Monday, August 27, 2012

Jwan Jordan Giveaway: $50 Amazon gift card & 5 eBooks

Comic Giveaway
Welcome to the Jwan Jordan Comic Event!
Jwan Jordan just listed his comics on Amazon and in celebration of this we are giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card and 5 eBooks. This means that there are going to be six amazing winners.

I have partnered with Parsimonious Pash and a few other bloggers to take part in this giveaway.

These are kid friendly comics, so you won't have to worry about your little ones reading them.

comic giveaway

Affairs of the Mind- follows Rose Wood, a simple high school girl with a very unique gift. Rose has a broken halo that floats over her head that only herself and a few select others can see. Not only does Rose have to deal with the pressures of being a young teen but also figure out what exactly will happen once she repairs her halo by helping others in her city.

comic giveaway
Circular World: Ballad of the Broken Steel- The Circular World is held together by a pillar between the north and south sides of the planet. Yet, when illustrious millionaire Copernicus, a man born with an angelic form, decides to destroy the balance, an unlikely young man will be nurtured into a hero.
comic giveaway
Circular World: Ballad of the Broken Steel #2- Donovan soon awakens in a local hospital with a strange little girl and her mysterious bodyguard by his bed side but it isn't long before this strange encounter gets much stranger when he soon gets attacked by a new foe. Continue to see what happens to Donovan and the fate of the Circular World!

This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents, and ends September 9th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling, by Michael Boccacino.

The light from the moon cast pale, sharp silhouettes that danced between the orchard trees. I wondered if there was such a thing as daytime there. The boys tried to race ahead, but I kept hold of their hands and struggled successfully against them. Despite the safety that had been assured to us by Lily Darrow, I did not trust anything about the place. If the former mistress of Everton was strong enough to turn back death, then I was obviously in no position to deny her something she had worked so hard to earn. It's not every day that the natural order of the universe becomes subverted, and if death could be turned back once, then perhaps it could be done again.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is a supernatural thriller of sorts, though not entirely scary - but if they made it into a movie, I bet it would be at least a PG-13 rating. Charlotte Markham comes to the estate of Everton to be a governess of two boys, whose mother has recently died, but when the nanny is murdered, she is promoted to the nanny/governess of the house.

Synopsis of the story from the publisher:
When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to care for the children.

During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, the place for the Things That Cannot Die, where Lily Darrow, the late mistress of Everton, has been waiting. She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous yet dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures who appear to be, but are not quite, human.

Everything comes with a price, however, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences back at Everton and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling, one whose outcome will determine not just the fate of the Darrows, but of the world itself.

The time period in which the novel takes place is never revealed, but I think it was in the 1700s or 1800s, as it does describe the suits and dresses that the characters wear; it could possibly be the early 1900s too. At times the novel had a "Willy Wonka"-type vibe to it, especially when the main characters first get to the House of Darkling, but it usually keeps its dark undertones as well.

Charlotte has seen the "Man in Black" three times before in her life, when her mother and father died and when her husband, Jonathan, was killed in a fire at their house. She suspects that this man is connected to Darkling, but she's actually wrong about that, for the most part.

I found this novel to be an interesting read, and it would be great if made into a movie, in my opinion. The ending is a little vague and leaves it open for a sequel, as well, though I'm not sure if one is in the works or not.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an Advance Readers Copy (ARC) of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What I Did

What I Did, by Christopher Wakling.

This is the first bit and shall I tell you why? Okay I will. It is to make you read the rest.

Don't worry, it isn't a trailer. Trailers are the first bits before films which are actually really adverts and Dad said adverts are where they try to get you to buy something you probably don't want. Then again Mum says maybe you do. I often want it.

You want this story. It has already started.

This novel is written in first-person from the view of the protagonist, Billy, who is six years old. Often times this technique does work, as in Emma Donaghue's Room, but I found this novel to be a bit disjointed and almost like reading "stream of consciousness" writing, even though some "Billy-isms" were funny ... interestingly enough, Donaghue gives a recommendation of this novel on its front cover, too.

Synopsis from the publisher:
Six-year-old Billy has a vivid imagination and a unique way of explaining the world. But when he runs into a busy street ignoring his father's commands, he sets in motion a series of unexpected, family-altering events. WHAT I DID is an astounding and heart-wrenching reminder of how the best intentions can lead to disastrous consequences, and one bad decision can take on a life of its own.

Billy's father belts him in the middle of the street one day after he ignores his father and runs into oncoming traffic. A concerned pedestrian sees this and reports him to Child Services, and soon they find Billy and his family at their house. It's finally agreed that Billy's dad won't be near him without another adult around, but he keeps breaking this rule, and at the end he finally snaps and does something that definitely won't help his case.

