Monday, November 30, 2009

Review: Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart

Teaser quote:

He lay in the lightly swaying hammock, suspended between wakefulness and sleep, until one of the words being called by the top watch suddenly separated itself from the others, swooped down, and spoke clearly in his ear, "Land!'

The simple word, so long anticipated, galvanized his spirit and body and propelled him from his berth.

Across the Endless River tells the story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, son of Sacagawea and her voyageur "husband", at least the author's imagining of his story. Jean Baptiste was born during the trek where Sacagawea aided Lewis and Clark as they crossed the North American continent. As such, Baptiste, as he becomes more commonly referred to, starts his life an illustrious manner.

But it seems his opportunities don't stop there. From his early boyhood, he is welcomed in to Clark's home to enhance his studies. As her grows older he has the benefit of both worlds, the older, Indian world that his mother was a large part of as well as the newer "English" world.

Through his connections he meets many people, including Duke Paul of Wurttemberg, who is madly collecting as many specimens of his North American experience to take back to Europe with him. He requests Baptiste's company on his return to Europe in exchange for Baptiste's help in cataloguing these samples. Not one to turn such an offer down, Baptiste gladly embarks on a new adventure and he begins a new life among Kings, Princesses and many others of the upper or ruling classes.

I can't remember what had originally attracted this book to me and when I read the summary again, was not entirely sure I would truly like it. But I truly enjoyed the book from beginning to end. From the contrast of the quickly changing North American landscape, where the Indians are still following the herds yet settlements and cities are ever expanding, threatening this nomadic lifestyle to that of Europe. The lush, vivid imagery of the untamed plains to the glamour and excess of the deeply rooted, refined European nobility, these differences are highlighted many times through Baptiste's ruminations.

Baptiste's displays a knack, however unintentional, to land himself in fantastic circumstances. He quickly masters new languages, enabling him to assimilate well into other cultures as well as among the different classes of people throughout the story. Though there is some basis of reality, as much can be relied on from historical references, to Baptiste's abilities, Carhart's imagination makes the most of it and weaves a tale brilliantly around these truths.

I think that was part of the power of this story for me; that there was enough of the real man and his life within the fictitious rendering of his time in Europe. It reminded me of times in school, studying the Indian tribes (though mine would have been about the tribes within Canada as opposed to those featured in this story). This book made me want to research the people involved and learn more about them all.

It was a bit inconsistent at times with letters from Baptiste to Clark or Duke Paul's journal entries, as they weren't regularly organized but the content within these entries/letters helped maintain the flow and timeline of the story, so for me it was a very minor issue. Overall, it is beautifully, lavishly written and truly transported me to another time and place. From Carhart's telling, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau is definitely someone I wish I could have met.

Fun historical fact: According to my Google-ing of the history of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, I discovered (from Wikipedia) that he is, in fact, the only infant to ever appear on US currency.
Click here for the Wiki reference: . That's a pretty prestigious place to hold in history, in my opinion!

To learn more about Thad Carhart, click her for his website

Friday, November 27, 2009

Review: Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell

From the book:

He sounded amused. "I know the way her mind works.Don't tell me, you're a ravishingly beautiful blonde."

"Nope." Poppy smiled. "A ravishingly beautiful redhead."

"Hmm, shock tactics."

"I'm not one of Claudia's friends either. She only sent me up here because she couldn't think how else to get rid of me." Poppy thought for a moment then added, "And maybe to punish you for not putting in an appearance downstairs."

Move over Bridget Jones and make room for Poppy Dunbar and her misfit gang!

Poppy Dunbar, out on the town for her hen night (staggette for us North American folk) meets a man, Tom, that she falls for instantly. They arrange to meet later, both feeling the draw of something powerful and instant. Could it be love at first sight? What about Poppy's fiance...with the wedding being the next day and all? Poppy decides to grab her life and give it a good shake.

Along the way, she makes new friends, annoys many people, and gets herself into trouble frequently, all while discovering the truth about herself and if there is such a thing was love at first sight.

