Friday, March 30, 2012

REVIEW: The Expats by Chris Pavone


Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.

She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—play-dates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and unending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, doing a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they claim to be, and terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun; a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money; a complex web of intrigue where no one is who they claim to be, and the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of relationships; and a mind-boggling long-play con threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Crown Publishing Group (first published March 1st 2012)
ISBN 0307956350 (ISBN13: 9780307956354)

About the Author
from his website

"I was born in 1968, grew up in New York City, and attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and Cornell University, where I majored in government. I worked at a number of publishing houses over nearly two decades, most notably as an editor at Clarkson Potter, where I specialized in cookbooks (I love to cook). In the late nineties, I also wrote a little book called The Wine Log

I’m the father of twin schoolboys named Sam and Alex, and an old cocker spaniel named Charlie Brown (he’s brown), and the husband of Madeline McIntosh. I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, except for college and the year and a half that we lived in Luxembourg, where I started writing The Expats in the cafés of the cobblestony old town. We now live in Greenwich Village and the North Fork of Long Island."

Check out his website
Like The Expats on Facebook

My Thoughts

Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palette that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.

This book takes place in various countries around Europe, but most of it is set in Luxembourg.

Kate is an ex-spy adjusting to the normal life of a stay-at-home Mom in a foreign land, who finds herself caught up in a mystery. Unable to give up her roots, she can’t help but investigate to find out what is really going on. Strong, intelligent, surprisingly trusting for someone who spent years as a spy, she winds up feeling betrayed, not trusting herself, and not always thinking straight when she finds that she is too close to the subject.

Dexter is the perfect husband and father, until the move to Luxembourg. Suddenly he is a workaholic, rarely available to the children or his wife. The roles have shifted, after workaholic secret spy Kate gives up her career to follow her husband to Luxembourg, where he is taking on new work. And suddenly the father that used to be at home all of the time is rarely home and a distance falls between him and the family.

Further rousing his wife’s suspicions are their new friends Bill and Julia, a husband and wife from Chicago. Julia quickly becomes Kate’s best friend in Luxembourg, but questions are aroused.

This is one of those stories where you are continually asking yourself  “what if” and “what would I do”.  It shows the fine line drawn through moral delineation and ambiguity. Hear one side of a story and you may think someone is morally bankrupt. Hear more of the story, and maybe what they do is justified, but hear yet more and perhaps you question their motives once again. “Morality” and ethics are not black and white.

Kate's character was pretty well developed, and a character with which I could really connect. Her husband is more elusive and shady. You are never sure what is going on with him, and whether or not he can be trusted.

A book editor for nearly two decades, The Expats is Chris Pavone’s first novel. Part psychological thriller, part escapism, part cautionary tale and part pure entertainment, this is a really fun story!

The author is quite good at seeing into the human condition, down to the heart of things, and sometimes I just had to smile...
Jake sighed, the immense disappointment that a little boy can feel hundreds of times a day, over anything, everything, nothing. (p. 58)

We all see ourselves as the center of everything. (p. 299)
(Note: Quotes were taken from an Advanced Readers Copy, and wording could differ in the actual released copy.)
I like the cover. Shiny and almost a metallic red in appearance, there is the dark silhouette of a woman in front of an old European town (possibly Luxembourg?). It gives a really good clue as to what is held between the covers.

However I did note that, because of its metallic nature, the red color does rub off easily, leaving the beautiful cover marked more obviously than your average cover.

I like the fact that the book has shorter chapters and choppy sections, with lots of spots for me to find a stopping point. The font is well-spaced and easy-to-read; the dialogue is easy to follow.  There are some shifts in time, from past to brief periods in the present, but this transition is assisted by the fact that the font is slightly different in the scenes of the present. So you can visually see the change to present day, as well as a date stamp at the top of the page to make it clearer. Still you do need to pay attention, as the time shift can be a little tricky to navigate. It gets especially tricky in the last few chapters of the book.

While not gratuitous, there is some vulgarity, sexuality and adult situations and content.

My final word: This was a fun, smart story. It kept me entertained and challenged. I continually wondered what would happen next, but it was really light and fun. A clever story of suspense laid out in a very easy-to-read fashion, and a very satisfying read.


Random House
Barnes and Noble
The Book Depository

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10


I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ARTICLE SHARING: "Joel Stein Thinks 'Adults Should Read Adult Books'"

Many YA lovers and authors are up in arms after Time columnist Joel Stein wrote an article entitled "Adults Should Read Adult Books".