It's sometimes fun to be in Billy's head - i.e., he writes words as he hears them, so "running commentary" turns into "running comment tree" - but for the most part, this novel took me a long time to get through. His story is definitely interesting, but might have been better told from an adult point of view, or in alternating chapters between his parents, grandma, and himself.

2 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Red Chamber

The Red Chamber, by Pauline A. Chen.

"You must go. It's what your mother wanted."

She can hear the finality in his voice. She looks at him in the light filtering through the paper panes of the kitchen window. His face looks tired, and a little irritated. He is too exhausted to argue with her.

"It's just a visit," he says.

"How long do I have to go for?"

"Just a few months. You can come back in time for New Year's."

She calculates quickly. It is now the Seventh Month. To be back for the New Year she will have to leave the Capital by the end of the Eleventh Month.

Thus it was decided that she would go north to her mother's family.

This novel is a "spin off" of sorts of Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin, which is over 2,500 pages long. This author, Pauline A. Chen, decided to "translate Dream of the Red Chamber not merely into another language, but into another form, that of a contemporary western novel" when she was teaching the book at Oberlin College. I have not read the original novel, but this novel was very good, and although it takes place in the 18th century I forgot about what time period it was in as the book went on, because the themes in it are classic.

There are a lot of characters in this book, so many so that the author made a family tree at the beginning for her readers. Here's the synopsis of it from the release:

Daiyu is an impoverished orphan adopted into the household who falls in love with Baiyu, the brilliant, unpredictable heir to the family fortunes. Despite his love for her, the family betroths Baoyu to his cousin Baochai, who hides her own desires under a dutiful exterior. Meanwhile, the young matron Xifeng struggles to protect the family from financial ruin, even as her husband spurns her for her inability to bear a child. Linking the three womens' fate is the jade, a mysterious stone found in Baoyu's mouth at birth, which seems to foretell a strange and extraordinary destiny for him and the entire family.

The novel starts out with the family living very richly. They have a ton of maids and servants, yet there is still strife in the household. Xifeng is unable to bear a child to Lian, her husband, so he takes one of her maids as his "second wife," or concubine. The maid he chooses, however - Ping'er - has been with Xifeng since childhood; this is a slap in the face to Xifeng, for the most part. Daiyu is falling in love with her cousin, Baoyu, but his elders have secretly betrothed him to Baochai, who loves Baoyu but knows that he does not reciprocate. When a new leader takes power in China, however, their family's fortune changes, and the men are sent to jail for various crimes while the women have to make do in a one-bedroom apartment.

This book was excellent and is a much more manageable length - about 375 pages - than its predecessor. There is always so much going on within the pages that its reader should not be bored, and the story it tells is a good one. There's a major twist at the end as well that I did not see coming, and it's only revealed in the last few pages. In an interview with Pauline A. Chen, in regards to the novel, she said: "I added a question that gripped me as a modern reader and writer: in a culture where women's opportunities and movements were ruthlessly restricted, in what ways could they shape their own destinies?"

This novel strives to answer that question, and does an excellent job in doing so.

4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. However, the opinions expressed here are my own.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Spin, by Catherine McKenzie.

I turn on the light that sits on the night table between our beds.

She blinks slowly. "Sorry. I was disoriented."

"It's OK. I think you were having a nightmare."

"I wish. I was in a K-hole."

"A what?"

"I was dreaming I was using."

Oh. So "K" must be a drug. But what drug? Vitamin K? Special K cereal with cocaine sprinkled on it?

I'm going to be unmasked soon, soon soon.

I had reviewed Catherine McKenzie's second novel, Arranged, back in June, and I enjoyed it a lot, so I wanted to read Spin, her debut novel, as well. While Arranged was about what you would think it's about - arranged marriages, in a way - Spin is about a girl who gets an interview at what would be her dream job, at a music magazine called The Line, but then completely blows it. Kate likes to drink and party, but no more than her friends, usually, and she shows up hungover and actually still drunk to her interview at The Line. She's 30 years old but half of her friends think she's a 25-year-old grad student, and she tells them she's just trying to make some extra money which is why she's looking for work. Shortly after her disastrous interview, however, a gossip magazine that's an affiliate of The Line calls her up and asks her if she wants to complete an assignment for them: follow Amber Sheppard, star of the TV show The Girl Next Door, into rehab and get any dirt she can on her.

They figure Kate will fit right in since she's a borderline alcoholic herself, and Kate agrees to take the assignment, with the promise that she will get the job at The Line if she does well. What Kate doesn't anticipate, though, is becoming friends with Amber, and when Kate finally gets to leave rehab she must decide if she can still publish the expose on Amber or if she values their friendship more.

