Friday, July 22, 2011

Centuries of June + GIVEAWAY

*I know it's a Dear Sara Friday, but I'm skipping it so I could get last minute stuff for my vacation... deal with it lovers*

Centuries of June- Keith Donohue
Centuries of June: A Novel
Set in the bathroom of an old house just before dawn on a night in June, Centuries of June is a black comedy about a man who is attempting to tell the story of how he ended up on the floor with a hole in his head. But he keeps getting interrupted by a series of suspects—eight women lying in the bedroom just down the hall. Each woman tells a story drawn from five centuries of American myth and legend in a wild medley of styles and voices.



Centuries of June is a romp through history, a madcap murder mystery, an existential ghost story, and a stunning tour de force at once ingenious, sexy, inspiring, and ultimately deeply moving.

First off, I want to say I think this book hits almost every book genre within it's pages. You've got mystery, you've got sci-fi/fantasy, you have romance, historical, etc. It hits them all in a really interestingly told story that bops between characters. The characters being the man who starts the book on the floor with a hole in his head, and then all of these women. Each character has a very different voice because they are from different centuries but are all inexplicably tied to this man.



Very entertaining, very interesting, extremely well written.

You know I never ask you to rely on just my thoughts, but I encourage you to see what other tour bloggers are saying about this book HERE. You can visit Keith's website, Facebook, or Twitter as well!

And guess what? I have one copy to giveaway! YAY! Leave a comment with your email on this post and I will draw a winner (US/Canada only) on Sunday!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

32 Candles

If you loved the movie Sixteen Candles, love a good but funny chick book, or need a fast and fun read? This book is for you.

32 Candles- Ernessa T. Carter

Davie Jones—an ugly duckling growing up in small-town Mississippi—is positive her life couldn’t be any worse. She has the meanest mother in the South, and on top of that, she’s pretty sure she’s ugly. Just when she’s resigned herself to her fate, she sees a movie that will change her life—Sixteen Candles. But in her case, life doesn’t imitate art. Tormented endlessly in school and hopelessly in unrequited love with a handsome football player, Davie finds it bittersweet to dream of Molly Ringwald endings. When a cruel school prank goes too far, Davie leaves the life she knows and reinvents herself in the glittery world of Hollywood—as a beautiful and successful lounge singer. Just as she’s about to ride off into the LA sunset, a million miles from where she started, the past comes back with a vengeance, threatening to crush Davie’s dreams—and break her heart again. With wholly original characters and a cinematic storyline, 32 Candles introduces Ernessa T. Carter, a new voice in fiction with smarts, attitude, and sassiness to spare.



You know what else I loved about this book? Is that the main character Davie was really bullied in school and she just suffered quietly. And after she runs away and starts her new life, it eventually follows her back in some sick twist of fate. But what impacted me was that people don't always appreciate what their behavior as a young person does to a person all through their life. I know I didn't have it easy in high school but I certainly didn't have it as bad as other kids. And at our reunion I tried to not think about it but it was hard. Later on I had comments saying that they were kids and it's been ten years. Yeah.. that's true but it still sucks. It still hurts knowing I was excluded from things for reasons that were beyond my control and you can't just brush it off and say, "Well, I was only 17 then." It doesn't work that way. So I really liked how Ernessa takes a fairly serious subject a lot of people can relate to and make it funny and entertaining to read.

I hope Ernessa keeps writing books as awesome and funny as these- because she's got a talent for them. This book might be on the holiday shopping list for some of my girlfriends. :) But I do think you'll like this book if you're in the need for a light hearted, funny book reminiscent of a John Hughes movie.

I also encourage you to check out Fierce and Nerdy, where Ernessa blogs, or see what other bloggers are saying about this book HERE.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shut Your Eyes Tight and GIVEAWAY!

It's been awhile since I've read a legit thriller and GOOD LORD this one was good. And creepy.