I like some of the comments made on GalleyCat, like: 
  • I'd like to say thank you to @thejoelstein for giving me permission to ignore whole swaths of books and articles: His.- Kate McKean
  • I had a crush on @thejoelstein when I was 14 because I read TIME. I also read Harry Potter. Apparently he thinks adults can't do the same. - Sarah LaPolla
  • OK, read the @thejoelstein crap. Does he also believe that women shouldn't wear pants and only Japanese people should eat sushi? - Jolie Hale
I think there's gonna be a beat down...

ARTICLE SHARING: "Wonderful Hotel Libraries"

A collection of some of the most beautiful, opulent and interesting hotel libraries found around the world. It includes a library that has walls lined with peacock feathers.

All that is missing is a bed, and I'm ready to move in! Check it out!

VIDEO SHARING: Downton Arby's

For fans of Downton Abbey, I present to you "Downton Arby's"...

Book Giveaways in Blogworld (03-29-12 edition)

NOTE: A reminder that you are free to email me about any giveaways that you are having, if you want me to blog them, and I'll be happy to try to post them even if I am not entering them. Just include a link to the giveaway, what you are giving away, how many copies are being given away, and the deadline in order to assure being included. Email me at nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com.

Here is a list of some giveaways going on in Blogworld*. Please note that new giveaways that were added this week are indented in Blockquotes:

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away The White Pearl. Deadline is March 31st. US/Canada only.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away The Turning of Anne Merrick and a Revolutionary Survival Kit. Deadline is March 31st. US only.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Another Piece of My Heart. Deadline is March 31st. US only.

Stiletto Storytime is giving away Enchantments. Deadline is March 31st. US/Canada only.

Bookfever is giving away your choice of book from The Book Depository (up to $15 value). Deadline is March 31st. International!

2 Kids and Tired Books is giving away Cruising Attitude. Deadline is April 4th. US/Canada only.

Peeking Between the Pages is giving away Losing Clementine. Deadline is April 7th. International!
Bippity Boppity Book is giving away The Taker. Deadline is April 9th. International!

Berkley-Jove gives away a selection of their previously released books every month!

After Midnight Fantasies has regular monthly romance giveaways!

Bookbitch has regular monthly thriller giveaways!

Elizabeth Lowell has a monthly giveaway!

Bookreporter has monthly giveaways!

Author Carla Neggers has a monthly giveaway!

Author James Patterson has regular giveaways!
*Courtesy Note: Please keep in mind the many, many hours of work that goes into me compiling this list each week (when I'm on top of it). Please be courteous and thoughtful, and do not steal my text. Either recreate your own list, or link to this list and direct your readers here for giveaway information. Thank you so much for your consideration!

Introducing...Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so... 

Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother's wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking. On the damp bricks of the path stood Mrs. Ali from the village shop. She gave only the faintest of starts, the merest arch of an eyebrow. A quick rush of embarrassment flooded to the Major's cheeks and he smoothed helplessly at the lap of his crimson, clematis-covered housecoat with hands that felt like spades.

-- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ARTICLE SHARING: "Oh, My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts"

There is an entertaining little article over on brain pickings about the comments that monks have made in the margins of manuscripts. Just a few of my favorites:
  • New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more.
  • That's a hard page and a weary work to read it.
  • Thank God, it will soon be dark.
Check it out!

ARTICLE SHARING: The Dystopian Timeline to The Hunger Games (Infographic by Goodreads)

Goodreads has come up with a great INFOGRAPHIC showing the history of dystopian novels over the last 100 years or so. Very interesting!

ARTICLE SHARING: The Hunger Games Quiz

Think you're a fan of Hunger Games? Just how well do you really know/remember the book? Find out with The Hunger Games quiz.

Friday, March 23, 2012

VIDEO SHARING: Where the Wild Things (as read by Christopher Walken) NSFW

Priceless! (NSFW)

Posted by backyardsounds

ARTICLE SHARING: "'Hunger Games' Fans: 4 Other Books That Will Hook Them Next"

The Hollywood Reporter has posted a list of books that are in line to be made into movies next. The Scorpio Races, City of Bones and more...

ARTICLE SHARING: Hunger Games-inspired tattoos

The Daily Beast has a photo gallery of tattoos inspired by the Hunger Games, and stories of the people wearing the ink.

Did I ever mention that I got a tattoo last year? Mine is the one seen to the left. It's an "ouroboros", a serpent dragon, representing the cyclical nature of life. It's about 4-5 inches from top to bottom, and located on my back hip. It was created by the fabulous Stevie Bananas at the Howl Gallery/Tattoo in town. If you're ever in south Florida, check them out! They aren't just a tattoo parlor, but are also an art gallery and are a driving force behind the art and music community and bringing people to our downtown district.

