Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm Taking a Summer Vacation ... from My Blog!

Hi my lovlies! Just a quick note to pop in and say that the next couple of weeks are super busy around Amused By Books HQ. I have a big event at work and then it's my bridal shower. Squeee! So I need to turn my attention to those and then I will give my full attention to you all when those are done. Please don't forget about me, but please do forgive me as I turn my focus to other things for the next couple of weeks.

I promise that when I come back I will be refreshed and renewed to talk about lots of things. Like all of the books I am reading, the crafts I have been making, and how I finally found the time to watch the second season of Downton Abbey. And yes, it was fab!! 

Love,
Amused

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: San Francisco and the Bay Area

'San Francisco and the Bay Area: The Haight-Ashbury Edition'
Author: Dick Evans


Format: Hardback
Published: InTransit Images and The Booksmith; Dec. 2011
Pages: 208
Genre: Photography; Coffee table book
Grade: A
Source: Publisher


Synopsis: There are a number of historical books about Haight-Ashbury but nothing that portrayed the modern Haight - with its rich mix of 1960's tie dyes, 1980's Deadheads and 2000's murals recalling the past. This was the germ of the idea to create a book of images that reflects the Haight of today.
But the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood does not exist in isolation. Its history and culture are
intertwined with the City of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area that surround it hence the
structure and title of the book.
For the production of this book Dick worked closely with his long time photo-editor, Yasemin
Kant. Ben Fong-Torres, noted Bay Area writer and former founding editor of Rolling Stone
magazine, wrote the Foreword and section introductions. The background research was
provided by local guide and historian Stannous Flouride.

My Take: The Haight-Ashbury district is one of the more famous neighborhoods in San Francisco. When people think of the 1960s and flower children, images of Woodstock and then people smoking 'some herbs' in Haight-Ashbury flash across the screen. Haight and Ashbury are two streets in SF and where they merge is the nexxus of this storied part of town. At any rate, to hang out in 'the Haight' as it is lovingly known today, is to be offered every type of drug you could want, both recreational and not, and to see every type of person you could ever want to see. For pure experience level, it is well worth a stroll on a lovely afternoon.

The first half of Evans' beautifully photographed book is full of all of the beautiful and hysterical images you imagine when you think of Haight-Ashbury. It is full of the murals that cover the buildings, the fascinating people that populate the streets and storefronts, and Bay to Breakers which runs through the area every May. 

The second half of the book is full of photos of San Francisco and the Bay Area, as the title suggests. Because no one district in San Francisco exists purely on its own with no outside influence; they all meld and mold into each other. Evans' book shows beautiful photos of all of the other districts, our parades, parks, the bridges, and people that make the Bay Area home to so many wonderful and evocative images. 

Let me just say this book will be a treasured memento on my bookshelf for years to come!

Cover Lust: You can't not smile when you see this cover.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Winner of Clara and Mr. Tiffany!

Thank you to everyone who entered to win Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland! Using random.org, the winner of a brand new copy of this fab novel is:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: So Far Away

'So Far Away'
Author: Meg Mitchell Moore


Format: ARC
Published: Reagan Arthur Books; May 2012
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction
Grade: B
Source: Publicist


Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher is trying to escape: from her parents' ugly divorce, and from the vicious cyber-bullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O'Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Boston family. The catch? Bridget lives only in the pages of a dusty old 1920s diary Natalie unearthed in her mother's basement. But the life she describes is as troubling - and mysterious - as the one Natalie is trying to navigate herself, almost a century later. 
Natalie escapes into the diary, eager to unlock its secrets, and reluctantly accepts the help of library archivist Kathleen Lynch, a widow with her own painful secret: she's estranged from her only daughter. Kathleen sees in Natalie traces of the daughter she has lost, and in Bridget, another spirited young woman at risk.
What could an Irish immigrant domestic servant from the 1920s teach them both? As the troubles of a very modern world close in around them, and Natalie's torments at school escalate, the faded pages of Bridget's journal unite the lonely girl and the unhappy widow - and might even change their lives forever.

