Hilarie
If you enjoyed The Host by Stephanie Meyer, are curious about the book, or just can't get enough, then this blog tour is for you! Hachette Book Group is organizing a blog tour for this book in the month of June. Never Not Reading will be hosting the tour on June 11th, but I wanted to provide all the information to those who don't want to miss a thing. You can count on plenty of giveaways, trivia, polls, etc. The complete tour schedule and dates are listed below:

June 1 - Twilight Lexicon
June 3 - My Friend Amy
June 22 - Booking Mama
June 23 - Wrighty's Reads
June 26 - Bellas Novella
June 27 - Fire and Ice
June 29 - Vampire Wire
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Hilarie
What makes a great read? Here at Never Not Reading, we think it ultimately depends on great characters. Whether you find yourself loving them, laughing with them (or at them), or even loathing them, a great character can draw you into the story and keep you reading. To celebrate our love of great characters, we are starting a new weekly feature called Character Matters. Each week we will highlight a character that has literally jumped out at us from the pages! If you would like, please join in the fun. Feel free to link to your own character matters in the comments below if there is a character that you simply have to share with us!

A few ground rules:
1. Who: List the name of the character
2. Where: List the book(s), and the author
3. Description: Please keep your descriptions as spoiler free as possible. Ruining the ending of the book might not be the best way to inspire potential readers.
4. Why: How does this character inspire you?

To start off the fun, this week let me introduce:

Who: Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, PhD, also known as Special Agent Pendergast
Where:
Books - Relic, Reliquary, The Cabinet of Curiousities, Still Life with Crows, Brimstone, Dance of Death, Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, Cemetary Dance
Authors - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Description: Agent Pendergast is delightfully eccentric, seemingly all knowing, completely unflappable, and all-around good guy. He also has the ability to sink into deep meditation, during which he often can virtually re-experience certain events. More than once, this has proved essential as he works to solve a case. Pendergast also enjoys the luxuries of wealth; his car is a vintage Rolls-Royce, and his suits are handmade in Italy. He is unnaturally pale, with shocking blond hair. Pendergast is also a true gentleman whose chivalry knows almost no bounds.

Why: I love this character! Pendergast to me seems to have all the wisdom of Sherlock Holmes, without the ego. I especially love how those who seem to discount Pendergast as a hack almost always seem to get their comeuppance as they are forced to recognize his skills. And seriously, this guy has skills...
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RunningUtes
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Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Pets

Marley and Me, written by John Grogan in 2005, is a story about his life with his dog. It outlines his family's experiences living with Marley, a rather spirited dog, and some of the challenges and lessons learned from those experiences. This is a memoir, and is written in the first person. The book was made into a movie that was released in 2008.

Marley, is a giant yellow Labrador retriever who is energetic and lives life to the fullest. He is also rather high strung and sometimes uncontrollable, often destroying property. Even with this behavior, Marley shows his undying love and trust toward his family. Ultimately, the family recognizes and accepts him as a loved, albeit somewhat neurotic, fun-loving family member.

I really enjoyed reading this book because in many ways I can relate to the experiences of bringing home a new puppy, watching him grow from a cuddly fur ball to a powerful and destructive adolescent. Many times I would laugh out loud while reading about finding shoes that were chewed on or filled with slobber. In some ways I could guess what Marley's temperament would be while reading the description of him as a puppy, having experienced the same personality in our own dog. In many ways, I think the author loved Marley so much because in many ways the dog helped the rest of the family to become closer.

I would give this book 5 stars because I thoroughly enjoyed it, and reading it gave me a great opportunity to reminisce and compare the story of Marley to my own experiences. I've mentioned parts of this book to my family, and suggested it to a few of the people. I haven't seen the film, but I would suggest this book to anyone who describes themselves as a dog lover. I know I'll be reading it again and smiling when I think of my own rambunctious puppy.
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RunningUtes

One useful skill to have when reading a book is to think about how you would write a good book review. There are lots of different ways to do this, here's one way that I have found that seems to work very well.

Try dividing the book review into four parts: introduction, summary, reaction, and conclusion. By fleshing out each one of these areas you'll be able to provide interesting information to your reader as well as add your own opinion about the book.

Describing the book is a good way to begin your introduction. Give the title, author, or publisher. Provide a little background on the book by mentioning the subject, the context, and the general problem addressed. It may help to describe earlier works by the author. Sometimes just describing the overall theme of the book is useful. Remember, it's important to describe what type of book this is that you are reviewing (fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, etc.)

