Friday, January 29, 2010

Shanghai Girls Giveaway Winners

And now, the moment my fellow Lisa See fans have all been waiting for! The two winners of the book Shanghai Girls are:

Congratulations! Trade paperback versions of this book, due out on February 2, will be sent to both of you soon, compliments of Random House. If you didn't win this time, don't despair! I have other book giveaways posted on the right side of my blog, and I'll post about a new giveaway by February 8. It's really not that difficult to win books. Within the past few months I've won many books online!

  1. The Blue Starby Tony Earley was my first win, from Laura's Reviews.
  2. I won an autographed copy of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler on Naida's blog, the bookworm. (Here's my review.)
  3. I also won The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff on Diane's blog, Bibliophile By the Sea.
  4. On Veens' blog, giving. . . reading - a chance!!!, I won The Heretic Queen, also autographed by the author, Michelle Moran.
  5. On Kate's Book Blog, I won Heaven to Betsy AND Betsy in Spite of Herself, by Maud Hart Lovelace.
  6. I won Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks by Warren Baldwin on one of his blogs, Family Fountain. (Here's my review.)
  7. Last but not least, I won an advance copy of The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma's Match by Carrie Bebris on Stephanie's Written Word.
Little did I know that blogging about books would lead to winning so many tempting titles!

Congratulations again to the winners, and good luck to everyone in future book giveaways.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Motley Wednesday

1. motley: having elements of great variety or incongruity; heterogeneous; a veritable smorgasbord

This post is a real motley; it includes Wondrous Words Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog, a new reading challenge, and some awards I'd like to give out.

Although I wasn't planning on joining any more reading challenges, I'm signing up for The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, because it's my kind of challenge. There are no deadlines, and you don't have to read a certain number of books. This is a great challenge for slackers like me. It seems easy-going and "reader friendly". Hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog and Julie from Booking Mama, The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge is a perpetual challenge. Even if you don’t have a blog, you can still participate. Simply email your review to the hosts and they'll post it for you.

And here is my second word for Wondrous Words Wednesday. I needed a bit of clarification for this word which I've encountered lately in relation to the publishing industry.

2. imprint: trade name or brand name under which a work is published; a single publishing company may have multiple imprints

Reagan Arthur Books is an imprint with a simple, single focus: great writing in the service of great stories.”

Since the imprint will be continually releasing books, there are no deadlines involved. It may take me a while to post my first review for this challenge, though, because right now there are only three books released, although at least sixteen more will be released in the near future. The books sound intriguing, and I like the fact that this brand-new imprint from Little, Brown & Company is run by women.

Current releases of this imprint are:

Upcoming titles include:

Kathy and Julie are commencing this challenge with a giveaway for a Reagan Arthur Books bundle--sign up by February 28, 2010. Here are the important links to visit: The Reagan Arthur challenge blog, The Reagan Arthur list of titles, and The Reagan Arthur sign-up page.

Lastly, I'd like to thank Renee from Black n' Gold Girl's Book Spot for the Prolific Blogger Award. I don't know what got into me this month, but I've been posting a lot more than usual. And although I'm quite sure you all know the meaning of this word, here's my third wondrous word.

3. prolific: fruitful, productive; "a prolific writer"

A prolific blogger is intellectually productive and keeps up an active blog filled with enjoyable content. I don't often post about awards, but I felt compelled to this time because I frequent so many outstanding, prolific blogs. I'd like to pass this award on to these prolific book bloggers, whose motto could be "a post a day keeps the doctor away".

Amanda from The Zen Leaf (Amanda already received this award but boy, is she prolific!)

Anna from Diary of an Eccentric

Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea

Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog

Kim from Writing Space

Laura from Laura's Reviews

Mark David from Absorbed in Words (Mark doesn't post as much as others, but is quite thoughtful.)

Mee from Bookie Mee

Mel from The Reading Life (Mel also deserves an award for highest participation in reading challenges!)

Michelle from su(shu) a girl finds comfort in her books

Naida from the bookworm

Veens from giving. . . reading a- chance

Vivienne from Serendipity

Zibilee from Raging Bibliomania

Here are the official award rules--do what you will with them (follow them to the letter, modify them, ignore them completely).

1. Pass this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers.

2. Link to the blog from which you received the award.

3. Link back to this Prolific Blogger post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Add your name to the Mr. Linky. (Will there ever be a "Ms. Linky"?!)

Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcomed as always.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Should I get a Snuggie (and another important question)?

My daughter bought herself a Snuggie recently, and ever since then I've been thinking about getting one. I picture myself wrapped in my Snuggie, reading on the couch and sipping hot tea. Even though I live in Southern CA, it can be quite chilly here in the winter, especially in the mornings and evenings. It's not as cold as other parts of the U.S., but it's cool enough to make you crave extra warmth. Do any of you have a Snuggie? If so, do you actually use it, or was it tossed aside once the novelty wore off? The main reason I want one is because I think it will entice me to read more this winter. My reading lately has been pitiful, limited to a few lines before bed or while I'm waiting for an appointment of some sort.

I have another question for my readers: does my blog load slowly? Does it seem to take forever to appear? I ask this because I have a lot of images on my blog, and for this reason it could take a longer time to load. I know how I am--if a site takes too long to load I lose my patience and move on. My blog loads quickly for me, and I'm hoping that my blog appears quickly for others, too, of course--but I want to know the truth.

Your feedback is much appreciated!

Congratulations to . . .

She has won an autographed copy of Melinda and the Wild West, the first book in this series of historical fiction by Linda Weaver Clarke! Jennifer is a fan of Western fiction romance books.

If you didn't win this time, don't despair! Other book giveaways are posted on the right side of my blog.

I had fun designing the graphics in this post on the site Cool Text, a free and easy-to-use graphics generator for web pages.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I May be Old, but at Least I'm Ultra Chic

101 Glam Girl Ways to an Ultra Chic Lifestyle: A Cheeky Book with Tidbits of Advice for a Glamorous Lifestyle, published in 2009, is a guidebook by fashion stylist Dawn Del Russo, owner of the Bella Dawn boutique. Dawn writes for online fashion magazines as well as her own blog, My Intimate Affair with Fashion.

A cute picture book with with just over 100 pages, Dawn's book is fun to read. The illustrations, by Barbara Ann Scarrillo, are charming and pleasant to look at, rendered in soft colors and tones.

I must confess that it took me a while to realize that this book is meant for girls--meaning young women, who are just beginning to develop a sense of style--not for "girls" my age (which won't be revealed in this post). In other words, I'm too old! According to this book, though, at least I 'm already "ultra chic". I wear diamond stud earrings in my second piercings. I apply sunscreen daily. I use a whitening toothpaste. I exfoliate and moisturize. In fact, I employ most of the ideas in the book. When you get to be my age, you know all the tricks!

Feeling old but chic, and realizing that I needed a younger perspective about this book, I shared it with my 12-year-old daughter. She really seemed to like it, although I think this book is best for young women in their twenties (because of references to red wine and sexy lingerie).

Special thanks to Dawn Del Russo and Bostick Publications for sending me this book.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks: The Power of Words

Although I've reviewed some Christian fiction by author Linda Weaver Clarke on this blog, and would like to read and review The Shack, I don't review many religious books here. However, I decided to review Warren Baldwin's book, published in 2009, Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks, and Other Gems from Proverbs, because it highlights the great importance of the power of words. As a writer, I am acutely aware of the power of words--to influence, to inspire, to guide, to clarify, to cause emotion, to persuade, to heal, to create--and more. Biblical proverbs are concise and meaningful, so each and every word is especially important. Additionally, in Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks, there are several biblical proverbs presented which specifically address the power of words:

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
~Proverbs 12:25

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

~Proverbs 15:1

The tongue of the wise brings healing.

~Proverbs 12:18

and, quite boldly:

The tongue has the power of life and death.

~Proverbs 18:21

For more than two thousand years, The Book of Proverbs, which is part of the Hebrew Bible, has provided guidance for people. Warren Baldwin, who is a minister, brings the wisdom and meaning of the proverbs into the present day and discusses marriage, sexual temptation, parenting, work, money, friendship, anger, jealousy, the power of words, and much more in his book. Each chapter presents a proverb followed by a short essay in which the author uses examples from his own observations and life to illustrate the significance of the proverb. In a style that's not "too preachy" (pardon the pun) but is down-to-earth, friendly, and easy to comprehend, the author provides entertaining anecdotes, and practical teachings--like that in The Book of Proverbs itself. I'm sure I will refer to Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks often, because it's brimming with valuable advice and timeless wisdom.

