May 31, 2011

Review: Better by Mistake by Alina Tugend

A New York Times columnist delivers an eye-opening big idea: Embracing mistakes can make us smarter, healthier, and happier in every facet of our lives. 
In this persuasive book, journalist Alina Tugend examines the delicate tension between what we're told-we must make mistakes in order to learn-and the reality-we often get punished for making mistakes, and therefore try to avoid them or cover them up. In Better by Mistake, Tugend shows that mistakes are everywhere, and suggests that when we acknowledge and identify them correctly, we can improve not only ourselves, but our families, our work, and the world around us. 

Through fascinating research, Tugend reveals how trying to avoid mistakes can affect us from the earliest stages in our lives and shape us into adults who steer clear of risks and challenges. She takes us behind the scenes into cutting-edge behavioral studies; invites us into the high-stakes world of health care and aviation, where mistakes can cost lives, and delves into the art and science behind learning how to craft a sincere apology and accepting responsibility for mistakes. 

Bold and dynamic, insightful and provocative, Better by Mistake turns our cultural wisdom on its head to illustrate the downside of striving for perfection, and the rewards of acknowledging mistakes and embracing the imperfection in all of us.

Making mistakes may seem like the end of the world but how would we learn anything if we didn't make them?  BETTER BY MISTAKE is one of those books that allows you to learn a lot about yourself while learning about others as well.  Alina's book is a must read.  

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free.

Giveaway: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Review: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Songs tell a story, and now many of country music’s most famous singers and songwriters are sharing more of the story! These artists reveal the inspiration, influence, and background, and when and why they wrote their most famous songs, in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music. The book also includes great photos of the songwriters and all of the lyrics. A great gift for anyone who loves country music!

Music has always held a special place in my heart.  I love that songs can tell a story, can help you through a rough time and can help you enjoy life.  Just like songs, Chicken Soup for the Soul books have had a big impact on me over the years.  The latest edition, Country Music, is full of heartwarming stories to help you through even the toughest of times.  You'll really enjoy the stories by your favorite country singers.  I know I did!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book.

Giveaway: Winged Obsession by Jessica Speart

The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler 

One of the world's most beautiful endangered species, butterflies are as lucrative as gorillas, pandas, and rhinos on the black market. 

And in this cutthroat $200 million business, no one made more money than—or posed as great an ecological danger as—Yoshi Kojima, the kingpin of butterfly smugglers. 

Determined to capture Kojima, rookie U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Ed Newcomer became close to the smuggler, posing as a young apprentice eager to learn the smuggling trade. But twice the agent's inexperience allowed this criminal, with a nearly supernatural sense of survival and an overwhelming sense of paranoia, to get away. 

Just when it seemed Kojima was out of reach, Newcomer was given one last chance to reel him in. Somewhere in the hunt, Kojima had become obsessed with the agent. This obsession, along with his continued mania for butterflies, could finally spell the downfall of the untouchable smuggler. 

But the story doesn't end there. Working under-cover to research this book, Jessica Speart befriended Kojima as well. Like Newcomer, she was going to betray Kojima. What she didn't know was that this cagey smuggler was planning to turn the tables and use her as a patsy for continuing his illegal butterfly trade.

Review: Hybrid by Brian O'Grady

Seven years earlier, Amanda Flynn returns from a rescue mission to Central America carrying a miracle, and a curse. She is the sole survivor of a terrifying outbreak of a mysterious new virus: EDH1. Most of its victims die a gruesome, agonizing death. Others are reduced to violent savages. But a precious few, like Amanda, survive. They survive…and change. 

Amanda’s homecoming is to a cold, sterile hospital room, where for three months scientists become increasingly irritated with their inability to identify her unique resistance to this new virus. As their frustration grows, Amanda slowly evolves into something new. At first she believes that grief and isolation have driven her mad, but in time realizes that the voices in her mind are the thoughts, emotions and desires of those around her. After her three month quarantine is broken a new Amanda is released. Confident and convinced of her own infallibility, she succumbs to the seductive nature of unrestrained power, with murderous consequences. Confronted by her family and faced with the darkness that the change has awoken within her, Amanda isolates herself from society. 

Seven years later, against a backdrop of a new flu outbreak, an epidemic of violence threatens a peaceful Colorado town. Amanda begins to fear that a mutated strain of EDH1 has arrived in America, as she senses the mind of another: Klaus Reisch, the original survivor of EDH1. A man of menace: tall, amoral, relentless, his mission is more global than his employers, who wish only to infect the United States. With all of Amanda’s abilities Reisch envisions the end of human society and the dawn of a new order of the evolved. 