Like Arranged, Spin has memorable characters and a strong first-person narrative. Kate nicknames all of the people she meets in rehab - there's TGND (Amber), The Banker, The Director, etcetera, as the rehab center hosts a slew of high-profile people - and it's funny to see them from her perspective. Even though Amber can be a bit of a drama queen sometimes, Kate didn't realize that she is more of a "real person" than the world thinks she is, and that makes her decision whether to publish or not publish the article on Amber harder than she thought it would be.

Kate also meets Henry in rehab, though he's not actually IN rehab - he's there to accompany Connor Parks, Amber's ex and YGB (Young James Bond), as Kate nicknames him, because he's an actor as well. She starts to fall for Henry but knows that he would be appalled if she told him her secret about the reason she's actually in rehab, and when she gets out of rehab she has to decide if she should pursue their relationship.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

GIVEAWAY: Stationery and luggage tags by Invitation Consultants

Example #1: stationery
I received a complimentary luggage tag for my film blog before BlogHer '12 from Invitation Consultants, and I loved the final product. Invitation Consultants is generous enough to allow me to do a giveaway here of a two-pack of baggage tags and also some of their stationery.

First, check out their stationery here. The winner of this giveaway will receive a set of stationery (includes 20 cards) of any of the types that have an item number of "IC-" at the top - which is most of them. The winner will also receive two bags tags, to be customized however they would like! Here's some pictures of the bag tag I received as well as a sample bag tag and stationery:

my blogger bag tag, for

Enter the contest using the Rafflecopter widget below. The contest will end at 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, August 14th, and the winner will be chosen the morning of the 15th and will have 24 hours to respond, otherwise a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 6, 2012

Suzy's Case

Suzy's Case, by Andy Siegel.

Life before Benson started referring his HICs to me was quiet and safe. Life after Benson has been a big fucking hassle. Now I'm drugged, tied up, dragged on my ass down a very long corridor by a psychopathic midget, and locked up in what feels like the trunk of a car. Kidnapped! For what or why I have no idea. I'm a lawyer, goddamn it. What could I possibly have down to land myself in this predicament?

Tug Wyler is an attorney, and a good one, though lately he has had to deal with Henry Benson's old clients, most of whom are criminals and dirtbags. When he is presented with a case of a little girl, Suzy, he at first thinks that there's no case - although she was healthy (for the most part) when she entered the hospital and left as a brain-damaged child, there's no way to place blame on the hospital. He soon finds, however, that a bad plug was used on a heart monitor in the situation, and he starts to gather evidence to use against the hospital, while at the same time battling others who might not want said evidence to come to light.

As you can probably tell from the excerpt, Tug is a fast-talking New York lawyer who always manages to find himself in dire situations, from which he usually escapes. This didn't necessarily translate well on the page, but I think the novel would be a great film. There was a little too much language and "adult content" in it for my taste, but others who are fan of legal thrillers might attribute it to the profession/genre; I'm not sure since I don't read many of these, save for John Grisham books. The story itself in the novel was a good one, but I read this while on vacation and had a break of about five to six days while reading it - and I have to say I didn't really "wonder" about the characters' fates until the end of my vacation.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

What I Didn't Say

What I Didn't Say, by Keary Taylor.

As I walked through the halls of Orcas High School, I could tell you the name of every single face that passed by. I could tell you that Christie Rose had lost her first tooth biting into a spoonful of macaroni and cheese in first grade. I could tell you that Henry Asher had peed his pants the first day of kindergarten. I knew that Miss Pence who taught ancient world history attended hippy dance parties regularly in the buff. I'd rather not say how I knew that one. And then Principal Hill was a die-hard Star Wars fan and had half a garage full of action figures, posters, costumes, and way too real looking light sabers.

On an island this size, with its whopping 5,000 residents, there are no secrets.

This novel was interesting because although it had some cliches, as YA novels sometimes have, the story was unlike one I had read before. Jake is a senior on the football team and life is pretty good for him; he has a loving family, great classmates and teammates, and has had a crush on Samantha Shay for a while now. One night at a party, he and his friends get drunk and he decides to go proclaim his love for her in person. On the way there, they swerve to avoid a deer, and get in an accident, where a T-post skewers Jake's vocal cords. To save his life, the doctors must remove the vocal cords, which means he will never speak again, for the rest of his life.

Jake is devastated by this, but determined to still tell Sam he loves her. She actually ends up being a great help to him, since she knows ASL (American Sign Language) and teaches it to him, and they start getting closer. But Sam has secrets, too, and once she lets Jake in on them he must help her survive until she turns 18 and is a "legal adult."

People are always going on about the dangers of drunk driving, especially with teens, and in this story Jake suffers the consequences of his actions. I found What I Didn't Say to be very well-written and a fast read, too, with teens having to face exceptional situations that might not usually occur in YA books, at least in others I have read.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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