Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dragonfly Effect by Aaker & Smith

Title: The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change
Author: Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith

Genre: Non-Fiction (Communications / Business / Social Media)

Rating: Liked
Did I finish?: Yes -- really enjoyable.
One-sentence summary: Readable explanation of social media and how non-profits and movements can get the most out of this new technology.

Why did I get this book?: Work!
Source: Bought it.
Do I like the cover?: Yes -- business books can be deadly boring

Review: Confession -- I actually finished this in January but never got around to reviewing it even though we've discussed it at work.  Unlike fiction, I don't think the distance matters in a review and in some ways, it's probably more telling what I do recall -- if I've learned the lessons this book offered!

The subtitle -- Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change -- effectively explains the purpose of this book.  The dragonfly mentioned in the title is the motif the authors use to explain their tips: four wings/four tools.  The authors, Aaker and Smith, break down popular campaigns that used social media well and explain the hows and whys. 

The book is very easy to read -- if you've used Facebook and Twitter, then you'll understand everything the authors talk about -- and their case studies are compelling (moving even!).  Even though the examples and tips are oriented toward charities, social campaigns, and small businesses, authors and bloggers could easily take these ideas and use them to improve their own social media skills.  Anyone interested in social media would benefit from this book -- if you do your work online, you'll want to read this!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winners of Delilah Marvelle giveaway

I apologize for the lack of updates this week -- I've been felled by a horrible, malingering cold that I can't shake!  (Makes for lots of time to read, however!)

I'm thrilled to announce the winners of my Delilah Marvelle giveaway!

Blodeuedd has won a copy of Prelude to a Scandal and Jena Lang has won Once Upon a Scandal.  Congrats to both!  (Winners have been emailed and have 48 hours to respond.)

I'm having a giveaway of The Oracle of Stamboul beginning March 1st -- there will be two opportunities to enter.  Just comment on my review and my interview with the author, Michael David Lukas.  (It's a marvelous book and you will want a copy for yourself!!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

In My Mailbox Monday, Feb 21

Seen both at The Printed Page (hosted in Feb at Library of Clean Reads) and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox for the second part of Feb.  Read anything I got?  What did you get?

For Review!

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb


Dust (Jacob's Ladder #1) by Elizabeth Bear, thanks to vvb32 Reads  
Kiss of the Rose (Tudor Vampire Chronicles #1) by Kate Pearce with some very awesome swag, thanks to Book Lovers, Inc.
Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran, thanks to Read It Forward
Mr. Bishop and the Actress by Janet Mullany, thanks to Risky Regencies


There was a book swap/giveaway at work. In reality, I walked away with an obscene haul but these were the particular gems I'm excited about!

The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation by Nancy Rubin Stuart
Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man: Massachusetts and the History of Sexuality in America by Thomas A. Foster

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Beginnings, Feb 18

Book Beginnings is a meme by A Few More Pages.  The meme is simple: share the first line of the book you're currently reading and what your impression was after reading it!

This week's book is The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason.  Great start -- I'm already hooked -- and I promise, in the last sentence, I've typed exactly what is there, including 'wilful' (which looks wrong to me and spell check keeps flagging!). 

Today, I learned what I am for.  I think that the information has always been there, but I've chosen to ignore it.  Then, this morning, when the Duc de Bouillon looked me up and down and allowed that I was indeed 'handsome enough', my grip on wilful ignorance began to slip.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Sadie Jones

Late in January, I read and loved Small Wars by Sadie Jones.  It's an intense, beautiful, understated book that moved me.  I can't recommend it enough!  I'm thrilled to share my interview with Sadie Jones.

Sadie Jones
You said in interviews that your novel was inspired by the current conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. What sparked the connection between the those conflicts and the historical one in Cyprus?

At first, with no thought of making a fiction of it, I became preoccupied by the inner lives of soldiers; how they reconcile the person they have to be in action with the person they must be with their wives and families. There were a lot of reports at the time of psychological damage, and broken families, that often ran alongside all reports of wrongdoing in the military or dissent about the reasons for war in the first place. It struck me that PTSD – often seen in isolation – is not indivisible from the conscience, and that this was not being discussed. It is easy to see, looking down history, that action undertaken in conflicts that are seen as ‘moral’ or ‘clean’, being more easily defended are therefore more easily reconciled. I had no thought of making a book out of it, until I stumbled across Cyprus, and was immediately, viscerally, reminded of the landscape of the Middle East. I suddenly imagined a real soldier, and a marriage, and his country, that he loved, betraying him. The 1950s liberated the story, and allowed it to be universal.

Were there any surprises in the novel that came out as you wrote -- a character or scene that was unexpected?

