Friday, May 31, 2013

Author: Linda Lael Miller Interview and Giveaway!


Brought to you by the fabulous Little Bird Publicity...

It's my pleasure to welcome one of the most widely recognized names in the Western romance, Linda Lael Miller, to the blog today to celebrate the release of the fourth installment of her Swoon-Worthy Cowboys series! Welcome to Books à la Mode, Linda! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief bio with us?

As the daughter of a town marshal, Linda has come home to the western lifestyle that gave birth to one of today’s most successful authors. She left Washington years ago and pursued her wanderlust, living in Arizona and London and traveling the world. Now the author of more than 100 novels, the “First Lady of the West” is glad to be back home, writing contemporary and historical stories that have earned her awards and placements on all the national bestsellers lists.

Linda traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she sold Fletcher's Woman in 1983 to Pocket Books. Since then, Linda has successfully published historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, and thrillers before coming home, in a literal sense, and concentrating on novels with a Western flavor. For her devotion to her craft, the Romance Writers of America awarded her their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

It's really incredible to feature you—and to hear about your journey as a writer—today! 
Could you tell us a bit about your newest release, Big Sky Summer, which hits shelves today?

Series: Parable, Montana #4
Page Count: 320
Release Date: 1 June 2013
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)

The "First Lady of the West," #1 New York Times-bestselling author Linda Lael Miller, welcomes you home to Parable, Montana—where love awaits.

With his father's rodeo legacy to continue and a prosperous spread to run, Walker Parrish has no time to dwell on wrecked relationships. But country-western sweetheart Casey Elder is out of the spotlight and back in Parable, Montana. And Walker can't ignore that his "act now, think later" passion for Casey has had consequences. Two teenage consequences!

Keeping her children's paternity under wraps has always been part of Casey's plan to give them normal, uncomplicated lives. Now the best way to hold her family together seems to be to let Walker be a part of it—as her husband of convenience. Or will some secrets—like Casey's desire to be the rancher's wife in every way—unravel, with unforeseen results?

You come from a Western family—you grew up on a ranch and love the outdoors. How have your real-life experiences helped make your Parable, Montana series come to life? Are there any parts of your personal life in this newest book?

My books are always very organic, growing out of the characters and the initial situation they find themselves in, so it would be difficult to pinpoint any single incident that might inspire a story.

I think my feelings and values come through in all the Parable, Montana books—things like taking care of your own, lending a helping hand when it’s needed, keeping your word, going out of your way to stick up for children and animals and folks who find themselves sick or in trouble, and never turning your back on what’s there to be done because, in the words of my old daddy, "it ain’t gonna go nowhere, so you might as well deal with it."


Does the title "#1 Bestselling Author" put extra pressure on you when you're writing new novels? Or do you have a writing groove you get into where you can just shut the rest of the world out and immerse yourself in the book you’re working on?


Australian cover
I’m very proud of this moniker, of course, since I spent years earning it. However, it does increase the pressure to produce a really fine story, and it can throw a person off. Still, if that pressure causes me to work a little harder, well, I think that’s a good thing.

Absolutely! Motivation, if anything. Do you write every day? Do you have a writing routine?


Yes, mostly. I write five days a week, from about 9 am, stopping at 1 or 2 pm because by then my brain starts turning to jelly. I am definitely a morning person. Sometimes, when a deadline is pressing hard, I’ll put in longer hours and work weekends, but mostly I avoid that. I need time to refill the well by reading, doing art, puttering in the yard and playing with the pets.


Glad to see you know to find balance between work and play. Can you give us a little sneak peek of the next book in the series, Big Sky Wedding, which is due to hit stores in August?

Brylee Parrish, Walker’s younger sister and the jilted bride from Big Sky Mountain, has a few trust issues, as you might imagine. She’s especially not inclined to trust Zane Sutton, the famous movie star settling on the ranch nearest her company headquarters—but what she’s supposed to do about the attraction?

Zane didn't come to Parable for love—but count on a spirited woman to change a jaded cowboy's mind. Problem is, Brylee's not convinced he's here to stay. Good thing he's determined to prove to her, kiss by kiss, that she's meant to be his bride.

Lovely! I love how we get to see Brylee's story fall into place. Where can you be found on the web?


