Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

 Fifty Shades of Grey

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Publisher:The Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House
Published: May 25, 2011
ASIN: B0052U59F4

    When Anastasia Steele agrees to interview industrialist Christian Grey, she does not expect to have her life turned upside down.  She feels intense attraction to Christian but tries to ignore it since he couldn't be attracted to her, could he? Christian tracks her down making it more than clear that the feeling is mutual.  Yet Christian starts to withdraw from her with warnings of his dark proclivities.  Add to that Anastasia's best friend Katherine can't stand Christian and some competition from some of Anastasia's male friends Anastasia recoils at first but is drawn in by her increasingly intense relationship with Christian. When Anastasia realizes the depths of Christian's secret world, she attempts to find a way to please Christian while still maintaining her sense of self. 

  The cover is so innocent looking, but don't be fooled. This is erotica; there a several explicit sex scenes including BDSM, so if that's not your kind of party avoid this book.  E. L. James did a great job giving life to her characters.  I didn't agree with everything they did, but their actions seemed true to them.  It was fun to spend the whole book wondering will he? will she? Luckily, this is to be a trilogy, so we get to see whether Christian and Anastasia are able to maintain their connection.

**This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.                                     **

Check out my interview with E.L. James below the jump.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's Contest Time!

Earlier this month, Random House had a get together to celebrate the paperback release of French Lessons by Ellen Sussman.  Now I'm spreading the love.  Enter below for a chance to win an unabridged audio book or paperback copy of French Lessons.

French Lessons: A NovelFrench Lessons: A Novel

To enter,
       Leave your name and email in the comments.
       Specify whether you want the audio book or the paperback.
       Tell me what book are you looking forward to reading this summer.

Contest closes July 5, 2011.  Winner announced July 6, 2011.
Sorry, guys the audiobook is fragile so this is only for US or Canada.  48 hours for winner to claim prize, otherwise prize is forfeited.  I will only ask for your address if you win and do not sell or keep your personal information after shipping . 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

 The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

Title: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: March 15, 2011
ISBN: 978006173237
Pages: 288

 The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is the inspiring story of Kamila Sidiqi, an Afghani woman who through her hard work and perseverance managed to support her family and her community.  Shortly after Kamila's graduation from a secondary course, the Taliban took over the city of Kabul.  Every day the Taliban issued edicts restricting more and more freedoms.  People could no longer listen to the radio, dance, sing, fly kites, among other things.  The prohibitions against women were damning.  Women were forbidden from working, attending school, or leaving home without a male chaperon.  In a country where there were few men due to war and migration, significant number of women were condemned to a life of poverty by these rules.

Kamila Sidiqi was tired of seeing her father and brother struggle to support the family.  She kept looking for a way to help support her family while avoiding interference from the Taliban.  Her older sister Malika had steady business making clothes for friends, family, and acquaintances.  Seeing the brisk business her sister was doing, Kamila decides that being a seamstress would be a beneficial occupation.  She made sample clothing, scouted for shopkeepers to sell her goods, and gained a network of customers.  As word of her endeavor got out, more and more women came looking for work.  Kamila decides to start a school  to train seamstresses and run an apprenticeship program. 

Due to the success of the school, Kamila was invited to participate in programs run by foreign organizations that worked to educate schooldchildren and develop women entrepreneurs.  After working for these organizations, Kamila decided to form another business.  She had opprotunites to travel to Washington D.C. at the invitation of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.  Kamila had the opportunity to travel to Italy for training and to be part of a MBA program for Afghani women.

The book provides a wider representation of Afghanis.  Mr. Sidiqi was very adamant that his daughters be just as educated as his sons.  He saw the way women benefited from access to educations and work opportunities.  A female doctor was able to complete her education when her father offered to pay the Talibs not to disrupt her education or work in the community.  Several neighbors became Taliban to feed their family and watch out for their neighbors.  The woman, many of whom were widowed or separated due to better work opportunities elsewhere, supported their families any way possible..

Ms. Lemmon clearly admires Kamila and all the effort she put into creating a safe way to support her family and her neighbors.   She spent time living among the people she was writing about.  Clearly Kamila can be lauded for following through on her ambitions and selflessly sharing her knowledge with others.  Ms. Lemmon manages to convey the will power and determination of all the women who banded together to create a vast underground network to maintain their communties and families.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Groundswell by Katie Lee


Title: Groundswell by Katie Lee
Publisher: Free Press
Published: June 21, 2011
ISBN: 9781439183595
Pages: 240