ARTICLE SHARING: "The best bookstores in North America"

The Globe and Mail shares their list of the 10 best bookstores in North America. The list includes the famous Powell's Books (which I didn't know was in Portland). Other bookstores listed are located in Denver, Seattle, Victoria, Greenwich Village, Oxford, on Broadway, Ontario, Vancouver and Boston. Check it out!

ARTICLE SHARING: "Author Turow fears DOJ Apple suit would empower Amazon"

CNET is running an article written by Jay Greene stating that author Scott Turow (author of Presumed Innocent) is alleging that a lawsuit Amazon has filed against Apple, HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster will put Amazon in a position to crush all of their competition.
"'You'll end up with one bookseller in the United States because Amazon will crush everyone else,' Turow said.
In an op-ed piece for Bloomberg, the Presumed Innocent author dubs Amazon 'the Darth Vader of the literary world.' And in an interview with CNET, Turow said he's worried that Amazon's tactics will unfairly undermine brick-and-mortar booksellers and ultimately the publishing industry." (CNET article by Jay Greene)
Read the full CNET article by Jay Greene, and the original Bloomberg article written by author Scott Turow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

REVIEW: Ten Healthy Teas by Valerie B. Lull


Ten Healthy Teas introduces you to the wonderful world of tea, which has many natural health benefits as well as being a beloved part of social ritual, and a comforting way to take a moment for yourself in a busy day. The information and recipes in this book are designed for those who want to explore the world of tea, but who might not have a lot of time to invest. Simple, clear, engaging information provides you with the inspiration to take your own journey into the delights of tea. Whether you prefer traditional black tea or herbal infusions, Ten Healthy Teas is an indispensable guide to healthy, enjoyable tea-drinking.

About the Author

Valerie B. Lull is currently studying herbalism with the American College of Health Sciences. She has always had a passion for staying healthy, and for the health benefits of teas and the various ways they can be prepared. Her passion for tea started in childhood, when she experienced a traditional-style teatime with her Canadian relatives.

My Thoughts

I'm a tea lover. I often drink hot tea in lieu of coffee or soda, and have been known to use tea to stave off cravings for sweets. I use peppermint tea to ease my unsettled stomach. I also have some experience with herbs, tinctures, aromatherapy, and the like. I spent a couple of years absorbing everything I could get on it back in my late 20s. I even made my own tea bag mixtures (using tea bags that were sealed shut with an iron!) and my own ginger capsules that I used for motion sickness when riding the ferry to Seattle. But now, a dozen years later, I am trying to get back to basics-- healthy eating, exercise, natural medicine. So I agreed to take a look at this book.

I've picked up quite a bit of knowledge in my personal studies, but one new one for me was Garlic Tea. While I am quite familiar with the medicinal properties of garlic, I never even considered making a tea out of it!

I'd also never heard before that peppermint tea can affect male fertility. At my age and in my single-state, that isn't really a concern, but good to know!

I also was pretty unfamiliar with Goldenseal. I'm sure I studied it "back in my day", but couldn't have told you today what you should use it to treat. Come to find out, it treats just about everything! Native Americans used Goldenseal extensively.

Which reminds me of a story that I wrote about on my other blog Heather's Eden:

I was working in the management office at an adult community, and we'd had a complaint from a resident about air potatoes behind her house (air potatoes are an invasive plant down here in South Florida). I checked out the situation, and the resident sent me back to my office with a few of the potatoes in hand.

Upon my return, I did a little research and confirmed that the air potato is in the yam family as I suspected. "I knew it!" I exclaimed to our 75-year-old receptionist Ruth Ann. "I knew this was in the yam family! You know, I believe that young Native American girls would use yams as birth control."

Ruth's eyes flew open as she looked at me in horror and she asked with great trepidation, "How did they use them?"

"They made a tea from them, I think," I replied.

"Oh! Thank God!" Putting her hand on her chest she looked at me with great relief. "I saw that potato in your hand, and when you said that they used them for birth control, I had this horrible vision in my head and thought, 'Oh, those poor girls!'" she exclaimed as she put her head down on the desk.

I loved Ruthie! She often made me laugh!

But I digress...

The book is organized into ten write-ups about a special ingredient to be used for teas "that are good for you". Each write-up explains how the tea is used, what it treats, any precautions or guidelines, recipes and "Tea Tips" like:
People often do not think of raspberries and lemons as herbs, but an herb can be any plant. Very often, weeds turn out to be valuable herbs. Actually, a weed is any plant that is in a place where a person does not want it!
Here is a recipe for Garlic Tea that I may have to give a try the next time I feel a cold coming on:

Garlic Tea III

3 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
1 bag lemon tea or 1 tsp lemon juice, whichever is desired
1 cup boiling water
Honey or stevia

Put ingredients in a cup and steep as long as desired. Add honey or sugar to taste.