As Amanda’s worst fears are realized, others around her are swept into the same maelstrom. A coroner whose strict regimen barely controls his obsessive-compulsive autism, a priest whose faith is shaken by the cancer that ravaged his sister – against their will, they evolve. Suppressed desires and emotions become manifested as their minds grow stronger and their control grows weaker. 

A reluctant Amanda reconnects with the society that would reject her if they knew her true nature in an effort to save it from a man who would destroy it.

What I loved most about this book is how freaky it was.  I can totally see something like this happening and it scares the crap out of me.  Those of you who read my blog, know that I live for books like Hybrid.  It makes you really think. With engaging characters, a stellar plot and just the right amount of thrill, Hybrid is a winner!

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book.

Giveaway: To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal

Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio." Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford. When Judith left home, she didn't look back.

Twenty years later, Judith's marriage is hazy with secrets. In her hand is what may be the phone number for the man who believed she meant it when she said she loved him. If she called, what would he say?

TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER is the epic love story of a woman trying to remember, and the man who could not even begin to forget.

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May 26, 2011

Review: Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Three sips to mind the dead . . .

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the attention her grandmother Maylene bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the small town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each one Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: She took three sips from a silver flask and spoke the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Now Maylene is dead, and Bek must go back to the place she left a decade earlier. She soon discovers that Claysville is not just the sleepy town she remembers, and that Maylene had good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in Claysville the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected; beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D. If the dead are not properly cared for, they will come back to satiate themselves with food, drink, and stories from the land of the living. Only the Graveminder, by tradition a Barrow woman, and her Undertaker—in this case Byron Montgomery, with whom Bek shares a complicated past—can set things right once the dead begin to walk.

Although she is still grieving for Maylene, Rebekkah will soon find that she has more than a funeral to attend to in Claysville, and that what awaits her may be far worse: dark secrets, a centuries-old bargain, a romance that still haunts her, and a frightening new responsibility—to stop a monster and put the dead to rest where they belong.

Graveminder is interesting, intriguing and irresistible.  Rebekkah and Byron's connection is apparent from the beginning.  They were made for each other...  Literally.  When a dead girl starts walking in the land of the living, Rebekkah is forced to take action.  Going between worlds is part of her job and the description of the land of the dead is really vivid.  I had a great time reading this book and recommend it to all of my book-loving friends.

HarperCollins Publishers
May 17, 2011
336 pages

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book.

May 23, 2011

Giveaway: Dead by Midnight by Carolyn Hart

Solving puzzles comes naturally to Annie Darling, cheerful owner of the Death on Demand mystery bookstore on the lovely sea island of Broward's Rock. Annie is aided and abetted by her admiring husband, Max, who runs an unusual business that offers help to people in trouble. 

A recent death appears to be suicide, but Annie suspects murder. To solve the case, she unravels the mystery of a towel hidden at midnight in a gazebo, the lack of fingerprints on a crystal mug, blood on a teenager's blue shirt, and the secret of a lovers' tryst. 

Annie believes she has set the perfect trap for a merciless killer until her cell phone rings and Death whispers in her ear.

May 20, 2011

Giveaway: Daughters-In-Law by Joanna Trollope

As Anthony and Rachel Brinkley welcome their third daughter-in-law to the family, they don’t quite realize the profound shift that is about to take place. For different reasons, the Brinkleys’ two previous daughters-in-law hadn’t been able to resist Rachel’s maternal control and Anthony’s gentle charm and had settled into their husbands’ family without rocking the boat. But Charlotte—very young, very beautiful, and spoiled—has no intention of falling into step with the Brinkleys and wants to establish her own household. Soon Rachel’s sons begin to think of their own houses as home and of their mother’s house as simply the place where their parents live—a necessary and inevitable shift of loyalties that threatens Rachel’s sense of herself, breaks Anthony’s heart, and causes unexpected consequences in all the marriages. Then a crisis brings these changes to the surface, and everyone has to learn what family love means all over again.

May 10, 2011

Blog Tour Giveaway: Ripe For Pleasure by Isobel Carr

Blog Tour Author Guest Post: Isobel Carr

My life as a writer . . . I wish I had glamorous tales to tell, but writing, simply put, is hard work. I have a day job as an international trade consultant (which sounds glamorous, but let me assure you, isn’t), so I only get to write at night (when I’m not brain dead) and on the weekends.

I read on BART going to and from work (because I can’t write on the train; I’m sure someone else could make fantastic use of those 20 minutes, but alas, I am not that someone). Usually non-fiction or fiction outside the historical romance genre (my TBR of historical romance is frightening at the moment, because I just can’t read it while I’m writing). I jot down ideas as they come to me, noodle about with the next scene while walking to and from the office and showering (the shower is like a Tardis for the imagination). Basically, I live and breathe the books.