Shut Your Eyes Tight- John Verdon
Shut Your Eyes Tight (Dave Gurney, No. 2): A Novel
When he was the NYPD’s top homicide investigator, Dave Gurney was never comfortable with the label the press gave him: super detective. He was simply a man who, when faced with a puzzle, wanted to know. He was called to the investigative hunt by the presumptuous arrogance of murderers – by their smug belief that they could kill without leaving a trace. There was always a trace, Gurney believed.



Except what if one day there wasn’t?

Dave Gurney, a few months past the Mellery case that pulled him out of retirement and then nearly killed him, is trying once again to adjust to his country house’s bucolic rhythms when he receives a call about a case so seductively bewildering that the thought of not looking into it seems unimaginable—even if his beloved wife, Madeleine, would rather he do anything but.


The facts of what has occurred are horrible: a blushing bride, newly wed to an eminent psychiatrist and just minutes from hearing her congratulatory toast, is found decapitated, her head apparently severed by a machete. Though police investigators believe that a Mexican gardener killed the young woman in a fit of jealous fury, the victim’s mother—a chilly high-society beauty—is having none of it. Reluctantly drawn in, Dave is quickly buffeted by a series of revelations that transform the bizarrely monstrous into the monstrously bizarre.


Underneath it all may exist one of the darkest criminal schemes imaginable. And as Gurney begins deciphering its grotesque outlines, some of his most cherished assumptions about himself are challenged, causing him to stare into an abyss so deep that it threatens to swallow not just him but Madeleine, too.


Desperate to protect Madeleine and bring an end to the madness, Gurney ultimately discovers that the killer has left a trace after all. Unfortunately, the revelation may come too late to save his own life.

I will say that I'm pretty good at figuring out who actually did it, and I nailed it this time, but the reasoning behind... holy good lord it was creepy. And kind of frightening. Which made this book hard to put down and kept you on the edge of your seat. I realized shortly after starting it that this is the second in a Dave Gurney series (Think of a Number was the first) but it didn't matter, I didn't feel like I missed any key information to keep me out of the loop on this story since there wasn't much carry over from that investigation to this one.

But this story touches on some unique topics, primarily serial sex offenders... mostly women. It's interesting that the story is based around this since it's not something you hear a lot about in your news coverage but it's obviously a very real thing.

In some stories there is always at least one character that I'm never really excited about and wish they were left out all together, but not this one. Every character in this book had their own thing going for them and I never got bored with any story line or dialogue, which is maybe part of the reason I was on edge and devoured this book. John Verdon did such a great job weaving such a bizarre story line together that you don't know where it's been or where it's going, but you know it'll come together for a great moment at the end. And I have to be honest, when that moment came- I didn't realize it would happen then. I thought for sure some more information would come to light first. But I was wrong and I was glad. This was a great book.

Fortunately for you, the publisher is offering my readers a copy of the book for their very own! Leave me a comment on this post (US/Canada only) with your email address if you'd like a chance to win! I will draw for a winner on Wednesday, July 20 so you need to hurry!

See what other bloggers are saying about this book HERE.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What I was doing when I was cheating on you.

Pretty much the entire month of June on Wednesdays I was cheating on you. I wasn't posting those night and I didn't tell you why. But it's OK because now I have something fancy to hang.

Basically... I'm trying to try new things and experiences. My friend Emily and I joined a stained glass class and figured it'd be a cool thing to do one night a week, end up with hopefully a not lame ass project, and just try not to cut ourselves a lot. Fortunately, it was all that. And a shit ton of hard work.

Day one started with picking your pattern and your glass and some first steps. Emily and I were the only ones who came early (like we were told) to do those two things. There were three other women in the class and by the end of day one, both Emily and I decided maybe we were the smartest. At least the most efficient and able to understand instructions. Fortunately, I had a brilliant moment and asked which pattern would be the easiest- mostly because I'm lazy and all about the easy. So I got that, and the glass:
 Then we had to cut out our pattern and glue onto our glass. We didn't get any further because of the slow people who don't understand the concept of tracing and cutting. They truly looked at the instructor like an idiot when she told us to trace and cut. And their faces when she handed them a glue stick? I seriously at that moment thought maybe I should be in the advanced class.

