Review & Giveaway: A Christmas Home by Greg Kincaid

A Christmas Home

Back in October I got an email asking if I would be interested in reading Greg Kincaid’s latest book A Christmas Home. While this is not typically a book I might pick-up, I have been wanting to expand my reading range, and I am glad I did. The holidays should be about heartwarming things, and this book fit the bill. Not that it didn’t have some tear-jerking parts but it made the, albeit predictable, ending a happy one.

The driving force in this book is the relationship between Todd and Laura. They are the cutest couple as they navigate the road from friendship to more. I am invested in them and want to know more. The other nice part of this book was Christmas and the other dogs in this story. They make the story what it is.

You don’t always need twist endings – sometimes a sweet story is just the thing.

Thanks to Crown and Hogarth/Random House, I have a fresh new book for you to curl up with during this holiday season. To enter, leave a comment with your name and email address, I will use Random.org to determine the winner. You have until Tuesday, December 18 to enter and I will send it out two day shipping so you should hopefully have it before Christmas.

Good luck!

 

*I received this book from Crown and Hogarth for review.*

And We Have Some Winners

Smart OneMy second giveaway on this site has come to a close.

First, thanks to all of you who entered and/or posted about this giveaway on Twitter or your blogs.

Now, without further ado here are the five winners who will each win a copy of Claire LaZebnik’s book The Smart One and the Pretty One. thanks to Hachette:

The winners were chosen using Random.org.

Congrats to you all! And thanks again to everyone who entered.

Review and Giveaway: The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

Sisters. This is certainly a topic that has been explored in too many books to count, and I could spend days and days writing about famous literary character sisters. What is it that draws us to a story of sisters? For me, it might be because I don’t have one (in fact I have no siblings), so I love to explore sisterly relationships. While I would like to say my earliest memory of devouring sisterly stories was with Little Women , it wasn’t – it was actually the Wakefield twins who attended Sweet Valley High.

So where am I going with this?

Smart OneIt’s this idea of looking at the relationship of sisters that drew me in to Claire LaZebnik’s book The Smart One and the Pretty One. In this book, we meet twenty-somethings Ava and Lauren Nickerson. Ava is the older sister who is a lawyer, stayed living near her childhood home in CA, dresses dowdy for her age and hasn’t had a serious relationship in years. Lauren is younger, loves fashion and buying clothes and was living in New York until she became overwhelmed in debt (and had a blow-up with her boss) – so she took the opportunity of a family crisis to come home and stay home. This is not to say that Ava is boring, or Lauren is shallow. But they are both different enough, that each wants to work on the other.

This premise isn’t anything new, often in sisterly relationship books we find just such opposites (like Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield). Add in a twist about of a marriage contract the Nickerson parents made between Ava and a family friend’s son when they were children – well that’s got some potential to spice things up a bit, especially when Lauren finds her sister’s “betrothed” and reintroduces him to their lives.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I curled up on my window seat on Sunday and read a good chunk of this book, and that’s just the type of book this is – fun Sunday reading. Sure, there were some things that I didn’t totally like (but as not to add spoilers I’ll just say I didn’t feel there was full closure on everything) but to me, this book was about the relationship between Ava and Lauren, and I really believed it. I liked their conversations with each other, they seemed real. I expect sisters to bicker with each other and meddle in the other’s life, which they did. But I also expect them to defend each other against outsiders and ultimately look out for the other, which they also did.

The Smart One and the Pretty One.
Author: Claire LaZebnik
ISBN: 978-0446582063
Published: September 10, 2008 (Paperback)
Publisher: 5 Spot
Pages: 304

Thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for sending me this copy to read, and for offering me five copies to give away.

Yes, you read that right – I have five copies to giveaway!

Starting today, September 21 through 6pm ET on Friday, September 25 leave a comment below with your email address to be entered into this giveaway. Please note: U.S. shipping address only.

And if you want a few more entry opportunities:
• Leave a comment telling me who your favorite literary character sisters are
• Follow this blog
• Follow me on Twitter @BaileysandBooks
• Tweet about the contest on Twitter (be sure to note @BaileysandBooks so I can find you)
• Note this contest on your blog
Be sure to leave a note in the comments with each of these additional entries as well so I can count them all up.

So that’s a total of six opportunities to win. All entries will be counted from your comments below and five winners will be randomly selected via Random.org. Again, this contest is open to U.S. residents only (sorry to all my overseas and across the border friends).

Good luck!

What Are You Reading Monday, 21 September; And the Week That Was

on_mondaysThanks to J Kaye’s Book Blog for hosting this weekly meme.

Wow! What a great week last week was for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I may have finished reading two books, but think I should add another one or two for the amount of great posts I read. Thank you all who worked on arranging it, and all who posted. I have added so many new blogs to my Google Reader and can’t wait to keep up with each and every one of them.

In addition to all the reading of books and posts, I finished up my first contest giveaway. Congrats again to Jennifer for winning an autographed copy of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Queen. Stay tuned for my next giveaway which will post later today, I have five copies of The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik to giveaway, thanks to Hachette.

I have been putting some thought into more goals and scheduling for this blog that I hope to have down by October 1 as a sort of final quarter push. Any thoughts on what you would like to see here, please add to the comments, I would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Reading All!!

BOOKS I COMPLETED
1. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
2. The Smart One and the Pretty One by Claire LaZebnik

BOOKS TO COMPLETE
1. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

BOOK TO BEGIN
1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
2. Dancing with Ana by Nicole Barker

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
So how about you? What are you reading this week?

