Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MY FIRST GIVEAWAY!! Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Today I am excited to share with you my review of a new novel AND my very first giveaway!!

Yes, that's right! I will be giving away TWO copies Aidan Donnelly Rowley's rookie novel, Life After Yes!

I started reading Aidan's blog, Ivy League Insecurities, back in the beginning of 2010, and quickly discovered that her first novel was coming out in a few months. In addition to reading her entertaining and thought-provoking posts about her life as a young mother and writer, I thoroughly enjoyed getting a backstage peek of the publishing process from a first-time author's point of view.

I pre-ordered my copy and was so so excited to read it when it first came out in May. And I was not disappointed!

First of all, despite the dreamy, ethereal look of the cover (which, by the way, is gorgeous, is it not? I love the swirly dress and the red ribbon), this is not a fairy tale. It is not a story of how a girl meets her prince charming, and how they finally figure out that they're meant for each other. Rather, as the title suggests, this book is about all the stuff that happens after all of that. After she says "yes!"

"She" is Quinn O'Malley, a young NYC lawyer who is engaged to a seemingly perfect beau. Quinn has a successful career, the great guy-her life is idyllic, right? But of course, things are never that simple. Now that Quinn has what she thought she wanted...what she was supposed to have wanted...things aren't so clear. She has a troubling dream the night after the engagement, and starts having doubts about her life's path. All the while, she is dealing with the inner turmoil of grief in the wake of a national tragedy. Quinn's beloved father was killed on September 11, mere months before her boyfriend proposed.

I really enjoyed Aidan's book. After so much anticipation, I was afraid I had built it up too much--I so wanted to like it. And I did! It's a charming and engaging story, that's not too hard to read, but that also has hidden depth. Beautiful themes weave throughout the storyline, and in the end, it left me thinking about quite a few issues very carefully. For me, this book is what reading should be: entertaining and thought-provoking.

And now for the truly exciting part! Aidan has graciously provided me with copies of Life After Yes to pass along to TWO of you lovely readers.

Just leave a comment on this post by Friday, September 3, 12n Central Time. I will randomly select two of you that afternoon and announce the winners!

Restrictions: Only one entry per e-mail address. Will only ship to the U.S.

This is my first giveaway, so I'm excited and nervous and can't wait to share this lovely book with 2 of you! Good luck!!

The author, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, provided me with the copies to giveaway, but I purchased my own copy originally, and my opinions are entirely my own.

Image from the author's website.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Guest Post: Inspiring Books

I'm a guest contributor over on Spring Inspiration today. I'm sharing some of my favorite inspiring reads, so come check it out!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Do You Watch Book Trailers?

Have you seen any good book trailers lately?

There seems to be a new trend of creating book trailers for upcoming publications. According to wikipedia, "A book trailer is a video advertisement for a book which employs techniques similar to those of movie trailers. They are circulated on television and online in most common digital video formats." I also discovered there that the term "book trailer" is trademarked by Sheila Clover of Circle of Seven Productions. Apparently, they've been around for years, but I've only become aware of them in the past several months. Where have I been?

I usually find book trailers on youtube, but that's usually after I've read a book and I'm looking for more information about to book to write about it. I've never been swayed to read or buy a book because of it's trailer. Have you?

Most of the trailers I view seem very strange to me. Of course, the production quality varies greatly (especially if they're only being view on youtube), so some of them are just poorly made. But also, I think I feel a disconnect when I view something on video that's meant to represent a product in a print medium. I can also see, however, that the could be an excellent means of reaching potential readers in new ways.

Here are a few websites to check out if you are interested in viewing some book trailers for yourself.

Expanded Books (via YouTube)

What do you think? Do you have any experience with book trailers? What are your impressions? To give you an example, I'm including a book trailer below for a novel I recently read (and LOVED--post forthcoming). If you haven't read it, please let me know if you are enticed at all by the trailer. Do you think you have a different opinion than if you had just read the dust jacket?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

I started hearing about this book during my first year of seminary. Everyone was talking about Barbara Brown Taylor's new memoir, Leaving Church. I bought it that first year, but like so many other books, it collected dust on a shelf until a few months ago.

I'm not sure why I picked it up. Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic for my seminary days. Although they are just over a year behind me, I sometimes feel like it's been ages since I've "mastered" the divine (as if that is ever possible). I missed thinking and talking about faith and the church like I used to, and so I was drawn to Taylor's book.