From Amazon:
   . . .
Sometimes the biggest ripples come from the smallest events. Like the day that Emma Guthrie walks into world-famous movie star Garrett Walker’s trailer. When she steps through the door, she’s a novice PA who’s just dropped out of college after losing her scholarship. When she walks out, she’s on her way to becoming Mrs. Emma Walker—wife of an A-list actor. Soon, Emma has made the transition from nobody to red-carpet royalty, trading jeans and flip-flops for closets full of Chanel and Birkin bags, swishing past velvet ropes to attend every lavish party and charity gala on both coasts. With her husband’s encouragement, Emma pens a screenplay based on her life, Fame Tax, which becomes a blockbuster sensation. Through it all, Garrett is her ally and her mentor . . . until their relationship is thrown into question by an incriminating text message that Emma discovers on Garrett’s phone the night of the Met Costume Institute Gala.
Devastated by her husband’s infidelity and hounded mercilessly by the paparazzi, Emma must flee New York City to get away from it all and clear her head. Her destination? A sleepy coastal town in Mexico where no one recognizes her and there is nothing but unspoiled beaches for miles. Here, she meets Ben, a gorgeous, California-born surf instructor, who teaches her about the healing powers of surfing, shows her the joys of the simple life, and ultimately opens her up to the possibility of love........

Groundswell is a great read for the beach or train, plane or car ride.  It's a quick, enjoyable read.  The only downside is that most of the novel talks about her life just before and during her marriage.  It would have been great for her period of self-discovery in Mexico was longer.  All in all, Emma was a realistic character; we were there with her every step of the way..  Cookbooks aren't the only thing Katie Lee can write.

Friday, June 17, 2011

10 Places to Get Your Book Fix

Good Sites for Social Networking with Other Bookworms
   A self-described encyclopedia for books.  Shelfari lets you catalog your books and form groups about anything.  You can also meet authors of some of you favorite books.

   Librarything accesses hundreds of library catalogs worldwide allowing you to add books from all over the world.  You can also enter to get books from authors, publishers, and even other members.
   Great site that lets you create and join study groups and even download free ebooks (current ones at that).. 
   This site lets you catalog all your reads, provide and receive recommendations, play games, discuss books, meet your favorite authors, and enter to win advance copies of books.
   Great social networking site with tons of documents and areas to discuss pretty much any kind of book or genre you can come up with.

The Big Two:Wide Selection of Books at Great Prices
   To me, Amazon is the premier site for reading customer reviews of books.  For most books, it's easy to decide if a book is right for you based on comments.
Barnes & Noble
  Home of the Nook, the new generation is getting rave reviews.  Also a great source of free and inexpensive ebooks.  The best thing about them is their retail stores.

   You can create an account to trade books with other members.  With tons of members, you're likely to find the book you want.

Good Sources for Out of Print Books
  One of the largest independent books store - a prefect place to buy books if you want to give your money to an independent publisher.  They have a large stock of used and new books and plenty of out of print books.
   AbeBooks acts as a middleman between booksellers and book buyers.  This site is a great source for textbooks and books from other countries.

What are some of your favorite book sites? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I've Read All of Her Books

Crooked HouseOne of my favorite authors as a teenager was Agatha Christie.  I'm pretty sure I have read all her books and collections.  Sometime late last century (love saying that), Brooklyn Public Library started revamping their collection of her work.  I was so exuberant; I think I have read every book published in the United States. I had a list so I wouldn't reread anything until I had read all the other books. 
Crooked House is still my favorite Agatha Christie story.

A Murder Is Announced: A Miss Marple Mystery (Miss Marple Mysteries)

I don't really have a favorite between Miss Marple or Hercules Poirot, her two main detectives.  I like Miss Marple.  Everyone thinks she is a quiet, unassuming doddering spinster, but she is very with it.  No one can get anything past her.  My favorite Miss Marple book is A Murder Is Announced.

Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries)

Hercule Poirot is somewhat different.  He is well traveled and had a successful career as a detective before retiring and becoming a private detective.  He is very confident in his abilities and has no problem flaunting his abilities.  My favorite Hercule Poirot book is Murder on the Orient Express

Her greatest mystery was her disappearance for 11 days in the winter of 1926.  After having an argument with her husband, she left home.  Her secretary found a note that she was going to another town.  Nobody could find her or get in contact with her.  Eleven days later she was found in a hotel under an assumed name and was either unable or unwilling to give any details of the preceding eleven days.  To this day, we have no concrete idea of what really happened.  Some people think she was trying to frame her husband for her murder; some think she just wanted a little privacy.  Whatever the reason, Agatha took the secret to her grave.

She is one of the best selling authors of all times, has had the longest running play, and many film adaptations of her novels.  Her detective Hercule Poirot is the only fictional character to have a New York Times autobiography.   All this from a woman who started her career trying to prove to her sister she could write better mysteries than the Sherlock Holmes series.

Do you have a favorite author?  Have you read all their books? 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bloggers Night Out - Swag -

On Thursday night, the wonderful people at Random House invited assorted book bloggers and tweeters in the NY area to a get-together at the Random House offices.  We got to meet Ellen Sussman, author of  French Lessons, which is on tons of  Summer Reads lists.  Ellen, who is was so cool btw, talked a little about her inspiration for the book.

