Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Giveaway! The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

A hilarious debut novel about a wealthy but fractured Chinese immigrant family that had it all, only to lose every last cent—and about the road trip they take across America that binds them back together

Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

This book has been talked about a lot by sites like The Millions and Entertainment Weekly, so I myself am really looking forward to a chance to read it! And now I can offer one lucky reader a chance to win their own copy!

To enter, just fill out the form below! Giveaway closes October 28 and the winner will be notified via email.

The Wangs vs. The World official site has more information about the book.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

This book felt like a weird mash-up of some of my favorite horror movies plus Charles Manson. It centers around true crime writer Lucas Graham who gets an opportunity of the lifetime and a possible career saving pitch to come interview notorious murdered Jeffrey Halcomb in prison. Halcomb was a leader of a cult where every member killed themselves. There are some conditions: he must live in Halcomb's old house--the same house where the deaths took place. This is the part that reminded me of Sinister--washed up true crime writer living in the house of the crime.

Lucas and his wife separate and he moves with his daughter into the house. Once there, though, they both begin to experience strange happenings in the house. Additionally, Lucas runs into some roadblocks with his writing and things begin to spiral out of control.

Interwoven with the story of Lucas is the story of Audra (one of the victims) and what really happened so many years ago. I said this reminded me of bits and pieces of other stories all melded together. At first when I started reading it, I was excited because it felt different and like this might end up being an amazing story. But I found some parts of it hard to follow and I felt ultimately disappointed by the direction it took. I also felt the conclusion lacked explanation--I don't always need details, but I do like some idea of how and why things are happening.

I did find it entertaining and engrossing enough to keep with it, though. And it also did a good job of playing on the fear/horror of having the thoughts that are most terrifying to you (about you) be exploited and used against you. Halcomb was able to manipulate his victims through their pain--most often their negative feelings about themselves compounded by their less than ideal relationships with their parents.

So, might be worth a look, but not as good as it could have been!

I did receive a review copy of this book long ago.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Watch Pitch!

Fall TV began last week and a lot of new shows aired. Lucky for me, I have really liked the three I was most looking forward to: Pitch, The Exorcist, and The Good Place. Unlucky for me, both Pitch and The Exorcist had less than ideal ratings, especially Pitch.

Pitch is a show about the first female pitcher in the MLB. It's fiction, the MLB hasn't had a female pitcher. But it's an interesting show that MLB worked with and that lends it a very authentic feel. But it's also a fun show with fun characters, I was surprised when the 42 minutes was up! And it feels fresh and different from anything else on TV at the moment. It's worth watching.

The Exorcist has an incredible aesthetic and creepy vibe. It's not a remake of the book/movie's plot, but rather a continuation. And I think it will wrestle with issues of faith and doubt. (I don't know why demonic possession is the popular way to do that nowadays but alas). I realize this is much less likely to be appealing to everyone, but I do think horror fans should check it out.

So, if you are so inclined, will you check these shows out? They need viewer support to last. For me, Pitch is a dream show and I simply can't stand the thought it could be over before it even really begins.

Watch The Exorcist
Watch Pitch


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

I started listening to this book and about a third of the way through I tweeted that while it was a good book, I have sex trafficking/domestic violence/sexual assault combined with the past/present format fatigue. In thrillers specifically. And I understand why so many books like this exist and I understand why it's how stories are told, but sometimes I want to read something that still keeps me turning the pages, but doesn't involved crimes against women of this nature. Also, I feel like the past/present is overused in general if a story is really thrilling it shouldn't always need this format.

However, once I finished the book, I have to say that The Girl Before is actually doing something unique and the past/present format is justified as part of the thematic push of the novel. Clara Lawson's home is raided by FBI agents one day and she is separated from her husband and daughters with the plea from her husband to not say anything. The reader quickly determines that not all was not right in Clara's world, but Clara herself does not see things this way. And through the use of past/present the story unfolds.

But it isn't the "thrilling" part of this book that makes it so worthwhile as it is the psychology of what Clara is going through. As she herself sifts through her past and new present she has to confront many aspects of herself...and the reader does too.