First of all, she is a gifted wordsmith. Well-known for expertly crafted sermons, Taylor's skill as a writer is profound. I experienced her gift with words from the first moment I opened the book. These words swept me up and surrounded me throughout the journey of Taylor's life. She creates such vivid images that I was transported beside her as I read her story. Taylor takes you along to the places she visits in a way that few writers can accomplish.

In addition to the elegant writing, Leaving Faith content is compelling as well. Taylor starts with a narrative explaining the many twists and turns she encountered as a child and young adult in search of an authentic faith. After much searching (and trial and error), she finds a home in the Episcopal Church and eventually becomes an ordained priest. After serving as an associate in thriving church, Taylor longs to serve a tiny church nestled in the North Georgia mountains. Only that church already has a beloved priest, and Taylor believes her dream to be impossible. But eventually her dream comes true, and she is called to that very church and begins to serve in what she believes to be her dream job.

A few years pass, and Taylor is miserable and must face the reality that she is mentally, physically, and spiritually depleted. She makes the difficult and courageous decision to leave both her beloved church, and church ministry all together. Stepping away from her dream is beyond challenging, but she ends up finding a new calling that continues to inspire and fulfill her.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in faith journeys, or is perhaps exploring religion, spirituality, and faith. Taylor's journey is compelling, and helped me to think about my own faith in new ways.

This book also has a lot to say, even to those of you who are not religious or spiritual. It is a phenomenal exploration of what it takes to walk away from something that you thought you wanted. I learned so much from the process that she describes and she makes such a difficult decision.

I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading some more of her memoirs. I have two others, and there is a new one that looks fantastic!!

Image from the author's website.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reach Out and Read

I once read somewhere that it's never too early--or too late--to start reading aloud to a child. I have read many books that emphasize how important early literacy experiences are for children and their future intellectual development. Children need to be read to and exposed to books from infancy to have proper verbal stimulation. However, this does not happen for many children.

Reach Out and Read is a fantastic nonprofit that has found an innovative strategy to address this issue. They equip pediatric doctors and nurses to talk to parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children during check-ups. They provide children (ages 6 months to 5 years) with a new book to take home from their doctor's visits. It's wonderfully simple, and very effective. Visit their website to look at some of the statistics and information about their success.

I am always so encouraged by the wonderful work so many different organizations are doing in the world of literacy. I hope to highlight many of them in the coming weeks. Are there some organizations I should know about? Please share!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Review: An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

I first heard about An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England when I heard an interview with author, Brock Clarke, on NPR (which, let's be honest, is how so many of my stories start). His book sounded very intriguing, a little dark, but very entertaining.

Basically, Sam has just been released from prison after serving a 10 year sentence for burning down the Emily Dickinson house. Except he didn't do it on purpose, and he didn't mean for anyone to die. He finally makes a life for himself after his release, but then more writers' homes go up in flame. Everyone blames Sam, but it's not him this time.

I enjoyed the book, but you have to read it with a bit of suspended belief. It was definitely written in a distinctive style. The only way I can really describe it is to say that parts reminded me of Catch-22. The characters and the events of the novel are extreme. It left me with an odd feeling at the end; I wasn't quite sure what to think. But on the whole, I was glad I read it and it made me want to go back and read Catch-22 again.

Has anyone else read it? Anyone else hear echoes of Catch-22?

Image from arsonistsguide.com.

Annie Barrows talks about Guernsey

Last night, when I was looking up the book trailers I already shared, I found this book talk given by co-author Annie Barrows, and found her so charming and entertaining. She explains how her aunt got the idea of the book and how Annie came to be a part of the project. The full presentation is in four parts about about 36 minutes long, but so worth it! I'm sharing the first part here below, but please visit youtube and watch the other parts when you get a chance.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Very Belated, but Enthusiastic Praise for the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

It only recently occurred to me that I neglected to write a proper review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. This is unacceptable because I read it almost a year ago and it was one of the most perfect books I have ever read.

Back when I first read it, I shared a few of my favorite passages, but didn't write more because my best friend hadn't finished it yet and we were going to discuss it later. Then I forgot to get back to it, which is unforgivable. So here I am do remedy the situation.

Guernsey is an epistolary novel set in Great Britain just after WWII. It is the charming story of how Juliet (a London columnist and author) and the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (don't worry--you learn what that name is all about) come to know each other through correspondence. It begins when one member reads a book that once belonged to Juliet and still bore her name and address in its inside cover. Soon other members write to her too and she eventually visits them on the island. The story is rich with hilarious and heart-breaking characters, and is utterly heartwarming. I loved the people and the stories that unfold around them, but Guernsey is also beautiful testament to the beauty and power of reading and books.