My final word: This book is a good introduction into the use of herbs for the beginner just starting out. Teas are easy to make. Just a cup of water in a microwave and a tea bag is all that is needed to reap the health benefits that herbs have to offer.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 


I received a copy of this book to review from the author, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

VIDEO SHARING: 50 Shades of Grey Area

For fans of 50 Shades of Grey, we bring you 50 Shades of Grey Area...

Posted by LauraZigman on YouTube.

VIDEO SHARING: Red, an animated retelling of Little Red Riding Hood

A gory retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood,  this animated version by Jorge Jaramillo and Carlo Guillot is bloody and creepily well-done.

RED from RED on Vimeo. Found on

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

from Goodreads

When Eve falls for the secretive, charming Dom, their whirlwind relationship leads them to purchase Les Genevriers, an abandoned house in a rural hamlet in the south of France. As the beautiful Provence summer turns to autumn, Eve finds it impossible to ignore the mysteries that haunt both her lover and the run-down old house, in particular the mysterious disappearance of his beautiful first wife, Rachel. Whilst Eve tries to untangle the secrets surrounding Rachel's last recorded days, Les Genevriers itself seems to come alive. As strange events begin to occur with frightening regularity, Eve's voice becomes intertwined with that of Benedicte Lincel, a girl who lived in the house decades before. As the tangled skeins of the house's history begin to unravel, the tension grows between Dom and Eve. In a page-turning race, Eve must fight to discover the fates of both Benedicte and Rachel, before Les Genevriers' dark history has a chance to repeat itself.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Harpercollins (first published August 9th 2011)
ISBN 0062192973 (ISBN13: 9780062192974)

About the Author
from the inside book flap

 Deborah Lawrenson grew up in Kuwait, China, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Singapore. She studied English at Cambridge University and has worked as a journalist for various publications in England, including the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday, and Woman's Journal magazine. She lives in Kent, England, and she and her family spend as much time as possible at a crumbling hamlet in Provence, France, the setting for The Lantern.

Check out the author's website
Check out the author's blog
Like the author on Facebook

My Thoughts
Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of citrus zest or a bright note of mint. Some are strange siren songs of rarer origin that call from violets hidden in woodland, or irises after spring rain. Some scents release a rush of half-forgotten memories. And then there are the scents that seem to express truths about people and places that you have never forgotten: the scents that make time stand still.

Most of the story takes place in Provence, France.

I love that this picture shows fields of lavender and sunflowers next to one another, which is mentioned in the book.
Eve is swept off of her feet by the older Dom, and before she knows it she is following him to Les Genevriers, an old abandoned house in a small hamlet in the south of France. At first all is wonderful as they fix up the home, but soon the ghosts from the past creep in to come between them.

For the majority of the book I found Eve to be a pretty likable character, but I was frustrated by her refrain from confronting Dom in their troubled times. However I think this is mostly attributable to her youth, as she is much younger than Dom. I've been in a relationship with a much older man and know how you can fall into the natural "father/daughter" dynamic in such a relationship, giving up much of your own power.
In the book, Eve has to deal with Dom distancing himself from her emotionally, and she feels alone and suspicious as she tries to understand what is going on with him, and what has happened in his past with his first wife. The more withdrawn he becomes, the more suspicious she becomes of his past. She begins to wonder who he really is, and what he may or may not be capable of doing.

Sabine (a former friend of the first wife) wound up becoming a bit of an annoyance. I began to doubt her sincerity and felt she was being manipulative. I didn't really know whose side she was on, but I guess that is all part of the great mystery surrounding this storyline.

Throughout this book, one word kept going through my mind: lush. Humid, dank, and dense through much of it, but lush throughout!

The setting is very important to the storyline. This story is all about ghosts and the past, and you really need the antiquity of the buildings and landscape, and the old local legends and myths to create this haunting atmosphere.

The atmosphere really ties into the story. I believe that the environment should be warm and arid, taking place in France, which I don’t believe is known for high humidity. And yet the feeling that I kept getting throughout this story was “lush” and humid, dripping and cloying. It was really a contrast to the true atmosphere of the setting. It set the relationship between Dom and Eve. When things were going well between them, the air would be light, warm, the plant life in bloom. Then the sky would get overcast, the plants dormant, rains falling. When the weather would turn and everything would be gray and miserable, the mood would likewise change between Dom and Eve.

This is a story for the senses. It's the movement of shadow, the twist in the light, the way the breeze feels as it hits your skin. There's an oppressiveness in the air that bears down on you. But more than anything it is the sense of smell that drives the story. Vanilla, lavender, citrus and almond-- the sense of smell is important to this storyline, which hosts scenes from the youth of a blind woman who became a perfume-maker, and you are drawn in to how it was to be her and living through your sense of smell.

