Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Triple Love Score, by Brandi Megan Granett {ends 10/3}

Vegetarian, Montessori School Teacher, vitamin crazy, Suburu driving, Oregon living. Hipster, she thought, a health-nut hipster. A far cry from the boy she remembered. And until the morning, she thought she really liked him. Not that she had ever stopped liking him. It was more that she forgot about liking him for a while. Forgot about waiting for him to come back. Sitting home her entire twenty-first birthday just in case he showed up again like magic or even just called.

This is one of Brandi Megan Granett's first novels, and it's done very well; I especially liked the Scrabble board pictures woven throughout the story.

Official synopsis:
What happens when you stop playing games?

Miranda Shane lives a quiet life among books and letters as a professor in a small upstate town. When the playing-by- the-rules poet throws out convention and begins to use a Scrabble board instead of paper to write, she sets off a chain of events that rattles her carefully planned world.

Her awakening propels her to take risks and seize chances she previously let slip by, including a game-changing offer from the man she let slip away. But when the revelation of an affair with a graduate student threatens the new life Miranda created, she is forced to decide between love or poetry.

Miranda, a poet, is in her late 20s, and works at a local university. She starts making poetry using Scrabble board, under the name "Blocked Poet," and soon her social media channels start to become extremely popular.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Piper, Once & Again, by Caroline E. Zani {ends 9/18}

Piper, Once & Again was published in paperback this past July, and I have a chance for one of my lucky readers to win a copy, courtesy of the author!

If you don't want to wait to win a copy, too, you can purchase your copy here.

Official synopsis:
Longing for something just beyond her grasp ... a successful equine insurance agent living in 21st century Massachusetts, Piper struggles with relationships, patience, scents, and living in 19th century France.

Through tragedy, betrayal and a mother’s religious-driven fear, Piper must learn to intuitively understand the messages all around her. The scents of burnt raisins, freshly washed baby skin and the ethereal lavender fields of Provence, France reach out from a century ago to guide her on a journey she wasn’t aware she was on. And the shards of memories that ride on those scents – Friesian horses, a cradle in the corner of loft, an old man inhaling the scent of perfume on pristine white gloves – what could they possibly mean?

Follow Piper on this enlightening spiral through time, unconditional love, unbearable loss, unbelievable discovery, and a question of forgiveness, as she tries to find the one man who can help her unravel this tapestry woven before she took her first breath. 

See why she is indeed Piper, Once and Again.

*side note: I had to google "equine insurance agent," and I asked the author about the definition, too ... people actually do purchase insurance on their show horses! Interesting.

Monday, August 29, 2016

GIVEAWAY: The Jungle Book (2016) on Blu-ray/DVD {ends 9/7}

The Jungle Book is out on Blu-ray and DVD today, August 30th, and I have the chance for one of my lucky readers to win a copy!

I reviewed the movie on my film blog this past April, and I gave it a "Yes" review and 4 stars out of 5.

About the movie:
Audiences were mesmerized by Disney’s live-action epic adventure “The Jungle Book,” which has earned more than $935 million at the global box office to date. Critically acclaimed, Jon Favreau’s stunning live-action reimagining of Walt Disney’s animated classic, will be available early on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere on August 23, and on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On-Demand on August 30.

Venture behind the scenes with in-depth bonus features that reveal the innovative filmmaking technology used to create the richly immersive jungle world and characters; Follow the journey of the film’s only on-screen actor, charismatic newcomer Neel Sethi (Mowgli); Delve into a candid and humorous scene-by-scene audio commentary with director Jon Favreau and meet the all-star voice cast who help bring the film’s colorful characters to life, as well as the musicians who accent the adventure with a majestic music score.

The all-star cast includes Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) as the voice of Baloo, Sir Ben Kingsley (“Learning to Drive,” “The Walk”) as Bagheera and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) as the voice of mother wolf Raksha. Scarlett Johansson (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”) gives life to Kaa, Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”) provides the voice of alpha-male wolf Akela, Idris Elba (“Beast of No Nation”) roars as the voice of Shere Khan, and Christopher Walken (“The Deer Hunter”) lends his iconic voice to King Louie.

Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Chef”) and produced by Favreau and Brigham Taylor (executive producer of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Tomorrowland”), “The Jungle Book” is a live-action epic adventure based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories, inspired by Disney’s classic 1967 animated film and centered on Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat.

GIVEAWAY: One of These Things First, by Steven Gaines {5 winners, ends 9/5}

One of These Things First was published on August 9th, and I have 5 (yes, FIVE!) copies of the book for some of my lucky readers to win.