I think this might be the first book I've read that has that particularly British feel. There were many phrases that I've heard growing up that came in useful here. Some of the references to famous people weren't as easy to figure out. The Coronation Street ones were understandable enough as well as David Niven and Jason Donovan, but there were some others that I'd never heard of that made the jokes fall slightly flat.

The book is a little camp, it's funny, and it's very cute! There were times when I could've just wrung one or the other of the characters for their blatant stupidity but it was all in the name of humour. I whipped through this book in a day, not wanting to put it down (it actually says it on the cover and now I believe it!)

Jill Mansell gives us a rich character in Poppy Dunbar, full of contradictions. She seems intelligent but just sometimes doesn't quite know when to quit. Her disorganized style gets her into more trouble than is necessarily good for one human, to the point where she accidentally buys a painting for her antiques dealer boss, that she affectionately names "Dead Hamster on a Patio" when she bids several hundred pounds over his maximum bid, only to find out she wasn't supposed to be bidding on it at all.

There are some touching moments included, also, that give it a little balance, emotionally speaking (it can't always be good, right?). Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to fans of Bridget Jones or Sex in the City.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash - Nov. 26 2009

This is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey through a world of books where you take the verification characters you have to input when commenting on other blogs and make up definitions for them.

Once again, I've been a bad Balderdashian, having skipped this meme for the last couple of weeks. I finally had to do something about it with all the stickies I had floating around in my purse with these "words" that I thought had great potential. So here goes:

comoutdri - the newest in the informercial line of products that promises to dry your clothes in just 5 minutes, carries the tag line "Like a microwave for your clothing"

flogisenin - 14th century Dutch celebration where criminals were publicly flogged while townspeople danced around poles and ate candied popcorn and apples

referro - a superhero for the 21st century. When all search engines have failed you, you only need to call out to Referro and he'll show up. Then with a few taps on your keyboard, he instantly finds those links you've been frustratingly searching for all day

mershar - a fantastic, mythical creature that looks much like a mermaid but, when agitated, grows a large fin and a menacing set of teeth. Watch out!

chelef - a chef that has had all knives remade to accommodate left-handed chopping

homint - the first in a line of new hygienic products, with the target market being ladies of the evening

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Waiting" on Wednesday - Nov. 25, 2009

This weekly event is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we get to share which upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

I haven't participated in this meme for quite a while now because there wasn't really anything I was "waiting" for. Everything that I was looking forward to reading was already on my bookshelves waiting for me ;-) But this week I've discovered that one of my favourite authors, Guy Gavriel Kay, has a new novel that will be released on April 6, 2010.
I first read GGK many years ago, starting with his Fionavar trilogy, which for me had a local aspect as it centres around University of Toronto students that are transported to a different realm. I have loved many of his other novels, though my favourite to date is Tigana. The best word that I can think of to describe Kay's work is epic. I am sure that Under Heaven will prove no different! If you haven't read anything by Guy Gavriel Kay yet, you need to change that soon!!

From the author's website:

The world could bring you poison in a jeweled cup, or surprising gifts. Sometimes you didn't know which of them it was...

For more information on Guy Gavriel Kay, his work and his Under Heaven journal, visit his website here:

And the winners are...

So my first contest has come to a close. Thanks to everyone for entering! Without any further ado, here are the winners of The Gate House by Nelson DeMille:

  • Bethie
  • remarker/fcffollower
  • Marjorie
  • M.J. Macie
  • Janet Ruth

  • An email will be sent to all of the winners to gather mailing info. Thanks again for participating!

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays- Nov. 24, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

    Here is how it works:
    Grab your current read
    Open to a random page
    Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    My teaser this week is from Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb:

    MacMasters nodded. Eve thought the cop was beginning to fade. His hands trembled, and even as she watched, the lines at the corners of his eyes seemed to cut deeper.

    (Page 32)

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    2010 YA Reading Challenge book list

    The is the post where I'll be listing my YA book choices and updating my progress. If anyone has suggestions of great titles that I haven't already listed, please feel free to add it in the comment section!

    My tentative beginning list includes:

    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
    City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
    City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
    City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
    Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
    Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
    The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

    2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

    There are so many YA books on my TBR that this 2010 YA challenge might be a good kick in the pants to start reading them! I'll begin with the Mini challenge in mind but if I can make it to Just My Size, then all the better. Here's the deets:

    1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

    2. There are four levels:

    --The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

    --Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.