My Take: If you want a book that will take you through some serious emotions, then Meg Mitchell Moore's latest novel So Far Away is what you are looking for. Honestly, when I read the synopsis, I liked the fact that it jumped around in time a bit and the main characters were trying to figure out a bit of a mystery it seemed. Now as the novel played it, it turned into so much more.

The two main characters are Natalie and Kathleen. Natalie is a thirteen year old who is having a really hard time lately. Her parents have recently separated and her best friend has become her biggest enemy and started to bully her. Natalie seems so sweet and just needs someone to help her because she is really still just a little girl but her parents are too busy dealing with their own crap so she is totally floundering. One day she finds a diary that interests her so she makes her way to the National Archives which is where she meets Kathleen. 

Kathleen works at the Archives and has problems of her own. Her daughter Susannah was a run away when she was a teenager and years later they still haven't reconnected. The heart ache from 'what she might have done' just keeps looping through her head. So naturally when she sees Natalie, a young girl so clearly in need of help on the level of more than just deciphering what's in a notebook, she reaches out.

However, the notebook contains a fascinating story in itself too. It is the story of a young Irish maid in the 1920s from the same town as Natalie and she had, let me just say, quite the story to tell! As these two come together to read the story and grow closer they will help each other in other ways as well.

So yes, it is quite the sweet story. It is not sappy but it is heartbreaking and touching to read. I would definitely recommend it to all of those looking for a great summer read with a little more substance!

Cover Lust: I LOVE this cover! It makes me feel like I am right where Bridget, the Irish maid must have worked. I find it one of the more evocative covers I've seen in a long time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mailbox Monday: June 18, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and June is being hosted by the lovely Burton Book Review. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish.


You guys, it was HOT here. Like certifiably HOT. In the 90s HOT. I live in San Francisco. Home of 'The coldest winter I ever spent, was my summer in San Francisco' by Mark Twain. (And if you live hear, you want to smack each person who says that and thinks they are the first.) So basically you had a bunch of people running around in cut off jeans and black t-shirts wondering what to do with themselves as we were sweating it out. It was fabulous and it's cooled down to the much more delightful and normal mid-70s because heck, no one has air conditioning in the city. But it was a lovely weekend to be lazy.


And now, guess what? I received zero, zilch, nada in the mail in the form of books and my bookcase went "aaaahhhh".


Hope you all enjoy a fabulous week!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Winners of Wife 22!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter to win Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon! Using random.org, the winners of a new copy of this novel are:
Happy reading!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In 100 Days!

(c) Amused By Books / Jen Philips


Dear Rob,

In 100 days you and I will say I do to being husband and wife in front of our closest friends and family! I am so excited for that day. I know that we still have a lot to do between now and then and that sometimes I get a little stressed out and that our tiny house looks like a wedding has exploded in it. However, I also know that in 100 days when I look down that aisle and see you standing there looking back at me it will all be worth it. I can't tell you how excited I am to share my life with you. I know that I couldn't have picked a better person to share my life with. 

Love,
Leah

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mega June Review Book Giveaway!

The review books have been piling up around here so as an ode to summer reading, I am going to give away twice as many books this month! As before, the titles link to my reviews.


Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis 




















The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy




















Sonoma Rose by Jennifer Chiaverni




















The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch






















All titles are ARCs, have been read once by me, and are in very good condition.

Giveaway Details!