It's hard to feel patience with Clara at times, she is quite stuck in her way of thinking and her own exposure to anything else was limited. But...that helps the reader to confront their own biases and ways of thinking if they are so inclined. Is Clara a victim and only a victim? This is a big question to ask while reading the book.

So, I enjoyed it a lot and I think it's very well written. I did listen to the audiobook and the reader, Brittany Presley, was very good.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Random Sunday Chatting!

So you may have noticed I'm finally posting on a more regular basis again which feels great. I don't know exactly why it took so long to happen, I've been reading a lot so there isn't a shortage of books to review, but I just sort of fell out the habit. I want to get back in it, though, so thanks to all the kind people who have commented, I'm thrilled some of you are still out there!

The internet is so different and no less demanding than it was in the busiest days of my blogging....there's snapchat, instagram, twitter, etc not to mention writing and commenting and thinking, etc. I also find it feels more hostile than it used to which is part of the problem overall in jumping back in. Of course, I wasn't absent, I just wasn't public in those places. And writing a blog where I need to talk about my own impressions and thoughts in a place where people are so quick to tell you why you are wrong for them is...well it took consideration. Is this still something I want to do? And I think yes. I don't mean to be all doom and gloom, I just feel there is a decided lack of "squee" these days or maybe it's my age.

Like, the other day the lovely Jodie asked for recommendations of media people were enjoying and I realized recommendations themselves are quite hard now. I feel so many qualifiers to the stuff I enjoy. I loved this but it might be too sappy for you or it might be too scary or too sexist or too unrealistic. And of course this was ALWAYS a thing, but I think it's increased as the sheer exposure to things we might enjoy has increased. There's SO MUCH, so much TV, so many movies, so many books. We have unprecedented access to things we might like which makes, I think, our general tolerance for things that take a while or things that don't meet our expectations much thinner.

Anyway, just some thoughts (or excuses???)!

I was excited to learn that Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl movie is actually being made and Kyra Sedgwick is the director!

Fall TV starts this week and I am excited! The show I am most looking forward to is Pitch--first female pitcher in the MLB! Should be good! I am also looking forward to small screen horror The Exorcist,Kristen Bell's new comedy, The Good Place, and later on some shows like Falling Water, Timeless, Channel Zero, and for returning shows, I am of course looking forward to The Walking Dead.

I still want to see several fall movies, but I'm so disappointed A Monster Calls has been pushed back to after Christmas! Hopefully, it will serve the film well.

How about you guys? What are you looking forward to this year? What's on your plate? Looking forward to hopefully cooler weather soon?


Friday, September 16, 2016

Excerpt: Going Solo by Roald Dahl for the Roald Dahl 100 Celebration!

I couldn't pass up an opportunity to participate in this fun blog tour celebrating what would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday. I am glad to share an excerpt from this book Going Solo, today.

About Going Solo:

Going Solo is the action-packed tale of Roald Dahl's exploits as a World War II pilot. Learn all about his encounters with the enemy, his worldwide travels, the life-threatening injuries he sustained in a plane accident, and the rest of his sometimes bizarre, often unnerving, and always colorful adventures.

Told with the same irresistible appeal that has made Roald Dahl one of the world's best-loved writers, Going Solo brings you directly into the action and into the mind of this fascinating man.

Going Solo by Roald Dahl

A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones. An autobiography must therefore, unless it is to become tedious, be extremely selective, discarding all the inconsequential incidents in one’s life and concentrating upon those that have remained vivid in the memory.

The first part of this book takes up my own personal story precisely where my earlier autobiography, which was called Boy, left off. I am away to East Africa onmy first job, but because any job, even if it is in Africa, is not continuously enthralling, I have tried to be as selective as possible and have written only aboutthose moments that I consider memorable.

In the second part of the book, which deals with the time I went flying with the RAF in the Second World War, there was no need to select or discard because every moment was, to me at any rate, totally enthralling.

R. D.

1. The Voyage Out

The ship that was carrying me away from England to Africa in the autumn of 1938 was called the SS Mantola. She was an old paint-peeling tub of 9,000 tons with a single tall funnel and a vibrating engine that rattled the tea-cups in their saucers on the dining-room table.

