So, have I ever mentioned I'm a member of the Amazon Vine program?
What's Vine? Basically, if either a human or a computer (we're not sure which) over at Amazon.com likes the reviews you write, you may be invited to join this program. Members are sent two newsletters a month (and on occasion a third), and from each newsletter they get to pick two items that Amazon will send them for free. To remain a "Viner" in good standing, you have to review at least 75% of what they send you. It is a very, very cool thing to be a Viner, especially when you are as poor as I am!
Oh, I didn't mention that the first newsletter you receive (on the 3rd Thursday of each month) is "targeted" to you by Amazon, and the second newsletter is the so-called "leftover" newsletter (on the 4th Thursday of the month). It contains all the items that weren't selected by the people they were targeted for. The targeting is supposedly based on your reviewing and purchasing history. I've never spent much money with Amazon, but when I did, it was usually DVDs or food. As everyone knows, I feel strongly about supporting my local independent booksellers. Nonetheless, generally speaking, I review books, so invariably that is what my targeted newsletter is full of with few exceptions.
I'm not complaining; I love books. But other Viners get newsletters full of camcorders and printers and Rosetta Stone software. Others get household items like sheets, hair dryers, or electric tooth brushes. Once there was a $700 leather armchair! Anyway, I almost always pick a book, but occasionally I break things up with a DVD or food item if it's offered.
I always send an email to my mom and my friend Jon on newsletter day, so they can see what was offered and what I picked. (Mom likes to tell me what I should have picked instead of yet another book.) Today it occurred to me that I should share with you, Anonymous Reader, my Vine picks each month, if for no other reason than it will give you an idea of some of the books you'll eventually see reviewed.
Possibly I am hungry, because today I chose two novels with a culinary theme. The first was Monica Ali's In the Kitchen: A Novel which has several things going for it. One, it's written by one of Britain's most celebrated young authors. Two, it's set in a world I know well, having cooked professionally. Three, it seems to be a bit more plot-driven than some literary fiction.
The other book is Adam Schell's debut novel Tomato Rhapsody: A Fable of Love, Lust & Forbidden Fruit. I chose this one first and foremost because it sounded like a happy story. Also, I love debut novels. You never know who you'll discover. Plus, I read a few paragraphs of the excerpt, and the writing was strong. It sounds like a fun and inventive novel. I will let you know. :-)