One of the best ways to summarize the book is to be brief. Remember the advice "Keep It Simple Stupid". If the book is a work of fiction, give the storyline but don't give away anything that could ruin the storyline for the reader. If the book is a work of nonfiction, provide an overview or overall thesis of the book. Provide some quotations, primary supporting points, or paraphrased portions of the text to provide additional interest.

Describing your reaction to the book is where you personalize your review. Give a description of something that interested you, possibly a memorable point of the story, or an entertaining or instructive part. Then tell why you found it interesting. If you can, described the author's opinion and give your response. Did you disagree or agree with the author? Why? Were there any issues that were raised? Were some possibilities left unexplained, or other parts you felt were left out? Provide your thoughts, and support that with any additional material you think is interesting. Were there issues addressed that changed your opinion about something? Did you feel that the author had a personal agenda? Most of all, describe how you felt during and after you read the book.

The conclusion is sometimes the easiest because you restate the main points and tie together the issues addressed. Make some direct comments, and provided advice, especially if you liked the book.

I hope that you find these points interesting and useful when you're writing your next book review. If you use any of these principles, drop me an e-mail, or leave us a comment. I'd love to read your opinions and insight.

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Hilarie
Valerie, at Hachette Book Group, has kindly given me five copies of this book to giveaway to five lucky readers! This book sounds like a great read. I will be posting a review in the near future, so stay posted.

More about: The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos (Information provided by Hachette< Book Group and Publishers Weekly)

Starred Review. Pelecanos (Drama City) delivers a dignified, character-driven epic that succeeds as both literary novel and page-turner. In 1985, the body of a 14-year-old girl turns up in a Washington, D.C., park, the latest in a series of murders by a killer the media dub "The Night Gardener." T.C. Cook, the aging detective on the case, works with a quiet, almost monomaniacal, focus. Also involved are two young uniformed cops, Gus Ramone, who's diligent, conscientious and unimpressed by heroics, and Dan "Doc" Holiday, an adrenaline junkie who's decidedly less straight.

Fast forward 20 years. Detective Ramone, now married with kids of his own, investigates the murder of one of his teenage son's friends. The homicide closely resembles the earlier unsolved Night Gardener murders. Holiday, now an alcoholic chauffeur and bodyguard, follows the case on his own and tracks down Cook, long retired but still obsessed with the original murders. While the three work together toward a suspenseful ending, Pelecanos emphasizes the fallacy of "solving" a murder and explores the ripple effects of violent crime on society.

Contest Information and Guidelines:
The Facts
The giveaway starts today, May 26th and will run through Wednesday, June 24th. We will use a random number generator to determine the winners at that time and notify them via email. Please provide us with your email as it is the only way we have to get in touch with you! We will also post the winners here on the site. The contest is only open to residents of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship to P.O. Boxes.

Entries
To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. You can get an additional entries by:
1. Post this giveaway on your blog. Please provide me with a link to the URL.
2. Become a follower or subscriber, or just let us know if you already are.

Good luck!
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Hilarie
Rating:
Genre: Classic Fiction, Sudan, British Imperialism
Reading Challenges: 22 for 100+ in 2009, 2/5 for Classics Challenge 2009

I was very excited to read this book. Of all the choices I made for my classics challenge for this year, I was certain that I would enjoy this novel the most. In this case, my expectations were not met, and although I did ultimately enjoy this book, it will never be a favorite.

The Four Feathers is the story of Harry Feversham, an English officer, who is descended from a long line of military heroes and expected to follow in their footsteps. One night, as a boy, Harry is present when his father and fellow Crimean war veterans are relating the tales of their military exploits. That night, they also happen to relate two stories of cowardice, which so distress young, sensitive, and impressionable Harry, that he is convinced from that time forward that he is himself a coward at his core. Years later, after becoming engaged to the beguiling Ethne Eustace, Harry is in the company of three friends when he receives a telegram notifying him that his regiment will soon leave for the Sudan. Harry resigns his commission, and ultimately receives three feathers from his once fellow officers and friends, as well as a fourth from Ethne as she breaks their engagement. Having lost everything he values, Harry begins a quest to redeem his shattered honor, and force those who have charged him with cowardice to recognize his worth.

Prior to having read the novel, I had seen two movie adaptations. In both cases, the films contained quite a bit of action, intrigue, and hair-raising escapes. As I read the novel, I was somewhat surprised to find that the majority of the narrative resides in England and Ireland, and focuses particularly on the characters of Ethne and Jack Durrance, once Harry's greatest friend. Durrance is a great character; he is a born soldier who finds himself unexpectedly handicapped and forced to adapt in ways he had never expected. His honor is in some ways even greater than Harry's, and the ways in which he and Ethne relate to each other as romantic adversaries is interesting. However, I found myself longing to read about Harry. So much of Harry's story is told in hearsay and vague allusion by other characters that I found myself getting somewhat frustrated. For me, the last 70 pages of the book were the best as I was finally able to read about Harry and some of the situations in which he found himself.

