Giveaway: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

just reviewed this book and I have ONE extra copy of an ARC copy of Shut Out to give away, thanks to BEA, so here it is –

To enter:
1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject SHUT OUT GIVEAWAY, and say “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it. No hoops, although if you found this blog via this giveaway, I’d be thrilled if you did subscribe.
2. One entry per person please
3. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. I’ll mail it anywhere that the USPS delivers to.
4. This contest ends midnight EST July 22nd

BEA Bundle Giveaway – Contemporary Fiction

I got my hands on a few signed copies of books at BEA that I’d like to give away:

To enter:
1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject BEA CONTEMP BUNDLE, and say “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it. No hoops, although you are welcome to subscribe.
2. One entry per person please
3. Since these books are heavy, I’m afraid this is a U.S. only contest this time.
4. This contest ends midnight EST June 21st

Giveaway: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I have ONE copy of the US hardcover edition of Warm Bodies to give away, thanks to the Book Blogger Convention. This is the one with the pretty cover above!

To enter:
1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject WARM BODIES GIVEAWAY, and say “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it. No hoops, although if you found this blog via this giveaway, I’d be thrilled if you did subscribe.
2. One entry per person please
3. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. I’ll mail it anywhere that the USPS delivers to.
4. This contest ends midnight EST June 10th

Deborah Harkness on her book, A Discovery of Witches (w/ Giveaway)

I’m currently reading A Discovery of Witches (coming out February 8th), and hopefully my review will be out sometime next week. In the meantime, I have something special today: a few words about the book from it’s author Deborah Harkness. Viking has also generously offered a copy of the book to giveaway (US and Canada only), so be sure to scroll down for the details after reading her words.

Why does a history professor decide to write a novel about witches? It’s a good question!

Writing a novel is a mysterious process and many of my life experiences went into A Discovery of Witches. One of my favorite books as a child was Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The history of alchemy and magic caught my interest as an undergraduate, and I’m still fascinated by these subjects today. And, once upon a time, I discovered a lost alchemical manuscript—although it was not (so far as I know) enchanted.

A Discovery of Witches tells the tale of a reluctant witch named Diana Bishop and her discovery of a long-lost alchemical manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. There, Diana meets Matthew Clairmont: a geneticist who happens to be a very old, secretive vampire. Witches and vampires are traditional enemies, but Diana and Matthew grow closer as they try to puzzle out the manuscript’s significance. Their search for answers takes Diana and Matthew from Oxford, to his ancestral home in France, to her family’s farm in upstate New York. But they are not the only creatures who want to solve the mystery of manuscript, and their fellow daemons, vampires, and witches frown upon their unorthodox relationship. Are these just old prejudices, or is it something more?

Our culture’s renewed obsession with witches, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night has been fascinating to me as a historian. I’ve gone from needing to explain what alchemy is to having my students all nod wisely whenever Nicholas Flamel is mentioned. Parents have confessed that they’ve been staying up late to read their kids’ copy of the latest Harry Potter. Our reading habits reveal that even grownups need a little magic—with the limitless possibility, unpredictability, and even chaos that inevitably comes with it. My goal with A Discovery of Witches was to write a fairy tale that was mesmerizing but spoke to adult issues and concerns. I tried to create characters who were strange—yet strangely familiar. Many of us will recognize ourselves in Diana, who has so much power but is afraid to use it. Others will empathize with Matthew’s inability to let go of his 1500-year past—even though we have less of a past to worry about! And still more will wonder, while riding the train or sitting in a meeting, if that strange creature opposite just might be a daemon or a vampire.

It it’s magic you need this winter, I hope that you find some in A Discovery of Witches.

Giveaway details:

1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES GIVEAWAY, and with “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it.
2. One email per person please.
3. This giveaway is US and Canada only
4. This contest ends one week from now: midnight EST February 1st.

For a second chance to win, along with an excerpt of the book check out this post at Fantasy Book Cafe!

The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green (w Giveaway!)

Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell did a review of this book a while ago and I filed it in my mind as a rather sweet, fun book to look out for. When I was offered the book for review, I was quick to say yes. 