Day two was cutting glass. Not going to lie, this was kind of scary. You have to score it then break it, and yeah. It was kind of hard. I'm not good at cutting things with curves. I can do it, but it's kind of a pain.
 Then you had to place your pieces on your pattern to see how much you have to grind.
 Then you grind and try not to fuck your pieces up. But I kind of loved grinding. I could have grinded all day. And the other three did. Emily and I though.. super efficient. We were feeling pretty confident with our stained glass skills at this point.
 But then MOTHER FUCKER, it came to the part where you wrap your pieces (easy) and soder (hard). I will be the first to say this was my first attempt at sodering anything. It's harder than hell. And so now when I see a tiny stained glass piece for an astronomical price? I totally understand why. This is quite possibly, the worst activity ever. Not only should you not have low blood sugar and the shakes when doing this, but you should just not get too excited about melting metal. You know why? Because then you are forever trying to clean up the globs and lumps. I think I spent a solid two classes trying to fix my soder so it didn't look like someone with Tourettes was doing this.
 I kind of failed on that. Because it's really hard. This was the best I could do.
 This is my finished piece. Because I'm really stupid, I sodered my chain hooky things to the wrong god damn side and was too lazy to change it. Oh well. So my piece would hang backwards. I say "would" because it's been on my counter since June 30. I'm just not sure where the hell I'm going to put it.
So all in all... we had a good time. I like doing things with Emily because she's laid back, she's funny, and she isn't afraid to try new things. Even if they do end up being way more expensive that we were initially told. The class fee was $45 plus supplies. On the first night we paid $40 for supplies. But every single week there was more and more stuff to buy. I think in the end I ended up paying like $120? Or more? It's an expensive piece of artwork. That doesn't even look that great. Oh well. HA!

The next thing we're doing is obviously the 5K in August. Then in September we're going to do a cake decorating class. Confession: I suck shit at baking cakes, getting them out of the pans, and then frosting. Good lord I can't frost. So if there is ever a time I'll make an ass out of myself it'll be in this class. I'll take pictures of my um... creations.

In the meantime.. I have something SPECIAL for my vlog on Friday. But I'll only be doing one if I get a few more questions for Dear Sara. You need to email me (sarastrand9438AThomtailDOTcom) by tomorrow evening or leave a comment on this post of something you'd like me to answer. Anything at all, lovelies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Ghost of Greenwich Village and GIVEAWAY

It's time for another book review, folks!
The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham
The Ghost of Greenwich Village: A Novel

For Eve Weldon, moving to Greenwich Village is a dream come true. She's following in the footsteps of her mother, who lived there during the sixties among a lively community of Beat artists and writers. But when Eve arrives, the only scribe she meets is a grumpy ghost named Donald, and the only writing she does is for chirpy segments on a morning news program. The hypercompetitive network environment is a far cry from the genteel camaraderie of her mother's literary scene, and Eve wonders if the world she seeks has faded from existence. As she struggles to balance her new job, demands from Donald to help him complete his life's work, a budding friendship with a legendary fashion designer, and a serach for clues to her mother's past, Eve begins to realize that community comes in many forms-and that the true magic of the Village is very much alive, though it may reveal itself in surprising ways.

Ok. I have to be honest. This isn't a book that I would think to recommend to people because I struggled through it. Here's the thing. I didn't like Eve. I don't like people like Eve. People like Eve are people who have a hard time adjusting to the real world. Now, never having lost a parent I can't say how I would feel if I lost my mom. But I will tell you- never would I feel the need to try to re-live my mother's life, which is very much what Eve is trying to do. It seems to me that it would be obvious that the times and life of an area would be very much different several generations apart... but Eve doesn't seem to get that.