The deadline for this giveaway is June 30th; entries open to those in the US.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below, indicating which book(s) interest you and a way for me to contact you. You can enter for both but you will only win one.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate in the comments below that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

Three extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST June 30th. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: State of Wonder

'State of Wonder'
Author: Ann Patchett


Format: Paperback
Published: Harper; May 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction
Grade: C
Source: TLC Book Tours


Synopsis: Marina Singh gave up a career as a doctor after botching an emergency delivery as an intern, opting instead for the more orderly world of research for a pharmaceutical company. When office colleague Anders Eckman, sent to the Amazon to check on the work of a field team, is reported dead, Marina is asked by her company's CEO to complete Anders' task and to locate his body. What Marina finds in the sweltering, insect-infested jungles of the Amazon shakes her to her core. For the team is headed by esteemed scientist Annick Swenson, the woman who oversaw Marina's residency and who is now intent on keeping the team';s progress on a miracle drug completely under wraps. Marina's jungle odyssey includes exotic encounters with cannibals and snakes, a knotty ethical dilemma about the basic tenets of scientific research, and joyous interactions with the exuberant people of the Lakashi tribe, who live on the compound. In fluid and remarkably atmospheric prose, Patchett captures not only the sights and sounds of the chaotic jungle environment but also the struggle and sacrifice of dedicated scientists. 


My Take: Ann Patchet's latest novel, The State of Wonder, has received a lot of attention and buzz over the last year. The least of which was that it was an Orange Prize for Fiction award nominee. I had read one of Patchett's novels in the past: The Magician's Assistant. While I really enjoyed it and thought it was really unusual, I didn't seek out any of Patchett's other works, although many of them were buzz-worthy. So when this novel hit the stands and everyone started talking about it, I'll admit I stood up and took notice. Although if I were to be honest, the synopsis didn't interest me all that much. 


I love a good fiction novel with an interesting plot as much as the next gal but some sort of major pharmaceutical mystery in the Amazon isn't really the type of book that I read a lot of. However, I am a sucker for buzz so I dove right in. The story surrounds Marina (love that name, by the way!) whose coworker and friend dies while on a research mission in the Amazon. The story surrounding his death sounds a little shady to those closest to him so the pharmaceutical company they both work for sends Marina in to investigate. 


A couple of things that were weird to me about the novel. The story is about Marina and her thoughts and feelings about everything, yet she is not the narrator. I don't know why but it bothered me. Also, perhaps some people felt this lent to the vibe of the story, but it moved so slow, almost as if you had an Amazonian fever yourself. It took forever for the action to get going. While I found the book to be very readable, not much happened for a lot of the book. It kinda bored me to be honest. Also, we were contemplating going to South America for our honeymoon. Now, after reading State of Wonder, I am kind of concerned I am going to die of some malarial fever!


Now, as always, take my, admittedly disjointed review for what it is. A person who didn't really enjoy a book but doesn't want to be too harsh about it and read some of the many positive reviews out there and make up your own mind so you can join the conversation too on this buzz-worthy book!


For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Cover Lust: I do enjoy this cover. I looks very lush! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mailbox Monday: June 11, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and June is being hosted by the lovely Alternative-Read. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish.


I hope you all enjoyed your weekends! Mine ended up being busier then planned but I really shouldn't be surprised anymore. However, what did surprise me is how hot it got here! We rarely get days in the 80s. Love it!


Books! I got some fun ones this week:


From the author:
1. The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal




















From the publisher: 
2. Gone by Cathi Hunauer






















From the publisher:
3. The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier




















From PBS:
4. Hook, Line and Sink Him by Jackie Pilossoph




















What did you get?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Winners of May Review Book Giveaway!

Hi everyone! Sorry I am a few days late in posting the results to this. It got away from me with Armchair BEA. However, thank you to everyone who entered and we now have some winners! Using random.org, the winners of the May Review Book Giveaway are:

Congrats to you both and a new giveaway for review copies will be up later this week!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Armchair BEA: Ask the Experts


It's the final day of Armchair BEA and today's prompt kind of freaks me out a little. I'm supposed to ask the visitors to my blog for blogging advice. Why does this freak me out? Well, because secretly I am a sensitive soul. However, deep down I know that there is always room for improvement. So, have at it, I'm going to keep my question simple.

Let me know if there is anything around here you would like to see more of or less of and I will do my best to comply. Also, of course, if you have any questions for me, ask them, and I will answer in the comments.

