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Kindle Giveaway Winner

[ 0 ] October 1, 2014

I have a big announcement to make! The lucky winner of a Kindle is…Tearsa Keith!

Tearsa, please e-mail me at vera@luxuryreading.com with your address. Please note that I will have to pick another winner if I don’t hear from you within 48 hours.

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Review: Wanted Women by Deborah Scroggins

[ 2 ] September 30, 2014

WceGgDUNlCA8RPHOz66AbHHs4RI12Vqg+OoBRGBrKx0gjMb1TSGn63!P3!BaM61Ycim7TPw2yzIaTKEqk4wNnDHjr1b6gOv!JK2gG4iMspVQ5iDKyCBWtzAWMsmQ+7PKReviewed by Shannon Trenton

September 11, 2001 marked the beginning of the United States’ War on Terror – or, more accurately, brought into focus our nation’s ongoing efforts to combat the religious and ideological other of radical Islam. It thrust mainstream Islam into a spotlight that many have used to educate and illuminate while others use it to underscore the flaws inherent in the faith (while conveniently ignoring those inherent in other faiths, but this is not an op-ed).

One particularly interesting study in these times is the role of women in the war on terror. War has traditionally been understood as man’s territory despite the historic participation of women, but in the last several years women have readily stepped up on both sides of the ideological divide to fight for what they believe is right. Female soldiers, female suicide bombers…the list goes on.

In Wanted Women, Deborah Scroggins tells the story of two of the most famous female faces of the Islam-Western struggle: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistan-born neuroscientist who disappeared for several years after being identified as a supporter of al-Qaida; and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born activist and politician who was previously named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and who is known for her outspoken opposition of Islam.

Not only is this dual biography a complex and intriguing picture of two equally influential women, but it is also a compelling investigation of how their personalities, upbringings and circumstances influenced their development. Would Hirsi Ali have immigrated to the Netherlands if she had not been displaced by her father’s opposition of Somali leaders? Would Siddiqui have developed the leadership to carry her devout adherence had she been born to less influential parents?

Neither Scroggins nor anyone else can claim to have those answers, but by tracing the lives of Hirsi Ali and Siddiqui she has made it possible to dig deeper than the legends built up around each and to draw some important conclusions about women in Islam, in the West, and in the War on Terror. Scroggins’ strong storytelling skills make even the most complex details of these parallel decades-long stories easier to understand.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone – women, history buffs, and those who want a better understanding of this oft-overlooked element of the conflicts in which we’ve been engaged for well over a decade.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Shannon lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her husband, son, and two cats. When she isn’t reading, getting paid to play on social media, or running her own business she enjoys playing with her baby, cooking, and blogging at www.shannontrenton.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review & Giveaway: To See the Moon Again by Jamie Langston Turner

[ 11 ] September 30, 2014

to-see-the-moon-again-jamie-langston-turnerEnter to win a copy below – open to US residents only

Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Routine is an easy and safe haven for Dr. Julia Rich who prefers to keep her life solitary and uneventful. A complex childhood, a tragic accident and the early death of her husband have made it easy and almost understandable for her to seek a life of solitude, void of personal connections.

A creative writing professor at a university in South Carolina, Julia has been granted a sabbatical and is thinking of ways to fill her days outside of the classroom when she gets an unexpected call that will change not only her daily life, but the course of her life forever. The message on her answering machine is from the daughter of her estranged and recently deceased brother Jeremiah who abandoned the family as a teen, and his daughter Carmen is now looking to spend time with her aunt as she continues on her journey. The thought of meeting the girl, having her past so very alive in her house and the fear of having her life uprooted all send Julia into a frenzy. When Carmen finally shows up on Julia’s back porch, the results are not horrible, but rather transformative and extraordinary.

Carmen is enigmatic, independent, thoughtful, smart and introspective. While the two women do take some time to get used to each other and open up, their relationship is a cautious development of trust, compassion and family. Carmen is engaging, active, helpful, and observant and exactly what Julia needs even though it takes her awhile to realize it. As time goes on, Julia shifts from thinking of ways to send Carmen on her way to instead thinking of all the reasons that she wants to keep her close by. The two women grow together, share tragic secrets of their own respective pasts and discuss their journeys in both the past and the future. Carmen is Julia’s opposite in some ways but the two compliment each other and bring out the best in one another. There is a comfortable existence between the two and when all of the secrets are on the table and progress for both women has been made, only then can they both realize there is still potential for growth in life.

I have not read a novel in a very long time that made me feel so passionately about the characters and the relationships in a story. To See the Moon Again is a lyrical, beautiful and patient look at the complexities of family, forgiveness and our willingness as human beings to adapt. Author Jamie Langston Turner creates characters that are engaging even when they are polarizing, conversations that are comfortable even when the matter is heavy or upsetting and a story that is unexpected, compelling and absolutely beautiful. Julia and Carmen’s relationship proves that in spite of all odds, sometimes all that’s needed is the unexpected and unfamiliar, a little bit of trust, wonderment and a lot of room for love.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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The Best of Me Giveaway

[ 17 ] September 29, 2014

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To celebrate the release of The Best of Me (in theaters October 17th), I have some prizes to give away! Check out the movie’s Facebook page to learn more.

