique about this reference book is that it counters advice given to many writers that they should write what they know or write about things that have never been done before.

National Novel Writing Month participants would be wise to check out this book, but even those not engaged in the month-long marathon, should take a look at Bates’ advice.  From creating the three-act structure complete with conflict and resolution to ensuring the larger structure is supported by a smaller structure of action and development, The Nighttime Novelist offers direct advice about plot and point of view choices, differences between POV and voice, settings and description, and much more.

Overall, Bates provides a comprehensive outline for writing a novel and offers a “coffee break” to help writers assess their progress throughout the novel.  While the book is written in a linear fashion from beginning to end, writers can plunge into any section of the book and obtain excellent advice.  There are additional online and other resources listed in the back of the book, and appendices with empty worksheets, which writers can copy to use multiple times for multiple novels.  The Nighttime Novelist is a great addition to any novelist or writer’s shelves.

About the Author:

Joseph Bates’ fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The South Carolina Review, Identity Theory, Lunch Hour Stories, The Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.  He holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and fiction writing from the University of Cincinnati and teaches in the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

For more information please visit www.nighttimenovelist.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Also check out the excerpt from the book posted earlier in November.

***Thanks to Writer’s Digest Books, Joseph Bates, and FSB Associates for sending me a copy for review. ***

This is my 59th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

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.

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. 

The Michael Jackson Tapes by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

“MJ:  Everybody’s funny bone is the same color, isn’t it? We are all the same, really.  I have seen that a lot.”  (Page 258)

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach‘s The Michael Jackson Tapes is a unique look at a larger-than-life celebrity musician in an intimate setting, but portions of the book are written like a thesis or an examination of celebrity and its adverse impact on America and its stars.  This is not a book for those looking for pictorial depictions of the star in his home or seeking titillating details about his personal relationships with women, his children, or other family members.  While family is talked about, it is not the crux of this book nor of the taped conversations between Jackson and Boteach between 2000 and 2001.

“And it’s heady stuff to be needed by a global superstar.  It makes you feel important and special and soon you close your eyes to all you know to be righteous.  The glow of fame is too bright, the gravitational pull of celebrity too difficult to resist, until you have become nothing but a satellite in its orbit.  All resistance has been quelled by the superpowerful narcotic of superstardom.”  (Page 269)

Through these recorded conversations with his acquaintance and spiritual guide — at least for a time — Michael Jackson revealed some of his demons, his joys, and his fears.  But even for all the explanations by the author of his convictions about Jackson’s innocence and sincerity, there are times when readers will uncover something amiss with Jackson — whether from the drugs or other influences is anyone’s guess.  Answers to certain questions will start off coherent and then reach the absurd, leading readers to wonder how the Rabbi failed to see something wrong with Jackson (i.e. drug abuse).  Boteach knew Jackson for just a few years, and while readers may take issue with his assessments of the celebrity or the closeness of their relationship, readers will see a side of Jackson rarely shown to the public.

“MJ:  See, why can’t we be like the trees? That come, you know, they lose their leaves in the winter, and come back as beautiful all over again in the spring, you know? It’s a sense of immortality to them, and the Bible says man was meant for immortality.”  (Page 67)

Jackson and Boteach discussed religion, family, fame, celebrity, and many other topics, with the goal of creating a book.  Jackson at one point espouses the need for celebrities to be responsible for their public displays and shows to ensure they send an appropriate message to their fans, but in many ways acted contrary to that message (i.e. grabbing his crotch during concerts, which he says he did not do consciously).

However, there are times when this book grows tedious with the repetition of Boteach’s theories and assessments of Jackson’s actions and past; it is almost like he doesn’t trust the reader to make his or her own assessments about Jackson and his downfall, which is a major drawback.  Readers will absorb and get lost in the conversations between Boteach and Jackson and enjoy the snippet of conversation included with Jackson’s mother.  The Michael Jackson Tapes seeks to bring out the flaws and the good qualities in a wayward superstar lost in his own image.

About the Author:

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is host of the award-winning national TV show, Shalom in the Home on TLC. He is also the international best-selling author of 20 books, including his most recent work, The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets for Reigniting Desire and Restoring Passion for Life (Harper One). His book Kosher Sex was an international blockbuster, published in 20 languages, and his recent books on the American family, Parenting With Fire and Ten Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children were both launched on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

I want to thank FSB Associates, Vanguard Press, and Author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for sending me a free copy of The Michael Jackson Tapes for review.   Clicking on cover images and titles will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; no purchases required.

I have 1 copy for 1 lucky reader anywhere in the world.  To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this post about your fondest memory of Michael Jackson or The Jackson Five.

2.  Blog, tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a comment here.

Deadline is Nov. 23, 2009, at 11:59 PM EST

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED! CHECK THE RIGHT SIDEBAR FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

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