I also didn't understand the whole Donald thing. Yes, he's a ghost. Yes, he wants Eve to write his book and she learns a lot about the generations and her new fashion designer friend because of Donald. But... the whole character and story line of Donald is just so.... off. I don't know. I had a hard time even wanting to read sections of the book where he's present because it didn't make sense. Why even have that as a character or part of the story line?

The parts of this book that I found fascinating was the hustle and bustle of her working on a morning show. Not only was it interesting to somewhat learn about that type of job, but it seemed more of a real life scenario that could happen to a single woman coming to the big city from the Midwest. THAT part of the story made absolute sense.

Often times I felt myself thinking Eve was kind of a dumb girl who, though she has real world experience and a great education, she is a person you'd pass up and assume she's just another idiot in the big city. I wouldn't feel sorry for her or her plight if she was one of my friends. Which sounds terrible...but it's true.

Now, if you enjoy a chick lit book, or if you like stories about women trying to empower themselves- this would be a good book for you. I just can't say that it would make it on a top 20 list of books I'd recommend. Check out Lorna's website HERE and the other tour stops HERE.

But the best part is that you have a chance to win a copy of this book just by commenting and letting me know you want to be entered into the drawing. (US/Canada only) Leave me a comment by Monday, July 18 and I'll draw a winner that evening!

*You must follow my blog via Google Friend Connect
*For extra entries you can share this post on your FB, Twitter or blog (each is a separate entry, leave a separate comment with a link)

Good luck and happy ready lambwhores!

Stiltsville

I am going to tell you right now- so far this year, this is hands down my most favorite book. I will also tell you that the back cover description is not doing this book justice. AND, for this being this author's first novel, oh my word- it is amazing. Like, makes you think about your marriage/partnership differently.

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel Stiltsville: A Novel (P.S.)
One sunny morning in 1969, Frances Ellerby finds herself in a place called Stiltsville, a community of ?houses built on pilings in the middle of Biscayne Bay. It’s the first time the Atlanta native has been out on the open water, and she’s captivated. On the dock of a stilt house, with the dazzling Miami skyline in the distance, she meets the house’s owner, Dennis DuVal—and a new future reveals itself.



Turning away from her quiet, predictable life back home, Frances moves to Miami to be with Dennis. Over time, she earns the confidence of his wild-at-heart sister and the approval of his oldest friend. Frances and Dennis marry and have a child—but rather than growing complacent about their good fortune, they continue to face the challenges of intimacy in the complicated city they call home.


With Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel weaves the beauty, violence, and humanity of Miami’s coming-of-age with an enduring story of a marriage’s beginning, maturity, and heartbreaking demise.

Susanna writes makes you question whether this is actually a real love story or not. Because it's not a love story like you see in movies. It's like a for real love story, where two people fall in love and get married young, and they question whether it was the right decision or not, someone thinks about infidelity, and it's the every day problems of an ordinary couple raising a daughter.

You find yourself nodding your head along because everything is so true to what it's really like to be married and be raising a family, and the stress of the unexpected. And through it all- they have Stiltsville. The sanctuary that held the family together, the rock that reminded them what life was about, and the place that seems to hold it all together.

I won't tell you what ultimately happens to Stiltsville or the family as a whole, but I will tell you I could not put this book down. The very last line of the book reads:

"I held my husband in my arms and pressed my face to his face. I kissed his lips. I told him I loved him. I told him, Thank you, over and over. I told him, Thank you for my life."


And while this normally wouldn't be significant to anyone, it is to me. Because while I don't have the perfect marriage and we absolutely struggle each and every single day- I know that no matter what, I will always be grateful to Matt for the life he's given me. Without him I wouldn't have the things I have, I wouldn't be the mom to two awesome kids, I wouldn't be where I am today without Matt next to me. And so I challenge you to think about that the next time you feel like you're at rock bottom in your marriage or are having a hard time not stabbing your spouse- what are all of the positive things in your life that are because of them in some small way.