The character of Lieutenant Davis, the interpreter, who is key to the story, was a relatively late development. Looking back it’s hard to imagine, but he insinuated himself into things once the story was largely plotted. At one point he threatened to take the thing over because I enjoyed his particular brand of weakness so much. As to scenes, occasionally I’ll go into one knowing there must be an argument, say, and what the result will be, only to find that the characters have a greater integrity than I, in my cool plan for them, and refuse to be manipulated. They might not be as angry as I thought, or angrier, or make statements that I had not thought they would, leaving me to adjust them to the story and not the other way around.

Did you have a chance to travel to Cyprus for your research?

I have travelled to Greece and to Turkey quite a lot in my life, but I didn’t get there until half-way through the book - about a 18 months into the process. I had researched 1950s Cyprus so thoroughly that the 21st Century island was a shock. It took me a while to reconcile the two. The army base at Episkopi, though, is almost unchanged – all the ‘50s housing stock is still there, as it was.

Are you working on anything now?

I’m revising my 3rd novel.

When you're not writing, what do you like to do?

Spend time with my family, cook, eat out, read, go to movies and galleries and ride.

Read any good books lately?

The Existential Detective, by Alice Thompson is a gem. I was awed by Never Let Me Go; Ishiguro Kazuo. I am rereading Madame Bovary which – as all great books are – is a different book at every age, and I’m halfway through, and enjoying, Tim Winton’s Dirt Music.

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My thanks to Sadie Jones for taking the time to answer my questions as well as Trish with TLC Book Tours for facilitating this!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaser Tues, Feb 15

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser is from The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas.  Gorgeous book, effortless to read, like eating a spoonful of whipped cream.  I'm loving it, obviously!

This scene features the heroine, about age 8, waking up after making an ethically right but emotionally challenging decision.

Eleonora awoke that next morning to the click of the door and the soft music of Mrs. Damakan humming a familiar melody.  Her dreams scurried into the far corners of the room, under furniture and into the cracks between the floorboards.  Rubbing her eyes, she slipped out of bed and followed Mrs. Damakan to the bathroom.  The air was heavy with condensation and the smell of soap.  The morning pressed its face to the small window above the sink like a beggar.  Eleonora could feel her skin gather into goose bumps as she slipped into the bath.  A shiver jumped across her back and she traced an S on the surface of a square blue tile. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Muslim Women Reformers by Ida Lichter

Title: Muslim Women Reformers: Inspiring Voices Against Oppression
Author: Ida Lichter

Genre: Non-Fiction (Islamic Studies / Current Events / Women's History)

Rating: Loved it!
Did I finish?: Yes -- it's esp easy to dip into and browse.
One-sentence summary: Brief, readable profiles of nearly one hundred Muslim women reformers, representing 27 countries.

Why did I get this book?: I've always been interested in religion, especially the role of women, and given that Islam is such a
Source: OnlinePublicist

Do I like the cover?: Yes -- quite striking!

Review: The size of the book or the scope might seem overwhelming, but this is a wholly readable, easy-to-understand piece of non-fiction that lifts up the work of Muslim women reformers around the world.  Living in the US, there's a great deal of misinformation about Islam and Muslims, and while this isn't an intro to Islam, it is a fabulous book for those unfamiliar with or curious about the work of women in Islam.

Each section -- organized by country -- opens with a summary about the status of women's rights, followed by profiles of key reformers.  The profiles are a mix of biography and commentary; Lichter doesn't sugarcoat or minimize the violence that many of these women have experienced.  Each profile bears witness to the struggle of being a woman, many of whom live in repressive societies, and lifts up their strength, passion, and commitment to reform. 

For those who are afraid to jump in, browse the table of contents for a recognizable name.  (For example, Iran's Azar Nafisi, author of the immensely popular Reading Lolita in Tehran, is one of the women featured.)  This book also contains a glossary and extensive footnotes, as well as over ten pages of websites, annotated.

I've found this book so handy to have as a reference; in the last month, I've reread the section on Egyptian reformers given the current revolution happening there.  The small piece on Suzanne Mubarak is fascinating given the criticisms leveled at her husband; the profile on Dr. Nawal El Saadawi made me even more appreciative of her commentary about the events there.

A timely reference for anyone interested in women, Islam, and activism around the world.  Recommend!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Beginnings, Feb 11

A new meme which seems very fun - Book Beginnings by A Few More Pages.  The meme is simple: share the first line of the book you're currently reading and what your impression was after reading it!

This week's book beginning is from Bound Darkly by Tarrant Smith.  There's no easing into the story with this one, just bam!, action!
As soon as his brother Hueil decided to quit the unseelie banquet table, Neb took the opportunity to shift to Calcus's great hall, where he was greeted with the ringing of swordplay as it echoed off the marble walls.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Winner of Small Wars

I'm pleased to announce that KatieF is the winner of my Small Wars giveaway!  Congrats -- the publisher will ship your book!

