Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review and Giveaway: The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne


To say I enjoyed The Last Bridge is like saying I enjoy tragedy. Yet, having survived an abusive childhood I found much of what Teri Coyne wrote rings true to me. She has a gift of portraying the emotions, the situations, and their effects on everyone involved. I quickly became emotionally involved with the story.

In The Last Bridge, Cat, estranged from her family for the past ten years, finds out her mother has committed suicide. Between drinking and flashbacks, Teri Coyne builds a story of Cat's painful abuse by her father and the reactions of the other family members. Not surprisingly, Cat turns to alcohol as her coping mechanism and throughout much of the book she is not sober.

A mystery is set up early, when Cat's mother, before committing suicide, leaves her a note that says, "He isn't who you think he is". Various male characters are introduced leaving the reader wondering who the reference is to and what the answer will reveal.

The Last Bridge is intense and realistic. The storytelling is excellent throughout, until the end where things wrap up just a little too neatly and too quickly. This is not a book I will soon forget, and I hope to read more by this author in the future.

In celebration of the paperback release of this book on May 25th, the author has given me a copy to pass along. I love the new cover! All I ask is that you leave a comment if you are interested in reading this book along with an email address to contact you at. A really cool bookmark is included as well.

Giveaway ends June 9th, random winner will be chosen on June 10th!

Bonus entries:
  • Tweet about the contest (once, post link)
  • Blog about this giveaway (once, post link)
(tiny url link for this contest:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Cutting Myself in Half by Taylor LeBaron, Jack Branson, and Mary Branson


Taylor LeBaron is such an inspirational success story. He lost 150 lbs by creating a mental game he could play with himself called UFG (Ultimate Fitness Game). In the game he gave himself $1 per calorie per day and had to spend them wisely in order to win. For example, if he starts the day with $2000 then he can spend that on 2000 calories.

As a kid he faced difficulties fitting into desks, clothing, and even being teased by classmates.

The writing is completely candid and he shares his personal struggles and their solutions. Although the solutions may not work for all, I think there is a large population of kids who can benefit from this book.

The diet portion of the book advocates low fat, egg beaters, zero calorie soda, whole grains, and high protein, but there is a lot more to this book than diet. There is a plethora of personal motivation in addition to fitness information, family support, and setting goals. I think this book could very easily be used with other diets such as Atkins or Pritikin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda


I really enjoyed reading The Secret Daughter but was initially frustrated for the first half of the book where the chapters jumped with years in between. It left me wanting more and wishing the book would slow down. Once Asha arrives in Mumbai on a fellowship to do a story on children living in poverty the novel slows down and becomes rich with detail, especially family connections and Indian culture.

Asha also goes to Mumbai for her own personal reasons. She is yearning to understand her Indian heritage since she left India at the age of one. She also has a secret reason for going, one that she is unwilling to share with her parents; she wants to find her biological parents. The other half of the novel is presented in alternating chapters between her biological parents and her adoptive parents lives.

The harsh realities of poverty and unsanitary living conditions are interwoven with the bonds of love and family, providing an excellent backdrop to the story of how Asha came to be loved and adopted by her American mother and Indian father. The trials her biological parents faced are countered by the vacations, elite schools, and successes of the daughter secretly given up by her mother to an orphanage in Mumbai. The first page of the book provides some hint as to the ending and unlike so many other books about India that end sadly (as is often real life) this one ends nicely.

Overall, I wish the author had taken more time to more fully develop the time frame consisting of the first nineteen years of Asha's life, but the second half makes the book worthwhile. The author also provides a glossary at the back of the book which is very helpful and something I wish more authors using foreign words would do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Review: Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show


Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney by all appearances contained within it's pages the type of story I like best: history, adventure, and a touch of intrigue or politics. I am a patient reader, especially when a book looks so promising. I give such authors time to build the characters, set up the plot, and deliver a great story.

This time I was slightly disappointed, though not through the entire book. The first hundred pages took me probably a week to get through. I was counting on the rest of the story to take flight once the groundwork was laid. The next hundred pages were slightly more intriguing. Once I was halfway through the book I I was finally engaged and read the rest of the book in a day.

The book is narrated by an eighteen year old boy named Ben MacCarthy. He and his family are caught up in the plot of an aspiring political candidate. Unraveling the mess and the truth takes time and perseverance. His father runs off with a traveling show leaving his wife and son in near financial ruin. The first half of the book Ben travels the countryside trying to persuade his father to come home. The next half of the book is different but much more engaging.

Along the way, readers are shown the Irish countryside while being introduced to it's folklore. The ending was not what I had expected yet it was very clever and seemed to fit with the overall narrated tone.

Would I recommend this book? If you like novels that unwrap themselves slowly and methodically and you especially enjoy Irish historical fiction novels (1932-33) , and have the patience for diversions, then yes. Page 10 sums it up:

"I ask your forgiveness in advance. We Irish do this digression stunt. We're so damn pleased with our ability to talk hind legs off donkeys, that we assume people like to listen. "

Believe it or not, that is not the only mention of donkeys in this book (see, a diversion).

My husband is Irish and when I read that line to him, he responded that a truer statement has never been made.

Overall, 3.5 stars from me. I wish I could have given this book more because parts of it were great. Yet, considering the amount of time it took me to become engaged with this book, if I had not received this as part of Early Reviewers I would have given up one hundred pages in. I also feel this book might be more interesting in audio book form.