Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FIR '11: Reading Question #10


FIR is hosted by Katrina at Callapidderdays.

Every Wednesday this fall, Katrina will be posting a question about reading.  

This week's question: In what ways do you encourage others to read or support their reading habits? How do you share your love of reading with others? 

I have always felt that the best gift to give anyone, especially young children, is to encourage them to read. I love picking books out to give as gifts. I always include books as part of my gift for new babies, at baby showers, etc. I have always given my nieces and nephews books as part of their Christmas presents and starting this year, I have decided that for their birthdays, they are getting books. So far, they've loved it!

I love passing on books to my family and friends. Since I started this blog, quite a few family members visit to see what's new and exciting in the world of books. I also love sharing the books I get as review copies with my fellow bloggers. Even when my book club meets, they always ask me what I've read lately, and if I have any books to suggest.

Luckily my husband is also an avid reader, so I don't think we will have much trouble passing our love of reading onto our children when we start our family.

So what do you do to share reading and books with those around you and/or far away?

November Giveaway Winners

The winners of November's giveaway are:





Already Home
By: Susan Mallery

Winner: Jane







Haunting Jasmine
By: Anjali Banerjee

Winner: Bev @ The Wormhole







The Diva Haunts the House
By: Krista Davis

Winner: Tanya Patrice

Murder Past Due
By: Miranda James

Winner: Paula








Thanks to all who entered and don't forget to stop by next month to see a new set of books up for grabs!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Author Interview & Giveaway: Adrienne McDonnell

I am pleased to welcome author Adrienne McDonnell to Always With a Book. Her book, The Doctor and the Diva, is now available in paperback with a gorgeous new cover. Be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this - two copies are available!


What is THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA about?
The story begins in 1903, in Boston.  A young, Harvard-educated obstetrician who is a rising star in his profession becomes dangerously attracted to a patient—a lovely opera singer.  She turns to the doctor for help in conceiving a child.  The doctor becomes so drawn to her that he takes a great moral risk—a secret he can share with no one.

The novel is based on ancestors, and hundreds of pages of family letters.  Who were those ancestors?

The married couple in the novel, Erika von Kessler and her husband Peter, were inspired by my son’s paternal ancestors—his great-great grandparents.  They lived in Boston at the beginning of the twentieth century, and they were an extraordinary pair.  Even by modern standards, they dared to live in bold, highly adventurous ways. 


What moved you to write about them?
I can remember the moment I first heard about the great-great grandmother, the woman whom I call “Erika” in the novel.  I was nineteen years old, living in Santa Barbara.  A friend had gone away for the weekend, and she’d loaned me her beachfront apartment.  It was around midnight, and I was lying there in the arms of a young man I barely knew.  He later became my husband, but at that moment we were just beginning to know one another.  He talked about his grandfather, who had recently died.  Suddenly he said, “When my grandfather was a little boy, his mother deserted him and her husband and moved to Italy to develop her career as an opera singer.
           
The idea of a privileged woman in early twentieth century Boston who abandoned her husband and small child for the sake of her art … the thought of it amazed me.  Then I couldn’t decide: did I admire her and want to applaud her courage?  Or was it heartbreaking that she’d deserted her little boy?  The tension of all those conflicting feelings drew my imagination to her.


How did you manage to learn more about her life?
Early in our marriage, my husband and I moved to Boston.  Every day on my way to work, I walked through the Back Bay neighborhood where these ancestors had once lived.  Erika’s childhood home stood on Commonwealth Avenue.   Her father was a famous physician, and they lived in a rather grand house with two archways. 
           
When I went up to the front entrance and cupped my hands against the glass pane to peer inside, I saw that much remained the same as it had been in the late nineteenth century.  The wide staircase was still paneled in black walnut, and I imagined her fiancĂ© Peter mounting the steps, and her voice echoing down to him while she sang from the parlor upstairs.


