Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop - Giveaway of 3 Children's Books by Peachtree Publishers

For the reviews of these three illustrated children's books, we turn to five-year-old Scotty and his three-year-old brother Jake.

A Place for Fish
written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond is available for $16.95 at,, and

The vivid, life-like illustrations immediately captured the attention of both boys.

Scotty was fascinated with the page containing the hammerhead shark and decided to draw his own version of "the fish with the big nose."

Jake was amazed at the number of fish underneath the water on a two-page spread about Atlantic salmon. He decided to draw "all those fish."


At the Sea Floor Cafe
written by Leslie Bulion and illustrated by Leslie Evans is available for $14.95 at,, and

Since the age range on this one is listed as 8 to 12, it was hard for the poetry to hold Jake's interest when his Transformer toys were nearby.

However, big fish continued to hold Scotty's attention as he immediately turned to the page featuring a reef shark and decided to create a more colorful version with his Crayolas.


Planting the Wild Garden written by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Halperin is available for $15.95 at,, and

Jake, ever the animal lover, immediately saw the bunny on the cover and began drawing away. With Easter close at hand, bunnies were definitely on his mind. He listened to "Nibble, nibble. Hop, hop." as the rabbit in the book ate the grass and then "Jump!" ran away from the pursuing white-tailed fox.


eview copies provided by Peachtree Publishers.

Happy Easter from Scotty and Jake!

Congratulations to our winner: Kimberly F.!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jerome Charyn - Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil - Giveaway & Review

Joe DiMaggio as an autistic ballplayer is an interesting concept. Jerome Charyn explores this theory in Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil. As an incredibly gifted athlete, the renowned New York Yankee excelled at hitting a curve ball out of the park or catching a long fly in centerfield. But away from the game, he lived a secluded life surrounded by a few, select people that he barely even talked to. His social skills were so poor that he had trouble reading his own name off a cue card.

Yet how did such an awkward, insecure man marry Marilyn Monroe? Charyn feels that the relationship was created as the ultimate public relations move. A nude calendar of Marilyn had surfaced and she wanted to rehabilitate her image by staging DiMaggio as her real life leading man. No one was viewed as more stable or reliable than The Yankee Clipper. What she never expected was that he would literally become obsessed with her.

The book is not a straight biography. Charyn inserts his own opinions and at times writes in the first person. At under 150 pages of text, it is not an overwhelming read. Instead it is a unique look at a man whose iconic status is tempered by very human flaws. His unbreakable concentration on the ballfield left him mentally drained and physically exhausted. This intensely driven quest for perfection was unendurable, yet it was a pattern he followed throughout his life. His sense of discipline was unmatched, but it lacked the heart and emotion that would allow others to connect with him. By keeping himself aloof and distant, Charyn describes DiMaggio as being above the world around him and not part of it.

A poignant passage revolves around DiMaggio's most legendary achievement - his 56 game hitting streak in 1941. Charyn gives a rich, textured account transporting the reader back to that moment in time. Europe is in the midst of World War II, and the United States is on the brink. Americans are nervous, scared and uncertain. DiMaggio was their national distraction. Would he get a hit? Would he keep the streak alive? His heroics on the field provided Americans with a sense of hope during a dark hour.

For a man who didn't even talk much to his own teammates, life after baseball became an odyssey of extreme loneliness for DiMaggio. He was like an ex-president - a once powerful man now removed from his lofty position. He was aimless and adrift. He did the autograph circuit until he dropped making millions, yet receiving little personal satisfaction. He died basically alone in a hospital room reportedly saying his last words to a nurse who was attending him. It was a sad and pathetic end for a life so revered.

While short in length, the book is chock full of details and interesting tidbits. Subjects range from Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle to Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra. Charyn expertly and proficiently covers the major areas of DiMaggio's life in a succinct manner. Told chronologically, it reads more like a page-turning, in-depth magazine profile than a droll, just-the-facts reference book.

Charyn looks at the big picture. He encourages the reader to remember DiMaggio for his dogged determination and his strict adherence to duty. He provided inspiration to his team on the field playing through injury and illness. He brutally forced his mind to focus so he would never be seen making a mistake. He gave it his all - every time. While he couldn't obtain the perfection he so strived for, he never gave up on the two things that mattered the most to him - baseball and Marilyn Monroe.