I enjoyed this story. I felt that the "main" characters of Dom and Eve lacked some development and were actually secondary to the ghosts of Benedicte, Marthe, Pierre and the rest. It was the ghostly glimpses into the past that kept me intrigued. I loved how expressive the author could be, and her writing could really pull me in...

From the first touch of his lips on mine, the warmth and softness of him. I was changed. For the first time in my life, I loved the darkness. I embraced the black, as we kissed, and I lost myself in the smell and the taste and the feel of him. (p. 247)
Inside, the house was dark and silent and cool. As we passed through each room, we threw open the shutters to the light and felt the stones breathe and familiar shafts of brightness sweep the floors and walls. Pockets of scent stirred the senses: here, old soot and cloves combined in imitation of church incense; there, lavender and citrus. (p. 357)
The cover is beautiful! The copy I received was the paperback of a stone cottage nestled up against the far end of a dense lavender field. The lushly beautiful purple lavender contrasting with the deep blue sky. The cottage peeking out from behind a wall of deeply green shrubbery. I love the cover!
Likewise I loved the structure of this book. Each chapter chopped up into small sections, and for someone like me with such difficulty focusing, this is perfect! Just one small section a couple of pages long that I need to read before hitting a stopping point. The font was well-sized and well-spaced, making it very easy to read.

My final word: Part love story, part ghost story, part mystery and suspense, this is a leisurely jaunt through the past. Some have expressed annoyance at how similar Lawrenson's writing is to that of Daphne du Maurier. Since I haven't yet read any of du Maurier's work, I can't really speak to that, and did not have any similar annoyances. I found Lawrenson's writing beautifully descriptive without being overly done, and it really drew me in to the sights, smells and sensations of the surrounding enviroment. The book left me a little melancholy, but all-in-all hopeful for the future of the characters, and I was left wanting to read more from author Deborah Lawrenson. I see her book The Art of Falling is in my future!

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I received a finished copy for review as part of a book tour through TLC Book Tours.

Thursday, March 1st: Books and Movies
Wednesday, March 7th: Knitting and Sundries
Monday, March 12th: Stiletto Storytime
Tuesday, March 13th: Picky Girl
Thursday, March 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, March 16th: Take Me Away
Wednesday, March 21st: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, March 28th: The House of the Seven Tails
Friday, March 30th: Books, Books Everywhere!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

AUTHOR NEWS: Author Mary Pauline Lowry reveals a new cover for The Earthquake Machine

Author Mary Pauline Lowry has announced a new cover reveal for her book The Earthquake Machine. And, without further adieu, here is the new cover...

"The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jess. But when the INS deports Jess back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation. Determined to find her friend Jess, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jess. Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels."

A reminder again that I am giving away a copy of The Earthquake Machine, thanks to author Mary Pauline Lowry. The book has been receiving great reviews! Check out what people are saying on Amazon and GoodReads.

Learn more on the author's website.

VIDEO SHARING: B*tches in Bookshops (NSFW)

"B*tches in Bookshops" parody performed by La Shea Delaney and Annabelle Quezada. Go to YouTube to see the full lyrics...

ARTICLE SHARING: The 20 coolest bookstores in the world (Photos)

The Vancouver Sun posted a story about the 20 coolest bookstores in the world, and they really are cool! I don't know that any of them are located in the US though. What's up with that? Check it out!

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice

Teaser Tuesday (03-20-12 edition)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

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

"Once you see some things," Hayden said, "you can never forget them. If you don't want to have to see them for the rest of your life, it's better not to look in the first place."

-- The Expats by Chris Pavone, page 98

Monday, March 19, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.

Boy, are my shelves in need of some spring cleaning! I realized this a few months ago, and created a "giveaway list" of books for which I am looking to find new homes. Many of the books (probably most of them) are brand new and unread!

There will be three winners who will each get to choose a book from my giveaway list. To enter, just complete the Rafflecopter form below. And after you leave here, just use the list at the bottom to continue on through the hop. Good luck!

Mailbox Monday (03-19-12 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is now hosted monthly by a different blog. Here is the official blog of Mailbox Monday.  Here's what I've gotten (none actually came in my mailbox):

Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
E-book received from Little, Brown and Company through Netgalley

Mark Twain meets classic Stephen King--a bold new direction for widely acclaimed Edgar Award winner Joe R. Lansdale.

May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she's dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River.

Sue Ellen, May Lynn's strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn's body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can't become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams.

Along with her friends Terry and Jinx and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn's remains to Hollywood.

Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. And what looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on just how hard growing up can really be.

These books I purchased at the local reading festival, and had autographed by the authors:

Last Known Victim by Erica Spindler

August 2005.

Amid death and destruction, hurricane-savaged New Orleans has a new dark force to fear.

As the rescue efforts unfold, a grisly discovery is made at one of the massive refrigerator 'graveyards.' One of these metal hulks contains six human hands--all female, all right hands. The press has dubbed the unknown perpetrator 'The Handyman.' But with no way to trace the origin of this refrigerator, and with evidence lost to time and the elements, the case dead-ends.

Captain Patti O'shay is a straight-arrow, by-the-book cop who is assigned to the case. Her tough, unflinching character is fractured when her husband and fellow police captain is found murdered--surprised by looters taking advantage of the post-storm chaos.

August 2007Patti, still grieving and disillusioned, gets a call from homicide: skeletal remains have been unearthed in City Park. The unknown victim-- a female--is missing her right hand. But for Patti, this grave holds something even more shocking. Found beside the victim's bones is her husband's police badge.

Casting aside the very 'rule book' by which she has lived her life, Patti is fearless--but so is the killer. As he stalks her she is forced to question all she believes in, to doubt the code she has lived by--because she knows that if she doesn't find The Handyman first, she will become his last known victim.

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devestating personal tragedy.

Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He's best known in his hometown as the boy who made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass. But things change when a former slave steals money from Elijah's friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief, and he discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled—a life from which he'll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2012 Southwest Florida Reading Festival

Saturday I attended the 2012 Southwest Florida Reading Festival. There were lots of great authors, food, books and all sorts of bookish fun!

I took a quick glance through the room where there were all sorts of books for sale, and checked out some books by local authors, even meeting Violeta Barrett whose book First Love I reviewed last year. She's a very pleasant and charming lady!

I purchased a couple of books, and then headed over to listen to author Erik Larson. It turned out to be SRO (Standing Room Only), but we found a couple of the few remaining seats.

Mr. Larson was very amusing, and a great way to start out the morning! He began his talk by telling the audience that he lives in Seattle, and when he woke up in south Florida this morning and looked out the window, he thought he was in a post-apocalyptic movie, as he saw the brightness in the sky! (There isn't much sun in Seattle!)

He then told a story of a friend who is also an author and showed up to a book signing at an independent bookstore in south Florida, and at 8 AM there was no one there-- just 30 empty chairs! Finally a woman showed up and sat in the far back corner. The author invited her to move up front, so they could have a personal talk and she said, "Oh, I don't know. I may want to leave early."

Mr. Larson then told the crowd that he'd be doing a brief 28-page reading from his book, and then asked how many hearts dropped when he'd said that? He said he personally would rather do a vasectomy without anesthesia than listen to another author read his own book. Funny guy!

Some things that I learned from Mr. Larson:
  • It takes him about a year to find a story.
  • He likes to break it down to its DNA and rebuild it.
  • Every time he reads the book A Night to Remember (which is about the sinking of the Titanic), he reads it hoping that this time it won't sink!
  • He's a huge fan of libraries.
  • Says that it is always the last person in the line at the book signing that you need to worry about. Says that happened once. He saw the last woman in line, and he knew she would be "trouble". He said she walked up and put the book down, leaned in and said, "My husband is trying to kill me." To which he replied, "Who would you like this book made out to?"
  • He does his own research and visits the sites himself.
  • One woman remarked over the comparison of his description of America during the Depression and life today. He said you have to be vigilant. When there is one law passed, what will be next?
  • Much of his book In the Garden of Beasts had correspondence. A member in the audience wondered whether such a book would be possible in 100 years? Today people don't write letters-- they tweet and blog.
  • He chooses to write non-fiction, and loves what he does. He doesn't think he has a fiction novelists sensibilities. You have to wish all kinds of misery and pain on your characters, and he doesn't want to do that.
Mr. Larson's talk was very enjoyable, and then we all headed over to have our books signed.

He even did a little drawing in my copy of Isaac's Storm!

Then my friend hopped into a line for Erica Spindler and had her sign my copy of Last Known Victim and took her picture (she and I just waved to one another)... 

...while I hopped over in another line and had Alex Kava sign my copy of Damaged...

I really wanted to hear the talk by Thrity Umrigar, but I missed it. So I had to settle for her just signing my book and posing with me...

Then we sat down and spent some time with author Jane Green, who is promoting her latest book Another Piece of My Heart. After we first sat down, I was telling my friend that Mrs. Green has six children! My friend exclaimed, "Six kids??" At that the little girl in front of us turned around and smiled at us. It turns out she was one of the six! (I proceeded to tell her that my mother is one of twelve kids!)