Despite my frustrations, there are many things to love about this book. The three main characters of the book are all studies in self-sacrifice for the good of others. If you enjoyed any of the film adaptations of the story, you may want to give the novel a try.
Hilarie
Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • Here is mine for the day:

    Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center, page 142

    "Because the truth was, there was a dark underbelly of terror to motherhood. You loved your children with such an overwhelming fierceness that you were absolutely vulnerable at every moment of every day."
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    Hilarie
    Rating:
    Genre:  Fantasy, Satire, Discworld
    Reading Challenges:   21 for 100+ in 2009, 3/37 for Discworld Reading Challenge

    Equal Rites is one of my favorite Discworld novels, and it was a pleasure to rediscover it as part of my Discworld challenge.  The story concerns Eskarina Smith, or Esk, as she is more commonly known.  Esk was supposed to be the eighth son of an eighth son, but as anyone who has children knows, the sex isn't necessarily a given until the delivery is officially over.  Unfortunately, a dying wizard who wished to bequeath his knowledge to a successor didn't take the take to verify Esk's identity before making the transfer.  This of course results in all kinds of trouble as everyone knows that women aren't supposed to be wizards;  or at least that is what everyone who is a wizard knows.

    Esk is a delightful character.  I keep hoping that she will make an appearance in another Discworld novel, but as of yet her story remains unfinished.  The writing in Equal Rites is more polished than it's predecessors.  It seems as though Pratchett hit his stride in this, the third Discworld novel.  If you haven't read any Discworld novels, or even if you have read some of Terry's later stuff, you can't go wrong with this one.

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    Hilarie
    Thanks to everyone who entered the contest for my ARC of this great book.  I'd like to announce that the winner, chosen by the gandom number generator, is Janel at jgbeads (at) gmail.com.  Congrats to Janel, and check back again soon as we hope to have more giveaways in the near future!

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    Hilarie
    Rating:
    Genre:  Adult Fiction, Coming of Age
    Reading Challenges:  20 for 100+ in 2009

    There are times I read a book and it makes me profoundly grateful for the relatively blessed life that I experienced during my journey to adulthood.  This is certainly one of those books!

    Made in the USA is the harrowing, but stirring story of Lutie and Fate: a 15 year old girl and her 11 year brother, who find themselves unexpectedly orphaned and homeless.  Fear of the foster care system sends the siblings on a cross country trip to Las Vegas, where Lutie is certain that she can find a way to take care of them on her own.  Lutie and Fate experience humanity at it's best and worst as they struggle to survive with limited resources and at the mercy of those who seem to take what they want without conscience.  

    At first, this was a difficult read for me.  Initially, I didn't really like Lutie as she reminded me of a lot of the foul-mouthed and skanky teenage girls I seem to see everywhere these days.  However, through the course of the novel I came to appreciate the depth of her character.  From the first, I fell in love with Fate and his precocious nature.  After I found myself really caring about the characters, the novel was suddenly a more difficult read.  Letts never seems to shrink in describing the challenges faced by teenage runaways and homeless individuals.  There were times I just didn't think I could handle any additional tragedy.  However, I couldn't put the book down.  I had to find out what happened!  I'm glad I stuck with it. 

    I don't want to give any plot details away, so let me just say that the book is not one which will leave you feeling hopeless and discouraged.  I really enjoyed this book, and would like to express my gratitude to Valerie at Hachette books for providing me with a review copy.  It was truly a pleasure to read this book.
    Hilarie
    The random number machine has spoken!  The winners for our Made in the USA giveaway were chosen this morning using the wonders of modern technology.  I have sent an email to all five of the lucky winners, so please email me if you didn't receive yours.  The winners were as follows:

    Stephanie - posted April 21 at 1:29 am
    writemeg - posted April 28 at 11:18 am
    malleycc - posted April 29 at 5:13 pm
    twinsanity/spinsanity - posted May 7 at 6:20 am
    nightdweller20 - posted May 9 at 1:00 pm

    As a courtesy to both Hachette Book group and your fellow contest entrants, I would ask that if any of these winners have won any other giveaways for the same book that you notify me so that we can give somebody else a chance to win!  Thanks to everyone for entering.  We had a lot of fun with this contest, and look forward to more giveaways in the future.
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    Hilarie
    Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    • Here is mine for the day:

      Made in the USA by Billie Letts, page 184

      "Lutie rolled her window closed and tried again to snag her keys, but Huff, with a metal pipe the size of a baseball bat, struck Lutie's window. She screamed, but the sound was trapped inside the car."