For more posts on this topic see this topic at Armchair BEA Central.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Armchair BEA: Beyond the Blog

Sorry I've been M.I.A. from Armchair BEA since Monday! I didn't get a chance to prep posts in advance this year so time kind of got away from me.

At any rate today's topic is all about discussing how to move your blog into more of a money making venture.

I am actually interested in discussing this topic. A lot of people outside of the blogosphere ask me if I make money from my blog. I do not. Technically. I get free books. Tons. More then I can read in a timely manner. Which to me is like free money because this blog is about book reviews, so getting the books that I am reviewing for free is awesome and I am forever grateful. However, I adamantly refuse to let these free books sway my opinion in one way or another. Which is why I sometimes resist accepting books from authors and prefer to accept them directly from the publisher.

More to the point though, I have been approached on multiple occasions with different opportunities to connect my reviews to different money making ventures. As in, when I post this review and link to a particular place for people to purchase, if they were to do so, then I would make a small amount. However, the thing is, this isn't my job. I have a job. A full time one. One that I am good at, and one that I actually think writing and editing and 'social media-ing' on this blog has greatly enhanced. So, to devote an adequate amount of time to this blog were I to monetize it would not be fair to what I am already getting paid to do.

What I mean is this, I feel that if my blog started paying me to do, then I would feel a conflict of interest. At this point in time, since this is my hobby and a passion that I love. I want to keep it solely that. A hobby and not a job. Therefore, I don't want to move it beyond that. Does that make me not competitive? My hits and contact with the industry would make it appear not.

Bottom line, this is just one persons opinion and the web is a huge place. Each and every one of us gets to do whatever we want to do with our own little piece of it and I wish each and every one of you the best of luck with whatever you decide to do with yours!

For more opinions on this topic, check out Armchair BEA HQ.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

'Clara and Mr. Tiffany'
Author: Susan Vreeland


Format: Paperback
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Mar. 2012
Pages: 448
Genre: Historical fiction
Grade: B
Source: TLC Book Tours


Synopsis: It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows that he hopes will earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division, who conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which Tiffany will long be remembered. Never publicly acknowledged, Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces a strict policy: He does not employ married women. Ultimately, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.

My Take: In my pre-blogging days I read two Susan Vreeland novels in college: Girl in Hyacinth Blue and The Passion of Artemisia,  and found them both utterly fascinating. Much like her latest, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, these other fiction novels are based on factual characters. I find these types of stories so fascinating because while reading, I learn so much and am just swept away into the past. By the way, if you haven't read her previous works, I highly recommend them!

Now, onto her latest. Ok, people, where was I when this news story broke! Now, I am a big fan of the Art Deco time period and aesthetic, although perhaps not Tiffany lamps specifically, although I can definitely pick one out of a line up and yet, apparently Louis Tiffany didn't create them as we had all belivied until 2007! Nope, it was actually one of his female employees Clara Driscoll who dreamed up and designed these beautiful and iconic masterpieces.

Vreeland's novel, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, was pulled together through intense research based on all of the letters that led to this discovery and creates the story to bring us all on the journey that surrounds this mysterious woman and shows us a little more insight into her life. Now remember, this book is fiction, but it is based on fact.

Within the pages you will find a wonderful novel that will take you on an amazing journey of working women and all they had to endure in New York at the turn of the 20th Century. For those of you interested at all in the Art Deco movement and how glass and lighting is made you also find this book utterly fascinating. Also, you learn that behind this amazing, artistic, and enlightened woman, Clara Driscoll, was a woman who was very real. She had a hard time falling and staying in love, she maintained real and true friendships, and she cared for all of her workers. Through it all, her friendship with Mr. Tiffany is fascinating and the history contained within will keep you enraptured. My only complaint, it was could have been a little shorter!

For other opinions on this book, please check out the full TLC Tour here!

Cover Lust: Seriously, this is one of the most beautiful covers I've seen in a long time! 