Check out the swag.  Forgive the blurry picture, phone has been acting a fool for the past couple days.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  We post about all the books we are waiting to be published.

My pick this week is Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg.  I think Simon Pegg is crazy funny.  Everything I've seen from him is really hilarious; add Nick Frost and the laughs never stop.

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid

From the publisher, Penguin's site:

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: actor, comedian, writer and self-proclaimed supergeek Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having landed on the U.S. movie scene in the surprise cult hit Shaun of the Dead, his enduring appeal and rise to movie star with a dedicated following has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronic, but mostly just plain great.
From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with science fiction, his enduring friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up comedy which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his twelve-year-old classmates, Simon has always had a severe and dangerous case of the funnies.
Whether recounting his experience working as a lifeguard at the city pool, going to Comic-Con for the first time and confessing to Carrie Fisher that he used to kiss her picture every night before he went to sleep, or meeting and working with heroes that include Peter Jackson, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, Pegg offers a hilarious look at the journey to becoming an international superstar, dotted with a cast of memorable characters, and you're rooting for him all the way.

Out this Friday.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir by Kelle Groom

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir

Title: I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir by Kelle Groom
Publisher: Free Press
Published: June 7, 2011
ISBN: 9781451616682
Pages: 256

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is Kelle Groom's harrowing account of the despair of her struggle with alcoholism and the emotional aftershocks of the birth, adoption and death of her only child.  Alternating between past and present, Groom details her journey to sobriety and her journey to come to terms with her son's brief life.

From the onset, I Wore the Ocean is a very difficult book to get through.  There are multiple accounts of violence towards herself, the birth of her son, her self loathing, accounts of anonymous sex and rape, and the many blackouts that she suffered.  To see the depths she put herself and her loved ones through, saddens one and at times causes her to be a very difficult person to like.  Luckily, her willingness to tell the whole story, even the parts that make her seem deplorable, makes her story compelling.  You want her to win her battle with alcoholism and are glad when she starts making concrete steps to sobriety.  The hardest part of the book is knowing she is intelligent enough to do better but seeing her addiction pulls her to rock bottom.

Groom is devastated by the death of her son that she gave up for adoption.  She knows intellectually that she cannot care for him as a full blown alcoholic.  Yet, she is unable to stop thinking about him.  Hearing about his death, just drives her further into alcoholism.  It isn't until she is emerging from alcoholism that she is able to think about who he was and might have been.  Over two decades, after his death she is able to talk openly about him and ask the relatives who adopted him about his life.  Groom is relieved to be able to share in his life

Groom's book is full of ocean and water imagery.  Her nickname as a child is "ocean girl".  When she is away from the coast, she feels unsettled and out of place.  Someone who saw me reading the book pondered whether  title is an allusion to the way the ocean wears away all in its path to sand.  Groom's accounts can be like a current - calm at times, violent and stormy in others, buoying one in lighter moments or brutally battering.

I received this book from the publisher Free Press in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee's View.  This week's question:

Q. What are you doing to prepare for an upcoming zombie apocalypse and/or the return of Mel Gibson to the silver screen? (Both of which could be terrifying.) 

I think the best defense against the zombie or Mel Gibson is a karate chop or canned goods to the head.  I'm pretty sure the zombie is the more socialized of the two.  I'll ignore Mel Gibson unless a zombie catches me and forces me to see his movie.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Winner of the Giveaway

Remember the giveaway.  Well the winner is

Brittany Gale

Thank you to everyone that participated.  I'll be having more giveaways in the future. 

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.  We post about all the books we are waiting to be published.

My pick this weeks is Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling.


Per Amazon:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Comedy's fastest-rising star takes to the page in a book of essays, personal anecdotes, and impassioned pleas.

Multi-hyphenate Mindy Kaling is an Emmy-nominated writer, the actress famous for playing the beloved Kelly Kapoor on The Office, and the author of one of Twitter's most popular and quoted feeds.  She is a keen and witty observer of life, romance, and pop culture, whom the New York Times recently called "an entirely original and of-the-moment" performer and Entertainment Weekly deemed “one of the ten funniest actresses in Hollywood.”

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy shares her observations, fears, and opinions about a wide-ranging list of the topics she thinks about the most: from her favorite types of guys (including Sherlock Holmes, NBA players, Aaron Sorkin characters, and 19th-century fictional hunks) to life in the Office writers' room to her leisure pursuit of dieting (“I don’t travel, speak other languages, do crafts, or enjoy sports, but I love reading about new diets”) and how much she loves romantic comedies.  Loaded with personal stories and laugh-out-loud philosophies, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is a must-read by one of the most original comedic voices working today.

I follow Mindy on Twitter and love her work.  I can't wait. Luckily, there's a 27 page excerpt on her publisher's website.