    --Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.

    --Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels.

    3. Audio, eBooks, paper all count.

    4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

    5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

    6. To sign up, click here:
    Mr Linky

    My list will be posted/updated at this link:
    YA Reading Challenge Book List

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    Contest! Exit Music by Ian Rankin

    From the Publisher:

    It's late in the fall in Edinburgh and late in the career of Detective Inspector John Rebus. As he is simply trying to tie up some loose ends before his retirement, a new case lands on his desk: a dissident Russian poet has been murdered in what looks like a mugging gone wrong.

    Rebus discovers that an elite delegation of Russian businessmen is in town, looking to expand its interests. And as Rebus's investigation gains ground, someone brutally assaults a local gangster with whom he has a long history.

    Has Rebus overstepped his bounds for the last time? Only a few days shy of the end to his long, controversial career, will Rebus even make it that far?

    Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, I am happy to offer a copy of this book to 3 lucky winners.

    Here are the rules:

    Contest is open to addresses in Canada and the U.S. No PO boxes please.

  • Please leave an email addy below to enter (so I can contact you if you win)
  • +1 for being a follower here on my blog
  • +1 for following me on Twitter (@seolmara)
  • +1 for tweeting/blogging about this contest

  • Contest ends Dec. 14, 2009

    For more Information on Ian Rankin and his book visit his website here:

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Review: The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter

    Book Description

    Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his wife, his house, maybe his mind. Unless . . .

    In the winning and utterly original novels Citizen Vince and The Zero, Jess Walter ("a ridiculously talented writer"—New York Times) painted an America all his own: a land of real, flawed, and deeply human characters coping with the anxieties of their times. Now, in his warmest, funniest, and best novel yet, Walter offers a story as real as our own lives: a tale of overstretched accounts, misbegotten schemes, and domestic dreams deferred.

    A few years ago, small-time finance journalist Matthew Prior quit his day job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse. When his big idea—and his wife's eBay resale business— ends with a whimper (and a garage full of unwanted figurines), they borrow and borrow, whistling past the graveyard of their uncertain dreams. One morning Matt wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife's online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. Is this really how things were supposed to end up for me, he wonders: staying up all night worried, driving to 7-Eleven in the middle of the night to get milk for his boys, and falling in with two local degenerates after they offer him a hit of high-grade marijuana?

    Or, he thinks, could this be the solution to all my problems?

    Following Matt in his weeklong quest to save his marriage, his sanity, and his dreams, The Financial Lives of the Poets is a hysterical, heartfelt novel about how we can reach the edge of ruin—and how we can begin to make our way back.

    In my opinion:

    This book started off slowly for me. The crazy scenario at that beginning, where the main character goes out to buy milk and ends up getting high, had me scratching my head, wondering WTF? Then it seems this poor guy, Matt, was just repeatedly whining about his bad circumstances and not really doing anything about it, except getting high.

    During my non-reading moments, I kept thinking about the book and I finally figured it out. This schmuck of a former financial writer is just like everyone else out there that has been hit by hard times. When this happens to you, you do tend to go over and over things in your head, wondering where it went wrong. I gave the book some slack after this realization.

    For Matt Prior the beginning of his undoing was his idea, a website offering financial advice, stock quotes, etc, with a literary twist. Matt's a bit of a dreamer, thinking he's somehow better than his co-workers at the newspaper, He finally decides to take his great ideas and go it on his own, with his website, only to back out at the last minute and go crawling back to his old job. Then cut-backs hit and they hit him hard. Not to mention, his wife has become fond of online social networks, reconnecting with an old boyfriend.

    None of this is unusual in today's iffy financial climate, or the online social climate, for that matter. The differences here are the wild ideas that Matt comes up with to try and fix everything (hence the reason I called him a schmuck earlier). There are probably not a lot of people out there that think turning to drug dealing as a viable or successful method of financial recovery.

    As I progressed through the story, I felt the character becoming more believable. He suffers a bit of a meltdown, as anyone would, with all of the pressures involved. There are some weird, funny poems placed in various spots in the book also, that almost give credence to Matt's website idea. Almost. More often than not, they just allow for some comic relief in a tough tale.

    Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, once my left-brain and right-brain were able to reconcile how this man got into his messes in the first place. Jess Walter does a great job with the story and I would recommend The Financial Lives of Poets wholeheartedly!

    Author Bio:
    Jess Walter is the author of five novels, including The Zero, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, and Citizen Vince, winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. He has been a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN USA Literary Prize in both fiction and nonfiction. His books have been New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR best books of the year and have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in Spokane, Washington.

    For more information on Jess Walter, check out his website:

    Tuesday Teaser: Nov. 17, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
    Here is how it works:
    Grab your current read
    Open to a random page
    Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    My teaser quote for this week comes from Across the Endless River by Thad Carhart.

    Paul sounded weary, and it occurred to Baptiste that he wasn't happy about returning home after his North American adventure. Fatigue from the voyage was surely catching up to both of them as they entered the outlying districts to the northwest of the capital. Tired as he was, though, Baptiste could hardly contain the excitement he felt at the prospect of reaching Paris, the place whose name in St. Louis meant a kind of earthly heaven.

    To this I say: God bless the authors who write long sentences where only 3 are needed to complete a paragraph, therefore a whole thought! (Okay the early 1800's language of the book might be catching up to me, lol)

    I hope you emjoyed my teaser;-)

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    Cartoons and Inspiration

    I find it amazing the things that can be learned and/or discovered on the big, bad internet. My eyes have truly been opened over the last few months as I've discovered blogs (especially book blogs), the true usefulness of Twitter and other online social networks (I was a big Facebooker before but that was about it) and well, lets just say I'm a big Google/Wiki researcher, lol. The web is great place for connecting with people around the world that you would never normally meet unless you have one heck of a time/distance travelling machine. But what's also cool is discovering things locally that I had never experienced or even heard of, in some cases. Recently, I've been to a reading for the International Festival of Authors and seen Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black for a book signing.

    What I found this week through Twitter, I felt was worth sharing here on my blog. Debbie Ridpath Ohi is a Toronto based artist/writer. In checking out her blog, with her NaNoWriMo notes, etc., I found some very cute cartoons, like this one below:

    Will Write For Chocolate

    After watching Stephenie Meyer on Oprah yesterday and seeing the effect the vamp phenomenon on the world at large, this one rings so true. My seven year old is psyched about going to see New Moon next week (please don't judge my parenting skills based on this, the Twi books are pretty tame ;-)

    Even Debbie's website name speaks to me: . I totally wish I'd thought of that one, though mine would be more like "WillReadForChocolate." Some of her work may have even inspired me to join NaNoWriMo for next year (I found out about it too late and have way too many books to read to have considered it for this year). So, go check out Debbie's site, it's well worth the look.

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Contest: And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer

    For all fans of quirky, weird reads, I'm happy to offer a copy of Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing... to one lucky follower!

    Entry rules:

  • You must be a follower to enter
  • Open to all followers, across the universe (it's only fitting, right?)
  • Please leave your e-mail in the comment box so I can notify you if you win
  • +1 if you blog or tweet about this contest
  • +1 if you follower me on Twitter (@seolmara)
  • Contest closes Nov. 30, 2009 and I'll draw the winner using

  • Click HERE to read my review.

    Review: And Another Eoin Colfer

    And Another Thing... represents the sixth part of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. Eoin Colfer, as allowed by the estate of Douglas Adams, takes on the task of continuing the story where Adams left off. From all references that I've read regarding Douglas Adams, it would seem these are some pretty big shoes to fill.

    Let me start off with my disclaimer: I've read many books recently that advised me if I liked whichever author I was reading, then I would love Douglas Adams. These recommendations came at around the same time that I noticed Colfer's addition to the collection would soon be released. Much to my chagrin, I received both the H2G2 collection and the new book in the same week. This didn't leave me enough time to get the whole original series read to be able to review on a complete author to author comparison. Also, I've been collecting the Artemis Fowl series but only have two of the seven so far, so making a story versus story comparison isn't feasible yet, either. Putting all of the reasons aside, I will do my best with this review.

