*CLOSED*Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Rhiannon from The Diary of a Bookworm. I’m giving away Waking Hours by Lis Wiehl. You can read my review here.

To enter just fill out the form below.

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You can easily do both things right from this post, using the buttons at the bottom of the post.  (To get the link for the fb post or tweet, just click on the time stamp below your post.)

400 Blogs each signed up to host a giveaway as part of this Spooktacular Blog Hop. This hop runs from Monday, October 24th until Halloween Night at midnight. That gives you 8 days to Hop to all the blogs and enter their giveaways. All blogs may not have their posts up until Monday morning, so you may want to wait until then to start hopping.

Winner will be chosen by randomizer.org and notified by email. (Sorry, US only) Winner will have 48 hours to respond to claim the book.

Book Review: The Only Way to Paradise by G.G. Vandagriff

Amazon summary
What causes picture-perfect suburban Oakwood residents, MacKenzie, Roxie, Sara, and Georgia to desert their therapist fly off to Florence? Answer: A romantic Italian movie that prompts Roxie to ask: “If Italy is so healing and therapeoutic what are we doing in Ohio?”

Even Sara, the most duty-bound of the group, finally joins the pact they dub “The Crazy Ladies of Oakwood,” and they all find themselves in Florence a week later. As they feel themselves embraced by the entire province of Tuscany, each woman falls and becomes entangled in experiences she could never have foretold. Not only do they find the fascinating Italian men that Georgia promised, but new sides to themselves and each other.

Against the glittering background of Florence, their dramas play out:

MacKenzie returns to her student days as an art historian, discarding her identity as the controlling Oakwood charity patron and society hostess. Renewing her acquaintance with the David, she vows to let herself be sculpted rather than trying to sculpt others. MacKenzie finds not only a new talent, but a new man who appreciates it, just as her husband decides to re-enter her life.

Roxie, who has always approached life as a circus, is drawn unwillingly into a passionate romance with a gorgeous Italian professor, Stefano. Her physical response to Stefano taps into lost memories, causing her to literally run from him. Roxie, normally a colorful Cubana, senses danger in visions and smells that resurface of a rotting summerhouse behind her Florida home. With his nurturing and passionate love, Stefano helps her to face the “broken piece” inside her.

Sara, a Xanax addict, unveils part of her that no one but her instructors knows. She is an extraordinarily talented concert violinist. Normally trapped in the demanding life of an ob-gyn (scripted for her by her Vietnamese immigrant parents), she is temporarily freed. She performs for others for the first time, and experiences unprecedented joy. She also falls in love unexpectedly with a man who is not only a famous Chinese actor, but has a mysterious side business. Her defense of him gives her the courage to loose the vice-like hold of her parents and step into her own script.

Georgia, a grieving widow, processes her life without Ben and without her violin career that ended early because of arthritis. Looking for a new passion in life, she finds that satisfaction comes to her in “giving back” to those around her the lessons and knowledge she has learned through her successes and mistakes in La Dolce Vita. Just as her perspective is changing, she reunites with her first love, Arturo, and must make a decision about the direction of her future life.

Though ages have passed since the rebirth called the Renaissance, Florence still inspires change by breathing out its creative mix of energy, beauty, and courage. Where Michelangelo “set free” the David by sculpting a block of marble, each “crazy lady” finds her exterior “Oakwood” self burnished away by new experiences, revealing a new self. This burnishing is not a gentle process, but exuberant Italians help them through it with their all-embracing agape, or unconditional love. Though they do not know it, each of them hungers for agape’s healing power. They discover in it a balm that binds them together and puts them on the road to recovery, the road that is “The Only Way to Paradise.”

My review
Well, the book description pretty much says it all. Not much left for me to say. LOL

I loved this book, but it took me quite a while to retain the names of the women and keep them all straight. I don’t think it was anything the author did, though. I was reading this on my Kindle, and I’ve noticed before that it’s harder to keep up with the details of the story when I’m reading an ebook.

There is a lot going on in this book. Four separate stories and four almost-strangers learning about themselves and each other during a month in Italy. Each women embraces the artist inside while discovering the love around them. They bask in the agape love of the Italians and their fellow “Crazy Ladies”, and eventually discover a little romantic love, as well. This novel is set to be the first of four and I can’t wait to read more to see what happens next. There were several loose ends that I want to see wrapped up.

I loved the language of this book. One thing I love about the Kindle is that I can mark passages. In some books, I don’t mark any, even if I enjoy the book. This is one of those books, though, that’s full of wisdom and beautiful words that you want to store in your heart to carry around and pull out when you’re having a less-than-wonderful day.

“That’s life, MacKenzie. We can’t go back, only forward. And we can’t afford to waste the past. The best we can do is reframe it. We only have so many years on this earth. They all count.”

True artists must be determined not to shy away from what they might find. She remembered a quote from Nietzche, Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it: Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

“Remember the Duomo,” he said. “Bruneschelli just proceeded brick by brick. he never knew what he would do from on day to the next. He worked in faith, and according to the legend he never doubted that the next step to creating the world’s first dome would be given to him in the moment that he needed it. He never saw the end from the beginning. None of us do.”

About this book
Title: The Only Way to Paradise
Author: G.G. Vandagriff
Publisher: O.W. Press
Release date: June 6, 2011
Pages: 254
Where I got the book: I received this ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5 stars This is a great book, but I think it will appeal more to women for the most part, because it’s a pretty emotional book.

Book Review: A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

Amazon summary
A house shrouded in time.

A line of women with a heritage of loss.

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

My review
This book took me a while to get into. There just wasn’t much going on in the first half of the story to keep me interested. It wasn’t bad. It just didn’t grab me. The best parts were the scenes with The Blue-Haired Old Ladies. I laughed and alternated between thinking how sweet it was that the friends cared so much for each other and wanting to shake someone for poking her nose where it didn’t belong.

I think what bothered me most about the book is that there really isn’t any conflict. The characters all get along, with the exception of Adelaide’s estranged daughter, and even that situation doesn’t provide enough conflict to keep the story interesting. It could be argued that the conflict is between the family and the ghost, or the family and the house, but it just wasn’t enough for me.

A little over halfway through the book, Marielle starts reading Susannah’s letters written during the first part of the Civil War. Written from April 1860 through September 1863, the letters not only provide us (and the family) with the truth of what happened to Susannah, but brought in the historical angle that snagged me. I couldn’t put it down after that.

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

About the book
Title: A Sound Among the Trees: A Novel
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Release date: October 4, 2011
Pages: 336
Where I got the book: I received an ARC of this book for free from WaterBrook Press through the Blogging for Books program.
Rating: 3.5 stars Hard to rate this one because I didn’t really like the first 200 pages of the book, but I loved the last 100+

Rank this review for a chance to win your own copy of A Sound Among Trees.

The Average Cost of Halloween Costumes

I just heard on the radio that the average person is spending $72 on a Halloween costume this year. I thought this was ridiculous. Most of the costumes (even elaborate adult costumes) we saw during The Great Bunny Costume Hunt were $20-$50. Then I realized that we had probably spent $57 in gas to find a $15 costume.


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