Posts Tagged giveaway

book review: Ana of California

ana of california

Ana of California By Andi Teran.
Penguin Original| June 30, 2015|256 pages |$16.00| ISBN: 978-0-14-312649-2

Rating: ***/5*

Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana survived a tough past. Her drug-dealing parents got shot to death and then the same happened to her beloved grandmother [seemingly a revenge plot] a few years later. Shuffled from foster home to foster home, deemed a difficult child, Ana spends a lot of time at the library pouring over films and music and books. That is her escape, her solace. Any child with that kind of traumatic background would have some issues and need a good therapist and definitely find it challenging to trust anyone. Her social worker gives her one last opportunity to live and work on a farm in Northern California.

“Ana Cortez didn’t need anyone to explain it to her: she understood the rhythm of repetitive work, knew all about aligning herself to the synergy of tedium. She was aware of all of the orphan clichés—the Pips, Pollyannas, and Pony boys whose optimism triumphed over difficult circumstances. She’d read all the books.”

This is a modern retelling of Anne of Green Gables. I know I read Anne of Green Gables. I’ve been an avid reader since I could read. My fondest youth literary memory remains for The Secret Garden by Frances Hodges Burnett. I don’t remember the story of Anne of Green Gables enough to compare Ana of California to it. Without that recollection I still enjoyed this novel.

Sister and brother pair Abbie and Emmett Garber operate their family farm. Abbie bakes, pickles and cooks while Emmett makes sure everything’s running on the farm. Ana befriends Rye who feels she’s somewhat of a misfit particularly as she’s come out as gay. She also meets a cute “bad boy” named Cole. Ana confronts her fears, learns a bit about getting along and becomes optimistic that she may be finally home. However a falling out with Rye and liaisons with Cole may threaten her comfortable situation in this rural northern California farm town.

Despite Ana’s unfortunate past there’s little pathos here. It’s light and breezy. Rather happy even. The novel progresses in an inevitable quaint manner at times but it’s a solid summer/weekend read. Ana is a spunky, spirited and extremely likable character. Ana’s grueling past receives the glossy treatment. Readers aren’t allowed to delve into it or truly feel Ana’s pain. The novel keeps a lighter tone which makes it a quick, light read.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Penguin Random House.

GIVEAWAY: Giving away a copy of Ana of California as well as a copy of Anne of Green Gables to a U.S. resident courtesy of Penguin Random House. If interested please comment below and include your email address. Winner will be selected on July 15.

purchase at Amazon: Ana of California: A Novel


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BOOK NEWS: Pioneer Girl out in paperback (giveaway); Asian-American Authors

pioneer girl

One of the best books of 2014 comes out in paperback on January 27. Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nyugen is about second-generation immigrants born in the United States who still feel very much bound to their family’s and country’s customs even though they have never traveled to their homeland. Paralleling the stories of PhD student Lee Lien and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose Wilder proves a truly clever way to describe this unique immigrant experience as it is very much like that of those pioneers who braved the new frontier traveling West so many years ago. An energetic read I didn’t want to put down.

Giveaway: Viking will provide one paperback copy of Pioneer Girl to one reader. Open to U.S. contestants. Please provide your email in the comments section and I’ll choose a winner. Deadline January 29.

purchase at Amazon: Pioneer Girl: A Novel

follow Bich Minh Nyugen on twitter

everything i never

Please also read the list of Asian-American authors my friend Celeste Ng (Everything I Never Told You) compiled for SALON. Her novel was another best of 2014 read.

purchase at Amazon: Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

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The Other Typist: review and giveaway [now out in paperback]

other typist

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell [Berkley/Penguin Books, April 2014]. Historical Fiction. Paperback. ISBN13: 9780241963746. 354 pg.

“Odalie understood it was sometimes your will to want to be tricked; she did not need you to affirm her world. She would create it with or without you. Instead, she invited you in ever so casually, and somehow—even when her lies were shabbily wrought—you would find yourself wanting to go in, if only out of an insatiable curiosity.”

