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book giveaway

A Peek Inside My TBR Stack

As I was perusing the opening passages of books I’ll be reading over the next month or so, for myself and for Shelf Awareness, I thought it’d be fun to share them with you. We all like discovering new books and authors, right? Several of these are new to me, and in a couple of cases that’s because the novels are the authors’ first.

Here’s the stack:

TBR stack Jan 2015

And the openings:

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I may have found a solution to the Wife Project. As with so many scientific breakthroughs, the answer was obvious in retrospect. But had it not been for a series of unscheduled events, it is unlikely I would’ve have discovered it.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Orange juice was not scheduled for Fridays. Although Rosie and I had abandoned the Standardized Meal System, resulting in an improvement in “spontaneity” at the expense of shopping time, food inventory, and wastage, we had agreed that each week should include three alcohol-free days. Without proper scheduling, this target proved difficult to achieve, as I had predicted. Rosie eventually saw the logic of my solution.

Canary by Duane Swierczynski

November 27

Hi, Mom. Last night I got arrested. (Sort of.)

I’m writing this so I can sort out the details, just like Dad taught me. He always said things have a weird way of making sense once you write them down. Putting this on physical paper (and not on the laptop) for a number of reasons:

1. These days you have to assume that anything you type on a computer or cell phone can be read by some random geek anywhere in the world

2. Nobody can ever see this, and I don’t want some random geek trolling for revenge porn yanking it off my laptop

3. Paper burns

My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh

There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk of Piney Creek Road, the same sidewalk our parents had once hopefully carved their initials into, years before, as residents of the first street in the Woodland Hills subdivision to have houses on each lot. It was a crime impossible in the daylight, when we neighborhood kids would have been tearing around in go-karts, coloring chalk figures on our driveways, or chasing snakes down into storm gutters. But, at night, the streets of Woodland Hills sat empty and quiet, except for the pleasure of frogs greeting the mosquitoes that rose in squadrons from the swamps behind our properties.

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer


There’s a delay taking off from San Francisco—caused, I’m guessing, by an overburdened airport, but no one will tell us for sure. At times like this, sitting stalled on the tarmac, it’s easy to think apocalyptically—airports at the bursting point, highways clogged with SUVs helmed by citizens in meltdown, smog alerts and gridlocked emergency rooms, corridors lined with the bleeding. When you’re in California this kind of vision explodes into grandiosity, and you imagine the earth ripping apart, spilling all this overconsumption, all the cell phones and seaside villas and hopeful young starlets noisily into the sea. It almost feels like a blessing.

Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik

The first time I saw Nica after she died was at Jamie Amory’s Fourth of July party. I’d slipped into the study, dark and cool and strictly off-limits, was crossing the carpet to get to the liquor cabinet, when I felt someone behind me. I paused, flesh prickling. Slowly I began to turn. A set of doors, French. On the other side of the glass, a girl. I didn’t run, didn’t move, didn’t even breathe, just stood there looking, looking, this girl so familiar: straight black hair, narrow nose, scarlet bloom of mouth, top lip nearly as fat as bottom. My skin recognized her before I did, rippling once then tightening on my bones.

My sister, Nica.

Done in One by Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas

White. Nothing but white. Stretching to the horizon in every direction, infinite and limitless and as full of potential as an unpainted canvas or a child’s soul—pure, clean, unsoiled. But that will change.

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

July 1980

Damascus, Syria

Every time I hold you is the last time I hold you. I’ve known that since the very first time. And when you came back, and I held our child in my sleepless arms, all I could think was, this is the last time.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

The reader was at first surprised, then shocked, as the criminal Raskolnikov was abruptly slain in the middle of the street, right before her eyes. Sonya, the hooker with the heart of gold, shot him through the heart. It happened midway through an essay on the Dostoevsky classic.

See anything you like?

Since you’ve read this far, I’m happy to say that not only am I sharing these openings with you, I’d like to give you the chance to win two books from this stack: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.

Project was an international bestseller and one of the best reviewed books of 2013, with its movie rights optioned by Sony Pictures. Effect is the just-released sequel. The first is a paperback copy and the latter will be hardcover.

To enter, leave a comment telling me what kind of effect you have on other people. As usual, fanciful answers and outright lies are encouraged.

Giveaway ends Tuesday, January 27, 9 p.m. PST. US residents only, per publisher’s request.  Winner will be randomly selected and have 48 hours after notification to claim prize before an alternate winner is chosen.