The book was written by two women, an aunt and her niece. Sadly, Aunt Mary Ann died several months before the book was published.

For a bit more of a taste of Guernsey and its residents and letter-writers, watch these two clips. The first features the niece, Annie Barrows talking about the characters and the birth of the literary society. The second, dramatized readings of some of the letters. Let me know what you think of these trailers, whether you've read the book or not. I'm curious about this trend of book trailers, and plan to write about them in the future.

P.S. Stay tuned! My first giveaway is coming up this week!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Audio Book Review: My Life in France by Julia Child

I loved loved loved this book. It was sweet and charming and delicious! I already knew a lot of the basic storyline because it is woven into the movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. When I first sat down to read Julie Powell's memoir of the same name, I was expecting to learn more about Julia Child than I did. The movie was more of a balance between Powell and Child, and I found both stories to be delightful. I kept meaning to go back and read My Life in France, as it is the basis for Julia's portion of the movie. For some reason (probably the ridiculously precarious stacks of books already taking over my apartment), I never got around to it.

However, I saw the audiobook version at the library and snatched it up! And it was delightful! The story of her life was absolutely fascinating. I was utterly inspired by the way Julia transformed her life and blossomed into the person that we all know of. She didn't begin cooking until she was in her mid to late 30s. And it wasn't all smooth sailing. But she persevered.

I also adored the relationship between Julia and her husband Paul. Their marriage was so sweet and kind. He was so much a part of her story, and so much a part of her success. I was so inspired by their relationship, their encouragement and support for one another, and their steadfastness. I must admit that since becoming so disillusioned with Julie Powell and her marriage, I think I was doubly grateful to see Julia's marriage and husband so cherished.

I did listen to an audio version, and the only trouble I had with it was the fact that I already knew what Julia Child's voice sounds like. And the reader, to her credit, did not try to imitate that. It threw me off at first, but in no time, I was swept away by the story and the writing and Julia's "voice" shone through.

Has anyone read it? What did you think? What about reading it along with Julia and Julie (either the book or the movie)? How do these three works and two lives inform one another?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confessions of a Chronic Book Buyer

Here's the thing. I have a little problem, that's actually become a pretty big problem. I have too many books. I'm pretty much addicted to them--more specifically, I'm addicted to buying them. And yes, I do read them as well, but the real thrill is purchasing them. I get so happy when I have a brand new (or even new to me) book in my hands. There is so much joy and possibility.

But the thing is, no matter how much I enjoy reading, I can never keep up with the pace. Books are everywhere in my apartment. EVERYWHERE. I need at least two more very large bookshelves to even begin to address the issue.

There is also the issue of money. I do not want to even begin to think about how much money I have spent on books.

I have been trying to cull through the excess of reading material. I currently have a large box of books behind my couch that's waiting to go to Half-Price Books. I'll make a little money back from them, but it's quite minimal.

I need a plan to keep my obsession with buying books from taking over my apartment and depleting my wallet.

My first strategy is to go on a book buying hiatus and to (gasp!) actually read the books I already have. My book shelves are like my own personal book store. Opening a new book is exciting whether it's been newly purchased or not, right? Although I always have the intention of reading a book when I buy it, sometimes I'm already in the middle of a book (or 4) at that time, and so it waits for a little while. Then, often, I'm in a different mood by the time I get around to it, and so I move onto something else. But it's a wonderful gift to have books all around me to choose from when I need something new to read. Still, there's the ever-present allure of something REALLY new to read.

So my next thought is to supplement with the Public Library. Libraries are lovely places. I love them, and just checked out a few books this morning. But I love writing in my books, and libraries tend to frown upon that. I also like the share my books with others, and to go back and reread passages here and there. So, while libraries are great for some books and to satisfy a lot of my book lust, I'm still going to have to buy some books.

Here is where I automatically log onto amazon.com and start clicking. I'm beginning to have moral qualms with them (that post forthcoming). I am currently exploring alternative online options. I love browsing at Borders and Barnes and Noble, but they are not cheap. Coupons and rewards cards help, but it's still a lot. Half Price Books is great, but it's very hit or miss if you are looking for a specific title.

I'm going to try to severely limit my new book purchases for a while, as that is the only real solution to not having so many books in my home. Of course, I will always want to be surround with good books, but there is a limit to the total tonnage a one-bedroom apartment can hold.

Do you buy too many books? Any tips for me on how to curb my addiction?