Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And the winner is...

Comment #5...Lori! (I used to make the selection)

Lori, email me at to claim your prize (don't forget to include your address so I can get the book out to you).

Thank you everyone that participated and/or became a follower! If you didn't win today, don't worry; I've got a book or two that I'll be giving away in the next few weeks in another giveaway!

Thanks again everyone! :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Book Giveaway!

If you love free books, I've got one to give away! I'm giving away one (1) free paperback copy of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. This is my first giveaway and I'm excited to be able to do it!

I received this book for free and I'd like to pass it along for someone else to enjoy for free. I will pay for the shipping to anywhere in the United States or Canada.

All you have to do is be a follower of my blog (if you're not, please join! I'd love to have you and welcome!) and leave a comment letting me know you'd like to be entered in a random choosing (using to win Lisa See's Shanghai Girls.

Leave your comment no later than 11:59pm Central Standard Time on March 23rd, 2010. Entries after this time are not eligible. And please, only one comment per person.

Good luck to all! Happy reading!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley~★★★

Author: Alan Bradley
Title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Release Date: April 28th, 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950---and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia's family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. 'I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn't. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.'
An enthralling mystery, a piercing depiction of class and society, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a masterfully told tale of deceptions---and a rich literary delight."

Taryn's Review: This was book I was really looking forward to reading due to so many great reviews people had given me. Unfortunately, the book didn't grab me the way it had others, which was a big disappointment; I really wanted to be captivated by the book, but something just wasn't there for me.

Flavia de Luce was a brilliant, witty girl. She loved chemistry and apparently had been studying it since birth. Flavia was something of a prodigy when it came to everything else as well. She also loved to sass and torture her two older sisters. While I enjoyed Flavia's retorts and knowledge, at times I felt Bradley took her a touch too far, especially since she was only supposed to be 11 years old. Many times I couldn't be convinced of Flavia as a real character; she was still a child, but in the book, she perfectly solved a complex murder and not once did she do anything, well, childish.

I'd say I didn't really become interested in the book until around page 140 maybe? I encourage myself to keep pushing through, hoping it would get better. The beginning didn't make we want to continue at all.

I'm glad I finished the book, but I most likely will not be picking up Bradley's second book, which I believe just came out. Bradley is a strong writer and used a beautiful array of words in his story. While Flavia de Luce was certainly interesting, I would love to have seen elements of a child in her rather than a little chemist/genius who seems too big for her britches.A few more flaws would have made her much more human.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde~★★★★

Author: Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Release Date:
Originally released as a novel in 1891; this edition, June 2003
Original publisher Ward, Lock, and Company; this edition, Barnes and Nobles Classics
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, his dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged---petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral---while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying, enchanting, obsessing, even corrupting readers for more than a hundred years.
Taking the reader in and out of London drawing rooms, to the heights of aestheticism, and to the depths of decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray is not only a melodrama about moral corruption. Laced with bon mots and vivid depictions of upper-class refinement, it is also a fascinating look at the milieu of Wilde's fin-de-siecle, world, and a manifesto of the creed, 'Art for Art's Sake.'
The ever-quotable Wilde, who once delighted London with his scintillating plays, scandalized readers with this, his only novel. Upon publication, Dorian was condemned as dangerous, poisonous, stupid, vulgar, and immoral, and Wilde as a "driveling pedant." The novel, in fact, was used against Wilde at his much-publicized trials for 'gross indecency,' which led to his imprisonment and exile from the European continent. Even so, The Picture of Dorian Gray firmly established Wilde as one of the great voices of the Aesthetic movement, and endures as a classic that is as timeless as its hero.
Taryn's Review: I can remember while back in high school having to read some the most dreadful works of literature. Well,dreadful to a teenager! Many times, I wasn't educated enough to have an understanding of what the book was talking about. That ignorance left me feeling stupid and that feeling scarred me when it came to reading classics. Now that I'm older and realized I'm not stupid, I wanted to jump back into the "classics" and see what it is about these books that made them so famous.

The Picture of Dorian Gray
was a great choice and one that I was initially afraid of. Although it is a wordy book, it's perfectly readable. The edition I read was really helpful because it marked certain archaic words or phrases and then explained them in footnotes at the bottom of the page. Endnotes were also added to elaborate on some scenes, events, people, or objects, which again, was really insightful and made the book more enjoyable for me.

The story itself was interesting. Dorian stayed youthful after trading his soul for eternal youth, yet a portrait of him showed the aging and decay of what his face would look like if his actions were reflected on his beauty. Dorian began the book as a very innocent and sweet man, but after speaking with the pompous Lord Henry Wotton, he began to immerse himself in the pleasures and vices of life.

Lord Henry was wordy. Sometimes he would say something really insightful. Other times, it was utter crap. But his influence over Dorian was undeniable, despite the pleas from the painter of the portrait, Basil Hallsworth, to Lord Henry to leave Dorian alone.

I think after reading this book, a 21st century spin would be to compare society's fascination and moderate acceptance of plastic surgery to Dorian's request for eternal youth. Many people in the book made assumptions about Dorian based on his innocent, beautiful face. His peers often said no one evil could look like Dorian, because a rough life showed wear-and-tear on an evil face. Here in 2010, we can erase the wear-and-tear with injections, creams, and surgeries; what do our faces show? Just food for thought.

I would definitely recommend this book. It's not one of those books, at least for me, that you will be wrapped up in and finish in an afternoon. But taking time to read the book really helped me think about the chapters and scenes. The vocabulary was difficult, but worth it. There was a big section where Wilde went off on a tangent about jewels and other items Dorian enjoyed. That information wasn't really necessary in my opinion. I skimmed it and still got so much out of the book. Pick it's not nearly as scary as some other classics you've been forced to read in the past!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See~★★★1/2

Author: Lisa See
Shanghai Girls
Release Date:
February 2nd, 2010
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "In 1937, Shanghai---the Paris of Asia---twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree---until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that to repay his debts, he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, from the Chinese countryside to the shores of America. Though inseparable best friends, the sisters also harbor jealousies and rivalries. Along the way they make terrible sacrifices, face impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are---Shanghai girls."