Book Giveaway: THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT by Jasper Fforde

It’ll probably be at least another week before I get caught up with my life (trying to finish an editing assignment before I leave for Bouchercon tomorrow), but I wanted to pop in to post a fun giveaway.

Yesterday saw the publication of the new installment in Jasper Fforde’s popular Thursday Next series, and the good people at Viking are allowing me to give away one copy.

Check out the official description:

Peppered with illustrations by Dylan Meconis and Bill Mudron, THE WOMAN WHO DIED A LOT takes place over the course of a week in the life of Thursday Next, famous in several dimensions as the Bookworld’s leading enforcement officer. After being forced into semiretirement, thanks to an assassination attempt, Thursday takes what was described to her as a “cushy” job as chief librarian at the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso’s-Drink Not Included Library.

Thursday’s first week on the job proves to be unusually hectic, even by her high standards. As the library faces 100 percent budget cuts, Thursday struggles to remember why she can’t remember that her third child, Jenny, doesn’t exist, even though “Jenny is a mindworm” is tattooed on the back of her hand.

At home, things aren’t any better: her son Friday faces a loss of purpose after his future career as a time-traveling hero is relegated to “might-have-been” status, and her genius teenage daughter is embroiled in a race against the clock to stop a vengeful god from smiting Swindon at midday Friday. On top of it all, Thursday’s nemesis Jack Schitt has returned and is plotting something even more nefarious than usual.

Interested in getting your hands on this? Enter by leaving a comment about the cushiest job you’ve ever had (or wish you had), something you can’t believe someone gets paid to do. Giveaway ends next Wednesday, October 10, at 9 p.m. PST. US residents only. Winners will be randomly selected and have 48 hours after notification to claim the prize.

Have fun! Make up a cushy job if it doesn’t exist already!


Book Review: WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple

After I finish a book, I often need some time to process it before reviewing it. But then life sometimes gets busy and I don’t get around to it and next thing I know it’s seven months later and I can no longer remember details. So, even though I just closed the cover on Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, I decided to put down some quick thoughts before I forget.

When fifteen-year-old Bee gets a perfect report card, all she wants as reward is a trip to Antarctica. Problem is, her mother Bernadette is an agoraphobe lacking in social skills, and the pending travel increases her anxiety. One day, she disappears. Bee sets out to find her mother by piecing together clues from various people’s notes, faxes, and emails, including Bernadette’s to a virtual assistant named Manjula in India. Despite almost every one else—including her father—believing Bernadette will never return, Bee refuses to abandon her search, determined to go as far as the end of the earth if she has to.

Semple, a former TV writer who has written for Arrested Development and Mad About You, has an engaging, breezy style, but beneath the wit, the pain and complexities of life are evident. The characters aren’t as they seem and things don’t turn out as expected—people who behave atrociously are capable of doing the right thing, and decent people make mistakes. Though most consider Bernadette an enigma who might be mentally unstable, she is extremely sympathetic through Bee’s eyes.

The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are complicated, but all Bee needs to know is that her mother loves her and would never abandon her. Her refusal to let anyone else convince her otherwise is quite affecting. I was completely invested in her search, and could not stop reading until she found “closure” (a word she hates but throws around so she can keep looking).

I’m running a giveaway of this book until Monday, August 27, so enter here if it sounds good to you. You can also watch Semple’s funny, self-deprecating trailer below.

Nerd verdict: Look for Bernadette for a good read


Book Giveaway: WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple

This last week was a really good, busy one, in case any of you were worried I’d been snatched by bears. I did a commercial for Wells Fargo, finished a couple editing jobs, and continued rehearsals for the play I’m doing, which opens next month. We had our first run-through this past Saturday, and it gave me chills. I’ll post details soon regarding performance schedule. If you’re in the L.A. area, I’d love to see you there.

I’ll also be speaking on a panel about eBooks and e-publishing this Saturday, August 24, at the V3con Digital Media Conference at the Japanese American National Museum. The panel will be moderated by Edgar-winning author Naomi Hirahara and is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Red Room.

OK, let’s move on to giveaway business. Before I get to the next one, I’d like to announce the winners of galleys of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Absent One (out Tuesday, Aug. 21, from Dutton):

  • Reggie Lim
  • Liz

Please fill out this contact form with your address so I can forward it to the publisher, who will ship the galleys to you directly.