It was absolutely delightful getting to know you and your marvelous series, Linda! Thank you so much for joining us, and a BIG congrats on the books x


Giveaway!


We've a terrific giveaway just for you readers! Thanks to the publicist, there's one print copy of Big Sky Summer up for grabs—I know y'all are just dying to try this one! To enter the giveaway, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
For extra entries, leave me a comment about Big Sky Summer, Western romance, putting your personal values into your writing, series whose books follow different (recurring) characters, and/or baby daddy romance stories.
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL—comments only consisting of "I like Western romances" or "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry!!!! I really want to hear you guys' thoughts! :)

Rules and Disclosure:
Giveaway ends 15 June 2013 at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, international! Check my sidebar for international giveaways.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prizes will be forfeited.
Although I do select winners via Rafflecopter (Random.org), I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus you get extra entries ;)
Good luck!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Paige" from Butterfly Tears Video Guest Post and Giveaway!

Brought to you by JKS Communications...

Butterfly Tears edited by Wil Drouin and Jennifer Thomas

From Entrapment...

Abuse. Assault. Abandonment. Addiction. These are the histories of the young women in the inspiring book Butterfly Tears.

Some found themselves in gangs. Others in prison. Some remained trapped in the confines of an abusive family or a painful addiction. Society had given up on many of them.

But they hadn’t given up on themselves. These women were ready to take a different path. And Pathways to Independence was there to guide them.

...to Empowerment

Therapy. Mentorship. Education. Support. These are the bywords of this ground-breaking organization founded and led by Dave Bishop—a man who first had to conquer his own internal demons.

The butterfly symbology is derived from the famous parable The Story of the Butterfly about utilizing life’s struggles to emerge a stronger person. Butterfly Tears chronicles the stories of nine young women who faced that struggle head-on and, with the help of Pathways, emerged victorious.

These women’s incredible journeys from darkness into light will elicit both tears of sorrow and tears of joy.

Pathways’s motto is to focus on what’s right in the world: Caring people. Pathways’s all-volunteer network of therapists, doctors, mentors, and even mechanics provides the support these girls have never experienced—and allows them to flourish.

Hope. Freedom. Success. Independence. These are the gifts of Pathways.
 
Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Click "Read more" for an exclusive VIDEO guest post from one of the women featured in the book, and for a chance to win your own copy of Butterfly Tears!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

8 Heart Review: Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Sleeping Arrangements
Madeleine Wickham

Page Count: 304

Release Date: 14 October 2010 (reissue)
Publisher: Black Swan (Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Chloe needs a holiday. She's sick of making wedding dresses, her partner Philip has troubles at work, the whole family wants a break. Her wealthy friend Gerard has offered the loan of his luxury villa in Spain—perfect.

Hugh is not a happy man. His immaculate wife Amanda seems more interested in her new kitchen than in him, and he works so hard to pay for it, he barely has time for his children. Maybe he'll have a chance to bond with them on holiday. His old friend Gerard has lent them a luxury villa in Spain—perfect.

Both families arrive at the villa and realise the awful truth—Gerard has double-booked. An uneasy week of sharing begins, and tensions soon mount in the soaring heat. But there's also a secret history between the families—and as tempers fray, an old passion begins to resurface...

Review


I absolutely love Sophie Kinsella and this is the first book I've tried of her chick-lit line featuring less romance and more grounded issues—through her real name, Madeleine Wickham. Sleeping Arrangements is light, refreshing, and has a bit of a implausible—but still charmingly British—storyline; I enjoyed it immensely, but don't think it's something from which I took much away.

The hidden past surrounding Chloe and Hugh is slowly unraveled through flashbacks. From their first encounter at Gerard's villa, there's an explosive recognition—boom. From there on, readers slowly learn what exactly it is that's between them, and how exactly they'll react. Without giving too much away, I will say the plot itself was highly extractable and far-fetched, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Wickham's characters aren't particularly deep. For the most part, they're static and unrelateable, but she pens them with such grace and endearment, that I can't help but like them all. Even the ones that are portrayed negatively, such as Hugh's ridiculously anal wife, Amanda, are pleasing and entertaining to follow.