    I think Eoin Colfer does an admirable job of maintaining the original feel of H2G2. I'm sure there are differences in some minor aspects, stylistically speaking, to the story telling as every author does things with their own unique touch. Overall, though, I think both authors have/had an innate talent with the ironic humour that has maintained the success of the series and made it so memorable after all these years.

    What would be new to the series are the little digs about such things as computer equipment malfunctions similar to a popular current platform I won't name ("It didn't take much to freeze him. You should have waited for version 2.0") or references to reality TV ("This last was the subject of a reality show broadcast in the Sirius Tau system call Last Behemoth Standing'). These are all relatively new phenomena that Adams himself hadn't the opportunity to poke some fun at, but, again, I'm sure he would have. In fact, nothing is sacred, from Norse Gods to inter-species marriage, Colfer gives us history and life lessons with a twist. He demonstrates the possible future of religion as a God-for-hire type set-up, used to maintain order, by hierarchy, as new planets are discovered and inhabited.

    Douglas Adams had admitted that his fifth book didn't sit well with him as a fitting ending but his untimely death did not allow for his own continuation. It takes a brave man to take on a project such as this and Eoin Colfer has received criticism for attempting it, but really, anyone other than the original author would attract the same. In the end, Colfer created a fun book to read, with lots of nonsensical situations arising, making you unsure of what's real or what may be only be a construct created life. Meanwhile, poor Arthur Dent continues his struggle to find a decent cup of tea and the age old question of "Rich Tea or Digestive", which is the better accompaniment?

    I fully intend to get through the whole H2G2 in the near future and take it all in context but even if this book is read as a stand-alone novel, it is quirky fun and well worth the effort.

    If you want to check it out for yourself, click HERE for my contest!!

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Author Article by Thad Carhart

    Imagining the Past in Paris

    By Thad Carhart,
    Author of Across the Endless River

    To walk in Paris is to walk through multiple layers of the past, more than 900 years of built history that awaits any stroller. Having lived here for twenty years, I've seen the city change with new roads and bridges, new museums, new rows of apartments. And yet the deep respect that Parisians have developed for what they call their patrimoine, their inheritance, ensures that old buildings are regularly restored and preserved, integrated into the flux of daily life. The look of the city changes subtly, as it has throughout history.

    The biggest transformation in modern times was simply the cleaning of the stone edifices of central Paris, initiated in the 1960's by de Gaulle's Minister of Culture, André Malraux. No change could have been more surprising, or more deeply satisfying. When I was a very young boy living in Paris, I was convinced that all of the buildings were made from the same stone, black as night and so softened by centuries of wood and coal dust that the surface was a felt-like matte whose edges looked as if they would soon crumble. This was the "atmospheric" Paris of all those voluptuous black-and-white photos (what blacks and grays there were on every side), the ponderous Paris of Buffet prints and countless tourist posters.

    Then the government started to clean the major monuments one by one -- Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre -- and the transformation was shocking, almost troubling in its strange newness. The buildings of Paris weren't black after all, but very nearly . . . white! It took almost two decades of careful cleaning and restoration, but Paris emerged from the process the albino twin of its former self. To appreciate the contrast, buy a vintage postcard aerial view, dating from 1970 or earlier, at one of the bouquiniste stalls along the banks of the Seine, then compare it with the present-day aerial shot: the era of dirt and grime looks like a photographic negative of the light and airy Paris that current tourists will recognize as the "real" Paris.

    Walking, however, reveals just one facet of the landscape. Recently, in researching a historical novel, I needed to imagine Paris as it would have appeared in the 1820s. The first stop for any such endeavor is the splendid Musée Carnavalet, the Museum of the City of Paris, whose collection documents in elaborate and fascinating detail every step of the city's past. As I consulted paintings, prints, and manuscripts, many of the differences were obvious: in 1825 the Champs-Elysées was already a broad, fashionable avenue, but the Arc de Triomphe did not yet grace its rise; the Eiffel Tower wouldn't appear until 1889; and, of course, Beaubourg, the Pyramid of the Louvre, and the Grande Arche, all sturdy Paris fixtures today, would only appear within the last four decades.

