Category Archives: Giveaways

Review AND Giveaway: Up For Renewal by Cathy Alter

WIN A COPY OF UP FOR RENEWAL!  See the review for details. CONGRATS to JESS of Book Reviews by Jess; She’s the winner!

renewalTitle: Up For Renewal

Author: Cathy Alter

Genre/Pages: Memoir/336

Publication: Atria Books; July 2008/Washington Square Press (re-release); July 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

A year in the life of a woman who has committed herself to change, taking advice from glossy magazines on the big Fs: fashion, fitness, food, finance, and, ultimately, FINDING herself.

I’m a huge fan of essays and memoirs–Jen Lancaster, Bill Bryson, David Sedaris–are some of my favorite nonfiction writers.  I have laughed my way through so many memoirs that deciding to review Up For Renewal was a no-brainer–it was a memoir AND the premise hooked me!

At the age of 37, Cathy Alter’s life wasn’t exactly going according to plan.  Recently divorced and spiraling down a bleak pathlittered with sexual conquests and take-out food containers, Alter commits herself…to change.

Over the course of one year, Alter focuses on improving herself.  Each month she tackles a different aspect of her life–fitness, finance, fashion, relationships.  Using the magazines as her holy grail and life map, she charts a new course for herself and learns that sometimes it’s necessary to cross choppy seas to get to a safe harbor. 

An entertaining read, Alter doesn’t sugarcoat her bad behavior, nor does she apologize.  She takes responsibility for her actions–good and bad–and is able to learn and move on.  Though I had difficulty relating to some of Alter’sbehaviors, I enjoyed the memoir and found her writing to be witty and easy to read.  Her tirades against Saran wrap had me snorting with laughter.

That said (and since there is a giveaway associated with this review), some readers with more Victorian sensibilities might be a bit put off by profanity and adult situations.  Consider this fair warning.  For the rest of you corrupt little scoundrels, carry on!

For a chance to win a  copy of Up For Renewal, simply leave a comment and tell me which magazines you love to read.  Contest ends Friday, September 4th at 8pm EST. 

Thanks to Minjae Ormes for the review copy!

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Review: Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani

*Win a copy of Cutting Loose by clicking here.  Entry deadline is Monday, 6/8/09–international friends welcome!*

looseTitle: Cutting Loose

Author: Nadine Dajani

Genre/Pages: Fiction; 384

Publication: Forge Books; September 2008

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

Take a peek into the lives of three diverse women and see how their culture and life choices have brought them together.

Told from multiple points of view, Cutting Loose weaves the lives of three women into an entertaining novel with solid characters and plenty of conflict.  Offering more than just the standard ‘chick-lit’ fare, Nadine Dajani draws on her own her own exotic life experiences to create characters who struggle to reconcile their culture with life in sultry, hedonistic Miami.

Ranya, Zahra, and Rio each arrive in Miami with baggage from their other lives.  Ranya escapes Montreal and her sham of a marriage, Zahra leaves Boston and a career-ending disaster which was precipitated by a one night stand with an unrequited love, and Rio runs from the slums of Honduras and manages to climb her way to the top of a niche magazine.

From the cover, I figured the book would follow a predictable path and that the women would become fast friends despite their differences.  How wrong I was!  Each character grapples with her own internal and external conflicts but the friendships I predicted never materialized.  Instead, mutual respect and camaraderie developed. 

Ranya struggles with the deeply ingrained rules of her Muslim upbringing, while Zahra buries her emotions and feelings for her boss in work and comfort food, and Rio tries hard to stay emotionally unattached in a 5-year ‘fling’ with her boss’s younger brother. 

Religion, relationships, and personal growth are strong themes throughout the novel.  The three women try to supress parts of themselves but ultimately realize that in order to find true love and personal happiness they have to embrace their whole selves.  They are dynamic characters who change and develop with every experience.

Overall, this book was an entertaining and interesting read–perfect to get me in the mood for summer!  I enjoyed the multicultural angle, characters, and Miami backdrop.  

Thank you to Nadine Dajani for the review and giveaway copies of this novel.

They say it’s your birthday…

shakesbdayToday, April 23rd,  is  recognized as William Shakespeare’s birthday.  Baptismal records at Holy Trinity parish church in Stratford show an entry on April 26, 1564 and it is generally accepted that he was born three days prior.

In honor of William’s 445th birthday, I’d like to know how many of his 37 plays and/or 154 sonnets you’ve actually read.  While in college, I had an opportunity to study his works for three semesters with a terrific professor.  As a result, I navigated about one-third of the first folio.  

Despite what my students think, I don’t often curl up in a leather club chair near the hearth with a dusty tome of Shakespeare’s works–nor does my husband join me, donning a smoking jacket, deerstalker cap, and pipe.  The plays were written to be performed and as much as I enjoy reading them, they really come alive on the stage. 

So, what Shakespeare have you read?  Did you leave him safely behind you after school or do you check in with him every once in a while?  Have you seen any of the plays performed live?  I’ve seen a few performances at Shakespeare in the Park–free summer performances in Central Park–and a few of the plays at other theaters.

And the winnerS are…

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the Jessica Darling series.  As a last minute bonus, I was also able to give away two copies of the first book in the series–Sloppy Firsts–as 2nd and 3rd prizes!  Random.com selected the following winners:

Congratulations BOOKISH PATTY for winning the entire series!  You’ll really enjoy these books.

Congratulations are also in order for Debbie of Suburb Sanity and Heather of Book Addiction who each won a copy of the novel that started it all–Sloppy Firsts

Thank you to everyone who participated!  Let’s do this again soon!