The highlight of this novel would definitely be its execution. The plot and characters themselves are mediocre and unremarkable, but the writing flows easily, and Wickham's style is smooth, often subtly hilarious, and blithe. I breezed through this novel; Sleeping Arrangements is a quick, lighthearted story set to the backdrop of a gorgeous Spanish town; a great read for a sunny day!

Pros


Charmingly clever // Witty and perceptive // Linear storyline // Light, breezy read // Masterful, yet brief description of Spanish countryside

Cons


Shallow, two-dimensional characters // Nothing deep or profound // Unmemorable

Verdict


Cute and fluffy, Sleeping Arrangements isn't particularly complex or profound, but it's a damn entertaining read. The characters are fun to get to know and the story unravels by itself; this is effortless, feel-good chick-lit with stormy twists and turns and a penchant for family values. Madeleine Wickham weaves a funny, breezy, and tender story with her usual British magnetism and sprightliness of touch Americanflag


8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

4 Heart Review: Blubber Island by Ismael Galvan

Blubber Island
Ismael Galvan

Page Count: 195

Release Date: 22 August 2012
Publisher: self-published
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Blubber Island is a philosophical, dark comedy written in the genre of gutter surrealism.

The story centers on a cast of unique characters struggling to maintain and disrupt the fabric of reality. Using a blend of the outrageous and metaphysical, the question is asked: Is human freedom better off without reality?
Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Sony eStore | Kobo | Smashwords

Review


Blubber Island was an experience. Gory and action-packed, Galvan's debut is no literary masterpiece, but I was mildly amused by the length of creativity put into the fantastical storyline.

We all know what surrealism texts are like, but this is not surrealism: it's a self-coined genre: gutter surrealism. I was expecting a nittier and grittier Haruki Marukami, but that's not at all what I got.

There's a nice, clear start, but after a while, the plot gets jumbled and I got annoyed with the author's strong affinity for clichés and painfully imaginative, far-fetched analogies and similes, e.g.: "The plague stopped moving up the stairs like a stream of turds hitting a dam" and "His eyelids looked like two swollen vaginas" and the real humdinger: "Estrada's bobbling lollypop head exploded like a Mexican piñata stuffed with M-80s and pig assholes." The writing is tasteless and humorless; the tastelessness, I can appreciate, but the fact that nothing is ever remotely funny nor profound, is a bit irritating. Like this shouldn't be a book, just a bunch of inscribed doodles compiled into a 195-page ordeal.

This book had plenty of potential but the weak style and incomprehensible story disappointed me. Blubber Island needs a lot of cleaning-up to do if it wants to hit a responsive audience.

Pros


Occasional bouts of penetrating insight // Interesting first few chapters

Cons


In desperate need of an(other) editor // Painful clichés used // No foundation of structure, dialogue, grammar, or writing conventions, whatsoever, which impedes overall comprehension // Messy plot

Love

"Chaos is only destruction and suffering about the half the time. The other half is peace, love, and substance abuse. It's the original condition of the universe. Chaos is what we came from, and it's what we live and what we'll return to."

Verdict


Bizarre in the most delusional way, Ismael Galvan's Blubber Island is a grotesque, macabre mess of a tale about the role of reality (whatever "reality" may be) and the power of the human psyche. The feeble writing and irrelevant superfluity were exasperating, to say the least; unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy this one Americanflag


4 hearts: So-so; reading this book may cause wrinkles (from frowning so much) (x)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

8 Heart Review: Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum

Amaryllis in Blueberry
Christina Meldrum

Page Count: 368

Release Date: 3 February 2011 (first edition)
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by LibraryThing Member Reviews in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

"Maybe, unlike hope, truth couldn’t be contained in a jar..."

Meet the Slepys: Dick, the stern doctor, the naïve husband, a man devoted to both facts and faith; Seena, the storyteller, the restless wife, a mother of four, a lover of myth. And their children, the Marys: Mary Grace, the devastating beauty; Mary Tessa, the insistent inquisitor; Mary Catherine, the saintly, lost soul; and finally, Amaryllis, Seena’s unspoken favorite, born with the mystifying ability to sense the future, touch the past, and distinguish the truth tellers from the most convincing liar of all.

When Dick insists his family move from Michigan to the unfamiliar world of Africa for missionary work, he can’t possibly foresee how this new land and its people will entrance and change his daughters—and himself—forever.