    Another clear difference was the absence of cars, though factoring them out mentally also involved imagining the presence of horses . . . lots of horses. As I examined the numberless paintings at Carnavalet, I thought a lot about the look, the sound, and the smell of tens of thousands of horses plying the streets of Paris close to 200 years ago. Merely disposing of their manure -- and Paris was very well organized in this department -- was a Herculean task daily. And, just as in our day, when playboys often drive Porsches and tradesmen more likely use vans, the paintings reveal fancy thoroughbreds ridden solo by dandies, sturdy draft horses pulling huge wagons, and bony nags hitched to battered carts.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise that comes with seeking the past in the Paris landscape, especially after examining the documentary record, it to realize how little the scale of buildings has changed over the centuries. With two exceptions on the Left Bank (the Tour Montparnasse and the university's Tour Jussieu), no high-rises spoil the illusion in the center of Paris that the modern age has yet arrived. Individual facades, a modern infrastructure, and hordes of cars all tell a different story, but the look and feel of many quartiers -- the Marais and the Latin Quarter are simply the best known examples -- would feel appropriate to a Parisian of the early nineteenth century. This tenuous, heady relationship to the past is often seductive, and yet it can also feel weighty, old-fashioned, and artificial. How long it can prevail in the face of change is anybody's guess.

    ©2009 Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River

    Author Bio

    Thad Carhart, author of Across the Endless River, is a dual citizen of of the United States and Ireland. He lives in Paris with his wife, the photographer Simo Neri, and their two children.

    For more information please visit

    Review and Contest: Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

    I had the pleasure of reading Dear John by Nicholas Sparks when it first published in 2006. The story of John and Savannah has stayed with me as much as Sparks' first two novels (and probably his most popular) The Notebook and Message in a Bottle.

    John joined the military straight out of high school and has just returned home for a much needed leave. Savannah is in town, working with Habitat for Humanity. By John's gallant rescue of Savannah's purse (that's a big deal for a woman, right?) their worlds collide as they fall in love. Of course, John must return to Germany to finish out his time with the army.

    The two continue the love affair through mail, phone calls and visits, when time allows, but it seems even the distance is only making their bond stronger. Then September 11th, 2001 arrives and changes their fates as John reenlists, extending his time away from Savannah and putting everything they've hoped for to the test.

    Throughout the story, Sparks tackles many issues, like how the average American views those in the military, the viability of long distance relationships, and the complicated dynamics between parents and children, as well as many others, that show life is never simple. The richness of the love story is fueled by the strength of the characters, their background stories and how they relate to each other. It shows us that as much as we can live a happy, peaceful existence for a time, outside forces are always there, threatening our dreams and what we hold dearest.

    But other messages are evident, also. When we hope for a certain outcome, it's how we deal with the realities that define our character; that regardless of how or for how long we love someone, the fact that we loved at all is much more important, in the end. Nicholas Sparks takes you through such a wide range of emotions, you are left with the lingering effects long after the book has been closed. I have held a slight grudge towards Nicholas Sparks (for three years, in fact) for the twists this particular book takes, though I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. It is a true testament to Sparks' talent that he can reveal the many facets of human emotion through his writing while having the ability to draw those emotions out of the reader in the process. The details of this story have and will remain with me for years to come.

    Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is being re-released on Dec. 7, 2009 with the movie tie-in cover (as shown at the top of this post). The film version hits the big screens on Feb. 5, 2010 and looks awesome! (See the youtube link below to watch the trailer)

    To celebrate, I'm very happy to offer up a copy of Dear John (graciously provided by Miriam from Hachette Book Group) to 5 lucky winners here on my blog! The contest runs from now until Dec. 14th, 2009. Winners will be selected using and will be notified by e-mail. Here are the rules for entry:

    -Contest is open to residents in Canada and the U.S. only. No PO Boxes please.
    -Leave your e-mail address in the comment section (so I can reach if/when you win :-)
    -+1 for being a follower on my blog
    -+1 for following on Twitter (@seolmara)
    -+1 for blogging and/or tweeting about this contest

    Remember to check out the movie trailer and the OpenBook links below for a taste of what's to come and Good Luck to all!