I think it's so easy for us to give up, cheat on someone, get divorced, or just mentally check out because staying married is a lot of work. It requires patience, forvgiveness, the ability to break down what you're angry about and see what part specifically is making you angry and why, and most of all, humility. It's not always going to be easy or perfect- and you have to know going in that there are going to be a lot of days where you will question your decision. And that's OK.

I highly encourage everybody to read this. I loved this book so much and I can't stop gushing about it. I got my hair cut and talked for four ladies about it. Everyone at work has heard me rave about this book. I even walked past a lady looking at books and I completely started telling her how amazing this book was. Because it is. You have to read it.

Check out what other bloggers are saying about it here, visit her website here, her Facebook or her Twitter.
Seriously. Go and buy this book. You will not be diappointed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Long Journey Home + GIVEAWAY

You know.. it's been a few days since my last book review and so I have one ready to go for you today. Come back tomorrow for a MUST READ. <--- don't pee yourself with excitement.

The Long Journey Home by Margaret Robison The Long Journey Home: A Memoir

First introduced to the world in her sons’ now-classic memoirs—Augusten Burroughs’s Running with Scissors and John Elder Robison’s Look Me in the Eye—Margaret Robison now tells her own haunting and lyrical story. A poet and teacher by profession, Robison describes her Southern Gothic childhood, her marriage to a handsome, brilliant man who became a split-personality alcoholic and abusive husband, the challenges she faced raising two children while having psychotic breakdowns of her own, and her struggle to regain her sanity.



Robison grew up in southern Georgia, where the fa├žade of 1950s propriety masked all sorts of demons, including alcoholism, misogyny, repressed homosexuality, and suicide. She met her husband, John Robison, in college, and together they moved up north, where John embarked upon a successful academic career and Margaret brought up the children and worked on her art and poetry. Yet her husband’s alcoholism and her collapse into psychosis, and the eventual disintegration of their marriage, took a tremendous toll on their family: Her older son, John Elder, moved out of the house when he was a teenager, and her younger son, Chris (who later renamed himself Augusten), never completed high school. When Margaret met Dr. Rodolph Turcotte, the therapist who was treating her husband, she felt understood for the first time and quickly fell under his idiosyncratic and, eventually, harmful influence.

I can't really tell you much about this book without giving critical parts of her story away. I will tell you that this was a pretty fascinating book about a woman suffering from pretty awful mental health issues during a time in our society when it was even more frowned upon. In current times if you have a person who is depressed we treat them right away and we don't think twice. Back then, it was often ignored and viewed as shameful and sometimes it's a precursor to something far worse, which is pretty much what happened to the author.

What I also found really interesting was the really unhealthy, borderline terrifying, and basically abusive relationship with her own therapist, Dr. Turcotte. After reading the book I decided to do some light Google research on him and truly- that guy had some pretty serious issues. I don't think he should have ever been working with patients with such sensitive needs as Margaret's. It kind of makes me wonder if mental health care has truly evolved or not, patients are still drugged- oftentimes against their will like Margaret.

I will admit that several times through the book I feel angered for her but also at her. To say that she had a difficult life would be a great understatement but I really enjoyed reading about her struggle. I would honestly say that if you've struggled with mental health, an abusive relationship, the struggles of motherhood, or questioned your sexuality -- this book is definitely for you.

Basically, this was a pretty interesting book. I did find it a bit slow in some parts and some areas I didn't feel were very relevant to the story as a whole, but all in all it was a good read.

GIVEAWAY TIME!
One of my blog readers (US/Canada only) will get a chance to win a copy of this book for your very own. All I need you to do is leave me a comment (you must be a follower via Google Friend Connect) by Thursday, July 15. I will announce a winner on Friday.

I also encourage you to check out Margaret's website! http://www.margaretrobison.com/home.htm