Why did their story seem so haunting to you?
When I stood across the street from “Erika’s” house, I could almost see a young girl’s face—her face—staring back at me from an oval window on the third story.  I had a strange sense of god-like omniscience, because I knew things about her life that she couldn’t foresee—how her husband would one day be forced to divorce her and take custody of their small son; how she would sing in I Puritani from Montepulciano, Italy; how her little boy would write her letters that were never delivered to her.

            
The novel draws upon hundreds of pages of family letters.  Where did you find those letters?
After my husband and I had lived in Boston for nine years, we decided to move back to the West Coast.  We drove cross-country and stopped at his aunt’s ranch in the Sierra Nevada foothills.  Like me, she had a passion for genealogy.  From the moment you stepped into her house, you felt the presence of the ancestors….  Huge family portraits stared down at you from her living room walls.  She had a little gallery of framed butterflies -- a dozen exquisite butterflies that her grandfather “Peter” had meticulously painted with hair-thin brushes. 

“Where are the letters I’ve heard so much about?”  I asked her.  The aunt brought out hundreds of pages of correspondence.  Reading them just amazed me.  I realized that these ancestors had led far bigger lives than I’d imagined.  Their voices could be heard in those pages.  There was so much detail and adventure—nights spent exploring winding streets in Tangier, or visits to a coconut plantation in the Caribbean where the guests told ghost stories after dinner…. 


What did you enjoy most about writing THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA?
Apart from the joy of composing the fictionalized story, I loved doing the research.  It was deeply pleasurable to steep myself in another era, and revel in all those exotic lands described in century-old family letters. 

Learning about the history of medicine and the working life of a 1903 obstetrician like Dr. Ravell—that was also fascinating.  And the music!  I cannot tell you how it nourished my soul and my senses, to listen to the gorgeous arias that Erika sang.  Had it not been for my son’s ancestor, I might have missed out on a whole domain of thrilling and lovely music.


How long did it take you to write THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA?
About six years.  I wrote a first draft of the novel in the mid-1980s, but the result was lifeless and stale.  I packed up those pages and stored them in a box for twenty years. 

Then, after a couple of decades passed, I envisioned an entirely new way to frame the novel.  This time I would begin Erika’s story not through her own perspective, but instead through the eyes of the young doctor who was becoming obsessed with her, a man who would take a terrible risk and jeopardize his career because of her.


How did you research the novel, and balance factual information with storytelling?
First, I read the family letters with great scrutiny, always on the lookout for material that might be transformed into a scene.  I imagined the exotic locales as stage sets where dramas might unfold.

Like any good student, I brought home musty books and old recordings from University and public libraries, and while I pulled out my pen and took careful notes, my conscious and unconscious mind were both at work.  I was constantly on the hunt for just the right, historically apt detail.  For example, when Erika is confined to her bed during childbirth, Doctor Ravell puts a ball of cotton soaked in chloroform into a tumbler, and he tells Erika to place the glass over her nose.  After she breathes its vapors, the tumbler slides from her hand and rolls along the carpeted floor.  That’s all you need to evoke pain relief during childbirth in 1904—one detail like that, just a whiff.
  
On a deeper, thematic level, what is THE DOCTOR AND THE DIVA about?

The themes are too many to count, but I will say this.  Several characters in the novel commit unthinkable acts.  I’ve always been interested in the challenge of seeing a character’s situation with empathy, so that even the most shocking choice or appalling actions might become understandable. 


Giveaway Rules:
I have two copies of the paperback version of The Doctor and the Diva for readers of this blog open to US and Canada readers only.

Rules:
  • For ONE entry enter your name and email on the form below.
  • For TWO entries follow my blog. If you already are following me through Google Friend Connect thank you for following my blog. Just let me know in form by answering the optional question three.
  • For THREE entries post about this giveaway to spread the word. Be sure to share the link of your post in optional question four on the form.

Giveaway will end on December 13th, 2011 at midnight.
I will draw two winners using Random.org on December 14th, 2011
To be entered no entries by comments.
YOU MUST FILL OUT THE FORM OR IT WILL NOT COUNT.



