Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop (Dec 27-31)

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. 🙂 Thanks for getting those lines stuck in my head, Julie Cross. haha

This year was full of great reads, but only a small collection hit 5/5 stars on my chart. For this giveaway, I’m offering them to you!

Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop (Dec 27 – 31)

Best of 2011The year is quickly coming to an end. It’s time to spotlight my favorite reads of 2011.

The Rules: The giveaway should be for one of the blogger’s favorite reads of 2011. It can be a book that was released in 2011 or a book read in 2011. Alternately bloggers may include a list of favorite 2011 reads for the winner to choose from. Prizes may be provided as a gift card. No erotica (a reminder for me). This blog hop is sponsored by I’m a Reader Not a Writer.

I’ve opted to present a list for my wonder readers. One winner will have the opportunity to choose a book from my favorite reads of the year. All 5 star reads and highly recommended by yours truly.

Prizes (winner’s choice)

Click on image to read my review

As always, entering is easy. :)

  • You’ll earn 1 point for completing the form.
  • An additional point for sharing the giveaway and leave the link (Twitter, Facebook, Blog, Linked, MySpace, etc.). *OPTIONAL*
  • Sign up for my newsletter for an additional 2 points. *OPTIONAL* See special incentive note below.
  • Comments are appreciated, but only entries from the form count.
  • Giveaway ends Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 11:59 PM ET.
  • Please read the giveaway policy for the nitty gritty.

Special note about my newsletter. Starting in January, I’m starting subscriber-only monthly giveaways in addition to the blog giveaways. If you’re already a subscriber, you’re already entered.

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Novel Review: All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann

I requested and received All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann from NetGalley after seeing it advertised on Goodreads. I was especially attracted to the girl on the cover — beautiful and hopeful. Growing up, I’d never been one for history or politics. As I’ve grown older, I’ve taken more of an interest in history, even wishing I’d paid more attention in high school. When I saw the cover of this work, it instantly piqued my interest. So the blurb from Ms. McCann’s website:

A free black woman in the 1830s, Margaret Morgan lived a life full of promise.
One frigid night in Pennsylvania, that changed forever.
They tore her family apart.
They put her in chains.
They never expected her to fight back.

All Different Kinds of Free was inspired by a true story. It is about Margaret Morgan, who was kidnapped in 1837, along with her free children, and sold into slavery. Although she fought hard to regain her freedom, Margaret endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most important yet least-known Supreme Court cases of the era, Prigg v. Pennsylvania.

Text books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.

I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with the blurb. I’m glad I’d forgotten it by the time All Different Kinds of Free reached the top of my list, cause I might have passed it over for another work. In this case, I let the cover reel me in, and didn’t even bother with the blurb before flicking through the pages.

The story started innocent enough. Margaret lived up North where blacks were free despite slavery continuing in the south. When a bounty hunter arrived on the scene, claiming Margaret was a runaway slave but had no papers, even the Pennsylvania laws supported her rights. Then all hell broke loose. Margaret and her children were stolen from their home in the dead of night. When they reached their southern destination, it became apparent Blacks had absolutely no voice in the South. The people in control were willing to do just about anything to ensure nothing changed their way of life. When all was said and done, Margaret and her children were sold into slavery without due process of the law

Despite knowing things like that happened in the past, I tend to stay blissfully ignorant about the harsh realities. This book shattered my rose tinted glasses. I cried… I cannot express to you how heartbroken I was over events in this book. At times, the kind of tears I shed were the rare ones I drown in the shower so no one can hear the accompanying sobs.

It saddened me to think folks would treat others so inhumanely, worse than animals. I’d like to think slaves were too valuable a commodity to neglect to the point starvation or disease claimed them in mass — as if there were replacements waiting around the bend — but I know not everyone is kind or rational.

Over all, this work was a roller coaster of ups and downs.  One passage stood out and summarized the stakes well. Before Margaret and her children were sold into slavery, she told her daughter, Emma:

“And, most important of all, don’t lose hope. You were free once. Emma, you were. We all were. We lost our freedom, and it’s not fair. But when something gets lost, it can be found again. Just because we don’t see something anymore, doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Remember that. Promise me you’ll remember that.”

Despite the words of encouragement, it was difficult for Margaret to stay strong. Each time Margaret was given a piece of hope, it was snatched away. Every blow left a chip in her armor, until I questioned if she’d ever recover from all the disappointments.

It’s been a while since a book has hit me so strongly on an emotional level. This is definitely one of the best reads I’ve read this year. If you’re up for a work which will truly make you feel (sadness, outrage, hope, joy), I highly recommend this book.