But when you put aside the fact that I haven’t had a day off in ages, I love it. I love the process of putting words on a page. I love seeing what happens as the story progresses (yes, I’m a pantser). And I absolutely adore getting to share the stories n my head with other people. That’s the BEST part! I wrote for several years before I finaled in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart contest and subsequently sold. Albeit, I wrote at a less hectic pace (a book a year rather than two), but I’d still be writing, even I’d never sold. It’s a compulsion. I don’t want to sound crazy, but I have to get the voices out of my head, and purging them onto paper is the best method I’ve found.

So there it is: Me, a computer, endless cups of tea, and a dog who doesn’t understand why I keep staring that the flickering box when we could be at the park. Glamour central in yoga pants. 

ISOBEL CARR is single, child-free, and a committed "dog person" (the bigger the dog the better). She has taught creative writing, horseback riding, and seminars on historical costuming. She can start a fire without matches and hitch a team of horses to a wagon. She can also spend nine hours in a Victorian corset without a problem but can't wear heels for more than four hours. She laughed all the way through every episode of Colonial House, and if she could only watch one movie for the rest of her life, it would be Impromptu.

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May 9, 2011

Blog Tour Giveaway: Double Trouble - Katie Lane

Going Cowboy Crazy
By Katie Lane
ISBN: 9780446582780
Published on: 5/01/2011
DOUBLE TROUBLE   Faith Aldridge wants answers. Bramble, Texas is the only place she can find them . . . as well as Hope, the identical twin sister she never knew she had. But the townsfolk reckon that shy city-girl Faith is really her long-lost sister Hope, back in Bramble at last. And they're fixin' to do whatever it takes to heat things up between her and Hope's long-time flame, Slate Calhoun. If that means rustling her car, spreading rumors like wildfire, and reining in some explosive secrets, well, there's no way like the Lone Star way . . . But Slate's no fool. The woman in his truck may look like Hope, yet the way she feels in his arms is altogether new. He's determined to keep this twin in his bed and out of his heart. Trouble is, the real Hope is headed home, and she's got her own designs on Slate. If Faith wants to avoid heartbreak, she'll have to show a certain ruggedly handsome cowboy that this crazy-impossible love is worth fighting for.

Make Mine a Bad Boy
By Katie Lane
          ISBN: 0446582794
Published on: 6/01/2011
Hope Scroggs is finally ready to get hitched. After years of sowing her wild oats, the former head cheerleader and homecoming queen has returned to Bramble, Texas, to marry her high school flame. But her perfect wedding plans are stomped to smithereens when her adoring cowboy two-steps down the aisle with someone else. Now Hope is stuck with the one man from her past she can't shake: Colt Lomax, an irresistible bad boy whose sultry kisses are hotter than the Panhandle in August . . .

Colt lives for freedom and the open road; he never gets attached, never looks back. Still, he can't forget the night of passion he once shared with Bramble's sweetheart--a night he wouldn't mind repeating. So, he piles on the Texas charm to tease the feisty beauty back into his bed, while she tries her darnedest to resist. But something unexpected is about to tie their fates together . . . and oh, baby, will it ever!

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May 3, 2011

FREE READ: Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey

#1 New York Times bestselling author Johanna Lindsay presents a powerfully romantic Regency-era tale that is breathtaking in scope and wondrously passionate.

When Sebastian Townshend, son of the eighth Earl of Edgewood, was banished from his family due to the tragic results of a duel, he vowed never to return to England. Now living on the continent, Sebastian has forged a new identity as a deadly mercenary, The Raven. But his former neighbor, Lady Margaret Landor, has different plans for him. Back in England, Sebastian's father has had several accidents and Margaret suspects foul play and deception that reach as far back as the infamous duel. Convinced that only Sebastian can set the situation to rights, Margaret arranges a scandalous bargain with him that includes Sebastian's returning home as her husband. As the newlyweds uncover a deadly scheme, a fierce passion blossoms between them, which neither anticipated -- and neither can resist.

Read it here.

May 2, 2011

Blog Tour Giveaway: The Guardian by Margaret Mallory

Blog Tour Review: The Guardian by Margaret Mallory


Four fearless warriors return to the Highlands to claim their lands and legacies. But all their trials on the battlefield can't prepare them for their greatest challenge yet: winning the hearts of four willful Scottish beauties. 


After years of fighting abroad, Ian MacDonald comes home to find his clan in peril. To save his kin, he must right the wrongs from his past . . . and claim the bride he's long resisted.

