Showing posts with label giveaway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label giveaway. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell (Giveaway!)

Title:   The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: June 7, 2016  (originally published in 2015 as The Girls)
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? 

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

My Review:

If you want a thriller that you can gobble up quickly, I can't recommend The Girls in the Garden enough.  This is a fairly short read, but it moves along quickly and throws so many red herrings at you along the way that you definitely won't feel like you're being shortchanged!

Normally I find that mystery novels with too many suspicious characters begin to feel implausible after a while (could ALL of these people be THIS shady?  Really?!).  However, Jewell finds a way to cast doubt upon nearly every person in the book, while still keeping your interest (and your faith in the story).  You may decide early on that you know who the culprit is, but even if you're correct, you won't be disappointed because you'll have taken so many interesting segues along the way.

I also think that Jewell has really nailed the angst and confusion of 13-year-old-girl life here.  Several of the main characters are in that age range, and much of the story hinges upon the quest for maturity and self-understanding that comes along with that stage of development.  Having been a 13 year old girl once (albeit many moons ago...), many of the struggles the characters faced rang true for me, which made for an even more engaging reading experience.

The Girls in the Garden isn't going to overwhelm you with extraneous detail and long-winded diatribes.  Compared to many other thrillers, it's rather concise and to the point.  But the writing is solid, the characters are fleshed out just enough to keep your attention, and the mystery at the heart of the novel will certainly make you want to devour it as fast as possible.

As always, much thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Lisa Jewell on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME!  TLC Book Tours is running a giveaway for 5 copies of this book, open for entry until October 3, 2016.  Enter using the Rafflecopter below:

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Saturday, April 2, 2016

A 500th Post GIVEAWAY! :)

Howdy, reader friends!  Believe it or not, this is my 500th post here at The Well-Read Redhead.  Yes, you've listened to me jibber-jabber THAT much in 3.5 years!  Congratulations!  :)

This epic milestone happens to coincide with me thinning out my at-home bookshelves (again...I swear these books just keep multiplying like bunnies!!).  So, rather than donating my books to the library (my usual M.O.), I decided to save them for a lil giveaway for my lovely blog readers.

I had quite the nice little pile going, so I randomly split the books in to two batches. Voila: we can have TWO winners!  Winner #1 gets 6 books, Winner #2 gets 5.  It's a smattering of everything...ARCs and finished copies, hardcover and paperback, used copies and unused copies.

Box #1 contains:

Disclaimer by Renee Knight (hardcover, finished copy)
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (paperback, finished copy)
The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle (paperback, finished copy)
Five Night Stand by Richard J. Alley (paperback, ARC)
The Daughter by Jane Shemilt (paperback, finished copy)
All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer (paperback, ARC)

Box #2 contains:

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan (hardcover, finished copy)
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (paperback, finished copy)
The Race Underground by Doug Most (paperback, ARC)
The Trajectory of Dreams by Nicole Wolverton (paperback, ARC)
Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke (paperback, ARC)

US/Canada entries only please, sorry, international shipping is lots o' dollas that I do not have!

Thank you all for supporting my little piece of the blogosphere!  You can enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter below.  Contest closes 4/9/16!
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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Girl in the Red Coat (Giveaway!)

Title:   The Girl in the Red Coat
Author: Kate Hamer
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother …

Alternating between Beth’s story and Carmel’s, and written in gripping prose that won’t let go, The Girl in the Red Coat—like Emma Donoghue’s Room and M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans—is an utterly immersive story that’s impossible to put down . . . and impossible to forget.

My Review:

That word "immersive" from the last line of the plot summary is COMPLETELY on point.  I was immersed, steeped, saturated in this story.  The Girl in the Red Coat will have you working your page-flipping fingers at Olympic pace.

I went into the novel a bit unsure, because as much as I loved the book's description, the first couple of chapters didn't hook me right away.  I think this is because Carmel and Beth are such unusual protagonists that it took me a while to get a good grip on their personalities.  I didn't understand their peculiarities (especially Carmel's) until I went further into the book.  However, by the time of Carmel's disappearance, my initial hesitations had vanished, allowing me to sink into the story.

The novel alternates between Carmel and Beth's POVs, and Hamer writes them in a way that creates a strong connection between the two, even when they are physically separated.  The mother-daughter bond and its many complexities would be a great discussion point for any book clubs that pick this one up.  That said, I did find Carmel's POV to be more gripping for the reader than Beth's--Carmel's situation stays fluid and unpredictable for most of the book, while Beth's chapters started to become a bit repetitive after a while, without as much forward motion.  This wasn't a deal-breaker for me in terms of enjoying the story, but it was worth noting that I often flew through Beth's chapters to get more of Carmel.

It's worth noting that the conclusion is very open-ended--so if that's not your cup of tea, you've been warned.  However, I LOVED all of the unanswered questions at the end, because they left me with so much to ponder about the various relationships in the novel.

Overall, The Girl in the Red Coat was a super fun read.  It's an excellent thriller, with many of the riveting plot elements that you've loved in other books of the genre, but also with so many unique twists and turns that it won't be a novel easily forgotten.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.

GIVEAWAY TIME!!  TLC Book Tours is giving away one copy of The Girl in the Red Coat to one of my lucky readers.  US/Canada entrants only.  Giveaway ends 3/23/16.  Enter with the Rafflecopter below!
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Friday, October 9, 2015

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne

Title: Everything She Forgot
Author: Lisa Ballantyne
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Source: copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

They’re calling it the worst pile-up in London history. Driving home, Margaret Holloway has her mind elsewhere—on a troubled student, her daughter’s acting class, the next day’s meeting—when she’s rear-ended and trapped in the wreckage. Just as she begins to panic, a disfigured stranger pulls her from the car just seconds before it’s engulfed in flames. Then he simply disappears.

Though she escapes with minor injuries, Margaret feels that something’s wrong. She’s having trouble concentrating. Her emotions are running wild. More than that, flashbacks to the crash are also dredging up lost associations from her childhood, fragments of events that were wiped from her memory. Whatever happened, she didn’t merely forget—she chose to forget. And somehow, Margaret knows deep down that it’s got something to do with the man who saved her life.

As Margaret uncovers a mystery with chilling implications for her family and her very identity,  Everything She Forgot  winds through a riveting dual narrative and asks the question: How far would you go to hide the truth—from yourself…?

My Review:

Having never read any of Lisa Ballantyne's other novels, I was not sure what to expect from her latest thriller.  I've read a lot of thrillers lately, and I was wondering how Ballantyne would make hers stick out from the rest of the pack.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Ballantyne keeps this book going at a fast pace, and her writing excises the extraneous detail and description that I find often plagues other mystery novels.  The plot never lets up, and I was hooked right up to the end.

One thing that really impresses me about this book is that it is a thriller, but it is not bogged down in a lot of violent, gruesome detail.  I've found extreme violence to be commonplace with most of the suspenseful novels I've read lately, and while I don't have a problem with that as a literary tool in general, it can get difficult to read such graphic violence over and over.  There are some vicious scenes in the book, but they are few and far between, with much more focus placed on the motives of the characters and their personal struggles.

Ballantyne uses a multiple-narrator format, which works well for the type of mystery she weaves together here.  That said, I was surprised by a few of the details she chose to reveal before the end.  There was one "big" reveal in particular that I felt was let out of the bag a bit early, and there was also one primary narrator whose story ended up feeling rather ancillary to the rest of the plot.  The multiple POVs were definitely necessary for how the book rolled out, but I do think they could have been used a bit more poignantly, especially around the conclusion.

While I do think those caveats are worth mentioning, I don't think that should push you away from the book as a whole.  Everything She Forgot grabbed my attention right from the get-go, has a cast of characters that will make you run the gamut of emotions, and does a great job balancing the labels of "captivating thriller" and "heartwrenching family drama".

William Morrow is hosting a giveaway of Everything She Forgot!  Three lucky readers will win a copy at the end of this blog tour.  Enter below!
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Purchase links:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

#30Authors Giveaway with Into The Valley by Ruth Galm!

Hello there, reader friends!  If you've not yet heard, Allison at The Book Wheel has once again organized a fantastic reader/author/blogger event for the month of September called #30Authors .  I will be talking more about it in 2 days (as the official host for Sept 12th's #30Authors post!), but the general gist is this:

30 authors each choose a book to read/review (by a different author), and their reviews are posted, one a day, on a different book blog throughout the month of September.  So during this month, you're getting 30 different authors reviewing 30 different books, one on each day of the month.  And you get to visit some terrifically fun book blogs along the way.  Kudos to Allison for that brain child, right?

I have the privilege of pairing up with Ruth Galm, author of Into the Valley, for this event (she has dubbed us a #30Authors "dynamic duo," and I can't disagree).  Even though it is not required for me to read/review Ruth's book, I thought it would be fun to do so before her post goes live here on the 12th, especially since her debut novel sounds so darn intriguing (summary from Goodreads):

Into the Valley  opens on the day in July 1967 when B. decides to pass her first counterfeit check and flee San Francisco for the Central Valley. Unmarried at 30, B. doesn't understand the youth counterculture but doesn't fit into her mother's world of dresses and kid gloves.

B. is beset by a disintegrative anxiety she calls “the carsickness,” and the only relief comes in handling illicit checks and driving endlessly through the valley. As she travels the bare, anonymous landscape, meeting an array of other characters—an alcoholic professor, a bohemian teenage girl, a criminal admirer—B.’s flight becomes that of a woman unraveling, a person lost between who she is and who she cannot yet be.

Into the Valley came at a perfect time for me, because I've read a lot of fast-paced thrillers/psychological dramas this year, and while I do love those genres, I've been yearning for something a little less...overt.  A novel that relies more on atmosphere and subtlety rather than shocking twists and suspense (though this book does have suspense, in its own way).  Plus, it's got a pretty cover.  I'm a serious sucker for a pretty cover.

The novel's Central Valley setting infuses itself into Galm's writing style.  The searing heat, the unforgiving landscape, the unsettling isolation: these background elements are felt so intensely as you read that they eventually take on their own life within the story.  After a while, B. is the valley and the valley is B.  I've never even been to this part of California, but every time I picked up this book, it felt familiar.

B.'s journey is not a typical soul-searching mission.  I loved trying to figure out what makes her tick: what is it that is missing in her life, that could make her "carsickness" disappear?  (Does she want the carsickness to disappear?)  After a while, her exploration turns into more of an unraveling, leaving you with an increasingly uneasy feeling as you read on.  The conclusion was both not at all what I expected, while also being exactly what I wanted.

Sound like a good read?  I thought so, too!  If you want your very own copy to enjoy, Ruth and her team at Soho Press are kindly offering a copy to one of my lucky readers.  Enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter below (US/Canada only, ends Sept 16th).  There is also a separate MEGA book giveaway going on with #30Authors, which you can enter here on the 12th, so stay tuned!

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Friday, June 5, 2015

GIVEAWAY! Five Night Stand by Richard J. Alley

Title:   Five Night Stand
Author: Richard J. Alley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Legendary jazz pianist Oliver Pleasant finds himself alone at the end of his career, playing his last five shows, hoping the music will draw his estranged family back...

Frank Severs, a middle-aged, out-of-work journalist, is at a crossroads as his longtime dreams and marriage grind to a standstill...

And piano prodigy Agnes Cassady is desperately grasping for fulfillment before a debilitating disease wrenches control from her trembling fingers...

When Frank and Agnes come to New York to witness Oliver’s final five-night stand, the timeless force of Oliver’s music pulls the trio together. Over the course of five nights, the three reflect on their triumphs and their sorrows: families forsaken, ideals left along the wayside, secrets kept. Their shared search for meaning and direction in a fractured world creates an unexpected kinship that just might help them make sense of the past, find peace in the present, and muster the courage to face the future.

My Review:

Five Night Stand is the perfect read to accompany a sip of your favorite drinky-drink after a long summer day.  This story felt like jazz itself: soulful, melodious, and smooth.  There isn't anything particularly earth-shattering that happens in the plot--no huge reveal or shocking twist to hang your hat on.  Instead, I found myself enjoying the way Agnes', Frank's, and Oliver's lives came together as their journeys intersected in increasingly intimate ways.

It took me a while to get a good read on each of the characters.  With Agnes and Frank, it was because they both seemed so much older than their actual ages.  Agnes, coping with a neuro-degenerative disease at the young age of 22, has hardened herself to many of the trivialities of life as she tries to make peace with the short time she has left.  On the other hand, Frank, in his mid-forties, is faced with a sudden lay-off, and must decide what his life's direction will be now that his work is suddenly gone.  Their fortunate meeting in New York with jazz-virtuoso Oliver Pleasant puts them both on a path to find some peace.

I'll admit that this book was a little outside my comfort zone (I'm not particularly up on my jazz knowledge, nor am I very musical in general), but the story within these pages has an appeal even for the most musically-unskilled readers.  The relationships here are poignant, while the prose itself is quite subtle, and all together it makes for a very enjoyable read.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Richard J. Alley on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.

GIVEAWAY TIME!  One lucky reader (in the US/Canada) can win a copy of Five Night Stand for their very own.  Just enter using the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway ends June 11!
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

GIVEAWAY! Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa

Title: Stephen Yafa
Author: Stephen Yafa
Publisher: Avery
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

No topic in nutrition is more controversial than wheat. While mega-sellers like  Grain Brain  and  Wheat Belly  suggest that wheat may be the new asbestos, Stephen Yafa finds that it has been wrongly demonized. His revealing book sets the record straight, breaking down the botany of the wheat plant we’ve hijacked for our own use, the science of nutrition and digestion, the effects of mass production on our health, and questions about gluten and fiber— all to point us towards a better, richer diet.

Wheat may be the most important food in human history, reaching from ancient times to General Mills. Yafa tours commercial factories where the needs of mass production trump the primacy of nutrition, and reports on the artisan grain revolution. From a Woodstock-like Kneading Conference to nutrition labs to a boutique bakery and pasta maker’s workshop in Brooklyn, he also finds that there may in fact be a perfect source of wheat-based nutrition. Its name is sourdough.

For readers of  Salt Sugar Fat  and  The Omnivore's Dilemma Grain of Truth  smoothly blends science, history, biology, economics, and nutrition to give us back our daily bread.

My Review:

This book was of interest to me because, of course, I am a bit of a food science nerd.  However, I also have several friends who are gluten sensitive and/or have celiac disease, so my curiosity was heightened more than usual.  I often get annoyed by people who go gluten-free without having any particular health reason to do so, but more because they are following the latest diet fad.  Doesn't this make things a little harder for the people who actually can't eat gluten, but are now taken less seriously because of all the bandwagon jumpers?  (I have heard a counterpoint to this though, I believe from Heather at Capricious Reader--that it makes life easier for celiacs, because there are more gluten-free options now, given heightened demand.  So I suppose it could go either way.)  Anyway, as soon as I read the description for Stephen Yafa's journalistic approach to this topic, I knew I had to give it a go.

First, I really enjoyed Yafa's lighthearted tone throughout the book.  He obviously did a lot of well-rounded, in-depth research for this project, but his voice has a levity that will keep readers engaged.  Everybody likes a well-timed bread joke, right?  Yafa's more casual, personable tone makes his narrative stand out from that of other food science writers (ie. Michael Pollan (not that I don't think you are personable or funny, Michael Pollan, you know I am a groupie for life)).

Yafa does begin the book by exploring the trend towards gluten-free--who is doing it because they need to, and who is doing it because it just seems healthier.  From there, he gets to the real meat of it (wheat of it?)--is an avoidance of gluten really going to make you healthier?  And while people with celiac really must avoid wheat at all costs, is there anything that people with gluten sensitivity (less serious than celiac) can do to incorporate wheat into their diets safely?

Yafa's findings are extremely interesting.  I won't go through all the conclusions here (I'll make you read the book, of course!), but he uncovered a lot of scientific studies about gluten sensitivity that could be real game-changers in the gluten-free movement in the coming years.  I'll give a warning that some of the heavily scientific chapters towards the middle can get a tad dry, making my head spin with all the talk of proteases and amino acids and microbiomes.  That said, it's all good information--just not the type of reading I would do if you're not prepared to be fully steeped in the book for a while.  (My "I'll just read for a while before bed, even though I've been up since 5am, but I'm sure I can stay focused!" routine was not always a good one.)

Anyone with celiac's disease or gluten sensitivity--I highly recommend this for you.  But obviously, the appeal for this book goes beyond that (since I'm about as gluten-unfree as they come).  Foodies, lovers of foodie non-fiction, and really anybody who wants a better understanding of what they're eating, are sure to find something fascinating between these pages.

Are any of my loyal blog readers gluten-free?  By necessity, or by choice?  How do you think this book would influence your daily diet (if at all)?

Avery Books has generously offered to give away a copy of Grain of Truth to one of my lucky readers!  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  US entrants only please.  Ends May 21!
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Giveaway Time! The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Title: The Last Breath
Author: Kimberly Belle
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Source: review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

Humanitarian aid worker Gia Andrews chases disasters around the globe for a living. It's the perfect lifestyle to keep her far away from her own personal ground zero. Sixteen years ago, Gia's father was imprisoned for brutally killing her stepmother. Now he's come home to die of cancer, and she's responsible for his care—and coming to terms with his guilt. 

Gia reluctantly resumes the role of daughter to the town's most infamous murderer, a part complete with protesters on the lawn and death threats that are turning tragedy into front-page news. Returning to life in small-town Tennessee involves rebuilding relationships that distance and turmoil have strained, though finding an emotional anchor in the attractive hometown bartender is certainly helping Gia cope. 

As the past unravels before her, Gia will find herself torn between the stories that her family, their friends and neighbors, and even her long-departed stepmother have believed to be real all these years. But in the end, the truth—and all the lies that came before—may have deadlier consequences than she could have ever anticipated.

My Review:

This book was most definitely a step outside the comfort zone for me.  I do enjoy a good thriller, but The Last Breath also has lotsa lotsa burnin' hot romance.  And Lord knows, I am usually not one for a romance novel.  Just not my thing.  However, I gotta say, this time it worked for me.  The Last Breath is the perfect murder mystery-slash-love story for a snowy winter's day, and I've certainly got my fair share of those this time of year.

Part of why I was able to suspend my usual disdain for swoony romance elements is because the central mystery of the book is so compelling.  The novel opens with the murder of Gia's stepmother (with the culprit left untold, of course), so my interest went sky-high immediately.  Belle does a great job of shifting your suspicions throughout the novel, and in the end, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out who really dunnit.  Definitely not predictable, and not annoyingly far-fetched (arguably the two worst ways a mystery can end).  Also, you've got to love the small-town drama that occurs throughout this novel.  While it could be a little overdone at times, I thought many of Gia's interactions with the nosy townsfolk were hilarious.

Is this a mystery novel of the highest literary echelons?  No.  As I mentioned before, the romance aspects were expectedly fluffy and not my favorite (REALLY, how many times can Gia and Jake get it on?  Like while she's dealing with her two absent siblings and the return of her imprisoned father and the mystery of who killed her stepmom?  REALLY?).  Plus, I had a hard time believing Gia's bad-ass stories of working in humanitarian aid when held up against her personality as illustrated in the rest of the book.  However, her relationship with Jake was cute and provided a bit of levity to the rest of the situation (plus an interesting twist), so I was able to forgive it.

Overall, The Last Breath is a perfect choice if you want a cozy mystery, and added bonus if you do enjoy romance novels.  Because I'm sure Jake is somebody's ideal book boyfriend (even if he's not mine).  :)

Giveaway time, friends!

I have a (gently used) copy of The Last Breath to give away to one of my lucky readers.  (US/Canada only please.)  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below by February 6 for your chance to win!
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giveaway and BANNED! Book Review: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Title: Go Ask Alice
Author: Anonymous (Beatrice Sparks)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 14, 1971
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life. 

Read her diary. 

Enter her world.

You will never forget her. 

For thirty-five years, the acclaimed, bestselling first-person account of a teenage girl's harrowing decent into the nightmarish world of drugs has left an indelible mark on generations of teen readers. As powerful -- and as timely -- today as ever, Go Ask Alice remains the definitive book on the horrors of addiction.

My Review:

That's right, it's one of my favorite literary weeks--BANNED BOOK WEEK!  During this event each year, Sheila at Book Journey hosts a little celebration on her blog, and this is the third year that I am participating.  It's a great excuse to explore the world of banned books and read some good ol' blacklisted literature.  You can check out my Banned Books Week reviews from the last two years here: Flowers for Algernon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .  READ ALL THE BOOKS!

Alrighty, let's pipe down and review Go Ask Alice.  This book has been on my TBR for years--so many years that I finally added it to my "30 Before 35" list last year, in an effort to make sure I finally read it.  I thought the premise sounded interesting, especially because the diary was reportedly written by an actual anonymous teenager who suffered through a drug addiction.  This reminded me a lot of Crank by Ellen Hopkins (a fiction novel based on her daughter's real-life drug problems), and I was eager to get a different perspective on this issue.

However, pretty early in the book, I started to feel like something was a bit off.  Alice (the protagonist) was awfully preachy and introspective for someone with such a serious addiction.  On the days when she was sober, she was quick to reprimand herself for her behavior, and to explore the many moral ramifications of her actions.  This seemed unusual, given the tone of other addiction memoirs I have read.  At first, I chalked it up to the influences of a different era (this book is from 40 years ago, after all).  But then I was also a bit bothered because Alice's drug encounters always escalated so fast.  It was never just her getting high with her friends.  It was "I got high, and then I also got raped, and then suddenly I was selling LSD to 9-year-olds." 

I don't doubt that these types of things can happen when people truly sink into addiction, but for Alice, it was pretty constant to the point of feeling farfetched.

Finally, some Googling put this in a clearer perspective.  Apparently the author of Go Ask Alice isn't very anonymous at all--the author is Beatrice Sparks, who at the time of the book's release was a social worker and member of the Mormon faith (she has since passed away).  She was originally credited as just an "editor" of the book, but after some questions arose regarding the true identity of "Alice", it became clear that much of the book was written by Sparks herself.  Hence, preachy tone and conveniently trumped-up circumstances, meant to warn impressionable teens of the dangers of drugs.  (You can read more about the Sparks allegations here,)

After delving into that information, the often-banned status of Go Ask Alice became even more interesting to me.  Because first: why would parents and teachers want this book banned, if it's entire purpose is to warn teens away from drugs?  I suppose they're taking the abstinence approach--if we don't talk about drugs or sex or alcohol, then they'll just never do them!  (Yeah, let me know how that works out for you.)  And second: isn't it intriguing that this book was banned for drug/sex/etc references, when the REAL crime here is the authenticity of the writing?  It seems rather criminal to me that this is sold to teens as a real girl's diary, when in fact it is the work of a 40-something youth counselor.  Teens today are pretty savvy, and I'm guessing that many of them could see right through this writing.

Despite the crime against literary humanity that Sparks committed here, of course I (as always) feel that this book should not be banned.  There are other tales of drug addiction, written with more authenticity, that would be more likely to get through to modern-day teenagers.  However, the basic intent of this book (to show kids a "worst case scenario" for such behavior) is admirable, and if it keeps even a few teens away from these poor choices, then who can argue?

Have you read a banned book lately?  Check out the top 100 most banned books HERE.

Without further ado, it's GIVEAWAY TIME!  Let's celebrate banned books together!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you'll be entered to win a copy of the banned book of your choice (from this list, limit of $15).  Giveaway is international, as I will be shipping through Book Depository.  Good luck!
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

My 2nd Blogoversary! Giveaway! WHOOP WHOOP

Good day to you, reader friends!  Yes, it has been two whole years since I started this bookish adventure at The Well-Read Redhead.  CELEBRATION TIME, YO!

In the last year, I've posted 53 book reviews ...not as good as the 98 of my first year, but I'll still pat myself on the back, considering that I've moved (twice), left my job, and had baby #2 within the last 365 days.  Thanks for tagging along for one of the craziest years of my life!

I know things slowed a lot around here lately, but I SO appreciate all of my readers, and I hope you have as much fun in my literary corner of the internet as I do.  I'm looking forward to more good times in year 3...who's with me??

In honor of all my wonderful followers, I am offering a giveaway.  And it's INTERNATIONAL!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you'll be entered to win $10 from Amazon to use towards the book of your choosing.  I know, controversy with authors etc etc etc, but whatever.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, peeps!

If the winner is from the US, I will also throw in 2-3 books off my shelves that I'm looking to give away.  Except I haven't decided which ones are going yet, so it will be a glorious surprise for the winner!
Your face if you win the surprise box of books.  YUP.
Thanks again all...and keep on reading with me!
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Literary Blog Hop!

IT'S GIVEAWAY TIME!  Who doesn't love that?

I thought this would be the perfect time for me to join Judith's Literary Blog Hop giveaway, because (as usual these days) I am on a quest to make room for some new books on my shelves here at home.  And the best way to do that is to part with some books that I've already read...even if it IS painful to see them go.

So, for this giveaway, I've got 3 gently used books to send to 1 lucky winner!  The books are:

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (one of my fave Oates novels!)
The Never List by Koethi Zan (ARC copy)
Help for the Haunted by John Searles (ARC copy)

US and Canada entries only please!  Enter in the Rafflecopter below...easy as pie.  (Actually, if you bake like I do, it's totally easier than pie.)

And check out the other blogs giving away goodies in this hop too!  Links at the bottom...
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Literary Blog Hop Linky List:
  1. Leeswammes
  2. Seaside Book Nook
  3. Booklover Book Reviews
  4. Biblionomad
  5. Laurie Here
  6. The Well-Read Redhead (US/CA)
  7. River City Reading
  8. GirlVsBookshelf
  9. Ciska's Book Chest
  10. The Book Stop
  11. Ragdoll Books Blog
  12. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  13. Lucybird's Book Blog
  14. Reading World (N-America)
  15. Journey Through Books
  16. Readerbuzz
  17. Always With a Book (US)
  18. 52 Books or Bust (N.Am./UK)
  19. Guiltless Reading (US/CA)
  20. Book-alicious Mama (US)
  21. Wensend
  22. Books Speak Volumes
  23. Words for Worms
  24. The Relentless Reader
  25. A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall (US)
  1. Fourth Street Review
  2. Vailia's Page Turner
  3. The Little Reader Library
  4. Lost Generation Reader
  5. Heavenali
  6. Roof Beam Reader
  7. Mythical Books
  8. Word by Word
  9. The Misfortune of Knowing
  10. Aymaran Shadow > Behind The Scenes
  11. The Things You Can Read (US)
  12. Bay State Reader's Advisory
  13. Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  14. Lizzy's Literary Life
  15. Books Can Save a Life (N. America)
  16. Words And Peace (US)
  17. The Book Club Blog

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Giveaway winners!

Hey there, readers!  I hope all my American friends are enjoying a nice end-of-summer Labor Day weekend.  Since I've had so many giveaways around these parts lately, I wanted to do a lovely little shout-out to our recent winners.  (I know, a few of these ended a few weeks ago, but you know how time just gets away from me these days...)

First up, the winners of the 3 copies of Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman were:
Kate R.
Jennifer H. (of The Relentless Reader)
Hopefully you'll all be enjoying your copies (courtesy of TLC Book Tours) very soon.  :)

The winner of the copy of The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan was:
Jennifer H. 
(yes, of The Relentless Reader...who is also apparently a relentless WINNER!)

And last but not least, the winner of the $20 Amazon gift card in honor of my blogoversary is...
A recent new follower of the blog via GFC.  Woohoo, Maryam!  I emailed you today, get back to me ASAP to claim your prize.

I've had a lot of fun with the giveaway love lately, and don't forget, there's still 2 days to enter to win Hungry by Darlene Barnes!

Enjoy your weekend, loves!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: Hungry by Darlene Barnes

Title:   Hungry
Author: Darlene Barnes
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Newly arrived in Seattle, Darlene Barnes stumbles on a job ad for a cook at the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity on the University of Washington campus, a prospect most serious food professionals would automatically reject. But Barnes envisions something other than kegs and corn dogs; she sees an opportunity to bring fresh, real food to an audience accustomed to "Asian Surprise" and other unidentifiable casseroles dropped off by a catering service. And she also sees a chance to reinvent herself, by turning a maligned job into meaningful work of her own creation: "I was the new girl and didn't know or care about the rules." 

Naively expecting a universally appreciative audience, Barnes finds a more exasperatingly challenging environment: The kitchen is nasty, the basement is scary, and the customers are not always cooperative. Undaunted, she gives as good as she gets with these foul-mouthed and irreverent--but also funny and sensitive--guys. Her passion for real food and her sharp tongue make her kitchen a magnet for the brothers, new recruits, and sorority girls tired of frozen dinners. 

Laugh-out-loud funny and poignant, Hungry offers a female perspective on the real lives of young men, tells a tale of a woman's determined struggle to find purpose, and explores the many ways that food feeds us.

My Review:

My interest in this book was twofold.  First, FOOD!  FOOD MEMOIR!  YES!  Always a winner for me.  Second, cook in a fraternity house.  I was not affiliated with Greek life while in college, but my husband was in a fraternity.  He went to a different university than I did, so I didn't see his experiences first-hand, but I've heard an awful lot of stories--including those about the food.  So I was very interested to read this and compare notes with him afterwards.

Hungry is a fun, witty memoir that also requires you to concentrate on not salivating on the pages while you read.  I sometimes have a hard time with memoirs that are written too soon after the events that they describe, because they give me the sense that the author lacks enough self-awareness to write about the subject with any sort of distance.  However, that is not the case here.  Barnes is unflinchingly honest about both her triumphs and mistakes throughout her tenure as cook to the Alpha Sigma Phi brothers, and her appealing candor is laced with a humor that makes it even more entertaining to read.  Barnes has been blogging about her adventures in the fraternity house for a while already, and her comfort in writing about the subject shines through in this book.

I was impressed by her determination to bring fresh, local ingredients to the Alpha Sig house.  Barnes's typical menus for the brothers are NOT what you would ever expect to see on Greek Row.  And it was not at all easy for her to produce these creative, delicious meals--between picky eaters, stubborn food suppliers, and unreliable kitchen help, she had her work cut out for her.  But she never lost sight of her ultimate goal, and I found that admirable.  (And by the way, based on the number of stories my husband has shared about the deep-fryer in his fraternity, he was not eating like this when he was in college.  Sadly.)

My only noted downside to the content of this memoir came near the end.  I felt like things got a little rushed in the last chapter or two as it began to wrap up.  I started to get confused about the timeline and whether Barnes was still the cook at the fraternity or not.  I can see how she probably didn't want to get repetitive at the end (since she had already related so many similar stories by that point), but the last section just felt slightly less polished than the rest.

Beyond the memoir itself, one of the best additions to this book is in the RECIPES.  Barnes scatters some relevant ones throughout the text, and that's where the salivation comes in, my friends.  I am moving this book to the "cookbooks" section of my Kindle, in order to remind myself to make every darn creation that she included.  If she doesn't inspire you to get in the kitchen, nothing will.

So, do I want Darlene Barnes to be my BFF?  I dunno, this lady has got a sass-mouth on her that I'm not sure I could handle.  But does this memoir make me want her to be my chef mentor for life?  You freakin' bet.

Much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Darlene Barnes on her website and Twitter.


TLC Book Tours is offering up a copy of Hungry, which is pretty awesome of them, I'd say.  Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.  US/Canada residents only please.  Giveaway ends the night of September 4, 2013!
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

IT'S MY BLOGOVERSARY! I come bearing gifts!

One year!  ONE YEAR, PEEPS!  You've been reading my crazy banter for a whole 365 days.

Today is my first blogoversary, and I shall begin the celebration with some Tony Toni Tone:
(My husband serenades that amazingness to me every year on our wedding anniversary (mainly just the chorus, in a beautifully off-key rendition, but still, IT'S THE THOUGHT), and I feel it's only fair that you be given the same appreciation.)

Well, what a year it has been.  I won't do a long post going over all my stats, but in that time I've managed to review 98 books .  DANG!  If I knew I was that close, I would have let the lead out the last week or two and gotten it up to 100.  Ah, well, maybe next year.  (Maybe not, with two kids.  Okay, whatever.)

I've had lots of highlights, namely connecting with several authors ( Honest Toddler being a potential fave) and of course, with fellow bloggers and readers.  I know my life is going to be busy in the upcoming 12 months, but I can't wait to keep growing the blog and getting to know more of you!

So what is an anniversary celebration without GIFTS??

As a token of appreciation for all of you, my loyal and probably a little off-kilter followers, I am offering up an INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY!  Up to $20 for you to spend on Amazon.  Boo-yah.  I wish it could be more, but you know, moving expenses and BLAH BLAH BLAH.  Anyway, if you're anything like me, you already know how to maximize a dollar on book spending at Amazon.

Since this is in celebration of my followers...obviously, you have to follow me.  (New followers welcome!)  But there are other optional entries as well.  Just use the Rafflecopter below (giveaway ends 8/31).


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 5, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: Race Across The Sky by Derek Sherman

Title:   Race Across The Sky
Author: Derek Sherman
Publisher: Plume
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Caleb Oberest is an ultramarathon runner, who severed all ties to his family to race brutal 100-mile marathons across mountains. Shane Oberest is a sales rep for a  cutting-edge biotechnology firm, creating new cures for the diseases of our time. Shane has spent his life longing to connect with his older brother, but the distance between them was always too vast.

Caleb’s running group live by strict rules, but Caleb is breaking one of them. He has fallen in love with a new member and her infant daughter.  When Caleb discovers that the baby has a fatal genetic disease, he reaches out to Shane. On the verge of becoming a father himself, Shane devises a plan that could save this baby and bring his lost brother home. But to succeed, both brothers will need to risk everything they have. And so each begins a dangerous race that will push them past their boundaries, and take all of Caleb’s legendry endurance to survive.

My Review:

This book is a pretty unique read.  I was thrown off when I started it, because the stories of the two brothers (Caleb, the hermited ultramarathoner, and Shane, the family-man pharmaceutical sales rep) are so different.  The chapters move back and forth between their POVs, and in the beginning, it was tough to see how a cohesive story was going to come out of these polar-opposite narratives.  I enjoyed their individual stories, but even after their reason for reconnecting was explained early on, it took me until about halfway through the book to see them as part of the same plot.  However, once that clicked into place for me, I got a lot more enjoyment out of the story.

I think part of why it was hard to see Caleb and Shane's journeys as the same story is because the author did an astounding job with the details of their individual lives.  The description of Caleb's life as an ultramarathoner makes me feel motivated to read more about this lifestyle and "hobby" (if you can call it that).  Sherman brings it to life in a way that's completely fascinating.  (Especially for someone like me, who ran a mere 15k five years ago and have since declared it the crowning achievement of my athletic life.  HA.)

On the flip side, Shane's work in the pharmaceutical industry opens up a lot of interesting conversations about the moral obligations of drug companies, who should make decisions on the development of new medicines, and whether pharma is bordering on "playing God" in some areas.  Sherman obviously poured a lot of attention to detail into each brother's personal history, which significantly adds to the novel and will get your wheels turning (even if it does make it hard to envision the book's plot as a whole sometimes).

One thing I wish the author didn't do was throw in other POVs at random sometimes.  For much of the novel, the chapters move between Caleb and Shane's perspectives.  However, at unexpected times, I'd get the POV of Prajuk (one of Shane's colleagues) or June (Caleb's girlfriend).  This seemed odd, given that the rest of the story was told by the brothers--and honestly, it made me think that it was laziness on the part of the author.  He couldn't find a way to get a certain point across with his two primary narrators, so he brought in a secondary one for a short time to get the job done.  It felt messy.  Others may not care about this so much, but you probably know from past reviews that I'm rather discerning when it comes to uses of POV, so...take that for what it is.

In terms of plot action, I didn't feel much suspense or a feeling of true investment in the characters until about halfway through the book.  Again, I think this is because so much time was being spent weaving Caleb and Shane's detailed lives together.  However, around the midway point, I started to see where the real plot twists could begin, and that picked up the pace (pace! running pun? no? sorry.) for sure.  I got sucked in then and enjoyed where the rest of the novel took me.

As you can see, this review is all over this place--but overall, Race Across The Sky was a one-of-a-kind, enjoyable read that was definitely worth my reading time.  The specifics included about ultramarathoning and pharmaceuticals will stick with me for sure, and the action in the second half of the novel is completely worth the wait.  (You just have to ask yourself if you're willing to be in limbo that long before it picks up.)

Much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Derek Sherman on his website.


TLC Book Tours is offering up 3 copies of Race Across The Sky, which is pretty awesome of them, I'd say.  Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter.  US/Canada residents only please.  Giveaway ends August 12, 2013!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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