Monday, April 30, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- April 30th

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Cindy's Love of Books. Below is the book that I received (I've been cutting back on books a bit), but it is one that I am super excited about as I have just seen the movie:

 1) The Hunger Games Official Movie Companion: Amazon Description. Go behind the scenes of the making of The Hunger Games with exclusive images and interviews. From the screenwriting process to the casting decisions to the elaborate sets and costumes to the actors' performances and directors' vision, this is the definitive companion to the breathtaking film.

 Thanks to the publisher!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review

   For years I have heard the highest praise for Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but had never gotten around to reading it. I think I was afraid to commit to a trilogy or maybe I was unsure if the story was too dark. Silly me! After seeing the movie this past weekend, I now understand what all the hoopla is about -- action-adventure; thriller; drama and even a bit of love story -- it is all here!

    The movie opens sometime in the future in the country of Panem; a society born out of the residents’ long ago quashed rebellion. Although there is no more war in Panem, life is pretty grim (think 1930’s Depression Era) for everyone except the residents of the capitol city. Katniss Everdeen’s family, like most others, is barely getting by. They must survive on the food that Katniss can kill with her bow and arrow. Fortunately, sixteen year Katniss is an excellent shooter.

    As if things weren’t bleak enough, every year, as payback for the long ago rebellion, Panem hosts the ultimate reality show: The Hunger Games. The game is composed of 24 children; one boy and one girl from each of the twelve districts of Panem. The children are selected in annual lottery held in each district called “The Reaping.” The Hunger Games is part pageantry and spectacle with a big pre-production ceremony, but is mainly a “survivalist” game which is played in the woods until all, but one of the participants are dead. The lone survivor is crowned the victor.

   When Katniss Everdeen’s young sister, Prim, is chosen as the female representative from District 12, Katniss quickly volunteers in her place. Going along with her to represent District 12 is Peeta Mellark a local boy who helped Katniss years ago. They form a friendship as they try the survive The Hungers Games.

    As someone who is unfamiliar with the book, with few exceptions, I was able to follow the movie quite easily. The few parts where I was lost (such as what happened to the 13th District) I suspect will be answered in the future films. Again I have no comparison to the novel, but in my opinion Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen! I was also struck by the depth of the story which draws on both literature (Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” comes to mind) and ancient history (the Roman Empire held similar “to the death games” for entertainment purposes). Additionally, while the film is a lengthy 2 hours and twenty two minutes, it went by rapidly. In short, I loved this film!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First Chapter-- First Paragraph-- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus:

Born in the wealthy enclave of Barrington, Illinois in late autumn, Rufus was the smallest pup in a litter of four -- black with highlights, white eyebrows and chest. The breeder, a precise woman with a lazy eye, said that as an adult, he would most likely remain on the smallish side. That's a good trait for a miniature schnauzer. He had the look, even as a seven week old, of a polished, professional dog, holding a practiced dog show stance -- legs back, chest forward, eyes alert -- all inherited traits, genetics at its best.

But she said nothing about Rufus talking. Not just talking, but talking to God. In dog prayers, I imagine.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- April 23rd

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books. Below are the books I received this week:

1) Dollars and Uncommon Sense by Steve Repak, CFP. Publisher's Summary. There is a personal debt crisis in America. One in five mortgages is under water and the average credit card holder is $15,799 in debt. In DOLLARS AND UNCOMMON SENSE former US Army Sergeant and Certified Financial Planner ™, Steve Repak outlines a strategy to change your misguided common sense ideas about savings and learn to think like a true builder of wealth. Steve served 12 years in the Army, racking up $32,000 in debt while he was there. He then drew on his military experience and put his own finances through boot camp. Not only did he get out of debt, but Steve Repak went on to help others do the same. Now, he shows that wealth builders, like military recruits, have the self-discipline to manage their money and grow their wealth.

Thanks to the Cadence Group!

2) It Rains in February: A Wife's Memoir of Love and Loss by Leila Summers. Amazon Summary. On the 24th of February 2007 my husband, Stuart, drowned himself at sea, leaving me widowed with two young daughters aged six and four. I knew it wasn't an accident, even though the medics and police never suspected suicide. Stuart had been talking about ending his life for a year. His most recent suicide attempt had been only three weeks earlier. Afterwards, he explained that day as the most peaceful day of his life. Sitting next to the dam, he smoked his last cigarette. He drank a hundred sleeping pills and did a final check to make sure everything would look like an accident. The last thing he remembered was swimming out into the crystal clear water. He said that he was no longer scared of dying, that there was nothing scary about it. Living was the scary thing.