Then Mrs. Green began speaking, and here are some things of note:
  • I discovered that she is British! I didn't know that!
  • She writes longhand in notebooks.
  • She is amazed that she has written 13 novels! She has a little ADHD in regards to writing, and is always being distracted by life.
  • She used to be a journalist for the Daily Express. She found herself drawn to fictional writing, and left her job and gave herself three months to get a publishing deal.
  • The first person she sent a sample to picked her apart. She was feeling defeated and ready to give up, but a friend encouraged her to not listen to just one person. So she sent a few chapters to 13 agents who handled authors that she loved, and within a week 9 of them had responded that they loved her work!
  • Most of her books are about 100,000 words.
  • Her book The Beach House was born from regular encounters with a 60-ish woman with long white hair, riding a bike near their beach house while smoking a cigarette. She became fascinated with this woman, and created a story in her head about this "midnight pruner" based on this woman.
  • Parade magazine contacted her about interviewing Hugh Grant for them. She said that she thinks probably every romantic male lead in every story she's ever written has probably been inspired in some way by Hugh Grant, and she absolutely loves him! However she was aware that he is known to be a "difficult interview". She wound up telling Parade that she didn't want to "interview" him, but instead would like to "do something" with him and then write about it. She knew he enjoyed golfing, so she thought that they would golf together, but she was told "no", he would not golf with her. So, knowing that he likes to play Snooker (a version of pool or billiards) she suggested that, but was again turned down. Finally she offered to make him lunch, and he accepted. So she contacted a friend that lives in Notting Hill (of all places) and asked to borrow her kitchen and home, and the day went wonderfully! She then became known as something of the "celebrity whisperer" at Parade, and was asked to do an interview with Harrison Ford, who is another "difficult interview". He wasn't interested in having her cook for him, and instead suggested he take her for a ride in his helicopter. She got quite sick during the flight, but she learned that he has a ranch in Jackson, Wyoming and he does search and rescue in his free time there! Apparently he listens to the radio and when he hears of lost or stranded hikers, he'll hop into his helicopter and head out. She thought this totally bizarre, to envision being lost on a mountain and when the helicopter lands you see Harrison Ford has come to rescue you!
So Mrs. Green was quite sweet and pleasant, and we enjoyed our time with her.

After that I grabbed a bite to eat. There aren't many options for a pescatarian when eating at festivals like this. I wound up going with the Mediterranean Rice.

Then I hopped in line to have a couple of books signed by author Lauren Oliver! She was very nice!

On the way out of the festival, we grabbed a strawberry ice to share.

When I got home, I wound up with quite a haul for the day...

Last Known Victim by Erica Spindler, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar, Damaged by Alex Kava, and The Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm both by Erik Larson...

...Before I Fall and Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.

What a great day! I already can't wait until next year!

Friday, March 16, 2012

ARTICLE SHARING: 10 Awesome Book Inscriptions

BuzzFeed posted a charming little article about some of the best book inscriptions. Check it out!


From Bookshelf Porn. Love it!

GIVEAWAY: Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop, co-hosted by Books Complete Me and Author Cindy Thomas. For this giveaway, author Mary Pauline Lowry has generously offered up a copy of her well-received book The Earthquake Machine. Check out what people are saying on Amazon and GoodReads. I haven't had a chance yet to read it, but plan to do so in the upcoming months...


The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda's world but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda's life is her family's Mexican yardman, Jes s. But when the INS deports Jes?'s back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation. Determined to find her friend Jes s, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Boquillas, Mexico. There a peyote-addled bartender convinces her she won't be safe traveling alone into the country's interior. So with the bartender's help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jes s. Thus begins a wild adventure that explores the borders between the United States and Mexico, adolescence and adulthood, male and female, English and Spanish, and adult coming-of-age and Young Adult novels.

Paperback, 326 pages
Published September 2011 by AuthorHouse
ISBN  1456795856 (ISBN13: 9781456795856)


About the Author
from her website

Mary Pauline Lowry joined a Hotshot Crew of forest firefighters, traveling the American west with a band of 20 men, digging fireline alongside raging forest fires during the day, sleeping in the ash at night.

Working a night shift on the 20,000 acre Laid Low fire in the mountains of the Angeles National Forest, Mary looked at the fire moving over the mountains like lava, at the city of Los Angeles far below illuminated with the light of a million streetlamps. She looked around her at the strong, sweaty, beautiful, ash-covered men working beside her. And she decided then that she would write a book about these Gods of Fire.