This book got me thinking about several things. Mostly, I wanted a bit of background about The Book of Proverbs, quickly obtained from a Google search. Who wrote The Proverbs, anyway? The authorship of The Proverbs has long been a matter of dispute, but this collection of pithy, wise sayings is generally credited to Israel's King Solomon (his name appears in Proverbs 1:1), though many biblical scholars believe several authors contributed to this collection. The Book of Proverbs is classified as wisdom literature, a genre which includes Job and Ecclesiastes, other wisdom books. I also discovered something else quite interesting during my online search: in Proverbs, the word "wisdom" is pictured as a woman, who was with God at the time of creation (8:22-31), and who invites us to "live according to good sense and sound judgment" (8:1-9:6). Amen to that!

Special thanks to Warren Baldwin for sending me an autographed copy of his book, which I won on Family Fountain, one of his blogs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday

I could resist no longer. Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog. Every Wednesday for the past few months, I've been visiting this exemplary book blog and adding Kathy's new words to my own growing vocabulary list. This week, though, I decided to try the meme myself, using some of the foreign words I've encountered during my recent reading. I hope it doesn't seem tacky or odd to use foreign words in English sentences. I wanted to do something a bit different with this meme, and these words caught my attention.

1. abbondanza: Italian word meaning abundance, plenty, copiousness (a cornucopia is a corno dell'abbondanza)

The abbondanza of Rome's outdoor markets sounds incredible.

2. ponentino: Italian word for the little west wind that blows at the end of the day; a romantic breeze

As the tired couple walked by the lake, the ponentino freshened their outlooks.

I love the beauty of these two Italian words, in sound and meaning, which I discovered in Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy, written by Paula Butturini. Because I have an uncorrected proof for limited distribution, rather than the final, quotable edition, I've written my own sentences to help convey the meaning of these words.

3. hsiao ch'ih: Chinese word meaning little eats

"Some days Betsy takes me out for American coffee, toast, and butter; sometimes I take Betsy into alleys for hsiao ch'ih--little eats, dumplings of glutinous rice wrapped in reed leaves or cakes made from cassia petals and sugar."

This is from Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.

What new words have you discovered during recent reading?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mailbox Monday (or Thrift Shop Saturday)

Maybe I should call this post Thrift Shop Saturday, because I found these books at a new thrift store that my daughters and I walked to on Saturday afternoon. While I often receive books in the mail, this is only my third official Mailbox Monday, which is hosted by Marcia from The Printed Page. I've decided to catch up on my reading a bit before I receive more books in the mail, or find them elsewhere, although obviously this is by no means a hard and fast rule. And who can resist browsing through books at a thrift shop, and making discoveries?

Here's what I brought home:

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff--and it's all small stuff, by Richard Carlson, first edition, published in 1997, which I got because we all sweat the small stuff, too much of the time. I've been enjoying these short essays; the very act of reading them makes me feel calmer, instantly.

Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, published in 1999, was my second find. How could I ignore a book that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and The New Yorker Debut of the Year? The New York Times Book Review said that Lahiri "breathes unpredictable life into the page", and as a fan of short fiction, I'm quite excited about reading these stories.

What books arrived in your home recently, by mail or from elsewhere?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Body Scoop for Girls

Like many young women, I wondered if I was normal during my adolescence, I worried about many things, and I had countless questions about my body and the changes that were occurring. Instead of asking my mother all sorts of embarrassing questions, I learned a lot about myself by reading Our Bodies, Ourselves. Now I have two daughters, and while I try to be open and honest with them, it's difficult to discuss certain things with them. I felt relieved to find a new book which could help in this arena. Published in 2009, The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You is a new book by Dr. Jennifer Ashton, M.D. with Christine Larson. Dr. Ashton is a board-certified ob-gyn who specializes in adolescent gynecology and is also a news medical correspondent with CBS. Friendly yet informative, The Body Scoop for Girls is a comprehensive reference book written for young adults, geared toward the special health concerns of young women, with answers to questions girls may ask and information about periods, breasts, hormones, moods, sex, and other health issues. I like that this book provides young women with the facts they need to make educated, informed decisions which will impact their future health. I think girls and their mothers will feel comfortable reading this book, together or separately, and will learn a great deal from it. The Body Scoop for Girls is easy to read and divided into three sections, What to Expect When You're Adolescent, Straight Talk on Sex, and Your Body's Lifetime Warranty: Staying Healthy for Life. After reading this book, I shared it with my daughters and asked them what they thought of it.