Taryn's Review: This book found its way to me. A while back I had signed up through a link from a friend to receive a free book periodically from Random House. They even sent a bag of white chocolate with the book, which made me very happy for the rest of the day! Books and chocolate: perfection!

I really, really enjoyed this book...until the end. I hate when that happens in books and I was shocked by the direction the author chose to take at the end of the novel. Through sections 1 and 2 the book was written very well and I was captivated by the story. Pearl was a great viewpoint tell the story from, but there were times I would have loved to see things from May's point of view, as her and Pearl were such opposites in how they viewed life.

However, the big "secret" the cover eluded to is so, so, so obvious that I was became frustrated when the character Pearl didn't realize the truth of the secret. How could she not? Honestly, it wasn't a secret at all. It was more about Pearl ignoring the facts in front of her. The end was very cluttered with many things happening within a few pages of one another; part of the clutter most likely stemmed from the fact that See has plans to write a sequel to this book. If See doesn't write a sequel, the end of this book is a massive disappointment.

Overall, the book held my attention very well and was a very good story, but the end was filled with too many things happening at once. The book moved at a well-timed pace for the most part, but in the end time sped up. The commotion at the end kept the book at 3 1/2 stars for me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick ~★★★

Author: Robert Goolrick
A Reliable Wife
Release Date:
March 31st, 2009
Algonquin Books

Book Jacket: "Abandoning her worldly life, traveling to a remote Wisconsin town in the dead of winter, trusting her future to a man she had never met---such was Catherine Land's new beginning. But there was an ending in sight as well, an ending that would redeem the treachery ahead, justify the sacrifice, and allow her to start over yet again. That was her plan.
For Ralph Truitt, the wealthy businessman who had advertised for "a reliable wife," this was also to be a new beginning. Years of solitude, denial, and remorse would be erased, and Catherine Land, whoever she might be, would be the vessel of his desires, the keeper of his secrets, the means to recover what was lost. That was his plan.
Set just after the turn of the twentieth century, A Reliable Wife is the story of these two people, each plagued by a heart filled with anger and guilt, each with a destiny in mind. But neither of anticipates what develops between them---the pent up longings that Catherine discovers in this enigmatic man and the depth of her own emotional response; the joy Ralph experiences in giving Catherine the luxuries she has never known, his growing need for her, and a desire that he thought was long buried.
Seductively suspenseful, filled with unexpected twists and turns, A Reliable Wife is a debut reminiscent of the classic novels of the Brontes and du Maurier. Unfolding in a frozen Wisconsin landscape, it's a haunting story of love and madness, passion and murder."

Taryn's Review: This book was a mixed bag for me. Sometimes I really got into what was happening and felt like I understood the characters. Other times, I was disconnected from them all, especially when I felt like the flow of the book was off.

Catherine Land was presented mysteriously, but to be honest, I would have loved to know her story before I learned of Ralph Truitt's. To me, Ralph should have been the mystery. Who puts an ad in the paper for a wife, especially an insanely wealthy man who most likely had many options in his daily life? It wasn't odd that many women would reply, nor was  it odd that many would lie, like Catherine did, to try and become the wife of a very wealthy man.

Also, Catherine and Ralph apparently both have the same desire to right wrongs from the past. Ralph's wrongs were introduced quickly, while Catherine's wrongs suddenly appeared in the middle of the book with no foreshadowing of it. I really think Catherine's guilt should have been highlighted much, much sooner to make it more believable.

The book claimed to be a story of despair and it is at times. I don't know how much I believed in the patience of Ralph Truitt in the book, but I could believe in the change in Catherine. Overall, I'm not sure it's a book I'd recommend to many people, but it does a have a quality about it that makes you keep reading. It's not an amazing debut novel, but certainly not a bad one. The flow of the story was a bit off for me, especially when Catherine encountered Antonio on her own, yet, something kept me interested. I think Goolrick has a definite talent, I'm just not sure this book fully expanded on it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Little Bee by Chris Cleave~★★★★

Author: Chris Cleave
Little Bee
Release Date:
February 10th, 2009
Simon and Schuster

Book Jacket: "We don't want to tell you what happens in this book. It is truly a special story and we don't want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again---the story starts there...
Once you have read it, you'll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds."

Taryn's Review: Even though I found the introductory blurb rather annoying, this story was good. I always enjoy a book that isn't typical: the kind of book where you don't know what's unfolding before your eyes.

Little Bee's voice was the best writing in the book. The young woman had witnessed so much in her short sixteen years and she had suffered in so many ways. I really enjoyed the chapters written by her (Cleave did such a good job developing Little Bee) and loved when I started a new chapter to see it was told by Little Bee.

I wasn't nearly as impressed with Sarah or her story. It just didn't grab me in a way that made me want to know more. Perhaps it was the mere fact that after reading Little Bee's story, Sarah's was so...created. Little Bee had no choice in what was happening to her. She escaped one horror, only to be cast into another horror against her will. Sarah made most of the choices that she felt made her sad. She ignored many of choices, like her husband, Andrew. And she distracted herself with Lawrence and, ugh, don't get me started on Lawrence. How could Sarah see anything in him?

I wasn't crazy about the end, but overall, the story of Little Bee was fantastic. It's gritty and hard to read because of the horror that had occurred, but worth it. Sarah, Charlie, Andrew, and Lawrence are merely background noise to me in this read, and the real joy was Little Bee.