Some Giveaway Winners

I realized I forgot to announce who had won some previous giveaways, so here they are:

 
CONGRATULATIONS

to

Mamabunny

winner of 
A Lawman's Christmas by Linda Lael Miller


*************************************************************
CONGRATULATIONS

to

Jane

winner of 
Paris Noire by Francine Thomas Howard


**************************************************************************************

CONGRATULATIONS

to

Mamabunny

winner of 
Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins



Random.org selected the winners. 
Thanks to all who entered the giveaway!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (11.28.11)



It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs.

Where did the week go? I had such grand aspirations for reading, catching up on reviews and getting a jump start on my Christmas cards, and I feel as if I didn't accomplish much. These next two weeks promise to be pretty busy work-wise which unfortunately translates into not much reading/blogging  time but we will see what happens.

Books Completed last week:

  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson (mine)
  • True Colors by Kristin Hannah (library audio book)
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson (mine)
Reading Now:
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (library book, book club book)
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova (library audio book)
Next:
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: By Royal Decree by Kate Emerson (mine)
  • Inseparable by Dora Heldt (review book)
Reviews completed this past week
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • Peony in Love by Lisa See
  • Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
  • Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson
  • True Colors by Kristin Hannah
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens
Contest information:

What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

In My Mailbox (75) 11.27.11

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren. Every week I'll post what books I've received either by mailbox/library/store.



From the Library:
 
Still Alice (audio version)
by Lisa Genova

I recently listened to Left Neglected by Lisa Genova and loved it. I have heard that this one is also good.


  
What's in your mailbox?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

FIR '11: Reading Question #9


FIR is hosted by Katrina at Callapidderdays.

Every Wednesday this fall, Katrina will be posting a question about reading.

This week's question:
What else do you do while you are reading? Eat? Drink? Household tasks? Or do you usually put aside absolutely everything to focus solely on the book at hand?
 
When reading, there isn't much else I am doing, except maybe having something to eat or drink. I love sitting down in the afternoon, all curled up in a blanket with a nice cuppa tea and maybe some cookies and getting in some quality reading time. There have been times when I've read while eating my breakfast or lunch, but those days tend to be few and far between. 
 
Now listening to audio books is a different story. One of the benefits of audio, I think, is that it allows me to do something else - whether driving (I listen to most of my audios in the car) or on the few occasions when I bring it in the house, I am able to bake or fold laundry or clean. 
 
Do you usually devote yourself entirely to your reading, or is there often something else going on, too?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review & Giveaway: Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr (CLOSED)

First line: Rich Timm drove into Virgin River a mere ten hours after leaving San Diego.

From the back cover: This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list: getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It's time she got over her silly college relationship and moved on.

So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother's men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River. With Denny. In very close quarters.

As the power of Christmas envelopes the little town, Becca discovers that the boy she once loved has become a strong and confident man. And the most delicious Christmas present she can imagine.

My thoughts: This is the 16th book in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series and while I have only read the first two books in the series so far, I jumped at the opportunity to read and review this one. Maybe because it's a Christmas story or maybe just because I knew I would enjoy it, but it did leave me wanting to go back and read the rest that I have missed.

Bring Me Home for Christmas reminds us of the true spirit of the season. It brings back many of the characters we know and love and we get to see the town come together when needed. Of course, some of the characters that were new to me were probably introduced in an earlier book, but nonetheless, I still was able to get into the spirit of the book.

While stuck in Virgin River due to an unfortunate accident, Becca has time to reevaluate her life and what she really wants. For Denny, he is given the chance to make amends for the way he ended things with Becca three years ago. As the two are forced to spend time together, they really take the time to speak their minds when needed - something that we don't often see. At the same time, Becca is able to finally heal the rift between her and her mother, something that was a long time coming.

I really enjoy reading this series and will definitely be trying to catch up - I still have to read books three through fifteen - hopefully all before the next three books come out earlier next year! One of my favorite parts of the series is that it allows you a glimpse into a simpler way of life, away from the hustle and bustle of city living, where neighbors and friends actually look out for each other.

I received a complimentary copy of Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr from Eric at  Planned Television Arts.