Angela (age 12): This book has some really great information in it. Some of it is a little old for me, but still, it's a good book to have. It's also great to look something up in it instead of asking someone or asking the internet. This author really tells you a lot about herself, and makes you feel like she is your own personal doctor. She makes you feel very comfortable! :)

Jasmine (age 17): The Body Scoop for Girls contains a lot of good information on basically everything and anything any girl could have while growing up (as well as valuable information for anyone who is curious). The book itself is written in a very casual, straightforward way which makes it more accessible, less embarrassing, and easy to understand for the target age group (14-18?). From information on STDs to mood disorders and everything in between, I found this to be an interesting and impactful read. It is an excellent source of solid, medical information regarding the "forbidden" topics that most teens dread and avoid asking adults about.

Thank you, Angela and Jasmine, for sharing your opinions. I think this book is suitable for girls 13 years and older. Although I'm always available to answer any questions, I hope my daughters will also use this book as a resource whenever they have questions or concerns.

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for including me on this tour, and to the Penguin Group for sending me the book. For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on The Body Scoop for Girls book tour.

The Body Scoop for Girls counts toward the Women Unbound Reading Challenge, because it empowers women with the knowledge and information which lead to better health.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Girl Who Hated Books

Based on the book by Manjusha Pawagi, The Girl Who Hated Books is an animated short (about 7 minutes) by Jo Meuris that I first watched on Kate's Book Blog. Kate discovered it on Kerry's blog, Pickle Me This. I've reposted it here, because it deserves to be shared with as many book lovers as possible. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

David and the Bear Lake Monster: Review and Giveaway

To be honest, I am not much of a fan of Western movies. John Wayne was a great actor, and there are some classic Western films, but I was never terribly interested in watching cowboys and bank robbers riding around on dusty old plains. That being said, though, I couldn't wait to continue my adventures in the "wild West" and read the fourth book in the historical fiction series by Linda Weaver Clarke, David and the Bear Lake Monster: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho, published in 2009. These books are so enjoyable to read! The characters come to life and keep me engaged and entertained. Once again, I ventured back in time, to the 1920's, when the land was vast and untamed, and life seemed full of promise and possibility. It was also the time of the Indian legend of the Bear Lake Monster.

"When the settlers arrived here in 1863, the Indians told them all about the Bear Lake Monster. It had captured and carried off two braves who were swimming. The monster was described as a serpent-like creature with legs about 18-inches long, and could crawl out of water, scurrying along on land. The Natives warned the pioneers to not go near the lake to swim. This legend still lives on today."
~David and the Bear Lake Monster, Linda Weaver Clarke

To David, the central character in this book, the monster sounds like a joke, but many people in town believe otherwise. As readers, we're not sure if the monster is fact or fiction. David's feelings for his deceased mother, however, are real and clear. He's upset and wishes he'd spent more time with her before she died, and regrets putting his freight business before his relationship with his mother. He comes back to visit the Roberts family in Paris, Idaho, to sort things out. While visiting, he becomes fascinated by a dainty and graceful dance teacher he meets at the town social, Sarah, and defends her honor a few times. Respect for women was very high in the West, and any man who hurt a woman could expect to be hunted down by other men. (Perhaps it's time to give Western movies another try!) But David holds back his true feelings for Sarah. The story also features other romance. While the marriage between Melinda and Gilbert Roberts is not perfect, their children are thriving and the couple's love endures.

Like the other books in this series, this novel is a lot of fun to read. But these books also have a serious side, and would help middle school and high school students learn about the history of the West, and the issues of the day, such as women's rights. These were the true pioneer days for women, when American women were slowly obtaining the right to vote, to attend college, and to become professionals. In David and the Bear Lake Monster, there's even a hint about the next book in the series, as Melinda wishes she could see a woman doctor. Please stay tuned for my review of the fifth and final book in this series, Elena, Woman of Courage, which features a woman doctor in the wild West.

Linda Weaver Clarke is once again generously offering an autographed copy of the first book in the series, Melinda and the Wild West, as a giveaway (US/Canada). To find out more about this book, here's my review.

-To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
-For an extra chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
-For yet another chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PST on Sunday, January 24. The winner will be selected randomly, and announced on Monday, January 25. Good luck!