      Don't forget to enter my giveaway for this book! Today is the last day to enter. You can find the link here.
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      Hilarie
      Rating:
      Genre:  Nonfiction, Inspirational, Memoir
      Reading Challenges:  19 for 100+ in 2009

      I first heard the name of Randy Pausch when I read an excerpt from this book in a copy of Reader's Digest, while visiting with some extended family.  I meant to get around to reading it someday, but found myself putting it off.  I think I was afraid that reading it would result in tears and flashbacks to unpleasant memories related to my mother's lost battle with cancer.  Finally, I broke down and decided to give the book a try.

      I'm very glad I did.  The Last Lecture surprised me; I was expecting a last will and testament, instead I found a love letter to life.  Randy Pausch was someone who lived a blessed life, much the result of his own hard work and tenacity, who knew how to count his blessings.  Reading his book made me think about all the great things that I already have in my life, and all of the great memories I've already made.

      Pausch did try to teach some valuable lessons that he had been lucky enough to learn from in his own life.  I specifically appreciated his thoughts on working well with others, and the idea that "brick walls are there to make us prove how much we want something."  I found this book to be a fast paced, enjoyable read.  This is no pity party, but a smile inducing memoir.  Yes, I did find myself caring about Pausch and his family, and even wondering how his family has fared since he passed away in July of 2008.

      If you haven't watched the last lecture that Pausch gave at Carnegie Mellon which was the inspiration for the book, you can view it here.  If you have already watched the lecture, it is still worth reading the book, as Pausch expanded on many of the ideas he only briefly touched on during his live lecture.  The book is much less technical than the live lecture, and contains more detailed stories of Pausch and his family.  I really enjoyed this book.  I'm glad I followed the advice of so many of my fellow bloggers and gave it a chance.
      Hilarie
      Rating:
      Genre:  Children's Fiction, Early 1900's, Mental Illness, Coming of Age 
      Reading Challenges:  18 for 100+ in 2009

      The Locked Garden is set in the year 1900, and is primarily the story of two sisters: Verna, age 12, and Carlie, age 6.  After the recent death of their mother, the girls move with their father, who is a physician,  to a new home located on the grounds of an insane asylum where he will be given the opportunity to test his theories of treating mental illness with medication.  Joining the family in their journey is Aunt Maude, their maternal aunt, who seems determined to constantly remind the children and their father of the recent loss they have suffered in an effort to keep the memory of her sister alive.  Shortly after starting life in their new home, their father hires a young patient, Eleanor, to assist in the care of Verna and Carlie.  Eleanor's arrival changes everything, and soon Verna and Carlie find themselves at odds with both their father and their aunt as they try to ensure that Eleanor will remain one of the family.

      This was an enjoyable read, which at times reminded me of Sarah, Plain and Tall.  I found the understanding and treatment of mental illness at the time of the novel to be especially interesting.  The book certainly didn't feel like a history lesson, but I felt that I learned a lot during the course of my reading.  This book would be a perfect introduction to helping children have an understanding of the concepts of mental illness and depression.  I can picture myself someday reading it to my own children when they are older so that we can have a discussion about what mental illness is, and how such illnesses are treated today versus in the past.  The book also deals with death and grieving, although this is certainly a minor focus of the book.  I am mentioning it because I really appreciated Whelan's handling of this topic.

      The story itself is very fast paced.  I found this to be a quick read.  I was able to finish it in an afternoon.  The target age group is 8-12, or grades 3-7, and I feel that this book was perfectly suited to this audience.  The only reason I can't give this book a higher rating is because of the abrupt ending.  I really felt that the story came to a screeching halt just as I was bracing for the climax.  Perhaps this is because Whelan is planning to write a sequel, but I just found myself shocked that this book was actually over.

      I would like to thank Harper Collins for generously providing me a review copy.  Whelan is a great writer, and this isn't the first novel of hers that I have read.  It certainly won't be my last.

      I would love to giveaway my advanced review copy to a lucky reader.  To enter, please leave a comment below.  Extra entries can be earned by subscribing, following, or posting this giveaway on your blog.  Please leave me a way to contact you, as well as a link to your blog so I can see the posting.  The contest starts today, and will end next Sunday, May 17th.  I will announce the winners on the blog, and will also contact them via email.  Please, only enter if you have a US or Canada mailing address.