Notes on a Scandal meets Single White Female. Rose grew up in a convent and lives an orderly life. She’s a typist with perfect accuracy and impressive speed at a New York Police Department precinct during prohibition in the 1920s. By her own description she’s a plain woman with a simple, quiet life. In walks the mysterious Odalie who completely charms Rose with her modernity and confidence. She possesses the beauty, style and lifestyle that Rose dreams about. Her new colleague introduces Rose to a speakeasy, they quickly become close friends–soon sharing an apartment and wardrobe. But who is Odalie really? Her backstory often mysteriously changes.

A dangerous secret threatens their friendship and comfortable existence as Rose falls further under Odalie’s spell. Is Odalie using Rose for her survival and to escape her sordid past? To give anything away would ruin the fantastic storytelling in this debut novel. It’s a masterful work of historical fiction. The setting and characters draw you in from page one.

RATING: ****/5

[review reprinted from August 2013]


Berkley Trade Reprint has offered to send a reader with a valid U.S. Mailing address a copy of The Other Typist. To enter, please include your email address in the comment section and I will select one winner on April 14. I’ll email you for your mailing address. The publisher will then mail out a copy of the novel to you.

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Pack up the Moon: spotlight and giveaway

pack up the moon

Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron
NAL Trade Paperback Original
384 pages
ISBN 13: ISBN13: 9780451468604
March 4, 2014

A poignant novel about loss, lies, and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Three years after a horrible tragedy took her son and tore her family apart, artist Kate Monroe is beginning to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. At a gala showcasing her triumphant return to the art world, Kate’s world is rocked again when the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty-two years ago introduces herself. Pree is the child Kate never knew and never forgot. But Pree has questions that Kate isn’t sure she’s ready to answer. For one thing, she never told Pree’s father, her high school sweetheart and ex-husband, Nolan, that they had a daughter. For another, Kate hasn’t spoken to Nolan for three years, not since the accident which took their nine-year-old son from them. But to keep Pree from leaving forever, Kate will have to confront the secrets that have haunted her since her son died and discover if the love of her family is strong enough to survive even the most heartbreaking of betrayals…

about the author: Rachael received her MFA in writing from Mills College and is a 911 fire/medical dispatcher when she’s not scribbling. She lives with her wife, Lala, in Oakland, California, where they have more animals and instruments than are probably advisable. Rachael is struggling to learn the accordion and can probably play along with you on the ukulele. She’s a New Zealander as well as an American. She’s been known to knit.


NAL Trade Reprint has offered to send one of my readers with a valid U.S. Mailing address a copy of Above All Things. To enter, please include your email address in the comment section and I will select one winner on March 15.

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FALLEN BEAUTY: review and giveaway

fallen beauty

FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck (NAL Trade Paperback; 978-0-451-41890-6; March 4, 2014; $16)

Novel Synopsis:

In 1928 upstate New York, unwed mother Laura Kelley struggles to support her daughter at her failing dress shop, just steps away from the girl’s father, the man Laura loves but can never have. Responsible for her family, she has put her dreams of going to New York City to become a costume designer on indefinite hold. When Laura’s brother-in-law breaks his marriage vows by having a brief affair with famous local, married poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, anger spurs her to approach Millay in her nearby Berkshire estate, Steepletop. Laura finds herself accepting a job to sew costumes for Millay’s tour of enormously popular poetry readings. As Laura is increasingly drawn into Millay’s no-holds-barred world of free love and uninhibited artistic expression, she becomes privy to shocking secrets and cruel betrayals. And when Millay’s private torments reach a crisis point, Laura must choose between her loyalty to her family and the impulse to pursue her own artistic dreams.


