Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Must Be The Place by Kate Racculia

This Must Be the Place: A NovelI know that it’s already half way into 2010 but I’m only now beginning to see that this year will turn out to be the year of great contemporary American debut authors. I think this is one genre, or niche if you will, that’s not easy to warm up to and normally the stories somehow get lost in the flood of paranormal, romance and YA fiction. That’s why it’s all the more important to spotlight any such book that hits the market and is a true gem, just like This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia.

Racculia’s wonderful novel centers on Amy, who is dead in reality but seems to be very much alive in the minds of people whose lives she entered and affected irrevocably. Mona (short for Desdemona, I love this name) Jones and her daughter, Oneida are two of the mentioned people. They own the Derby-Jones boardinghouse in New York and make it a home to a few renters. Life couldn’t be more peaceful, bordering on boring even. Oneida is a nerdy teenager with no real friends, Mona runs the house and her wedding cake business and everything seems to be as it should. Until one day, a new renter arrives. It happens to be Andy Rook, a devastated and a slightly deranged husband of a newly deceased Amy. In his denial that his wife is truly dead, he decided to open a mysterious pink box that belonged to Amy hoping to find something that could keep her alive for him. What he finds brings him to Ruby Falls, New York and Mona Jones, and Oneida, and a lot more secrets than he bargained for. The pink box and its contents hold a story of Mona’s and Amy’s friendship, of their lives and ultimately tell the truth that Andy might not be prepared to hear. But you, my dear reader, better be prepared for one hell of a story within the pages of This Must Be the Place.

To describe this book in only a few words really is nearly impossible but were I to make an attempt, I would call it rich and succulent. That was my first impression when I finished it. I loved the characters, all of them brought something to the table that wasn’t there before. Kate just did a wonderful job by making them all so different and yet fit so well into one big picture. There is Oneida, the nerdy teenager and Eugene “Wendy” Wendell, the feared boy who falls for Oneida’s strangeness. Their budding relationship, the newness and sometimes even hilarity of sexual intimacy was exactly the way I imagine teenage relationships go nowadays. Both of them were really endearing. And then there is Mona with her secrets and beauty she is completely unaware of, poor Andy, whose perfect picture of his wife is being shattered into pieces right in front of his eyes, and finally dead Amy, who seems to be quite alive in the lives of people she affected in one way or another. Truly, a beautiful cornucopia of characters. All I needed to do is just relax and enjoy. I honestly fell in love with each and every one of the people. I laughed when reading about their antics, I cried at the depth of love and friendship, and I pondered on what really makes a family.

I know I will be coming back to visit Ruby Falls more than once. This Must Be The Place is a keeper, take my word for it. It's a perfect summer read, a perfect winter read, a perfect any time of the year read. It's light but asks important questions, it's a coming-of-age story in more ways than you'd expect and once finished, it leaves you wanting to go back to the first page and start over again. Kate Racculia's book is exactly all I love about contemporary American fiction and I hope that tons of people will get to love it too.


I received this novel from Henry Holt & Co for a review.

Make sure you visit Kate's awesome website.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Tommy Tippee Explora Sippy Cup

I fully realize that this blog of mine is mainly about books and reading. But, as some of you may be aware, besides my 11-year-old daughter, I also am a mom to an infant boy. This naturally makes me interested in the best products out there for him and the choice is not easy since the market is overflowing with stuff for babies. And not only am I a mom to an infant, I know of at least 5 of you dear bloggers who are either parents to little babies or will be ones in the very near future.

All of the facts above convinced me to try out and review one of the products from Tommy Tippee, a new line of products for babies and toddlers. Well, it's new here in America, but in Great Britain it's been a bestseller for a long time now.

Since I've been breastfeeding my son, Aleksander, he does not drink from a bottle. Therefore, I needed to train him to use sippy cups as soon as he could start drinking juice and water. That's why I wanted to try Tommy Tippee's line, Explora, to see for myself how good they really are.