Overall, Charyn is able to provide the language DiMaggio lacked in describing his life.

I took the following picture outside Yankee Stadium before Old Timers' Day in 1998. It was one of the last appearances of The Yankee Clipper in the ballpark in the Bronx.

Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil by Jerome Charyn is available for $24.00 at and at

eview copy provided by Joe DiMaggio: The Long Vigil Blog Tour.

Also by Jerome Charyn: The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson

Congratulations to our winner: Jeff Fitzgerald!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ann Lewis - Murder in the Vatican - Giveaway & Author Interview

My thanks to Ann Lewis for stopping by Tribute Books Reviews & Giveaways and sharing her thoughts about her book, Murder in the Vatican.

ABOUT ANN: Born and raised in Waterford, Michigan, Ann Margaret Lewis attended Michigan State University, where she received her Bachelor's degree in English Literature. She began her writing career writing tie-in children’s books and short stories for DC Comics. Most recently she published a second edition of her book, Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, for Random House. After attacking the Star Wars universe, Ann plunged into writing science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction, and, of course, mysteries. Her latest book is Murder in the Vatican:The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes published by Wessex Press. She is also co-writing a historical novel entitled Roman which tells the true story of a priest in 1840s southern Indiana who was accused of assaulting a woman in a confessional. Ann is a classically trained soprano, and has performed around the New York City area. She has many interests from music to art history, to theology and all forms of literature. She is the President of the Catholic Writers Guild, an international organization for Catholic Writers and the coordinator of the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE. After living in New York City for fifteen years, Ann moved to Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband Joseph Lewis and their son, Raymond. Together they enjoy their life in the heartland.

** Enter to win a free paperback copy below.

1. How did you come up with the title?

Believe it or not, the publisher came up with this title. My original title was Sherlock Holmes: The Church Mysteries, but the publisher felt it wasn’t—I dunno—catchy enough? They wanted something a bit more lurid, I suppose. It is the publisher’s prerogative to pick the title and in this case it works.

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That faith and reason go together. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one must reason to have faith, because faith is what one knows to be true.

3. How much of the book is realistic?

Well, it is historical fiction. I did my best to be historically accurate in tone, language, setting, characters. Pope Leo was a real person, and many people around him were real people (like Cardinal Rampolla the Secretary of State). But Holmes stories always have a suspension of disbelief involved, because Holmes is so amazing.

4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

I’d find some of the linguistic anachronisms that some people have pointed out to me. As it is, I am changing some of them in a second edition.

5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Language first – imitating Conan Doyle is no piece of cake. And anachronism. You don’t know how easily that can slip in to a historical piece.

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

That your characters can take off and lead you through the story. It’s amazing when it happens. My characters literally told me the story, and I just followed along.

7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I realized I could write pretty well in high school. I purposely took hard writing classes my senior year while everyone else was suffering from "senioritis." I had it, too, but I lost myself in my writing and in reading mysteries.

8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I have too many favorites to name. Contrary to what you might think, Doyle isn’t my true favorite. My true favorite is G.K. Chesterton, and it kills me, that as an English major, I did not read his work in college.

9. Tell us your latest news.

I’m singing in an opera for the first time. I’m a classical singer, and I’ve never taken a step into opera, and I’m singing in the chorus of La Traviata with the Indianapolis Opera. I’m terrified. I have to memorize all this Italian in two weeks and I’m freaking out.

10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope if you decide to read my book that you simply have a good time with it. It is meant to be good fun. And I also hope you have a blessed and peaceful Easter.

ABOUT MURDER IN THE VATICAN: A sudden death in the Vatican. An international incident over stolen artifacts. A priest’s wrongful imprisonment for murder. In this collection of three as yet untold tales, hinted at in the original Holmes stories, the voices of Dr. John H. Watson and the legendary Pope Leo XIII reveal how the great Sherlock Holmes brought these grim ecclesial cases to startling and poignant conclusions.

Murder in the Vatican by Ann Lewis is available for $14.56 at and at

eview copy provided by the Murder in the Vatican Blog Tour.

Congratulations to our winner: Molly E!