As a young lass, Sìleas depended on Ian to play her knight in shining armor. But when his rescue attempt compromised her virtue, Ian was forced to marry against his wishes. Five years later, Sìleas has grown from an awkward girl into an independent beauty who knows she deserves better than the reluctant husband who preferred war to his wife. Now this devilishly handsome Highlander is finally falling in love. He wants a second chance with Sìleas - and he won't take no for an answer.

There are times that I am in the mood for one type of book or another.  There are very few authors that I can read at any time and Margaret Mallory is one of them.  Romantic, charming and an all-around fun read.  I've been an avid fan of Margaret's since I first read Knight of Desire and I am thrilled with this new series.  I can't wait to read more!

April 26, 2011
400 pages 

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free.

May 1, 2011

Blog Tour Guest Post: Bryan Cohen

How I Got Into Writing About Writing
By Bryan Cohen

Three years ago, I was stuck like Pooh in a honey pot. Aside from a successful trial of National Novel Writing month, I was in the middle of a several year writing dry spell starting at the end of college. I was still participating in plenty of creative endeavors as a theatre producer and actor (including a stint as a comedic professional wrestler in a Speedo), but I was feeling my grip on writing words beginning to slip away. I needed some guidance and the salary of a coffee barista wasn’t going to get me the therapy, life coaching and exorcism I direly needed to get back on track.

So, I read. I scoured websites and libraries looking for information on “motivation for writing” and “writing inspiration.” My specific searches often came up short. When I broadened my search to general motivation, I stumbled upon some information that turned my life and its direction completely around.

My main discovery was a website called Personal Development for Smart People. I feigned above average intelligence and dove in. With such enticing article titles as “10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job” and “30 Days to Success,” I was skeptical but hooked. The site opened me up to people I’d never heard of who were huge in the personal development field like Earl Nightingale and Stephen Covey. I’d always thought that I could be a successful person but I’d never heard of an entire industry devoted to its pursuit. I took in whatever information I could in the field, reading and listening to over 50 books in the success field.

Note: Since I first read Pavlina’s website, he’s gone a little bit crazy into subjects like polyamory and domination and submission. I suggest reading the old stuff, circa 2007-2009 :).

One of the points that stuck with me from Stephen Covey was that you learn 90% of what you teach. Since my early searches for “writing inspiration” turned up negative, I thought I’d try to fill a niche by inspiring people who were stuck like I’d been, using some of these general concepts of motivation, success and ice fishing that I’d picked up. Thusly, Build Creative Writing Ideas was born.

While my articles on general writing motivation gained a bit of traffic in my first year, the real gems of the Web turned out to be articles that listed 10 to 20 writing prompts: story starters to help get writers who had crippled by writer’s block to push past the problem. After creating over 60 pages of prompts, I published them into a collection, 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts. Out of nowhere, people starting buying the book in numbers that far exceeded my expectations. Interestingly enough, selling a book to inspire writers, inspired me to write even more (funny how that works out) and I started writing and publishing other books on the same topic.

What is the lesson here? If you learn something that is just begging to be shared, you should make every effort possible to share it with the world. What if you’re a fiction writer? You should share all your life lessons that you picked up on the street through the trials and tribulations of your characters. Teaching is inherent in writing. Who knows, maybe it’ll be just the inspiration you’ve been looking for to get that half-finished novel off your hard drive and onto Amazon.

Bryan Cohen is a writer, actor and comedian from Dresher, Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he has written four books (1,000 Creative Writing Prompts, 500 Writing Prompts for Kids, Sharpening the Pencil, and Writer on the Side), several plays (Something from Nothing and Chekhov Kegstand) and he was the head writer for an un-produced Web series (Covenant Coffee). His writing and motivation website Build Creative Writing Ideas has had over 100,000 visitors since it was founded in December 2008. He lives in Chicago, Illinois

Bryan Cohen is giving away 100 personalized writing prompts to one giveaway entrant chosen at random during the blog tour. Personalized prompts are story starters that cater specifically to a writer’s subject matter, strengths/weaknesses, etc. Cohen will create the prompts to cater exclusively to the winner. He is giving away free digital copies of his book The Writing Sampler to everybody who enters, which includes excerpts from each of his four books on writing. The book contains essays, writing prompts and tips and tricks to enhance your writing skills. In addition, for each of Cohen’s books that reach the Top 500 on Amazon during his blog tour, he will add a $50 Amazon gift card to the drawing (up to six $50 cards in total)!

To enter, simply post a comment to this blog post with your e-mail address. Follow Bryan on Twitter @buildcwideas.

Creatively stuck? :::