Nor can he predict how Africa will spur his wife Seena toward an old but unforgotten obsession. In fact, Seena may be falling into a trance of her own...

Review


Embarking on tragedy, Amaryllis in Blueberry is a deep, probing novel surrounding the implications and consequences of neglect, unfaithfulness, and ignorance upon a middle-class suburban family whose fate is redirected as a result of thoughtless actions and their reckless outcomes. As a whole, I feel this book tries too hard to have as profound an effect as The Poisonwood Bible did, with a reference right inside the jacket flap. Now, I've read The Poisonwood Bible and it's one of my favorites; I know Amaryllis in Blueberry is not exactly the same—the themes, morals, and overall effect are all different—but the premise itself is one that cannot be created without being compared: a mother, father, and four daughters are plucked out of Betty Crocker America and plopped into the wilderness that is Africa, and their lives are changed forever.

Here's a line that sums up the Slepys:
[They] are all islands unto themselves, and while each island may have clean water and electricity and toilets that flush, being isolated on an island is lonely indeed.
Each of the characters, while extensively explored and unrooted, are at their foundation, very shallow. I didn't particularly like or dislike any of them. Dick Slepy, head of household, is extremely ordinary and particularly foolish for constantly urging the impossible:
[He] thinks he can will himself a Dane and will his wife affectionate and will his children respectful, [and also] thinks demanding a perfect family, while snapping a photo of what looks like one, is the equivalent of having one.
Seena, on the other hand, is complex and ephemeral, like the angel of death herself, but she's equally out of touch with reality, and so even though Meldrum does fabulously at portraying her mother's perspective, I didn't know whether to have compassion or resentment for her. Seena's actions are the pivot point of the entire novel, and their repercussions will take away breaths, taint souls, smother goodness, stain lives, and stalk her forever; this in and of itself was fascinating to read, fascinating discover how small acts of selfishness and of passion could unravel and destroy what's left of everything.

Stylistically Amaryllis in Blueberry is profuse in description, but still frustratingly vague. While I liked the richness, I found Meldrum's prose too redundant and syrupy at times.

However, in terms of message and delivery, I was awed by the convoluted, conscious way in which the painful truths of the human heart are presented in the backdrop of Africa. The last few chapters will especially consume—and not to mention, confuse—you, so even though it starts off sluggishly, I definitely recommend reading until the very end.

Pros


Fantastic biblical allusions and references to Greek mythology // Gorgeous prose // Vivid, memorable, and well-expressed characters // Poignant, tender message about humanity and society

Cons


Flowery language that isn't as penetrating as it would like to be; I had to reread some sentences several times to get their meanings // Far-fetched attempt at imitating The Poisonwood Bible

Love

... Envy is not green. And rage isn't red hot, and the blues have nothing to do with blue. Envy is more dust-colored, a transparent sort of gray. It quivers, like heat rising. Rage itself is not any shade of red—it's not any color at all. It's a smell, a fried-up fish. Melancholy? The blues? Melancholy's more of a shimmer than any color. And it creeps: blues on the move.

Verdict


Christina Meldrum skillfully examines the exquisite human psyche by bringing to light the importance—and devastation—of deception, hidden meaning, falsified untruths, and verified dismissals; this is what makes Amaryllis in Blueberry thought-provoking, strangely beautiful, and absolutely stirring. While some of the prose was a bit too lavish, and the idea of an ordinary American family meeting its ruin upon being caught up in Africa, unoriginal (Barbara Kingsolver ripoff, hello), in its essence, this book is a rare and startling glimpse at a tragedy turned extraordinary, brimming with perceptive truth and soul Americanflag


8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

8 Heart Review: Shaman, Sister, Sorceress by M. Terry Green

Shaman, Sister, Sorceress (Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman #3)
M. Terry Green

Page Count: 384

Release Date: 27 September 2012 (first edition)
Publisher: self-published
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

If techno-shaman Olivia Lawson thinks a trip to the Hopi mesas is the escape she needs, she is gravely mistaken. Abducted from her tour, Livvy quickly discovers that all is not as it seems in the quiet villages.

Formidable shamans draw her into a bitter and centuries-old conflict. While Livvy struggles to do what's right, she can't help but pursue an unexpected chance to be with the man she loves.