One lucky reader will receive a $25 Visa gift card to see the film in theaters & copy of the book (movie tie-in cover)!

About the movie

Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me tells the story of Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats today. Spanning decades, this epic love story captures the enduring power of our first true love, and the wrenching choices we face when confronted with elusive second chances.

The Best of Me stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.

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Giveaway: House of Wonder by Sarah Healy

[ 13 ] September 29, 2014

81egKf8ODWLI have a copy of House of Wonder by Sarah Healy to give away!

Open to US residents only

About the book

Theirs wasn’t always the misfit family in the neighborhood. Jenna Parsons’s childhood was one of block parties and barbecues, where her mother, a former beauty queen, continued her reign and her twin brother, Warren, was viewed as just another oddball kid. But as her mother’s shopaholic habits intensified, and her brother’s behavior became viewed as more strange than quirky, Jenna sought to distance herself from them. She is devoted to her career and her four-year-old daughter, Rose. But now, in his peculiar way, Warren summons her back to 62 Royal Court.

What she finds there—a house in disrepair, a neighborhood on tenterhooks over a rash of petty thefts, and evidence of past traumas her mother has kept hidden—will challenge Jenna as never before. But as she stands by her family, she also begins to find beauty in unexpected places, strength in unlikely people, and a future she couldn’t have imagined.

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Review: City of Whores by Mark B. Perry

[ 4 ] September 29, 2014

2000129567Reviewed by Meghan Hyden

I always begin my reviews with a little something about the story – a short synopsis that doesn’t give away too much, but does highlight enough to make the reader of my review want to read the book. But with this book – let’s just say that I have been writing and erasing for the last fifteen minutes. There is so much I want to say about this story that I don’t even know where to start. I want to sit down with someone who has read it and discuss our thoughts (anyone?).

City of Whores is about Dan Root, a young man from Tyler, Texas, who wants nothing more than to be an actor. He leaves home and heads straight to Hollywood shortly after he turns twenty-one, changing his name to Clifton Garrow along the way. This is the Hollywood of 1951, and it is very different than the Hollywood of today. The day that he arrives, he heads straight to a mansion where he has a job as a waiter at a big party. Chance circumstances, shaking hands, the reaction to a mistake taken too far, a lady who cares about others … and soon he becomes engrossed in the Hollywood of old, living a life of ups AND downs, as his acting career takes off.

The story opens in the present, with Dan (his real name and the one he has chosen to go by in these later years) finding out that an old friend, Milford Langden, had died. With mixed feelings – with the past coming to the front of his mind after all these years – he heads to Los Angeles for the funeral.

As the book continues, it switches back and forth between the present (the funeral and the events that happen afterwards) and the past (the good and the bad memories of those two years of his friendship with Milly and his wife, Lillian Sinclair).

I can’t tell you what it was exactly that drew me to this book. I’m one of those people that see a cover and go “hmm…” so when I saw this on the Luxury Reading book list, I wanted to know more. The Golden Age of Hollywood?! … yeah, that’s probably what did it. The description, though short and sweet, really left me intrigued and I let Vera know that it was a book I would be interested in reading. When it arrived in the mail, I was happy to see that the book is even more beautiful in real life and I couldn’t wait to finally get the chance to sit down and read it (the life of a book-blogger includes not always getting the chance to just read what you want).

I have been reading since yesterday afternoon, stopping only for dinner and sleep. That is how mesmerizing this book is. Watching the life of Dan/Clifton (and later Dexter Gaines) unfold before me, watching him remember the good and the bad times, brought happiness (sometimes with bursts of laughter) and sadness (sometimes with tears rolling down my cheeks). Finding out about the events that happened, the people he met, and the way it all came to an end was sometimes shocking and definitely interesting. Seeing where he is at now, finding out what has happened in his life since those two years, and being a part of the mystery that he is trying to solve, with Milly’s daughter, was exciting. By the end of the story, I felt like I knew them all and am happy that I “met” them.

It is a very emotional read – with an ending that completely caught me off guard … but also made so much sense. This book is an eloquent work of art and I hope that the author writes much more (this is his debut novel, but he is an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning writer-producer). I do want to warn you: This book involves homosexual relationships, though done with class.

My favorite part (and also, to me, one of the saddest) is the death of a dog that Dan had grown very close to. (By the time it was all over, I was sobbing)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

You can find Meghan (that’s Meghan spelled the right way) over on her book-ish blog The Gal in the Blue Mask. She’s an avid reader, a book editor, a story teller, a purveyor of delectable fare and pulchritudinous confections, and the best aunt in the world. She loves gardening, hiking, cooking and spending time at the zoo, library and museums. She may not be able to find her wallet, car keys or sunglasses, but she always knows where her Kindle is.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Kelley and Hall Publicity. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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