Giveaway Details
Thanks to the author, I have one to give away! The deadline for this giveaway is June 19th; entries open to those in the US.

To Enter (Mandatory)!
Comment below with a way for me to contact you.

For Extra entries (Optional), indicate that you are:
+1 Follow this blog on Google Connect (see right sidebar)
+1 Follow me on twitter and tweet about this giveaway (include @amusedbybooks in your tweet)
+1 Blog/Post about this giveaway on your sidebar

3 extra entries available. Giveaway open until 11:59pm PST June 19th. I will draw the winners using random.org and announce them here on my blog. Good luck!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Armchair BEA: An Interview of Myself!

Welcome to the first day of Armchair BEA! For those of you that don't know, BEA is this big event every year in New York for the whole publishing industry and bloggers are invited to attend. As much as I would love to attend, this year it is not in our budget since we are planning a wedding.

However, Armchair BEA has been going on for a couple of years now and I have always enjoyed participating! It's a great way to still get a feel of the community of book bloggers and publishing industry ... while ... wait for it ... sitting in your armchair. Love it!

So the first day of both BEA and Armchair BEA is today and to kick off the festivites all those participating in Armchair BEA get to interview themselves :) Well, who knows us better then ourselves, right?!

So, without further ado, here is Amused on Amused:

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

Amuses, aka Leah, your resident blogger!
In real life my name is Leah but around the blogosphere I like to go by Amused because I love being Amused By Books! I try not to take myself or my blog to seriously. If a book doesn't amuse me, I don't want to waste much time on it. My work and life keep me very busy, so when I have time to read, I want to keep it fun. 
I have been blogging for about 2.5 years and have loved every minute of it! I started this blog on my 28th birthday as a way to invite more creativity in my life, never expected it to grow into anything major. I just thought it would be a way for me to hone my writing skills on books. Since then, I have met so many wonderful book bloggers, got to go on so many fun blogging experiences, and share so many fun things with my readers along the way. I love blogging and hope to keep it up for years to come! 
  
2. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?
Honestly, I think the best book I've read this year is one I just read: Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon. In the past two weeks since I finished it, I have done nothing but think about this book which is always a sign of a good book. I want to talk about it with everyone. Have you read it? I think it's a great summer or book club read!

3. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
I would love to be able to eat dinner with Bridget Jones. Actually, I would love to grab a drink with Bridget Jones. For as long as I live, Bridget Jones's Diary will be one of my favorite books of all time and the main character is someone I can eternally relate too!
4. What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? Is there anything that you would like to see change in the coming years?
For me, it's the sense of community you get. I have always found that everyone is really friendly and welcoming. I know there are some clicks and people get a little up in arms over things that sometimes occur but I do my best to avoid/ignore them as much as I can and just keep reading and reviewing. I find that if you reach out to others, comment on everyone's blog and are welcoming to others, they will be in return and I think that's just so great!

5. Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?

I do know if they have changed so much as become more refined. I have gotten much better at picking out the books that I like to read. Therefore as I result, I am reading more and more books that  will rate highly as a result. I turn down more books for review as a result too but I have no desire to give a bad review. The older I get, the more refined my tastes get in all things, so it would make sense it would carry over into books too.

For more interviews of bloggers, click here!
 

Mailbox Monday, June 4, 2012

It's Mailbox Monday time! Mailbox Monday is going on tour and June is being hosted by the lovely Alternative-Read. Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks and audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

How was everyone's first weekend in June? Ours was spent on a lovely weekend in San Diego. We flew down to celebrate the wedding of two of our lovely friends. It was wonderful to witness their beautiful marriage and get to celebrate with them. It was also fun because my mom lives down there so it was an added bonus to get to visit with her and my stepfather as well all weekend! 


Now, onto the books:
From Atria Books:
1. Abdication by Juliet Nicolson






















From Harlequin:
2. The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall




















From the author:
3. Poopendous! by Artie Bennett















From PBS:
4. Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner




















What did you get?
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