My First Giveaway… Lessons Learned

So my first giveaway ended yesterday.

I jumped on Random.org to pull my winner (Congrats again Jennifer!), emailed her, got the shipping address, put up my post and was getting ready to head to the Post Office to mail out this beautiful copy of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Queen. I hadn’t even opened it when it came in from my contest win, so I just wanted to flip through it before sending, and what do I see, an autograph from Ms. Gregory!

I am very sorry to any who saw this contest, didn’t enter, but would have had they known it was an autographed copy. Had I known, or remembered from when I won this book in the first place, that’s certainly something I would not have left out. :)

Hope you will all still continue to enter other giveaways of mine in the future!

Review: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory and My First Giveaway Contest

Thanks to the popularity of all things Tudor (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Tudors, everything Queen Elizabeth, etc. etc) many people know at least bits and pieces of that period of history. So, what keeps us turning the page while reading historical fiction when we know the ending (which for the most part ends with someone, or many someones, losing a head)?

The Other QueenThis is a question I asked myself as I read Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Queen which tells the story of Mary Queen of Scots, cousin to Queen Elizabeth, and also one of her greatest threats because she was both a legitimate heir to the English Throne, and a Catholic. Born and raised to be a queen (much like Catherine of Aragon), Mary spent her formative years living in the French court and married the Crown Prince of France only to become a widow one year after his coronation. She returns to Scotland as the Queen, marries, has a son, becomes a widow, and is overthrown by her half-brother (she also married the man believed to have killed her second husband, but was she in on the plot to kill her husband and marry the killer or did she marry him to “save face” – really I would like to read more on this portion of her life).  Mary flees to England hoping for help and protection from her cousin, but instead is held and tried. (I think this is the basic distillation without going into all the he-said/she-said, and jumping quickly on Wikipedia).

The book begins as Mary is trying to escape following the first trial. It becomes a theme throughout the book. She firmly believes in her sovereignty and her right to be free – so she spends all the rest of her days planning her escape. The hold of the Protestant faith in England is still not strong, with many people remembering being raised as Catholics, so many are happy to help her, some in the hopes that she will in fact become the ruler of England and re-establish the Catholic faith. Well, I think you probably know how the story eventually ends for Mary. If you don’t, well … I won’t ruin it for you.

Gregory tells three years worth of Mary’s story in England through three very different voices: Mary, Bess of Hardwick and the Earl of Shrewsbury – George Talbot. Bess and George were a newly wed couple (this was in fact Bess’ fourth marriage) and as considerable landowners they were charged with holding Mary after she was found innocent from her initial trial. The main narrative of the story chronicles 1569 to 1572, when Bess and George were hosting (or holding) Mary while negotiations were underway to re-establish her to the Scottish throne, and while later investigating Mary’s involvement in the overthrow of Elizabeth, and summoning the Spanish to join in the attack.

At first Bess is very happy to be welcoming the Queen of Scots to her home, as a friend to the Court she thinks that this will establish her even further, and provide additional wealth and property from Elizabeth in thanks. As the months and years go by, the opposite is true – Elizabeth does not pay for Mary (who basically keeps an entire court with her during the length of her stay), and this nearly bankrupts George. George is a loyalist to the Throne, regardless of who is sitting on it, but while he will follow his Queen Elizabeth, he can not abide by her greatest counselor William Cecil, and then there is of course his house guest whose beauty and charms even he is not immune to.

There is a lot going on, a lot of intrigue and with three very distinct voices to tell their side of the story, a story that I now see that while I knew the end – I didn’t realize how much of the middle I didn’t know.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I love historical fiction – it always piques my interest to read nonfiction of that period. I think The Other Boleyn Girl singlehandedly opened my eyes to my love of all things Tudor. So I really enjoyed it for that, and see a few history books on Elizabeth and Mary in my future. But, it took me a bit to get to that point.

This book had a very slow start for me, I was a good 100 pages in before I found myself getting taken in to the story. And throughout the book I found that I really did not like the chapters that George narrated. I understand that his chapters helped to move along the stories of what was happening at Court since Bess never went, and George was the head of the trials, but I would rather have had the narration go between Mary and Bess as it really is their story.

While there were a lot of differences, these two women could have been kindred spirits in another time and place – they both were smart and strong and wanted what was best for themselves and their children first. I think that Gregory is at her strongest as she gives voice to strong historical women, and those two women made this book for me, and were what kept me turning the page. Sorry George!

The Other Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
ISBN: 978-1416549147
Pages: 464
Publisher: Touchstone

MY FIRST CONTEST
So, I got this book a few weeks ago while out visiting my parents, but a few weeks later I was lucky enough to win a copy of this and The White Queen on a Twitter contest from @WhiteQueen_book. Since I now have two copies of this book – I am hosting the first ever giveaway on this blog!

Starting today, September 7 through next Tuesday, September 15 (6pm ET) enter to win a hard copy version of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Queen.

Leave a comment below with your email address if you would like to be entered in this contest.

And if you want a few more entry opportunities:

  • Follow this blog
  • Follow me on Twitter @BaileysandBooks
  • Tweet about the contest on Twitter (be sure to note @BaileysandBooks so I can find you)
  • Note this contest on your blog

So that’s a total of five possible entries. Please be sure to also leave me a comment below when you do any of the supplemental entries – and if you are a follower of the blog and/or on Twitter already, let me know and you’ll also get the supplemental entries.

All entries will be counted from your comments below and one winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday, September 16. This book will be shipped to a U.S. address only (sorry to all my overseas and across the border friends).

Thanks, and good luck!!

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