How to enter: 
This contest is open to entries from the U.S. only.

The deadline for entry is midnight, December 5th. I will draw the winner on December 6th and post the winner's name shortly after that.


*Form closed

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (11.21.11)



It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs.

Books Completed last week:

  • Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook (mine)
  • Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson (mine)
Reading Now:
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace by Kate Emerson (mine)
  • True Colors by Kristin Hannah (library audio book)
Next:
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens by Kate Emerson (mine)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Emerson (library book, book club book)
Reviews completed this past week
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • Peony in Love by Lisa See
  • Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr (will be posted today)
  • Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook
  • Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson
Contest information:

What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: It's a Waverly Life by Maria Murnane (CLOSED)

First line: Time was quickly running out.

From the back cover: New decade. New job. New shenanigans.

After rebounding from a broken engagement and relinquishing her job in sports PR, the irrepressible Waverly Bryson has a new man, a new career, and a new lease on life. Her part-time gig as an advice columnist has proven to be as entertaining as it is affirming, and her fledgling greeting-card line, Honey Notes, is off to a promising start. After a series of disastrous romantic rebounds, she has settled into a long-distance relationship with handsome Jake McIntyre. Things are certainly looking up...at least, until lingering emotional baggage threatens her love life and her best friends stun her with a pair of shocking announcements. Suddenly, Waverly is faced with being left behind by everyone she loves. And in true Waverly fashion, things must get comically worse before they can get better. It takes forming an unexpected new friendship with an elderly neighbor and meddling in the love lives of two of her coworkers to make "the American Bridget Jones" realize that although life - before and after thirty - never fails to be messy and unpredictable, friendship and love make it all worthwhile.

My thoughts: This is the sequel to Maria Murnane's Perfect on Paper and I found it to be a fun, quick read, filled with many laugh-out loud scenes. 

Waverly has a pretty good life that could be even better if she would just believe in herself, instead of doubting everything that comes her way. She has a new job that she seems to enjoy. She's in a new relationship with hottie Jack McIntyre, which if she would just get out of her own way, could be the best thing in her life. Her friends are still there for her, but as life goes on, they each have big news of their own that at first doesn't sit well with Waverly.

I really enjoyed the flow of the story throughout the book. Every chapter has you wondering will she or won't she do this or that. She is so unsure of herself at times that things go drastically wrong in an instant and she winds up getting herself into some pretty sticky situations. 

I hope we have not seen the last of Waverly Bryson!


About the author: Maria Murnane’s first novel, Perfect on Paper: the (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson, was named a finalist in the chick lit category of the National Indie Excellence Awards, won the genre-based fiction category of the DIY Book Festival, won the women’s literature category of the Book Bloggers Top 10, and was named as a finalist for a National Best Book award in the chick lit category by USA Book News.
 
Murnane’s “story behind the story” is an entertaining tale of the courage, passion, and perseverance required to her books published. She graduated with high honors in English and Spanish from the University of California-Berkeley, where she was a Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar. She also holds a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University and she worked in PR for 10 years before quitting and moving to Argentina for a year where she wrote Perfect on Paper and played professional soccer. Today, Murnane lives New York City. For more information about her books, speaking engagements, and consulting services, please visit www.mariamurnane.com.


I received a complimentary copy of It's a Waverly Life by Maria Murnane  from Sarah at Little Bird Publicity  to review.

Giveaway Information:

Thanks to Sarah at Little Bird, I have one copy of It's a Waverly Life to give away to my readers.  Entries are open to those from the US.

To enter leave a comment including your email address.

For extra entries (leave a separate comment for each entry):

+1 Follow this blog (If you are already a follower, just mention that in the comment.)
+1 Blog about this giveaway (Posting the giveaway on your sidebar is also acceptable.)

3 entry maximum. 
Don't forget to LEAVE A SEPARATE COMMENT for each entry and be sure to INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.


Thanks to everyone for entering! Good luck!

GIVEAWAY ENDS
AT 6 PM, EST, November 30th
 

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