It Rains In February: A Wife's Memoir of Love and Loss is the true story of a husband's depression and obsession, not only with another woman, but also with ending his life. In this honest and heartfelt narrative, Leila Summers weaves a compelling tale of the year that led up to Stuart's suicide and the grief, profound loss and self discovery that followed. Although each suicide is unique, this book gives the reader an insider's view from one perspective by way letters and e-mail messages.

3) The Dog That Talked to God by Jim Kraus. Publisher's Summary. Recently widowed Mary Fassler buys a Miniature Schnauzer, Rufus, and her world is turned sideways in the midst of her grief. It seems that Rufus speaks. And not just to her. He also talks to God.

When Rufus begins sharing advice that could result in major changes, Mary gets the feeling the pooch might not be steering her in the right direction. Or, is she just afraid to take the leap and discover something she desperately needs? Only Rufus...and God...knows.

Thanks to the Publisher!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Chapter-- First Paragraph-- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from Gossip by Beth Gutcheon:

'You were asking about Diane Wainwright,' I said to Judy Mellincroft, once we got her bodice basted. Mrs. Oba was on the floor with her mouth full of pins, taking up the hem of a sleek wine-colored evening sheath. Judy is so tiny that we have to reconstruct everything she buys, but it's worth it. She loves the designers I carry, and she's out in my clothes everyday for lunch and most nights during the season, a walking advertisement for the shop, and I don't even have to give her a discount.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- April 16th

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books. Below are the books I received this week:

1) Gossip by Beth Gutcheon. Publisher's Summary. Loviah “Lovie” French owns a small, high-end dress shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Renowned for her taste, charm, and discretion, Lovie is the one to whom certain women turn when they need “just the thing” for key life events: baptisms and balls, weddings and funerals. Among those who depend on Lovie’s sage advice are her two best friends since boarding school days: Dinah Wainwright and Avis Metcalf. Despite the love they share for their mutual friend, there has always been a chilly gulf between Dinah and Avis, the result of a perceived slight from decades ago that has unimaginably tragic echoes many years later.

An astute chronicler of all that makes us human, Beth Gutcheon delivers her most powerful and emotionally devastating novel to date. Gossip is a tale of intimacy and betrayal, trust and fidelity, friendship and motherhood that explores the way we use “information” — be it true, false, or imagined — to sustain, and occasionally destroy, one another.

Thanks to FSB Associates!

2) Doing Italians oops Italy by The Delusional Divas. Publisher's Summary. Picture it — the new millennium. Shelby and Dena, modern-day Lucy and Ethel (sans Ricky and Fred) are loose in Italy looking for adventure. But this story, complete with zany mishaps and misadventures, has a few tiny twists. For one, Shelby’s burnished skin tones reveal that her Lucy’s ancestors had taken a detour through Africa and mingled, so to speak. Secondly, Dena’s Ethel really has a Fred, perhaps not as long in the tooth, but just as crabby. Thirdly, Shelby and Dena’s adventure is no sitcom. It is the real life humorous, yet poignant, tale of childhood friends — one white, one black, one a stay-at-home mom, the other a law librarian —setting off for the Land of the Boot and the voyage of a lifetime.

Done with Dr. Phil and weary of Louise Hay, Dena and Shelby were middle-aged New Yorkers who had had it with their dreary lives and with every self-help guru who was no help at all. Between them, the pair figured they had more fix-your-life books than the Library of Congress. Name any ISM, and they had tried it…Catholicism, Buddhism, Hypnotism, even Wiccaism. All to no avail.

About to give up and accept their lot, the ladies stumbled upon their truth. The answer was not in an ISM, but in an ION, as in DELUSION. Focusing on the dismal reality of their lives was wasted energy. Why not concentrate on their dreams and what they wanted? What did they want? That was simple. Dena and Shelby wanted to be Divas, the desire of every man and envy of every woman. Their game plan — pretend those dreams were reality. Hence, delusion became Dena and Shelby’s new paradigm.

With the purchase of each new hat, every confectionary bra and panty set, and each high-cut skirt and low-cut top, the harried housewife and bespectacled librarian embraced their delusion of Divahood. Then, hatboxes and steamer trunks in tow, the ditsy duo set out for romantic Italy, Shelby to rekindle a long-ago romance and Dena to kindle whatever she could. As one might imagine, the ladies’ delusions garnered wholly unexpected results. Their journey was one of self discovery and life-altering events that serves as a blueprint for others.

Thanks to the authors!