This next book I’m giving away is something I’m enjoying right now. Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette is quirky and witty, but it’s becoming evident (I’m on p. 79) that something darker will be revealed later. My review will hopefully be posted soon (update: it’s up), but in the meantime, I’m excited to help get it into your hands.

Two finished copies are up for grabs. Here’s a description:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Watch the funny trailer here, listen to an audio excerpt here, and go to the author’s charming website for more info.

To enter, leave a comment about the most impossible journey you’ve ever taken. It could be to a far-flung location that’s difficult to access, or just a road trip in a clown car with your in-laws that you didn’t think you’d survive. Contest ends next Monday, August 27 at 9 p.m. PST. US/Canada residents only, no P.O. boxes. Winners will be randomly chosen and have 48 hours to claim prizes.


Book Giveaway: Geraldine Brooks’s CALEB’S CROSSING

Thanks to the generous folks at Viking, I get to give away two galleys of Geraldine Brooks’s latest novel, Caleb’s Crossing. Brooks is the Pulitzer-winning author of March and People of the Book.

Here’s the description for Crossing:

Once again, Geraldine Brooks takes a remarkable shard of history and brings it to vivid life. In 1665, a young man from Martha’s Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Upon this slender factual scaffold, Brooks has created a luminous tale of love and faith, magic and adventure.

The narrator of Caleb’s Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island’s glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia’s minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe’s shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb’s crossing of cultures.

Like Brooks’s beloved narrator Anna in Year of Wonders, Bethia proves an emotionally irresistible guide to the wilds of Martha’s Vineyard and the intimate spaces of the human heart. Evocative and utterly absorbing, Caleb’s Crossing further establishes Brooks’s place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

For more info, visit Brooks’s website, where you can see a map created for the novel. And how gorgeous is that cover? It doesn’t come out until May 3 but two of you can win ARCs before then.

To enter:

  • leave a comment telling me what you yearned to do as kid (for me, it was flying on a plane to somewhere exotic)
  • have a U.S./Canada address

Giveaway ends next Wednesday, April 13, 5 p.m. PST. Two winners will be randomly selected via then announced here, on Twitter and Facebook. Winners will have 48 hours to claim prizes before alternate name(s) are chosen.

Now let’s hear about your childhood yearnings!

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Book Giveaway: Michael Connelly’s THE HARRY BOSCH NOVELS, VOLUME 3

Thanks to Hachette Book Group, I’m giving away three copies of this new omnibus which includes three complete Harry Bosch novels: A Darkness More than Night, City of Bones, and Lost Light. Perhaps you already have individual copies of the books but they’re in paperback and are getting tattered. Or you know someone who only recently discovered Connelly’s work and doesn’t have these titles yet. Either way, this is a handsome hardcover edition to add to your or some lucky person’s collection.

Speaking of giving, I’d like to try something this season which was inspired by what the folks over at Concord Free Press are doing, which is giving away the books they publish and only asking that you consider making a charitable donation in return. I don’t publish anything but would like you to think about giving a small amount to your favorite charity if you win one of these books. When I say small, I mean $5 or $10 or some canned goods for your local food drive. (Lest you think five bucks don’t amount to much, my local soup kitchen says $2 will feed 3 people for Thanksgiving.) How about donating some of your used books to the library? That won’t cost anything at all. You’d come out on top since the omnibus retails for $21.99.

I want to be clear this is completely optional. If you win and make no donation, it’s perfectly fine and I won’t know about it anyway. No proof of good deed will be required before you get your prize (I’d love to hear, though, if you do donate something). This is simply my way to hopefully stimulate a little giving for the holidays.

So, back to the giveaway. To enter, leave a comment telling me what you’re relentless about since Connelly has used that word often to describe Harry Bosch. It could be something big or small. I was once in New York City freezing my tail off during its coldest day in 85 years. I got this craving for chicken noodle soup and was relentless about finding it. For whatever reason, no restaurant was serving it that day, just split pea or lentil or cream of one thing or another. I jumped on and off the subway, ducking into different places until I found the perfect chicken noodle and it was worth it.

To be eligible, you also have to:

  • be a subscriber or Twitter follower (tell me which)
  • have U.S./Canada address (no P.O. boxes)

Giveaway ends next Monday, Nov. 22, 5 p.m. PST. Winners will be randomly selected then announced here and on Twitter. I won’t be e-mailing you so please check back to see if you win. Alternate winner(s) will be chosen for any prize(s) not claimed within 48 hours.