But as prophecies turn deadly, even the gods of the multiverse play their part and Livvy must choose—between this world and a new one, between action and acceptance, between duty and desire. With all existence hanging in the balance, Livvy finds that, where choice begins, innocence ends.

Review


[NOTE] Read my review of Shaman, Healer, Heretic, the book that started the series, by clicking here.

Read my review of the second installment, Shaman, Friend, Enemy, by clicking here.

Not only highly imaginative, but also absorptive into a whole new urban fantasy world, this third installment of the Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman series is an exciting, fascinating continuation of Livvy's shamanistic duties—and what happens when they go awry.

When a delusional "leader" steps up preparing for the ascension of fifth world—only possible with the destruction of the current—it's just Livvy's luck to get caught right in the middle of it. But is it really just a matter of luck? When prophecies collide and powers clash, it's obvious that Livvy's involvement in this new-age business is not simply happenstance, and that whoever has deliberately brought her to the mesas of ancient spirits, may just be out for the kill.

Shaman, Sister, Sorceress is captivating and covers a subject matter that is thrillingly unfamiliar, as I've gotten used to with this series. While the first two books approached similar lines of work in shamanism, this one introduces the Hopi, who shed an entirely different light on what we readers—and even Livvy herself—know about the practice. If you haven't started this series yet, I recommend you do so now! You might be a little lost with this one if you don't have Livvy's past as a foundation.

Green's prose is classic and easy to follow. Nothing in particular jumps out at me stylistically, but it's well-structured and never falters, which itself is commendable.

On the personal front, Livvy's always had to make sacrifices, especially with her relationship with SK; their pairing is the ideal professionally, but their mutual feelings, a deadly combination. Shaman, Sister, Sorceress gives hope that she just may be able to bargain for a happily ever after, but only if she defeats the demons out to get her, first.

Pros


Exclusive, extensive glimpse into the Hopi culture // Fast-paced and plot-driven // More diverse, fleshed-out characters introduced // Immaculate, organized writing style // Fascinating overall

Cons


No indications of a fourth book...(yet)!!!

Verdict


M. Terry Green masterfully pens an enthralling story by utilizing heart-stopping suspense, a topic so unexplored, and realistic, grounded, could-be-you characters; I couldn't help but be awed by Shaman, Sister, Sorceress. I love this series and loved this third book; I'm certainly looking forward to more Americanflag


8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Boiling Up Some Bad Blood by Nicky Peacock + Giveaway!


Page Count: 118
Release Date: 10 May 2013
Publisher: Noble Young Adult (Noble Romance)
Genre: Young adult, Paranormal, Vampires, Zombies, Apocalypse

"I am Britannia. I am your protector. I will fend off the hungry hordes of undead hands that reach toward you. I am your steadfast defender. I will stand between you and the zombie masses as they try to taste your flesh. I am strong, unyielding, and dedicated to your survival. All I ask from you... is your blood."

A five-hundred-year-old bloody game of vengeance will need to be put on hold if vampires are to survive the zombie uprising. Britannia and Nicholas, bitter enemies and the only two surviving vampires left in London, have to work together to save un-infected humans and deliver them safely to a vampire stronghold in the Scottish Highlands. Unable to drink the zombie "bad blood", the remaining vampires need the humans to stay alive. But will the vampires tell the survivors who they are and what they want from them? Will Britannia be able to hold back her vengeance for the greater good? Is survivor Josh the reincarnation of Britannia’s murdered true love? And can she bring herself to deliver him to the "safe" hold? Survival instincts run deep, but bad blood can run deeper.
 
Buy the book at: Amazon | Amazon UK

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Great Gatsby Movie and Original Soundtrack

Who's seen or is looking forward to The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan??

There are so many things that are perfect about this movie, including the casting (except for Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson... Myrtle isn't supposed to be that hot!!!), my worship of the novel (and Scott F. Fitzgerald in general), and of course, the brilliant soundtrack.

I'm already in love with Lana Del Rey but her original single from the official movie soundtrack will make you orgasm. Don't hold me accountable.

Among other artists for this mix which is ABSOLUTE PERFECTION are Florence and the Machine (yay!) and Jay-Z (YAY!).

I've been thinking about posting my lit essay on the book that I wrote for class instead of a review. Would you be able to handle the nerdiness?