Those who didn't win, sorry -- check out my Delilah Marvelle giveaway for US and international readers! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Interview with Delilah Marvelle (and a giveaway!)

I'm thrilled to share my interview with the hilarious, interesting, and fabulous Delilah Marvelle.  I was completely charmed by Prelude to a Scandal and ended up in conversation with Ms Marvelle about it and the romance genre.  It was so fascinating (and fun), I asked for an interview -- not only did she agree, but she offered a giveaway as well!  Read on to learn a bit about Delilah Marvelle and see the giveaway. 

What was the plot of your very first first piece of fiction?

Heh. Am I supposed to answer honestly? My very first piece of fiction was written when I was about 8. I wrote about how Peter Pan ditched the lost boys and went home with Wendy instead. The movie HOOK totally swiped my idea, lol.

Any rituals or routines for when you write?

I must have three things when I write:
1.) A Vanilla Starbucks Frappunico. I usually drink 2-3 in a day while I'm writing.
2.) My research books have to be within reach so I don't have to get up.
3.) Complete and utter silence.

Once all 3 are in place, I write. As I'm writing, I always read what I'm writing aloud in a British accent to make it feel more authentic. Seriously. Which is probably why I can't have anyone around because they'd think I was a total freak.

You’ve said you can only write when you’re alone, so how do you get your writing done? Do you run away from home or banish your family?

Yup, I can only write when I'm alone. I hear people leaving the house and going to Starbucks to write and I'm in awe of them. Because I can't tune out the world around me. So I have to get rid of it. Including my family, lol. So yes, I banish everyone from the house because there's no way I'm lugging my computer and dozens of research books with me outside the house. I also turn off the phone and make sure my email/twitter and facebook isn't connected to my writing computer or I would never get anything done or be focused enough to delve into history. I usually write when hubbie is at work and kids are at school, which means from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. If I'm under deadline and need more time, hubbie takes the kids out of the house for the weekend. He's AMAZING. Of course, he calls me his retirement plan, lol.

Got any writing projects underway now?

I'm currently working on another trilogy, so yes, I've got three projects under way. Really excited about these books!!! I'm doing a ton of research. Sadly, I can't share anything about them, yet, until I get approval to do so and all contracts are finalized, but let's just say I'm about to dig into a realm that has always fascinated me.

Are you ‘out’ to your friends and family as a romance novelist? Was anyone surprised?

I "outed" myself the moment my first editor named my first book MISTRESS OF PLEASURE, lol. I figured there was no use hiding it. No one was surprised. I'm a total romantic at heart and very touchy feely with my husband, so they pretty much felt like it was just a step up into what I really was, lol. They've been incredibly supportive and awesome.

You’re married to a firefighter slash model. Don’t you think that’s a little unfair?

Oh, it's totally unfair. But then life is never fair, is it? Smirk. I have to get my inspiration somewhere while still keeping it legal, lol.

Growing up, were there any heroine(s) you wanted as your best friend? How about now?

What a great question! I was always wanting to be best friends with most of the heroines I read growing up. But the heroine that I totaly wanted for my best friend when I was 12 was Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind. I just thought she was so freakin kick ass, even if she was a total snot. I loved how she didn't put up with people. As for a heroine I want as a best friend now? I'm totally stepping out of literature here and moving into film but I'd say AMELIE. By God, do I love her character. Playful, creative, smart, crazy, yet so adorably shy.

Say you were thumbing through your little red etiquette book on how to avoid a scandal. What piece of advice would best apply to you?

Heh. None of it. I rather like scandal, thank you, lol. But seriously, there is one that totally applies to me. You can find the quote in the third and last book of the Scandal series, THE PERFECT SCANDAL. Here it is and it basically says it all:
"The world is already well practiced in all things woeful, dismal and wretched. There is no need to add to it by shrinking the last of your soul. I recommend practicing the art of happiness and submitting to mastering it. It may take all of life, this author will agree, but oh! To master true happiness would be like mastering the very beat of one's heart. Do that and that is when life will truly start."
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

I love kickboxing, running, reading, spending time with my family, hanging out with my writer friends, and cooking. Did I mention I went to culinary school? Loved it. But I loved writing more.

Read any good books recently?

YES. Although I read more non-fiction than fiction these days because I'm always doing research for my writing. The last book I read which was AMAZING was How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev. It was so well researched and introduced a fascinating perspective on how the Irish came to America, their treatment by America and what they did to survive.

You can learn more about Delilah Marvelle and her books at her website (go to the 'About Delilah' page for more laughs!).  I highly recommend her video newsletter and her engrossing blog!  Prelude to a Scandal and Once Upon a Scandal are out already and the final book in the trilogy, The Perfect Scandal, will be released February 15!