Laid off with the rest of her crew after the end of her first fire season, she went to Costa Rica, river rafting through the rainforest outside of La Fortuna, sea kayaking in the Pacific Ocean outside of Montezuma, and diving off of waterfalls until the money ran out and she returned home to Austin to work at her local indie bookstore.

After her second fire season, she finished her first novel, The Gods of Fire. Mary threw her tent in her car and headed for southwest Colorado. She rented a basement room at the Desert Rose Horse Ranch. Before dawn she wrote her second novel, The Earthquake Machine. During the day she did trim carpentry, framed houses, and built fences with a giant, bearded Viking of a man named David who taught her to be a carpenter.

Next Mary found work at a domestic violence shelter, helping the women and children she came to think of as “the forgotten ones.” Fleeing violent men had left these women homeless and there were rarely enough resources to get them truly back on their feet.  Mary did what she could for the women and children, cried every time she finished a shift, and spent her days off work polishing The Earthquake Machine, sending The Gods of Fire to agents and editors in faraway New York City, and running on mountain trails.

When she moved back to Austin, she wrote during the day and worked the night shift on the National Domestic Violence Hotline where she helped over 25,000 survivors of domestic violence seek safe shelter and a better life.

The Gods of Fire
didn’t sell. So Mary walked onto a plane and flew back to Los Angeles for the first time since that Laid Low Fire. But this time she went straight to Hollywood where she convinced Bill Mechanic (producer of films such as Fight Club, Braveheart, The Titanic, and Coraline) to option The Gods of Fire for film.

Mary then wrote the screenplay, which is currently out with directors.

Mary’s agent didn’t want to send out The Earthquake Machine to editors. The book was perhaps too edgy. Editors would be afraid to take a chance on such a wild ride. And so Mary decided to give readers a chance to find her. 

Giveaway: Win a copy of The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry, generously shipped by the author herself! To enter, just complete the Rafflecopter form below...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Introducing...The Expats by Chris Pavone

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...


Kate is staring through a plate-glass window filled with pillows and tablecloths and curtains, all in taupes and chocolates and moss greens, a palette that replaced the pastels of last week. The season changed, just like that.

She turns from the window, to this woman standing beside her on the narrow sliver of sidewalk, in the rue Jacob. Who is this woman?

-- The Expats, by Chris Pavone (just released 3/6/12)

GUEST POST: Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine

I am so happy to welcome Mary Pauline Lowry today, author of The Earthquake Machine. I haven't had a chance to read her book yet, but I really look forward to the opportunity.

But for now, I will turn the floor over to Mary...

Guest Post for Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

First I want to thank Heather for hosting me here at Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World. I love the title of her blog and can really relate to the idea it conveys. I’ve worked as a forest firefighter and a construction worker so I’ve spent plenty of time being a bookish grrrl surrounded by folks not quite so taken with literature.

Top Six Reasons
Will Rock Your World

1.    It’s an adventure story that features a brave and brazen female protagonist.

2.    The main character Rhonda runs away from home and travels alone into interior Mexico.

3.    It’s an honest (and disturbing) tale about a young girl’s sexual awakening.

4.    It shows how women can be awesome criminals.

5.    Insatiable Booksluts call it “Huck Finn with vibrators!”

6.    It’s like nothing you’ve ever read before; and it’s all about Girl Power!

Book synopsis:

The Earthquake Machine

The book every girl should read,
and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.

The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

Author bio:

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

I would like to thank Mary for stopping by today! Stop back by on Saturday for a giveaway of her book The Earthquake Machine, as part of the Lucky Leprechauns Giveaway Hop!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

UPCOMING BOOK FESTIVAL: SW Florida Reading Festival

It's that wonderful time of year when all of the local readers join together for the annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival, occurring this year on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th.

I'm taking four books to try to get autographed:

Plus I intend to buy one or two books there as well, to support the festival (20% of the purchases go towards supporting the festival).

In addition to the authors above, some of the other authors attending and speaking will be:

Photo by Steve Ullathorne
Deborah Crombie
Author of No Mark Upon Her, Necessary as Blood, Where Memories Lie, In a Dark House, and others

Lisa Black
Author of Trail of Blood, Evidence of Murder, Takeover, and others

Jane Green
Author of Another Piece of My Heart, Promises We Keep, The Beach House, and others

...and many others!

Last year was my first time at the reading festival, and I've been looking forward to another chance to attend all year long. I spent about $100 on books at the festival last year, so I determined that this year I would take my own books, and then buy just one or two books at the festival, in order to help support it.

Another change this year is that I need to plan on my eating throughout the day. Last year I was starving, and I had a devil of a time finding something to eat, seeing as I am a pescatarian!

I'll update you on how it goes this weekend! I hope you guys enjoy your weekend as much as I am sure that I will!