In other news, I'm officially San Francisco-bound July 31st :D Can't believe I've been in Korea for two years already—where does the time go?? Both thrilled and devastated to be leaving this beautiful country (and I know I've been terrible at updating you guys with my touristy Korean experiences... do I ever have a good excuse? I won't even bother). Will have to make the most of my time remaining here for the next two months.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Double Click by Lisa Becker: Excerpt and Giveaway!


Page Count: 308
Release Date: 27 March 2013
Publisher: self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Online dating

Fast approaching her 30th birthday and finding herself not married, not dating, and without even a prospect or a house full of cats, Renee Greene, the heroine of Click: An Online Love Story, reluctantly joins her best guy pal on a journey to find love online in Los Angeles.

The story unfolds through a series of emails between Renee and her best friends (anal-compulsive Mark, the overly-judgmental Ashley and the over-sexed Shelley) as well as the gentlemen suitors she meets online. From the guy who starts every story with "My buddies and I were out drinking one night," to the egotistical "B-list" celebrity looking for someone to stroke his ego, Renee endures her share of hilarious and heinous cyber dates.

Fraught with BCC's, FWD's and inadvertent Reply to All's, readers will root for Renee to "click" with the right man.
 
Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Sony eStore | Kobo

Monday, May 20, 2013

8 Heart Review: In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar

In the Country of Men
Hisham Matar

Page Count: 245

Release Date: 1 January 2006 (first edition)
Publisher: Dial Press (Random House)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by TripFiction in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Libya, 1979. Nine-year-old Suleiman’s days are circumscribed by the narrow rituals of childhood: outings to the ruins surrounding Tripoli, games with friends played under the burning sun, exotic gifts from his father’s constant business trips abroad. But his nights have come to revolve around his mother’s increasingly disturbing bedside stories full of old family bitterness. And then one day Suleiman sees his father across the square of a busy marketplace, his face wrapped in a pair of dark sunglasses. Wasn’t he supposed to be away on business yet again? Why is he going into that strange building with the green shutters? Why did he lie?

Suleiman is soon caught up in a world he cannot hope to understand—where the sound of the telephone ringing becomes a portent of grave danger; where his mother frantically burns his father’s cherished books; where a stranger full of sinister questions sits outside in a parked car all day; where his best friend’s father can disappear overnight, next to be seen publicly interrogated on state television.

In the Country of Men is a stunning depiction of a child confronted with the private fallout of a public nightmare. But above all, it is a debut of rare insight and literary grace.

Review


I'm normally not a fan of historical fiction, but as a world literature lover, I couldn't help but try this one. Even though it was a little difficult to get into, I am so, so glad I did.

In the Country of Men is a gripping account, from a small boy's perspective, of Gaddafi's infamous terror regime. It shimmers in the triumphs and fumes in the horrors of the the Libyan revolution of 1979, and expertly depicts Libyan culture and customs—the entire "world full of men and the greed of men"—as well. I found this a shocking, affecting read, and be forewarned: this book hits hard and will leave bruises.

There are a several difficult issues tackled in Suleiman's first-person narrative, each coated with a blasé haze of childish charm. The exterior ones among these, include gender inequality and societal persecution, but Hisham Matar dares to venture deeper as the story spins around the values of family, friendship, nationalism, and the definition of loyalty. He portrays with deliberate precision and indelicacy, the oppression of not only women, but also of humans and human rights; this is all poignant, truthful, and startlingly refreshing.

Facets of the narrator's childhood make him the most vulnerable, and yet most potent character. Most of the other characters are shallow or, as with the central themes, influenced by Suleiman's innocence and lack of awareness, but they are nevertheless lyrically and memorably described.

I'll admit this book was a bit slow for first half, but the second half blew me away. In the Country of Men is not the sort of book I'll soon forget. Hisham Matar has woven a brilliant novel on what it is to be family, what it means to grow up, and what it takes to be free, because they are all—the author claims—achievable aspirations... but only to few, in the land of men.