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GIVEAWAY! One signed copy of Once Upon a Scandal to a US-reader and one copy of Prelude to a Scandal for any international reader!  Entering is simple: becoming a follower of my blog and fill out the giveaway form.  Giveaway ends Feb 25 at 5pm Eastern.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In My Mailbox Monday, Feb 7

Seen both at The Printed Page (hosted in Feb at Library of Clean Reads) and The Story Siren, my Mailbox Monday/In My Mailbox for the first part of Feb.  Read anything I got?  What did you get?


Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray, thanks to the author -- with a Cleopatra action figure!

The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume by Tilar J. Mazzeo, thanks to Wonders and Marvels

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday, Feb 4

A new meme which seems very fun - Book Beginnings by A Few More Pages.  The meme is simple: share the first line of the book you're currently reading and what your impression was after reading it!

My selection today comes from the wildly good Thomas Hardy Far from the Madding Crowd.  It's my first Hardy and I'm totally in love.  As always with these memes, I can't limit myself, so I'm sharing the first three sentences because that's what hooked me.  I pretty much had a crush on Gabriel Oak by page five, and then a crush on Bathsheba Everdene pretty quick after that.  There's a metric ton of drama and romance in this book and I feel a Hardy reading jag coming on!
When Farmer Oak smiled, the corners of his mouth spread till they were within an unimportant distance of his ears, his eyes were reduced to mere chinks, and the diverging wrinkles appeared round them, extending upon his countenance like the rays in a rudimentary sketch of the rising sun.

His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he was a young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and general good character.  On Sundays he was a man of misty views, rather given to postponing treatment of things, whose best clothes and seven-and-sixpenny umbrella were always hampering him: upon the whole, one who felt himself to occupy morally that vast middle space of Loadicean neutrality which lay between the Communion people of the parish and the drunken division of its inhabitants -- that is, he went to church, but yawned privately by the time the congregation reached the Nicene creed, and thought of what there would be for dinner when he meant to be listening to the sermon.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Title: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Author: Helen Simonson

Genre: Fiction (British / Contemporary)

Rating: Loved -- I've been gushing to everyone about it.
Did I finish?: Finished -- and I'm rereading sections I loved.

One-sentence summary: A widow and widower find their growing romance a problem to their friends, family, and community because of their differing backgrounds -- one is an Anglo officer and the other a Pakistani Muslim.

Why did I get this book?: I love cross-cultural romances and was particular eager to see some positive representations of Muslims in contemporary fiction.
Reading Challenges:  British Books, South Asian
Source: TLC Book Tours

Do I like the cover?: I love the cover. It's from J. Grenard's 1924 Life magazine cover.  It's tender and restrained, much like the hero and heroine of this book.

I'm reminded of...: Margaret Oliphant, Anthony Trollope, Persephone Books

First line: Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother's wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Definitely absolutely buy -- and borrow if you can't!

Review: I just loved this book.  Straight out loved it.  The story is seemingly simple -- widower meets widow, develop late in life romance, obstacles get in the way -- but the engaging writing and endearing characters turn this simple story into a delicious treat of a novel.

I'm  reminded of many Persephone Books; there's a cozy, English village feel to the novel that is, as I've heard others say, charming.  What made this book so compelling for me was the exploration of identity.  Major Pettigrew, the upstanding Englishman, is actually Indian-born; Mrs. Ali, the 'foreigner' Pakistani, is actually British-born.  And yet, their outward appearance -- how they 'pass', so to speak -- is the basis for how their small village regards them.  Simonson explores the legacy of imperialism and race through Mrs. Ali and the Major's relationship in expected and surprising ways.  Nothing is whitewashed and yet, this isn't a contemporary drama that leaves the reader stripped or raw or scared.

And ultimately, at the heart of the story is a truly wonderful romance. I teared up a little at the end -- ohmygod, the last line! --and I was wholly invested in the Major and Mrs. Ali.  The obstacles faced are Austen-esque in feel and the pay off just as satisfying.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, Feb 1

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teaser is from the absolutely fantastic Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (which is unrelated to Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, which is equally fanstic, fyi).  My review is coming on the 3rd.

This teaser comes from one of the first handful of pages in which the 68-year old Major, a widower, learns his younger brother has died of a heart attack.  Mrs. Ali, the local shopkeeper and a widow, is giving the Major a ride to the funeral when he found himself unable to drive by himself.  Their conversation turned unexpectedly persona.

"I have produced no children of my own and my husband is dead," she replied, an acid tone in her voice.  "Thus I am more to be pitied than revered.  I am expected to give up the shop to my nephew, who will then be able to afford to bring a very good wife from Pakistan.  In exchange, I will be given houseroom and no doubt, the honor of taking care of several small children of other family members."

The Major was silent.  He was at once appalled and also reluctant to hear any more.  This was why people usually talked about the weather.