Special thanks to Linda Weaver Clarke for sending me this book.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Shanghai Girls: Review and Giveaway

When was the last time a book made you cry? I mean really cry, so much that you worried about your tears wetting and ruining the pages? Shanghai Girls, a well-researched historical novel by bestselling author Lisa See, did that to me. There is one chapter fairly early in the book that's so heartwrenching I cried and gasped and felt sickened. I thought about this chapter for days. While I won't reveal what happens in that chapter, I will say that it has to do with life during wartime, which is brutal and atrocious and shocking, but also, I imagine, very true to life, because war is more awful than anything imaginable. But I don't want to discourage others from reading this book (although I think it's for mature readers only), because it's a brilliant novel. Just be prepared to experience some heavy emotion.

Published in 2009, Shanghai Girls takes place between 1937 and 1957. The book begins in Shanghai, and is the story of the Chin sisters, May, age 18, the little sister or moy moy, and Pearl, age 21, the elder sister or jie jie. They are "beautiful girls", which means they are models.
"We are young, we are beautiful, and we live in the Paris of Asia."
~Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
They pose for an artist, Z.G. Li, who paints them on omnipresent calendars, posters, and advertisements. (They also adorn the stunning cover of this book.) May is considered the more beautiful of the two because of her porcelain complexion, at least by her father, Baba, whereas Pearl, the more educated of the two, blushes easily and has "cheeks which capture the sun".
"Am I jealous of my sister? How can I be jealous even when I adore her? We share Long--Dragon--as our generational name. I am Pearl Dragon and May is Beautiful Dragon. She's taken the Western spelling of her name, but in Mandarin mei is one of the words for beautiful, and she is that."
~Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
Privileged in many ways, the Chin sisters earn money to spend on themselves, and live a life of relative luxury. Their father owns a rickshaw business, and the family is prosperous enough to employ seven servants. Beautiful, young, and idealistic, Pearl and May live in the present, and think things will always remain the same. Thoroughly modern girls who've escaped many of the old traditions, such as foot-binding, which has crippled their mother, they expect to marry for love. But their circumstances change suddenly and drastically, and with the onset of World War II, they must become survivors--rather than beautiful girls. In the book, which is told in the present tense by Pearl, the girls undergo many hardships, including a loss of financial status, the threat of arranged marriages, the Japanese occupation of China, and the need to leave their beloved Shanghai. Although their natures may be "set" by the Chinese zodiac--Pearl is a Dragon, strong and stubborn, while May is a Sheep, peaceful and adorable--throughout the book the sisters change and develop and mature. While May's great beauty continues to open doors, she also shows that she has intelligence and ambition, while Pearl displays her ability to adapt, and her softer side emerges. What doesn't change, though, is their love and support for each other, although there are the rivalries which may always exist between sisters.

Shanghai Girls
has an intimate feel to it which drew me in from the very first page of the book (to determine if you'd also be drawn in, you can read an excerpt). I felt as if I were reading Pearl's diary. Lisa See's exquisite attention to detail cast me back in time to the exotic, international city of Shanghai (and later to other locales). I imagined myself pulled in a rickshaw, tasting savory dishes of shrimp with water chestnuts and dumplings or chia-tzu. In this novel, I learned about World War II from a Chinese perspective, and also about China's civil war, and deepened my appreciation for historical fiction. I discovered many things about Chinese culture and thought, such as that the Cantonese word for wife is fu yen, which means woman and broom--which should scare off even the most marriage-minded Chinese girl! There are a few surprises sprinkled throughout the novel, which made for an even more compelling read. Thankfully, there will be a sequel, because I'm quite eager to know what happens next.

Exciting news! The publisher is generously offering two copies of Shanghai Girls (the trade paperback version) as giveaways (US/Canada only).
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For another additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
Enter by 5 PM PST on Thursday, January 28. Two lucky winners will be selected randomly, and announced on Friday, January 29. Good luck!

Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for including me on this book tour, and to Kathleen from Random House for sending me the book. Having read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which I adored and shared with my daughter, Jasmine, I was determined to read another Chinese-themed novel by Lisa See. For more reviews and other giveaways of this novel, please visit the other stops on the Shanghai Girls book tour.

Shanghai Girls counts toward Jennie's China Challenge, and the Women Unbound Reading Challenge, hosted by Aarti, Care, and Eva.

Some of the books featured here were given to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


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