Erika Robuck’s best novel yet. It’s a tough one to put down. Loved the characters, the descriptiveness. The story’s mainly Laura’s yet told through both Laura’s and Millay’s perspectives. It’s an old story told often about a small-town woman stuck in a bad position with ties to this little town and its judgmental ways. She’s an outcast. Then she strikes a wealthy, famous poet’s fancy. Laura’s looks, personality and talent draw Millay to her. But it’s not simple because Laura believes she’s not like her neighbors yet proves to be exactly like them at first toward Millay. She’s completely critical and apprehensive. Robuck over-uses the term witch in reference to Millay and other townspeople who are different. Laura also acts so typically for a single, unmarried woman, shamed and all. So at times the novel grinds to cliched, predictable moments. The mysterious, handsome sculptor who shows up in town one day to create the virgin statue? Any astute reader knows he’ll end up with Laura from moment one. Scarlet-lettered woman. Brooding stranger. Check and check. Too transparent for me.

“I thought of Millay with a growing awe, and some jealousy. Whether she was a witch or not, her words meant a lot to many people, including me. I felt pride at the thought of creating for this woman child. A woman who needed a well of experience from which to draw her words.”

I didn’t know much about Millay beyond her poetry, and I’m sadly limited on my knowledge of that, and by the last page I loved her bohemian spirit so much that I plan to go out and buy one of her poetry collections this week. Robuck conducted impeccable research and manages to truly allow Millay’s vibrant spirit, sensuality and creative force to come forth on the page. In the beginning Laura feels threatened by the beguiling poet who lives such an open lifestyle in her castle on the hill. Millay throws parties and takes lovers as does her husband. It feeds her creativity and artistic expression. It’s their lifestyle. Laura’s closed off because she’s ostracized by a town that judges her and her decision to raise a daughter on her own after her affair ending badly. Would have liked more Edna St. Vincent Millay and less Laura Kelley but truly appreciated the manner in which Robuck twisted together these women’s stories. It worked. They meshed beautifully. Loved any creative moments–about Laura designing costumes and gowns for Millay and all parts about Millay’s poetry. How wonderful to read about two creative women who share similar experiences and forge a friendship while overcoming challenges and embracing their commonalities and strengths rather than being forced apart by small-town prejudices.

RATING: ****/5

About the Author:

Erika Robuck has appeared on the Southern Independent Bestseller List for Call Me Zelda and is the critically acclaimed author of Hemingway’s Girl. Born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Erika was inspired by the cobblestones and old churches. She is a contributor to the popular fiction blog, Writer Unboxed, and maintains her own historical fiction blog called Muse. For more information please visit


NAL Trade Paperback has offered to send one of my readers with a valid U.S. Mailing address a copy of Fallen Beauty. To enter, please include your email address in the comment section and I will select one winner on March 15. I’ll email you for your mailing address. The publisher will then mail out a copy of the novel to you.

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Above All Things: spotlight and GIVEAWAY

above all things

Above All Things by Tanis Rideout

synopsis: In 1924 George Mallory departs on his third expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Left behind in Cambridge, George’s young wife, Ruth, along with the rest of a war-ravaged England, anticipates news they hope will reclaim some of the empire’s faded glory. Through alternating narratives, what emerges is a beautifully rendered story of love torn apart by obsession and the need for redemption.

*March book club pick for Ladies’ Home Journal

Berkley Trade Reprint / February 2014


Berkley Trade Reprint has offered to send one of my readers with a valid U.S. Mailing address a copy of Above All Things. To enter, please include your email address in the comment section and I will select one winner on February 21.

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GIVEAWAY: CANADA by Richard Ford

Canada pb c

The New York Times bestseller from Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford is now available in paperback from HarperCollins Publishers.

I have ONE copy to give away courtesy of HarperCollins.

Contest open to U.S. Residents ONLY.

TO ENTER: in the comments section, tell me what interests you about this novel. include your name and email address so that I can contact the winner.

Entries close January 31, 2013.

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