The Premise: Erin Channing is a tenth-grader with the “most boring, normal, regular life ever”, until her aunt Kiki dies and leaves her a pink plastic ball with a set of cryptic instructions. Erin doesn’t believe in magic. She’s known as an “inside the box” thinker, but her two best friends, Lindsay and Samantha convince her to try the ball, and when it seems to actually get results, it begins to change Erin’s outlook.

My Thoughts: I liked Erin. She’s a good kid — that girl in school who works hard and listens to teachers. She follows the rules and has the highest GPA in tenth grade. But because she doesn’t really have any interests outside of school and doesn’t have any quirky traits, she considers herself boring. So boring, in fact, that she worries she has nothing interesting to say in her essay to apply for a coveted position for a school sponsored trip to Italy. And she really, really wants to go to Italy.  Two things stand in her way – the essay, and making sure she gets at least an A- in the class.

Writing the essay is something Erin obsesses over, but she can’t think of anything interesting to say. She’s well aware of her “in the box”, “follow the rules” persona, but she doesn’t know how to get out of it, but her aunt’s death and the Pink Crystal Ball is a start. Her friends are the ones who push her into even trying it, and pointing out that she needs to expand her horizons. In the meantime, the A- grade in her AP Art History class also depends on her end of year project which is worth one third of her final grade. Unfortunately, she gets partnered with Jesse Cooper, the last person in class she wants to work with. Jesse used to be a close friend, until his father died at the end of eight grade. Suddenly, the guy who was her first kiss stopped talking to her and started dressing like an art school punk kid, leaving Erin wondering: “What happened?” and what Jesse’s neutral expressions and his offhand comments mean. It’s clear that she’s not exactly over the crush she had on him.

The story is full of thoughtful layers. Although Erin, Lindsay and Samantha seem to fit a particular mold at first (Erin is the brainy one, Lindsay is the nice one, and Samantha is the cool one), they aren’t cardboard characters.  Each of them has their own lives and problems, which Erin explains as the story progresses. Lindsay has a bully at school, and her father has begun dating a young, twenty-something girl. To escape, she spends her money on new-age, metaphysical objects like voodoo dolls and crystals. Samantha is chasing after Aiden, a boy who can’t stand her, and her parents are always fighting.  She may be the beautiful and cool rebel, but when coming home at 3am gets noticed by the Portuguese housekeeper, not her parents, you know there’s something wrong there. But these girls aren’t in their own personal bubble. They play off each other and affect one another”s lives.  The dynamics of their friendships is laid out throughout the story, and the reader is catches glimpses of how well they know each other:  when Lindsay is upset she’s known to take it out on whoever is nearby, Erin can’t stand disappointing authority, and Samantha knows how to get the girls to follow her lead.

This attention to detail extended to the plot. With a magic ball, the story could have become something that conveniently took shortcuts and relied on suspension of disbelief, but it doesn’t. There are always consequences or reasons for what happens.  The main focus of course is on Erin’s problems, and on how the pink plastic ball from her dead aunt begins to affect her life, but she is loyal to her best friends and tries to help them. These leads to consequences that the girls don’t expect. I liked that this story eventually led to some growth for everyone, rather than the it being just a entertaining romp involving magic. The ending left us with the possibility of a continuation, perhaps from Samantha’s point of view, and I’d love to find out what happens next.

Overall: Before reading this book, I think I had expectations that matched the cover – a story that’s young, a little girly, cute and fun. You know: a Disney movie aimed at teens with three best friends who discuss boys and do somewhat silly things and then work together to fix some problem. This book takes that formula but produces something with much more depth. I thought I would like this book, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it when I was done. It left me feeling much like I felt about Polly Shulman’s Enthusiasm: like I’d read something sweet but not fluff.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell – 3.75
(please let me know if you’ve reviewed this and I’ll add it to my list)

I have ONE extra copy of this book to giveaway (generously sent to me by a publicist). For a chance to win it:

1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject PINK CRYSTAL BALL GIVEAWAY, and with “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it.
2. One email per person please.
3. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL
4. This contest ends midnight EST December 9th.
— that’s three days from now!