The voyage from the Port of London to Mombasa would take two weeks and on the way we were going to call in at Marseilles, Malta, Port Said, Suez, Port Sudan, and Aden. Nowadays you can fly to Mombasa in a few hours and you stop nowhere and nothing is fabulous anymore, but in 1938 a journey like that was full of stepping-stones and East Africa was a long way from home, especially if your contract with the Shell Company said that you were to stay out there for three years at a stretch. I was twenty-two when I left. I would be twenty-five before I saw my family again.

What I still remember so clearly about that voyage is the extraordinary behaviour of my fellow passengers. I had never before encountered that peculiar Empire-building breed of Englishman who spends his whole life working in distant corners of British territory. Please do not forget that in the 1930s the British Empire was still very much the British Empire, and the men and women who kept it going were a race of people that most of you have never encountered and now you never will. I consider myself very lucky to have caught a glimpse of this rare species while it still roamed the forests and foothills of the earth, for today it is totally extinct. More English than the English, more Scottish than the Scots, they were the craziest bunch of humans I shall ever meet. For one thing, they spoke a language of their own. If they worked in East Africa, their sentences were sprinkled with Swahili words, and if they lived in India then all manner of dialects were intermingled. As well as this, there was a whole vocabulary of much-used words that seemed to be universal among all these people. An evening drink, for example, was a chota peg. One’s wife was a memsahib. To have a look at something was to have a shufti. And from that one, interestingly enough, RAF/Middle East slang for a reconnaissance plane in the last war was a shufti kite. Something of poor quality was shenzi. Supper was tiffin and so on and so forth. The Empire-builder’s jargon would have filled a dictionary. All in all, it was rather wonderful for me, a conventional lad from the suburbs, to be thrust suddenly into the middle of this pack of sinewy sunburnt gophers and their bright bony little wives, and what I liked best of all about them was their eccentricities.

It would seem that when the British live for years in a foul and sweaty climate among foreign people they maintain their sanity by allowing themselves to go slightly dotty. They cultivate bizarre habits that would never be tolerated back home, whereas in far-away Africa or in Ceylon or in India or in the Federated Malay States they could do as they liked. On the SS Mantola just about everybody has his or her own maggot in the brain, and for me it was like watching a kind of non-stop pantomime throughout the entire voyage. Let me tell you about two or three of these comedians.

In celebration, Puffin released 15 newly redesigned paperback covers of Roald Dahl books. You can enter the following giveaway to win all 15 books and a special tote bag!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book about a family that starts a camp with some other families. These families all have something in common...they have children on the spectrum. And while this camp premise was certainly a part of it, this book is much more about parenting a child that is a bit different from the norm and the way we as a society evolve in our understanding through time. It's also about the impact on a neurotypical child as part of the book is told in the voice of Iris, Tilly's sister. Tilly is the child "on the spectrum" she has a diagnosis not quite able to be defined. Her parents, of course, love her but have come to the end of their rope in what they can do. She is continually kicked out of schools and homeschooling alone is too daunting a task. So when Scott Bean raises the idea of the camp...a camp run by a collective of families with children with certain needs for other families of the same, they throw in their lot and join.

This idea of a camp or stories about communes and cults have always held a special pull for me. There's something so deeply appealing about the idea of committing to sharing your life with other people, to love each other and work towards a common goal. It's a little bit of what I have always found beautiful and comforting about church. It's never easy, it is in fact, quite difficult. Those struggles are shown in Harmony as the families commit to living a more basic life and each take on a lot of work. And the impact on Iris is keenly felt as this becomes her environment and her social life and world. And that was interesting, too, and a very interesting way to portray how this world became their life even a sense of impending doom also unfolds. I will say the ending wasn't as horrible as I feared it was going to be, but I was personally pleased by that.

The story is told in second person POV for the mother and first POV for Iris in alternating chapters. Both characters are quite likable. I listened to the audiobook which was read by the wonderful Cassandra Campbell as Alexandra (the mother) and Abigail Revasch and Jorgeana Marie. Great production.