All different Kinds of Free
by Jessica McCaan
is available at

The Book Depository

Barnes & Nobles

Sunday Showcase #5

Okay… this week I got a little greedy at the NetGalley. I’m going to make good on them though. They’re all at the top of my reading list. I’m starting to get the hang of this NetGalley thing. I’ve learned not all copies are available for the Kindle, so I’ve been declining those that would require me to sit in front of the computer to read. Before my Kindle I would have read a galley copy with little complaint. With so many books available to read on my Kindle, constraining myself to a computer screen seems a bit pointless. Enough blab about convenience… on to my weekly grabs.

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

Why I picked it up: The cover caught my attention because I think I might have seen this posted on someone’s blog. I read the blurb and thought… maybe. I figured I’d give it a try. This one I received from the NetGalley.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Why I picked it up: I’ve been seeing this cover for months and months now and love it. I’ve just got into the young adult genre last year and have developed a fondness for dystopia. It doesn’t hurt others have been raving about this one. Well, my copy finally came in this past week. It took me two days to read it. Let’s just say I enjoyed it. Though it’s early yet and the post won’t go live until June 6, 2011, here’s the review link for those who visit in the future.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

It is 1968. Lynnie, a young white woman with a developmental disability, and Homan, an African American deaf man, are locked away in an institution, the School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, and have been left to languish, forgotten. Deeply in love, they escape, and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a retired schoolteacher and widow. But the couple is not alone-Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them that same night, Homan escapes into the darkness, and Lynnie is caught. But before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: “Hide her.” And so begins the 40-year epic journey of Lynnie, Homan, Martha, and baby Julia-lives divided by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, yet drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.

Why I picked it up: I saw this advertised on Goodreads and clicked on the link for  more information. I’m a little up in the air about this one. Though the story sounds intriguing, I’m a bit skeptical about a novel spanning 40 years. How does one squeeze so much in a tiny little work? 🙂 Still, I’m going to give it a try. In fact, I’m starting it tonight. Who knows? I might be pleasantly surprised. I found this offered on the NetGalley and was approved for it. Thanks again NetGalley.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

“Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her.”

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she’s confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori’s body has not been found, and Alison can’t explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated—into nothing.

But that’s impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind—like her mother always feared she would.

For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood—until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison’s case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her—and that she’s capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

Why I picked it up: Okay, this is just weird. I really don’t know what to expect from this one. Curiosity about what’s going on with Alison and her abilities has me intrigued. I don’t think this is available yet, but you can preorder it. Another NetGalley copy.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles

By all accounts, Jake Daniels should have died when his SUV collided head-on with a moving truck. Now the vision of the mysterious woman who saved his life is consuming his every thought. A formerly nonreligious person, Jake becomes obsessed with learning more about angels, near-death experiences and spirituality. He leaves his fiancĂ©e and art career on hold to travel the country searching for the mystery woman, who he believes is an angel. As he’s drawn into a series of earth-shattering angel and demon experiences, Jake discovers he’s being prepared for an imperative task-to step into world affairs to prevent the clash of civilizations and reverse the violence and hatred of the post-9/11 world. As his search for answers leads him around the world and across faith traditions, Jake questions: Why him? Why now? And is it too late?

A riveting novel about the urgent spiritual and political questions we face in the 21st century, Messengers will leave you reconsidering your outlook on life and death-and why we are here.

Why I picked it up: I don’t pick up too many spiritual books these days. I would like to get back into Christian reading again. I came across the Messengers and it looked intense. I’m so hoping it is. Anyway, another NetGalley copy. I told you I went overboard.

Available at: Barnes & Nobles and The Book Depository

A free woman of color in the 1830s, Margaret Morgan lived a life full of promise. One frigid night in Pennsylvania, that changed forever. They tore her family apart. They put her in chains. They never expected her to fight back. In 1837, Margaret Morgan was kidnapped from her home in Pennsylvania and sold into slavery. The state of Pennsylvania charged her kidnapper with the crime, but the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was the first time a major branch of the federal government had made a pro-slavery stand, and the ruling in Prigg v. Pennsylvania sewed the bitter seeds of the states’ rights battle that eventually would lead to the Civil War. Yet, the heart of this story is not a historic Supreme Court ruling. It is the remarkable, unforgettable Margaret Morgan. Her life would never be the same. Her family had been torn apart. Uncaring forces abused her body and her heart. But she refused to give up, refused to stop fighting, refused to allow her soul to be enslaved.

Why I picked it up: I believe I also saw this advertised on Goodreads, and it appealed to me as a fictional history lesson. I only hope the writing isn’t as redundant as the blurb. 🙂 I also found this on NetGalley and was approved for a copy.

Available at: The Book Depository, Barnes & Nobles