    Dear John movie trailer on

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Teaser Tuesday - Nov. 3, 2009

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.
    Here is how it works:
    Grab your current read
    Open to a random page
    Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    My teaser this week comes from The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walters and can be found on page 119:

    Earl was there to get the county to waive environmental cleanup for a cluster of houses he wanted to put on the site of an old railroad depot. Somehow, Earl got it in his mind that I was on his side in this dispute, because while my stories described him accurately as a voracious fat-ass developer trying to get around reasonable environmental laws, in the profile I called him "bombastic" and Earl took this as a compliment.

    So, I'll admit I had to look up the definition of bombastic after reading this teaser. I had only ever heard the word once before, in a song by Shaggy...which turned out to be "Boombastic". Either way, the meaning was far less interesting than I was hoping but, overall, I am enjoying the book. Hope you enjoyed the teaser :-)

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Review: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

    Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
    Published by Little, Brown and Company
    Release date: October 13, 2009

    From the Publisher:

    LAPD Detective Harry Bosch is off the chain in the fastest, fiercest, and highest-stakes case of his life.

    Fortune Liquors is a small shop in a tough South L.A. neighborhood, a store Bosch has known for years. The murder of John Li, the store's owner, hits Bosch hard, and he promises Li's family that he'll find the killer.

    The world Bosch steps into next is unknown territory. He brings in a detective from the Asian Gang Unit for help with translation--not just of languages but also of the cultural norms and expectations that guided Li's life. He uncovers a link to a Hong Kong triad, a lethal and far-reaching crime ring that follows many immigrants to their new lives in the U.S.

    And instantly his world explodes. The one good thing in Bosch's life, the person he holds most dear, is taken from him and Bosch travels to Hong Kong in an all-or-nothing bid to regain what he's lost. In a place known as Nine Dragons, as the city's Hungry Ghosts festival burns around him, Bosch puts aside everything he knows and risks everything he has in a desperate bid to outmatch the triad's ferocity.

    I've read a few of the Harry Bosch books in the past and enjoyed them. While my previous experience with Michael Connelly's work had piqued my interest enough to continuing reading the series, I must admit that none has kept my attention in quite the way Nine Dragons did. I didn't want to put it down! It ended up being one of those books I finished in a day. For me, this is a huge compliment to the author's skill in combining the people, themes, and ambiance with the writing that binds these elements.

    I had always thought of the Harry Bosch character as somewhat one dimensional, where he's all about the police work and his personal life gets a minor, passing mention. Nine Dragons changed that for me, throwing his personal life into the forefront as he attempts a daring rescue while trying to find out who's responsible for the murder that set it all off. I felt this added more substance to Bosch, making his work all the more urgent because of the personal connection therefore making the reading more urgent for me. I love a fast paced book that grabs me and refuses to let go!

    There were a few elements that didn't sit well with me. Some of the scenarios Bosch finds himself in at times felt a bit surreal, like Schwarzenegger taking on all the bad guys single-handed, but I could definitely picture this book as a big screen production. Harry does find himself relying on others a bit more than he likes but is able to come to terms with this. I was a bit disturbed that Bosch seemed to have a bit of a racial prejudice but this is explained and I felt throughout it does get dealt with well. But, again, the flow of the book far outweighed these small negative aspects.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can't wait to see what happens from here. If you enjoy an action-filled, seat-of-your-pants mystery, then you'll like it too!

    For more information on Michael Connelly, checl out his website: or you can become a fan on Facebook at

    Contest: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

    #1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast.

    When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer--Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore -- a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.

    Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group, I am pleased to offer The Gate House by Nelson DeMille to 5 lucky winners. I will also be posting a review for this book soon.

    To enter the contest, here are the rules:

    -Eligible to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. No P.O. boxes, please.

    -Leave your email addy below, so I am able to contact you if you're one of the luck winners;-)

    -+1 if you blog or tweet about this contest (please leave a link)

    -+1 for each friend you recommend to enter (remind them to leave your name in their entry)

    Contest ends Nov. 23. Winners will be selected using and will be notified by email.

    This is my first contest, so I hope everyone out there is as excited as I am! Good luck to all!

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