About the book:
From New York Times–bestselling author Steven Gaines comes a wry and touching memoir of his trials as a gay teen at the famed Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

One of These Things First is a poignant reminiscence of a fifteen-year-old gay Jewish boy’s unexpected trajectory from a life behind a rack of dresses in his grandmother’s Brooklyn bra-and-girdle store to Manhattan’s infamous Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, whose alumni includes writers, poets, and madmen, as well as Marilyn Monroe and bestselling author Steven Gaines.

With a gimlet eye and a true gift for storytelling, Gaines captures his childhood shtetl in Brooklyn, and all its drama and secrets, like an Edward Hopper tableau: his philandering grandfather with his fleet of Cadillacs and Corvettes; a trio of harpy saleswomen; a giant, empty movie theater, his portal to the outside world; a shirtless teenage boy pushing a lawnmower in front of a house on Long Island; and a pair of tormenting bullies who own the corner candy store and whose taunts drive Gaines to a suicide attempt.

Gaines also takes the reader behind the walls of Payne Whitney—the “Harvard of psychiatric clinics,” as Time magazine called it—populated by a captivating group of neurasthenics who subtly begin to change him in unexpected ways. The cast of characters includes a famous Broadway producer who becomes his unlikely mentor; an elegant woman who claims to be the ex-mistress of newly elected president John F. Kennedy; a snooty, suicidal Harvard architect; and a seductive young contessa. At the center of the story is a brilliant young psychiatrist who promises to cure a young boy of his homosexuality and give him the normalcy he so longs for.

For readers who love stories of self-transformation,
One of These Things First is a fascinating memoir in the vain of Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted and Augusten Burroughs’s Running with Scissors. With its novelistic texture and unflagging narrative, this book is destined to become one of the great, indelible works of the memoir genre.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Girls in the Garden, by Lisa Jewell

Her girls both nodded and smiled.

Clare felt a brief moment of parental satisfaction - a compromise painlessly reached - before it was overtaken by a wave of nervous energy that went straight through her gut like a storm. Dinner. With strangers. Her daughters finding safe places away from her. Lies to cover up. Secrets to keep. And all the time, as a throbbing, ominous backdrop, her husband, back to health, ready to reenter the world. And possibly turn it upside down.

The Girls in the Garden, formerly just titled The Girls, started at the ending, and then spooled us back in time so we could see the events leading up to it. I liked this technique a lot, and overall this was a book worth reading.

Official synopsis:
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

This was a novel that definitely kept me guessing, and a "whodunit" of sorts too. At the beginning of the book, Pip finds her sister, Grace, who has just turned thirteen, unconscious in the garden near where they live. Grace is in a coma, so she can't tell them who knocked her unconscious, and we (the readers) almost have to figure it out ourselves, as the book goes back in time and starts us off from the beginning.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quick Pick: The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva

  • Opening lines: The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn't yet feel ill, and he's no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he'd be shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He's been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His T-shirt reads: COFFEE IN, GENIUS OUT. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-two-inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I had downloaded a copy via NetGalley, and wanted something to read on my flight out to LA for BlogHer last week. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense. She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far. It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing. Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
  • Favorite paragraph: "The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit." No one knows how long the show will last, not the creators, not the contestants. Their contracts said no less than five weeks and no more than twelve, though a fine-print footnote actually allows for sixteen weeks in the case of extenuating circumstances. "Ad tenebras dedi," says the host. "There is no other way. And regarding this, the contestants are truly In the Dark."
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes an interesting story, and particularly those who are fans of The Walking Dead, Survivor, and/or The Hunger Games.
  • Something to know: I found this to be a mashup of The Walking Dead (minus the zombies) meets Survivor (the TV show) and it was very interesting, especially after an event occurs that Zoo (main protagonist) doesn't know about; she still thinks she's playing the game/still in the TV show that she signed up for.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Truths and a Lie, by Brent Hartinger {ends 8/9}

It's hard for me to talk about that conversation in the taxi. If I'd never suggested going away, I wouldn't have reminded Galen about Mia's parents' cabin. We never would have gone away. None of what happened that weekend would've happened. 

That's what I mean about this being all my fault. 

It's hard for me to talk about that conversation in the taxi. But that's easy compared to talking about everything that came next. 

I wasn't aware while starting this book that it was going to be as creepy as it ended up being; it definitely had a Cabin in the Woods vibe to it.

Official synopsis:
A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie goes horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definitely of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeves.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.