3) Starters by Lissa Price. Publisher's Summary. In the future, teens rent their bodies to seniors who want to be young again. One girl discovers her renter plans to do more than party--her body will commit murder, if her mind can't stop it. Sixteen-year-old Callie lost her parents when the genocide spore wiped out everyone except those who were vaccinated first--the very young and very old. With no grandparents to claim Callie and her little brother, they go on the run, living as squatters, and fighting off unclaimed renegades who would kill for a cookie. Hope comes via Prime Destinations, run by a mysterious figure known only as The Old Man. He hires teens to rent their bodies to seniors, known as enders, who get to be young again. Callie's neurochip malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her rich renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, even dating Blake, the grandson of a senator. It's a fairy-tale new life . . . until she uncovers the Body Bank's horrible plan.

Thanks to Delacorte Press!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First Chapter-- First Paragraph-- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from 30 Failures by Age 30 by Katharine Miller:

Once upon a time, 30 was old. It was almost middle-aged. If you weren't married by age 30, something was wrong with you. If you didn't have children something was wrong with you. If you weren't settled down with life all figured out, you'd screwed up somewhere along the way. Or so it seemed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- April 9th

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Cindy at a Cindy's Love of Books. Below are the books I received this week:

1) The Third Gate by Lincoln Child. Publisher's Summary. Under the direction of famed explorer Porter Stone, an archaeological team is secretly attempting to locate the tomb of an ancient pharaoh who was unlike any other in history. Stone believes he has found the burial chamber of King Narmer, the near mythical god- king who united upper and lower Egypt in 3200 B.C., and the archaeologist has reason to believe that the greatest prize of all—Narmer’s crown—might be buried with him. No crown of an Egyptian king has ever been discovered, and Narmer’s is the elusive “double” crown of the two Egypts, supposedly pos­sessed of awesome powers.

The dig itself is located in one of the most forbidding places on earth—the Sudd, a nearly impassable swamp in north­ern Sudan. Amid the nightmarish, disorienting tangle of mud and dead vegetation, a series of harrowing and inexpli­cable occurrences are causing people on the expedition to fear a centuries- old curse. With a monumental discovery in reach, Professor Jeremy Logan is brought onto the project to investigate. What he finds will raise new questions . . . and alarm.

Thanks to Random House!

2) 30 Failures by Age 30 by Katharine Miller. Publisher's Summary. Once upon a time, 30 was old. It was Grown Up. It was almost middle-aged. If you weren’t married, something was wrong with you. If you didn’t have children, something was wrong with you. If you weren’t settled down with life all figured out, you’d screwed up somewhere along the way. Or so it seemed. Here is one woman’s exploration of personal and social failures and the hilarity that ensues.

Thanks to the Publicist!

3) Dancing on Broken Glass by KA Hancock. Publisher's Summary. Lucy Houston and Mickey Chandler probably shouldn’t have fallen in love, let alone gotten married. They’re both plagued with faulty genes—he has bipolar disorder; she, a ravaging family history of breast cancer. But when their paths cross on the night of Lucy’s twenty-first birthday, sparks fly, and there’s no denying their chemistry.

Cautious every step of the way, they are determined to make their relationship work—and they put their commitment in writing. Mickey will take his medication. Lucy won’t blame him for what is beyond his control. He promises honesty. She promises patience. Like any marriage, there are good days and bad days—and some very bad days. In dealing with their unique challenges, they make the heartbreaking decision not to have children. But when Lucy shows up for a routine physical just shy of their eleventh anniversary, she gets an impossible surprise that changes everything. Everything. Suddenly, all their rules are thrown out the window, and the two of them must redefine what love really is.

Thanks to the author!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guest Post: M.J. Rose

Please welcome M.J. Rose to Metroreader. Rose, the author of the best-seller The Book Of Lost Fragrances, shares how the fragrance Âmes Soeurs, the Scent of Soulmates, was created:

Guest Post - Âmes Soeurs, the Scent of Soulmates

I had wanted to commission one and looked into it but to do it well with a really quality perfumer was astronomically expensive. Far more than I got paid for the book. I gave up on that idea early on.

When I was writing the book – to keep in the world of scent – I burned a lot of candles. When I finished writing, I gave a copy of the book, to the perfumer who’d created the candles that had inspired me the most. Frederick Bouchardy. (Joya Studios).

After he read the novel he contacted me and we met for tea in the Peninsula Hotel in NYC. He told me he loved the book and wanted to create his version of the fragrance at the heart of the novel. I was so astonished and honored, I actually started to cry.

Bouchardy even named the fragrance after one in the book: Âmes Sœurs the sense of soul mates. It has hints of Frankincense, Myrrh, Orange Blossom and Jasmine. I think it has a smoky uncommon finish that suggests the past and the future, and lost souls reunited.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

First Chapter-- First Paragraph-- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from Still by Lauren f. Winner.