And honestly, the cups really are great! All the facts about them are true:

  • they are spill-proof
  • they do have a soft-flex spout, which means I don't have to worry about Aleksander hurting his gums
  • the flow is really easy (no sucking the cup until your baby's eyeballs pop out)  

I am sold on Tommy Tippee's products. They are not all that expensive either, so try them out and see for yourself, or rather, let your babies try for themselves.

Special Thanks to Christina S. from Tommy Tippee for sending me the cups for review.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Get Positively Beautiful Giveaway!

There was a time, not that long ago, when I was watching What Not To Wear obsessively. First it was just me and then I invited my daughter to watch it with me (she would also not want to miss an episode). In the end I think I overdosed on the show, but I still remember the beautiful Carmindy and her awesome tips on how to look your best.

That's why I am very excited to offer you a chance to win a copy of Carmindy's book, Get Positively Beautiful, courtesy of Anna from Hachette Book Group.

Get Positively Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Looking and Feeling GorgeousGet Positively Beautiful by Carmindy

According to a recent study, only 2% of women describe themselves as 'beautiful.' (Dove Global Study 'The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report', 2004) The media instructs women how to 'look ten years younger,' 'cover up wrinkles,' or 'get fuller, plumper lips.' And even makeup products play off women's insecurities, promising to conceal perceived flaws, define cheekbones, or make eyelashes fuller and longer. The underlying message? That there's something inherently wrong with the way women look and that they have to spend time, money, and energy keeping up with all the ways they should 'fix' themselves.

In GET POSITIVELY BEAUTIFUL, makeup artist Carmindy from TLC's hit program What Not to Wear shows you how to change your mindset from negative fault-finding to a positive beauty philosophy. You learn how to find and focus on your best features and how to combat negative thoughts about your appearance. Carmindy demonstrates easy makeup techniques for eyes, brows, lashes, lips, cheeks, and skin, and how to adapt looks to different weather conditions and 'beauty moods.'

Giveaway 411:

1. All you have to do is leave me a comment that you want to be entered along with your email ( if your email is linked to your profile, you don't need to leave me one).

2. It is open to US and Canada. No P.O. Boxes please.

3. It's open until August 17, 2010.

Good luck and thank you all for visiting my blog!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fit for Life Giveaway!

Boy, do I ever want to be fit! And fit for life is even better. But, something tells me that's not going to be easy in my case. You, my dear reader, have however a chance at becoming and staying fit. All you have to do is enter this giveaway and keep your fingers crossed that you'll win.

Here's what's up for grabs, courtesy of Anna from Hachette Book Group:

Fit for LifeFit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond

It's the program that shatters all the myths: FIT FOR LIFE the international bestseller that explains how to change both your figure and your life. Nutritional specialist Harvey and Marilyn Diamond explain how you can eat more kinds of food than you ever ate before without counting calories...and still lose weight! The natural body cycles, permanent weight-loss plan that proves it's not only what you eat, but also when and how, FIT FOR LIFE is the perfect solution for those who want to look and feel their best. Join the millions of Americans who are FIT FOR LIFE and begin your transformation with:
* The vital principles that bring you permanent weight loss and high energy
* The FIT FOR LIFE secrets of timing and food combining that work with your natural body cycles
* A 4-week meal plan, menus, shopping tips, and exercise
* Delicious recipes and more.

Giveaway 411:

1. All you have to do is leave me a comment that you want to be entered along with your email ( if your email is linked to your profile, you don't need to leave me one).

2. It is open to US and Canada. No P.O. Boxes please.

3. It's open until August 16, 2010 which is also a release date for Fit For Life.

Good luck and thank you all for visiting my blog! 

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. It is hosted by Sheila from One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

I haven't posted it last week so I have a little more to talk about today. I managed to read three very different but very good books. I have to say that quality- and entertainment-wise, my past two weeks were great,

if they made PhD online programs as entertaining as what I have been reading, sign me right up! Although I know the texts in those courses are pretty dry, I know they could benefit from these books below.

I read:

This Must Be the Place: A NovelThis Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia - a debut novel which I would classify as contemporary American. An awesome book, with a lot of wonderful characters. I'm very excited to write a review about it which will be coming soon.

Heart of Lies: A NovelHeart of Lies by M.L. Malcolm - a historical fiction, bridging the two World Wars, taking place in Shanghai mostly. A wonderful story which apparently has an upcoming sequel. I'm very happy about that!

HideHide by Lisa Gardner - a psychological thriller by one of my favorite thriller authors. Gardner really knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely recommended for all of you who are looking for an action-packed thriller with a shocking ending.

I'm reading:

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno: A NovelThe Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson - I have read mixed reviews on this one and I'm actually curious to see what my opinion will be.

I want to read:

1. The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag

2. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

Last but not least, I still have two giveaways going on right now: The Quickening by Michelle Hoover and The Hot Box by Zane. They both are international! I now have a tab on top of my page dedicated for current giveaways, so this is the place you would go to see what goodies there are:)

What are you reading this week?


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roseflower Creek by Jackie Lee Miles

Roseflower Creek, 2EIn the past few months, I think I have become a little more sensitive to the hurts of the world I read about in books. Suffering, pain and murder didn’t use to upset me the way they do now. Unfortunately, because of this recent sensitivity, I have to be careful what I read to not get that depressed feeling. Especially if in the end, there isn’t a lot of redeeming going on in the story, at least not enough to cheer me up a bit. I hate to say it but Roseflower Creek by Jackie Lee Miles was one such novel.

The story is one of Lori Jean, a little girl who dies in the beginning and recounts from heaven her life and events that led to her untimely and very brutal death. Lori Jean’s life wasn’t a so called bed of roses and she went through more hardship in her 10 years than many people do go through their whole life. Her father left when she was 5 and her mother had never been the same since. The only reasonable person in Lori Jean’s life was her grandmother but then she died and the girl’s life went pretty much downhill. Her mother got married to Ray, a man that was an alcoholic, a thief and pretty much as cruel as they come. He would beat up both Lori Jean and her mother and given that the action takes place in a 1950’s rural South, no one cared or wanted to do anything about it. Roseflower Creek is pretty much a recounting of what happened to Lori Jean and why she died when she did. It is also, or maybe more importantly, a portrait of her tenacious spirit and child’s capacity for looking for good and hope despite of the bad cards she was dealt in life.

Ms. Miles penned a very sad book. I’m not sure that it was her intent but that’s how it came out. Lori Jean’s tragic death is not the only one in this story. There is a lot of sorrow and pain and unfairness happening. Almost too much for such a short novel. The worst part of it all was that there really wasn’t anything good happening to counter the bad. I don’t know about you guys, but even while reading the darkest novel, I like to know that there is at least some small happy ending and some sense in the suffering. And I couldn’t find any in Roseflower Creek.

The writing itself however, is really, really good. If you don’t mind any of what I’ve written about the story, you’ll definitely enjoy it. Ms. Miles did a wonderful job with the accent and I could literally hear myself speaking with that charming Georgian drawl while reading. Because, I couldn’t resist the temptation to actually try and read some dialogue aloud. Another great thing about the book were the characters, especially Lori Jean’s and her stepfather Ray’s. I loved Lori Jean with all my heart (maybe that’s why I was so sad when life weren’t good to her) and I hated Ray with as much intensity as I love the girl. I am not an aggressive person but I just wanted to crawl into the story and strangle him myself, that’s how much I despised him. The author showed her true skill here. Despite the small size of the book, the characterization was rich, detailed and a pleasure to follow.

As you can see, Roseflower Creek has a lot of positive going for it: the writing, the characters and especially the life in the ‘50s South. If the sadness and suffering doesn’t bother you all that much, you should definitely reach out for it because Lori jean is one girl you’ll want to meet, you’ll just wish she’d never died.

I received Roseflower Creek from the publisher for review.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Hot Box by Zane Giveaway!

To make up for the fact that I rarely write any posts of value at the moment, I decided to have yet another great giveaway.

This time it's The Hot Box by Zane, the courtesy of Atria Books.

The publisher's synopsis:

The Hot Box: A Novel“Hot Box” is a baseball drill that can be played with three or more players and two to four bases. The players take turns being fielders and runners, ultimately trying to tag the rest of the players out. In The Hot Box, best friends Milena and Lydia are playing the game with Jacour, Yosef, Glenn, and Phil. The only problem: the men do not realize that they are playing. Milena lives a sheltered and dismal existence and has not allowed a man to touch her body in eight years . . . until now. Lydia dreams of getting away from small-town America but, until she can make that happen, she is prepared to do whatever it takes to continue to have her bills paid . . . on time. Good sex always does the trick. Two women. Four men. Two love triangles. Reading has never been this hot because, once again, Zane is taking you outside the box.

Giveaway 411:

1. All you have to do is leave me a comment that you want to be entered along with your email ( if your email is linked to your profile, you don't need to leave me one).

2. It is open internationally.

3. It's open until August 10, 2010 which is also a release date for The Hot Box.

Good luck to you all!!! And thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Quickening by Michelle Hoover Giveaway!

The Quickening

As previously promised, I am hosting a giveaway of an ARC of Michelle Hoover's The Quickening, a debut novel that sounds like a really great read.

Publisher's description:

Enidina Current and Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest during the early 1900s. This hardscrabble life comes easily to some, like Eddie, who has never wanted more than the land she works and the animals she raises on it with her husband, Frank. But for the deeply religious Mary, farming is an awkward living and at odds with her more cosmopolitan inclinations. Still, Mary creates a clean and orderly home life for her stormy husband, Jack, and her sons, while she adapts to the isolation of a rural town through the inspiration of a local preacher. She is the first to befriend Eddie in a relationship that will prove as rugged as the ground they walk on.  Despite having little in common, Eddie and Mary need one another for survival and companionship. But as the Great Depression threatens, the delicate balance of their reliance on one another tips, pitting neighbor against neighbor, exposing the dark secrets they hide from one another, and triggering a series of disquieting events that threaten to unravel not only their friendship but their families as well.
 In this luminous and unforgettable debut, Michelle Hoover explores the polarization of the human soul in times of hardship and the instinctual drive for self-preservation by whatever means necessary. The Quickening stands as a novel of lyrical precision and historical consequence, reflecting the resilience and sacrifices required even now in our modern troubled times.

Giveaway 411:

1. The giveaway is open until Saturday, July 31st.

2. All you have to do is leave me a comment expressing your wish to be entered plus your email (unless your email links to your profile).

3. This giveaway is international so come all and try your luck.


Good luck and thank you for visiting my blog!


Make sure to visit Michelle's website and her blog especially. She writes some great stuff about the writing process.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet Giveaway Winner

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

The giveaway of an ARC of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell ended tonight and I have a winner. With the help of, the winning comment was number 11 that belonged to:

Amy from

Congratulations to Amy and thank you all for entering the giveaway! Please make sure to come back tomorrow for another great book giveaway.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list. It is hosted by Sheila from One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.

I'm back to doing horribly again. One book! and not even a respectable size chunkster! I really need to get myself in gear here! And I really need to stop ending my every sentence with an exclamation mark.


Last week I read:

Damaged: A Maggie O'Dell NovelDamaged by Alex Kava. It's a thriller featuring agent Maggie O'Dell, who has been a recurring character in several other Kava's books. I only read one other novel by this author and remember being shocked by the ending and generally loving the book. Unfortunately, this one was a disappointment. I will have a review coming up in the next two weeks, if you want to know more.

Right now I have on my plate:

Still A Suitable Boy, with which I'm struggling. I cannot get into it at all and only managed to read about 40 pages (which is nothing, considering I still have about 1300 more to go).
This Must Be the Place: A NovelBlack Hills: A Novel

This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia. I am really enjoying this novel. It's both funny and with substance. Should have it finished in the next day or two.

Black Hills by Dan Simmons - audio book. I will be probably listening to it for a very long time, since I only listen to audio books when driving and I don't drive a lot these days.

I'm hoping to read this week:

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and maybe get past 100 pages of A Suitable Boy.

What are you reading this week?