Pros


Raw, uncensored // Stunning literary style with both graceful and repulsive notes // Fascinating perspective of Gaddafi's Libya // Impressive stylistically, historically, and culturally // Mesmerizing and haunting // Unforgettable

Cons


Slow-moving start // Dry at times

Love


I am in love with the way Matar writes:
If love starts somewhere, if it is a hidden force that is brought out by a person, like light off a mirror, for me that person was her. There was anger, there was pity, even the dark warm embrace of hate, but always love and always the joy that surrounds the beginning of love.
Grief loves the hollow, all it wants is to hear its own echo. Be careful.
[In me], there is this void, this emptiness I am trying to get at like someone frightened of the dark, searching for a match to strike. I see it in others, this emptiness. My expression shifts constantly, like that of a prostitute who waits in your car while you run across a busy road to buy a new pack of cigarettes for the night. When you walk back, ripping the cellophane, before she has time to see you, you catch sight of her, temporarily settled in another role as a sister or a wife or a friend. How readily and thinly we procure these fictional selves, deceiving the world and what we might have become if only we hadn't got in the way, if only we had waited to see what might have become of us. 

Verdict


Hisham Matar's literary debut glitters in the backdrop of 1979 Tripoli and lingers in the yearning mind. Every so often you pick up a book so resonating and so captive of emotional truth, that it sends shivers down your spine and leaves an ache in your chest. In the Country of Men is one of those books Americanflag


8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Click by Lisa Becker: Excerpt and Giveaway!


Page Count: 347
Release Date: 29 March 2011
Publisher: self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Online dating

Fans of the romantic hit Click: An Online Love Story will enjoy another voyeuristic dive into the lives of Renee, Shelley, Ashley, Mark and Ethan, as Double Click picks up with their lives six months later.

Are Renee and Ethan soul mates?

Does Mark ever go on a date?

Has Shelley run out of sexual conquests in Los Angeles?

Will Ashley's judgmental nature sabotage her budding relationship?

Through a marriage proposal, wedding, new baby and unexpected love twist, Double Click answers these questions and more. Readers will continue to cheer, laugh, cry and cringe following the email exploits of Renee and friends.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Untethered by Katie Hayoz Excerpt and Giveaway!


Page Count: 340
Release Date: 25 April 2013
Publisher: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (self-published)
Genre: Young adult, Paranormal

Sylvie isn’t comfortable in her own skin. In fact, there are times she can’t even manage to stay inside it. But if there is one thing she’s sure of, it’s her love for Kevin Phillips. She’s willing to stake everything on it—her family, her friends, and possibly her soul.

Sixteen-year-old Sylvie has been best friends with Cassie forever. But everything is turned around when the boy Sylvie’s loved since fifth grade falls for Cassie. Devastated, Sylvie intends to get Kevin by any means possible, even if it involves treachery, deceit, and the dark side of astral projection. She is positive her plans will give her what she wants, but she doesn’t count on it all spiraling out of control.

Untethered explores the intoxicating and dangerous world of jealousy and obsession when coupled with paranormal ability.
 
Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Top 10 Tips on How to Get Your Man by Sherry Kyle and Giveaway!


Page Count: 320
Release Date: 1 April 2013
Publisher: Abingdon Press

Genre: Contemporary, Women's Fiction, Christian romance, Inspirational

When the biological father of Jessica MacAllister's son decides to break their custody agreement, Jessica and her son visit her Uncle George for advice and refuge...

Following a year of grief, Evelyn Sweeney is finally ready to move on. Pondering her new path in life, her mind drifts to her first love, George MacAllister...

When the lives of these two women cross, they discover that one heart-shaped ring binds their stories together. But will the results be a rekindled faith and new hope, or will it lead them both back into the darkness they've fought for so long?
 

Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop!

The Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop, hosted by Kathy at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Portrait of a Book works like this: each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers, it means lots of chances to win free books. For blogs hosting giveaways, it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win! The Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop is scheduled from May 16th at 12.01 AM until May 22nd at 11:59 PM (EST).


The Prizes


One lucky subscriber gets their choice of book from The Book Depository. Any book, any book you want! :) The catch? It must fall into the sweet or contemporary romance genres!


I love giving away eBooks too, so a runner-up will win these three fantastic titles:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Author: Lian Dolan Interview and Giveaway!

I'd like to welcome Lian Dolan to the blog today to celebrate and promote the most recent publication from Prospect Park Books, Elizabeth the First Wife. Be sure to stick around until the end to get the chance to win a copy!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Lian! Let's get this interview started.


Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Lian Dolan is a writer, producer, talk show host, podcast pioneer, social media consultant, and author. She currently writes and produces the weekly podcast and blog The Chaos Chronicles, a humorous look at modern motherhood. She is also a regular weekly contributor to Oprah.com as a parenting expert. A decade ago, Lian created Satellite Sisters, an award-winning radio talk show, blog and website with her four real sisters. From 2000 to 2009, Satellite Sisters won eight Gracie Allen Awards for Excellence in Women's Media and enjoyed a nationwide audience of a million listeners a week. Lian is also the co-author of Satellite Sisters' UnCommon Senses, published in 2001 by Riverhead (sales to date: 75,000). Her writing has appeared in many national magazines, including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother and essays in such anthologies as Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul. TV appearances have included The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is a popular speaker for groups and corporations, always using humor as hook.

Tell us a bit more about your newest release.

Publisher: Prospect Park Books
Release Date: 26 April 2013 (first edition)
Page Count: 280

Elizabeth Lancaster, an English professor at Pasadena City College, finds her perfectly dull but perfectly orchestrated life upended one summer by three men: her movie-star ex-husband, a charming political operative, and William Shakespeare. Until now, she’d been content living in the shadow of her high-profile and highly accomplished family. Then her college boyfriend and one-time husband of seventeen months, A-list action star FX Fahey, shows up with a job offer that she can’t resist, and Elizabeth’s life suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting. She’s off to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the summer to make sure FX doesn’t humiliate himself in an avant-garde production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

As she did so skillfully with her first novel, Helen of Pasadena, which spent more than a year on the Los Angeles Times-bestseller list, Lian Dolan spins a lively, smart, and very funny tale of a woman reinventing her life in unexpected ways.
In your first book,Helen of Pasadena, your protagonist was a woman roughly your age, with a teenage son about the age of one of your sons. She even majored in the same thing in college that you did. But Elizabeth Lancaster is younger, single, childless, and a Shakespeare professor. Was it more of a challenge to write her?

Actually, it was more a lot more fun to write Elizabeth than Helen. With Helen, there were so many obvious parallels to my life that I really had to work to make it clear she wasn’t me. (I thought I’d done a fine job, but I can’t tell you how many people have called me “Helen” since the book has come out. Or introduced me by saying, “This is Helen of Pasadena!” Um, no.)

Elizabeth’s the cool, slightly cynical single gal that I’d like to think I would have been had I not gotten married and if I had a PhD. I had a fantastic Shakespeare professor in college who literally brought the material to life with her passion and sometimes brought us to tears with her lectures. Elizabeth is an homage to her, but she comes with more emotional baggage and a funkier wardrobe than my former professor.


One similarity you have to Elizabeth is being the youngest of the family—in her case, a highly accomplished family, and in your case, a very large family, also with its share of accomplishments. How has being a youngest shaped you as a writer?


When you’re the youngest in a big family—or probably any family—you end up observing more than contributing for years of your life. No one wants to talk to the youngest or hear what you have to say at the dinner table. So I spent a lot of years listening, laughing, and making copious mental notes about people, behavior, and conversations—all very helpful for a writer. Also, you have plenty of “lives” to borrow material from. Was that funny story about the bad date mine? Or my big sister’s? Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who went on the bad date—I can still use it in my writing.


That's something I can't relate to directly because I'm a firstborn, but it's interesting to see how that could affect a writer by shaping perspective. How challenging was it to write about Shakespeare, the most influential literary figure of all time?

Very. The more I researched for the book, the more I realized I didn’t know jack about Shakespeare. At first, I thought I’d weave some Shakespearean mystery into the plot, something to do with the writing of A Midsummer's Night Dream and the noble family for whom it was written. But after dipping into my research, it became very clear that there were lots and lots of serious Shakespeare scholars and ten times more enthusiasts who would bust me if I didn’t get the research exactly right. That reality was sobering! That’s why I decided that Elizabeth’s research for her book would have a pop-culture slant and be more accessible and fun than arcane. That was a critical decision in the creation of Elizabeth’s character and the plot. As a writer, I felt inspired when I decided to go in that direction.


Readers, click "Read more" to learn about Lian's connection to Shakespeare, some essential themes from Elizabeth the First Wife, and why the author chose Pasadena as her setting. You also don't want to miss the great giveaway at the end!