Jane Smiley's novel Horse Heaven was published in 2000, about three years after I left the Judaism in which I had grown up and was baptized in the Anglican church. Smiley is quite possibly my favorite living American novelist -- I read her novella "The Age of Grief" at least once annually -- and I snatched up Horse Heaven as soon as it hits the stands. It's a sprawling comic novel about horse racing, a subculture I have little interest in, and it is not my favorite Smiley oeuvre: I prefer her quiet, finely grained family stories -- Ordinary Love and Good Will, Barn Blind, At Paradise Gate. But one small section of Horse Heaven spoke to me with a force I had mostly felt only when reading liturgy or poetry or epitaphs. Here Smiley is writing about a horse trainer named Buddy Crawford. He gets born again and he's all fired fired up and then one night he is praying and he sits on the bed and he looks 'up to the full moon, in whose region he imagines Jesus to be," and then he begins to talk to his Lord and Savior. 'Okay here is the deal,' Buddy Crawford says, 'I thought I was saved. That was what was advertised. I would accept you as my personal savior, and there you were. And, you know, I felt it too. I felt saved and everything . . . . . But I find out all the time that I've got to keep getting saved. Am I saved? Am I not saved? What do I do now? Are you talking to me? Are you not talking to me? Am I good? Am I a sinner? Still a sinner?' And then he bursts into tears.

His wife comes into the room, gets undressed and asks Buddy what he made him cry. 'When the Lord came into me,' Buddy tells her it was such a good feeling, I thought, Well, I can do anything because of this feeling, but then there was all this stuff to do and to think about, and I don't remember feeling all that well.'

It seemed to me that I was reading my own tea leaves when I read Jane Smiley's words.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- April 2nd

The past two weeks have been crazy as my dog, Maggie, was diagnosed with suspicious lumps and needed major surgery. Thankfully, Maggie made it through the 4 hour surgery with flying colors and is healing. Now I am awaiting the biopsy results to determine if she needs further treatment.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Cindy at a Cindy's Love of Books. Below are the books I received:

1) Still by Lauren Winner. Publisher's Summary. In the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, Lauren F. Winner chronicled her sojourn from Judaism to Christianity. Now, in Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Winner describes how experiences of loss and failure unexpectedly slam her into a wall of doubt and spiritual despair: “My belief has faltered, my sense of God’s closeness has grown strained, my efforts at living in accord with what I take to be the call of the gospel have come undone.”

Witty, relatable, and fiercely honest, Winner lays bare her experience of what she calls the “middle” of the spiritual life. In elegant and spare prose, she explores why—in the midst of the overwhelming anxiety, loneliness, and boredom of her deepest questioning about where (or if) God is—the Christian story still explains who she is better than any other story she’s ever known. Still is an absorbing meditation combining literary grace with spiritual wisdom. It is sure to resonate with anyone looking to sustain a spiritual life in the midst of real life.

Thanks to the Publicist!

2) Out of Sight Out of Time by Ally Carter. Publisher's Summary. The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family from the Circle of Cavan--an ancient terrorist organization that has been hunting her for over a year. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers months have passed, she must face the fact that her memory is now a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie’s summer vacation are the bruises on her body and the dirt under her nails, and all she wants is to go home.
Once she returns to school, however, Cammie realizes that even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers. Cammie, her friends, and mysterious spy-guy Zach must face their most difficult challenge yet as they travel to the other side of the world, hoping to piece together the clues that Cammie left behind. It’s a race against time. The Circle is hot on their trail and willing stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.

Thanks to the Publicist!

3) Kingdom Keepers: Shell Game by Ridley Pearson. Publisher's Summary. The fifth novel in the Kingdom Keepers series takes to the high seas! Finn, Amanda, and all of the DHIs are back for this new thrilling story that takes readers belowdecks on the Disney Dream. As the Disney Dream joins the cruise fleet, a special treat is in store for guests aboard its inaugural sail from Cape Canaveral to Los Angeles: the Disney Host Interactive teenage guides will be part of the Dream crew.

Finn, Maybeck, Charlene, Willa, and Philby are to attend the cruise as celebrity guests, and to perform a ribbon cutting for the DHI server to go live. The Dream is now the most advanced cruise ship in the world.

But all is not right belowdecks. Strange things are happening. Unexplained phenomena. Only the Kingdom Keepers know the truth behind their invitation: nearly every Disney villain is represented onboard the new ship: whether on its decks or in its theaters. It's believed the Overtakers have infiltrated the cast and are "stowaways." Worse: it is believed they have stolen an important journal that once belonged to Walt Disney himself–Finn has been having dreams about this–and that some kind of mission is planned.

The ship sets sail filled with enthusiastic guests and crew, and the battle is on in new and exotic arenas. But the end game is far more complicated and intense than anything the Kingdom Keepers had planned on. If the Overtakers get their way, a power will be unleashed that no one will possess the ability to vanquish.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness!