Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Death Reading Challenge: July 2011

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE
and join the fun!

Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily.

If you're just keeping a running list of the books as you read them, grab the link to your list post and enter in the Mr. Linky so we can recognize your success this month.

If you're reading or rereading without documenting it on your blog, let me know in the comments which book(s) you read in this month. This will also help me keep track of who's eligible for the challenge giveaway this month!

REMINDER: In order to be eligible for the challenge giveaway in August 2011, you must have read four In Death books between April 1, 2011 and August 31, 2011 and have documented that you have either on your own blog, on goodreads [please leave a link to your profile if we're not already friends there] or you can let us know what you read here in the comments of the monthly In Death Reading Challenge posts. 

PLEASE NOTE: I wanted to make sure I got July's challenge post up in July, but I can't stay awake a moment longer, so I will come back and edit this post tomorrow to include a mini review of the book I read this month and a series discussion question. Please come back! 

Divided In Death 
Book 19

To be posted tomorrow morning..


To be posted tomorrow morning.. 

Fitness Challenge Report Card: July 2011

Interested in joining the Fitness Challenge? Please visit the Sign Up post for more information, including the challenge rules. You may leave a comment there or on this post if you'd like to join. Be sure to include your fitness miles goal in your comment.

I can't believe it's the last day of July already and it will be August in just a few hours! Poof! Well, it was a productive month for me in fitness. My fitness challenge miles totaled in at 123.2 miles for July! :) You can see my daily activities on my fitness blog, See how she runs... HERE. I got in a lot of swimming and biking this month and even participated in my first ever duathlon and practiced for September's triathlon by doing a mock mini tri with a local tri-women support group to which I belong.

I finished the duathlon [2mi run - 10.6 mi bike - 3 mi run] in 1:30 and a few seconds, with which I'm happy. The biking is my best component and I averaged 17.6 mph for that leg. The last 3 mile run after pushing so hard on the bike was brutal, but I did it!

I also participated in a practice min tri with a group of women from a local tri-women support group to which I belong just last Friday. The best part of that was that I did a 20 minute open water ocean swim! You may recall I struggled with that when I went to the beach earlier in the month to practice, but now I did it! Yay!!! The ocean was A LOT calmer this time and it helped that I was with such an encouraging and supportive group of women. I also did really well with the biking part, averaging 18.6 mph for a 7.3 mile ride! Hopefully I can do the same on race day in September! The run was still killer.. :/

So how did everyone do with their fitness challenge miles* this month?

*ONE fitness challenge miles = 1 mile walked or run for fitness OR = 15 minute increments of other exercise for fitness such as cardiovascular or strength training exercises.

How did you do with your fitness challenge goal for July?

What kinds of activities did you do to keep moving this month?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

1. Let's start with the obvious. Did you like the book? What's your overall impression?

I liked it very much. The mystery wasn't too complicated, yet compelling enough to hold my interest and Harper is such an interesting character. I wanted to keep reading to see how she did her job and I wanted get to know her better.

2. Did you like Harper?

I'm accustomed to the protagonists in the books I read to be warm, likable people, but Harper comes across more indifferent, if not cold. You'd think this would make it difficult to warm up to her, but Harris actually has a knack for writing such a character in a compelling way with an inner vulnerability for which you can't help but empathize. Harper's past makes me sad and I can't say much about her present situation either. She has her work and she has Tolliver, but I sense that they're both kind of sad and lonely and they're definitely treated more with hostility than with kindness in their livelihood. I'd really like to see Harper heal some more and be genuinely happy.

3. What did you think of the murder mystery and the people of Sarne, Arkansas?

Oh my what a horrible mess! Even before the murders, these people really needed some help. I'm glad the murderer was figured out and held accountable, but what a waste that he had to take those lives like he did--the lives of people he should have been taking care of no less! Poor Nelly Teague! She is going to have a rough time processing everything that's happened to her family. I'd like to think she gets the psychological help she needs and maybe leaves Sarne behind for a better life somewhere else. I was glad to hear Harper praise Nelly at the end and assure her that she'd grow up to be a great woman. I think Nell needed to hear that. I'd also like to think she and Hollis remain good friends and support each other over the years. It's a nice thought, right?

4. Do you think Harper will ever find out what happened to her sister Cameron?

Harper is convinced that Cameron is dead, but has never located her remains. Of course the romantic and optimist in my would like to believe Cameron is still alive and will someday reunite with Harper. This series isn't exactly the sugar-coated kind and she has been missing for a long time already, so I think it's more likely that Harper will find Cameron's remains and help release her soul as she did for Helen Hopkins in Grave Sight.

5. What do you make of the relationship between Harper and Tolliver?

To me, it's obvious their relationship goes beyond simply step-siblings and I sense a chemistry between them that's unusual, but makes sense. They lived under the same roof since they were teens, but it really doesn't seem right to call them brother and sister. Not just because they're not blood related, but also as a result of their extremely dysfunctional upbringing and because of the way their selfish, cruel and negligent parents basically forced them to take care of themselves and essentially act as parents to their step siblings born to Harper's mom and Tolliver's dad. Harper and Tolliver's closeness actually feels more powerful than brother and sister or even friends after they survived what they did growing up. I feel sad for them, really. I guess we'll have to read the rest of the books in this series to learn more about these two.

6. Do you think you'll continue reading this series?

I definitely will! Harper is interesting enough to make me want to read more. I think the mysteries will be fun to read, but mostly I feel I need to see Harper figure out how she wants to live. I don't see Harper and Tolliver making their living like this forever. If anything, they need a home and maybe even an office. Some structure. Some peaceful happiness.

Tune in next month when the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club read a book by an author brought to us by the letter 'I'.  On which we're still deciding! Any suggestions? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

REVIEW: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

'H'Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris is the July book selection for the Authors by the Alphabet online book club for the author last name beginning with the letter 'H' and was chosen by me. Stop by tomorrow for the Q&A book club discussion. Anyone is welcome to join the discussion. If you'd like to join the Authors by the Alphabet book club, we'd love to have you. Visit the sign up post on Paula's blog HERE.

Grave Sight is the first book in the Harper Connelly Mystery series by Charlaine Harris. Harper Connelly was struck by lightning when she was a teen and since then, she has been able to locate dead bodies and know how they died. Now an adult, Harper offers her services as a means of earning her living. Her stepbrother, Tolliver Lang, is her manager and together they travel around the country wherever there's work, living out of hotels.

In this story, Harper is summoned to the small town of Sarne, Arkansas to find the body of a missing teenager named Monteen "Teenie" Hopkins. Teenie went missing the same day that her boyfriend Del Teague was found shot dead in the woods, presumedly from self inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. Harper finds Teenie's remains in the same woods and reveals that she was indeed murdered while trying to run away. Despite the fact that Harper helped the community by finding the murdered teen and determining the causes of death of both Teenie and Del, the townspeople are suspicious and unkind to Harper and Tolliver and soon they are caught up in all sorts of trouble. Circumstances force them to stay in Sarne until things get cleared up, so to help their own cause, Harper and Tolliver try to figure out the mystery of who the killer is in Sarne.

The murder mystery was not terribly convoluted, but mysterious enough to keep me turning the pages to see how it would be solved and the consequences the truth would have on the characters. There were moments where I had to pause and recall how the various citizens of Sarne were connected to each other, because it sure felt like everyone had some unusual or secret connection to everyone else.

What made this book most compelling to me was Harper herself. She's a very interesting character. She's very straightforward and 'tells it like it is' it comes to most people and aspects of her life. This often makes Harper come across as a cold, uncaring person, but it's actually a really good attitude when it comes to her job when most people with whom she interacts are so quick to judge Harper as unnatural or evil and she's constantly subjected to disapproval from the very same people whom she helps.

While Harper exudes a blasé attitude on the outside, she also harbors an emotional vulnerability on the inside. She typically only lets this side show when she's either alone or with Tolliver. She and Tolliver grew up in an extremely dysfunctional home and both are still trying to deal with many ramifications of their early life. Harper also has major anxieties with thunderstorms due to having been struck by lightning. Harper seems lost and depends completely on Tolliver as her anchor in life. Both she and Tolliver live a pretty lonely life. It's sad really, and I hope they find some true joy and contentment in life soon.

I enjoyed Grave Sight and look forward to unraveling the mystery that is Harper Connelly in subsequent books in this series as she and Tolliver solve more mysteries.  4 out of 5 stars.


NOTE: The Authors by the Alphabet Book Club Q&A for Grave Sight will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Christmas in July IV {A Giveaway}

Just as we come off a terrible heat wave in my corner of the world, I'm thinking wintry thoughts for my 4th annual Christmas in July book giveaway. Christmas is only five months away and Hanukkah bit less than that, beginning at sundown on December 20th this year. Has anyone given these December holidays a thought yet? I know I haven't! Winter feels so far away right now, especially after a week of temperatures soaring into the 100s every day last week, plus I can't seem to think about any other long term plans until after my triathlon in September. Crazy, I know. I've become a little anxious, preoccupied, etc. with training and mentally preparing for the race and admit it consumes a lot of my thoughts these days. Next week I'm going to a workshop given by sports psychologist for "Managing Triathlon Performance Anxiety," compliments of the tri-women group to which I belong. I think I really need this workshop! lol!  ;)

Traditionally, I give away gently used books from my shelf to celebrate Christmas in July and I plan to do the same this year, with a few extras to sweeten the deal as well as an option for a different prize.  One randomly selected winner will win their choice of the following prizes:

The Cozy Prize: [US only]
A gently used book of their choice from my gift shelf,
A small jar of my homemade strawberry jam,
A homemade beaded book thong in the color scheme of your choice,
and a few extra goodies like author swag and a bonus book of my choosing.


The Glossy Prize: [US or international]
A shiny new mass market paperback of your choice, shipped to you via TheBookDepository.

To see what books I'm offering for the cozy prize, please visit my gift shelf. I suggest the following favorites, but of course it's winner's choice:

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb, the first in the very popular futuristic In Death crime fiction series. This copy is actually a well worn copy since I bought it used and have read it a few times. Don't worry, I'm not giving away my only copy! I'm keeping my autographed copy that friends gave me.

Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas. This is the first book in Ms. Kleypas' Travis Family contemporary romance series and an all time favorite of mine. I have an extra paperback copy on my gift shelf. I have a hard cover copy on my shelf, autographed by Ms. Kleypas. :)

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. This is the second book in the Travis Family series and a very special book to me. I have an extra hardcover copy to giveaway. It can be read as a stand alone.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment in this post telling me your favorite holiday themed book, whether it be a book from your childhood, a cherished holiday cookbook, a romance, mystery, anything holiday-themed!

I have very few objects from my childhood in my possession, but one item I do have is my favorite Christmas book-- a brightly colored children's book version of The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore that's probably now considered vintage. Yes, I'm that old. ;p The edges are worn, the staples holding the pages together are rusted, and there's even a scribble of crayon on the cover, but it is a rare treasured keepsake from some happy times of my early childhood. I still remember having the story read to me on Christmas Eve, leaving butterflies in my stomach anticipating the arrival of Santa while I slept. It's a happy thought.

This Christmas in July Giveaway is open everyone, although international winners can only receive The Glossy Prize.

Giveaway ends on July 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm EST, at which time I'll use to select the winner. Winner will be announced in a separate post.

Winners have one week to claim their prize, after which a new winner will be selected.

Good luck! :)

If you want more Christmas in July spirit, head over to Deanna's blog, Paperback Dreamer. She's dedicated the entire month of July to Christmas with holiday book and movie reviews plus giveaways. There's still an open giveaway going on right now. So go check it out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Duathlon Race Day!

sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean

3:30 am wake up 
4:25 am at Ellen's
5:15 am arrive at race site
6:30 am check in, set up and ready
6:35 am at start line
6:50 am first wave starts
7:47 am MY wave starts
2 mile run | 10.6 mile bike | 3 mile run 
9:17 am fini!

Lessons learned:
1. Wear sunscreen even at 7 am in the morning.
2. Hydrate well before and during the race. Do this at least when you're in transition if you aren't accustomed to drinking during your run or ride.
3. Fuel your body at the one hour mark in a race.
4. And finally ... include checking that your brakes are engaged in your set up. My rear brake was accidentally disengaged somewhere between mounting my the bike on car and starting the race. I figured this out during the race and had to stop to engage it. I only lost 30 seconds or so on my time, but I could have been in serious trouble if I really needed my brakes!

I'm waiting for the split times to be posted so I can see how I did for each leg, but overall, I'm pretty happy with my race results. :)

Thank you for your enthusiastic support! xo

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Experience... The End

My daughters and I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 movie last night this morning at 12:01 am on July 15, 2011, opening night for the very last Harry Potter film ever. It was a really fun and special way to close the chapter on the Harry Potter experience with my daughters, which began for all of us almost exactly nine years ago when I started reading the first book out loud to them one summer night when they were 7 and 3 years old [now 16 and 12]. At the time, my youngest would fall asleep within the first several pages, but she made up for that by reading and rereading all of the books several times each over the years.

The theater was packed with muggles, a few of whom were impersonating wizards with their attire The theater was full of excitement as the audience sat waiting to witness the film version of how it all ends. When the lights were dimmed and the projector started rolling, I admit feeling a bit impatient with the reel of movie previews, which is typically a part of the movie going experience I really enjoy. I was not alone in my impatience for the movie to start, which I know for a fact because after the third preview an audience member shouted out, "Accio, movie!" Haha! 

The movie was very well done but of course, the book is so much better. More detail, more action, more character development, more emotion, more depth, more plot... just more. So if you've only seen the movies and never read the books? ... it's never too late to capture the magic of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. Start at the beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 

My daughter came across this video the other day in which actors from the Harry Potter movies were asked to describe their Harry Potter experience in one word.

Harry Potter Experience... In One Word [HD]

I think "legendary" [James or Oliver Phelps] and "magical" [Emma Watson] are the most fitting.

How would you describe your Harry Potter Experience in one word? 


Have fun if you'll be seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 sometime soon! Or if you already did... hope you liked it. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I Read Last Month

June 2011

Finally getting this post up. I think I've been working on it in bits and pieces for a week now--no exaggeration, lots of distractions.

June currently holds rank as my most productive reading month so far at 11 books. It was a good month in quality, too. I caught up on Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series in time for the release of the much anticipated ninth book in the series, Kiss of Snow, which was SO good, by the way. Another star mention goes to The Grefriar by Clay and Susan Griffith, which is a steampunk fantasy novel that was such a pleasant surprise.

The break down of the genres I read:

Graphic novel .......... 3
General fiction ......... 1
Romance ................ 5
Steampunk ............. 1
Urban Fantasy.......... 1

I'm listing the books below in the order in which I read them. I've been pretty good about writing up small reviews on goodreads lately, so for some of my comments below, I simply cut and pasted from there to here.

1. War for The Oaks by Emma Bull [1986]

I read this book for the Women of Fantasy 2011 Book Club. It is an urban fantasy novel first published in 1986. The ten second plot summary: The unassuming human girl gets pulled into the dark world of the fae with an important role in the impending war between the dark and light Seelie Courts. She's also an aspiring rock musician, the subplot of which was woven very well into the main plot. If you like urban fantasy set in the dark world of the fae, rock music, or the 80s, this book would be right up your alley.

2. The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith [2010]

I read this steampunk fantasy novel after reading a positive review for it by Leslie that you can read HERE. I ended up loving this book way more than I expected and I cannot wait for the sequel that comes out later this year. REVIEW TO COME!

3. Burnout by Rebecca Donner, ill. Inaki Miranda [2008]
[not pictured]
This is a young adult contemporary graphic novel about a teenage girl who is being raised by her single mom in the pacific northwest and they move in with the mom's boyfriend and his teenage son. It delves into coming of age issues, the tragedies of dysfunctional families and eco-terrorism, but unfortunately just skims the surface of all of these challenging topics without any lessons to be learned by the reader. It's quite a tragic story, actually.

4. Harvey by Hervé Bouchard, ill. Janice Nadeau [2010]

I picked up this book while browsing the young adult graphic novel section at my library, expecting something profound based on the numerous literary awards it has received, but found the unexpected abruptness of the ending unsatisfying and quite frankly a bit depressing for a children's book. The artwork is simplistic but dramatic and portrays the melancholy tone of the story very well.

This book is about a young boy named Harvey whose father dies suddenly from a heart attack, how he perceives and tries to understand his father's death, what happens at a funeral and how all of this makes him feel. The story certainly captures the foreignness and uncertainties that a child likely experiences upon the death of a parent or loved one, but the ending is so abrupt and open ended that I think many children are likely to feel as puzzled as I over how Harvey really felt and what was going to happen to him next. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as it sets the stage for discussion between a parent or guardian and child if they read the book together, but I do think most children reading this book alone would be lost by the ending.

5. Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh [2010] GRADE: B+
6. Play of Passion by Nalini Singh [2010] GRADE: A-
7. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh [2011] GRADE: A
[books not pictured]
Clearly, I love this series. If you haven't read this one yet, it's not too late to start. The series has an excellent, sophisticated series story arc set in the future with a complex society made up of humans, changelings and psy, the latter of whom have varying degrees of psychic abilities and rely on feedback between their race in an abstract psychic network. The tension between the races has building up since before the first book and now at book nine, the races are at the cusp of war and everything the author has developed in her world building is coming together seamlessly. Not to mention the fact that each book is also a realistic and satisfying romance, too.

8. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen [2011]

Not my favorite book by this author--that would be Garden Spells, but still an interesting and enjoyable story nonetheless, told in the author's signature style of incorporating magical realism in stories full of family, friendship, tradition and values and a touch of romance.

9. A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld [2009]

Josh Neufeld is an artist and writer who wrote this non fiction graphic novel, documenting the horrific effects of Hurricane Katrina on six different New Orleanians who survived the storm. The novel follows events in these people's lives from hours prior to the storm through the difficult aftermath. The stories are frightening and startling in their revelations to what people actually experienced--not just the catastrophic destruction of property, but also the disturbing truths of how the survivors suffered while waiting for assistance and most importantly, how they forged on with their lives.

10. Burning Up by Knight, Singh, Kantra, Brook [2010]
[not pictured]
This is a paranormal romance anthology by authors Nalini Singh, Angela Knight, Virginia Kantra and Meljean Brook. The quality of the stories in this anthology varied to two extremes for me. Nalini Singh's novella was very good, and Meljean Brook's was excellent. The other two weren't anywhere near as fully developed character or plot-wise and the romances felt quite contrived.

"Whisper of Sin" by Nalini Singh 4.5/5 stars
Psy-Changelng series, Book #1.5

"Blood and Roses" by Angela Knight 2.5/5 stars

"Shifting Sea" by Virginia Kantra 3/5 stars
Children of the Sea series, Book #3.5

"Here There Be Monsters" by Meljean Brook 5/5 stars
Iron Seas novels, prequel
My absolute favorite novella in this anthology. Impeccable, fascinating world building in Brook's new steampunk Iron Seas series. Clever plot, diverse characters and a believable and memorable romance that the characters had to fight for. Now I'm looking forward more than ever to read the first full length novel in this series, The Iron Duke--already out in paper book and ebook formats.

Average Grade for Burning Up as a whole: 3.75 out of 5 stars

11. Shades of Midnight by Lara Adrian [2010]

This is the seventh book in the paranormal romance Midnight Breeds series by Lara Adrian. It had been a while since I read a book in this series, but decided to catch up since I had this and book eight on my shelf and knowing I was going to have the opportunity to meet Lara at the RWA lit signing and purchase a signed copy of the ninth book in the series, Deeper Than Midnight, which was coincidentally released that very day.

Shades of Midnight takes place in the cold, snowy wilderness of a remote town in Alaska when the warrior Kade is sent there from the Order's home base in Boston to investigate several brutal murders that suggest something inhuman is on the loose. Alexandra Maguire is a bush pilot in this remote area and is the one who discovers the bodies of a an entire family brutally attacked by something very 'other' and disturbingly very similar to an attack she witnessed as a young child many years ago that she has always tried to forget. Alex is at first very suspicious of Kade, but as she begins to trust him, a bond grows between them and they fall in love despite their efforts not to! This book is an exciting, action-packed installment to the series and propels the overall series arc into a new direction that will keep you on the edge of your seat in suspense for the next book.

Here's hoping the books I pick up in July are just as great!  : )

What are you reading right now? 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Triathlon to Duathlon

I have been busy preparing for my upcoming triathlon on July 17 with quite a few new experiences under my belt in both biking and swimming. One new learning experience was attending an open water swim clinic earlier this month--an hour in the classroom and an hour in the pool with drills for open water swimming as well as an open water simulation. The next step was to swim in a real open water situation, which I did this past weekend by going to beach to practice swimming in the ocean where next weekend's race will take place. Let me just say that after [trying to] swim in the ocean, swimming in a pool is piece of cake!

The surf on Saturday was perhaps a little rougher than usual, but that's not an excuse, because I have to be prepared for any possible surf situation--calm or rough--on the day of the triathlon. It took me a good 30 minutes to get up the nerve to get in the water and get swimming. The waves were pretty big and even after getting past the breaks, which was really tough, the swells were still so powerful. The feeling of being pushed and pulled and tossed about like a cork was so overwhelming for me. I just couldn't get calm enough to be comfortable. I wouldn't say that I was panicking, but I definitely didn't feel confident or in control, and I decided that I'm just not ready for open water swimming in the ocean. So I'm not going to compete in the triathlon next weekend. :(

The good news, however, is that next weekend's event is a multi-sport event that is simultaneously hosting triathlon, duathlon and aqua-velo events. So I'm switching my race entry to compete in a duathlon instead. A duathlon is a run-bike-run event so I'm basically replacing the swim portion with a 2 mile run. I'll be doing a course that consists of a 2 mile run, a 10.6 mile bike, followed by a 3.0 mile run. An aqua-velo event is swim-bike only.

I am still planning on doing the Danskin Triathlon in September as that swim event is held in a bay as opposed to the ocean. I think I'll fare much better swimming where the power of the water isn't nearly as fierce as the ocean.

I felt pretty sad and defeated on Saturday when I realized I couldn't do the open water swimming in the ocean, but once I let it sink in a bit [no pun intended!], I feel so much less stressed out about next week's race and am now spending this week training and counting down the days to competing in my first ever duathlon!  : )

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

YOU'RE INVITED: Read Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris with us!

It's my turn to select a book for this month's online Authors by the Alphabet Book Club. We're up to the letter H and I chose Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris. Grave Sight is the first book in The Harper Connelly mystery series, first published in 2005.

Summary from the publisher:
Harper Connelly has what you might call a strange job: she finds dead people. She can sense the final location of a person who's passed, and share their very last moment. The way Harper sees it, she's providing a service to the dead while bringing some closure to the living—but she's used to most people treating her like a blood-sucking leech. Traveling with her step-brother Tolliver as manager and sometime-bodyguard, she's become an expert at getting in, getting paid, and getting out fast. Because for the living it's always urgent—even if the dead can wait forever.

I'd like to invite you to read it with us this month and join our book club discussion here on my blog at the end of the month. Maybe you've read Harris' popular Sookie series? This is the perfect excuse to try something different from the author. So head to the library or bookstore, grab the book and start reading!

The Authors by the Alphabet Book Club is an online book club that was started by Paula who blogs at Tome's Devotee and is made up of a small group of bloggers who take turns every month selecting a book for the group to read and discuss, making our way through the alphabet by author last names. The person who makes the monthly selection is the one to host a discussion on her (his) blog on the last Thursday of the month. New members are always welcome!

You can read more about Charlaine Harris at

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

REVIEW: Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones and Pamela Ferdinand

A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood

This is the G selection for the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club for the month of June 2011. This book was selected by Marce who blogs at Tea Time with Marce where you can find her review and links to the Q&A book discussion posted by other book club members. Anyone interested in joining the monthly book club is welcome and invited to join on the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club sign up post on Paula's blog.

The title and subtitle of this book explains largely what this book is about, but to elaborate just a bit, it is a memoir co written by three friends who have found themselves at the same cross road of life and how they proceed to make at least one of their wishes come true---to be a mother and everything else that happens to them during their journey to motherhood. Carey, Beth and Pam are all successful journalists, each with a string of failed relationships behind them and now in their late thirties, feel very strongly about pursuing motherhood as a single parent. Carey is the first to start on the road to motherhood by purchasing eight vials of sperm from an anonymous sperm donor. But just as Carey prepares for insemination, she meets someone and is soon pregnant. The vials then get passed to Beth who has finally put a difficult divorce behind her, but she, too, meets a man who might just be the one and also gets pregnant. Finally the vials get passed to Pam, the romantic of the three women who is always on the lookout for true love, but is not willing to let the chance at motherhood pass her by before she's too old to conceive. Happily, she, too, finds love in the nick of time. This is a very simplistic overview of what these three women go through in their unconventional pursuit of motherhood. They experience uncertainties in their relationships, challenges with balancing their jobs with their pursuit of motherhood, as well as heart wrenching losses and deep felt sorrow that will be a part of them forever, but in the end this memoir tells the story of how three women found true love and motherhood perhaps later than most women, and maybe in a different order, but not at all too late to live "happily ever after."

The chapters rotate between narrations from Carey, Beth and Pam pretty much in chronological order as they each pursue their ultimate goal of becoming a mother. They share pertinent anecdotes about their careers, living arrangements, their extended families and of course their mutual friendships. They also share their past relationship failures, the experiences and challenges of their current relationships, terrible losses and tremendous joys that make the journey to love and parenthood worth every emotional scar we ever bear.

The writing in this memoir flows very easily, and Carey, Beth and Pam include a lot of conversations they've had with friends, family, lovers and other significant people in their lives, and that dialogue helps the book read like a story and not just a string of events, the latter of which could easily lead to boredom with a memoir. While reading the first few chapters, I admit that I felt quite removed from the women's situations, largely because my life path was so different and I couldn't quite relate to being 40-ish years old, a wealthy career woman, single with no love interests on the horizon and no child of my own in my heart. However, the more chapters I read in this memoir, the more absorbed I became in these woman's lives, the more I empathized with their situations and the more I grasped onto the hope that they would not only become mothers, but also find permanent love in a healthy marriage.

One of "issues" that I have with this book --and it's not even really an issue, but more of an observation-- is that Carey, Beth and Pam were all financially well off and could easily afford to pursue the medical avenues of getting pregnant on their own as well as the child care expenses after the baby's arrival. It just doesn't seem realistic that there is a large demographic of 40-ish women out there who can afford such lifestyles and the freedom to pursue single motherhood like these women did.

Also, Carey, Beth and Pam's stories were so similar and their narration voices so similar that at times I had a difficult time keeping track of whose story I was reading and I found myself flipping around a few pages to jog my memory.

Ultimately, I found Three Wishes to be a thought provoking and very personal look into the lives of these three modern women who were so determined to have children of their own. They survived many difficult situations, made life altering decisions and learned to live with those decisions, and above all they were very lucky to have had their three wishes come true.

In closing, I'd like to end my review with my favorite quote from the memoir. It is a quote from Pam, the final recipient of the donor vials around the time she decides with certainty to pursue having a child on her own. I think this passage captures the essence of what each of these three women feel and why they were so incredibly determined to become mothers. I think I would have felt the same if I were in their place.

"Finally, at thirty-seven years old, I confronted myself. I considered what I could not live without and immediately knew it was a child. That for me, life would have a far lesser purpose if I could not be a mother. I once read that the ancient Egyptians described childless women as 'mothers of the missing ones,' and that imagery wrenched me to the core. I could almost feel an ache in my bones for the child who would be missing to me." --Pam [p. 108]


Friday, July 1, 2011

My RWA Literacy Signing Adventure

I tried for an abbreviated version, but it's just not possible...

The day before the lit signing, nath and her sister came to my house for lunch! Of course, they came bearing all kinds of delicious treats from Canada--ketchup flavored potato chips, gourmet flavored macaroons, fabulous gourmet jellies and two tins of REAL Canadian maple syrup. I am a maple syrup snob and ONLY eat the 100% pure maple syrup, usually from Vermont or Canada. Nath also cleared some books from her shelf and brought me a bunch of them, including Cold Magic by Kate Elliot, which I have been wanting to read for so long.

Nath and her sister are such sweethearts. I am lucky to call them friends and they spoil me rotten. : ) After nath and her sister left, I went over the list of authors who were going to be at the signing again to make sure I had everyone I wanted to meet on my list. I was disappointed to learn that historical romance author Meredith Duran wasn't on the list, so I tweeted my disappointment to her and she messaged me back letting me know she was going to be in the city on Tuesday and that she would be happy to meet up! How awesome is that? VERY awesome.

The next day was the RWA Literacy Signing in Manhattan at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. I planned to arrive an hour or two early to meet up with some book blogging friends, but I mis-remembered the train schedule and missed my outgoing train by scant minutes. I literally saw the train roll away from the station as I got there. Argh. I should have been more attentive to the schedule and double checked the time. Fortunately, I don't live too far from the train station, so I went back home for a bit and then came back for the next train an hour later.

As soon as I arrived at the Marriott, I met up with Dru Ann in the lobby and then shortly after, nath, her sister and Kristie J found me with Dru Ann. It was so great to have finally met Kristie in person. We went to the lounge for a bit where I met Wendy, The SuperLibrarian who was awarded Librarian of the Year yesterday at the conference and Rosie. It was there that we briefly saw author Meljean Brook who gave all of us a set of her awesome Iron Seas Romance Trading Cards. She came back shortly afterwards and sat with us for a while before nath and I couldn't stand it anymore and proceeded to the ballroom for the literacy signing that had started a few minutes prior.

So, the literacy signing. What an adventure! I thought I was so organized for this event with my list of 40+ authors, arranged alphabetically and prioritized by urgency--nine MUST SEE authors, followed by GO TO THESE NEXT authors and finally the IF THERE'S TIME authors. At the very top of my list was Nalini Singh, Tessa Dare and Megan Hart. So much for organization, though, because as soon as I entered the ballroom, my head was spinning and it took a lot of concentration to keep tabs on my list while navigating the crowded ballroom. In the beginning I took time to snap a photo with an author and tweet it, but that was taking too much time, so I stopped doing that after the first couple of authors. You can see some of my tweets and photos on my twitterfeed HERE. There are photos there of me with Nalini Singh, Jeannie Lin, Megan Hart and fellow book blogger and aspiring author, Kwana. I also found Lea and we got to exchange hugs! Every single author I met was gracious and kind, clearly happy to meet their readers. I had such a good time introducing myself and exchanging a few words about their books.

Before I knew it, the signing was winding down and it was time to check out. Over $46,000 was raised at the RWA 2011 Literacy signing to benefit local and worldwide literacy programs. Isn't that fantastic? Here is a look at what I got:

click to enlarge
Enclave by Ann Aguirre (YA)
Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles (YA)
Time Weaver by Shana Abé
Deeper than Midnight by Lara Adrian
Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
A Lot Like Love by Julie James
Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
Unveiled by Courtney Milan
Follow My Lead by Kate Noble
A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang
Archangel's Consort by Nalini Singh
Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

I also bought the NYT best selling, self published ebook novella "Unlocked" by Courtney Milan [for only 99 cents!] using a QR Code Scanner app on my iPhone and scanning the QR Code for the book from her laptop. So tech savvy! You can do the same thing at Courtney's blog on her Literacy Unlocked post.

I also came home with a bunch of cool author swag such as bookmarks, pens and some of those really awesome Romance Trading Cards, which were "invented" by the lovely author, Jeannie Lin.

In addition, I met the following authors without buying books:
Larissa Ione ... who signed my personal copy of Pleasure Unbound
Zoë Archer ... new series to be released Dec. 2012
Jaci Burton ... I read her Wild Riders series and already have them
Christina Dodd .. who was sold out of her books by the time I got to her
Carolyn Jewel ... next historical due out next year
Heather Webber... didn't have copies of Absolutely, Positively :( 

There were several authors on my list whom didn't get to see. I either had trouble finding them or I saw two or more people waiting to meet them and or I ran out of time to see everyone! One of those authors is Kristan Higgins whose books I love, but I knew she is planning to attend the NJ RWA conference in October, so hopefully I'll get to see her then--and hopefully snagging a copy of her next book, Until There Was You that releases three days after NJ RWA.

After checking out of the signing, I headed to the lounge for the book blogger bash to meet up with friends lustyreader, nath, Hilcia, Mariana, Lisa, Rosie, Wendy, Kristie, Kira <---and her super adorable baby girl, J, Kate, SarahT and Pearl. I hope I'm not forgetting anyone! We all start comparing notes on our signing adventures and Mariana asks me if I got to everyone on my list. I start to reply YES with confidence, only to realize with sunken heart that I didn't get to see Tessa Dare who was AT THE TOP OF MY LIST?!! How could this have happened?! I was SO distraught. Someone suggested paging her somehow and I got the idea to "page" her on twitter. Which I did ... with an embarrassing spelling error, too. Hey, I was nervous! The best part? Within minutes she tweeted back that she was coming down to the lounge! SO awesome!!! In the meantime, Meredith Duran arrived in the lounge and we got to meet! Tuesday also happened to be release day of her latest book, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal, copies of which I brought along for her to sign, one that I will giveaway on my blog, so keep your eye out for that. A little while later, Tessa Dare came to the lounge and there I am hanging out with Tessa Dare and Meredith Duran (squeeee!) and a handful of other very lovely readers and authors in the lounge of the hotel. I tried not to trip over my words and I think I pretty much held myself together.  It was so much fun! I didn't think the evening could be any better... until Tessa gave me this:

It's an uncorrected ARC of A Night to Surrender, the first book in her upcoming Spindle's Cove series that is coming out in August 2011!!!! I feel like I won the jackpot! :)

To read more about Tessa Dare and her lovely books, visit her website at

For information about Meredith Duran and her lovely books, visit her website at and her blog that she shares with author Sherry Thomas at

I had such a great time meeting old and new book blogging friends and so many fantastic authors. Everyone I met on this adventure was kind, warm-hearted, gracious and fun. I hear RWA is going to be in NYC again in 2015. I'm already looking forward to it!