Now, let’s see how relentless you are!


Winners of Neil Pasricha’s THE BOOK OF AWESOME

Congrats to Julia F and Erin, who won ARCs of Neil Parischa’s The Book of Awesome! Their names were randomly drawn with the help of Julia and Erin, please send me your address via the “contact” form above and the awesome Lydia from Putnam will ship you each an ARC. If you don’t respond by 9 a.m. Thursday April 8, alternate name(s) will be selected.

Thanks to all who entered and shared your awesome moments with me. The book will be available April 15 if you’d like to buy a copy.

Stay tuned for another fantastic giveaway coming up soon!


Winners of Anne Lamott’s IMPERFECT BIRDS selected two winners for me: Charlotte Cecilia and Storeetllr will each receive an ARC of Imperfect Birds courtesy of Riverhead Books. (Interestingly enough, both said they hate cleaning the house, something I also loathe.) The book will be available April 6.

Charlotte Cecilia and Storeetllr, please click on “contact” & send me your address, which will be forwarded to Riverhead. If I don’t hear from you by 6 p.m. PST Friday, March 26, alternate winner(s) will be selected.

Thank you to all who entered and shared your imperfections. I can relate to many of them so you are not alone. If you didn’t win, I have more great giveaways coming up very, very soon so keep your eyes peeled!


Book Giveaway: Ben Sherwood’s THE SURVIVORS CLUB

It’s Monday. Do you think, “Damn, it’s gonna be another long week”? Or, “Hey, I survived my weekend”?

According to Ben Sherwood’s The Survivors Club, how you look at life can determine whether or not you live or die in a catastrophe. This book gave me anxiety because it constantly spouts statistics about one’s chances of dying in a myriad of ways. But I couldn’t stop reading because it also shares fascinating survivor stories and tips on how we can increase our chances of surviving unfortunate events, big and small.

Sherwood interviews people like the woman who lived after falling from the sky (she was a flight attendant on a plane that exploded), the man who didn’t die after his suicide jump from the Golden Gate Bridge (he changed his mind on the way down), the woman who survived a knitting needle through the heart AND breast cancer. Reading this book was like watching an episode of the ’80s show That’s Incredible!

Sherwood also talks to doctors and empiricists about the many variables that influence a person’s chances of survivability. Are you an optimist? You might die first in an extreme situation! The book contains instructions on how to take an Internet test called the Survivor Profiler to determine your Survivor Personality.

There are 5 types:

  • The Fighter attacks adversity head-on
  • The Believer puts faith in God
  • The Thinker uses his/her brain to get out of a bad situation
  • The Realist accepts life isn’t always rosy and knows how to adapt
  • The Connector draws strength from family and friends

We’ve all survived one thing or another, so which type are you? Answer this question in the comments section and I’ll enter your name in a random drawing for 1 of 5 paperback editions of The Survivors Club I’m giving away, courtesy of Hachette Book Group.


  • You must be a subscriber or Twitter follower of this site (see sidebar on right)
  • Per HBG’s request, only U.S. and Canada residents are eligible (they’ll ship books directly to winners)
  • If you tweet about this giveaway, I’ll give you 2 extra entries
  • Contest ends Friday, February 5 at 5 p.m. PST, with winners announced only here and via Twitter. Winners will have 48 hours to reply with mailing address before alternate names are chosen.

Now, tell me what kind of survivor you are!

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I wasn’t planning on doing another giveaway so soon after doing one for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played with Fire, but I just finished reading this charming book and wanted to share it with you. Besides, with kids returning to school, this is the perfect time for this.

Phillip Done has been an elementary-school teacher for over 20 years. In Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood, he tells true tales of the kids he’s taught, everyday children who make you laugh one minute and crush your heart the next. Done (rhymes with “phone”) writes in an uncluttered, self-deprecating way which makes this a fast, easy read but one which stays with you. There’s one kid in particular—Michael, nicknamed Angel—whose story kicked me in the gut and made me cry like, well, a third-grader.

I’m giving away three copies of this book, courtesy of Hachette Book Group. If you’d like to enter my random drawing, you just have to:

  • Be a subscriber and/or follower on Twitter (both isn’t necessary)
  • Leave a comment telling me about your favorite teacher and why that person is memorable
  • Be a U.S. or Canada resident, no P.O. Boxes

I’ll take entrants until 9 p.m. PST, September 14. Hachette will mail books directly to winners. Good luck!